Wayne County Family Biographies



William Griswold - A Brief Biography

By Wayne A. Griswold


Although the exact year of their arrival is not known, William Griswold and his wife, Rebecca Barnes, were early residents of Wayne county, New York. According to the U.S. census of 1850, William Griswold was born in the state of Connecticut on October 10,1786. At the time of his birth his parents were living in the vicinity of Sheffield, Massachusetts, just four miles north of the Connecticut state line. He was the third son born to revolutionary patriot, Daniel Griswold and Mary (?). Their first born being Daniel, Jr., born in 1780 followed by Selah, who was born in 1782. Abigail, John, and Chauncey followed William in birth order. William was 3 years of age when his parents moved the family 65 miles northwest from Sheffield, MA, to the town of Ballston, Saratoga county, New York. Here they lived the next seven years. About 1796 the family moved from Ballston, NY, to the town of Fairfield, Herkimer county, New York, a distance of 55 miles.

Little is known of William Griswold's activities during the time he lived in Herkimer county, however mention of his brother Selah Griswold is found in the History of Herkimer County, 1791-1879, by F.W. Beers. Selah was listed as one of the prominent members of the first Methodist church built in Herkimer county, circa 1809.This church was located just east of Norway village. The town of Norway is five miles north of Fairfield and was the home of William's future bride Rebecca, the daughter of Lewis and Mary (Kennedy) Barnes. Lewis Barnes and his brothers, Calvin and Luther were pioneer settlers of Norway arriving in the area about 1794.They would be joined by another brother, Cavit and their father Comfort, also a patriot of the revolution, some 10 years later. The Barnes' were known for their integrity and religious zeal. Like Selah Griswold, they were prominent members of the Methodist church and it is said that Comfort Barnes was the first class teacher. The name of Barnes has been attached to a street, school district, and cemetery in the neighborhood of their early settlement. It was in Herkimer county that William Griswold courted and married Rebecca Barnes. The latter occurring on August 17, 1809.

Less than two years would pass when in 1811 the newly married William and Rebecca (Barnes) Griswold moved 80 miles west of Herkimer county to build a new life for themselves. With William's brother Daniel, and their sister Abigail, they traveled west to the Rumsey Settlement located in Cayuga county. The Rumsey Settlement was the earliest settlement in the area and later became known as the town of Victory, Cayuga County, NY. At first, William and Rebecca settled on lot 25, a little south-east of Westbury. William's sister, Abigail Griswold, married Stephen Rumsey and they became lifelong residents of Cayuga county. Abigail and her husband are buried in French Cemetery in Victory. It was during this period that Rebecca gave birth to William's first son, Nelson Griswold. Nelson was born February 14, 1811 probably on the Rumsey Settlement. Sometime during the first quarter of the 19th century William and Rebecca moved 15 miles further west to the vicinity of Rose, Wayne county, NY. Here he hewed out his home from the wilderness building first a log cabin followed by the usual succession of framed houses. He was one of the earliest settlers of what would become the town of Rose. It was in Rose, NY, that William and Rebecca reared and raised their family.

William Griswold served in the War of 1812 and in 1860 his wife Rebecca applied for his pension drawing an annuity of $55.00 until her death in 1868.

I find it interesting to note Nelson Griswold, William and Rebecca's firstborn, was well acquainted with John and Mary Barnes during the time he lived in Rose, Wayne County, New York. They were bedside visitors at the time of my g-g-grandfather's death. I've often wondered if John Barnes was a cousin who possibly relocated to Rose, NY. Mention of John and Mary Barnes is found in the Diary of Sarah Mitchell. Sarah was the sister to Nelson's wife, Mary Ann Mitchell. She was the daughter of Philander Mitchell, Esquire, and Betsey Andrews. Nelson and Mary Ann (Mitchell) Griswold raised three sons and two daughters in the town of Rose. I descend from their second son, Philander M. Griswold. It appears Nelson was active in local government and held the following offices while living in the town of Rose:Inspector of Elections (1844, 1845, 1846,1849, 1851), Constable (1841, 1843), Assessor (1844, 1845), Justice of the Peace (1856). Nelson Griswold died April 1, 1859 of "consumption" as recorded in the diary of Sarah Mitchell (I am told Sarah's diary is in the possession of the Rose Historical Society).

Information on Nelson Griswold's gravestone: Nelson Griswold, died April 1, 1859, 48y-1m-16d, also see RNS, p.407.


The following are excerpts from the 1859 portion of Sarah Mitchell's Diary. Sarah Mitchell was the half-sister of Mary Ann (Mitchell) Griswold, Nelson's wife. Sarah's diary is in the possession of the Rose Historical Society, Rose, New York.

Friday, 25 (March 25, 1859)
Called to see my brother in law N. Griswold. He is not expected to live long. Has the consumption.

Wednesday, 30 (March 30, 1859)
Brother in law Nelson Griswold is failing very fast. Sent us word in the night that he was nearly gone.

Thursday, 31 (March 31, 1859)
Went to see Nelson this morning is just alive. He says to me, "Be a good girl Sarah." Doct. called. Gave him something to strengthen him and he is much easier but no better.

Friday, 1 (April 1, 1859)
"J. Henry Barrett, John Barnes, Mary Barnes and myself watched with Nelson last night. He is very comfortable. He is a good man and a Christian. Went tonight to see him. He was dead."

Saturday, 2 (April 2, 1859)
"Again is Mary Ann left a widow, 3 little boys and 1 daughter and stepdaughter are left fatherless but they know that their father has lived and died a Christian. Happy Knowledge.

Sunday, 3 (April 3, 1859)
"A very large concourse met at the school house to attend the funeral of Nelson....3 little boys are left who need a father's care and counsel."


Much of my "roots" are in Rose, NY. My g-grandfather, Philander Griswold, married Sophia L. Soper, the daughter of Brewster F. Soper and Betsey Petty. Brewster Soper and his siblings were of Long Island extraction and all spent time in Rose, NY, first settling there sometime during the early 1840's.


Contributed by Wayne A. Griswold of Folsom, CA



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Created: 12/13/00
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