Search billions of records on

Main Page

Griffin, Feury

Philip Griffin

Compiled by Judy & Gary Griffin, 2007 - email address

Philip Griffin

Currently, we have found no information, except that given by his son, Philip H., on either of his parents or any other children they probably had.

Philip Griffin or James Griffin was born either in Pennsylvania or Ireland, the records vary. The 1910 census for his son Philip H. lists both of his parents as born in Ireland, (1) while his 1900 and 1920 censuses and his death record lists his father as born in Pennsylvania. (2) However, the information on a death record is usually given when people may no longer recall correct information. The census records are often inconsistent and may have been given by his wife. The early marriage record that named his father as James, given by his son Philip H., is more likely to be correct.

Philip J. or James married Mary (or Ellen) Donnally before the 1860s when their son Philip H. was born. The marriage record of their son Philip H. stated that his father was James Griffin. (3) Possibly his name was Philip James or James Philip. Or perhaps the record was transcribed incorrectly. This same marriage record lists Philip J.’s wife as Ellen. Her name could have been Ellen, Mary, Ellen Mary or Mary Ellen. Her surname, Donnally, may have been Donnelly.

The search for this family is hampered by the fact that we have no information on where the family lived, with the exception that our Philip H. was born in Pennsylvania. There were many Griffins in Pennsylvania during this time period. Alternatively, the family may have moved to Michigan or another nearby state before we have a record of their son Philip H. in Michigan.

The name Philip Griffin in a search of census records yields only one in 1870 that seems to even remotely fit the little information we have. There was a James Griffin in Luzerne County, South Abington Township, Pennsylvania. This James was age 54 and no wife near his age was listed. In the household was a Cynthia Griffin, age 22 who could be a daughter, a relative or a very young second wife. The two children are Phillip (age 4) and Lydia (age 2), both born in Pennsylvania. It is not certain if these are James’ children or Cynthia’s. The Phillip, age four, is in the range we have for the birthdate of our Philip H. There is minimal documentation that this James is the father of Philip H. Griffin.

Philip H. Griffin

Philip Harry Griffin was born on July 26, 1867 in Pennsylvania and died on 4 July 1925 (4) in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan, supposedly at age 57. (5) He was buried about July 28, 1925 in Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City, Michigan. (6) Philip married Josephine Feury, daughter of Michael Lewis Feury and Mary Jane Winget(t), on October 24, 1896 in Cadillac, Wexford County, Michigan (see Feury and Winget family histories). (7) Josephine was born on October 9, 1873 in Pennsylvania and died on December 23, 1955 in Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, at age 82. They had three children: Bruce Daniel, Elizabeth M., and Philip H., Jr.

There are a few family stories about Philip, none of which are documented. Grandson David Gerst heard that he was an orphan who worked in the coal mines. His hands would bleed from pulling out slag. He came from the Pennsylvania coal mines, possibly Pittsburgh, and then got a job on the railroad. With this amount of detail, it is more likely that some of the information is true. That we have not found Philip H. Jr. with his family in the 1880 census, lends further support to the early death of his parents.

Photos courtesy of David and Joyce Gerst

After their marriage, Philip and Josephine lived in Cadillac. Bruce, Beth and probably Philip Jr. were born there. Sometime in 1905 the family moved to Northport, Michigan. (8) Philip joined the Masons when the family lived in Northport. He became a member of the Northport Masonic Lodge on December 5, 1905 when Brother “Phil” was given his Entered Apprentice Degree. He received his Fellow Craft Degree on September 17, 1907 and his Master Mason Degree on December 17, 1907. (9) By 1920 the family was living in Traverse City where they remained at least until Philip H.’s death. (10) Josephine’s granddaughter Alice Townsend related that her mother said that Phil Griffin was a wonderful man, but his marriage to Josephine was an unhappy one.

Northport Baseball Team: Philip H. is the man in the suit in the upper left corner.
His son, our Bruce, is the bat boy, front row. Photo courtesy of David and Joyce Gerst.

Philip worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad from at least just before his marriage. (11) City directories list him as working on the GR & IRR (Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway Company) which was owned by ‘Pennsy.’ Other family relations (Feury) also worked on the railroad. Perhaps Philip helped them get a job with the railroad.

