About Seth Griffith
Seth Griffith Family Papers, 1837-1886 MSA 491
This collection contains the diary of Seth Griffith, a farmer living in the town of Grand Isle, Vermont, on the island of South Hero in Lake Champlain, for the year 1881. The diary was continued first by Mr. Griffith’s daughter until she died in 1883, and then by his bereaved widow, sporadically, until 1886. Russell L. Pardy gave the collection to the Vermont Historical Society in 2008. It was found in the attic of his childhood home in Cornish Flat, New Hampshire. The collection is stored in one archival flip top box and occupies .25 linear feet of shelf space.
Little is known of the life of Seth Griffith. According to Alan Stratton in History of the South Heroe Island Being the Towns of South Hero and Grand Isle, Volume II, page 533, Seth Griffith (b. 25 April 1818, d. 14 Feb. 1882) and his wife Mary H. Pearl (b. 10 Aug. 1818, d. 9 Aug. 1894) are buried in the Grand Isle (Vermont) Cemetery. The 1880 Census lists Seth (aged 62), Mary (aged 61), and their daughter, (Marion) Estella Griffith (aged 20), living on a farm in Grand Isle. The 1871 Beer’s atlas map for Grand Isle shows “S. Griffith” living just west of the Quaker Meeting House on what is today called “Quaker Road” and just south of A. S. Pearl on today’s “Adams School Road.” There is another building on Adams School Road with the initials “S.G.,” presumably indicating that Seth Griffith owned that property as well.
Scope and Content
Seth Griffith's diary begins on 1 January 1881 and describes weather and other daily events on a farm on the west side of Grand Isle, Vermont. Griffith's farming operation was likely quite sizeable as he describes the planting of acres of wheat, buckwheat, corn, peas and beans. He also had hogs and cows and sold eggs. He made cheese and butter but reported no other dairy operations. The drudgery of repetitious chores, day after day, weighed heavily on Griffith and his complaints are noted. He also listed his accounts and noted who was in his debt as well as who he owed or had paid money. He was a keen observer and recorder of the weather and recorded daily notations as to wind conditions, precipitation and temperature. He was not a reporter of news but did note the assassination of President Garfield by Charles J. Guiteau.
Mr. Griffith often lists only the first initial and last name of the people he knew well. Similarly, some of his business contacts are listed by last name and first and middle initials. Griffith’s household, in addition to his wife, Mary, and daughter, Estella, included a farm worker, Elam, whose last name is not provided in the diary and is unknown.
When Seth Griffith died on February 14, 1882, Estella Griffith took over her father’s journal. Her entries are far less detailed than her father's and provide evidence of the rapid deterioration of the farm without Seth Griffith's expertise and supervision. Estella Griffith died at age 22 on August 17, 1883, at which point, her mother, Mary, took up the entries for a short time. Mary Griffith’s writing reveals a woman who is severely depressed and unable to cope with running the family farm after the death of her husband and daughter. In fact, some of her final entries note payment to Albert Griffith and H.H. Pearl for board, which would seem to indicate that she was either living at another residence or that she still resided at the farm but was paying for her meals. A transcription of the diary is available with the collection.
The collection also includes the autograph book of Mary Pearl Griffith for the period 1837-1840. The sentiments express the flowery, romantic feelings of the period. Toward the end of the book is a note dated 1876 addressed to “my dear mother,” signed by M. Estella Griffith, daughter of Mary and Seth Griffith, who would have been about 15 years old at the time.
MSA 491:00 Introductory material which includes donor’s background information about Seth Griffith, census page and book page with cemetery listing for Seth and his wife Mary Pearl.
:01 Diary of Seth Griffith, continued after his death by daughter Estella and wife Mary. (1881-1886).
:02 _____, transcription.
:03 _____, index of persons and places listed
:04 Autograph book of Seth Griffith’s wife, Mary H. Pearl, with most entries between 1837 and 1842.
griffithfamily.doc Vermont Historical Society • Barre 05641 February 2012