Career of Silas L. Griffith—On Borrowed Capital Builds a Fortune

The Troy Press
Troy, NY, Saturday, July 25, 1903

The death at San Diego Cal., this week of Silas L. Griffith of Danby, Vt. calls attention to the successful business career of this Lumber King of Vermont. A native of the town where his greatest business achievements were consummated, he is an example worthy of notice of the sort of men who succeed wherever they are. Success is in them and it is not necessary for them to move to crowded commercial centres to find opportunities for business advancement. He started out on a capital of $1,000, which he borrowed, and at his death was buying thousands of acres of timber land and selling more lumber than anyone else in the state, if not in all New England. He was public spirited, too, and his native town bears many monuments to his generosity.

Mr. Griffith had been ailing for two years with an unusual form of skin disease, which finally resulted in his death. He was under the care of specialists, but the disease was one for which no cure apparently had been discovered. He went to California with his wife in January in hopes of improving his health.

The Rutland Herald has this interesting summary of his life:

Silas L. Griffith was born at Danby June 26, 1837. He was the son of David and Sophia Griffith, being the second of four children, the others being Charles H., William B. and Mary, all of whom now live at Danby.

Mr. Griffith was educated in the village schools and at Kimball Union Academy at Meriden, N. H. In 1858 he borrowed $1,000 and opened a general store. Three years later he built a store of his own. His business increased to such an extent that in 1864 he sold $48,000 worth of goods. The following year he sold his business in order to devote his entire attention to the lumber business, which he had since followed continuously.

Extensive Business.

From these small beginnings Mr. Griffith kept adding to his holdings, until he became the personal owner of over 50,000 acres of land, and the present output of lumber is approximately 25,000,000 feet annually. He had on his pay roll over 400 employees exclusive of the salaried heads of departments; 80 oxen and 213 horses were owned by him and regularly employed in the business, while a great many teams owned by others are employed during the busy season in the hauling of logs and lumber. Of the annual output of lumber about 24,000,000 feet is spruce and 1,000,000 feet hardwood. About 1,000 cords of wood are also cut annually, the greater part of which is burned into charcoal, which industry is again on the ascendancy to such a favorable degree that he had caused several new kilns to be built.

To manufacture this amount of lumber Mr. Griffith operated nine sawmills, and in addition to his personal business Mr. Griffith operated mills in company with Eugent McIntyre and others in Peru, Arlington, Dorset, Manchester, South Wallingford, and C. L. Soule at Groton. Mr. Griffith had always been known as a public-spirited man. A few years ago he installed a public water system which cost $12,000 and also built two roads leading to Lake Griffith at a cost of $27,000.

At one time Mr. Griffith took a great interest in the fish hatchery business, and expended upwards of $20,000 in fitting up a model plant. The business did not prove as successful as anticipated, and Mr. Griffith abandoned it, taking the trout to Lake Griffith. At this lake he erected a commodious building of the hotel or club house order of construction, equipped with every need for the entertainment of himself, family and guests. A special feature Mr. Griffith had made for several years is the entertainment for two days a party of 15 or 20 old gentlemen, which gathering has come to be known as the “boys’ club.”

He spent yearly about $3,000 in maintaining extensive greenhouses, but never sold any flowers.

Public Benefactions.

Mr Griffith’s greatest benefaction to his native town is yet to come in the form of a public library and memorial building, plans for which are already under way. It will cost about $30,000 and is endowed so as to be self-supporting. In it will be a museum which will contain the numerous mementos and curios collected by Mr. Griffith in his travels. He had also planned to install an electric lighting plant for his own use and as a business venture.

Politically, Mr. Griffith had always been an ardent supporter of the Republican party. He seldom sought political honors, preferring to give his attention to business and pleasure, but he consented to serve as a Senator from Rutland county in the Legislature of 1898.

Mr. Griffith is survived by his wife, Mrs. Kate T. Griffith, and one daughter, Mrs. W. H, Riddle of Rutland, Vt. He had three other children, all of whom died when young. The remains will probably arrive in Danby next Thursday, but definite arrangements for the funeral have not been made.