Luke Drury Papers, 1746-18314 boxes (3 linear feet).
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 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
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
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,
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,”
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
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.).
The collection is open for research.
Cite as: Luke Drury Papers (MS 258). Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Acquired from Cedric Robinson, 1989.
Processed by Lisa May, November 1989.
This series consists of fragments and scratch papers,
Series 4. Miscellaneous
Scratch paper — math
Scratch paper — writing
Financial papers fragments
Oversize materials -
- Grafton (Mass.)--History.
- Shays' Rebellion, 1786-1787.
- Darling, Timothy.
- Drury, Luke, 1737-1811.
- Goulding, Israel.
- Sherman, Thankful Temple.