A Brief History of the DRHS
The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society was founded in 1883 primarily through the efforts of a group friends who were concerned about the declining condition of their town. Duxbury’s economic heyday of the early 19th century was long gone. Jobs were scarce, the population was declining as families moved to Boston in search of work, and parts of the town were falling into decay.
Miss Florence Ford, 23 years old and the daughter of a local storekeeper, first envisioned the organization that would become the Rural Society. In the fall of 1883, during a meeting of a literary club at the house of Rev. Rushton Burr, she proposed a “village improvement society” to “improve and ornament the streets of the Town.” This organization would take on projects that the tiny municipal government of that time could not. Her idea was met with enthusiasm and Rural Society was formed on November 14, 1883. Membership for ladies was 50 cents and membership for gentlemen was $1.50. Before the year was out there were 61 members.
The early projects of the Rural Society included placing street lamps and trees along the town’s major roads, installing road signs, planting flower beds at significant locations such as the various train stations, caring for the grounds around Town Hall, installing a water pump and trough at Town Square and reclaiming the Old Burying Ground which had fallen into neglect.
In 1891, the Society purchased its first conservation land at Round Pond thus dedicating itself to the preservation and care of Duxbury’s historical and natural resources. Presently, The Society maintains over 140 acres of open space for the town.
Soon, the Society began to acquire historical artifacts which were displayed, beginning in 1917, in the Society’s “Historical Rooms” at the Drew House. As activities of the Society increasingly came to focus on the preservation of Duxbury’s heritage, its name was changed in 1936 to the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society.
The Society has received and acquired several properties since its organization. In 1965, a town-wide fundraising effort was organized to purchase the King Caesar House. This elegant Federal style property was built by shipbuilder and merchant Ezra Weston II in 1809. A few years later the Captain Gershom Bradford House was given to the Society by descendants of the seafaring Captain Bradford. This was a rare acquisition as the house had remained in the possession of a single family throughout its history and little had been altered or removed from the house. In 1969 the Society received another bequest, Cedarfield. This 18 acre property on Clark’s Island in Duxbury Bay was given to the society by Sarah Wingate Taylor, a poet and educator whose family had lived on the Island since the 17th century.
In 1997, the Society purchased the Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House. This elegant structure, procured for the Society through a community fundraising effort, was built by a prominent ship owner in 1807. The Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House serves as the Society’s headquarters and a center for educational programs and private events.
Most recently, the Society installed the Drew Archival Library in the 1909 Wright Building, which was elegantly restored by the Town of Duxbury in 2007 through the use of Community Preservation Funds. The research library is fully climate-controlled and staffed by a professional archivist who is on hand to assist researchers in accessing the Society’s historical documents.
The mission of the Society today is to preserve the historical and natural resources of the Town of Duxbury and to encourage awareness and appreciation of the town’s heritage and rural character. The Society is committed to serving the community through the following objectives:
- To provide educational programs for the schools and the community;
- To collect, catalogue, preserve, interpret and exhibit artifacts, records, documents and memorabilia relating to Duxbury history;
- To provide a library and archives for the encouragement of scholarly historical research;
- To publish pamphlets, articles and books that illuminate the history of the community;
- To preserve and provide public access to its lands and historic houses;
- To acquire buildings and sites of scenic or historical interest.