Ephraim Kirby

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Ephraim Kirby (February 23, 1757 – October 4, 1804) was a Revolutionary War soldier, published the first volume of law reports in the United States, was the first General High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons of the United States and was the first judge of the Superior Court of the Mississippi Territory.

Early life[edit]

Kirby was born in Woodbury, Connecticut, the son of Abraham Kirby and the great-great grandson of Joseph Kirby who emigrated from Warwickshire to Hartford, Connecticut in the early seventeenth century. Kirby was educated at Yale University, but left college without a degree. He served in the cavalry during the American Revolution, seeing combat in the Battle of Bunker Hill and in the engagement at Elk River, he received seven sabre cuts on the head, and was left on the field as dead. In all, he was wounded thirteen times rising to the rank of lieutenant in a Rhode Island company. Upon his return to Litchfield, Connecticut, he married Ruth Marvin, daughter of his legal mentor.

Career[edit]

Kirby practiced law in Litchfield, Connecticut and, in 1787, Yale gave him an honorary Master of Arts degree. He served in the Connecticut General Assembly from 1791 until 1801. afterwards he was director of the Western Reserve in Ohio. In 1789 Kirby compiled the first volume of law reports in America, those of the Superior Court of Connecticut, in the Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut, from the year 1785, to May, 1788. He was also the first General Grand High Priest of the Royal Arch Masons of the United States, 1798-1804.

President Thomas Jefferson appointed Kirby as first Superior Court Judge of the Mississippi Territory on April 6, 1804. He went directly to his new post, Fort Stoddert, on the Alabama River north of Spanish-held Mobile, Alabama, near the present Mount Vernon. In this sparsely settled wilderness, he began the foundation of a new court system for what would become the State of Alabama.

He lived only a few months, dying of fever after being appointed by President Jefferson as the new Judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans.[1] He left Ruth and eight children in Connecticut. His grave at old Fort Stoddert has never been found.

Judge Kirby was the grandfather of Edmund Kirby Smith, the Confederate general.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Centenary of the Supreme Court", Louisiana Historical Quarterly 4 (1), September 22, 1922: 30 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
unknown
Connecticut state representative
1791-1801
Succeeded by
unknown
Legal offices
Preceded by
newly created position
Judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Mississippi
1804
Succeeded by
Harry Toulmin
Preceded by
newly created position
Judge of the Superior Court of the Territory of Orleans
1804
Succeeded by
George Mathews, Jr.