Joseph Bubier Bancroft
on the history 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
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
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,
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
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
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 village affairs.
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 of us.
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
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
The Community, the dream of saintly men and women, died, but its influence lived, is living
today, may always live.
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 faith.
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
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
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 New England.
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
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
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.
The Bancroft home on Hopedale Street, before
remodeling which was done after Joseph's death.
The Bancroft home as it appeared after remodeling
which was done following Joseph's death.