Wiley Griffon Placard

Wiley Griffon Placard

Dedicated on February 17, 2017, this placard commemorates the remarkable life of Wiley Griffon, one of Eugene’s first African-American residents.

The placard, a collaboration between Eugene Water and Electric Board and the Eugene/Springfield NAACP, was made possible through generous contributions of community members and organizations, including the Lane County History Museum.

 

The placard reads: 

Wiley Griffon, among Eugene’s earliest African-American residents, migrated from Texas in 1891. In 1909 Griffon purchased a small home near 4th Avenue and Mill Street, about 100 yards west of the current marker’s location.

 

Despite an exclusion clause in Oregon's constitution that made it illegal for African Americans to settle in the state, Wiley Griffon was a well-known and popular resident. He became a driver for Eugene's first streetcar system - a mule-powered trolley car that rumbled up Willamette Street, carrying passengers from the Southern Pacific depot to 11th Avenue, and east to the University of Oregon. Local children saved their pennies to buy a nickel ride on Griffon's trolley, and he often rewarded them with an easy smile, hard candy, stories and an occasional free ride home. The mule car line never thrived, and by the turn of the century it died out entirely.

 

Griffon took a series of jobs following the end of the trolley line, including janitor at the university dorm, restaurant worker, and waiter on a railroad dining car. At the time of his death in 1913, at age 46, Griffon was working as a porter at the Elks Club. The location of his grave in Eugene's Masonic cemetery, and the fact that the Elks Club paid for his funeral, indicate the great respect this African-American pioneer earned during his 22 years in a nearly all-white community.

Read More

Directions to the next stop

From the Wiley Griffon placard, travel on the south side of 4th St. until you reach High Street. Cross High Street and turn right onto the west sidewalk. Continue straight until you see the Mims Houses on your left.