Niskayuna

Gleanings from the corn flats; Discovering Winne-Griffin family connections

From left, Jeff Denison, Roger Griffin and Peter Brownsey are seen at the 3009 Troy Road ancestral Winne property with Troy Road seen in the background in 1985.

From left, Jeff Denison, Roger Griffin and Peter Brownsey are seen at the 3009 Troy Road ancestral Winne property with Troy Road seen in the background in 1985.

Tracing the ancestry of Matthew Winne Jr. (1806-1897) has led me to some extraordinary encounters with his descendants, as well as their memorable Niskayuna neighbors — several of whom have shared their interesting stories with me. The following account is primarily focused on Roger Griffin, who married Carol Winne (1944-2016), a great-great-granddaughter of Matthew.

Roger, now 80, lives with daughter Holly on her ancestral property at 3009 Troy Road, original farmland of Matthew Winne Sr. (1768-1866). My interviews with Roger and Holly were both enjoyable and eye-opening.

Son of the late Francis (1906-1984) and Holly (Sauter) Griffin (1906-1998), Roger grew up in the Rosendale vicinity near the Niskayuna-Colonie town line. Roger, along with older brother Gary, who later became a soil mechanics professor at the University of Connecticut, attended Niskayuna Elementary School No. 4 on Rosendale Road.

In elementary school, Roger met classmates Peter Brownsey and Jeff Denison, who would become his lifelong friends. The three Niskayuna “amigos” — Roger, Peter and Jeff — grew up in the 1950s, and were most fortunate to be drawn into vibrant Boy Scout Troop 40 affiliated with the Niskayuna Reformed Church.

Troop 40’s outstanding adviser was Roland Alexander, whose son Lenny was also a Scout friend of the boys. Roland Alexander, a respected Civil Aeronautics Authority (precursor to today’s Federal Aviation Agency) professional, took a keen interest in the boys and became a troop leader. He constantly challenged his Scouts with educational and enjoyable projects.

Under his tutelage, each would ultimately attain the esteemed Eagle Scout rank. Along the way they acquired solid values and work ethics that would guide them their entire lives. Roger was an ambitious self-starter who constantly busied himself with many jobs in his younger years. Several summers were spent working at a lumber mill near Ticonderoga on Lake George while living at his father’s camp on Lake George’s Gull Bay.

He also worked on local farms, but especially enjoyed moonlighting as an airport shuttle driver for Walt Heppinstall’s car rental agency operating from the nearby Albany Shaker-Troy Road intersection. After graduating college, Roger was employed by New York State Civil Service for several decades.

In the mid-1960s, Roger married longtime Niskayuna neighbor Carol Winne. Carol, daughter of Matthew C. Winne (1907-1955) and Antoinette “Ann” Kukan (1911-1992), lived at the Troy Road Winne property, with her sisters Joan and Susan.

Roger and Carol remained very close with Peter Brownsey and his wife, Donella (“Donnie”). In fact, Roger served as best man and Carol as maid of honor for Peter and Donnie when they eloped in Warrensburg. Carol, an avid quilter, also worked beside her best friend at Donnie’s Flying Geese Fabrics shop.

Carol also had ties to the northern Lake George region. Her parents founded and were building Springdale Manor Resort in Hague when her father, Matthew, tragically died when Carol was just 10. Widowed mom Ann was pressed to oversee completion of Springdale while raising three young daughters. Not only did Ann complete construction, she successfully operated the resort for many years.

Numerous happy family summers were spent in this beautiful Adirondack setting. Later, Roger built a scenic lakeside camp on a parcel of Hague property Ann allotted to Carol.

Carol and Roger were blessed with three delightful daughters, Holly, Barbara and Elizabeth, who they enjoyed raising in Niskayuna. Each summer, the couple held a huge July 4th bash inviting family, along with countless friends and neighbors.

Carol’s sister Joan (1942-2021) and her husband Walter Grishkot (1926-2011), founders of the popular Adirondack Balloon Festival in Warren County, were regular attendees. At one festival, the Grishkots met ardent balloonist and celebrity Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, owner of the Benihana restaurant chain, who also joined one memorable party.

Roger and Holly still actively manage the Troy Road property as an operating farm, producing vegetables and flowers while also selling firewood. Thanks to Holly’s generosity, I sampled some home-grown produce from the ancestral Winne farm. I can personally attest it was absolutely delicious.

Michael A. Davi is a member of the Niskayuna Historical Committee. To submit information, resources or story ideas, email Niskayuna Town Historian Denis Brennan at [email protected].

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