Harold William Griffis – His Sermons

Sermon File of Harold Griffis

Harold William Griffis’ long career as a pastor, minister and preacher resulted in an accumulation of an extensive catalog of sermons over 36 years. Unfortunately only a small number of his sermons remain from his library. Most of his sermons were given to a young preacher who was starting his career when Harold passed away on June 30, 1961, the day after his 58th birthday. Evelyn Griffis, Harold’s wife, graciously allowed the young man to comb through his sermons and choose those he wished to keep. The remnants of his sermon files contain 45 sermons. [1]

Sermon Files of Harold Griffis
Sermon Files of Harold Griffis. Click for enlarged view.

What is immediately apparent when looking at his sermon files is their twin nature as visual objects and as written documents and notes. Viewing these files as visual objects while at the same time reading his sermon notes for sound and sense, one needs to seize upon the twin beauty of their form and substance. They are points of contact by touch, sight, and thought. [2]

Sermon Notes as Visual Objects

As visual objects they provide a glimpse of how Harold Griffis compiled and managed his sermons on a wide array of paper, different formats and print. They also unintentionally provide an artistic side of his ritual of composing this thoughts on various different paper and through different means of putting ink to paper. His sermons attest to the considerable care he gave to the ritual of composing sermons. Similar to Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings, I think Harold’s sermons should be understood as visual productions. [3]

Each sermon is contained in an eight by eleven envelope. The sermons are handwritten or typewritten. They appear on different types of paper:

  • Different colored 8 inch by 11 inch paper;
  • 6 3/4 inch by 3 3/4 inch 6 hole punched notebook paper;
  • 8 1/2 inch by 5 1/2 inch 3 hole punch notebook paper; and
  • index cards.

Occasionally the files also contain copies of newspaper or magazine clippings that originally inspired a sermon. Some of the notes in the files are written in shorthand, a nearly extinct method of writing by means of abbreviations and symbols that were used especially for taking dictation. The hand written notes provide a glimpse of his handwriting and penmanship. The typewritten notes and outlines are especially interesting to view. There were no corrective ribbons on the typewriters that Harold used for typing his sermons. His focus on typing single spaced notes on paper as small as 6 3/4 by 3 3/4 note paper is noteworthy, an art form of its own kind..

Harold’s Portable Typewriter Enlarged view

One of his most common approaches to organizing his thoughts and subject matter for sermons, talks, and speeches was the use of his portable typewriter. Many of his notes are single spaced, type-written epistles on various sizes of notepaper. 

One of the typewriters that Harold used was the portable 1948 Royal Quiet DeLux. It is the last known typewriter that he had in his possession.  It is still in fairly good condition and is housed in a traveling case.

This 1948 Royal Quiet DeLuxe is sometimes referred to has a Dreyfuss machine. Henry Dreyfuss was one of the first “industrial designers,” artist/engineers who specialized in improving the looks and workability of everyday products. Dreyfuss was asked to improve the Royal QDL portable and, after some intensive research, came up with this design. In this highly informative video, Alton Gansky talks about the typewriter and the man behind the design.

As Written documents: the Active Process of Formulating Modern Day Parables

As written documents, the sermon files illustrate how his sermons evolved as creative contemporary parables: based on scripture, contemporary news stories, or personal observations of human nature. Many of the files contain two or three sets or iterations of a sermon. These various versions of sermons are hand written, typewritten and in outline form. They were always a work in process. He may also have replicated the outlines of a sermon in appreviated format, perhaps as refresher notes when he gave a sermon.

Each sermon file is contained in an 8 inch by 11 inch envelope. A sermon file number is marked on the upper right hand corner of the envelope. The logic of the numbering system is not known. It appears that the sermons are numbered in a chronological order based on their creation.

Sermon File: The Ship that Never Sailed
An example of the Sermon Envelope: The Ship that Never Sailed. Click for larger view.

A title of the sermon appears to the left of the file number at the top of the envelope. Underneath the title of the sermon is a list of the places and dates that the particular sermon was given.

Sermon File: The Bag with Holes
An example of the Sermon Envelope: The Bag with Holes. Click for larger view.

The first sermon file is number 0008. It was first delivered at the Freemont Church in August 1922 when Harold was still in college. The last file is number 1242. This sermon was given three months before his death on March 5, 1961 at Trinity Church in Albany, New York.

