DRHS: 135 Years Serving Duxbury
Duxbury Rural & Historical Society, Celebrating 135 Years.
The minutes from November 14, 1883 read, “A meeting for the purpose of forming a village improvement society was held at the house of Rev. R. D. Burr.” At the time, membership for gentlemen was $1.50 and 50 cents for ladies.
By January, the members included:
President (Lawrence Bradford); Vice Presidents (Hon. G.W. Gifford & Rev. R.D. Burr); Treasurer (C.F. Jacobs); Secretary (Maria F. Sampson); Executive Committee (Miss Ella Soule, Miss F.G. Ford, Capt. Alfred Drew, Miss Mary C. Goodspeed, Miss Hattie J. ford, Miss Laura B. Ellison, Miss Jerusha Hathaway, Lawrence Bradford, Rev. R.D. Burr, Hon. S.N. Gifford, Joshua M. Cushing & Maria F. Sampson); Members (Hon. S. N. Gifford, Mrs. Richard Soule, Mrs. Jane P. Bancroft, Mr. Geo. Soule, Mrs. Jane Winsor, Miss Hattie J. Ford, Miss Florence G. Ford, Mr. Jonathan S. Ford, Miss Mary C. Goodspeed, Miss Ella Soule, Capt. Alfred Drew, Mrs. Geo. W. Ford, Mr. Geo. W. Ford, Mrs. John S. Loring, Mrs. Alfred Drew, Mrs. Catharine P. S. Lincoln, Mrs. Betsey P. Hammond, Miss Lucy B. Wilde, Rev. R. D. Burr, Mrs. R. D. Burr, Maria F. Sampson, Dr. B. A. Sawyer, Mr. H. E. Smith, Mrs. H. E. Smith, Mrs. R. A. Bradford Watertown, Mrs. Wm. Ellison, Miss Laura B. Ellison, Mr. Herbert Walker, Mr. R. R. Colley, Rev. E. L. Chute, Mr. Lawrence Bradford, Mr. C. F. Jacobs, Miss Helen F. Nickerson, Miss Jerusha Hathaway, Mrs. J. G. Ford, Mrs. Lawrence Bradford, Miss Lucia A. Bradford, Miss Abby Turner, Mrs. S. N. Gifford, Miss Mary N. Gifford, Miss Zilpha W. Loring, Mr. Joshua Swift, Miss Elizabeth H. Bradford, Miss Mabel L. Cushing, Mr. Joshua M. Cushing, Mrs. Melzar Hunt, Mr. Melzar Hunt, Mrs. S. L. Pillsbury, Mr. S. L. Pillsbury, Mr. J. L. Oldham, Capt. Walter Josselyn, Mrs. Walter Josselyn, Miss Bessie Josselyn, Maj. W. W. Cook, Miss O. R. Sampson, Miss Annie Weston, Miss Maria Weston, and Miss Addie Weston.
The purpose of this early Duxbury Rural Society (DRS) was to focus on improvement projects like installing gas street lamps, planting trees, and installing water troughs. The DRS was responsible, in the 1890s, for the “rediscovery” and clean up of the Old Burying Ground on Chestnut Street, including the identification of the Standish grave, and DRS began to acquire land holdings (including Round Pond), making DRS one of the oldest lands conservancies in the United States.
By the early 20th century, the DRS had acquired historical buildings and collections and begun to show exhibitions educating on Duxbury’s history. In 1936, the DRS renamed itself the Duxbury Rural & Historical Society (DRHS) to better reflect its scope of activities.
DRHS’s 20th century history is marked by several landmark projects: the acquisition of its first building, the Drew House, in 1916; the acquisition in 1965 and 1968 of the King Caesar House and Bradford House, today both museums; the purchase and preservation of the Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. house in 1998 as the DRHS headquarters. In the 21st century, the DRHS completed a 2002 fundraising effort which secured the DRHS endowment, providing much-needed financial security. It also established in 2006 the Drew Archival Library in the historic Wright Building, and, in 2017, completed the project to “Reimagine Bradford,” including reinterpretation of the museum.
Today, the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society is a non-profit organization seeking to foster a better understanding of the heritage and rural environment of Duxbury, Massachusetts. The Society’s goals are to provide access to its buildings and lands, to provide educational programs for the community, to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts relating to Duxbury’s history, to provide a library and archives for the encouragement of scholarly research and to publish documents of historical interest.
The DRHS does this by maintaining 4 historic house properties, an archival library, museum collections, and more than 150 acres of land held in conservation. Two of the properties – the Nathaniel Winsor Jr. House and the Drew Archival Library – are open to the public year-round; the rest are easily accessible during their seasonal hours, or by appointment. The DRHS also runs approximately 50 programs, events and rentals each year, in an effort to make Duxbury’s history available to the widest possible audience.