MRS. FLORENCE TERRY GRISWOLD
What followings is an excerpt from The Pan American Round Table, Lois Terry Marchbanks, Avon Behren Press, 1983, (pp. 5-11).
The history of the Pan American Round Table movement is the saga of the heart and mind of one woman, Florence Terry Griswold. She was born May 29, 1875, near Eagle Pass, Texas.
Since each of us is a part of our own heritage and background, her pioneering spirit was a reflection of her adventurous and courageous forefathers.
It was on July 17, 1635 that three brothers, Richard, Thomas and Robert Terry left London and sailed on the ship, "James", for the New World. They landed at New Haven, Connecticut. Through more than 200 years their descendants served with honor, loyalty, and often with distinction, in their various vocations. They were lawyers, teachers, merchants, doctors and soldiers. Soldiers who served with great valor and patriotism in the Indian encounters, the Continental Army and the Civil War. Many boldly ventured out into new, uninhabited territory and established new homes. Such was the spirit of adventure and self-reliance of the parents of Florence Terry.
It was in 1870 that a talented young lawyer of Palmyra, New York, and his gentle, cultured young wife of Edwardsville, Illinois, responded to the lure of the West; with its sagebrush, mesquite and wide open spaces.
Theodore Terry and Louisa Jane Lampkin Terry settled on rather extensive ranch holdings called THE PENDENCIA. It was located in an area between Eagle Pass and Carrizo Springs, Texas. His well-to-do father, Constant Terry, had come to Texas several years earlier and urged Theodore to join him. The young couple needed no urging, for tales of Texas spelled adventure and new experiences.
Theodore Terry practiced his legal profession in Eagle Pass; driving in his buggy from the ranch each day. He became one of the first Federal judges in Southwest Texas and quickly became know for his brilliance in the court room and his sharp wit. He was a direct descendant of Nathaniel Terry of American Revolutionary fame.
Four children were born to this union: Annie Louise, Alice, William Nathaniel and Florence. Living as they did among people of two cultures, the children became bilingual from infancy. In 1880 Judge Terry moved his family to Carrizo Springs when he was appointed District Judge for that section of the State. Later he was made County Judge and served in that capacity until his death in 1895.
An interesting note might be mentioned here. When young Theodore had finished law school in New York he traveled to St. Louis to visit a relative. While there he worked on the ST. LOUIS GLOBE DEMOCRAT. Now, many years later, he lived in an area where there was no newspaper. Being a man of vision and action he proceeded to do something about it.
In 1886 a group of citizens bought shares and the Carrizo Springs paper, THE JAVELIN, was founded, with Theodore as its editor. He had gone to St. Louis and purchased an Armstrong press and what a time he, his son Will, and others had in putting it together! Upon his death Will became the editor. Today, THE JAVELIN still serves as an outstanding paper in that area.
Florence, the youngest daughter of this prominent family, enjoyed a happy and popular girlhood. She was a black-haired, black-eyed beauty, brilliant, saucy, and at times her wit could be cutting. At the age of nineteen she became engaged. She and Felix Shaw married in the year of 1894. He was somewhat older than she, a mature man of wisdom and reserve, but he delighted in his vivacious young wife. To this happy couple were born four children, three daughters and one son: Ruth, Adele, Hazel and Felix Matlow, Jr., who all his life was lovingly called "Son Shaw."
In 1908 Felix Shaw died suddenly of a heart attack while participating in a roundup" on one of his ranches. In a recent book written by Peter Tumlinson Bell, entitled MEMORIES, he stated, "Felix Shaw was in the cattle business in the early days and he built up a large estate and was well fixed when he died." Mr. Bell, an old-timer still living in Carrizo Springs, admiringly said, "He was one of the few cattlemen who had maintained his holdings at the time of his death." It was Felix Shaw, with another rancher, who introduced the shorthorned bull to the region. It was he and other ranchers of that era who helped to carve out an empire in Texas to be known to much of the world as "The Cattle Kingdom."
