Biography of Rev. Joseph K. Griffis


Griffis, Rev. Joseph K., Buffalo, has had a more eventful life than usually falls to the lot of man. His ancestors settled in Virginia about 250 years ago. His father, William B. Griffis, of Welch descent, ran away from home when a boy, went to Iowa and was ever afterward in the government employ as a scout, guide, etc. He lived in Missouri and later in Texas. He brought his parents to Iowa, where they died. He married Aizada Martelia West, a native of Tennessee, whose father was killed by the Confederates while standing in the door of his home in Missouri. They had two daughters and one son. In 1864, while he was in pursuit of horse thieves, the Kiowa Indians killed his wife and took his son Joseph K. a prisoner, and during the Apache war in 1882 he was himself killed. Rev. Joseph K. Griffis was born in Pike county, Ill., February 28, 1862, and being captured by the Kiowa Indians in infancy grew up in the family of their chief without knowledge of his white parentage. When ten years old he was surrendered and taken to his uncle's home in Texas, but a few weeks afterward ran away and returned to the Indians, with whom he remained until he was nineteen, being adopted as the son of Big Bull. He learned the English and Indian languages and acted as interpreter. In 1878 he enlisted in the regular army and served two and a half years as interpreter, scout and guide; owing to some trouble with Captain Kruise he with two others deserted, but all were captured, tried and sentenced to be shot. The captain, however, ordered them sent to Fort Reno, and there with one companion he escaped by cutting through the roof of the guard house. He went to Texas, Mexico, New Orleans, up the Mississippi and to London, Canada, where he was converted to Christianity. Later he was arrested and imprisoned for ten days for preaching in the streets. Afterward he was an officer in the Salvation Army, finally engaged ,in evangelical work and in September, 1893, was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in Buffalo, where he is now pastor of the South Presbyterian church and where he settled in 1890, coming here from Ohio. He never attended school; his education has been obtained through self study since his conversion. He is emphatically a self-made man. On the platform he has often told the thrilling story of his life. He has been active in the cause of temperance and in 1896 and again in 1897 was nominated for member of assembly by the Prohibitionists. June 2, 1885, he married Rebecca J., daughter of James Rooney of Toronto, Canada, and they have two sons and two daughters.

Our County and its people
A descriptive work on Erie County, New York
Edited by: Truman C. White
The Boston History Company, Publishes 1898


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