The story of my life is incomplete without some reference to its ancestry, and I will commence
mine by a brief account of my progenitors, back to the time of their leaving England for America.
In the early part of the seventeenth century Thomas Draper carried on the business of
manufacturing and fulling cloth, at Heptonstall, Yorkshire, England. It appears that he had a
number of looms, and used water power. His ancestors had followed this calling before him,
and his American descendants have been connected in some way with the cloth making
industry substantially ever since.
His son, James Draper, (1618 - 1694), called in the family records "The Puritan," came to this
country, as nearly as can be ascertained, in the year 1647, accompanied by his wife, Miriam
Stanfield Draper. He is mentioned in the public records in 1654 as one of the proprietors of the
newly laid out town of Lancaster. He, however, did not settle there, but remained in Roxbury,
where he built a house, which stood until it was destroyed by fire about 1870. In an inventory of
his estate appears an item of "looms and tacklin," he having carried on a weaving business,
employing about a dozen looms.
His son, James (1654 - 1698), in connection with Nathaniel Whiting, erected a fulling mill in
Dedham, and also served as a soldier in the King Philip War. The largest item in the inventory
of his estate, outside of his homestead, is an interest in mills at Dedham.
His son, James, (1691 - 1768), located at Green Lodge, near Dedham, and there carried on a
manufacturing and farming business. He was a captain of the "Trained Bands," and is stated to
have served in the French and Indian Wars.
His son, Major Abijah Draper, (1737 - 1780), who also resided at Green Lodge, and owned a
large part of Blue Hill, was a prominent citizen of Dedham. In 1766 he was one of a committee
of three chosen by the citizens of Dedham to erect in the courtyard a monument to William Pitt.
This monument has since been replaced, and is called the "Pillar of Liberty."
Major Draper held every office in the militia up to that of Major, and served in the latter rank in
the 1st Suffolk Regiment under General Washington. He was also present and active in
harrying the British, on their retreat from Lexington and Concord. His cousin, Captain William
Draper, was one of those who gave evidence in regard to the Battle of Lexington, in the
examination made by order of the Provincial Congress. In his testimony he said that "the regular
troops fired before any of Captain Parker's Company fired."
My grandfather, Ira Draper, (1764 - 1848), comes next in line. He was present as a boy, with
his father, during the retreat of the British above mentioned, and his recollections of that retreat
were exceedingly interesting to me in my boyhood. His account of the manner in which the
British flankers occasionally surprised our farmers, who had posted themselves behind trees or
walls to get a good shot at the column in the road, was very thrilling. There are few men
identified with the State of Massachusetts who have left a more brilliant record in the line of
invention than he. A native of Dedham, he removed to Weston in 1808, and during his residence
there he devoted himself to perfecting the power loom, and finally succeeded in inventing what
he styled the "revolving temple" for weaving, which is still manufactured in Hopedale. His
creative genius covered many inventions of great value, some of which are still in use. Among
the more important are the following:
1, A threshing machine for horse power; 2, the endless track horse power (now in general use);
3, the hay and straw cutter (now in general use); 4, the road scraper (now used); 5, a rock lifting
machine; 6, the potato planter; 7, special horse shoes for meadows (now used); 8, a horse
power ditching machine to cut and clear drains and ditches; 9, false felloes for wheels to
traverse meadows, etc.; 10, the revolving temple for keeping cloth extended in weaving. He also
invented what are still in common use with carpenters, -- brackets for shingling roofs. In a
portrait, owned by James Sumner Draper, he is represented holding in his hand the "revolving
As before stated, he removed from Green Lodge to Weston, Mass., where my father was born,
and later to Saugus, where he died at the age of 83 years. He was largely interested in public
affairs, and under the administration of John Quincy Adams was a prominent candidate for U. S.
Commissioner of Patents. His inventions, though several of them later came into general use,
were not a source of profit to him, pecuniarily speaking. On the contrary, the time and money
devoted to them reduced his patrimony so that when my father started in life at the early age of
fifteen, he had only his own resources to depend upon.
Before further reference to my father or to my descent on my mother's side, I call attention to
the remarkable fact that all the Drapers mentioned, from Thomas in England in 1600 down to
myself in 1900, have been directly connected with the manufacture of cloth. It is also worthy of
note that the loom has been abandoned for the sword, in time of need, by the then living
representative of the family, --James Draper in the King Philip War, Captain James Draper in the
French and Indian Wars, and Major Abijah Draper in the War of the Revolution. During the War
of 1812-1814 this tradition was kept up by the enlistment of James Draper, my father's oldest
brother, who brought into use several of his father's inventions and thereby acquired what was
considered a fortune in those days. In 1840 he was a delegate to the national convention which
nominated General Harrison for the presidency.
