Joseph Bubier Bancroft
and genealogy of Worcester County, published in 1907. The second was written by Joseph's daughter, Lilla.
Joseph Bubier Bancroft, one of the ten children of Samuel Bancroft, was born in Uxbridge, October 3, 1821.
His educational opportunities were limited to the somewhat primitive public school system then in vogue,
but his superior mental faculties enabled him to make use of these meagre advantages. At an early age he
went to work in one of the mills of the neighborhood, but having a decided preference for mechanical
pursuits, subsequently served an apprenticeship at the machinist's trade, and his natural ingenuity enabled
him to thoroughly master that calling in an unusually short period. For various lengths of time he was
employed as a journeyman in Woonsocket, Rhode Island; Putnam, Connecticut; and in Medway,
Slatersville, Uxbridge, Whitinsville and Worcester, Massachusetts. Joining the Hopedale Community in
1846, he became connected with the Hopedale Machine Company when the operative force of that concern
consisted of three men. This force was gradually increased as business advanced in prosperity, and the
concern eventually came into the hands of Messrs. Thwing and Bancroft. Shortly afterward Mr. Bancroft
entered into partnership with Messrs. Eben[ezer] and George Draper, and for some years was in charge of
the cotton machinery department of the Draper works. Soon after the close of the civil war, General William
F. Draper entered the firm and Mr. Bancroft took the responsible position of general superintendent of the
entire Draper plant, which increased in magnitude until its regular volume of business necessitated the
steady employment of three thousand five hundred employees. Some years ago he retired from the active
superintendency, retaining, however, a continued interest in the works, of which he is now the vice-
president, and although he has become an octogenarian lie possesses the agility and mental vigor of a
much younger man. In addition to the Draper Company he is interested in other business enterprises,
being president of the Milford Gaslight Company and a director of the Home National Bank.
Prior to the separation of Hopedale from Milford (1886), he participated actively in the civic affairs of Milford,
being for a number of years chairman of the board of selectmen, and in 1864 represented his district in the
lower branch of the state legislature, serving upon the committee on engrossed bills. No man possessed a
larger share of the public confidence than Mr. Bancroft. After the incorporation of Hopedale, he was
chairman of the new board of selectmen, of the road commissioners and of the overseers of the poor. In
politics he is a Republican, and has frequently been chosen a delegate to party conventions. In early
manhood he joined the Masonic fraternity and is well advanced in that order, being a member of
Montgomery Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons; Mount Lebanon Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; Milford
Commandery, Knights Templar. He has always taken an active interest in church affairs and for many years
was an officer of the Unitarian parish.
Mr. Bancroft married, September n, 1844, Sylvia Willard Thwing, born in Uxbridge, June 26, 1824, daughter
of Benjamin and Anna (Mowry) Thwing. Of this union there were ten children, namely: Eben Draper, Charles
Eugene, Minerva Louise, William, Walter, Anna Minerva, Mary Gertrude, Charles Frederick, Lilla J. and Lura
Belle. Eben Draper, born August 27, 1847, married Lelia Coburn and has two children: Alice and Joseph.
Charles Eugene, born 1849, died in infancy, Minerva Louise, William and Walter (triplets), born in 1851,
died in infancy. Anna Minerva, born February 9, 1853, was for several years engaged in educational
pursuits, teaching in the high schools of Hopkinton, Fairhaven and Milford. She is deeply interested in
literature and a member of educational and literary clubs in Hopedale, Milford, Worcester and Boston. Mary
Gertrude, born December 2, 1856, wife of Walter P. Winsor, president of the First National Bank of New
Bedford, Massachusetts, one of the most prominent and influential citizens of Fairhaven. They have four
children: Walter P., Jr., Anna Bancroft, married, October 10, 1905, Carl C. Shippee, of New York; Bancroft
and Allen Pellington Winsor. Charles Frederick, born April 30, 1861, died September 14, 1868. Lilla Jo, born
August 25, 1863, graduated from the Greenfield Academy and taught in the Hopedale high school for some
time. She married Howard W. Bracken, assistant superintendent of the Draper Company. Lura Belle, born
December 27, 1865, was educated in the schools of Milford, Prospect Hill school, Greenfield and Art School
of Boston. She married Charles M. Day, general superintendent of the Draper Company; he was for several
years chairman of the board of selectmen, secretary of the town board of streets and highways, Hopedale,
and held other positions of honor and trust. He died February 21, 1903. Mrs. Sylvia W. Bancroft died April 20,
1898, and her memory has been fittingly perpetuated by a handsome memorial library, erected and
presented to the town by her husband. HISTORIC HOMES AND INSTITUTIONS AND GENEALOGICAL AND
PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF WORCESTER COUNTY MASSACHUSETTS WITH A HISTORY OF WORCESTER
SOCIETY OF ANTIQUITY PREPARED UNDER THE EDITORIAL SUPERVISION OF ELLERY BICKNELL CRANE .