In 1857 the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad won a land grant to build a railroad from Grand Rapids to Traverse City. By 1869 they had not made much progress so they were ordered to surrender their charter. Desperate to save their railroad, the Indiana interests behind the GR&I, turned over construction of the line to a company that was controlled by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Since the Pennsylvania RR had recently acquired the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago, they saw the GR&I as a way to extend into Michigan. The Pennsylvania took the land grants and had a nice feeder to their main line. When Northern Michigan’s lumber boom was winding down, the GR&I was looking for a new market for its line. One of their fairly successful approaches was to promote Michigan’s resorts and fishing. “Where to go Fishing” was issued by the G R&I in 1907. It listed good fishing sites and their distance from GR&I stations along the line. The Fishing Line became one of their logos. (12)

To be a conductor you first had to work as a brakeman, which Philip did at least until 1898. People never connected with a railroad are usually surprised to learn that the conductor who went up and down the aisle of the car had a lot more to do than punch tickets. Comparable to a captain on a ship, the conductor was in charge of the entire train. He was responsible for starting and stopping the train, moving the train from place to place, for the safety of the passengers, and for keeping order on the train. He had the responsibility to make sure all the mechanical equipment was working properly. He was the boss over the engineer, brakemen and flagman. On passenger trains, which Philip seemed to work often, he did a lot of talking to people to make sure they were having a pleasant and enjoyable trip. He collected tickets and fares, answered questions and assisted the passengers on their trip. If someone became ill or unruly, he had to deal with the situation. He probably had to frequently work nights, weekends or irregular hours. He often wasn’t able to return home at the end of his shift, since he was many miles away. (13) The 1890 average daily salaries reflect the status of the conductor, engineers earned $2.25 and firemen $1.50. The conductor was paid a considerably higher salary at a daily wage of $3.85. (14) When he married, Philip was probably earning about $1,000 a year when the average income was $622. (15)

Some Conductor lingo: Baby Lifter - A trainman or conductor; Brain Plate - the badge attached to the conductor’s hat; Captain or Cap’t - the name for conductor dating from the earliest railroading, probably derived from the sea, master of the ship, master of the train; Company Jewelry - badge, ticket punch, switch and car keys signed out by the conductor or other trainmen; Cushions - passenger coaches; Hot-footer, Kingpin, Skipper, Swellhead, Big O - nicknames for conductors, Big O comes from the first letter of Order of Railway Conductors. (16)

Philip was still working for the railroad when he died in 1925:

“Phil Griffin Is Death’s Victim. Pioneer railroad man of this city dies suddenly in Grand Rapids. Traverse City was distinctly shocked Sunday to receive the news of the sudden death of Phil Griffin, popular pioneer conductor of the Pennsylvania lines, which took place in Grand Rapids Saturday night. Mr. Griffin, whose family resides in this city, has been running out of Grand Rapids this summer and was living in a boarding house in that city. He arrived in Grand Rapids at the end of his northern run Saturday morning and immediately went to his boarding house, complaining of not feeling well. He retired and early Saturday evening, just when his evening meal was taken to him, he died suddenly of heart trouble.

“For 30 years Phil Griffin has been a familiar figure in this division of the Pennsylvania line. For many years he lived in Northport and operated the branch trains, later moving to this city. He has also lived in Cadillac and Grand Rapids, but recently his family has made Traverse City their home and Mr. Griffin came here as often as his work would permit. During his long employment with the Pennsylvania Mr. Griffin had established a reputation for his good humor and accommodation. He has handled thousand of resorters during his life and all of them looked forward to seeing him again each season.

“Two weeks ago Mr. Griffin visited his family here and was to start home on his vacation Sunday. Saturday his son, who was driving a new car through, stopped in Grand Rapids and asked his father to come with him, but Mr. Griffin had made arrangements to come north on the train instead. Surviving are the widow, one daughter, Mrs. Albert Gerst, two sons, Bruce and Phil, and three grandchildren, all of this city. The funeral will be held at two o’clock Tuesday afternoon from the family residence, 601 state street.” (17)

“P. H. Griffin, Veteran Pennsy Conductor, Dies Suddenly Here. Phil H. Griffin, 60, Traverse City, veteran conductor on the Pennsylvania system, died suddenly in his bed in his room at 76 Division ave. S., when he was stricken with heart trouble early last night. Mr. Griffin, a familiar figure on the northern division of the railroad for more than 30 years, arriver here at the end of his run from the north early yesterday morning and after complaining that he was not feeling well, retired. Early last night, the landlady, Mrs. Elizabeth McMiller, had prepared a lunch for Mr. Griffin and was taking it to him when he died. A son had visited Mr. Griffin during the day and had asked him to ride north by auto but Mr. Griffin said he had arranged to have another conductor take his place on his train and that he would return home today. Mr. Griffin until recently was employed on the Traverse City to Cadillac run. Surviving are the widow who was notified at Traverse City of his death and two sons. Coroner J. B. Hilliker investigated the case.” (18)