Newspaper Articles Documenting His Sermons

Harold Griffis kept a scrapbook of local newspaper articles that documented community and church activities. Some of the newspaper articles not only documented his activities but also the subject of his sermons and talks.

For example, below is a newspaper article on his sermon ‘Slaves on Horseback‘ (sermon file 0171 below) which was given at the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service for graduates on June 16, 1929.

Harold Griffis Newspaper Article Sermon - Slaves on Horseback
Newspaper article on sermon provided for the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.
Harold Griffis Newspaper Article Sermon - Slaves on Horseback
Newspaper article on sermon provided for the Williamstown High School Baccalaureate service, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another high school graduation address was given to graduates of a technical high school.

Technical High Grads Hear Rev Griffis
Graduation address given my Harold Griffis,, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis Click for larger view.

An undated newspaper article describes Harold’s sermon on the meaning of Thanksgiving:

Minister Explains Real Meaning of Thanksgiving
The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another address, given at a Parent’s Teacher Association meeting in Amsterdam on November 23, 1940, was on the subject of Tolerance.

Tolerance, from a scrapbook of Harold Griffis. Click for larger view.

In an eulogy for Harold Griffis, it was noted that:

“Many remember his unusual skill in teaching the Bible and personal prayer; but the most thoughtful preparation to which Harold Griffis gave himself was in the field of corporate prayer. This is where so many of his parishioners will remember him at his best”. [4]

The following is an example of Harold’s gift at a Rotary Club meeting during the Christmas holiday season.

Presentation at Rotary Club, Amsterdam, NY, from personal scrapbook of Harold W. Griffis. Click for larger view.

Another reference to Harold’s ability to weave “spiritual truths in the cloak of humor”:

The Glens Falls times January 12 1955 Page 14

A List of the Existing Sermon Files and Their Contents

The following is a list of the remaining sermons of Harold Griffis. Each title is linked to a PDF version of the original material associated with each sermon. The PDF versions are extracts from a book originally published on the life of Harold Griffis as a Methodist minister [5].

Depending on how the PDF files are viewed (on a phone or tablet versus a computer), it may be easier to read certain sermons by saving and downloading a specific PDF file. You can then increase the view of a given PDF page for reading.

