Griest: William Walton Griest Collection, Series 01 Personal Files and Correspondence, 1865-1929

Call Number:  MG-65, Series 1 Personal Files and Correspondence

4 boxes     57 folders     2 cubic ft.

Repository: (Lancaster, Pa.)

Shelving Location:  Archives South, Side 2

Description:  This collection contains business and personal correspondence relating to politics, education, immigration, roads and waterways, railroads, economic issues, agriculture, trade and commerce, taxes, the Postal Service, the Susquehanna Iron Company, the Susquehanna Bridge, and many other topics. There are also Congressional bills and speeches, financial information for the businesses William Walton Griest was involved with, and papers reflecting his efforts to improve Lancaster County’s road system and to survey the county’s waterways for expanded uses.

Creator:  Griest, William Walton, 1858-1929.

Conditions for Access:  No restrictions.

System of Arrangement:  Griest’s original folder titles and contents have been retained. The collection has been organized by subject into 26 series.

Conditions Governing Reproductions:  Collection may not be photocopied. Please contact Research Staff or Archives Staff with questions.

Language:  English

Source of Acquisition:  Gift of W. W. Griest’s daughter, Rebecca W. Griest.

 Administrative/Biographical History: 

In 2003, the Lancaster County Historical Society received a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission grant to rehouse and inventory the William Walton Griest papers. Many of these papers date from the 1880s to the 1930s and focus on Griest’s business and political interests. The grant has allowed the historical society to open this previously inaccessible collection to researchers of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and United States history.

William Walton Griest was a prominent member of Congress from 1909 until 1929.  His papers reflect his influence not only in matters of national concern, but also those of Lancaster County.  His term in office spans a tumultuous era of United States history, dealing with such topics as Women’s Suffrage, Prohibition, and the First World War.  The collection sheds light on what members of Congress felt about these issues, and also what Lancasterians felt about them.  Numerous letters and petitions were written to Representative Griest on issues which divided the nation and Lancaster County.

William Griest did not begin his career as a politician, but rather started as a public school teacher. After graduating from Millersville State Normal School in 1876,  he taught at schools in East Donegal and Mount Joy townships for three years before taking another career path.  His education led him to become a writer and later editor of the Lancaster Inquirer, a weekly newspaper published by his father Ellwood Griest.

Griest was an unostentatious man; nevertheless, he was a well-respected man in the community.  He lived on South Queen Street with his wife Elizabeth Paxson Smith, son George W. Griest, and daughter Rebecca Walton Griest. The family was extremely close. Files containing personal correspondence between the family give insight into the quiet life of such a public man.

His first election to public office, as a member of the Lancaster City School Board in 1884, probably derived from his background as a teacher. With this success, his political career had been born and Griest continued to run for increasingly more prestigious offices. He was Chief Clerk for the County Commissioners, leader of the Republican party in Lancaster County, delegate to Republican National Convention from 1896-1920, and finally a representative to Congress from 1908 to 1929.  His political career of more than forty years extended over an era of great change in both the county and the country.

Griest was heavily involved in the economy of Lancaster County.  Not only was he a noteworthy Congressman, he was an equally shrewd businessman.  He became an investor in many of the local public utility companies, the most prominently featured in his papers being the Lancaster County Railway and Light Company. Documents in the collection shed light on Griest’s involvement in the company as well as the company’s financial information and its interactions with other utility companies. Under his leadership, the company turned around from a dying operation on the brink of bankruptcy to an operation netting a profit of more than $100,000 a year. 

Griest invested in another failing company, the Susquehanna Iron and Steel Company, at Columbia.  He purchased the company in an attempt to save the mills from closing and losing the industry in the area.  His papers contain many of the financial ledgers and employment records of the company.  The documents give further insight into not only Griest’s business dealings, but also the lives of local men that worked for the company.

A large portion of the collection deals with Griest’s Congressional career.  He held many influential positions while in Congress, including chairman of the Personnel of the House Service Committee and the Post Office and Post Road Committee, one of the largest committees in the Congress. He also sat on the Committee of Committees.  The documents in this part of the collection contain bills that were proposed to Congress, speeches given by members of Congress, and reports given by many of the committees.  Griest kept records on topics ranging from agriculture, veterans affairs, income tax, and child labor, to commerce and trade.  On many of these issues, the collection has letters and petitions from voters from Lancaster County urging Griest to remember Lancaster County in congressional deliberations. 

Griest’s major accomplishments in Congress included creating the Lincoln Memorial, improving mail service, and assisting returning World War I veterans to cope with entrance back into their local community.  Locally, he assisted Lancaster County in pushing bills that would benefit the county with its economy based in agriculture and by creating a local farm bureau.  He also sought to improve the road systems in the county and to survey waterways throughout the county for expanded uses. 

William Griest was very close with many of the leading political figures of Pennsylvania during the early 1900s. The collection contains correspondence between Griest and men such as Gifford Pinchot, Boise Penrose, William Vare, and William Cameron Sproul.

