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James Griffing Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: SC-030

Scope and Contents

Personal letters, biographies, reprinted letters with analysis, aquesition information, correspondence with the Kansas Historical Society, newpaper articles, essays,


  • Created: 1854-1993
  • Other: Majority of material found in 1855
  • Other: Date acquired: 00/00/1882


Conditions Governing Access

Letters should be handled with care.

Biographical or Historical Information

James Sayre Griffing was a Methodist minister and circuit rider during the settlement of the Kansas territory. Griffing was born in Owego, NY and after earning his ministerial degree from Wesleyan University, he went west for Indianapolis. After the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, Griffing was called by presiding elder Reverend Goode to be a part of one of the two preaching circuits the Methodists made in Kansas. Griffing settled at the Wakarusa Mission in late 1854. Hr spent much of his time in between Lawrence, Topeka, Wakarusa, Tecumseh, and Wyandotte, with living with friends until he was able to build his own home. His circuit was over 200 miles and covered from Fort Riley and up to the Big Blue River. The life of a circuit rider was not an easy one. Griffing spent much of his time with only his pony, Jacob, to keep him company. Wherever there were enough people along his route to form a congregation, he would lead them in worship and the children in Sunday school. Griffing expressed a hope that as more people migrated to the territory these congregations would turn into churches. Griffing spent some of 1855 extremely ill due to exposure, and was again extremely ill with what is assumed to be typhoid the following year. He was relieved of part of his circuit as Rev. Lovejoy was appointed to the newly formed Fort Riley circuit in June of 1855. In September of that same year, Griffing was sent back east to raise money and while there married his wife Augusta Goodrich. Griffing was not immune to the continued conflict of bleeding Kansas that was so prominent during this period. Griffing often wrote home about the continued strife with the Border Ruffians from Missouri. These Ruffians would stuff ballot boxes with pro-slavery votes and harass anti-slavery pioneers moving in from the east. Griffing was called to service by the governor in 1864 to protect the Kansas border from General Price's imposing troops. He was present at both the Battle of the Big Blue and the Battle of Westport. Although he never saw live action in these battles, he wrote letters home about his experience there. He was also sent to Lawrence during Quantrill’s raids, but arrived a day late. Later, he was sent to defend Kansas settlers during series of attacks by Native Americans. Griffing spent the rest of his life in Kansas, but focused his efforts mostly in Topeka; and creating and maintaining a congregation nearby. He had three children with his wife that continued on to live on the land he claimed for two more generations. Griffing provides a unique prospective to the Kansas experience. As a Methodist circuit rider, his experience of Kansas during this time displays how difficult and relentlessly unforgiving life in this new territory was. As an observer to the battles which he was called to, he gives an important perspective of the violence that defined this period for Kansas.

Note written by Emory Rodda


1.00 boxes

Letters (some in plastic sleeves, some not), typed essays, newspaper clippings, magazines, typed biographies, reprinted newsletters other_unmapped

Language of Materials



A collection of personal letters of Methodist minster J.S. Griffing from 1854-1868 relating mostly to the settlement of Kansas and methodism during this time, with reference to the continued conflict known as Bloody Kansas. This collection also includes supplmentary materials on Griffing and documents relating to the creation and matinence of the collection itself.

Arrangement Note

One box. Folder of secondary materials first arranged by type of document, Folder primary materials,Folder with letters arranged by date.

Physical Access Requirements

Letters are over 150 years old and fragile

Source of Acquisition

Griffing Estate,William J Griffing

Method of Acquisition

The letters associated with Methodism in Kansas were given to the Methodist archives, other letters given to the Kansas Historical Society, and other materials deposited at Wesleyan Univeristy

Archon Finding Aid Title
Emory Rodda
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Baker University and Kansas United Methodist Archives Repository

518 8th Street
PO Box 65
Baldwin City KS 66006 US