Captain Edward Griffin 1762-1802
Edward Griffin was born in Killingworth, May 8, 1762, son of James Griffin and Polly Needham. He grew up in the Killingworth First Society. Historical evidence suggests that his father was a man of some stature within the community. James was the oldest son of his father Samuel Griffin. Within the strict rules for inheritance James probably inherited at least one-third of the estate and in all likelihood occupied his fathers’ house and home lot. It is within this set of circumstance that the young Edward was raised along with two brothers and a sister. James and Polly died in 1774 leaving behind four minor children. We have not found any probate records to indicate how the estate was managed or divided up. Nor is there any record concerning who assumed responsibility for the welfare of the children. But what we do see is that the two brothers, James Needham and Edward, who survived to adulthood, seemed to have inherited enough resources to propel them to successful careers. James Needham seems to have inherited enough property to allow him to keep his children gathered around him. Their town lots sit next to his. As for Edward, he was given a boost into the upper levels of the maritime trade, an accomplishment that required connections and resources to enable him to gain the training and education required of a ship captain. In the several historical references to him he is always referred to as Captain Edward Griffin. The Hammonasset River divides Killingworth from Madison and was a center for the maritime trades. Edward ended his days in Madison and is still a recognized figure in its living history. Of him the town history writes, “He lived in the finest house in Madison but he spent most of his time at sea where he ran his vessels from Boston to Haiti. At the end of his life he returned to land and operated a mill on the Hammonasset”. Of these trade routes one historian writes, “ Connecticut shipped endless amounts of livestock to the West Indies as well as a lot of grown produce wheat, corn, potatoes, butter, and cheese and they generally brought back rum and molasses and it was a very very lucrative trade”. In the maritime history of Clinton is a record of him assuming ownership of the Sloop Ranger in 1798 and registering it for foreign trade. This description of Edward places him in the upper levels of the most lucrative industry of the day. The items described in his will add to the picture of a wealthy household; mahogany furniture, marble topped tables, silver furnishings, a large collection of books, farms, and a loan portfolio. The executors of his will were among the leading lights of the day. Noah Lester was the Worshipful Master, the head of the Masonic Lodge. Edward’s will lists a masonic medal and apron indicating Edward also enjoyed an advanced standing in the Masonic brotherhood. Edward married Submit DeWolf, a Killingworth girl born to Elijah DeWolf and Submit Wilcoxson January 5, 1760, July 1, 1782. The marriage is recorded in the Congregation First Society records. They must have made their first home in South Killingworth. Edward is listed as the head of a household in the 1790 census for Killingworth. Deed records show him buying and selling property there as he tried to consolidate his holdings around a home lot in what is now the town of Clinton. In one of his last transactions the deed describes the location of the property as being bounded on the south by Samuel Griffin Lands. The property was probably close to where he grew up, close to his brother. Edward died at the young age of forty on August 3, 1802. He is buried in Madison. His grave is covered by a large stone slab, which supports a large raised tablet support by four pillars on which is inscribed. “ Though Boreas blasts and Neptunes waves have tos’d me to and for In spite of both God’s decree I Harbor here below Where I do now at anchor ride With many of our fleet Yet once again I must set sail Our Admiral Christ to meet. Behold and see as you pass by As you are now so once was I As I am now so you might be Prepare for death and follow me”.
After reading the detail in his will it seemed a for-gone conclusion that the children’s life would be something of an open book, their future almost guaranteed. The reality is that there is very little information concerning what happened to them, who they married, where they ended up. I have not found any family history written by succeeding generations. There are no baptismal or marriage records in Killingworth or Madison. Even estimating a date of birth for his children posed challenges. Following the practice of the day Edward listed his children by birth order. The complication is that he has two lists one for his sons one for his daughters. Harry Allen, Charles and Edward Hargrave then Polly, Fanny, Mitte, his name for Submit, and Julia. The question is how do you coordinate the two lists? The story takes up again in 1808 in Colebrook, Connecticut. Edwards’ will provided funds to settle his wife on a farm in a location of her choosing. She chose Colebrook to be close to her brothers. The 1810 Census finds Sumit with a household of two boys and two girls. Living next door is Harry with his three children. By 1810 the two older girls must be married with their own households. In 1815 the Congregational Church records list as members Submit, Edward and Mitte. The will specifies that the children could not claim their inheritance before the age of twenty-one. In 1817 Mitte sells her property rights in Colebrook followed by Julia in 1818 and Edward 1819. They all sell their property to Charles giving an indication that he was older. A real breakthrough in the mystery of Edwards’s children came with the discovery of a land deed listed under a Martin Lawrence that seemed to have a Griffin connection. The deed turned out to be the final disposition of the farm owned by Submit Griffin who had deeded it to her children. It was dated April 30, 1818. It was signed by Martin and Submit Lawrence, Lyman and Fanny Doud, Timothy and Polly Gaylord and Charles and Julia Griffin. As was the practice of the day to better establish identity it named the city where the parties lived. The Douds in Guilford, the Gaylords in Norfolk, The Lawrences and Griffins in Colebrook. Edwards’ share was handled in a separate later deed. With these historical clues we can begin to tell the story of the family of Edward and Submit Griffin.