The William Walton Griest collection is a wonderful source of information on one of Lancaster County’s leading 20th century citizens. Thanks to the generous support of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission this collection will be available to both professional researchers and students of history.  Those interested in the period and in local history will find these papers extremely valuable as a primary source.

Processed by:  KC, 2002-2003.

Note:  This project was funded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s Archives and Records Management Grant, ME 230340, 2002-2003.


Box 1

Folder 1  Elwood Griest Personal Correspondence, 1865-1898


Folder 2  Correspondence between William C. Sproul and William Griest, 1907-1920


Folder 3  Correspondence between William C. Sproul and William Griest, 1918-1920

Two letters concerning influenza epidemic and Road Amendment.


Folder 4  Correspondence between William C. Sproul, William Griest, et al., 1916-1921

One letter contains a resolution concerning cooperation between federal and state governments.


Folder 5  Correspondence between William Griest and Boise Penrose, 1896-1906


Folder 6  Correspondence between William Griest, Boise Penrose, et al., 1910-1921


Folder 7  Correspondence between Thomas Robin, William Griest, and Theodore Roosevelt, 1918, 1923

 Folder 8  Correspondence between William Griest and Thomas McGowan, 1912

One letter concerning Civil Service Rule IX.

Folder 9  Correspondence between William H. Keller, Frank Willing Leach, Charles D. Hilles, and William Griest, 1896-1912

Folder 10  Correspondence between John E. Malone, John P. Dyer, Samuel Eckels, S. R. Zimmerman, and William Griest, 1922, 1928

Folder 11  Correspondence between William Griest, Marriot Brosius, and H. Burd Cassel, 1894-1906

Folder 12  Correspondence between William Griest, Marriot Brosius, H. Burd Cassel, et al., 1906-1922

Resolution to allow Griest to be candidate from 10th Congressional District and a speech concerning seat in House of Representatives.

Folder 13  Correspondence between Nancy Keiper Long, Frances Baer Atlee, Mrs. J. L. Atlee, Robert W. Groezinger, M. M. Scranton, William Griest, 1927-1928

Folder 14  Correspondence between John M. Groff and William Griest, 1918-1925

Folder 15  Correspondence between Marvin E. Bushong, Robert S. Conklin, William Griest, et al., 1912-1929

Contains stock receipt from 1928. Also two letters to stockholders of Standard Tank Car Company, and a balance sheet for that company.

Folder 16  Correspondence between J. Hay Brown, J. M. Martin, Frank S. Barr, William Griest, et al., 1899-1917

Contains three promissory notes, a letter against Union Trust Company, and a Notice of Protest.

Folder 17  Correspondence between W. U. Hensel, A. Fulton Ludlow, and William Griest, 1893-1912

One letter concerning the commemoration of the Christiana Riot.

Folder 18  Correspondence between Gifford Pinchot, William Griest, et al., 1922-1924

One letter concerning the state police.

Folder 19  Correspondence between Gifford Pinchot, William Griest, et al., 1924-1926

One letter concerning Prohibition.

Folder 20  Correspondence between Gifford Pinchot, William Griest, et al., 1923-1925

Folder 21  Correspondence between Gifford Pinchot, Mrs. Pinchot, William Griest, et al., 1923-1926

Folder 22  Correspondence between Gifford Pinchot, Mrs. Pinchot, William  Griest, et al., 1924-1926

Contains an appeal to the Christian People of Lancaster County by 100 Ministers of the Gospel and a newspaper clipping concerning Bowan as sheriff.

Folder 23  Correspondence between Matthew S. Quay, William Griest, and Ellwood Griest, 1884-1896

Folder 24  Correspondence between William Griest, Ellwood Griest, Matthew S. Quay, et al., 1896-1901


Box 2

Folder 25  Correspondence between Matthew S. Quay and William Griest, 1896-1904

Folder 26  Correspondence between William Griest and Martin G. Brumbaugh, Samuel G. Dixon, et al., 1908-1920

Contains newspaper clippings on taxation and an itinerary for an automobile tour of Pennsylvania.

Folder 27  Harrisburg Official Correspondence, 1893-1922

Contains letters to the Commissioners of Lancaster County; letters concerning Prohibition; and a letter concerning Levi G. Nissley and the 19 May 1911 session in the House of Representatives.

Folder 28  Harrisburg Official Correspondence, 1911-1928

Folder 29  Correspondence between George Gesell, Sam Matt Fridy, Isaac W. Slokom, A. B. Hassler, Charles I. Landis, and William Griest, 1896-1919

Contains testimony concerning illegal auditor charges by H. Clay Brubaker.

Folder 30  Correspondence between Thomas H. Griest, William Griest, Walter C. Longstreth, et al., 1905-1919

Folder 31  Correspondence between Thomas H. Griest, William Griest, Walter C. Longstreth, et al., 1912-1919

Folder 32  Correspondence between Thomas H. Griest, William Griest, Walter C. Longstreth, et al., 1907-1926

Contains note and envelope from Cha. H. Bean & Company.

