In the 1820’s William Griffen moved to the Moss
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
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.
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.