Griscoms Were Cameron Hill Residents With Printers Ink In Their Blood

Thursday, May 19, 2022 - by John Wilson

Franklin Griscom was a boilermaker with a wide reputation, but most of his offspring gravitated to the printing and newspaper business instead. The Griscoms lived in several places on Cameron Hill.

A Quaker family, the Griscoms traced back to Samuel Griscom, who lived from 1787 to 1849 and married Ann Powell. They lived at Reading, Pa. A son, David Powell Griscom, lived from 1810 to 1893.

Franklin Griscom was born at Reading in 1832 and married Sarah Eches Thompson. The family lived in Ohio, then Indiana. In the summer of 1869, Franklin Griscom brought his boilermaker skills to Chattanooga when he took charge of the Webster Foundry at King Street. It is said that he built the first locomotive ever constructed in the South. 

The Franklin Griscoms at first lived near the Webster Foundry, but by 1880 they had joined the Cameron Hill colony at Cedar and Fourth. At a time when families lived together for extended times, sons Harry Franklin Griscom and William Samuel Griscom were with them on Cedar Street. By 1883, Harry, Will and another brother, Charles Walter Griscom, were living high on Cameron Hill on West Sixth at the southwest corner of Magazine. Charles and Will afterward had separate fine homes on Prospect (Boynton Terrace), then Charles was at 15 East Terrace and later at 625 West Sixth.

Harry Franklin Griscom, the eldest son of Franklin and Sarah, was lauded as a "self-made man" who had only one term at Chattanooga High School. He briefly tried his hand in the Webster Foundry when he was a boy and was assigned to heating rivets. However, he "found that sort of work was foreign to his taste." 

Instead, H.F. Griscom took a job as a "devil" in a printing shop. He also began dabbling with an amateur newspaper that he called "Now and Then" when he was 17. With Samuel L. Gamble, he operated Gamble & Griscom job and book printers at James Hall. When the Weekly Chattanooga Commercial newspaper collapsed in 1877, H.F. Griscom, who was just 21, borrowed $5 and took over its lease with a partner. With "intelligent effort and brains," he was able to put the Commercial in good standing. It became the Republican Party organ for 17 counties. 

H.F. Griscom in 1880 was elected city auditor. He then was appointed the Chattanooga postmaster by President Chester Arthur. He served until President Grover Cleveland came into office and removed him. He served several years on the school board. In 1884, the Chattanooga Commercial was converted to a daily paper and H.F. Griscom was the secretary and treasurer. When he was 26, he was chosen as president of the Tennessee Press Association.

He married Frances Juliet "Fannie" Waters on Nov. 25, 1880. They had a son, Harry Franklin Griscom Jr., and a daughter, Nellie. 

However, H.F. Griscom contracted a type of consumption and became so ill that he could no longer work. He and Fannie moved across the river to Hill City. He went to Colorado to see if that could revive him, but it did not help. Fannie went out to the Far West and brought him back to Chattanooga to die. He was just 31. The funeral was held at the foot of Cameron Hill at Second Presbyterian Church.

Charles Griscom, brother to Harry, also met a sad end. He was a printer for the Commercial for many years, then was over printing at the New Spencer Medicine Company. He also organized the Chattanooga Printing and Engraving Company. He married Claudia Spalding, and their children were Charles W. Jr., Eloise and Lottie.

On the morning of Nov. 29, 1907, Charles Griscom went out the door teasing his wife about saving him some of the turkey they had enjoyed the previous dinner. He arrived at work at 313 Cherry St. and was talking to a foreman when he slumped into a chair and soon died. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage. The funeral was at the Griscom home at 625 W. Sixth St. Pastor Howard Jones of the First Baptist Church presided. Charles W. Griscom was 43.  

Will Griscom followed his older brother's printing pursuit. He was a printer's devil for C.W. Baker, then he was collector and then local editor for the Commercial. He worked for Bradt Printing and for Debutante Printing, then he was foreman of the printing department of Spencer Medicine Company. Will married Emma Norris, daughter of Western Union manager J.B. Norris, at a ceremony in St. Elmo. He took a printing position with the Chattanooga Medicine Company and settled in at 310 Old Mountain Road. His career at the medicine company lasted 43 years. Will Griscom was active at First Presbyterian Church. He lived for a number of years at the Elizabeth Apartments not far from the church. He was 83 when he died in 1944.

The children of Will Griscom included Milton, Frank Norris, Tom who lived in Nashville and W.S. Jr. who moved to Palo Alto, Calif. A daughter, Isobel, took a position as an English professor at the University of Chattanooga in 1922. She was still in the English department in 1963. 

Tom Griscom, a great-grandson of Will Griscom, also had newspapers in his blood. He worked at the Chattanooga News-Free Press before joining the staff of Senator Howard Baker and then going to the Reagan White House.

 

 


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