Harry Allen Griffin was the oldest child. It is hard to determine whether Edward’s children were born in Killingworth or Madison. He was named after his fathers’ brother Allen. The will would lead you to believe he was his fathers’ least favorite child. His inheritance was limited to twenty dollars. His parents married in 1782. Census records place his birth as 1782. By 1810 he is married to Percia Segar with three children. Married twice, his second wife was Ursula Dickinson. It was a 2nd marriage for both of them. In a deed record in Killingworth she is listed as the daughter of Nathan and Lucy Wright a fact noted in her death record in Madison dated October 1869. Her name appears with his in census records. Starting out in Colebrook they lived for the most part in Madison. Madison records list Harry’s death as June 1, 1870, listing his occupation as sailor.
The next child was Polly named for her mother. A date on her headstone gives her birth as 1784. It records her death as December 10, 1867 age 83. There is no marriage record. I think she probably married in Colebrook around 1808 to Timothy Gaylord. They lived in the next town to the west, Norfolk. Their names are listed in town and church records. After reviewing the names of her siblings take note of the names of her children. Edward Lyman, Caroline Submit, Charles, Julia Ann, Fanny. Ever the big sister.
Fanny married Lyman Doud on May, 1805, in Guilford. Her death is recorded in the town records as December 2, 1820 age 34. This puts her date of birth as 1786. She and Lyman started their family with a daughter Emeline followed by Fanny. Edward Lyman, Susan and Richard, Lyman remarried and had four more children. Given the dowry left to them by their father both girls probably started married life with a well furnished home.
Charles N. Griffin, according to census records for his father, was probably born 1788/9. He made the move to Colebrook with his mother. He seemed to set up his own household buying land from his siblings. He bought and sold a number of properties as he consolidated his holdings. In 1827 he sells off all of his holdings then seemed to disappear. The clue to finding him came from the land deeds. Listed as simply Charles in his fathers’ will in the land deeds he is listed as Charles N, the “N” in all likelihood stands for Needham. Looking for Charles N. Griffins we find several candidates including one living in Copley, Ohio, the Western Reserve having become the newest frontier in America. Looking at the 1830 Census we find a Charles N. Griffin aged between 30 to 39 living next to Ewrd H. Griffin also aged 30 to 39. Two brothers same name, same middle initials, the right age, the right time frame what are the chances this is not Charles and Edward Griffin? A review of records in Copley finds Charles buying his first piece of land in 1827 a few months after leaving Colebrook. He married Elizabeth Bell on October 27, 1832. Census records indicate three children living with him in 1850. Philander whose date of birth is about 1827. Was Charles married previously? Then two more children Cerona born November 4, 1835, she married Henry Piper November 9, 1853 in Medina County Ohio and died in Orleans Michigan in 1892. In the 1870 Census Elizabeth is living in Michigan with Cerona, Charles must have died after 1860 the last Census year where we find him. Sherman was born about 1843 and married Catherine (Cassa) Finch February 1, 1865. The 1870 Census shows him living in Saunder County Nebraska.
Submit, her fathers’ Mitte, according to census records was probably born about 1791. The deed records from Colebrook identify her as the wife of Martin C. Lawrence. She and Martin are living in Hudson, Portage, Ohio in the 1820 Census close to where Charles and Edward Griffin ended up.Their daughter Juliann married John Deacon. There is a detailed biography for John in the Portage County History. In the 1830 and 1840 Census Martin is living in Salt Creek, Wayne, Ohio. There is a headstone for Submit in the Stony Hill Cemetery in Bath, Ohio dated September 2, 1841. Her brother Charles was living in Bath. In the 1850 census Martin is living in Springfield , Clark, Ohio with his second wife Mary Prior. Martin and Mary are buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Sabula, Iowa. Martin followed his son's, Horace, Martin and Chauncey to Sabula. Census records list then all as carpenters.
Julia was born about 1793 in Killingworth. In Colebrook we have a number of indirect clues concerning her. There is a deed dated 1834 in which Submit signs an agreement with Augustus Elmer. The deed states that in consideration of other land transactions and the last remaining 1/3 acre of Submits’ property Augustus promise to provide her room in his house. The deed is very liberal in its terms and conditions allowing either side a good deal of leeway. Census records show an older female of Submits age being part of Augustus’s household over a number of years. What was the connection? Buried in the Colebrook cemetery next to Augustus is; “Julia Elmer, wife of Augustus, died Sept. 25, 1845, age 52”.
Edward Hargrave was probably the baby of the family probably born about 1795. He seems to be the last to come of age and gain the right to his inheritance. In the deeds of 1818/19 he lists himself as “late of Colebrook”. Had he already began the move west with the young men of his generation? In the 1830 Ohio Census we find Ewrd H. living next to Charles N. By 1830 he had 3 children all boys. There are no other records for him, no land purchases, no marriage record, nothing. What we do find is Charles with two large farms in neighboring townships, Copely and Bath. In the 1850 Census we find Philander listed in both Copely and Bath. In Bath he is living with a Martin Griffin who is the same age. Was Martin Edwards’ son? Were the two boys farming Charles’ holdings in Bath? I hope someone in the extended family can add to the picture of Edward H Griffin.
Reading the description of the will adds to the story of Edwards’ children. He was deeply concerned for their future. It is our obligation to keep their memory alive.