Mattie Primrose Dillard was born in Nogales, Arizona, a mining town. She came to El Paso working for El Paso County Tax Assessor, George Huffman. She married Milton St. John Graves who oversaw a water irrigation system for the Franklin Canal. This system stretched from El Paso to Fabens. It was purchased by the U.S. Reclamation Services. Mattie paid the first payment for the construction of the Elephant Butte Dam.
The Graves bought a farm that was 1 mile north of Ysleta in 1906. The graves named their 30 acres farm “El Nido.” There they farmed 15 acres of pears, 17 acres of alfalfa and 1 acre of roses. Mattie became a prominent rose grower in El Paso. Mattie raised 30 varies of roses.
In 1922 Mattie won blue ribbons at the El Paso Flower show. Graves presented a floral arrangement that included 12 varieties of roses that were presented at the International Soil Products Exposition held in El Paso, this won her a blue ribbon. Graves won numerous awards not just for her roses but for her painting. Graves painted famous El Paso landmarks like the Old Ysleta Mission and the Old Stone Courthouse at Ysleta. She held an art show exhibiting her painting at the Ysleta Women’s Club Community Center in 1935. Other paintings exhibited included paintings of the old Fort Bliss and of Billy the Kid. In 1962, she had one a man show at the Maud Sullivan Gallery at the El Paso Main Library. Graves also painted landscapes.
Graves served as president of the Ysleta Women’s club and came up with a jam she made out of the pedals of an American Beauty Rose.
EPHS Curator and Archive Committee Chair