File NumberTitle of Sermon (click on link to view sermon file)Placed Sermon was Given
0008Galilee and the Dead SeaFremont,NY 08/1922
South Farms, CT 10/1922
Northville, NY 02/1923
Jonesville, NY 10/18/1925
Trinity, Troy, NY 1938
Amsterdam, NY 07/23/1939
0010The Orchestra of Life or How to be HappyFreemont, NY 08/1922
Plainsville, CT 05/31/1925
Jonesville, NY 07/19/1925
Grooms, NY 07/17/1925
Trinity, Troy, NY 08/22/1957
Amsterdam, NY 10/09/1938
0059Goats, Guns, and GabrielJonesville, NY 05/30/1926
Williamstown, MA 05/24/1926
Trinity, Troy, NY 07/02/1933
0077The House of Obed-EdomJonesville, NY 10/17/1926
Grooms, NY 10/17/1926
Williamstown, MA ?
Trinity, Troy, NY 12/10/1933
East Main St, Amsterdam, NY 09/22/40
Amsterdam, NY
0090The Bag with HolesJonesville, NY 01/20/1927
Grooms, NY 01/30/1927
Caroga Lake, NY 07/17/1927
Round Lake, NY
Grace, Albany, NY 09/28/1927
Albany /Schenectady
Stephentown Hancock SS Association 06/08/1928
Williamstown, MA
Trinity, Troy, NY 02/01/31
Revised – Amsterdam, NY 01/09/1944
0171Slaves on HorsebackWilliamstown, MA 06/16/1929
Johnstown, NY 08/20/1929
Trinity, Troy, NY 06/01/1929
First Presp. Lansingburg, NY 03/26/1938
Amsterdam High School, NY 06/26/1938
0186Open WindowsWilliamstown, NY 1929
Trinity(PM) 07/16/1930
Amsterdam, NY 05/22/1938
Springfield, VT 09/1947
0194The Ship that Never SailedWilliamstown, MA 12/15/1929
Trinity, Troy, NY 07/20/1930
Amsterdam, NY 07/17/1938
Temple Israel, Amsterdam, NY 01/02/1942
0241Beauty for Ashes Isiah 61:3Trinity, Troy, NY 09/20/1931
Emma Willard, Troy, NY 06/02/1935
Amsterdam C.E Service Bean Hill 07/10/1938
Gloversville YMCA Service Freemont 01/1940
Amsterdam, NY 05/19/1940
Troy WTRY with” When Goodness Turns Sour”
0334Our Monuments: What Mean These Stones?Trinity, Troy, NY 05/28/1933
Amsterdam, NY 05/29/1938
East Main, Amsterdam, NY 05/26/1940
Johnstown 05/28/1944
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 05/28/1950
Cobbleskill, NY 10/24/1954
Albany, NY Rotary Club 1955
Trinity, Albany, NY
0337 Children’s Sermons and StoriesWilliamstown, MA
Rajah of the Kingdom of Truth & Two Springs at Troy Orphanage 07/09/1933
and others all used in Amsterdam, NY
0427Slave Captured on State StreetTrinity, Troy, NY
Hoosic Falls, NY Kiwanis
Men’s Club – First Gloversville
YMCA Schenectady
YMCA Troy
Kiwanis Club Amsterdam
Amsterdam Progressive Class
St Luke 1940
Rotary Club, Albany, NY
0446New Temples What’s New?Trinity, Tory, NY 1935
Calvary Albany – Lent 1935
9th Presby, Troy, NY
Amsterdam, NY 06/12/1938
Stillwater, NY 04/18/1948 Installation service for PB Showers
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 10/09/1949
1st Presby, Troy, NY 06/26/1955
0448New CrossesTrinity, Troy, NY 1935
9th Presby, Troy, NY 03/25/1937
Hagaman 06/08/1939
Frankfurt, NY 04/13/1941
0475Alumni Banquet Gloversville High SchoolGloversville, NY 06/1935
0498Fathers and SonsTroy Jewish Comm Center 1937
Pawling Ave ME Church 11/20/1937
BroadwaySchool, 06/21/1942
Amsterdam Woodrow Wilson PTA 11/20/1945
0499Neighbors Who InspireTrinity, Troy, NY 1936
Grace Troy Conference 06/1936
PTA McLeary, Amsterdam, NY 1938
Amsterdam, NY07/30/1944
First Cohoes, NY 08/1953
0915Weeds Among Wheat
Matt 13;24-30
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 08/08/1948
Albany District, NY 1955
East Greenbush, NY 01/1/1958
Fremont, NY Gloversville NY 01/26/1958
Emma Willard, Troy, NY 01/25/1959
Cleverdale, NY 08/23/1959
1st Presby Union Service, NY 08/14/1960
0921You are Missing Something
Luke 14;15-24
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 11/14/1948
Hudson Falls, NY 01/04/1949
Broadcast WTRY 01/20/1952
Quacker St, NY 11/14/1954
Trinity, Albany, NY 11/30/1958
0964Big Ideas Thinking Abundantly5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/31/50
Canajaharie, NY 10/23/1955
Clarksville, NY 09/15/1957
0976Make Up Your Mind5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/31/1950
Hudson Falls Family Night, NY 01/26/51
Troy, NY YMCA N.E. Assoc. of Secty’s Devotional Address 03/27/1951
Waterford, NY LIon’s Club, NY 01/13/1953
Powers PTA 01.27.1953
Armenian Student’s, Troy, NY 10/08/1953
Middleburg, NY
Troy HS Rensselaer County School Board, NY 12/14/1955
Albany, NY Rotary Club 10/10/1958
1103A New Greeting
Eph 1:2
5th Ave State St, Albany, NY 12/27/1953
North chatham, NY 07/11/1954
Newtownville, NY 12/30/1956
Forest Ave, Amsterdam, NY 12/29/1957
Trinity, Albany, NY 12/28/1958
1130A New Look at Hawthorne
1131Towers in the DesertRPI 06/1955
Batavia, NY 1958
1153God and Our Work1st Reformed, Albany, NY 09/1957
Westminster Albany Union Service, NY 09/04/1960
1156Mountain ShadowsCleverdale, NY 08/25/1957
1167The House of the LordTrinity, Albany, NY 09/21/1958
1173Our Response to God’s Revelation
Luke 20:11
Trinity, Albany, NY 12/07/1958
1174Let Your Life Show the LightTrinity, Albany, NY
1175Heavens and Earth!Trinity, Albany, NY 12/21/1958
1176Religion and BusinessAlbany Business School, NY 1958
1177Standing at the Threshold
John 1:9
Communion Meditation
Trinity, Albany, NY
1179Rubbish
Nehemiah 4:10 #see 843
Trinity, Albany, NY 02/01/1959
1182Walk the Light
John 8:12 see #1050
Trinity, Albany, NY 02/221959
1183No Man Walks Alone
John 15:1-5
Trinity, Albany, NY
1185Funeral MeditationsOakley Kennedy 1959
1186When It HappenedTrinity, Albany, NY 03/29/1959
1187The Christian Sacrament of Joy
John 15:11
Trinity, Albany, NY
1188The Fellowship of the Agitated Web 10:24Trinity, Albany, NY 04/12/1959
1191The Wrong Way to Do RightTrinity, Albany, NY 04/12/1959
1221What is a Saint?
All Saints Reformation day
Romans 1:7
Trinity, Troy, NY 05/24/1959
Trinity, Albany 11/20/60
Sermon of the Month
1226Now Thank We all Our God or Thanksgiving on a Dark DayTrinity, Albany, NY 11/27/1960
1228The Incarnation on Lark Street
John 3:17 John 12:47
Trinity, Albany, NY 11/27/1960
1234God in the Shadow: A Study of Hosea
Hosea 2:15 13:7
Trinity, Albany, NY 01/15/1961
1242Enduring the Intolerable
John 16:33
Trinity, Albany 03/05/1961

