Wiley Griffon Mural

Wiley Griffon Mural

On Willamette Street, between 20th and 22nd, you’ll see a mural painted on stairs that people used to catch the trolley in the 1920s.


Arriving in Eugene in the 1890s, Griffon worked as the driver of the town’s first streetcar service. It was a single mule-powered car that ran on narrow-gauge tracks from the Southern Pacific Railway station just south of Skinner Butte to the University of Oregon.

 

Griffon served numerous roles including driver, conductor, dispatcher and "largely the motive power by persistently shoving along the ambling mule,” according to the Eugene Morning Register.

 

When the streetcar shut down, Griffon went on to work at the University of Oregon in the late 1890s as a janitor at the men’s dormitory, Friendly Hall. Today, Griffon is recognized as the UO’s first African- American employee.

 

According to University of Oregon Hidden History: “Although Griffon was neither the first nor the only African American in Eugene, he was the first one mentioned by name as being a resident. Despite the exclusion laws in effect at the time, which forbade the presence of nonwhite American citizens in Oregon, Griffon and other minorities came to live in Eugene.”

 

Griffon held various other jobs in the community, including that of waiter on a railroad dining car, according to the Eugene Daily Guard. In 1913, the year of his death, he was working at the Elks Club in Eugene.

 

Ila Rose painted this mural in May 2019. Eugene resident Gwynne McLaughlin led the project with support by Cheri Turpin and Mark Harris of I Too, Am Eugene: A Multicultural History Project.

 

LINKS:

https://www.klcc.org/post/mural-honors-wiley-griffon-s-legacy-eugene

https://hiddenhistory.uoregon.edu/items/show/1

https://www.friendlyareaneighbors.org/blog/willamette-street-trolley-stairs-history

http://special.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/web/news/sevendays/25812273-35/oregon-black-history-african-county.csp

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