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Montrose Mansion: The Prime of Miss Jean Graves

The only daughter of a Montrose family with a local extended family

Jean Graves, only daughter of , was a debutante who made headlines.

The Graves Estate made room for a growing family. Parents Jean and Edward Hale Graves had a daughter, also named Jean (year of birth unknown). The list of household residents grew with the addition of a nanny, two maids and their children, according to the 1910 census.

In addition, the Graveses had an extended local family, with deep roots in the Oranges.  (The extended family will be covered in a future column.)

Many of Miss Jean Stevenson Graves’s activities were chronicled in The New York Times. Her debut was headline news in December of 1926. The young debutante and former student of Miss Porter’s School in CT was introduced to society by her parents at the Hotel Madison. The party was decorated extravagantly with flowering cherry trees and Japanese lilies filling the ballroom. The “supper room” was decorated with roses, sweet peas, and snapdragon.

At the host’s table, the Graves family entertained other prominent South Orange residents, including neighbors and relatives Mr. and Mrs. Warren Stewart. (Editor’s note: evidence suggests but can’t confirm that Stewart Place was named for Mrs. Graves’s family.)

Jean Graves was also “feted” according another The New York Times headline, at a luncheon at Sherry’s hosted by her aunt, Mrs. John Austin Black.

By May of 1930, The New York Times announced that Miss Graves was engaged to W. Holden White.  In the intervening years, Mrs. Graves died. The household grew smaller then, according to census data. Mr. Graves and Jean lived with only two servants, a cook and a housekeeper.

White, Jean’s fiancée, was a 1928 graduate of Harvard University, there a member of the Hasty Pudding Club, and captain of the polo team. His father was founder and owner of the White Motor Company, and owned a controlling interest in The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. The younger White worked at the newspaper.

A lavish society wedding was apparently planned for this daughter of South Orange, when her father died. The October 9 wedding at Grace Church in Orange was “restricted to near relatives and a few close friends.”

In advance of the ceremony, the couple was feted by friends at the Embassy Club and at a rooftop party at the St. Regis Hotel.

Hosted by Jean Graves’s aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Ernest Atherton Smith of South Orange, the wedding was quiet.   Jean’s maid of honor was a South Orange friend, Margaret C. Gould. The reception was held at the Graves estate. It was probably the last Graves event held at the Scotland Road home.

Jean Graves White left South Orange and made her home in Cleveland and London. Her husband became a foreign correspondent; she raised show dogs, one of which was 1940’s Best in Show at the Wilmington Kennel Club competition.

By 1959, Jean Graves White had died. In that year, her daughter, Binney White, married.

Shortly after Jean Graves White’s wedding reception, the Graves Estate passed to other hands. It remains largely unaltered from the time of her wedding, when the family gathered for a last visit to 324 Scotland Road.

Nancy Chiller Janow May 23, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Thank you Marcia..fascinating piece of South Orange history!
Marcia Worth (Editor) May 23, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Thanks, Nancy. I am amazed at how this family's doings didn't only make the paper, but made the headlines. I think I need to learn more about their occupations, for one thing.
Naoma Welk May 24, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Fabulous piece! It's so interesting to learn about the lives of our "predecessors"! Naoma

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