I originally found Henry GRIFFIN in May or June of 2000. I’ve long made it a research practice to study the families and descendants of siblings of those ancestors in my direct lines. I can’t tell you how often that has paid off in discoveries of new clues to research and interesting connections in general. Henry was the nephew of my 5th Great-Grandmother, Miriam (GRIFFIN) MEREDITH. (See Henry Griffin / Don Bryant Relationship Chart)

Portrait of Henry Griffin

Portrait of Henry Griffin

Sometime in 2008, I ran across a small item on the internet that a Henry GRIFFIN was once a mayor of Grand Haven. Then last weekend I had some time to delve into him as a subject.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to enter a family member’s name in Google and have results returned that give practically a life story in only a few hours time? I don’t mean finding another person’s research work. I’m referring to discovering the documents, books, portraits, vital records, letters, newspaper articles, land patents, pictures of houses and buildings related to the subject and family – all in a matter of hours. Not many of us will be as fortunate as we slug along, prudently tracking down scattered bits and pieces of evidence. Finding Henry GRIFFIN was a case study in Providence – or at least Fortune.  During just a few hours I learned more about the early history of Ottawa county at one sitting than I have ever learned about any specific region, just by Googling “Henry GRIFFIN – Grand Haven.” – D. Bryant

Here’s a summary of his life ordered chronologically:

