Born in 1886 in Croswell, Michigan Ernest R. “Cap” Graham would eventually find his way to South Florida after working as a mining engineer in South Dakota. While there, he meets his first wife, Florence Morris. Together they had three children: Philip Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post, William Bill Graham, president of the Graham Company and principal developer of Miami Lakes, and Mary Graham Crow.
In 1921, Graham became the manager of operations at the Pennsylvania Sugar Company and moved his family to the company town of Pennsuco, Florida. In 1924, he built the family home out of coral rock from the area. With the Pennsylvania Sugar company discontinuing operations in Florida in 1929, he became the operator of the Pennsuco Farming Company. It isn’t clear whether he was leasing the land or was in partnership with the sugar company. In time, he would acquire 7,000 acres and start a new company called Graham Dairy.
After his wife Florence passed away in 1934 from cancer, he married school teacher, Hilda Simmons. Together they had one son, Bob who went on to become the Governor of Florida and a United States Senator.
Cap Graham was elected to the Florida State Senate in 1936 and served two terms from 1937 to 1944. While in the state senate, he fought to increase taxes on horse racing in order to increase funding for the aged. From this, an investigation into the horse racing industry in Florida leads to an allegation of corruption and mob connections.
He also lobbied for more government contracts for both Dade County and Miami in 1942. In order to avoid war-time shipping through the Florida Straits, he promoted the use of a barge canal across Florida through Lake Okeechobee.
With an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Dade County Commission in 1948, Graham returned to farming and the town of Pennsuco. At the time the population was 133 and was incorporated in 1949. He would remain in the family home until his death in 1964.
Due to residential development in the early-1950s, the dairy was moved to Moore Heaven, taking many residents with it. In the 1970s, the Graham family sold much of the town’s land to the concrete manufacture, Rinker Materials Co. Remaining on the Graham Company land, was the coral rock home, as well as other dwellings. The population of Pennsuco was now down to 74.
In 1986, with the town’s population down to 15, due to the knocking down homes when they widened Okeechobee Road from two-lanes into the six-lane U. S. 27, the city charter was abolished and annexed into Dade County. By this time, they had no police, fire services, sewers or city water.
In 1982, the family home was designated a historic landmark of Miami-Dade County. Unfortunately, the house has fallen into ruin and there are no plans to restore it in the future.