In 1679, John Mifflin of Warrington, Wilts., became one of the first English emigrants to Pennsylvania, settling at an estate now situated in Philadelphia's Fairmont Park that he called Fountain Green. Like most of the first generation of Anglo-Philadelphians, the Mifflins were members of the Society of Friends, and over the course of the next few decades, his became one of Philadelphia's most prominent commercial families, intermarrying and forming business partnerships with the Masseys, Shippens, Walns, Fishbournes and other members of the Quaker elite. Included among the more descendants of John Mifflin are the long-time Governor of Pennsylvania and Revolutionary War general, Thomas Mifflin, the Quaker reformer and anti-slavery activist, Warner Mifflin, and the artist/writers John Houston Mifflin and Lloyd Mifflin.
Though eminently successful in business, the Mifflins suffered their share of misfortunes. George Mifflin, Jr., a grandson of the emigrant John, died shortly after marrying Ann Eyre, who herself had been orphaned before the age of eight. During their brief marriage, the couple had only one child, Charles. After Ann's remarriage, Charles went to the Ephrata Cloister to learn German, and thereby improve his business prospects, and soon arranged for an apprenticeship with a Boston merchant. By the time of the Revolution, his prospects were improving steadily. A confident and able young man, his business career no doubt received a boost by his marriage in 1777 to Polly Waln, a close relative of Nicholas Waln and child of the wealthy Waln family. Further, like most of his family, Charles cast his lot with the winning side during the Revolution, though unlike his cousin Thomas, he refused to renounce his Quaker principles to become an active participant. Unfortunately, Charles' good fortune did not last. He died suddenly in 1783, leaving his widow to cope with four young children. Topping off tragedy with tragedy, two of these children died in the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793.
Another branch of the Mifflin family, through John Mifflin's son, John, also met with financial success mixed with family misfortune. John (1720-1798), grandson of the emigrant John, became immensely wealthy through partnerships with relatives and other Quaker families, operating in the import and export trade to the West Indies and Britain. With income from land speculation and with holdings of property in the Philadelphia area, Lancaster County, and as far west as the Susquehanna River, John was able to establish his three sons, John, Jonathan, and Joseph in a successful three-way commercial partnership of their own, and his daughter, Rebecca, found wealth and prominence through her marriage to Henry W. Archer, adjutant to Anthony Wayne during the Revolution. Marriages were fortunate for this branch of the Mifflin family tree: John was said to have married the only daughter of a very wealthy man, while Jonathan married into the Wright family, some of the earliest settlers in Lancaster County.
At about the time of the Revolution, Joseph and Jonathan Mifflin moved to Lancaster County, with Joseph settling in Columbia. There, he married Deborah Richardson with whom he had at least three children: Joseph, Jr. (married Martha Houston, daughter of Dr. John Houston, a Continental Army surgeon), Lloyd (an official of the Bank of the United States), and Deborah. The death of Joseph Mifflin, Sr., in 1791, resulted in an acrimonious dispute over the estate that temporarily sundered good relations within the family.
Among Joseph, Jr.'s children were at least two sons: John Houston and James H. John Houston Mifflin, who tried his hand in the art world, traveling to Georgia in 1835 in an effort to establish himself as a portrait painter. He returned briefly to Philadelphia (1836-37), but in December, 1837, made another attempt to establish himself in Augusta. James accompanied John to Augusta on his first trip, but was not notably successful in his efforts to run a store. He may have been a bit of a cad, at least by reputation, but after his return to Pennsylvania, he became a successful promoter of internal works and was involved in the explosive growth of the Antimasonic Party in Pennsylvania during the mid-1830s.