Folder 33  Correspondence between William N. Appel, S. R. Zimmerman, W. W. Atterbury, and William Griest, 1913-1924

Folder 34  Correspondence between William Griest, A. Boyd Hamilton, John S. Fisher, and W. L. Mellon, 1926-1927

Folder 35  Correspondence between Boise Penrose, L. C. Taylor, William Stone, Robert S. Frazer, W. P. Potter, Francis Shunk Brown, William Griest, et al., 1908-1916

Folder 36  Correspondence between Boise Penrose, L. C. Taylor, William Stone, Robert S. Frazer, W. P. Potter, Francis Shunk Brown, William Griest, et al., 1915

Folder 37  Correspondence between Boise Penrose, L. C. Taylor, William Stone, Robert S. Frazer, W. P. Potter, Francis Shunk Brown, William Griest, et al., 1898-1918

Folder 38  White House Correspondence, 1911-1923

Folder 39  Holiday and Event Correspondence, 1916-1926

Contains Christmas, birthday, Valentine’s Day, and best wishes cards.

Folder 40  Thank You Letters, 1903-1929

Folder 41  Congratulatory Letters, 1895-1926

Folder 42  Congratulatory Letters, 1922


Box 3

Folder 43  General Correspondence, 1890-1916

Contains a letter to Who’s Who in America, a letter from the Labor Day Committee – Central Labor Union, articles about William Griest, and an article about James Landis.

Folder 44  General Correspondence, 1916-1929

Contains a pamphlet, “The Exposition in Retrospect;” a letter about the Spring Primary, 1926; and a Wee Willie Heidebaugh Special Advertisement.

Folder 45  Invitations, 1909-1914

Contains an invitation to the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909; the Report of XVII Interparliamentary Conference; an invitation to join the S. North Interparliamentary Union; a program for 5th Annual Commencement of the Salisbury Township Central High School, 1913; Miss Ethel Victoria Baxter’s visiting card; Miss Martha Ada Baxter’s visiting card; an invitation to the Annual Meeting of American Committee for the Celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Peace among English Speaking People; a card for Visiting Foreign Guests of Honour and members of the international conference; an invitation to the National Association of Letter Carriers 19th National Convention; an invitation to the 13th Annual Convention of the United National Association of Post Office Clerks; an invitation to the Philadelphia Division P.R.R. Veteran Association; H. J. Babb’s business card; an invitation to the American Mining Congress 16th Annual Session; an invitation to the 44th Annual Convention of the Pennsylvania Woman’s Suffrage Association; an invitation to the National Fire Prevention Convention; an exhibit brochure to Pennsylvania Industrial Welfare and Efficiency Convention; the schedule of events for the Holtwood Carnival, 1913; an invitation to the 32nd Anniversary dinner of the Clover Club; an invitation to the National Boot and Shoe Manufacturers Association 10th Annual Reception.


Folder 46  Invitations, 1914-1916

Contains a pass and brochure to the 6th National Corn Exposition; an invitation to the National Maine Memorial Committee 16th Annual Memorial; an invitation to the 5 O’clock Club 31st Anniversary Dinner; an invitation to the Philadelphia National League Club Opening Game; an invitation to the 15th Annual Convention of United National Association of Post Office Clerks; an invitation to the American Bar Association Reception; an invitation to the Terrapin Club; an invitation to the Reception of Union League; an invitation to Lincoln Camp. No. 2 Patriotic Exercises; an invitation to Charles C. Donnelly’s Musical Anniversary; an invitation to a Daughters of the American Revolution play; acceptance to William S. Vare Dinner, 1915; and an invitation to the 34th Anniversary Dinner of the Clover Club.


Folder 47  Invitations, 1916-1929

Contains a convention bulletin from the Road Builder’s Association; Martha P. Quinn’s visiting cards; invitations to the Terrapin Club; an invitation to American Liberty Day Celebration; an invitation to meet William R. Wilcox; acceptance of invitation to Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Memorial; an invitation to the Inaugural Ball; an invitation to Howard University Semi-Centennial, 1917; an invitation to the 80th Birthday of Joseph G. Cannon.


Folder 48  Miss Griest’s visiting card. No date.

Folder 49  Restricted Access

Folder 50  Restricted Access

Folder 51  Receipts from Hotel Washington, 1919-1921

Folder 52  Receipts from Hotel Washington, 1921-1923

Folder 53  Receipts from Hotel Washington, 1923-1927

Folder 54 Receipts from Hotel Washington and Correspondence, 1919-1928


Box 4

Folder 55  Invoices and Receipts, 1919-1928

Receipts from The Commercial Club and The City Club; invoices from Western Union Telegraph Company, Postal Telegraph Cable Company,The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company.


Folder 56  Invoices and Receipts, 1919-1928

Invoices for The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company; Batt, Bates & Company; The Public Printer; William Z. Roy; Lancaster Gas, Light, & Fuel Company; Dr. Thomas L. Rus; The Hammond Typewriter Company; The Washington Post; and G & C Merriam Company. Also contains memoranda of official check from the Treasurer of the United States; Statement of Salary, 1921; receipts of the 9th Internal Revenue District, 1919; and correspondence with the Western Union Telegraph Company.


Folder 57  Scrapbook of Newspaper Clippings of Political Occurrences involving William Griest, no date