Sources

[1] The original sermons are part of a Family Archive

[2] The featured image at top of story illustrates the contents of the Harold’s sermon files. The image reflects the file contents of sermon 0976: “Make Up Your Mind“.

[3] Werner, Mark and Jen Bervin, Emily Dickinson: The Gorgeous Nothings, New York: New Directions, 2013, Page 10

[4] Memorial Brochure: Trinity Methodist Church Memorial Service for Harold William Griffis November 26, 1961:

[5] see James F. Griffis (Ed.), Sermons, Notes and Letters of Harold William Griffis, Self published, Blurb: Oct, 2018

Harold William Griffis – College Years 1921-1925

Wesleyan University 1922-1923
Young Harold, click for larger view.

Harold William Griffis (June 29, 1903 – June 30, 1961) was the patriarch of the Griffis family that resided in the Albany-Troy-Schenectady (tri-city), New York area for four of the most recent generations of our family in the 1930’s through the 1950’s. Many of the living members of our current family unfortunately did not get the chance to know Harold Griffis given his untimely death a day after his 58th birthday.

He had a great sense of humor. He would be the first to laugh about himself and would provide stories to any audience to produce laughter and remind everyone of what it is to be human. He had great patience with his family. Harold accepted everyone regardless of limitations or faults and his tacit aim was getting the best out of each individual he came into contact with.

An only child, Harold was born on June 29, 1903 in Gloversville, New York. His parents were Charles Arthur Griffis and Ida May Sperber. Harold’s father Charles, passed away at the age of 49 after Harold graduated from college in 1926.

High School Graduation

Cover of Commencement Exercise Pamphlet: Source: Evelyn Dutcher 1920 Scrapbook. Click to enlarge.

William graduated from Gloversville High School with a commercial diploma and initially worked in the Gloversville YMCA after high school graduation. The following are photos of the original Gloversville commencement exercises program that Evelyn Dutcher Griffis saved and had in a scrapbook. The commencement took place a week before Harold’s birthday. Harold Griffis gave the “Class Oration”. Harold was the senior class treasurer. Harold and Evelyn Dutcher, Harold’s high school sweetheart were part of the five member Class Day Committee. Evelyn was listed as “Ever Dutiful” and Harold was deemed as a “Handy Gentleman”. Kenneth Dutcher, a distant cousin of Evelyn’s, evidently did not enjoy academics as much and graduated in the lower half of the 52 member 1920 graduating class. His senior year moniker was “Knof Done’!

