The Louis Graveraet Family

Excerpt Written By C. Fred Rydholm, GHS ‘41

It is impossible to talk about the history of Graveraet High School without first knowing the background of Louis Graveraet Kaufman, who became the driving force to obtain the many outstanding qualities which were a part of that school.

Mr. Kaufman’s family goes back to the four or five founding fathers who were responsible for the founding of the original city of Marquette in 1849 and which was first name “New Worcester.”

Among these early pioneers was Robert Graveraet, who was of Dutch and Indian heritage, born and raised on Mackinac Island, but had made his way along the south shore of Lake Superior many times. At 14 he had acted as an interpreter for Henry Schoolcraft.

In 1845, Graveraet filed a mineral claim south of Teal Lake in what is now Negaunee and brought Charlie Kawbawgam up from Sault Ste. Marie in 1846.

Mr. Graveraet became one of four men in the original group that formed the Marquette Forge and Iron Mining Co. led by Amos R. Harlow and financed by Waterman Fisher, who built the first company town on the site of present Marquette.

A sister of Robert Graveraet, Juliet, married an early merchant, Sam
Kaufman, and they had a family of eleven children, all born in Marquette. Robert Graveraet was on the first Board of Inspectors for the Marquette School system, a forerunner of the present School Board, back in 1850. He had been one of the leaders in getting a school started in the little community.

The sixth child of Sam and Juliet Kaufman was Louis Graveraet Kaufman. He was born on November 13, 1870. Louis graduated from the Marquette School System and as a young man worked for his oldest brother, Nathan. At first he was studying to be a mining engineer, but at 24 went to work for the same brother in the Marquette County Savings Bank where in a few years he became the vice president. In these years he was studying banking and soon was on his own as vice president of Peter White’s First National Bank. When Peter White died in 1908, he became president. Peter White had been a member of the Marquette School Board for 50 years.

In time, Mr. Kaufman was asked to take over as president of the Chatham National Bank in New York City. He accepted the position but only after the way was cleared for him to be able to remain as president of the First National Bank in Marquette at the same time.

In the decades between 1910 and 1930, Louis G. Kaufman went on to become a national banking figure. He engineered the merger of two old and respected banks in New York, the Chatham National and the Phenix National to form the Chatham-Phenix National Bank, at the time the largest in New York City. Later that bank became the Manufacturers Hanover Trust and today is known as Chemical Bank.

In 1910, Kaufman was elected to the Board of Directors of the General Motors Corporation and was responsible for the reorganization of that company in 1913. He remained on that board for 22 years and was chairman of their finance committee.
Among other accomplishments, Louis Kaufman was responsible for establishing branch banking and for the introduction of the trust system into banking. He became known as the “builder of banks.”

Besides his awesome positions in the banking world, Mr. Kaufman was president of the Petroleum Heat and Power Co., the Empire Safe and Deposit Co., the Chicago and Erie Railroad and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Marquette County Savings Bank.