Abruptly, this lovely, protected young wife and mother had to assume momentous responsibilities. Running three ranches and educating four children was a daunting venture. Fortunately, before Mr. Shaw's death a home had been established in San Antonio during the school year. This became their permanent residence.
As her daughters emerged into young ladyhood they were sent to private schools and then to finishing schools in the East. Thereafter they made their debut in San Antonio society. "Son Shaw" was enrolled in a military academy. As time elapsed, Florence Terry Griswold became successful in business matters, as well as a leader in community and social affairs.
In 1914 she married John Case Griswold, an insurance executive and a man of some distinction whom the family fondly called "Pa John."
From 19 10 to 1916 the people in Southwest Texas were too close to Mexico to be unaware of trouble south of the Rio Grande. Banditry suddenly blazed into revolution causing great upheaval and governmental changes in Mexico. It was a turbulent time of Pancho Villa, Zapata and others. Many women and children fled across the border and became helpless refugees. The plight of these penniless and helpless people deeply troubled the heart of Mrs. Griswold.
Her childhood had greatly influenced her entire life. Reared as she was in the mesquite and chaparral country of Texas, near the Mexican border, she had come to know and appreciate the Mexican character. There was no language barrier and she learned to esteem and value their qualities of loyalty and devotion.
As the plight of the refugees became more critical she initiated plans to help them. She took many of the women and children into her own home and rallied help among her friends and associates. They gave of themselves unsparingly and did a great deal to alleviate the suffering and provide sanctuary for all who needed shelter and food.
It is fascinating to know that the family of one of our most eminent Pan American members of Monterrey, Mexico, found assistance and support at that time. Mrs. Margarita S. de Kelley writes:
"When the political revolution in Mexico caused Porfilio Diaz to be ousted after thirty years of dictatorship, he fled the country. My father was Secretary of State and he, with thousands of others, was forced to leave. With his young bride he escaped in a freighter train bound for Canada. Later they went to Washington, D.C., but their final destination was San Antonio, Texas.
"My father, an attorney-at-law, had no job and little or no money and faced a desperate situation. Their first baby was coming and the need was great.
"But behold, milk and bread began to be delivered at their door. Clothes were forthcoming for them, as well as other refugees. My mother came to know that the assistance came from the Pan American Round Table members under the leadership of Mrs. Griswold. Indeed, my parents appreciated Mrs. Griswold's graciousness and friendship when they needed it most."
Mrs. Griswold has been called a dreamer, a patriot, idealist, and realist. Indeed, she was all this and more. Might it be suggested that this woman was providentially prepared by her Maker to look down the corridor of time and visualize a continued need to, in her own words, "cement a close and everlasting friendship with the women of the Western Hemisphere." From the very beginning of this great movement, the Founder enunciated:
"We desire the help of women who realize that there can be no solidarity of the republics of the Western Hemisphere without the cooperation both of the men and women. Thus, we need women unafraid to demand for these Americas the continuance of those ideals that inspired San Martin, Bolivar, Hidalgo and Washington in their firm belief in that profound principle, 'FOR OTHER FOUNDATION CAN NO MAN LAY THAN THAT IS LAID, WHICH IS JESUS CHRIST.'(I Cor. 3:11)"
It was at a luncheon in the historic Menger Hotel Oct. 16, 1916 the Pan American Round Table was actually organized. Mrs. Griswold assembled a group of women who had labored diligently with her, to form an organization with the avowed purpose, "To provide mutual knowledge, understanding, and friendship among the peoples of the Western Hemisphere, and to foster all movements affecting the women and children of the Americas."
This group quickly responded to her leadership. They recognized her genius for inspiring a willingness to participate in a crusade, which would reach across every border in the Americas.The women attending on that eventful day and who became the charter members, were:
Mrs. Griswold modeled her group on the Medieval Round Table – a circle, no beginning and no ending, symbolizing unity, perpetuity, equal representation and opportunity - choosing also the immortal expression of Alexander Dumas, "One for all, and all for one." Mrs. Griswold became the first Director General, adopting the official title used by the head of the Pan American union. She also followed this organization's pattern in prescribing that the members of the Round Table represent each of the twenty-one American Republics. At the same time she hoped that Canada would be interested in joining at some future date.
