R. F. DUFF, merchant, Clay City. The gentleman whose name heads this
sketch is a native of this county, and is descended from one of its pioneer
families. The great-grandfather of our subject, Samuel Duff, came to this
country some time prior to the Revolution. Ho brought with him his wife
Barbara, and the twain settled in Pennsylvania. To them were born two sons,
John and William. When John was but a youth, his parents moved to Washington
County, Va., where the father died in 1818, the mother in 1812. John grew to
manhood in Washington County, and there married a Miss Mary Dryden, a
daughter of David and Barbara Dryden, who had come from England in an early
day. Nine children blessed this union — Samuel (who remained in Virginia),
David (came to this county, and settled in Maysville, in 1829, and afterward
became one of the leading merchants of that place), Jane (married a Mr.
Hopper, and moved to Ohio, where she died), Barbara (married John McConnell,
and settled and died in that county), John N. (is yet living in Washington
County, Va., at the hale old age of seventy-eight), Nathaniel H. (our
subject's father), Mary (still living in Virginia), Stephen B. (settled and
died in that county), and Alexander (who died when a boy).
Judge N. H. Duff's education was but meager, and was received in the subscription schools of his native county. He learned the trade of a blacksmith, and at the age of twenty-one helped his brother David move to this county. After arriving here, he helped on the latter's farm for a short time, and after spending a year here he again returned to his home in Virginia, where he worked on his father's farm. In 1831, he again came back here, this time accompanied by James Lethco and William T. Duff, a cousin, who made one of the first settlements in Stanford Township. This time Judge Duff settled in Maysville, and, buying a small farm, tilled that, and worked at his trade of blacksmithing, but his health failing him he was compelled to give up the latter occupation. After about two years' residence in Maysville, he moved into what is now Stanford Township and settled on the farm now owned by J. M. Chaffin; he first entered eighty acres, and afterward increased the tract to 120 acres. He remained on that farm until 1843, and then selling out to John L. Apperson, moved to another farm about two miles northwest of his former place. (It is now owned by subject.) In 1848, he again returned to Maysville, and purchased David Duff's store, who went from there to Tennessee. The Judge continued in business there until the laying-out of Clay City. He then came to the latter point and embarked in business with Robert E. Duff. This partnership continued for some years, and the former turned his attention to stock-raising. For the last few years, he has lived a quiet and retired life, making his home with his daughter, Mrs. Naomi Figg.
Judge Duff has been much before the people of this county, in one way or another. In 1851, he was first elected to the office of Associate Justice. These officers were elected for the purpose of attending to the county business. His Associates were J. W. P. Davis and a Mr. Loofboro. He held this office until 1862, when the plan of township organization was adopted. He was then elected the first Justice of the Peace of Clay City Township, and served in that capacity for a number of years. He also served as Township Supervisor for one or two terms.
Judge Duff has been twice married. The first time in old Maysville Precinct, on September 25, 1832, to Miss Margaret Apperson, a daughter of Richard and Mary (Aikin) Apperson. The parents were among the very earliest settlers of Stanford Township. Mrs. Duff was born in September, 1809, and was the mother of nine children, but two of whom are now living — Richard F. (our subject), and Mrs. Naomi C. Figg. This lady died on April 2, 1857, and the Judge was married the second time, on October 20, 1872, to Miss Sarah Babbs, a daughter of Alexander Babbs. But one child resulted from this union — Albert H. (now at home with his father). This lady died in the winter of 1877.
The schools of this and Stanford Township furnished our subject his means of education, and he assisted his father on the home farm until about twenty-one. He began learning telegraphy under W. C. Roach, who was station agent at this point. From here he went to Cincinnati, where he worked for three months, and then for two years acted as operator in different points on the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. He then went to Xenia, and was appointed station agent and operator. After serving at different stations in this capacity for three years along the line of the O. & M., he accepted a similar position on the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad, and worked at both Bunker Hill and Hillsboro. In 1867, he returned to Clay City and embarked with J. D. Allender in the provision business. The firm afterward opened a general store, and have since been one of the leading houses of Clay City. Mr. Duff was married October 28, 1868, to Miss Mary E. Manker, a daughter of Jenkins and Sarah (Rogers) Manker, of Clay City. Three children have blessed this union — Charles L., Effie M. and Carey E. Mr. Duff is a strong Democrat, and is at present serving as Township Supervisor. Mr. and Mrs. Duff are both members of the Clay City Methodist Episcopal Church, and Mr. Duff is a member of Clay City Lodge, No. 488, A. F. & A. M.
Extracted 28 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from 1884 History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois, Part IV, pages 175-176.