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Below is a family biography included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published by Goodspeed 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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John Duffy, locomotive engineer, on the St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railroad, was born at Cape Vincent, N. Y., in 1837, and is a son of John and Olivia Duffy, the former of whom, a native of Ireland, came to the United States when young, and was a carpenter by trade. Mr. Duffy was educated in his native place, and when sixteen years of age commenced working at the blacksmith’s trade at Schenectady, N. Y., which he followed six years. He then went to Canada, where he remained until the war broke out, and from 1863 until the close of the war was employed by the Government in the South. He subsequently settled in Seneca, Ill., where he engaged in carriage manufacturing for two years, then sold out and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he was employed in the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad shops, and after eighteen months was promoted to the position of engineer. In 1869 he went to East St. Louis and was in the steam-shovel business three years; he then removed to De Soto, and has since been running as an engineer between De Soto and Piedmont. In 1867, at Seneca, Ill., he married Miss S. J. Billings, daughter of Joseph and Sarah Billings, natives of England, who settled in Canada, in 1831. Mrs. Duffy was born in Cobourg, Canada, in 1850, spending her girlhood on the farm of her father, who was extensively engaged in stock-raising. She was the youngest but two of a family of nine children, and throughout life has been noted for great courage and presence of mind in time of danger. When but fourteen years old she signally distinguished herself during a journey by water, when the boat on which she was a passenger was burned. In March, 1886, during the famous railroad strike in De Soto, Harry Todd, yardmaster, was assaulted by over 200 strikers; he started for a place of safety, with the strikers in hot pursuit throwing stones, clubs, etc., and declaring vengeance if they could catch him. Mr. Todd sought the residence of John Duffy, which was his boarding place, and when he reached the house nearly exhausted, he was met in the doorway by Mrs. Duffy, who suddenly seized Mr. Todd’s 44-caliber revolver and demanded the infuriated mob to stop, and declaring she would shoot the first man who entered the gate. They shouted “Hang her!” “Kill her!” etc., but this brave woman, with undaunted courage and true heroism, held them back fully ten or fifteen minutes, until the officers of the law arrived. Mrs. Duffy saved the city of De Soto from consequences most terrible to contemplate, and for her loyalty and true womanly devotion to the cause she espoused she was presented with a purse of $150 by the citizens of De Soto, and H. M. Hoxie, third vice-president of the railroad, gave her $50 and also a pass for herself and two children to Canada and return. She now receives an annual pass over the entire system. Gov. Stewart, of Vermont, said: “She is a noblewoman; modest to a remarkable degree. I have read of heroines but I don’t know as I ever met one before.” Four children have blessed this union of Mr. and Mrs. Duffy: John L., Maude E., May and Olive. In politics Mr. Duffy is a Democrat. He is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. Mrs. Duffy is a member of the Episcopal Church.

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This family biography is one of 224 biographies included in The History of Jefferson County, Missouri published in 1888.  For the complete description, click here: Jefferson County, Missouri History, Genealogy, and Maps

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