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A Look Back: Archibald Griffith and SGI

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By Jolene Hawkins

Last week, we learned all about the schools in the 1800s. You paid for classes you took and sometimes even paid to stay in a home near the school instead of going home each day. So let’s move on to Archibald Griffith.

He was one of the founding families in Springville, coming from Rhode Island in 1815. He was a farmer, a teacher and surveyor in town. He was also a successful businessman and at one time held the office of Justice of the Peace.

In 1822, Archibald was a member of the Masons and was one of the signers to request that Springville be able to form a new Lodge for the Free and Accepted Mason and Lodge No. 346 was indeed formed.

The land for the Evergreen Cemetery in East Concord was donated by Archibald Griffith in 1858, with the provision that six bodies that were buried elsewhere be reburied in this cemetery.  A Board of Directors was appointed and the land taken over with the provision that each lot be one rod square and sell for not more than $2 or less than $1. It was incorporated in 1921.

In 1867, he made a liberal donation to the Springville Academy. During that year, an addition was built, making the building three stories and adding a bell tower. Eight instructors were employed. When he died, Mr. Griffith bequeathed over $10,000 to the institute as a permanent fund, to be used mainly for the education of orphan and indigent children of the town of Concord.

His will read in part “…leaving $10,000 that the interest and income of these funds shall be appropriated annually by the board of trustees as follows: One third of the payment be used of the term, bills and incidental expenses attending upon the instructions or tuition of such students attending the Academy as are actual residents of the Town of Concord. In the selection of students, the Trustees will give preference to orphans, and the children of widows in comparatively needy circumstances. One fourth will be used to purchase additions to the Academy Library and apparatus as shall be selected by the Board of Trustees. The remaining  will be put into a general purpose both inside and outside of the Academy.”

In the following years, the ads regarding the school had this included in it: “The endowment of the late Archibald Griffith Esq. enabled a number of deserving students from the Town of Concord free tuition.”

Over the years of the school long life, good ‘ole GI has touched the lives of thousands of students and families, as well as the community. Who are some of the noble graduates of the school?

There was the author and statesman Clark E. Carr, who suggested that his close friend, President Abraham Lincoln, be invited to speak at Gettysburg. We also have Ralph B. Waite, who brought the world “painless dentistry” through the introduction of Novocain.

Of course, we cannot forget Glenn S. “Pop” Warner, the man who introduced padding, numbered plays and jerseys and pioneered the forward pass spiral that forever changed the game of football. Because of his different plays on the fields that he had his team do, rules were written. (The football hidden underneath the jersey until the player crossed the goal line is one of my favorites). Pop Warner also painted pictures, and we have one at the Pop Warner Museum in Springville.

This short list does not cover all the people who have gone on to make a difference in people’s lives, through their art work, engineering or singing.

Schools are the cornerstones of our communities and we can say we have a school that has been around as long as the town has!

Want to learn more? Stop by Lucy Bensley Genealogy Center on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., or the Mercantile/Heritage Building on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, 7 to 9 p.m. (get to hear some great music as well) or Wednesday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call us at (716) 592-0094 or email luchbensleycenter@gmail.com.

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