Griffith, Leonard (History 1841)


Janet Schwarze





----Source: 1918 History of Clark County, Wisconsin

                            Mr. & Mrs. Leonard Griffith


LEONARD GRIFFITH, a pioneer of Sherman Township in 1869, who died in 1914, was a veteran of the Civil War, who sacrificed health for his country's weal, and established a home in the wilderness with no other aid than a stout heart and a faithful wife who did more than a woman's share in keeping up the household when her husband was incapacitated by illness. Leonard Griffith was born in Ontario, Canada, July 22, 1841, son of Leonard and Catherine Griffith. His father was a native of New York State, his mother was born in the Dutch colony of Mohawk, Pa., where they were married. Leonard Griffith, Sr., was a millwright and carpenter by trade, and followed those occupations in various places, a circumstance which him to Canada, where his son Leonard was born, and later to Dodge and Assepin, Wis. Just before his, death, which occurred in about 1858, he bought forty acres of land in LeRoy Township, Dodge County. He left eight children. Leonard Griffith, Jr., was then 16 years of age.


He had received a district school education, and he now remained on the home farm and helped to keep the family together until the breaking out of the Civil War, which disrupted so many family relations. In 1861, on President Lincoln's second call for volunteers, he enlisted in Company C, First Wisconsin Cavalry, and was sent to Ripon, the administration building of Ripon College being the first headquarters of Wisconsin cavalry. He was nearly three years in military service. Being captured on the march to Atlanta, he was sent to Libby Prison, whence he was transferred to Andersonville, and later to another prison, remaining in captivity among the rebels for seven months. He was then paroled and sent home a cripple, a condition from which he suffered through all his subsequent life, being confined to his bed as long as fifteen months at a time.


Mr. Griffith was married May 12, 1866, at Mayville, Dodge County, Wis., to Amelia Reible, who was born near Belford, France, May 28, 1849. Her parents, Anthony and Mary Ann Reible, came to America with their family in 1853, landing in this country after a voyage of thirty days in a sailing vessel. They had with them six children-Charles, Cecil, Josephine, Augustus, Sylvester and Amelia. Locating first in New York City, Mr. Reible there followed the trade of shoemaker, and they remained in the Eastern metropolis for two years. They then came West to Dodge County, Wis., where Mr. Reible followed his trade for three years, afterwards buying a farm three miles from Mayville, on which the daughter, Amelia, grew to womanhood. After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Griffith remained in Dodge County until 1869. Then, with one child, Efne, who died twenty-five years ago, or about 1891, they came to Clark County, locating on a tract of 120 acres of land in Sections 28 and 29, Sherman Township. Here they built a shanty 12 by 20 feet in dimensions, with log scoop for a roof, this dwelling being situates in Section 28. Later, they built a log house 16 by 24 feet, with a wing 12 by 20 feet. The latter building was destroyed by fire, after which a frame house was erected, which is the present farm residence.


Their surroundings at the start were those of pioneers. There was no road to their place, only paths through the woods, and as they had no team, they had to walk to their homestead, Mr. Griffith walking from Sparta. He cut shingles and sold them in Neillsville for $2.00 per thousand, it costing him 50 cents a thousand to get them to Neillsville, and 50 cents a thousand for supplies, so the profits from that work were not calculated to advance them far on the road to prosperity. It was six or seven years before he was able to procure an ox team, and as for a number of years the homestead was unable to afford them a living, Mr. Griffith had to go to Dodge County to earn some money, leaving his wife and little daughter alone in the shanty surrounded by woods. She grubbed in a garden patch and raised vegetables, having to carry water for a mile. The deer were so plentiful that they would sometimes come and eat her garden produce. The nearest neighbor lived over a mile away, and there was none to the east of them. Mr. Griffith was away all the first summer. When he was home he carried flour and other supplies on his back from Spencer or Loyal. The first conveyance of the family, like that of many other pioneers, was a "jumper," or rude sled that was dragged over the ground, usually by oxen, and the riding on which, judging from its name, was not of the most comfortable kind.

The family were Methodists in religion, and church and Sunday school services were often held in their log house. Mr. and Mrs. Griffith had six children-Effie, previously mentioned, who was born in Dodge County, and Alice, Amelia, Leonard, Jr., James and Roy, born in Clark County. As the boys grew older they helped to clear the land, erect buildings and otherwise develop the farm. The father was always an invalid, and at times when he was too sick to do anything, his wife, with four children, a horse and two cows to look after, did the washing for thirty-five camp men, also attending to her garden, which she was obliged to keep up in order that the family might have something to eat. She also had to go on horseback to Spencer for medicine and other supplies. On at least one occasion the family went three weeks at a time with no bread in the house. On such occasions Mrs. Griffith would grind horse feed to make pancakes of. By such expedients she provided for the household when Mr. Griffith was unable to do anything, and though they suffered much privation, they survived their hardships, and in the end were rewarded by more prosperous times. Mr. Griffith died Dec. 30, 1914, at the age of 73 years. He was a member of the G. A. R. Post at Spencer, and had served as justice of the peace and clerk of school, and was a man highly respected. His wife is still living on the old homestead, surrounded by comforts well earned by former years of labor and heroism.



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