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Rev. Jacob Griffin

Rev. Jacob Griffin

The Rev. Jacob Griffin served eight Freewill congregations in Wisconsin and at least one in Illinois between 1847 and 1900. Among them were Manchester & South Creek (Illinois?, 1847-1848), Manchester (Illinois?, 1849-1850), Manchester (Boone County, Illinois, 1852-1854), Winnebago (Winnebago County, 1869-1870, 1875), Dale (Outagamie County, 1871, 1883, 1891, 1893-1895), Hortonville (Outagamie County, 1871, 1880, 1888, 1900), Brothertown (Calumet County, 1873), Chilton and Charlestown (Calumet County, 1873), and Vineland (Vinland, Winnebago County?, 1874)

January, 1901, Obituary for Jacob Griffin from the Hortonville Weekly Review.
Rev. Jacob Griffin, whose illness was mentioned in these columns some time past, died at his home Saturday, Jan. 26, at the advanced age of 85 years, 2 months, and 20 days. Deceased had been a resident of Hortonville, Wis., for many years, and during all this time his labors as a minister of the Gospel brought him into close acquaintance with people of all classes, all of whom now cherish the memory of one who was a sympathetic friend to all. Those who were acquainted with him know well that he did not seek the praiseof men or the wealth of the world. He had such characteristics as enable men to go to the stake as martyrs, and yet he had a heart as tender as that of a child.

The funeral was held Tuesday morning, a short service being held at his home conducted by Rev's Mitchell, Cole, and Cooper, after which the remains were taken by train to Allenville, where the service was concluded at the Free Baptist church, conducted by the Rev. J. M. Kayser, who took for his text, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." Interment was made in the cemetery adjoining the church.

Jacob Griffin was born in Smithville, Ont., or, as it was called in those early days, "Upper Canada," on Nov. 5, 1815. When an infant his parents removed to Southwold, Elgin County, Can. It was a wild county and an opportunity for an education or religious worship was very limited. Later, in his father's barn, David Marks and Obadiah Jenkins held meetings, and at the age of sixteen the subject of this sketch publicly confessed Christ and was baptized by Elder Jenkins and united with the Freewill Baptist church at Southwold.

Oct. 6, 1836, he married Emeline Wade, and shortly afterwards the young couple migrated to the new, wild State of Illinois. But instead of devoting his time and strength to farming, as he had intended, he heard the call to preach, and though sadly feeling his lack of thorough preparation he obeyed the call and in 1843, when 28 years of age, he began preaching. In 1844 he went to Canada and was there ordained to the Gospel ministry. He returned to Illinois and at once entered upon the work of evangelization and the organization of churches. For many years he was a most successful minister, many of the Free Baptist churches in Boone county and adjoining sections being organized by him.

In 1852 he removed with his family to Canada, where he remained until 1867, when he accepted a call to the Winnebago and Vineland churches in Wisconsin. While in Canada the Lord greatly blessed him in revival effort and the organization of churches. At one time and another he was the pastor of the Winnebago church for some years, also of the church in Hortonville and other places in this vicinity. He was abundant in labors. Over seven hundred converts were baptized by him. During the days of the slavery trouble he was a most active agitator of the anti-slavery movement and narrowly escaped at one time with him life from the hands of a mob. The temperance and every reform found in him an active supporter. The poor and needy always found in him a friend.

Rev. Mr. Griffin was the father of eight children, two of whom died in childhood and two--Bryant Wade Griffin, who was a lawyer in Vinton, Ia., and Douglas Griffin, a farmer in Vineland, Wis.--died in active manhood. The four children, who with their aged mother, survive are Rev. Z. F. Griffin of Keuka College, N. Y., who for ten years was a missionary in India; Newell W. Griffin, a farmer in Oklahoma; Mrs. C. C. Pembleton, who at present is lying very ill at St. George, Ont.; and Mrs. S. F. Briggs of this place.

September 1, 1906, Obituary for Mrs. Emaline (Jacob) Griffin from the Oshkosh Daily Northwestern

Mrs. Emaline Griffin died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. S. Alexander, 44 Wright Street, at eleven o'clock today after a lingering illness of over eight months' duration. Mrs. Griffin was eighty-nine years of age and has resided at the home of her daughter since the death of her husband, Rev. Jacob Griffin, who died five years ago. Rev. and Mrs. Griffin were both ministers of the Free Baptist church and were at one time in charge of the Merritt street Methodist church. Three children survive Mrs. Griffin. Rev. J. T. Griffin, who is now a missionary in India, W. W. Griffin of Los Angeles, Cal., and Mrs. Alexander of this city.


