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History of McGriff Family in America

A 'Big Picture' view of McGriffs Beginning with John in Halifax County, Virginia 1754

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Pioneer and Revolutionary Soldiers Monument

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John and Thomas, Second Column, Names 9 & 10

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There is little doubt that our families progenitor was John McGriff. We have determined that every Caucasian McGriff in the United States descends from John through one of his five sons, John Jr., Patrick, James, Richard and Thomas. As yet we have not found any documentation of the McGriff surname in the British Isles. but there is little doubt that John McGriff was of Scots/Irish lineage. Several early interviews of descendants of John McGriff have been found stating that “my great grandfather was Ulster Irish” or “my great, great grandfather was from Ireland.” One published article mentions an “Irishman” living on the New River with the Lybrook family in 1774. We have no record of who John’s wife was or her nationality. Since their last child, Thomas, was born about 1760 we must assume she died sometime after that date.

The earliest mention of a name similar to the present McGriff spelling is that of a John McGriffer listed in extracts from court records dated 1754, in The History of Halifax County , Virginia. In a later document, deed records from Footprints of Pittsylvania County (Virginia), we find, “John McGriff, 153 acres drau of Guttery’s Run on Snow Creek 14 Mar, 1765, T.” These and other early records suggest that John McGriff and his family settled as early as the 1750’s in Halifax and Pittsylvania Counties, Virginia After arriving from Ireland. After the 1770’s we find almost all the records spell the McGriff name as we see it today with a few exceptions caused by illiteracy, census takers or attorney’s. As late as 1820 an attorney spelled Thomas McGriff’s name on his will as Magriff.

About 1760 John McGriff Jr. and his brother Richard can be found in York County, Pennsylvania records. Prior to 1773 John Sr. moved his remaining family to Montgomery County, Virginia (now present day Giles County) to live on the New River near the mouth of Sinking Creek. Much documentation exists of their life on the New River. In August of 1774 the Lybrook and McGriff homes were attacked by a small band of raiding Shawnee Indians resulting in the death of five small children and the kidnapping of Thomas along with two Snidow brothers. Later that year John Sr. and his son Patrick’s militia group marched to the Ohio River at the mouth of the Kanawa River and participated with other Virginia Militia groups in the Battle of Point Pleasant on October 10, 1774.

As the Revolutionary War began, John Sr. and son Thomas, remained in Montgomery County, Virginia and on September 30, 1777 they took the Oath of Allegiance as found in Kegley, Early Adventurers. Thomas McGriff served in the Montgomery County Virginia Militia and is named in Virginia Military Records, Montgomery County’s Revolutionary Heritage while sons James and Patrick McGriff went to South Carolina where Patrick eventually rose to the rank of Colonel in the militia and participated in many well known battles of the Revolution. No records have been found of James McGriff participation in the war but he rose to the rank of Captain in his local militia after the war. . In Pennsylvania, John Jr. and Richard McGriff both fought for their country and served throughout the war. John Jr. rose to the rank of Sergeant and Richard was a Private in both the militia and Pennsylvania Line. The Daughter’s of the American Revolution have proven the service of Patrick, Richard and Thomas McGriff making descendants of these men eligible to join that organization and also the Sons of the American Revolution

After the Revolutionary War Patrick and James remained in South Carolina and each had large families. Today, many descendants of these two brothers can be found all through the South. Patrick McGriff became quite wealthy and between he and James, owned several farms and accumulated much land and slaves. Thomas eventually joined his brothers in South Carolina for a short time. Thomas McGriff is listed in “Heads of Families-South Carolina“, Chester County 1790. Thomas and his family then went to Tennessee where he is listed in Early East Tennessee Taxpayers 1802. John McGriff Sr. married Catherine Brakefield, widow of Isaac Brakefield, on January 2, 1782.

John McGriff Jr. and his brother Richard moved went to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania were Richard married Sarah Amberson Collins, the widow of Henry Collins. Around 1785 they would leave Pennsylvania for Kentucky where tax records show them in Bourbon County as early as 1795. The last record of their living in Kentucky was in a tax record for 1805. In 1806 they were in Warren County, Ohio were they both signed marriage permission slips for two daughters. Shortly after that they settled in Darke County, Ohio were Richard died after 1820. John remained in Westmoreland county with his family and cannot be found in census records after 1810. His wife Elizabeth is recorded as “a widow” in the 1820 census records for Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Several children and grandchildren of John McGriff Jr. appear in subsequent census’s but the family of John McGriff Jr. is gone from all records after 1850. Thomas McGriff returned to Virginia from South Carolina and went to Knox, Tennessee where he and his family lived for a short time before coming to Preble County, Ohio where he was reunited with his brother Richard in neighboring Darke County. Thomas died in 1821 in Preble County, Ohio. Today, there are many descendants of Thomas and Richard McGriff living in Southwestern Ohio and Southeastern Indiana.

During the Civil War many of the descendants of these five brothers fought against each other as cousins against cousins. Some were killed or wounded and several were held as prisoners. After this painful period of our county’s history many in our family chose to move elsewhere as our country expanded Westward so that today we find many of the descendants of John McGriff’s sons all across the United States.