“Pioneer Rail Man Dies Suddenly. Phil H. Griffin, 60, of Traverse City, for more than 30 years a familiar figure of the Pennsylvania railroad and many years conductor, succumbed suddenly to heart disease in his room at 76 Division av., S., late Saturday afternoon. Mr. Griffin arrived here about 2 o’clock Saturday morning on his run from the north. He went to 76 Division av., S., where he rented a room and went to bed. Later in the day he complained to the landlady, Mrs. Elizabeth McMillen, and said he was not feeling well. The landlady prepared a cup of tea for him and when she was about to leave the room she heard a gasp. She went to the bed and found Mr. Griffin was dead. Coroner J. B. Hilliker ascribed death to heart disease. Besides the widow two sons survive.” (19)

The children of Philip and Josephine

L to R: Philip H. Jr., Elizabeth, Bruce

Photo courtesy of David and Joyce Gerst

Elizabeth M. Griffin

Elizabeth M. Griffin, ‘Beth,’ was born on May 21, 1900 in Cadillac, Wexford County, Michigan and died on October 21, 1979 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan, at age 79. (20) Beth was buried on October 25, 1979 in Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City, Michigan. (21) Beth married Albert Gerst on October 9, 1922, (22) the same year that her brother Bruce married. It must have been a busy time for the families making arrangements for two weddings in the same year! Her brother Bruce was a witnesse for the marriage. Their children were Tommy, Elizabeth Ann, and David. Before she married, Beth worked as a clerk for the Met Life Insurance Company while she was still living with her parents. (23) Beth and Al lived in Traverse City, probably from 1922 until at least 1952 where Al had a shoe store. (24)

Beth with her doll and her horse, Babe

Beth and her father Philip H., Traverse City

Children of Albert and Elizabeth (Griffin) Gerst

L to R: Elizabeth, David, Tommy Gerst

Photos courtesy of David and Joyce Gerst

Philip H. Griffin, Jr.

Philip H. Griffin, Jr. was born on 5 February 1903 in Wexford County, Michigan. (25) At age 17 he is no longer in school (census), but not yet working, although in the 1919-20 city directory he is listed as a student. (26) Philip married Jean (surname unknown, no documentation). They had no children that we know of. We lose track of Philip after 1920, but Gary Griffin (son of Philip’s brother Bruce) did visit Philip and Jean in Buffalo, New York in the early 1950s. At that time Jean and Philip were divorced and Jean was a hairdresser who had her own shop. According to Gary, Philip was an alcoholic, as was his brother Bruce. According to the family, Philip lived in Buffalo for a long time, dying before his brother Bruce (before 1966).

This is a scan of a negative (no matching photo found) found in Elaine Griffin’s files, wife of Philip H. Jr.’s brother Bruce. We know that the older woman is Josephine, wife of Philip H. Griffin, and the man on the far right is Bruce Griffin. The couple on the left appear to be Philip H. Jr. and his wife Jean. (27)


1. 1910 Michigan Federal Census, Northport Village, Leelanau Twp, Leelanau County.

2. Death certificate of Philip Harry Griffin, State of Michigan, County of Kent, Record of Deaths, Book 12, page 161.

3. Marriage record of Philip Harry Griffin. Wexford County Records, Vol. 2 page 81, No. 1051.

4. Certificate of death, Philip Harry Griffin. County Clerk, Kent County, Michigan, Liber 12, page 161, recorded July 31, 1925. Philip Harry Griffin, died July 4, 1925, married, age 57 years, 11 months, 8 days. Died at Grand Rapids, Michigan from organic disease of heart, occupation conductor. Father: Philip J. Griffin, born Pennsylvania. Mother: Mary - - -, birthplace unknown. Copy on file.

5. The 1900 census lists his age as 41 which would make his birth date 1859 +/- 2 years and lists his birth as August 1858. 1910 census lists his age as 47 which would make his birth date 1863 +/- 2 yrs. The 1920 census also lists his age as 47, an obvious error. His death certificate verifies 26 Jul 1867 birth date (calculated). His marriage record puts the year at 1866. The news article about his death lists him as 60 puts the year as 1865. His gravestone has 1862.

6. Letter from Oakwood Cemetery lists Philip H. buried in Lot 5, Block 2, Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City, Michigan.

7. P. H. Griffin marriage record, Wexford County, Cadillac, Michigan, Vol. 2, page 81. P. H. Griffin, age 30, resided Cadillac, born Pennsylvania, occupation railroading. Father James Griffin. Mother Ellen Donnally. Married in Cadillac by Rev. A. W. Johnstone. Witnessed by Mr. W. Lee Wilson of Cadillac and Mrs. A. W. Johnstone of Cadillac. Handwritten copy.

