The Boys of Bayland

The Art of Clifton Owen Griffin

In Memory of
Clifton Owen Griffin
October 23, 1922 – December 4, 1998
A beloved uncle, brother and artist.

The Boys of Bayland
The Art of Clifton Owen Griffin

JANIS

GRIFFIN OLIVER
and
ODESSA GRIFFIN LOVE

Copyright. Jan Oliver and Odessa Love
2009 All Rights Reserved
Pueblo, Colorado

For:
All the boys of Bayland Orphanage
and institutionalized children everywhere

Contents
About Clifton Owen Griffin – 1
About Bayland Orphan Home for Boys – 5
The Boys of Bayland – 9
Visiting Days – 45
Other Drawings of Orphaned Children – 59
Afterword – 63
Family Photos – 67

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About Clifton Owen Griffin
Clifton Owen Griffin was born October 23, 1922 in Burkburnett, Texas to parents
Oddia August Young and Cornelius Owen Griffin. Oddia, Clifton’s mother, was the
daughter of George Van Young and Augusta Dechaumes and granddaughter of Francois
Dechaumes and Rosalie Pillot, each representing two of the most wealthy and
prominent families in early Houston history. Clifton’s father, Cornelius Owen was the
son of James William Wilburn Griffin and Mary Matilda Ford and grandson of Owen
Griffin and Catherine Wood. Owen Griffin was one of the earliest settlers in Whitney
Hill Texas and a veteran of the Civil War.

In 1929, the Great Depression began. Within a few short years, thousands of families
across the United States, which had been otherwise prosperous, fell on profoundly
difficult times. Such was the case for the parents of Clifton Owen Griffin. The story of
their struggle to survive The Great Depression is chronicled in “Odessa’s Story” by
Odessa Griffin Love, sister of Clifton Griffin. On October 21, 1936, five of the Griffin
children were placed in state-funded homes for orphaned, delinquent or destitute
children. Clifton Owen Griffin was placed at Bayland Orphan Home for Boys where
he remained until he was eighteen years of age. During this time, Clifton began taking
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photographs of the other boys who were under the care of the orphanage. It is not
known when he began making sketches from the photographs, as the drawings are not
dated. However, from the extensive size of the collection of drawings, it is assumed
that he created these drawings beginning as a young man and continued drawing
throughout his life.

After Clifton was released from Bayland Orphan Home, he enlisted in the United
States Navy during World War II and later served as a Private E-2 the army during the
Korean conflict. During World War II, he served on the USS Duluth as a coxswain (a
navigator) and received the American Area Asiatic Pacific Area medals and two stars.
Clifton was a quiet and kind man who brought toys to his great nieces and nephews
whenever he visited. He never married and died on December 4th, 1998.

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These drawings, along with other portraits of children, families and Civil War soldiers
were found among his possessions after his death and have been in the care of his sister
Odessa Griffin Love until this time. Our family is now pleased to share Clifton’s
touching portraits of a bygone era with you. It is our hope that they will serve to
communicate his profound concern for the plight of orphaned and destitute children
everywhere.

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About Bayland Orphan Home for Boys
”Bayland Orphans’ Home for Boys” by Diana J. Kleiner, courtesy the Handbook of Texas Online
(www.tshaonline.org), Copyright Texas State Historical Association

Bayland Orphans' Home for Boys was a county home for dependent and delinquent
boys. The home was chartered as the Confederate Orphans' Home on September 24,
1866, and organized in Houston on January 15, 1867, by Texas Confederate veterans.
The institution was first located at Bayland on the west side of Galveston Bay near
Morgan's Point, at a place that later became part of the Goose Creek oilfield.qv The
nonsectarian home, planned to care for and educate up to 250 orphans of deceased
Confederate soldiers, opened on August 13, 1867. Henry F. Gilletteqv was
superintendent from 1867 to 1882, and Col. Ashbel Smithqv served as staff doctor.

Private support for the home came primarily from Galveston and Houston. In the 1870s
the home received a share of state public lands, including acreage in Shackelford,
Stevens, and Callahan counties. Agents for the institution were kept in the field to
gather and accept donations of all kinds, and a small community church at Harmony

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Grove was moved to the site for use as a school. By 1878 the home owned a 328-acre
farm and several buildings and had cash reserves.

