John Smith Griffin

Infobox Politician
name = John Smith Griffin

imagesize = 100px
caption =
office = Participant at the Champoeg Meetings
termstart = 1843
termend = 1843
constituency = Tualatin Plains
nominator =
appointer =
predecessor =
successor =
office2 =
constituency2 =
termstart2 =
termend2 =
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birthdate = Birth date|1807|11|23|mf=y
birthplace = Castleton, Vermont
deathdate = death date and age|1899|01|5|1807|11|23
deathplace = Oregon
party =
spouse = Desire C. Smith (d. 1884)
Lina Harvey Kenyon

John Smith Griffin (1807-1899) was an American missionary in Oregon Country that participated at the Champoeg Meetings that created the Provisional Government of Oregon in 1843. In Oregon he served as a tutor at Fort Vancouver and later organized a church on the Tualatin Plains in the Tualatin Valley.

Early life

On November 23 1807, John Griffin was born in Castleton, Vermont, to parents who immigrated from England.Corning, Howard M. (1956). "Dictionary of Oregon History". Binfords & Mort Publishing. p. 104.] In New England and Ohio he received an education in both the schools and seminaries. Griffin was then ordained a minister and sent to Litchfield County, Connecticut. His church, the Congregational Church, then sent him as an unaffiliated missionary to Oregon Country to convert Native Americans, where he arrived in 1839.


Griffin arrived in Oregon and stayed at the Whitman Mission the first year before moving to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Staying until 1841, he tutored children of the fort and served as the post’s chaplain. In 1841 he settled on the Tualatin Plains in what is now Washington County, Oregon where he would establish a church on June 26 1842.Buan, Carolyn M. (1999). "This Far-Off Sunset Land: A Pictorial History of Washington County, Oregon". Donning Company Publishers.] He had planned on setting up a mission on the east side of the Cascade Mountains, but did not receive funds from the missionary board and instead set up a farm in the Tualatin Valley. From the time he settled there until 1848 Griffin kept a journal of the arrivals of settlers on the Tualatin Plains. The church was the first church on the plains there, established at East Tuality Plains. [ West Tuality (Forest Grove).] Washington County Museum. Retrieved on February 18 2008.] Members of the church included Joseph L. Meek, George W. Ebbert, Joseph Gale, and Charles Richard McKay among others. Griffin continued as minister of the congregation until the parishioners removed him in 1845 due to his rigid beliefs, replacing him with Harvey L. Clark. While leaving on the plains Griffin set up his own personal jail in order to detain Native Americans who would steal from him.

In 1843 Griffin attended the meetings at Champoeg on the Willamette River where he opposed the type of resolution introduced at the May third meeting. Though opposing the type of measure, he did vote for the creation of the Provisional Government in what was a 52 to 50 vote in favor of the formation of a government.cite book
last = Dobbs
first = Caroline C.
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Men of Champoeg: A Record of the Lives of the Pioneers Who Founded the Oregon Government
work =
publisher = Metropolitan Press
year = 1932
doi =
id =
] This temporary government continued until the government of the Oregon Territory arrived in 1849 once the region south of the 49th degree of latitude became part of the United States. In 1848 Griffin took possession of Mission Press and began printing The Oregon American and Evangelical Unionist. Griffin invested in the Portland & Valley Plank Road Company in 1851 that began building a plank road from Portland, Oregon, to the Tualatin Valley.


In 1839, Griffin was married in Saint Louis, Missouri, to Desiré C. Smith, who would die in 1884. He then married Lina Harvey Kenyon in Three Oaks, Michigan. Griffin’s sister Rachel Johonet Griffin married fellow missionary Henry H. Spalding as Spalding’s second wife. [ [ Rachel Johonet Griffin Spalding.] Find-A-Grave. Retrieved on February 18 2008.] John Smith Griffin died on January 5 1899 and is buried at Hillsboro Pioneer Cemetery in Hillsboro, Oregon. [ [ Rev John Smith Griffin.] Find-A-Grave. Retrieved on February 18 2008.]


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