8. 1910 Michigan Federal Census. Leelanau, County, Leelanau Township, Northport Village. Copy on file. Two newspaper clippings were found on a scrapbook page in Elaine (Goldy) Griffin’s files. They are dated 1930 and 1931 and relate events from “25 Years Ago Today.” Both articles mention that Bruce Griffin, Philip’s son, lived in Northport. This would put the family there in January 1905 and December 1906.

9. Letter from Dale Kiser, Secretary of Northport Masonic Lodge No. 265, May 1, 1983. Copy on file.

10. Birth record of son Bruce lists birth in Cadillac. Beth’s marriage record states she was born in Cadillac. Philip became a Mason in Northport in 1905 and the family is there in the 1910 census. The Cadillac City Directory for 1900 (p. 49) lists: Griffin, P.H. and wife, works G.R. & I.R.R., reside at 512 N. Mitchell. The Traverse City 1905 Directory lists: Griffin, Philip H., conductor, resides 215 Hope (Polk’s Traverse City and Grand Traverse County Directory for the Year Ending November 1st, 1905, Detroit, MI: R. L. Polk & Co., p. 121. Michigan State Library, Call No. M 917.7464 T78c). In 1905 Philip may have had a boarding house address related to his work on the railroad. This same directory for 1919-1920 lists: Griffin Philip H (Josephine), conductor G R & I R R, resides 604 E. State. Living with them were Beth M, Bruce D., Elizabeth M., Philip H. Jr. (Polk’s Traverse City and Grand Traverse County Directory 1919-1920 p.106). In the 1922 and 1924 directories the family lived at 604 E. State, Traverse City MI, 1922 & 1924 (from Mary Alice Bailey).

11. The 1910 census lists him as a conductor on the steam railroad, his death certificate lists him as a conductor, the birth record of son Bruce Griffin lists his father as a railroad brakeman and his marriage record lists his occupation as railroading.

12. “Kalamazoo County, MI Railroads - The Grand Rapids and Indiana.” Online at, accessed November 2003.

13. “Iowa Railway Guide, Train Crews.” Online at “Alaskan Railroad Employees.” Online at “Railway Conductor/Brakeperson.” Online at”The Railroads of Hall County,” Railroad History, online at All accessed November 2003.

14. “Railroad History of Eleva, WI,” online at, accessed November 2003.

15. In 1900 income per worker in agriculture was only $260 annually compared to $622 for nonagricultural workers. “Reader’s Companion to American History.” Online at, accessed November 2003

16. Railroad History, No. 187 (Fall-Winter), 2002, online at

17. Traverse City Eagle Record, July 6, 1925, Sec. I, page 1.

18. Grand Rapids Herald (Grand Rapids, Michigan), July 5, 1925, page 3.

19. Grand Rapids Press (Grand Rapids, Michigan), July 6, 1925, page 2.

20. Beth Gerst, born 21 May 1900, died Oct 1979, last residence 49506 (Grand Rapids, Kent, MI), last benefit 49331 (Lowell, Kent, MI), social security number 377-22-2079 issued Michigan. Social Security Death Index,, accessed November 2003.

21. Beth Gerst funeral card. Birth May, 21, 1900, death October 21, 1979. Funeral service 11:00 a.m. on October 25, 1979 at Hibbard Funeral Chapel, Traverse City, Michigan, Rev. Dr. Robert Brubaker officiating. Interment at Oakwood Cemetery, Traverse City, Michigan.

22. Beth M. Gerst marriage record, County Clerk, Grand Traverse County, Traverse City, Record No. 170. Albert Gerst, age 17, born in Washington, DC, occupation merchant, resided Traverse City. Beth M. Griffin, age 22, born at Cadillac, Michigan, resided Traverse City. Albert’s parents were Gregor and Martina Gerst. Beth’s parents were Philip H. Griffin and Josephine Feury. The marriage was performed at Traverse City by Edward McDonald, Pastor of St. Francis Church. Witnesses were Bruce D. Griffin of Traverse City and Katherine Gerst of Traverse City.

23. Griffin, Elizabeth M., clerk, boards at 604 E State (Polk’s Traverse City and Grand Traverse County Directory 1919-1920 p.106). This may also be an entry in same directory: Griffin, Beth M., chf clerk Met Life Insurance Company, boards 604 E State.

24. Mary Alice Bailey looked up the family in the Traverse City directories and found the family listed at 526 Washington (1922); 213 Franklin (1924); 214 Franklin (1929); 1229 Waynd Rd (1952).

25. Wexford County Clerk, Cadillac, Michigan. Book 2, Page 540, Record #5693.

26. Griffin, Philip H. Jr, student, boards at 604 E State. Polk’s Traverse City and Grand Traverse County Directory 1919-1920, p.106.

27. Similar photos were found that indicate this is a family photo.