John was an early Illinois pioneer. Some rumors say he was a famous pirate, but there is no evidence to support this claim. John was born in Virginia, married in Virginia in 1808, and then moved to Illinois. There was no time for pirating.

John Griffith was born 27 Feb 1783 in Virginia, and this is attested to on his tombstone. He married in 1808 or before, based on the date of is first child's birth date, and it is believed he married Mary Ann Rolston (b. 1786 in Virginia) while in Virginia. Mary would have already been three months pregnant if this is correct, and would explain why they moved to Kentucky so soon, where daughter Nancy was born Oct 1808. A Hugh Ralston lived in Harrisonville, Monroe County, Illinois in 1825, but it is unknown if he is related to Mary.

There was time for John to serve in the military before getting married, as he was 25 by 1808. However, it is unclear which service records for John Griffith apply to him.

They may, or may not, have had children between daughter Nancy and son, William, but the New Marid earthquake shook the area from 1811-1812. Son, William Evans, was born Jun 1813 in Randolph County, Illinois. Their son, Ambrose was born Jun 1818 at Randolph County, Illinois. Their family remained living at Randolph County, Illinois through the 1820 and 1830 censuses. Nancy's husband, Isaac McBee, moved to Randolph County, Illinois between 1820 and 1830.

In 1824, John purchased 47 acres of fraction section 25. a triangular tract embracing what was the depot and ferry landing, and extending up the Mississippi river as far as Hancock street. The purchase price was $200 dollars.

John then died 1 Jul 1838 at Rockwood, Randolph, Illinois and was buried at the Kirk Mansker cemetery, which is now near the Mississippi river, and between the railroad tracks and Route 3, just south of Mary's river. Mary died 18 Oct 1844 at Rockwood, and is buried with him.

There was another John Griffith from Pennsylvania who also lived in the area at Grand Tower, Jackson County, Illinois. This other John Griffith traded in horses and grain, and delivered his grain to Chester, Illinois. The two different John Griffith's may have crossed paths.


  1. Combined history of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, IllinoisCombined history of Randolph, Monroe, and Perry Counties, Illinois page 284

  2. Portrait and Biographical Record of Randolph, Jackson, and Perry Counties, Illinois
  3. Find A Grave - John Griffith
  4. Find A Grave - Mary Griffith