  • 1807 – Henry Griffin was born in Smithville, Ontario 30 December, the son of Smith GRIFFIN and Eleanor CULVER
  • 1830 (May) – Married Rachel, the daughter of Rev. Daniel Ward EASTMAN and Bridget MATHEWS
  • 1831 – Son Hannibal Rathburn was born in April
  • 1831 – Henry made a profession of his faith in Christ by joining the Presbyterian church in Grimsby, Ontario
  • 1833 – Henry holds the office of ruling elder in the church
  • 1833 – Daughter Elizabeth Olivia was born at Smithville 14 December
  • 1835 – The location where Rix Robinson had set up his trading post at the mouth of the Grand River was named “Grand Haven”
  • 1836 – Daughter Maria Louisa was born at Smithville about 2 July
  • 1837 – Ottawa County, Michigan is organized
  • 1837 (August) – Henry Griffin first arrives in Ottawa County from Lincoln County, Ontario
  • 1837 – First Steamer “Governor Mason” on the Grand River. Reportedly Henry was aboard during the first trip to Grand Haven from Grand Rapids along with Silas Hopkins, stopping at Scranton (Eastmanville).
  • 1837 – Bought a pre-emption of land (adjacent to where the county poorhouse later would be situated)
  • 1837 (October) – returning to Ontario for his family
  • 1837 or 1838 – “The distinguished honor of planting the first fruit trees in Ottawa county belongs to our venerable citizen, Henry Griffin, Esq. Forty-eight years ago, or in the year 1836[sic], Mr. Griffin and Mr. Benjamin Hopkins about the same time planted orchards at Eastmanville. On the three lots on Franklin street where Mr. Griffin now resides, he planted fruit trees of various kinds, which still live and gladden the heart of the planter by their magnificent growth and abundant bearing qualities.”
  • 1838 – In the spring Henry embarked with his family at Buffalo aboard the steamer “Columbus,” landing at Grand Haven the 1st of June
  • 1838 – In October, son Hannibal dies and is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery (Scroll to GRIFFIN)
  • 1838 – (January 1839?) – Henry accompanied J. V. Hopkins of Scranton (Eastmanville) traveling to Grandville retrieving “breadstuff” for area families (during a tremendous winter storm)
  • 1839 – On August 15, daughter Maria Louisa dies and is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery
  • 1842 – Forty-six voters of Tallmadge township… elected H. Griffin as School Inspector
  • 1844 – Elected Ottawa County Sheriff, Henry Griffin’s jurisdiction extended north to Mackinaw. He was Sheriff until 1850.
  • 1844 – Henry moved to Grand Haven, dealing in Drugs, groceries, and also lumber.
  • 1844 – Henry built a house at 301 Franklin Ave (at 3rd st). “The two-story house on Franklin, built in what was then the woods about 1844, was remodeled and later torn down to make room for a parking lot for the adjoining bank.” The 1882 History of Muskegon and Ottawa Counties claimed that one of Rix Robinson’s trading posts was located on this parcel of land.
  • 1845 – Henry Griffin registered his land patent for 160 acres at Eastmanville on June 1st
  • 1847 – Elected to the office of ruling elder in the Grand Haven Presbyterian Church
  • 1847 – Dominie Van Raalte came from Holland and took Henry Griffin (as County Clerk) down to naturalize the Holland colonists. He charged $70 for his services at half price.
  • 1848 – 10 July, Henry writes a description of the “Hollander colony” to the editor of the Detroit Free Press
  • 1849 – Grand Haven’s first permanent general store on Washington street was built by Henry Griffin at the corner of 1st street
  • 1849 – 10 May, Presbyterian church in Grand Haven incorporated, with Pierre Duvernay, Henry Griffin, and Thomas Ferry elected as trustees
  • 1850 – 1 July, Henry is enumerated in the Federal Census at Grand Haven, age 43, Merchant. Also enumerated is his nephew, Franklin Griffin, age 16, Clerk.
  • 1850 – Daughter Eleanor (Ella) is born 8 September in Grand Haven
  • 1851 (July) – The first newspaper published in the county, the Grand River Times, with the office located in Henry Griffin’s building, where also was the office of the County Clerk, Hoyt Post and Register, Mr. Angell; and Sheriff, George Norton
  • 1851 – Henry Griffin chosen superintendent of the old school house on Second St, the first frame building in Grand Haven
  • 1851 – July Business Directory listing… HENRY GRIFFIN: Dealer in Staples and fancy Dry Goods, Ready made Clothing, Boots and Shoes, Groceries, Hardware, Crockery and Glass, Drugs, Chemicals, Medicines, Paints and Oils, and Provisions. Also, Lumber, Shingles, &c. &c.Opposite the Washington House, Grand Haven, Michigan
  • 1852 – The schooner “Pioneer” was built at Spring Lake by H. Griffin
  • 1852 – Henry was named Treasurer of Ottawa County
  • 1860 – July 28 Henry is enumerated in the Federal Census at Grand Haven, age 52, Druggist
  • 1862 – Henry became School Inspector for the new Grand Haven Union High school
  • 1866 – Fire damages much of central Grand Haven
  • 1868 – Henry is alderman of the 2nd ward, Grand Haven
  • 1868 – Rachel, wife of Henry dies at age 58 years in Grand Haven 28 July. She is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery.
  • 1871 – Henry Griffin is Mayor of Grand Haven and representative to the State Legislature
  • 1871 – 10 Oct, Mayor Henry Griffin makes a proclamation calling for relief for the people of Holland (Scroll or Ctrl-F “griffin”), whom had lost homes and property by a conflagration
  • 1873 – Eastmanville Flouring Mill was built by Griffin & Watson. In 1880, Mr. Griffin’s interest was purchased by Ozro C. Lull
  • 1873 – Henry Griffin writes article “Our History: Early Life in Grand Haven and Ottawa County” for the Grand River Times (Grand Haven Evening Tribune republished the article September, 1891)
  • 1879 – Henry is elected president of the Ottawa Bible Society, and annually elected to that office until the time of his death
  • 1880 – 12 June Henry is enumerated in the Federal Census (on Franklin street), age 72, Druggist, along with his daughter Eleanor and six unrelated boarders
  • 1882 – published writings in the History of Ottawa County, Michigan; Chicago, H. R. Page & Co.
  • 1889 – In the Fire of 1889, the Griffin home “had a close call, it being badly scorched”
  • 1891 – Horrace Nichols began publishing The Evening Tribune in 1891 in the Courier-Journal office, which was located on the second floor of the former Henry Griffin Drug Store at approximately 29 Washington Street
  • 1891 – 16 July, Henry Griffin dies age 83 at his home at 3rd and Franklin st, Grand Haven and is buried 18 July in Lake Forest Cemetery. Newspaper Article
  • 1892 – Daughter Eleanor marries DeForest McNett on 24 February at Grand Haven and later moves to Sodus Point, Wayne Co, NY
  • 1900 – Elizabeth O. Griffin resides at 301 Franklin ave
  • 1900 – DeForest McNett and Eleanor reside in Sodus, Wayne Co, NY
  • 1904 – Griffin Drug Store building is moved from the NW corner of Washington and First to 525 Elliot to make room for the Story & Clark building. “Griffin’s building was one of a few in this neighborhood to escape the 1866 fire. Just prior to its removal to make room for Story & Clark, the building housed a millinery shop. Today is considered the city’s oldest commercial structure.”
  • 1910 – Elizabeth O. Griffin resides at 301 Franklin ave
  • 1910 – DeForest and Eleanor NcNett reside at Sodus, Wayne Co, NY
  • 1915 – Eleanor Griffin McNett was a charter member of the Grand Haven Women’s Club and became its President in 1915 and 1916
  • 1916 – Eleanor’s husband, DeForest McNett dies July 6th and is buried in Lake Forest Cemetery
  • 1917 – Eleanor Griffin McNett served as the first Executive Secretary of the Ottawa County Chapter of the American Red Cross from 1917 to the 1930’s
  • 1920 – Elizabeth O. Griffin resides at 301 Franklin ave with her sister Eleanor G. McNett, a widow
  • 1930 – 26 March daughter Elizabeth O. GRIFFIN dies and is buried at Grand Haven, Lake Forest Cemetery
  • 1935 – Daughter Eleanor Griffin McNett dies and is buried at Grand Haven, Lake Forest Cemetery
  • 1942 – The Girl Scout “Little House,” located in downtown Grand Haven, has been in use since 1942. It was erected specifically for the Girl Scouts, and was built as a community effort on property donated by local citizen Eleanor Griffin-McNett.
  • 1967 – Griffin Elementary (on Griffin street) is built and “named in honor of Henry Griffin, a lifelong servant to our community.”
  • 1970s – The 130 year-old Griffin residence on Franklin Ave was torn down
  • 1989 – Henry Griffin Drug Store in Grand Haven is listed on the state register as an Historic Site