NEW YORK, CHICAGO, THE LEWIS PUBLISHING COMPANY 1907
by Lilla Bancroft
It always has seemed to me such a happy coincidence that both Father and Mother were born in Uxbridge.
Father's family moved away when he was a little boy and strangely enough he never returned till he was a
young man, walking from Medway to Uxbridge hoping to find Sylvia Thwing, whom he remembered so vividly
as a tiny girl driving home the old red cow.
He did find her, and in 1844 married her. A very handsome couple they were -- he, dignified, dark of hair,
with firm mouth and chin; she, gentle and gay, with soft brown hair, and a charming smile in her bright blue
eyes and on her merry lips.
Joseph Bubier Bancroft, how well the name fitted, was born October 3, 1821. His mother was a beautiful
French woman, Mary Bubier. She married in 1807, while very young, Samuel Bancroft of Marblehead who
"followed the Sea." She bore him ten children, outlived him by many years and died in her eighty-eighth year
at Medway where she had lived for a number of years with her daughter, our beloved Aunt Caroline Paine.
Sunday afternoons he and Mother would drive to Medway to see her and when we were large enough Lura
and I went with them tucked away into the back seat.
We always found Grandmother in her own particular chair invariably wearing stiff black silk and on her
snowy hair a fine white lace cap with streamers, a very gracious and dainty old lady.
She always had pink and white candy for us, in the right-hand corner of the top drawer of a huge bureau.
We were supposed to search for it but it was always in the same place. She told us stories of Father, when
he was a little boy -- strange as it now seems, the fact that my big father was ever a little boy did not appeal
to me. Then too she called him Josie instead of Joseph as Mother did, and that I could hardly endure. In
these rather amazing stories, if she made him out better than most children would naturally be, his eyes
would twinkle with amusement and he would say, "Oh come Mother, isn't that a little strong?" and shake his
head at us.
Father's younger brother, William, laughed at Grandmother and said that she played favorites and that
Father always won. I think this was true for when we left after a long call, her eyes would follow him as if the
though of his going was more than she could endure, and she would beg him to be sure to come the next
week, and he would reply, "I will if I can, Mother."
As I first remember my father he was straight as an arrow, with an abundance of black hair, happy eyes, a
little stern, and a rare smile of great charm. He had unusual courage. I never saw him show fear nor
apprehension, calm and serene he went on his ways taking the bad with the good, quite as a matter of
course. I think he must have been much like his Mother with her force and ambition, but he added to these
some of the gentler qualities of his invalid father, who during the War of 1812 was captured with his ship.
He was placed in Dartmoor prison, endured terrible privations, and returned to this country, broken in health
and spirit. Grandmother had enough for two, all the children worked to help support the family.
One of the girls, Louisa, was a great beauty. How well I recall her lovely eyes and gentle smile! Another
sister, Hannah, married Phineas Boyle, "a man of property," so when Aunt Hannah came for a visit, she
wore fine clothes and her tiny hands would be idly folded in her lap. She wore a beautiful gold chain to
which many trinkets were attached -- I especially remember a tiny bird with its wings spread. How
marvelous it seemed to me, for in Hopedale in those far-away days, dress was of the simplest.
Some of you who read this will remember Aunt Caroline, for after her mother's death she came to live next
door to us in one of Father's comfortable houses. During the last years of his life, he and Uncle William
spent many happy hours in her sunny living room, laughing over childhood memories, and recalling with
admiration the able manner in which their mother kept peace among her merry brood.
We had a remarkably tempting table always, and Mother said it was because when Father was a very little
boy, he spent a year with his Uncle John Bubier in Marblehead. This Uncle of his had for those days large
wealth, He was a retired officer of the United States Navy, had an imposing house, several servants,
horses, fine carriages, in fact and over-abundance of everything.
He had married for his second wife a young Southern woman; she came gay and blooming to the
windswept New England town, bringing with her a colored mammy.
She was never very happy so far from the southern sunshine and gaiety, and she soon died. Her husband
was inconsolable for he had loved her devotedly, in his rather formal way, and the year following her death
he begged Grandmother to come to him for a time. This she managed in some way to do and took Father
with her. He had been used to plain but abundant food, and to sit at a beautifully appointed supper table,
candle lighted and silver laden, and to be served only tiny biscuits and rich preserves, as was the
Marblehead custom, sent him often hungry to bed. He then and there made up his mind that when he was
grown and had a home, no one should go hungry from his table. Certainly no one ever did.
