Cornelia Graves was the only teacher and principal at Bethelda school, the first “colored” school in Stephenville, Texas. In 1907, the Erath County, Texas woman built the small school of less than 12 students, which sat near College Hill road. She taught there for nearly 20 years.
Graves was born in 1875 to a family of eight children. A graduate of Prairie View A&M University, she left Dallas and moved to Stephenville where she taught at Bethelda Colored School until 1926. She also served as the local church Sunday School superintendent. After moving to Amarillo, her husband fell sick with tuberculosis and they left the city. Although the pioneer teacher was no longer at Bethelda, the city named their new school on Floral Street after Mrs. Graves in 1951.
Resident historian Thetis Edwards has spent two years researching the life of Graves and the legacy she left to the community. Edwards is an advocate for the school’s legacy, which was eventually used as a community center then a business office before shutting down completely.
Graves died in 1960 at age 85. The city of Stephenville, Texas dedicated a new historical marker in her honor on June 26, 2012.