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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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James S. Giffen

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 289 - 290

James S. Giffen is well known as a pioneer of the county, and as the owner of the old Valley House, which was in former years a very popular place for public entertainment. Mr. Giffin was born in the town of Oswegatchie, St. Lawrence County, N. Y., September 1, 1827. His grandfather, David Giffin, emigrated from Wales and settled in Canada, where he began the manufacture of scythes by hand. Later he moved to New York, and cleared the farm on which his son Henry and his grandson, James S., were born, and which at last accounts was in possession of his descendants. During the War of 1812, David Giffin served as Captain of a company. For a wife he chose Jerusha Thompson, and of this union Henry Giffin, the father of our subject, was born, November 22, 1801. In the same county Henry Giffin married Miss Esther Spencer, who was a native of Rutland, Vt., and two years his junior. Her father came to this country with La Fayette, and under him took part in the Revolutionary War.

About 1829, Mr. Giffin and wife moved to Seneca County, N. Y., where they lived for some eighteen years. The year 1847 witnessed their arrival in Sheboygan County. Mr. Giffin purchased eighty acres of land on section 18, in the town of Plymouth, upon which a log house had been erected and a small clearing made. Upon this farm they spent the remainder of their lives, being hard-working, honest and respected citizens. For four years Mr. Giffin was Justice of the Peace. On political questions he always voted the Democratic ticket. His death occurred May 24, 1871; his wife, who was a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, died May 1, 1893. Unto this couple were born nine children, of whom eight came to this county, though only four are living.

James S. Giffin was the second child in order of birth. He was reared to farm life, and in the old-fashioned subscription schools received his education. In connection with farming he learned the miller's trade. In 1847, he accompanied his parents to this county, and when the sawmill was built at Plymouth, the first one erected in this section, he was employed to operate it. He also ran for three years the first gristmill that was erected there.

Mr. Giffin was married in Plymouth, May 11, 1851, to Miss Maria Dikeman, who is a native of Tompkins County, N. Y., born November 3, 1833. Her parents were Hiram and Rachel (Bush) Dikeman, who were the parents of five children, two sons and three daughters. When only five' years old, Mrs. Giffin was deprived of the loving care and guardianship of a mother. In consequence, she was adopted by Benjamin Trowbridge, and with his family came to Sheboygan County in 1840. But few persons living can claim longer residence in this county than Mrs. Giffin. Her education was acquired in the district schools and in the school at Sheboygan Falls. Unto our subject and wife has been born a family of two children: Almeda, who married E. C. Collins, a grain dealer of Plymouth; and Walter W., who is a cheese buyer of the same city.

Upon marriage Mr. Giffin settled on the farm where he now lives, and on which, some two years later, he built a tavern, known as the Valley House, which he ran for about twelve years. It became a popular stopping-place, and still retains its old name, though it has long since been converted into a farm house. Mr. Giffin owns eighty-one acres of land, which is one of the desirable farms of his township. He is a wide awake business man, and by industry has accumulated valuable property. In politics, he is a Republican, his first vote having been cast for a Whig President, Gen. Zachary Taylor. Though official positions have often been tendered him, he would never accept them, preferring to devote his entire attention to his own business interests. Socially, he affiliates with the Odd Fellows, being a member of Plymouth Union Lodge No. 71. Mr. and Mrs. Giffin are both pioneers. When Mr. Trowbridge landed at Sheboygan, as there was no pier, Mrs. Giffin (then a child) was carried ashore on a friend's back. What is now the city was then a hamlet, consisting of only five houses. From the Evergreen City to Sheboygan Falls, Mrs. Giffin was taken on horseback.

This worthy couple have passed through all the experiences of frontier life, which are now considered great hardships, but it is safe to say that the days spent in the little log cabin were not the least happy of their lives.


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