Cooperation with the Pan American Union and collaboration with its policies - especially that of the principle that only through education, not legislation, could understanding and friendship grow - enabled our founder to build solidly and well a firmly-knit organization which clearly bore evidence of the high ideals which motivated its formation. So, it came to pass that long before the advent of our National Good Neighbor Policy, she made it politically expedient to encourage amity throughout the Hemisphere; leading the way to an intellectual and spiritual understanding among the American nations.
In a letter to me, my aunt wrote, "Upon reading the book, published by Ambassador Bryce of England to the United States, on South America, I was given the idea of the necessity for understanding among the Americas. The book showed that men had dwelt too much upon finances, commerce and politics and at no time seemed interested in the social and humanitarian side of the question among the republics." At another time she told me, "The Honorable John Barratt of Grafton, Vermont, the first Director General of the Pan American Union in Washington (1907-1920), became my close personal friend and inspired me to carry on in my Pan American work. Leo S. Rowe succeeded him as Director General of the Pan American Union and he encouraged me and cooperated with me in everything.
The earliest years, naturally, were devoted largely to organization, research and study. As early as 1917-1918, however, regardless of political differences existing between the United States and the Mexican Republic, cordial relations sprang up between the Round Table and officials of the Mexican Government and erstwhile political refugees within our border. This was at a time when the Mexican crisis was at its height and feeling ran high on both sides of the Rio Grande. Political conditions in Mexico caused thousands of its citizens to seek, for a time, the protection of the Stars and Stripes. The Round Table labored diligently to aid every class of refugee and encouraged them to follow their former vocations on American soil. Service and a genuine desire to be of assistance formed the first bond of sympathy between the women of Mexico and the United States. .
We find that from the very beginning of Mrs. Griswold's pilgrimage that she was very alert to the needs of her area, state and nation. As early as 1914 her letter to Mr. John Barratt expressed her concern regarding a military highway from Brownsville to El Paso.
Another letter in her files was dated March 27, 1917, addressed to Miss O.E. Mason, Tarrytown, New York. Evidently it was the answer to an inquiry regarding the sale of some of Mrs. Griswold's holdings. It was in reference to two tracts of land, one of 15,000 acres, the other 26,000 acres in the Rio Grande Valley. Mrs. Griswold's terms were: one third cash, the balance to suit the purchaser at 6%!
In 1917, the year the United States entered the World War, and when it was discovered that President Carranza of Mexico had sent birthday congratulations to the Kaiser, the Pan American Round Table immediately communicated to him their disapproval of this breach of Pan American unity, and their action in the premises elicited messages of approbation from the King of Belgium, the President of France and the Premier of Canada. (Note the letter from King of Belgium to Mrs. Griswold, April 26,1918.)
In 1919, from December 1-3 the first Pan American Conference between women of the United States and Mexico took place in San Antonio, Texas, the concluding event of which was a banquet arranged by officials of the Mexican government. This is probably the first time in the history of the country that such a courtesy was extended by a "foreign" government on foreign soil. An outstanding accomplishment of the Conference was the adoption of a resolution, the purpose of which was to encourage the creation of a Pan American chair at the University of Texas. The idea was suggested by Dr. Julio Uriburu, of Argentina, attending the Conference from California by special invitation.
Presiding at that conference was Dr. Hermilla Galinda of the University of Mexico. Dr. John Willis Slaughter of Rice Institute, as well as Dr. Uriburu, emphasized the need of educational opportunities for Latin Americans in the United States. This was an illustrious gathering with an interesting footnote on the program which stated, "Any political allusion will be considered a breach of courtesy."
Perhaps neither Mrs. Griswold, nor her compatriots, could visualize the far-reaching import of this first Pan American Conference between women of the United States and Mexico. It laid the groundwork for the future of the Pan American Movement.