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.