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Pineywoods Cattle Registry & Breeders Association


Pineywoods Cattle– The Griffen Line

By David D. James

The Family

In the 1820’s William Griffen moved to the Moss Point Mississippi area and there in 1840 purchased his first property.  With profits earned by selling dried venison in Mobile, Alabama he purchased many large tracts of land and built large herds of cattle, that by the 1850’s numbered in the thousands.  It was about this same time that he woked rafting timber down Black Creek and the Pascagoula River to Moss Point.

In 1849 Griffen joined the sawmill concern of Arnold, Sheldon & Co. and in 1850 formed a partnership that was to last ten years with William Sheldon, J. M. Arnold, and J. P. Arnold.  After a steam boiler explosion caused the death of one of the Arnolds, Griffen became the manager of the mill with the remaining two partners managing the marketing end of the business. 

The firm shipped finished lumber from their Moss Point mill to company owned retail lumber yards in New Orleans and Boston.  The business expanded in 1858 with the purchase of a gang sawmill.  In 1860 per their agreement the partnership was dissolved.

The business had been very prosperous and by this time Griffen owned nearly forty slaves.  Griffen purchased the interests of his former partners and with his sons formed William Griffen & Co.  In addition to the mills the firm operated ships, barges, a shipyard, turpentine stills, and a commissary store among other enterprises.  After the War Between the States, Lorenzo N. Dantzler, who had married William Griffen’s daughter, Sarah joined the partnership.  The firm sold squared timber for ship masts and finished lumber in France. 

It was on a business trip to the Iberian Peninsula in southern France that Griffen first saw and was impressed by the yellow cattle he saw there.  He imported some three hundred head of these to south Mississippi, presumably on company ships.

After the dissolution of William Griffen & Co. in 1877, Lorenzo Dantzler rented a sawmill from his father-in-law and formed the L. N. Dantzler Lumber Company.  The new firm built mills, brought existing mills, acquired planning mills, drying kilns, timberland, and operated a logging railroad.  Business suffered in the 1920’s as the timber played out and mills were closed.  Some mills were reopened as the timber regrew.  After 1949 L. N. Dantzler Lumber Company operated only as a tree farming company, selling trees on a selective cutting basis.  In 1966 International Paper Company purchased the company and to this date still owns and manages the remaining Dantzler timberlands.

The Cattle

William Griffen ran his cattle on the free range along Black creek and the Pascagoula River.  Unlike most lines of Pineywoods which are cattle of Spanish ancestry, as previously stated, these cattle originated in France.  The suggestion has been made that they might be ancestors of the Charolais breed or at least share a common ancestor.  Griffen cattle can be any one of a number of shades from pale yellow to a deep almost orange color.  Some animals may also have white on them.  Bulls may weigh in the 1200 pound range and cows in the 800 to 900 pound range.

A number of years ago, Luther Carter milked twenty to thirty Griffen cows at his dairy.  These cows reportedly gave less milk than Jerseys but the butterfat content was as high or higher.  Additionally, meat quality is reported to be good.

The Outlook

The number of Griffen cattle are estimated to be as few as six or seven but certainly less than one dozen.  They are not as plentiful as Carter, Conway, Barnes, or Hickman cattle.  The outlook is not nearly so bright for Griffens as for these other lines.  The one thing that makes us hopeful is that the bull and cows shown here are already assembled in one herd owned by Billy Frank and Jess Brown.  The Browns have the knowledge and I belive the desire to work and increase the number of Griffen Cattle.

Below are Griffin cattle owned by Jess Brown.

Griffen Cow and Calf

Mature Griffen Bull

Young Griffen Bull

Griffen line --- more information