Lester Griffin, born July 30, 1890, was a son of Lillian Melissa Knight and Noah Webster Griffin, grandson of Mary Elizabeth Carroll and William Washington Knight, and great grandson of Levi J. Knight, pioneer settler of Ray City, GA. He was a brother of Bessie Griffin.
Lester’s parents grew up in the 1144 Georgia Militia District (Rays Mill District) but moved to the Lower Fork district of Lowndes county (Georgia Militia District 658) before his birth in 1890. There, Lester Griffin grew to manhood and took up farming on his own account on rented land.
Sometime before 1917, Lester Griffin moved to Irwin County, where he took a wage job farming for James O. Sutton, who owned a farm on the Ocilla-Lax Road. Sutton’s mother was a Griffin.
On August 12, 1917 in Irwin County, GA, Lester Griffin married Margaret Elizabeth “Lizzie” Griffin. She was a daughter of Rachel McMillan and Bartow B. Griffin, keeping it all in the family. The blushing bride was 18 years old; the 26-year old groom was of medium height, slender, with dark hair and blue eyes.
According to Griffin family members, “Lester Griffin and Margaret Elizabeth (Lizzie) Griffin were distant cousins. Lester’s Great-Grandfather Thomas Griffin and Lizzie’s Great-Grandfather Joshua Griffin were sons of James Griffin, Revolutionary Soldier, and Sarah Lodge Griffin, early settlers of that part of Irwin County.”
Lester Griffin and Lizzie Griffin had five children:
- Bonita Griffin
- Noah Webster Griffin
- Audrey Griffin
- Ommie Griffin
- Cecil Lester Griffin
Descendant Alan K. Griffin shares the following:
“From what we were told, mostly by Daddy’s oldest sister, Bonita, Lester Griffin took a job in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a carpenter/builder when she was a child. This corresponds to the South Florida real estate boom of that time (see Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz). She vividly recalled travelling by wagon and walking on their move to that area and coming home.”
“There was a violent hurricane that hit the Miami area on September 18, 1926, with winds estimated between 131 and 155 MPH (see Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane). Because there was little warning or understanding of hurricanes at that time, more than 370 lives were lost and 35,000 were made homeless in Southern Florida. Some thought the storm was over when the eye passed over and were outside when the second part of the storm hit (the eye reached the coast at Coral Gables about 6AM and lasted 35 minutes). The highest winds and storm surge (up to 10 feet) was in the second part of the hurricane. Fort Lauderdale, just to the North also had severe storm surge from the Hurricane. Prior to the hurricane, Grandmamma Lizzie and the children had travelled home, apparently for a visit. Both of Lizzie’s parents had birthdays in August, Bartow Beauregard Griffin (August 18, 1861 – August 12, 1929) and Rachel McMillan Griffin (August 12, 1860 – October 29, 1938) so perhaps the visit home was to celebrate their 65th and 66th birthdays, respectively. In any event, they were fortunate not to have been in Ft. Lauderdale. As Bonita related, Lester remained and rode out the storm in their house, which overturned in the storm (similar to photo below), nearly taking his life. Whether they would have all survived is doubtful, had they remained with him.
“They never returned to live in South Florida, instead buying a house on 5th Street in Ocilla, GA near the home of Lizzie’s brother, John Griffin. Lester became a night watchman, or deputy policeman in Ocilla sometime after returning. He became sick with flu and pneumonia sometime in late 1928 and was under the care of Dr. G. L. McElroy and Dr. G. W. Willis from December 17 till he died on News Years Eve, December 31, 1928. The information on the death certificate was provided by Lizzie’s brother, John.
“Lester Griffin died December 31, 1928 at the age of 38. He died of pneumonia leaving his widow and children at a tough time with the depression and all they faced.
“Bonita was 10 years old at his death, Webb 9, Audrey 7, Ommie 5, and Cecil was 1 year and 8 months old. So, here was Lizzie at 30 years old, with five young children to raise on her own, and a house with a mortgage. By the Grace of God, the Woodmen of the World covered Lester’s mortgage, so the home became Lizzie’s outright. She had many of her family nearby, but being a proud lady, went to work as a seamstress to support them, and worked her whole life. (She still worked at A. S. Harris Department Store in Ocilla when my brothers and I would spend weeks there during summers in the 1960’s.) Bonita helped with the younger children and home chores, and Webb worked to support the family as well.
“Odd thing is, Lester’s Father, Noah Webster Griffin, similarly died in 1897 at the age of 41 , leaving his widow, Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin, to raise 8 children (one, William Howard Griffin, that she was about 6 months pregnant with at Noah’s death). Noah Webster Griffin actually died from Typhoid fever, possible due to contaminated well water at the farm they had moved to about a year earlier.
“I recently found the only photo I know of Lillian at about age 80, still looking very strong with daughter-in-law, Lizzie Griffin (Lester’s widow), Lizzie’s daughter Audrey Griffin Fletcher with baby daughter, Faye, Sarah Catherine Griffin (daughter of WH and Carrie Griffin), Carrie May Kelly Griffin (wife of Lillian’s son, William Howard Griffin), Charles Harold Griffin (son of WH and Carrie Griffin), and Ommie Griffin (daughter of Lizzie) .
“Lillian Melissa Knight Griffin (1862-1947) as you may know, was the sister of Walter Howard Knight (1859-1934) and Mary Virginia Knight Langford (1856-1916). Another sister, Margaret Ann Knight, b. 1858 died in 1863 at the tender age of 5 years. This is documented in one of the Civil War letters of William Washington Knight to his wife, Mary Elizabeth Carroll Knight.”
Lester and Lizzie Griffin are buried at Brushy Creek Cemetery, Ocilla, GA with many others of the Griffin family connection.
- Bessie Griffin Bazemore
- Bazemore-Griffin Wedding 1899
- The Poetry of Mary Elizabeth Carroll
- Men at Beaver Dam Baptist Church
- Civil War Letters of William Washington Knight 1861-1863 in VSU Archives
- Ray City Residents Among Refugees from 1926 Hurricane
- Obituary of Dr. L.S. Rentz