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That brother, Z.C. Graves, with the enterprise which marked the family, had gone West and was teaching a little school on the shore of Lake Erie near Ashtabula, Ohio. Nearby was a town named Kingsville with an academy in it. Through the influence and upon the recommendation of his brother and some friends at home, J.R. Graves was elected principal of this academy, and with his mother and sister he left his Vermont home for the distant West. This was when he was nineteen years old.
His nightly studies after his day’s teaching, in order to keep ahead of his classes, impaired his health. He abandoned the school, after two years and went to Kentucky seeking a milder climate. He located near Nicholasville in Jessamine County and took charge of a country school called Clear Creek Academy. The school was begun in a small house, but the attendance grew so rapidly and so large that they had to fut up a tobacco barn in order to accommodate the throngs of pupils who waited upon his teaching.
Here took place a new era in his life which changed its character and current. When he went there he was a shy, reticent youth with little religious knowledge and scarcely any acquaintance with Baptists or their distinguishing principles. His mother was a member of the Congregational Church. He was not aware of the latent abilities within him He had never taken a prominent part in social meetings and never had a religious periodical to read. There was a small but active Baptist Church near by called Mt. Freedom. Dr. Tyland D. Dillard was pastor. There were honest, earnest men in it. He joined the little church and came by and by to take part in its prayer meetings and in the Sunday School activities.