Soldier in Revolutionary War and Shays Rebellion, later a state legislator and local politician from Grafton and Marlboro, Massachusetts. Drury's papers contain family and business (farm and mill) correspondence, notes of hand, bills, receipts, and legal papers as well as records pertaining to the town of Grafton. Collection also includes papers of Timothy Darling and the Goulding, Place, and Sherman families.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Luke Drury
The Grafton, Massachusetts Drurys traced their family back to Hugh Drury, born in England in 1616. By 1659 Hugh had emigrated to Boston, where he established himself in business. His great-grandson Thomas (b.1690) moved from Framingham to Grafton sometime in the 1720s. Thomas was not one of the original proprietors of Grafton, but he acquired land and began farming. He and his wife Sarah had ten children by 1743, including Thomas Jr. (b.1721) and Luke (b.1734). When Sarah died in 1745, Thomas married again. He and his second wife Mary produced three children, including Manoah (b.1746).
From an early date Thomas Sr. was active in Grafton affairs, an example his sons would follow. He served in the militia, as a selectman, and as a member of at least three church committees.
His third son Luke, who farmed in addition to operating a grist mill, took an even more active role in Grafton. In 1757 he joined the militia in protecting Grafton during the French and Indian Wars. In the tense years before the Revolutionary War, Luke moderated at least one grievance meeting of concerned citizens in Grafton. When the alarm of British invasion spread on April 18, 1775, he was serving as a captain of militia. He marched his company to Concord and Lexington to repulse the British. Nine days later he raised a company and joined Colonel Artemus Ward's regiment to fight at Bunker Hill. Luke served in different areas during the war, from West Point to Grafton, where his company guided military stores. In addition, Luke also supported the Continentals financially, at one point giving fifty pounds to enlist soldiers in Grafton (see Folder 8).
In the years after the Revolution, Luke was deeply involved in the growing conflict between agrarian and commercial interests which came to a head in Shays' Rebellion. As a farmer and a miller, he shared the resentment of other western Massachusetts farmers who felt taxes were too heavy. They also objected to merchants squeezing debtors for hard money payments with which to pay their own debts to British merchants. Farmers demanded paper money and laws allowing payment in kind to ease the economic situation.
The farmers' first response was to organize town and county conventions, and to appeal to the state legislature for relief. Grafton voters chose Luke Drury to represent them at the Worcester County convention on August 17, 1786. A committee notified him of specific issues to address, such as the reduction of taxes and amnesty for all "rebels." The convention petition clearly stated the grievances most farmers felt (see Folder 44).
In Massachusetts, the governor and legislature opposed any concessions to the farmers, unwilling to upset the market status quo. When peaceful means failed, the farmers, led by Daniel Shays, turned to action. Their major tactic was to close down debtor courts, which had prosecuted so many debt-ridden farmers. By this the "Shaysites" hoped to prod the government to economic reforms. On September 5 and November 21, Shaysites closed county courts in Worcester. Given Luke Drury's militia and Continental Army service, he probably took part. This experience also explains his position on the Worcester "committee of the people," one of the groups set up to organize and govern each county. Luke may also have joined the Worcester rebels in a failed attempt to seize the state arsenal at Springfield on January 25, 1787.
The military defeat at Springfield and a similar one at Petersham on February 2 ended the Massachusetts Shaysites' concerted action. Some fled the state, while others scattered to continue hit-and-run actions. But the feelings behind the rebellion remained strong on both sides. Luke was imprisoned as "a person dangerous to the state." In March he petitioned the governor for release on bond of good behavior, and he was eventually released (see Folder 1). In state elections in June three Shaysites, including Luke Drury, were elected to the House. The General Court refused to seat the "rebels," however.
Economic improvements over the next few months helped ease tensions in the state, and Luke returned to his farm and family. He had married Lydia Sherman in 1759, and the couple had nine children. Besides farming, he continued to take an active role in state and local politics. He served terms in the state House of Representatives and the General Court. In Grafton over the years he was chosen constable, deputy sheriff, tax collector, assessor, and selectman. He also acted as legal guardian to at least four minors, who apparently were allowed to choose him as their guardian.
Lydia Drury died in 1793. Two years later Luke married Mary Howland. He continued farming in Grafton until 1803, when he and Mary moved to Marlboro. His sons Ephraim and Alden remained in Grafton to farm the Drury lands. Luke died in Marlboro in 1811, leaving his widow Mary and seven children.
The Luke Drury papers (1746-1831) comprise the personal and business papers of Colonel Luke Drury of Grafton and Marlboro. They represent three generations of his family, which settled in Grafton in the 1720s. The collection also includes the papers of four families related to the Drurys by business or marriage. These are the Darling, Goulding, Place and Sherman families. In addition, the collection contains documents from Grafton's town government, with an extensive series of tax records. Correspondence and business papers involving various Grafton citizens are included.
Most of the documents in the collection are from the years between the Revolution and the War of 1812. They consist primarily of business papers, including correspondence, notes of hand, bills and receipts. There are also many legal papers, such as leases, deeds, and court papers. These documents provide important information about the Grafton area and Massachusetts for these years. Specifically, the documents demonstrate the problems that led to Shays' Rebellion in 1786, in which Luke Drury took a prominent role. The documents also illustrate the fluid economic situation that persisted into the 1800s. This can especially be seen in the sheer volume of the notes of hand. Many people were in debt, for various amounts to various people. Yet these same people were loaning out money. Luke Drury is a good example. Folders 15-17 in the collection contain notes of money he borrowed and lent. In addition, in Folder 19 there is an account book dated 1802 which lists notes he had acquired, perhaps as partial payments for still other notes. The economic situation was complicated, to say the least.
Grafton itself was originally one of John Eliot's "praying villages," reservations to Christianize and civilize local Indians. The Grafton Indians sold small parcels of land over the years, and by 1727 several English families had settled in what would become Grafton. That year both the Indians and the English petitioned the legislature to allow large-scale land purchases. This permission was granted in March 1728, and the English proprietors began dividing the lands. From the time of settlement, agriculture was a crucial factor in the town's economic life. In the 19th century manufacturing interests developed, producing finished cloth and shoes. Tanneries also played an important role, both in their own right and as part of the shoe industry.
The Luke Drury papers have been organized into the following series, including Drury papers, (1750-1829), Related families (1757-1831), Grafton materials (1741-1823), and Miscellaneous materials (n.d.).
Acquired from Cedric Robinson, 1989.
Processed by Lisa May, November 1989.
A related series of Drury papers is located at the Essex Institute in Salem. This collection consists of the personal and business papers of Luke's sons Luke Jr. and John, who practiced medicine in Marblehead. With their brother Thomas, they were also involved in trade, locally and with the West Indies. The documents in this collection cover roughly the same years as the Luke Drury papers, and the two collections overlap.
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Cite as: Luke Drury Papers (MS 258). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.