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Newton Bishop Drury Oral History Interview, Part I

Oral History Interview with
Newton Bishop Drury

Director, National Park Service, 1940-51.

Berkeley, California
University of California
University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office

1972 by The Regents of the University of California

Part I

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Newton Bishop Drury Parts]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview donated to the Harry S. Truman Library. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word, although some editing was done.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement between the Regents of the University of California and Newton B. Drury, dated October 18, 1972. The manuscript is thereby made available for research purposes. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley.

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, and should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.The legal agreement with Newton B. Drury requires that he be notified of the request and allowed thirty days in which to respond.

Opened 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Newton Bishop Drury Parts]


Oral History Interview with
Newton Bishop Drury


Berkeley, California
University of California
University of California Bancroft Library/Berkeley
Regional Oral History Office

1972 by The Regents of the University of California

Part I





FRY:How far back would you like to begin?

DRURY: Well, I might make reference to this Lineage Record Book which was found in my brother Aubrey's effects after he died last October [1959]. He had voluminous files, the depths of which we haven't yet fathomed. Among them is a considerable amount of data about the Drury family and my mother's family, the Bishops.

FRY:I think we ought to mention that you are giving a great deal of this to Bancroft Library.

DRURY: Yes; Aubrey Drury's files and the files of the Save-the-Redwoods League and related conservation organizations at the Drury Advertising office in San Francisco. They have a bearing on the history of the conservation effort, preservation of forests and establishment of the parks in California. Both my brother and I, at various times, have been associated with the Save-the-Redwoods League and the state park movement.

FRY:You were just about "it" there for a while.

DRURY: I was in the thick of it and bear the scars of many battles.

FRY:Your father's book*(Drury, Wells: An Editor on the Comstock Lode. Foreword by Ella Bishop Drury, Ferrar and Rinehart, Inc., New York and Toronto, 1936. Also Pacific Books, Palo Alto, 1948) reminded me of how much of a family tradition you seem to have carried on.

DRURY: Well, I'm afraid that both Aubrey and I, and for that matter my sisters Muriel and Lorraine, are typical sons and daughters of the golden west. We have all taken pride in the beauty of the state and its rich historical background.


Family Tree

FRY:While we are speaking of relatives, somewhere on your family tree is an Apperson of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst forebears. Where does that occur?

DRURY: My maternal grandmother's name was Elsie Helen Apperson, according to Aubrey Drury's Lineage Record Book which contains information that he so meticulously ferreted out from authentic records and publications. To go back even further, the first generation in America on my mother's side was Simeon Bishop, and Aubrey writes, "probably our family dated from old Rhode Island records." Simeon came from England at an unknown date and lived near Providence, Rhode Island. If you follow the Bishop line, you find that my grandfather, also a Simeon Bishop, was the fourth generation in America, and he's the one that was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, April 11, 1833, and died in San Francisco in February of 1920. His wife was Elsie Helen Apperson whom he married at Louisville, Illinois, in 1854. She was born in Clay County, Illinois, in 1836 and died at Reno, Nevada, in 1868 or '69. Her father was Francis Apperson who resided in Washington County, Virginia and later in Clay County, Illinois. He was my mother's grandfather.

I think my mother and Mrs. Phoebe Apperson Hearst were of the same generation. As I recollect, my mother indicated that she and Mrs. Hearst were second cousins, that her mother and Mrs. Hearst's mother were first cousins.

FRY:So Francis Apperson was the brother of Phoebe Apperson Hearst's grandfather?


DRURY: It's all too deep for me! (Laughter)

Mother, Ella Lorraine Bishop Drury

FRY:Did your mother have any other brothers and sisters?

DRURY: Yes, she was one of eleven children; her father, Dr. Simeon Bishop had two wives. My mother's mother died when she was very young and he remarried. (Incidentally, Dr. Bishop's second wife was named Harris, and she was a cousin of the Miss Harris who was in the box at the Ford Theater when Lincoln was assassinated, an interesting association.) My mother was the oldest child, and she had a sister Persia and a brother Simeon. They were from the first marriage and the rest of them were half brothers and sisters--a very wonderful and very capable family. Most of them were in some form of literary work. Fred Bishop and Harry Bishop were both newspaper men, and Charles Bishop had been in the newspaper publishing business. He was many years in charge of the press room of one of the leading New York newspapers. Minnie Bishop was an actress for a while, a very talented one and quite a talented musician. And Clara Bishop, the youngest one, in her early years became a practicing attorney up in Oregon. The last of her half brothers, Frank Bishop, I think is still alive in Southern California. He was a singer for a while and then he was in business; he is retired now.

FRY:The propensity for something creative, then, stood out in all her brothers and sisters.

DRURY: It was also true in my mother. She always took the position that my interest in conservation was an inherited tendency, and she cited the fact that when she graduated from Mills College in the eighties she gave the valedictory address and the title of it -- it


was a pretty high-flown poetical sort of a paper was--Nature's Voices. [Laughter]

FRY:Was this specifically on the redwoods?

DRURY: Oh no, but she was a great lover of nature and things beautiful.

Father, Wells Drury
Early Childhood

FRY:Where was your father born?

DRURY: He was born in New Boston, Illinois, September 16, 1851.

FRY:But he didn't live there very long, did he?

DRURY: No, at the age of about two months he was brought across the plains in a covered wagon by his family and settled in Oregon.

FRY:Do you know what it was that urged his family to start across?

DRURY: I haven't a very clear idea and my father, having been so young, of course didn't have any knowledge of the family circumstances or history. I think they had the same urge as a great many middlewesterners -- to better themselves. His father's name was Squire Thompson Drury; he was born in 1817 and died in 1852. That was when they were crossing the plains. Both my father’s father and his mother were stricken with Asiatic cholera, as so many others were, and they died out in Wyoming somewhere. There was a general epidemic at that time and it was a very often fatal disease. I revisited New Boston, Illinois in the 1940's when I was making one of my tours of the national parks. I visited the old farm of William Drury, who was my father's uncle and who had offered to adopt my father when he was visiting Illinois in his twenties. He wanted my father to move to Illinois and become a rancher, or


farmer as they call them there, but he had the spirit of adventure and he preferred to return to the West.

By the time of my visit all of the people who had any touch with William Drury were gone, though his name remained there in the William and Vashti College, which had been established near New Boston and which was later merged with another college. It was named for William Drury and his wife.

But to return to my father's youth. There were several children in the family, five altogether, of which he was the youngest. Melissa, Emily Frances (of whom I have no knowledge at all), Celinda, Newton and Wells; they were born in that order. Aunt Melissa and Aunt Celinda I remember very well. After the death of their parents on the wagon train, the five orphaned children separated because it was a very difficult thing for any family en route across the plains to take care of so many. I think each one was taken by a different family -- my father by a very wonderful man named Elfred Elder, who went up to Oregon and established himself there. The other children joined other parties in the wagon train. That again we don't have much record of except what Aunt Melissa, who was about eight years old at that time, was able to remember. In later years, as my father tells it in his book, Editor of the Comstock (Drury, Wells: Editor of the Comstock Lode. Ibid,) the family was reunited. They had kept in touch with each other by correspondence.

FRY:I have a note here that Elfred Ridgely Elder was a friend of Lincoln. He was a minister, wasn't he?

DRURY: I don't believe he was a minister by profession; he was a very pious man, but he was a farmer and they went up i