Our breakfasts were the delight of all our guests -- fruit, cereal, thick steaks, hot bread, amber coffee. You
young people today prefer fruit juice an dry toast; but I look back to that morning meal with keen
appreciation, and wonder why the buckwheat cakes of today have lost the delicate flavor they had when I
was a girl, "oh, many years ago."
Before his marriage, Father, like most young men, was a great smoker; but Mother had a very sensitive
throat and after their wedding day he never smoked again.
I think this shows better than anything I could say the quality of the man; self-controlled, unselfish,
thoughtful of the comfort of others, but once his mind was made up -- unyielding.
I have never known anyone who bore unhappiness and pain quite as he did. When Lura and I were tiny
children we used to play a game with him. As he came from the shop for his noonday meal we were to
stand at the gate till we saw him, then as he came in sight, he would clap his hands and we could start to
run toward him. "Big Diamond" was my name and "Little Diamond" was Lura's. She ran like a flash and
though I was two years older she always won and was caught in his strong arms. One sunny summer noon
we were standing at the gate waiting eagerly for the clapping signal; but something was wrong, no signal
came, but there came Father, a man walking slowly with him, helping him along. That is seventy years ago,
but the white face and tightly closed lips are as clearly seen by me today as they were then.
Alas! his left hand had been crushed by some heavy machinery. He refused to have it amputated and went
through life with the fingers of the hand stiff. He managed so well, however, that strangers seldom noticed
it. He was even an unusually good carver, and was never apparently conscious of his infirmity.
Fond of horses and handsome carriages, he liked nothing better than the long rides over the Mendon hills
to Uxbridge, to Mother's old home, to quiet Medway to visit the cemetery where many of his family were
buried, or to Franklin to spend an hour with his good friends James and Joseph Ray. So the years slipped
away and he saw his children grow to maturity, well cared for, happy in the wholesome home life, busy with
It seems strange to me as I look back to the early years of my girlhood, that though he never spoke sharply,
never scolded, never punished, we all obeyed him instantly and willingly: Eben, Anna, Mary, Lilla, Lura -- all
It may have been this rare quality he possessed that made him a success with the men who worked for
him. As the business grew, he grew with it, his vision broadened, he became interested in the homes of the
workmen and it was through his influence that Bancroft Park with its charming homes and gay gardens
became a reality. He often said: "Give a man a comfortable house, with his own front door, flowers in the
yard, a good meal on the table, and he will not wander far afield."
He instituted a system of prizes for the best kept yards both back and front, and this brought some
remarkable results. His love of beauty must have been inherited, for in his hard-working youth, there was
little opportunity to cultivate it.
The charming homes in Bancroft Park won the first prize for the best planned houses for workmen at a
Paris Exposition, and property owners came from many cities and towns to see them.
When it was suggested that chimes be placed in the beautiful new memorial Unitarian Church, he was the
first to offer a bell, for he gave liberally always to whatever he felt would add to the beauty of the village.
He had unusually clear ideas of what was best, perhaps his long friendly talks with the Reverend Adin
Ballou in his early days in Hopedale may have had a great influence. Mr. Ballou would often drop into our
home, long after the community was a thing of the past, to see what "Brother Bancroft" thought of this or that
scheme for the advancement of village life.
The Community had built a church, simple houses, planted trees -- now Hopedale's chief beauty, in fact --
laid the foundations of the beautiful little village of today as we know it.
It seems to me Father's life was in a way very spectacular. With Uncle Almon Thwing, a brother of Mother's,
he came to Hopedale, and started a small business in the little red shop, still standing, m memorial to days
long past. Later George and Eben [Ebenezer] Draper who had married Hannah and Anna Thwing, Mother's
sisters, joined Father, and the little shop did a thriving business.
These Draper brothers were men of outstanding ability. Eben took charge of the financial end, George
traveled and sold the products of the company, and Father managed the manufacturing. Much might be
said of those early days of the struggles and the joys of achievement.
The Community, the dream of saintly men and women, died, but its influence lived, is living today, may
The business, however, which was started in so small a way, grew by leaps and bounds. "The Drapers"
were becoming rich, the little shop was soon abandoned, the "Hopedale Machine Co.," with the other
business interests in Hopedale, built large shops, hired many men, and became finally what is known
today as "The Draper Corporation."
Father had a large family to support and educate, but he and Mother were wise and forward looking. I
heard Father once say that if his children enjoyed the spending of his savings as much as he had enjoyed
the accumulating he would be satisfied.