  • Page 1 of Graduation Exercises June 22, 1920

Evelyn Dutcher saved local Gloversville newspaper articles on the high school graduation. Although the Commencement exercises program listed 52 students of the graduating class, the newspaper clipping indicate 56 graduated in 1920 and 25 students had a grade point average over 80. Both Harold and Evelyn were on the honor list of graduates. Evelyn received a ‘Classical’ degree and had a grade average of 87.4 while Harold received a Commercial degree and had a grade average of 84.7. Evelyn was the top in the class in terms of the number of ‘academic counts’ of courses taken in her four years of her high school career. She also received honors providing the best senior recitation.

Newspaper clippings from a scrapbook of Evelyn Dutcher, 1920. Click to Enlarge.

Evelyn was the top in the class in terms of the number of ‘academic counts’ of courses taken in her four years of her high school career with 97 and Harold was top among the commercial degree graduates with 87.

Gloversville High School 120 Graduates, Source: Scrapbook of Evelyn Dutcher Griffis, click for larger view.
Harold Griffis, High School Graduation, Source: Scrapbook of Evelyn Dutcher Griffis, 1920, click for larger view.
Evelyn Dutcher, 1920 High School graduation photograph. Click for larger view.
Evelyn Dutcher, high school senior photograph 1925. Source: Personal scrapbook of Evelyn Dutcher Griffis. Click for enlarged view.

The photo below captured 21 of the 24 young men that graduated in 1920. Harold is the fifth person from the left.

The boys of 1920 Gloversville graduation class, 21 of the 24 young men that graduated. Source: Evelyn Dutcher personal scrapbook. Click for larger view.
Evelyn Dutcher second on the left, 1925. Source: Evelyn Dutcher personal scrapbook. Click for larger view.
Class of 1920 Gloversville High School Class Photograph. Harold is left center of the photograph in the center; Evelyn Dutcher is in the lower right hand corner of the female graduates. Click for enlarged view.

Having decided to become a minister while he was in high school, he realized the need to obtain a college degree. In his post high school graduate year he was tutored by his high school sweetheart, Evelyn Theresa Dutcher, to take the required college entrance exams to enter college. While Harold was working, Evelyn went on to teacher’s college immediately after they both graduated from high school.

The following are three postcards of the Gloversville YMCA circa 1920 where harold worked for a year before he went to college.

  • Gloversville YMCA Postcard 1920s
    Gloversville YMCA Postcard 1920s

Freshman Year

With Evelyn’s help, Harold passed the college entrance exams. Harold applied and was accepted to Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

Wesleyan Student Body 1921-1922. Click for enlarged view.

To see where Harold Griffis is in this panoramic photo click for the enlarged view of this photo:

Harold as a freshman with the Wesleyan University ‘frosh’ hat 1921. Click for larger view.
Harold sleeping at Sigma Nu Fraternity House, source: Evelyn Dutcher Griffis personal scrapbook. Click for larger view.
Harold Griffis, Madison, Connecticut April 22-23, 1922. Source: Evelyn Dutcher Griffis scrapbook. Click for enlarged viewed.

Sophomore Year

All the college students – Wesleyan University 1922 – 1923 Click for larger view.

It is challenging to figure out where Harold Griffis is in this photo, here is a copy of the photo which identifies where Harold is in the photo.

Also a section of the photo provides a glimpse of Harold in the group photo.

Letter from Charles Griffis to Harold Griffis while at college. Click for larger view.
Sophomore Class Wesleyan University. Harold is in the top row fifth from the left. Source: 1923 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1923, Page 97. Click for enlarged view.
Oxford Club 1922-23
Oxford Club, Wesleyan University 1922-1923. Harold is in the first row on the right. Click for enlarged view. Source: Scrapbook of Evelyn Dutcher Griffis

Junior Year

The annual panorama photograph of the entire student body of Wesleyan University for the 1923-1924 school year, Harold’s Junior year. The three photographs scan the student body from left, middle and right. Harold is in the right portion of the panorama, second top row on the extreme left, partially cut on the left hand frame of the photo.

Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 51. Click for enlarged view.
Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 52. Click for enlarged view.
Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 53. Click for enlarged view.
There’s Harold! Click for larger view.
The Junior class of 1923-192, Harold is in middle next to the gentleman with the “W” sweater. Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 100. Click for larger view.

