First known as Brownville and then later Jacksonville, the community located in southwestern Nodaway County was officially called Graham in 1859, so named after Maryville resident and postmaster Amos Graham. It was incorporated in 1871.
Graham, like the rest of the country, saw its fair share of rough times, including the Civil War and the Great Depression.
During that war that pitted the north versus the south, the town was nearly depopulated. Similar to many other places in Missouri, it divided the community. The schools closed. Businesses closed. Churches, and even families, were divided, turning against one another.
And yet, the community survived, and even thrived.
In 1910, Graham was the county’s only thriving town without a railroad and had a bank, several stores and doctors and a post office.
In the 1930s and 40s, the community was home to a drugstore, two grocery stores, a hardware store, a garage, two filling stations, a locker plant, a barbershop and a plumber who also worked on windmills.
One notable event during this time period was that President Herbert Hoover and his wife visited their farm south of Graham.
By the 1950s and 60s, there was also a produce house, a couple of restaurants, a beauty operator, two plumbers and a movie theater. The Rural Fire Protection District was organized in 1957 and remains active today.
Churches and organizations have always been a strong part of the community.
In the early years, there were several churches including the Christian, Methodist, Presbyterian and Bethany Christian. Today, there is the Union Church, United Methodist Church and Bethany Christian Church.
Hughes Township, where Graham is located, had the first 4-H group in the county. The Graham Lions Club has also been very active for many years. The organization has held a community fish fry the first Saturday of the month, from October through April, since 1956.
Schools in Graham, Skidmore and Maitland joined to form the Nodaway-Holt school district in the early 1960s. Since that time, the school has seen success in academics, athletics and various organizations.
The Graham Street Fair has also played a role in the town’s history. Originally, it started out as a school fair, but was stopped during World War II. The Lyle Club started hosting the event in 1951 with a parade, 4-H youth livestock show, entertainment and dance. In recent years, the street fair has expanded and still relies on the community’s volunteers.
In “An Analysis of Graham,” written for the Graham Community Betterment’s first project report in 1970, Betty Nelson wrote:
“Any individual or group making a serious study of the Graham community would decide after careful scrutiny that Graham’s most valuable assets or resource is its people.
“Citizens of this community are do-ers. They like doing things together – especially eating together. When an idea is conceived, plans formulated, committees appointed, one can be certain that the community will support the project or activity.
“Few communities can boast of a citizenry as loyal, hardworking and cooperative as Graham’s.”
Information from this article came from “On the Banks of the Elkhorn” by the Graham Historical Society, 1973, “Nodaway County Missouri – A Pictorial History 1910-1994” by Opal E. Eckert and Nodaway News Leader articles.