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Below is a family biography from the book, History of Kentucky, Edition 8a by J. H. Battle, W. H. Perrin and G. C. Kniffin and published by F. A. Battey Publishing Company in 1888.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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REUBEN THOMAS DURRETT, a son of William and Elizabeth Rawlings Durrett, was born in Henry County, Kentucky, January 22, 1824. His grandfather, Francis Durrett, after going through the Illinois campaign of 1778-79, under Gen. George Rogers Clark, returned to his home in Virginia, whence the family removed to Kentucky and settled on land selected in Henry County, while it was part of Virginia. Here his father, after early shelter in the conventional log-house of the times, with the labor of his negroes, molding brick, sawing lumber, riving shingles, etc., built the first brick house in Henry County, which stands to-day, at the old homestead, two miles north of New Castle, as solid as it was when erected nearly a century ago. The Durretts are of French origin, the name having been originally spelt Duret. The family traditions extend back to Louis Duret, an eminent physician who flourished in France during the last half of the sixteenth century. Some curious old books, published by him and his descendants, have been preserved all these years in the family, and are now in the possession of the subject of this sketch. Early in the seventeenth century, some of the Durets of the Protestant faith, smarting under the effects of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, crossed the channel and established themselves in England. In 1644 Christopher Duret was prominently connected with the Baptist Church in London, and his name appears to the address accompanying the Confession of Faith put forth that year. In England the French sound of the letters making Duret as if written Duray, was lost, and the name pronounced as it was spelled. In the course of time this pronunciation was emphasized, by doubling the "r" and the "t," thus making the name Durrett as we have it now. About 1730, John Durrett left England, and making his way across the ocean to Virginia, settled upon a tract of land which he purchased in Spottsylvania County. A few years later he was followed by Bartholomew Durrett and Richard Durrett, both of them likewise purchasing lands and settling in Spottsylvania County. These were the ancestors of the Durretts in America, the subject of this sketch claiming descent from his great-grandfather John Durrett. Mr. Durrett, after deriving such advantages as the schools of his native county afforded, was in Georgetown College, Kentucky, from 1844 to 1846. He then went to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, where he was graduated with the degree of A. B. in 1849, followed in 1853 by the degree of A. M., for continued progress in learning. Immediately after graduating, he began the study of law, and applied himself with such diligence during the summer and fall of 1849 that he was enabled to combine the two years' course of the Law Department of the University of Louisville in one, and graduated with the degree of LL. B., in 1850. He at once began practice at the Louisville bar, which was continued until 1880, when he felt that his success had yielded him a sufficient competence on which to retire. During Mr. Durrett's thirty years at the bar, he never permitted himself to be drawn aside into politics. In 1852 he was appointed assistant elector on the Scott and Graham ticket, and in this capacity made a number of speeches, and this was the nearest he ever came to holding a political office. He was ever ready to help others to political preferment, but wanted no office for himself, although important ones were more than once within his reach. When Beriah Magoffin made the race for Governor of Kentucky in 1859, Mr. Durrett took an active part in his behalf. After his election, Gov. Magoffin sent for him and asked what he could do for him. Mr. Durrett having answered that he desired no office, the governor responded that he would make him one of his aids anyhow, and after his inauguration sent him a commission as colonel. In this way Mr. Durrett got the epithet of Colonel, which has stuck to him ever since. Mr. Durrett deserves notice as an orator, a poet, and a writer. His valedictory address when he graduated at the law school in 1850, his Fourth of July oration at the invitation of the City Council of Louisville, in 1852, his address before the Kentucky Mechanics' Institute in 1856, and his Centennial address at Louisville in 1880, all of which have been published, have been admired for their learning and eloquence. Quite a number of his speeches in the Court House have also found their way into the newspapers of the day on account of the impression they produced when delivered. He has not of late indulged in poetry, but while he was younger he quite often wrote verses, and in such style as to impart much pleasure to others. His "Night Scene at Drennon Springs" in 1850, his "Thoughts over the Grave of Rev. Thomas Smith," in 1852, his "Old Year and New in the Coliseum at Rome" in 1858, and his numerous pieces sometimes full of humor published in the newspapers from 1850 to the beginning of the civil war, entitle him to high rank among our Western poets. It is as a prose