Junius Groves was born in slavery in Louisville, Kentucky on April 12, 1859. He moved to Kansas as an Exoduster when he was 19 years old.
He got a job at a meat packing plant in Armourdale and later moved to Edwardsville, where he bought 80 acres of land and started growing white potatoes. His business thrived, and he was dubbed the “Potato King of the World” because he allegedly grew more bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone else on the planet.
In addition to buying and shipping potatoes, seed potatoes, and other produce, he owned a store in Edwardsville and had numerous other business interests.
Groves, the “Potato King of the World,” was also a founding member of the Kansas state Negro Business League. The Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Society and the Sunflower State Agricultural Association. Booker T. Washington’s book, The Negro in Business, featured him (1907).
He owned over 500 acres at the height of his success. Groves and his wife, Matilda, built a 20-room mansion complete with modern conveniences such as electricity, hot and cold running water, and telephones.
In the early 1900s, he established the Groves Center community near Edwardsville, selling small plots of land to African American families. He also built a golf course for African Americans, possibly the country’s first. Junius Groves died in 1925 in Edwardsville.