CLAUDIUS GRIFFIN, one of the most venerable as well as highly esteemed residents of Union township, was born
93 years ago, November 28, 1813, in a little, old log cabin, in Clermont County, Ohio. He is a son of Benjamin
and Experience (Mitchell) Griffin.
Mr. Griffin comes of Revolutionary stock, his grandfather having served under General Washington in 1776 and also
having participated in various campaigns against the Indians and French which made courageous soldiers out of peaceful
farmers. Mr. Griffin's father was a soldier in the War of 1812. When the Civil War fell upon the land, our venerable
subject, then too old to be accepted as a defender of his country, sent his son, who gave up his young life on
the altar of patriotism.
Benjamin Griffin, father of our subject, was born near Utica, New York, later'resided for a short period in Pennsylvania,
but subsequently came to Ohio, erecting a mill in Clermont County. Three years later a freshet in the river carried
his mill with its grain and flour off its foundations and through only a fortunate accident were his home and family
saved from like destruction. With his property thus destroyed, Mr. Griffin found it necessary to seek other means
of subsistence and he decided to take up government land in Champaign County, where he finally located in a favorable
spot. During the 15 years of his residence there, he cleared 120 acres of land, in the meantime enduring many pioneer
hardships. When his son Claudius was about 18 years of age, Mr. Griffin was offered $5 an acre for his cleared
land, which he accepted, and then purchased another farm in Van Wert County. Our subject remembers very vividly
the five months he spent alone on the new farm, clearing five acres of it by himself during the first winter. Indians
frequently visited him in his rude cabin and the surrounding woods were full of wild animals. In the spring, after
a long and wearying journey, the rest of the family came to Van Wert County, and here they lived united for the
next eight years. Claudius Griffin's descriptions of the hardships that were necessarily faced and of the various
expedients made use of both on the farm and in the household to ensure agricultural success and family comfort,
impress the hearer with the conviction that our pioneer fathers and mothers were possessed of qualities of which
we, of a younger generation, may well feel envious.
Benjamin Griffin married Experience Mitchell, who died in 1867, aged 82 years, surviving her husband for seven
years, who was 76 years old when he passed away. They were the parents of to children, as follows: Nathaniel, Foster,
Benjamin, Levi, Lucy, Amy, Eunice, Claudius, George and Chandler.
In 1839 Mr. Griffin was married and with his bride moved to Mercer County, locating on entered land in the vicinity
of Mendon, where he again began the making of a home in the wilderness. Assisted and encouraged by his capable
wife, he soon had enough land cleared to start his agricultural operations. Together he and his wife sowed the
seed by hand; the grain when grown was cut with a sickle and the threshing was clone with a flail. Even then, in
order to make use of the grain, it had to be hauled for from 20 to 30 miles, through the woods and over bridgeless
streams, to reach a mill. On numerous occasions Mr. Griffin met with adventures and accidents which would have
discouraged any but a brave and resourceful man.
For five years after moving to Mercer County, Mr. Griffin was not called upon to pay tax on the land he had entered
from the government, but at the end of this period he was assessed, and to obtain the $15 necessary be sold a bunch
of 60 two year old hogs for 25 cents apiece. He walked to St. Marys, to the asessment office, paid the tax with
all the money he had, and, as he was not acquainted in the village, walked the whole distance home again, fasting.
For to years after he settled in Mercer County, he received no mail, the facilities then not being an encouragement
to correspondence. He recalls the first newspaper that ever came into his hand, a sheet of four pages about the
size of an ordinary book.
As may be inferred, Mr. Griffin's educational opportunities were limited but this fact only made him the more anxious
to secure better chances for his children. When sufficient families had settled in his neighborhood to make it
possible to gather children together for a school, he made it his business to go from house to house and so represent
matters that contributions were secured and a schoolhouse built. In the same way he was instrumental in the erection
of the first church in his locality. Having united with a religious body at the age of 13 years, he realized the
need of a place of worship where all might gather, although from the first his home had been the home also of the
pioneer preachers who made their periodical visits through the country. In all his efforts he was most ably seconded
by his estimable wife, who had become a professor of religion at the age of 16 years.
Mr. Griffin recalls when the site of Mendon was an Indian village and when the aborigines had only just left Van
Wert, Lima, and many other points for the far West. All his relations with the Indians were in the main friendly,
perhaps because he invariably treated them well, as he did all whoa were poor or unfortunate. His heart has ever
responded to the call of distress, charity being quickly dispensed to those who required help.
In 1839 Mr. Griffin was married to Elizabeth Arnold, a daughter of John and Rachel Arnold, who were natives of
Kentucky but were then residents of Venedocia, Van Wert County, Ohio. To our subject and wife were born 13 children,
as follows: Eunice, deceased, who was the wife of Caleb Kelley; Mrs. Hannah Fryer, of Union township; John, deceased;
Lucinda, deceased, who was the wife of William Lumunyon; Benjamin, who died young; Nathaniel, who married Ann Dobson,
and resides at Celina; George F., who married Lydia Partner and is a farmer in Union township; Martha Jane, who
is the Wife of Joseph G. Severns, of Union township; Rachel, deceased, who was the wife of William Partner; William,
who died young; Priscilla, who is the wife of Calvin Krugh, and lives in Union township; Isabella, who is the wife
of Elroy Hussey, a prominent merchant and the postmaster at Hendon; and Ida, who is the wife of Clement Vallandigham
Hood, of Union township.
A great grief came into the life of Mr. Griffin when his son John died in the army, during the Civil War. He was
a valued member, of the 18th Regiment, Ohio Vol. Inf. His death was caused from exposure after an attick of measles
and his remains lie in the National Cemetery at Chattanooga, Tennessee. Mrs. Griffin died July 26, 1906, aged 85
years, 6 months and 4 clays. Her married life had extended over a period of nearly 67 years.
In political sentiment Mr. Griffin is in accord with the Republican party although, at the age of 21 years, he
cast his first vote for Andrew Jackson. He visited the polls for the last time to cast his ballot for his great
fellow citizen, the late President William McKinley.
Since 1881 Mr. Griffin has resided on his present farm, which is about half a mile from the old homestead. He is
surrounded by a large and interesting family of descendants numbering at present: Seven living children, 47 grandchildren
and 55 great grandchildren. Every comfort that ample means can supply or loving thoughtfulness suggest is his.
In a remarkable degree he retains the strength and clear faculties of years ago, having never used glasses to assist
his vision and having at the age of 90 years performed the feat of reading the "Holy Scripture" through
in the space of two weeks. This book is a very familiar one to him and its precepts he has faithfully followed
through many, many years. He is a consistent member of the Church of God. His life has bridged a wonderful period
of the world's history and in his locality he has ably performed his part in the mighty whole.
History of Mercer County, Ohio
and Representative Citizens
Edited & Compiled by: Hon. S. S. Scranton
Published by: Biographical Publishing Company
Mercer County, Ohio Biographies
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