Return to Currituck Co.
Biography of William Thomas
Source: North Carolina, The Old North State and the New
by Archibald Henderson; Lewis Pub. Co., Chicago, Illinois.; © 1941; Vol. 4; pgs. 163-165
William Thomas Griggs, M.D., has that close relationship to his home community that is never attained by any other representative of professional interests save by members of the medical profession. He practices at Poplar Branch, giving his entire time to the interests and needs of his patients. Born in Currituck County, February 14, 1868, he is s son of Daniel and Robanna (Gallop) Griggs. He comes of English lineage, being a descendant of Charles Griggs, who was born in England and became the founder of the family in North Carolina, spending his last days in Currituck County. He participated in the Revolutionary War, being present at the battle of Great Bridge, Virginia, and at one time barely escaped capture by Tarleton's forces. When he crossed the Atlantic it was not his intention to remain but merely to visit relatives. However, with the outbreak of the war with the mother country his sympathy was with the Colonists and he never returned to England. Following his military experience he settled in Currituck County, where he became a leading farmer and the owner of many slaves. His son, Thomas G. Griggs, was born in Currituck County and he, too, became an extensive farmer and slave owner and an influential political leader of his district, which he represented for several terms in the North Carolina General Assembly. He was filling the office of sheriff at the time of his death, which occurred at Currituck Courthouse. In young manhood he was a captain of the Currituck County Militia. He married Patsy Olds, who was born at Olds in Currituck County, and there departed this life.
Daniel L. Griggs, son of Thomas G. and Patsy (Olds) Griggs, was born at Jarvisburg, Currituck County, April 12, 1839, was reared at Currituck Courthouse and at Powells Point and married Robanna Gallop. They made their home at Harbinger, where Mr. Griggs successfully followed farming and was a pioneer in the production of watermelons for the market. He also made large investments in real estate, acquiring extensive property holdings now in possession of his children. He, too, was an earnest supporter of the Democratic party and for one term was deputy sheriff of Currituck County. In young manhood he united with the Christian Church, of which he was a faithful follower. At the time of the War Between the States he joined the Confederate troops but had little opportunity for active participation in the war owing to the fact that he was early captured and held a prisoner. He died at Harbinger in August 1902. His wife, who was born in Atlantic township at Martins Point, in what is now Dare County North Carolina, February 12, 1844, passed away at Harbinger in January 1920. Her father, Hodges Gallop, was a very wealthy man and a son of Willis Gallop, who came from Scotland and settled at Martins Point, Dare County, where he purchased large tracts of land and was the owner of a hundred slaves. He also had six ships engaged in trade with the West Indies, but the family possessions were nearly all lost during the Civil War. In the family of Daniel and Robanna (Gallop) Griggs were fifteen children, of whom eight are now living.
The eldest of the surviving members of the family is Dr. William Thomas Griggs, who became a pupil in Doctor Sheep's private school in Elizabeth City. Having determined upon the practice of medicine as a life work, he then entered the University of Virginia, where he won his professional degree at his graduation with the class of 1896. He served as interne in the Piedmont Hospital and at the University Clinic in Charlottesville, Virginia, spending four years in that way, after which he returned to Poplar Branch, where he has now practiced for forty-four years, during which time he estimates that he has brought 4,000 babies into the world. He belongs to the Currituck County Medical Society, the North Carolina Medical Society, the Southern Medical Association, the Seaboard Medical Association and the American Medical Association and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and Surgeons. Doctor Griggs was the first man to use diphtheria antitoxin in this county. His home is halfway down the Peninsula, in the quiet little village of Poplar Branch, where he maintains the usual office hours of from 6:00 to 10:00 A.M. then spends the remainder of the day in calling on his patients. His plan had been to join the navy when he finished medical training, but his father became ill and Doctor Griggs attended him until his death seven years later. By that time the Doctor had built up a good practice and decided to remain. In the early days of his professional career he drove around the county with a mule and cart to attend the needs of 3,000 people living along the beaches and vicinity. Later he bought a horse and buggy and subsequently a team of horses. Next he kept six horses and three buggies, having a fresh team at different points along the road and employing at that time two colored drivers. Following a rather disastrous runaway in 1907 he decided to buy an automobile. A salesman from Norfolk, hearing the Doctor was a prospective purchaser, brought an International Harvester machine down for a demonstration. After successfully completing a day's trip the Doctor purchased two of these at $1,000 each. They were equipped with high wheels, hard rubber tires and two cylinders with pistons "as large as a telephone post." The speed was about fifteen miles per hour when following in the wagon tracks. Doctor Griggs employed two mechanics to keep these machines in order, having sent the men to Washington for three months' period of training. In 1913 he purchased a Ford car and now does all his own driving, averaging 3,500 miles each month. He estimates the total mileage traveled in his forty-four years of practice to equal forty-seven times around the globe.
When he first began practice, Doctor Griggs called on a boy who was seriously ill. Later, on his way back, he noticed a white tablecloth flying from the mail box but did not stop. The boy's mother, anxiously watching, saw him pass and called, asking if he did not see the signal. Doctor Griggs related this incident in the community and soon all the people adopted that method, so that at the present time if one drives along and sees a white towel on a stick it is recognized as the signal that the Doctor is needed. In former years, a patient, accompanied by the Doctor, was taken to the Elizabeth City Hospital by boat, the trip requiring about thirty hours, which was dangerous to both the physician and his patient. Ofttimes it was necessary to perform an operation in the home--an operation in which he would not dream of doing outside of a hospital today. Doctor Griggs has always been a firm believer in preventive medicine and vaccinated 1,600 against typhoid in 1934.
Doctor Griggs has important farm property, including large land holdings in Currituck County and a 160-acre tract of beach land which he retains for sporting and hunting. Politically Doctor Griggs is a stalwart Democrat and from 1903 to 1907 served as superintendent of public instruction in Currituck County. He was also chairman of the highway commission of Currituck County for six years, was health officer for three years and was employed by the United States Government as physician of the Coast Guard of Currituck County. From early manhood he has been a faithful member of the Christian church at Harbinger and he belongs to Currituck Lodge No. 116, A.F. & A.M., of Coinjock, North Carolina, and Poplar Branch Lodge No. 114, I.O.O.F. During the World War he was medical referee and assistant examiner for the selective draft board of Currituck County and as chairman of the Victory Loan drive promoted a large oversubscription. It is said of him that "his public spirit is proverbial and no one ever applies to him in vain of assistance." A mild-mannered man of the old school, he is loved by the people of the section in which he lives and to their interests he has ever been most devoted, rendering his able service with or without pay and never taking a vacation except to attend some medical meeting. [Note: for a photo of Dr. Griggs click here.]
E-mail received from Jean Schroeder September 25, 2005 : "....The writer skipped an entire generation between Charles and Thomas Griggs, Jr. The Thomas Griggs who was married to Patsy Olds was born 28 Feb 1816 and was the son of Thomas Griggs, Sr. who died in Nov 1816. Thomas Sr. was the son of Charles. Some of the history of the origins of the Griggs and Gallop families is in question in this article...."
© 2005 Kay Midgett Sheppard