Name: Azariah Graves
Reference Number: 1905
Birth: 1 NOV 1776
Death: 1 MAY 1837
Azariah Graves (1776-1837)
(for larger image, click on photograph)
While the house shown above was built by Azariah Graves, it often is referred to as the Elijah Graves house. Even the application filed that resulted in the house being placed on the National Register of Historic Places referred to it as the Elijah Graves House. This is because Azariah Graves willed the house and property to his brother Elijah Graves.
For Sale or Lease
The Elijah Graves offering his property for sale or lease in this newspaper item ("Milton Intelligencer," 2 April 1819) is one of the five sons of Caswell County's Captain John Herndon Graves (1746-1829).
Elijah Graves was born 1778 (probably in Caswell County, North Carolina) and died 1855 in Caswell County. The other sons of Captain John Herndon Graves are Thomas Slade Graves (1775-1847), Azariah Graves (1776-1837) (also referred to in the newspaper item), William Graves (1780-1845), and Barzillai Graves (1782-1850).
John Herndon Graves (captain in the Revolutionary War and wounded at the Battle of Guilford Court House) owned most of Yanceyville (then called Caswell Court House) and hundreds of acres surrounding the town. By 1815, he had given the acreage to his five sons. He divided it so each son owned land abutting the public square - hence there were five major streets into the square instead of four as is usually found in a county seat built around a courthouse. See the map prepared by Caswell County historian Katharine Kerr Kendall. Captain John Herndon Graves is her third-great-grandfather.
However, why was wealthy Elijah Graves in 1819 selling or leasing his Caswell Court House (Yanceyville) property? He, like his brother Azariah Graves, lived his entire life in Caswell County, never married, apparently never experienced financial difficulty (at least none documented), and left a vast estate. The property being advertised ran along and south of the road that today is East Main Street. The portion on the Square today is occupied by the Upchurch and A. H. Motz buildings.
The newspaper item refers those interested to Azariah Graves, should Elijah Graves be absent, and describes brother Azariah Graves as "near the premises." Azariah Graves was indeed "near the premises," operating his many business from across the Square in the still-standing building that has housed several restaurants. See photograph.
However, the United States did experience a financial panic in 1819, being the first peacetime financial crisis in the country's short history. It lasted through 1821. Was Elijah Graves overextended? However, he had not paid for his Caswell County holdings, having received them as a gift from his father. Moreover, one would believe that funds could have been borrowed within the Graves family if necessary.
One of the early leaders of Caswell County, North Carolina, Azariah Graves was a lawyer and never married. He was a member of the North Carolina Senate, a merchant, a teacher, and held various political offices (including justice of the peace). A large landowner, his estate listed vast amount of personal property left to brothers and sisters.
Note that an Azariah Graves was Caswell County Sheriff 1795-1797. However, that this person was the Azariah Graves of this entry has not been confirmed.
(for larger image, click on photograph)
One of the oldest commercial structures in Yanceyville (and possibly the oldest) is the Azariah Graves Store House. It was built long before Azariah Graves sold the adjacent lot to Ibzan Rice (lot on which the Kerr Hotel now is located) in 1832. The following is provided by the CCHA:
Azariah Graves died in 1837 after many years as a business man in what was then called "Caswell Courthouse". The upper floor of his office building in Yanceyville (Azariah Graves Store House) formed his living quarters, and the establishment may have been one of those mentioned by Bartlett Yancey in his 1810 letter describing Caswell County. Fuel for the two big fireplaces was stored in the full basement, and the store's window shutters had bars. The building later was a newspaper office.
Source: Yanceyville Walking Tour
"For $225 Azariah Graves deeded to Ibzan Rice in 1832 a parcel of land lying at or near Caswell Court House running up the main street. Rice was a tavern keeper and erected a tavern on the site. It is the same property sold in 1874 to John H. Kerr as the latter deed records the fact. . . ." Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 332 (Article #256, "Azariah Graves, Esquire" by Mary Frances Kerr Donaldson).
The Azariah Graves Storehouse building in Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina, was built by Azariah Graves (1776-1837) and was mentioned in Caswell County court minutes as early as 1829. In June 1837, the brothers and sisters of Azariah Graves traded this brick storehouse to Owen McAleer for another piece of property. McAleer apparently died before 1850, and his widow deed the building to her second husband, Thomas L. Campbell. In 1885, the building was sold at the courthouse door to G. W. Martin (believed to be George Wesley Thomas Martin (1846-1921)). In 1886, The Caswell News was published in the building by W. H. Thompson. G. W. Martin left the building to his brother, W. C. Martin (believed to be William C. Martin), who, in 1906, sold the building to A. Yancey Kerr for $300.
Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 329 (Article #409, "A. Yancey Kerr" by George Yancey Kerr).
Located at 28 W. Main St. in Yanceyville?s Historic District, the building housing Azariah?s Olde Storehouse is the oldest commercial building in Yanceyville and is believed to be the oldest building being used commercially in Caswell County. Each floor of the building contains an original fireplace and mantel. It is believed that N. P. Oliver operated a tavern in the building during the Civil War era. Shortly after 1855, W. H. Thompson began publishing the Caswell News in the building. In 1906, A. Yancey Kerr purchased the storehouse for $300, took over the printing presses from Thompson and began publishing the Caswell County Democrat until his death in 1942. During some of that time, it was also used as the Yanceyville Post Office. Since the mid-20th century, the building has been used for various businesses: the office of the Office of Price Administration during World War II, a dress shop, a laundry, an attorney?s office and from 1988 to 2007 as Brown?s Seafood Restaurant.
John Card Graves (in the Moreheads of Virginia) gives his date of death as 30 April 1837. Others give his death date as 1 March 1837. However his gravestone states 1 May 1837.
Graves Family Cemetery1
Azariah Graves Historical Sketch1
The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 232 (Article #256 "Azariah Graves, Esquire" by Mary Frances Kerr Donaldson)
Caswell County North Carolina Will Books 1777-1814 and 1814-1843, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1983) at 132 [abstract of the will of Azariah Graves, written 15 February 1837 and proved during the July 1837 term of the Caswell County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions]
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Religious Notice: The funeral of Azariah Graves, Esq. deceased, will be preached at his late residence near Yanceyville on the fifth Sunday in this month by the Rev. John Kerr. Milton Spectator (11 July 1837).
Caswell County, North Carolina
Deed Book P, Page 242-3
Deed of trust between John Bennett and Elijah Graves for 45 lbs 19 shillings, which Bennett owes Azariah Graves Jun and Griffin Gunn merchants, trading as Graves & Gunn; for $1 paid by Elijah Graves sale of negro girl Bluemittie age 8 or 9 yrs. If Bennett repays debt by 1 July, sale is void. 1 March 1808. Witness: Thomas Graves.
Source: Caswell County North Carolina Deed Books 1777-1817, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1989) at 287.
Father: John Herndon Graves b: 1746 in Spotsylvania County, Virginia
Mother: Ann Slade b: 1749 in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Maryland