The following is a postcard that Harold sent at the beginning of his Junior year in college on September 19, 1923 to his Aunt Kate Sperber. Kate Sperber was a sister of Ida Sperber, Harold’s mother.

Post Card of Sigma Nu Wesleyan University 1923
Postcard Harold Griffis sent to his Aunt Kate. The arrow indicates where his room his in the frat house. Click for enlarged view.
Post Card of Sigma Nu Backside Wesleyan University 1923
Backside of postcard with short note Aunt Kate. Click for enlarged view.
Harold Griffis is in the middle of the middle row. Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 228.. Click for enlarged view.
Harold Griffis is in the bottom row, second to the right. Source: 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924, Page 242. Click for enlarged view.

Senior Year

Alas, the student body panorama photograph was not documented in the yearbook when Harold graduated.

The following are photographs of a hiking trip with Evelyn and friends to Mountain Lake on July 4th, 1924, in between Harold’s junior and senior year.

  • Hike to Mountain Lake July 4, 1924
    Hike to Mountain Lake July 4, 1924
Senior class photograph and yearbook senior class photograph, source: 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925, Page 75 Click for enlarged view.
1925 Senior Class, Wesleyan University. Harold Griffis is in the last row second from the left with his graduation cap on. 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925, Page . Click for enlarged view.

Harold was President of the Oxford Club in his senior year. He was also a cabinet member of the Christian Association.

1925 Oxford Club, Source: 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925 Click for enlarged view.

In the early 1900’s, Typhoid Fever was still a formidable disease. Its presence in the United States was reflected in Harold’s senior year yearbook in a poem (below). Typhoid fever is no longer a household word in America. However, during Harold’s school years, the disease frequently broke out in epidemic form. [1] The disease is characterized by a persistently high fever, rash, generalized pains, headache and severe abdominal discomfort that can lead to intestinal bleeding and even death. Ten percent of those who got the disease a century ago died.

Source: Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, Healthy Water, Incidence of Ty[hoid Fever, by Year – United States 1920 – 1960, Page updated 24 Aug 2012, page accessed 20 Mar 2021. 
1925 Senior Class, Wesleyan University. Harold Griffis is in the last row second from the left with his graduation cap on. 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925, Page 280 . Click for enlarged view.
Senior Class Wesleyan University 1925, Harold is in the middle of the second top row with glasses. Senior Class Photo 1925, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, photo was cropped in PDF version of the yearbook. 1925 Olla Podrida, Wesleyan University, Middletown, 1925, Page 60 Click for larger view.

Sigma Nu Fraternity

Harold Griffis’ Sigma Nu Fraternity Card, Click for enlarged view.

Harold, as with many of the Wesleyan University students joined a Fraternity during his four year stay at college. He joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity which had recently established a local chapter at Wesleyan in 1920. Each fraternity had their group personality: some were party goers, others were the athletes of the college, and others were scholars.

Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) is an undergraduate college fraternity founded at the Virginia Military Institute on January 1, 1869. The fraternity’s values are summarized as an adherence to the principles of love, honor, and truth. [2]

Harold’s Fraternity Paddle. Original object 20 inches by 4 inches with signature of Fraternity brothers. Click for larger view.
“Gaylord”: A charcoal caricature of Harold’s son James D. Griffis while he was a college student at Wesleyan University. Click for enlarged view.

The Sigma Nu fraternity’s collective identity was captured in a poem, entitled De Fraternitatibus, in the 1925 Wesleyan University yearbook, Harold’s senior year. Evidently, the Sigma Nu boys were known to be tee totalers yet a happy bunch and stuck to college rules and received good grades.

It is interesting to note that the third last stanza of the poem describes the character of another fraternity DKE, Delta Kappa Epsilon. One of Harold’s sons, James Dutcher Griffis, also went to Wesleyan University. Given his personality as a gregarious, athletic, party-loving individual, much different than his father Harold, young James entered the DKE fraternity in the early 1950’s. It appears that the DKE house did not change since the early 1920’s. “They loved to dance, were broad minded in their views, and had a cool disdain on temperance”.

Source: 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925, Page 262 Click for larger view.
Source: 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925, Page 263 Click for larger view.