My mother was a Thwing, the name being very uncommon in this country and all who possess
it being probably descended from Benjamin Thwing, who came from England in 1635 and
settled in Boston, having a house and garden on Sudbury Street. His ancestry is traced with
probable correctness to the Knights of Thwing, a village forty miles east of York in England. His
descendants occupied reputable positions in life, his son Benjamin being a member of the
Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1678. Nathaniel Thwing was Captain and Major of
the 8th Massachusetts Regiment in the campaign against Louisbourg, and later Lieutenant-
colonel of Colonel Gridley's regiment at Crown Point. John Thwing, between 1730 and 1769,
owned and used as a farm a large part of the ground occupied by the village of Hopedale, where
I reside. Another Nathaniel Thwing was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Benjamin Thwing,
my grandfather, was a school teacher in Uxbridge, noted in his profession. His house now
stands in very good preservation.
I come now to my parents. George Draper (1817 - 1887), my father, was a man of very strong
character and will be remembered to-day by all of the older generation in Massachusetts who
had to do either with cotton manufacture or with public affairs, His years of schooling were brief,
but he acquired at school and in later studies at home an excellent mathematical education, --
better than that possessed by most college graduates, At the age of fifteen he left home to take
a position the weaving department of the cotton mills of North Uxbridge. There he boarded in
the house of Benjamin Thwing and made the acquaintance of his daughter, Hannah Brown
Thwing, my mother. At seventeen years of age he was made the superintendent of a small
cotton mill at Walpole. Mass. Thence he went to Three Rivers, Mass., and took the position of
overseer of weaving in what was then one of the largest fine cotton mills in the country.
In 1839, owing to the general depression in manufacturing, caused by a reduction of the tariff,
the mill stopped, and he was thrown out of employment, as were a large number of the skilled
operatives in New England. He looked vainly for work in some position worthy of his ability;
used up his small savings; ran into debt several hundred dollars; and finally accepted a position
as an operative in the Massachusetts Cotton Mills of Lowell, at the remuneration of five dollars a
week. His experience at that time convinced him of the advantage to laboring men of a
protective tariff, and he never forgot it.
With a change in the country's policy, manufacturing improved, and he became an overseer
again. In 1843 he accepted a position as designer of the celebrated Edward Harris cassimeres
at Woonsocket, R.I. In 1845 he was made superintendent of one of the mills of the Otis
Company at Ware, Mass., and later he had charge of the entire corporation. In 1853 he removed
from Ware to Hopedale, Mass., going into partnership with his brother, E.D. Draper, who was
then manufacturing and selling the temples invented by their father, and which he (George) had
improved. E.D. Draper was also president of the Hopedale Community, which my father joined,
and which I shall refer to later. In 1856 the Hopedale Community came to grief financially, and
he joined his brother in paying its debts, which they accomplished within the next few years.
From this time his business increased until it has become one of the great manufacturing
industries of the State.
He was a man of a large inventive capacity and possessed also the business faculty which
enabled him to introduce into use his own inventions and those of others, which he controlled,
at a profit not only to the community but to himself. The improvements introduced in spinning
machinery under his auspices and the writer's have doubled it production and saved to this and
foreign countries hundreds of millions of dollars in machinery, and tens of millions per annum
in power, labor and incidentals. He was a total abstainer, a Unitarian in religious belief, never
used tobacco, and prior to the War he was a Garrisonian abolitionist. During the war he was an
ardent Union man, and worked earnestly for the cause. He organized several companies of
volunteers, paying their preliminary expenses and making personal gifts to each man. He was
active in recruiting and a member of Governor Andrew's private Advisory Board. After the war he
was a thorough and enthusiastic Republican, and an earnest believer in a protective tariff. He
founded and presided over until his death, the celebrated Home Market Club, which crystallizes
and represents the protective sentiment of New England. He wrote much on political topics,
both in pamphlets and newspaper articles, and no one could fail to understand what he meant,
even if he did not agree with him. During the latter years of his life, he traveled much, both at
home and abroad, giving up to a large extent his business cares. He was active in the formation
of the new town of Hopedale in 1886, and built and presented to that town its town hall. His was
a strong individuality, and, though he consistently refused public position, he was always a
power behind the throne in local and State affairs.
My mother seems to me to have been the very embodiment of New England common sense.
Though her life was largely devoted to household duties and the rearing of her children, she
was thoroughly interested in public questions, and never satisfied until she had settled to her
own satisfaction the right or wrong of anything that came up for consideration. Though my father
was a positive man, she was equally sure in her own views - one evidence of which was that
though he became a member of the Hopedale Community, she persistently refused to join, on
the ground that she did not believe all questions should be settled by a majority vote or that there
should be no rewards for preeminent ability and services.
The Thwing Family Draper Menu HOME