Job Durfee Papers
Politician and judge, of Tiverton, R.I.
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
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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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
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).
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
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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