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.
                    4 boys
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 street.

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 fights. 


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.