STORIES OF THE TOUGH OLD DAYS
Fighting in Church, After Church and the Night Before Church
The Griffith Family that settled in Poultney were Quarrymen and Farmers
both. Richard John Griffith(Born 1859 in Wales) was a tall man with
fiery red hair and a famous temper. It is unknown why he came to the US
but it was well known that the North Wales Quarrymen were a rough lot.
One family story says that when Richard was working in the Open pit
quarry in Poultney, he became upset at his foreman and picked him up by
his ankles and held him over the edge of the pit, threatening to drop
him to his death if he didnt relent over some dispute in the Quarry.
Richard, wife Margaret, oldest son John The Four Griffith Brothers
and Hugh in 1887
Richard had four boys from his first wife, Margaret, and then two
girls. The boys, John, Hugh, Richard and Morris, all worked on the 60
acre farm and in the Quarry with their dad from the age of 9.
Unfortunately, this meant that none of the family had much time for
leisure, and it was once said that they didnt have time to bathe. On
one occasion, it was brought to Richard's attention in the middle of
church that he and his boys smelled of the farm, and as we all know,
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Infuriated, Richard and his four sons
engaged the rest of the small church in a full out brawl and, as family
lore has it, threw the Preacher and his congregation out into the
Other stories indicated that the arrival of the Irish to the
quarries in the last 20 years of the 19th century also brought
ethinc strife. Family lore (second son Hugh) says the Welsh
quarrymen would finish church early, then go up to the Catholic
church and wait for the Irish men to come down the road, where they
would meet them and beat them up, kind of a Sunday afternoon past time
before we had Sunday football like we do today. Of course, we don't know how successful they
really were in beating up the Irish Quarrymen, but that is the legend.
There was evidently a lot of fighting. While the First son John, like
his father, was listed as "Tall" on his WWI draft card, younger brother
Hugh was average height, about 5'9 and 170-180 lbs. However, he could
hold his own, and jumped trains regularly from Poultney to Granville
New York, where he and his brothers would go to drink and fight in a
notorious bar. Apparently, they would even drink and fight on the train
with other 'riders' on the 8 mile trip. Morris was arrested when he
crashed his buggy at the Vermont border after a high speed chase from
the New York police, in the early 1900s. Evidently there had been a
fight at the bar, but its not certain why the police were chasing him.
It may be that fighting as a way to pass the time was brought over from
Wales. Just North of the Llechwedd Slate Quarry at Blaenau Ffestiniog
was a mountain pass, named The Crimea. At the top of the pass, (1262
feet above sea level) was a famous Pub called The Crimea, where there
were many fights. It is said that the pass was named for a road opened
through the pass during the Crimean War, (1854-1856) but it may have
been the pass was named after the Pub, which was compared to a
battlefield during the Crimean war because there were so many
FEATS OF STRENGTH
There were also stories of how strong and athletic the Griffith boys
were. One story says they all were able to hand walk from one end of
the barn to the other, suspended from the Center beam while pinching the wood
with their fingers, a feat difficult to imagine. Also, Hugh Griffith
worked in docks loading 400 LB barrels of beer onto ships. He said he
could lift and carry the barrels on his chest which pinching the ends
with his fingers. Again, a difficult feat. He also said once that he
broke his nose in fight in Chicago when he was hit with a pool ball,
during a brief sojurn west to Minnesota, where he did not stay long.
Certainly years of working in a Slate Quarry and on farms would make
you tough. There is no doubt things were rough in the 'Good old days'
if you were a Griffith, or if you were someone else who offended them.