Katherine Tiel Griffith

On December 7, 1855 Kate Mason Tiel was born to William Milezet Tiel and Mary Hastings Mason, in Philadelphia, PA. Her mother was the great-granddaughter of Ebenezer Mason of Boston, MA who was an American Patriot in the Revolutionary War.

Not much is known about her father other than he worked as a clerk and owned a house at 605 Wood Street, a middle class neighborhood in Philadelphia, PA and this is where Kate lived the first 36 years of her life keeping frequent company with Laura Ford, a feminist poet.

During 1891 her cousin, Charles Mason Griffith introduced his distant cousin on his father’s side, Silas Griffith to Kate and they were married at 10a.m. on August 1, 1891 at a small ceremony in her home and left on the noon NY and Chicago limited for a one month honeymoon touring Chicago, Minneapolis, Yellowstone Park, Tacoma and Seattle, WA and San Francisco. Then down to Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City and up to Montreal.

They returned to Danby in early September and moved into their new house in the early fall. Kate became a member of the DAR and the Vermont Society of Colonial Dames, as well as the Eastern Star who named their chapter in her honor when she donated the old stone store of Silas’ late uncle Jesse Lapham to the Masons. Kate became active in the Congregational Church in the Ladies Aid Society and as Superintendent of the Sunday School. In 1911 she donated a beautiful fountain to the town in honor of its 150th Anniversary. The fountain is now on display at the Shelburn Museum.

At the age of seventy-nine in 1934, Katherine Tiel Griffith legally adopted 57 year old Emma Rising as her daughter. The two women had lived together since 1913. Kate began suffering from apoplexy, which would be termed a stroke in modern medical terms, in 1937 and died on February 22, 1939 at the age of 84, leaving an estate of more than a quarter million dollars. At 2:30pm on February 25th , the Reverends Hugh Holland of the Danby Congregational Church and John T. Theodore of Springfield, MA conducted a small funeral ceremony in her home and she was interred beside her late husband in the Scottsville Cemetery.

Mrs. Griffith served as Chairman of the Board of the S. L. Griffith Library from the time of its construction until her death in 1939 when she directed in her Will that, “my daughter Emma J. Rising, be made Chairman of the S. L. Griffith Memorial Library as my successor.”

Of the $325,028 Kate received from Silas at the time of his death, her estate amounted to 261,463, with bequests totaling $158,273. In addition to establishing a $55,000 trust for Rising, she also bequeathed to Rising all of her real estate, personal property, and jewelry. She established a $10,000 trust for her niece Vera Griffith and similar trusts for other Tiel family members. An $8,000 trust was established, the interest from which is to benefit the Valley Forge Historical Society, the American Bible Society, and the S. L. Griffith Christmas Tree, and the Northfield School. She remembered her caretaker/chauffeur Anivol Colvin and her housekeeper Florence Kendall with $2,000 each. Trusts of $10,000 for the Griffith Library, $5,000 for the Congregational Church, and $2,000 for the Fire District were also established.

Kate was remembered throughout the community as a nice woman, excessively sober, prim, proper, and completely lacking a sense of humor. She was unchangeable, her composure absolute. She dressed in dark colors or black. No one said a word against her. No one ever recalled seeing her laugh or cry. As the accompanying photographs attest, her hair style never changed throughout her life, cropped close on the sides, ears fully exposed, and a pile of curls on top.