When getting to Boston was a difficult problem both Father and Mother would go as often as possible to
hear the lectures of famous men and women. When a mere lad, Father walked from Medway to Boston to
hear Daniel Webster's great Fourth of July speech, and, by foot, by coach, and by rail, he and Mother
journeyed to the city to her Charles Dickens read from "Pickwick Papers." I must add they were
disappointed, for his reading left much to be desired.
As I look back wistfully to our quiet home life, I see nothing but peace and contentment, gay but simple
parties, church and Sunday School for us all, long drives with old black Billy and later with the steady greys
or the prancing bays. Of course sorrows came, as come they must, but they were bourne with fortitude and
Our Sunday night suppers were the high spots of the week. We gathered about the bountiful table,
children, grandchildren, and guests. After the meal was over we lingered, while Charley Day, Lura's brilliant
husband, read, in his amazingly clear way, one of Mr. Dooley's Irish stories, or a witty poem. We would all be
convulsed with laughter, and when Father could speak he would say, in that husky voice which all the
Bancrofts had, "That was good, Charles."
Before we said "good night" we gathered about the piano and sand old songs and hymns, Howard's fine
tenor voice and Lura's charming alto carrying the rest of us along.
Happy days! Happy memories!
For thirty-two years Father had practically no vacation, but later he lived the leisurely quiet life of a New
England country gentleman. He took us to California, often to Boston to see the best plays, and the winters
were spent in San Mateo, Florida, where he and Uncle William owned a small orange grove on the banks of
the beautiful St. John's River. Here he strolled among the orange trees, fished almost daily very
successfully, and came home at night with a long string of bass to show for the day's pleasure, old black
Bose following the fishermen up the palm-lined walk, carrying the oars and smiling broadly, for he was to
have his share of the catch.
During the summer, Bose would send word of the condition of the grove, the possible size of the crop of
fruit, both grapefruit and oranges, adding any local news, and always ending his letter with the encouraging
remark, "As for the horse, he ain't daid yet"
Howard, my husband, greatly beloved by all the family, was often with us in Florida, for Father felt no winter
was complete without a two weeks' visit from him, and the house was filled to overflowing with guests, all
intent on enjoying the friendly, lovely weather of sunny Florida, a change indeed from the cold and snow of
Father was happy to be asked to be President of "The Draper Corporation" into which he had put the work
of a lifetime, I remember so well the expression of his appreciation when after General William F. Draper
withdrew from that office, George and Eben Draper, sons of George and Hannah, insisted that "Uncle
Joseph" fill the vacancy. This position he held until his death, giving the best that he had to the work. He had
a keen interest in church and state. For many years he was a member of the Parish Committee of our
Church. He served for a brief term in the Legislature of our Commonwealth, where he made a deep
impression on his associates. For many years he was Chairman of the Selectmen of Milford, continuing in
this position for the town of Hopedale, when it became a separate township.
Our old homestead saw many changes as the years rolled by, rooms added here, big windows and
piazzas there, several bathrooms, so everything was spacious and comfortable when the children and
grandchildren came for family reunions.
After Mother's death, Anna managed the home and made us all welcome, the perfect friend of us all.
When Father's eyesight began to fail, he would often stand by a window in the big living room, looking
across the driveway toward the beautiful Bancroft Memorial Library, a tribute to the wife he had loved so
well. I can see him sitting quietly in the big leather-covered rocking chair Mary had had made for him, his
hair and beard like silver, immaculate in dress, always wearing in his handsome tie the scarf pin Mother
had given him years before. Sitting there by the bright wood fire, or in the gray sunshine, he would listen for
hours while Anna read to him the daily papers. Always after the midday meal came a little rest, and then the
long afternoon drive.
In the evening, those of us who lived near dropped in to tell of our busy day. And he listened with sympathy
and understanding to all we had to say.
In his eighty-ninth year after a long illness, he fell asleep. His children were all with him-- Anna, Eben and
Leila, Mary and Walter, Lilla and Howard-- and darling Lura, for many years a widow.
Today, we his children, his grandchildren and their children have hearts filled with gratitude to him, for it is
largely due to his industry and wisdom, and Mother's never failing co-operation that we have enjoyed the
comforts and even the luxuries of life.
He lived many years. He saw many changes and he welcomed them all. That generation has passed.
What men and women they were! Steadfast in the faith, looking forward, hoping always for the best,
believing firmly in the progress of mankind.
"The memory of the just is blessed."
Memories Menu Draper Menu Sylvia Bancroft
Eben Draper Bancroft Lilla Bancroft Lura Bancroft
Bancroft family picture HOME
The obituaries below were copied from
the files at the Bancroft Memorial Library.