writer, however, that Mr. Durrett's fame will probably be most lasting. He began writing for the newspapers as soon as he left college, and has kept it up ever since, though most of his writings have been published anonymously, or as editorials for which he received no credit. He was from 1857 to 1859, editor of the old Louisville Courier, and presented his editorials in that paper with such learning, ability, and fascination of style, as to secure him high rank among our most popular and effective writers. Of late years his writings have been principally of an historic character, particularly distinguished for original research and mastery of the subject. His articles in the Southern Bivouac for March, April and May, 1886, on "The Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-99," may be taken as specimens of the character of his historic writings. In these articles he corrected the errors which three-quarters of a century had thrown around these famous resolutions, and placed them in a new and lasting light that was just to the great men concerned in their production, and responsible for their consequences. In 1884, a number of gentlemen of Louisville, who took an interest in historic subjects, joined Mr. Durrett in the organization of a club for the purpose of collecting and preserving the history of Kentucky. This association was called "The Filson Club," in honor of John Filson, the first historian of Kentucky. Mr. Durrett was made president of the club, and requested to "prepare and read at its next meeting, a sketch of John Filson. This he did, and the article thus prepared and read, afterwards appeared in print as "Filson Club Publications No. 1." This is, perhaps, the best production that we have yet had from the pen of Mr. Durrett, and its original matter, pleasing style, and attractive appearance will make it a valuable and permanent contribution to the history of the country. In gratifying his literary taste, Mr. Durrett has collected a large and valuable library — the largest and most valuable private collection perhaps in the West. His collection of Kentucky books his no equal, he having made it a point to secure every printed work or manuscript written by a Kentuckian, or written about Kentucky or Kentuckians, or containing anything about Kentucky, or that was printed or written in Kentucky. He has also embraced in his "Bibliotheca Kentuckiensis" books which once belonged to eminent Kentuckians, especially of the pioneer period, and in this line preserved many quaint volumes, much valued by persons of antiquarian taste. While his collection is not so exhaustive with regard to any other State, he has most of the histories of the United States, and of the different States and Territories, and nearly all of the important works known as Americana. He has also the best histories and standard works of other countries, so that within his own library walls he has all the sources of information he may need in the investigation of any subject to which his attention is directed. This vast collection, moreover, is not selfishly confined to the wants of its owner alone, but is free to the use of every one in search of knowledge. Mr. Durrett is exceptionally conversant with the contents of his books, and there is nothing in which he takes more pleasure than in making his great library useful to others. In recognition of his learning and enterprise in behalf of knowledge, Mr. Durrett has been made a member of many of the historic associations and learned societies of this country and Europe. He has always been a liberal contributor to the deserving charities of his time, and did more than anyone else towards securing for Louisville the only free library now in its midst, having inaugurated the movement for establishing the Public Library of Kentucky, now the Polytechnic Society, and remained at the head of the enterprise until the valuable property now occupied on Fourth street was purchased, and the building thereon filled with books and specimens free to the use of every citizen. Scarcely less beneficial to the public was the establishment of the Louisville Abstract and Loan Association, now the “Kentucky Title Company,” in which he took a leading part. This institution now enables our citizens to readily ascertain whether the title to the property they buy or sell is good or bad, and to cover all doubt by insuring their real estate against loss by defects of title. A plain, quiet, unpretending gentleman, of the old Virginia school, not often conspicuously connected with enterprises of a public character, he has yet, in his own unostentatious way, done an enviable part both as a private and public citizen. In 1852 Mr. Durrett was married to Miss Elizabeth Humphreys Bates, only daughter of Caleb and Elizabeth Templeton Bates, of Cincinnati, O. From this union came four children, only one of whom, Dr. William Templeton Durrett, survives.

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This family biography is one of 195 biographies included in the Jefferson County, Kentucky section of the book, The History of Kentucky, Edition 8a published in 1888 by F. A. Battey Publishing Company.  For the complete description, click here: History of Kentucky, Edition 8a

View additional Jefferson County, Kentucky family biographies here: Jefferson County, Kentucky Biographies

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