Dayton family’s history in the city can be traced back 12 generations

Patricia Smith Griffin is working to preserve a rich legacy.

It is often more difficult for women to trace their family heritage than it is for men. This is because for generations, women lost their names after marriage and may change them several times.

But Patricia Smith Griffin, who grew up in Dayton’s Residence Park and graduated from Meadowdale High School, said she always knew her family history. And this is because of the women in her family who shared it for 12 generations.

“I know my family history like I know my own name,” Griffin said. “Our family has been in Dayton since 1802.”

A great granddaughter of early Ohio settler Charity Davis Ceasar Broady, Griffin is dedicating her time and talents to not only tracing and archiving her family roots, but also sharing her methods with others interested in doing the same.

Griffin learned about her family history as a child from other family members who told the stories and kept them alive. Broady was brought to Ohio in 1802 and became part of the Underground Railroad, helping slaves gain freedom in the northern states. Broady was also a staunch advocate for women’s voting rights, and passed that passion to her own daughter, Griffin’s grandmother, Jewelia Galloway Higgins.

“Each generation of my family did the best they could to preserve the family story,” Griffin said. “When I started researching, I found journals and letters.”

As a girl growing up in Dayton and attending a mostly white private school – Dayton Christian – Griffin, as an African American child, said those days in the 1970′s shaped her life.

“It made me more aware of the need to present perspectives as we explore and discuss history,” Griffin said.

She graduated from Ohio University, where she developed an interest in journalism, specifically broadcasting. She started her career after college in radio at WROU, where she used the name “Patty G.” Eventually she moved to WHIO radio and founded the Women’s Radio Network.

“The first episode I did was called ‘Wildest Dreams,’” Griffin said. “I knew then I was going to research our family history, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to present it.”

Griffin began researching and writing, though she admits those first drafts were “very clinical.” She wrote in more of an academic lecture format but said as it evolved, it became more storytelling, like generations of her family used to share the stories.

“Charity’s father, John Isaac Davis, wanted to bring his daughter from Kentucky to a free state,” Griffin said. “And that was Ohio.”

Davis knew that it would be important for Charity to live in a free state since, as a daughter of a Cherokee mother and African American father, slavery for her would have been inevitable in Kentucky.

“We are lucky today because most of our research can be done online instead of going in person to libraries or looking through courthouse records,” said Griffin, who starts her work day at 4:30 a.m. and continues researching and writing sometimes long after dark.

Griffin created the “Charity’s Children Project,” a non-profit organization with a mission to resurrect the “Old Castle on the Hill” in Dayton and transform it into a multicultural center. The organization was founded in 2021 after Griffin said she realized there were many more historical documents that would need to be archived and preserved than she originally thought.

“The Old Castle on the Hill was demolished in 2007,” Griffin said. “My grandparents, Charlest and Earnest Johnson, raised their 10children there.”

Griffin said her family still owns the land on Jerome Avenue in Dayton, and the goal is to raise funds to build on the property. In the meantime, she is working on a book about her family’s history in Dayton and has created a podcast series called “The Legacy of Charity’s Children,” that chronicles the life of Broady and her descendants in Dayton.

“We want to tell the story of Dayton’s black history,” Griffin said. “We know that black people have been in Dayton since the beginning and continue to be an integral part of the city to this day.”

Another part of the project is sharing her methodology with others who are interested in archiving and sharing their own family stories. A free event, hosted by the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center (NAAMCC) in Wilberforce, will host The Charity’s Children Project and Griffin, who will serve as moderator. The event will be held Saturday, March 25 and will feature two expert panelists discussing how to “Discover and Uncover Your Legacy.”

“Our goal is to share the importance of preserving the vanishing perspectives in black and women’s histories,” Griffin said. “At Charity’s Children’s Project, we are committed to this goal of maintaining archives in a way that respects families and to sharing these stories.”

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