Carroll County Biographies


This gentleman is one of the best-known and most highly respected citizens of Savanna, and is now retired from active business life. He is of pure Welch ancestry, and was born in Caernarvonshire, Wales, June 20, 1825. His father, Owen Griffiths, was a small farmer in that country, and there died about the age of seventy years. His wife, Ann Williams, was a native of the same shire, and there died after reaching about the same age as her husband. Their family consisted of five sons, of whom one, who was named William, died in infancy, and another, born later and also named William, died at the age of eighteen years. Of the surviving sons, our subject is the eldest. His brother, Ellis, is a resident of Utica, N.Y., is a carpenter by trade, and is married. John, the other brother of our subject, is now farming the old homestead in Wales, and he also is married.

Our subject grew to manhood on the place of his birth, and had for years before reaching his majority decided to make a home for himself in the New World. Accordingly, he took passage, on April 9, 1845, at Bangor, on the sailing-vessel “Strathmore,” of Pwllhelyc, Capt. William Williams, commander, and after a tedious voyage arrived in Boston harbor May 30, 1845. He staid in New England but a short time, going thence to Utica, N.Y., where he worked in a woolen factory about six months, then going on a farm near that city. On this latter place he remained two years, and then went back to Utica, where he served an apprenticeship at the trade of carpenter, under a fellow-countryman, David Jones. He completed learning his trade in 1852, and then began working as a journeyman on what was, a few years later, the New York Central Railroad workshops. About this time that great corporation, now one of the most powerful railroad companies in the world, began buying up the different lines which now comprise that road. Their first purchase was the Albany & Buffalo Railroad, and, as opportunity offered, they bought up other connecting lines, consolidating all into one mammoth corporation. For two and one-half years he was employed by this company in their car-shops, but later removed to Pennsylvania, where he worked for one year on railroad work, building bridges. His course was still westward, and the following year found him in the city of Detroit, whence he went to Michigan City, Ind. In April, 1856, he arrived in Chicago, and the following month found him located in Racine, Wis., where he procured employment in the Racine & Mississippi Railroad shops. In June, 1865, he was promoted to be overseer of the company’s shops at Savanna, this county, which position he retained until 1869, when the road having been absorbed by the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, the shops at this point were discontinued. He remained in the employ of the new company, however, and was sent back to the shops at Racine, and eighteen months after, when the company built new shops at Savanna, he was sent back as overseer and manager. In this latter capacity he remained until 1880, and in that year was transferred to Oxford Junction, Jones Co., Iowa, to establish and run the new car-shops which the company had decided to build at that place. There he remained until the fall of 1882, when he again received merited promotion, and became district foreman of the Council Bluffs Division and branches, having about 500 miles of road under his care. This is the prominent and responsible position, and entailed severe labor, both mental and physical, and gave Mr. Griffiths a broad field in which to work. This responsible position he held until July, 1887, when, much against the wishes of his immediate superiors, he resigned his position, desiring to retire from the business, having accumulated a comfortable competence by his continuous labor and judicious investments in real-estates. He is the owner of some valuable property in Savanna, and has a very desirable home on Chicago Avenue.

Our subject was married, in Racine, Wis., July 4, 1857, to Miss Sarah H. Williams, a daughter of David and Jane (Williams) Williams, and a native of Flintshire, Wales, born Feb. 2, 1831. Her parents belonged to the well-to-do and better class of families in their native land, her father being what was there known as a gentleman, and a rent collector by occupation. Both died in their native shire, and at nearly the same time, the father being at the time of his decease aged sixty years, and the mother fifty-five. Mrs. Griffiths was well educated in her native tongue, as well as in English, in which she was carefully instructed by her maternal grandmother, and English lady, by whom she was reared. Mrs. Griffiths was about twenty years of age when she came to America, landing at New York City in April, 1851. She went at once to the city of Utica, N.Y., where she had friends, and later joined her brother in Wisconsin, where she became acquainted with and was married to our subject.

To Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths were born three children: one son, named George, died at the age of nine and one-half years. The eldest of the survivors, William H. (who is unmarried), is a machinist, who learned his trade at Milwaukee, and after working in that city some years, went to Rome, N.Y., and worked in the locomotive shops at that place, but has now returned to Milwaukee. The younger son, Walter S., is an engineer on the Chicago and Council Bluffs Division of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. He is married to Miss Bird Taylor, who was born and reared in Savanna, and they have one child – Guy T.

Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths are esteemed members and active workers in the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he is a Trustee, also holding a similar position in the Cemetery Association connected with that denomination in Savanna. He and both of his sons are Republicans in politics, and all of the family are justly regarded as among the very best class of citizens of Carroll County. Mr. Griffiths has reason to be proud of the success which has attended his efforts. When he landed in the United States he could not speak a word of English; but with the energy which has always characterized him, he not only soon mastered the language, but he became well read in it. There is probably no man in Carroll County who has more acquaintances than he, or one who is more highly thought of.

Contributed by Carol Parrish from "Portraits & Biographical 1889 Pg 1010

Back home

Copyright © Christine Walters All Rights Reserved