Below are photographs of Sigma Nu that were in a personal scrapbook compiled by Evelyn Dutcher, the photographs were taken around 1922.

  • This aint natural
    This aint natural
Sigma Nu Fraternity 1923, Harold was a sophomore. Source: 1923 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1923 Click for larger view.
Weslyan Sigma Nu Fraternity House 1922
Sigma Nu Boys Reading the Paper – Harold on the left 1925; Source: Evelyn Dutcher Griffis, Scrapbook. Click for enlarged view.
Sigma Nu 1923-1924, Wesleyan University. Source: Evelyn Dutcher Griffis personal scrapbook. Harold is in the third row, fourth from the right. Click for enlarged view.
Sigma Nu Fraternity in front of their house, freshman year for Harold Griffis 1921-1922, Source: 1922 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1922, page 151  Click for larger view.
On the steps of Sigma Nu Feb 1925
Harold Griffis on the steps of the Sigma Nu Fraternity House, February 1925. Click for enlarged view.
Sigma Nu Boys Wesleyan University
Sigma Nu Boys 1925, Harold Griffis is in the middle of the third row. Click for enlarged view.
1925 Sigma Nu Members, Source 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925 Click for enlarged view.
Harold Griffis in the top row with friends in 1925. Click for larger view.

College and Beyond

Harold and Evelyn began dating the last two years at Gloversville High School. Evelyn Dutch graduated from the New York State college for Teachers, Albany , New York in 1924. She went back to Gloversville and taught Latin at Johnstown High School for one year. [3]

During his sophomore year at college, Harold applied to the Troy Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church to be accepted and ordained as a Deacon. He obtained a Local Preacher’s License, signed by the Fremont Quarterly Conference of Troy Annual Conference, held in Gloversville March 11, 1920.

March 11, 1920, Local Preacher’s License for Harold Griffis, click for larger view.

After Harold’s graduation, they were married on Harold’s birthday June 29, 1926. After their wedding, they immediately left for Harold’s pastoral duties initially at a church in Jonesville, New York. He then began his career as a pastor for the Methodist Episcopal Churches in Jonesville and Grooms, New York. His father Charles Griffis passed away on September 21, 1926.

1926 was a year of many milestones for young Harold and Evelyn: marriage, Harold starting his career as a pastor and the loss of his father’; for Evelyn, ending a brief teaching career after graduating from college and devoting her attention to her role as a pastor’s wife.

Evelyn and Harold 1925
Evelyn and Harold in 1925. The photograph was taken at Evelyn Dutcher’s house in Gloversville. Source: Evelyn Dutcher Griffis personal scrapbook. Click for larger view.

Photographs on their Wedding Day

This is a photo of Harold and Evelyn’s wedding day. Harold and Evelyn are peeking out of the window behind their parents and Aunt Kate Sperber. Left to right: Aunt Kate, Ida Sperber Griffis, Charles Griffis Mary Jane Platts Dutcher, Squire Dutcher, click for larger view.
Evelyn and Harold on their wedding day, Charles Griffis is on the porch looking on, June 29, 1926, click for larger view.
Bernice Dutcher, Evelyn’s cousin, Evelyn, Harold, Russell Lane, Bernice’s future husband, Charles Griffis is on the porch on the right.. Click for larger view.

Sources

The featured image is a panorama of all the students at Wesleyan University for the school year 1922-1923, from 1923 Olla Podrida, Annual College Yearbook, Wesleyan University, Middletown CT, 1923 , page 43. Harold Griffis was a sophomore. To view the entire photo click here.

[1] DiBacco, Thomas, When Typhoid was Dreaded, Washington Post, January 25, 1994

[2] Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) , Wikipedia, Page paced on 12 Feb 2021, was last updated 27 Nov 2020

[3] Letter of Recommendation from E. L Ackley, Superintendent, Johnstown Public schools, Johnstown, New York, March 3, 1930

Letter of Recommendation from E.L. Ackley. Click for larger view.

Photograph sources:

  • Dutcher, Evelyn, Personal scrapbooks
  • Family photgraphs
  • 1922 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1922
  • 1923 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1923
  • 1924 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1924
  • 1925 Yearbook, Olla Podrida, Middletown: Wesleyan University, 1925