Additional information from a biography compiled by Rev. Griffiths' descendants Anna LeBlanc and Theresa Griffin:

Jacob Griffin was born 5 Nov 1815 in Smithville, Lincoln County, Ontario, Canada, as his family was in the process of relocating from Nova Scotia to Dunwich, Elgin County, Ontario. He was the ninth of ten children. His father was born in (possibly Dutchess County) New York and fled with his Loyalist father to Nova Scotia during the American Revolution.

Jacob, like all his neighbors in Ontario, was a farmer. Elder Obediah Jenkins came through when Jacob was 16, held meetings in Jacob’s father’s barn. That’s when Jacob joined Freewill Baptist Church at Southwold, according to Zebina's book, according to the Free Baptist Cyclopaedia.

He married Emaline WADE in 1836 in Southwold, Elgin County. In 1837 there was an "uprising" in the area, and in 1838 Jacob and Emaline accompanied Emaline's parents, and some of her siblings, to Ogle County IL.

Jacob's brother Abraham Griffin probably left Southwold area of Elgin County, Ontario, about the same time. Jacob moved first to Ogle County and then after a few years to Boone. I believe Abraham did the same. In 1850's Jacob returned to Canada and Abraham moved to Howard County in Iowa.

Jacob Griffin is said to have established Free Will Baptist churches while in Illinois. He was in Bloomingville Precinct, an earlier name for Byron, in 1840 census. Given other things I know about him I suspect he was active in the underground railroad which was found in that area.

Land records show he subsequently went to Boone County, IL and in the 1850 Census, September 21, he and his family were in Manchester Twp., Boone County, Illinois. The Free Baptist Cyclopedia, above, said,“Brother Griffin was ordained in Ontario in 1844. Five years of his ministry were spent in Illinois. He has organized seven churches and baptized about seven hundred converts. His wife, also, for thirty-five years has engaged in preaching with him successfully. Their united labors in Ontario, about 1852 and later, resulted in much good. Their present home is at Hortonville, Wis.”

In about 1853 Jacob returned his family to Ontario. Zebina’s book has a chapter about Jacob loading his family into a covered wagon and slowly making their way east, returning to Ontario, while passing a lot of travelers heading west.

Anna goes on to add that she was able to locate some information on work at Dexter Church, near St Thomas in Elgin County, Ontario, Canada, in a Times Journal story dated Nov 12, 1921. It mentions that the Freewill Baptists were a sect that had churches in various sections in Elgin, as well as in Norfolk, Oxford, etc. The church was built in 1865.

“The first preacher was the Rev. William Taylor, a man of magnetic personality and unbounded energy, and it was chiefly due to his enthusiastic interest that this little church was formed, comprising some of the most cultured and progressive thinkers in southern Elgin County.Years after, Mr. Taylor gave much attention towrds perfecting a crude telepohone, one of which may still be seen at Dr. Clark’s office, aylmer. His son was one of the pastors of the church, an another was called “Little Taylor,” to sesignate him from the larger man of the same name. … The saintly Jacob Griffin, who with his wife to assist, preached in this and other churches of this denomination for years, and Robert Cameron had the Dexter church as his first charge.”

In 1867, Jacob and his wife went from Canada to Wisconsin, Winnebago and Vineland [Baptist] churches. and then later went to the Hortonville Church. And yet they continued to go back and forth across the border. 1870 Census, 9 July 1870, Wisconsin, Winnebago County, Town of Clayton, Post Office Manchester

In 1871, They are counted in the Ontario census. It is shortly after the death, there, of Jacob’s father, so perhaps they are there to settle the estate. Yet they are counted in the household of Jacob’s cousin in Southwold, Elgin County, Ontario and on October 19, 1871 Jacob performs a wedding in Southwold for a member of that family.

In 1880 Jacob and his wife and daughter are in Hillsdale MI where Zebina is attending college. Zebina’s first wife had recently died and the senior Griffins were on hand to care for the children.

The Griffin’s youngest daughter, Emma Gertrude, married Samuel Briggs, a relative (nephew?) of the Briggs couple who sold the land to the Church.