The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society (DRHS) 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 DRHS 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 DRHS 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 DRHS 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 DRHS purchased the Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House. This elegant structure, procured for the DRHS through a community fundraising effort, was built by a prominent ship owner in 1807. The Nathaniel Winsor, Jr. House serves as the DRHS headquarters and a center for educational programs and private events.
Most recently, the DRHS 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.
Today, DRHS strives to be a responsible steward of our historic buildings, museum objects, archives, and lands. We welcome all audiences to learn along with us, explore our collections, and interpret the unfolding, diverse stories of Duxbury’s history.
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.
We envision Duxbury as a welcoming community committed to embracing the significance and diversity of its historic and natural resources.
Integrity: Uphold the highest ethical and professional standards; foster open and transparent decision-making and communications.
Respect: Embrace a wide and inclusive diversity of perspectives and participants.
Learning: Foster discovery, creativity, and empathy to help understand the importance of history in our lives.
Community: Be a good neighbor and model kindness and care in everything we do.
Joy: From lively conversation and participation, to volunteerism and philanthropy, we invite the community to share a passion for our town’s heritage and its place in history.