1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Job Durfee Papers

 Politician and judge, of Tiverton, R.I.

 Papers, 1809-1868

 Size: 1.5 linear feet

 Catalog number: MSS 150

 Processed by: Harold Kemble, ca. 1985

 Finding aid by Cindy Bendroth, June 1993; revised by Rick Stattler, September 2000

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            Job Durfee was born on September 20, 1790 in Tiverton, Rhode Island to Thomas and Mary (Louden) Durfee. His brothers and sisters included Elizabeth (who married Samuel Warren), Lucy and Charles. He was educated in Bristol, R.I. and graduated from Brown University in 1813. Later, he studied law under his father (a chief justice for the Court of Common Pleas) and was admitted to the bar in 1817.

            His political career began in 1816 when he was elected to the Rhode Island House of Representatives. In 1820, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, winning out against incumbent Nathaniel Hazard. Defeated for the U.S. House seat by Dutee J. Pearce, he returned to the General Assembly in 1826. In 1827 he was elected Speaker of the House and in 1829, lost his state seat to Pardon Grey, who was "aided by the cry of Jacksonianism."

            In 1833, Durfee became Associate Judge of the State Supreme Court and in 1835 he became Chief Justice, which he held to his death in 1847. He presided over the court during the Dorr Rebellion.

            In his private life, he was active in alumni affairs at Brown University, delivered many speeches including one on "aboriginal history," and "The Subjection and Extermination of the Narragansett Indians." He also published prose and poetry. He married Judith Borden (1796-1884) in 1820 and had seven children, as follows. One son, Thomas Durfee also became chief justice of the state's Supreme Court.

1) Lucy Durfee (1821-1890), unmarried

2) Amy Durfee (1824-1902), unmarried

3) Thomas Durfee (1826-1901), m. Sarah J. Slater, had son Samuel S. Durfee (1858-1916)

4) Mary Durfee (1827-1921), m. Samuel West (a doctor in New Bedford)

5) Simeon Borden Durfee (1829-1858), trained as a minister, unmarried.

6) Sarah A. Durfee (1831-1912), unmarried

7) Julia M. Durfee (1834-1845), unmarried


Biographical Cyclopedia of Rhode Island

Durfee, Thomas. Memoir of Job Durfee. Boston: NEGHS, 1880.

Reed, William F. Descendants of Thomas Durfee of Portsmouth, 54-55, 281, 495. Washington, D.C.: Gibson Brothers, 1905.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database

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Scope and content:

            The papers of Job Durfee date from 1809 to 1868, with the bulk of the material from 1822 to 1824. The collection is primarily correspondence, with some accounts, a few legal papers and writings by Job Durfee. Letters are primarily to Durfee in Washington while he was U.S. Representative and most concern national politics, the bankruptcy bill, tariffs, requests and recommendations for positions as lighthouse keepers, postmasters and custom house collectors, apportionment of representatives, patents and flax. There are some family letters, such as letters from Simeon Borden concerning farming, letters from his brother Charles Durfee about a steam patent, painting Judith Durfee's portrait, color and town politics. Letters from Judith Durfee concern health and the family. The letters also reveal Durfee's hope for a U.S. Senate seat in l826 and his loss to Pardon Gray as Tiverton state representative. Other correspondents include: Samuel Warren, Henry Cranston, James D'Wolfe, William Nichols, Christopher Ellery, Dutee Pearce, and David Melville.

            Legal papers include decisions made by Durfee, his notes from the Ephraim Avery trial, a Blackstone Canal case and others. There is little concerning the Dorr Rebellion. The miscellaneous folders has some Tiverton town papers, a deed, and samples of Durfee's writings.

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            There have been several Durfee accessions over the years. In 1915, Job Durfee's grandson Samuel S. Durfee donated unspecified "legal papers in an envelope" (presumably his grandfather's). Probably the largest was a "collection of manuscripts and account books belonging to Job Durfee" donated by Samuel S. Durfee's widow Eliza B. (Weeden) Durfee in 1927. Several Durfee items were purchased in the late 20th century, including 2 unidentified letters in 1968 from the Lincoln Book Shoppe; an 1824 letter in 1968 from Paul Hoag; an address on the Narragansett Indians in 1971 from Paul Richards; and an 1839 letter to Dutee Pearce which was purchased in 1985 from Cohasco, Inc.

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Processing note:

            This collection was processed by Harold Kemble during the 1980s. It was partially reorganized by Cindy Bendroth in 1993, who compiled the inventory. This inventory was revised and expanded by Rick Stattler in 2000.

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Box 1, folder 1. 1809-1819

Box 1, folder 2. 1820-1821

Box 1, folder 3. January 1822

Box 1, folder 4. February-March 1822

Box 1, folder 5. April-July 1822

Box 1, folder 6. 1823

Box 1, folder 7. January-February 1824

Box 1, folder 8. March 1824

Box 1, folder 9. April 1824

Box 1, folder 10. May-June, November-December 1824

Box 1, folder 11. 1825

Box 1, folder 12. 1826-1828

Box 1, folder 13. 1828-1830, and undated

Box 2, folder 1. 1831-1839

Box 2, folder 2. 1840-1847

Box 2, folder 3. Undated

Financial records

Box 2, folder 4. Account books, 1822, 1823-24, 1845-1849, 1844-1868, 1850, 1862

Box 2, folder 5. Accounts, 1820-1829

Box 2, folder 6. Accounts, 1830-1836

Box 2, folder 7. Accounts, 1837-1839

Box 2, folder 8. Accounts, 1840-1845

Box 2, folder 9. Accounts, 1845-1850, undated

Box 2, folder 10. Accounts, Estate, 1848-1859

Oversized volume 1.Farm labor book, 1830-1837. Includes detailed narrative. Continued by book dating 1837-1864 in Durfee Family Papers (MSS 151).

Legal papers

Box 2, folder 11. Miscellaneous, 1809-1833, and undated

Box 2, folder 12. Avery Trial, ca. 1833

Box 2, folder 13. Legal papers, ca. 1834-1844


Box 2, folder 14. "An Oration on the Strength of the U.S.," and other fragments

Box 2, folder 15. "Subjections and Extermination of the Narragansetts"

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* Agriculture - Rhode Island - Tiverton

Avery, Ephriam K. (-1869)

Blackstone Canal Company

Legislators - Rhode Island

Legislators - United States

Narragansett Indians

Painters - Rhode Island - Tiverton

Postal Service - United States

Rhode Island. General Assembly

Rhode Island. Supreme Court

Rhode Island - Politics and government, 1820 - 1840

*Tiverton, R.I. - Social life and customs

United States - Politics and government, 1822 - 1824

United States. House of Representatives

United States - Custom collectors

* Headings added in 2000

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