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 DeSoto 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 noble woman; 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.