John Griffin

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Served the Territorial Court from 1805 through 1824

John Griffin was born in Virginia in 1771. In his youth, he read the law vigorously but was not as studious as in his later life. At the time the Michigan Territory was created, Griffin was one of the Judges of the Indiana Territory. Following his service in Indiana, he made a tour of Europe and was in Paris during one of the early French revolutions.

When Griffin returned to the United States, President Thomas Jefferson appointed him to serve as a Territorial Judge for Michigan on December 23, 1805. His appointment occurred only after Samuel Huntington declined to serve. He was subservient to Judge Woodward and invariably voted with him on the Bench. “In all of Woodward’s eccentric disregard of the law and justice, Judge Griffin acquiesced serenely, and invariably voted with him on the bench so that the two overruled Judge Witherell.”

The people disliked the entire system of the Territorial government. The judicial and legislative actions of the governor and judges were often so unjust, absurd and outrageous as to excite the fiercest indignation of the inhabitants, who several times appealed to Congress to be relieved from their oppressors.”

At that time, sessions of Court were incredibly informal and often held in local taverns or saloons, making the judicial system haphazard at best. In 1823, when the law was passed that created a legislative council and Judge Woodward resigned, Griffin followed his example and went to Philadelphia. He apparently married upon his arrival. There is no confirmed date of John Griffin’s death, although it is believed that he died between 1842 and 1845. (Ross, Robert B. The Early Bench and Bar of Detroit: 1805 – 1850. Detroit: Richard P. Joy and Clarence M. Burton, 1907.)