In 1887, when Houston-Galveston packet travel ceased and Bayland became
inaccessible, a decision was made to move the home to Houston. A charter amendment
made on January 29, 1888, designated the new institution Bayland Orphans' Home
Association and provided that it could accept any white orphan child from any county
in the state. Mrs. Kezia Payne DePelchin,qv later connected with the DePelchin Faith
Home, was elected matron of the new home on June 4, 1888.

Around 1900 the home was moved from its original location on Galveston Bay to a
thirty-six-acre tract in the Woodland Heights area three miles from Houston, with space
for forty-two children.

Financial difficulties developed in the 1890s. A fire in 1914 destroyed the Bayland
Avenue home, and the institution moved again in 1916 to a new tract ten miles south of
Houston, near Bellaire, on land donated by Joseph F. Meyer. At this time a decision
was reached to accept only boys, and the home was renamed Bayland Orphans' Home
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for Boys. In 1922 the institution was taken over by the county, which also agreed to
erect a new building at Bellaire, to be known as Harris County Bayland Home, for
dependent white female juveniles.

In 1936 the school and home were consolidated with the Harris County School for
Boys and moved to a 115-acre tract in southeastern Harris County, four miles east of
Webster. The institution became partially self-supporting from the diversified
agriculture of its own plant. In 1946 the average age of the sixty-six boys at the home
was thirteen.

After this time the institution ceased to function strictly as the Bayland Orphans' Home.
Boys attended public school at Webster, and efforts were made to place children in
foster homes. On September 20, 1964, the Harris County Historical Survey Committee
unveiled a bronze marker at the original site of the home.

bibliography: Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library.
Albert A. Walls, Study of Administrative Problems at Bayland Orphans' Home for
Boys (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1947).
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Visiting Day

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Other Drawings of Orphaned Children

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Afterword
I first saw Clifton’s drawings in the summer of this year. Corresponding over the
Internet, my great aunt Odessa would scan and send images every night along with
other records from our family’s history. As the collection of images reached 100, I was
astonished to discover the gift my uncle had kept hidden away all those years.

I had known my uncle Clifton as a small child. I remembered him as the uncle with a
Santa Claus smile and a red buzz cut…kindof Santa meets the army. I knew little
about him, other than that he had been in the military for most of his life. When
Clifton came to visit, my Grandfather and he would sit for ours talking about Navy
ships, while we all sat around and played dominos. Invariably, Clifton always brought
me a toy.

Discovering that my great uncle was not only a kind person but also an artist was a gift
in itself. Being an artist myself, I had always wondered where my gift had come from
and if there were other artists in my family. But looking back over the generation of
family members that preceded me, I saw many talented craftspersons but no fine

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artists. The women of my family created practical and beautiful things for sure. The
men of my family designed and built practical and useful things too like car engines,
and machines and boats. But, I had always felt a bit afloat amongst the crowd.
Receiving images via email each night from aunt Odessa opened up a view to me of the
past and of a person I barely knew. What I discovered in each image touched me
deeply. He had captured the souls of these “lost” boys on paper. Scratched in pencil
were their faces…at times solemn, joyful, confused, hurt, bored, wondering and yet
hopeful. He captured their moments alone, as they tried to mend their broken hearts.
He captured their moments together—finding strength in the camaraderie of boyhood
companionship and he captured images of families—touched by tragedy. Perhaps the
true sign of a fine artist is this…that beyond the image that is shown on paper or
canvas, something else is captured there and illuminated for others to see. In Clifton’s
drawings what I found etched between those graphite lines was simply this message…
love.

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According to UNICEF, there are estimated to be between
143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide.

Not all orphaned children are without parents. Some enter into the system when their
parents can no longer care for them due to poverty, disease, famine and war.

HopeforOrphans.com offers faith-based information for churches and communities that
would like to work toward assisting the world’s orphaned children.

Unicef.org offers information about how communities and nations can work
together to end the cycles of poverty, disease, famine and war that
leave millions of children without families every year.

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Family Photos

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The Griffin Children before being placed in orphanages.

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Clifton and his sister Odessa

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“Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless;
Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Deliver the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked.”
Ps 82:3-4

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