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Oro-Medonte’s Drury family rooted in both local, provincial history

'I go into the bush and I’m walking by trees my ancestors walked by. There’s a great connection there'

ORO-MEDONTE TWP. — Talk about roots!

This family has them in the ground, on historical plaques and in county and provincial archives going back two centuries.

The Drury family has been a driving force — on farming fields, in the political arena and for social justice — for 200 years from their farm on Penetanguishene Road north of Barrie, from Queen’s Park in Toronto and from many points in between.

Now the public is being invited to learn more about the family’s legacy and contributions on Sunday, Aug. 4.

Craig Drury is a seventh-generation Drury and is living with his mother and father on the original farm, settled by his family back in 1819 from Kenilworth, England.

Living next door is his cousin, Bob Drury, one of the more recent members of the clan who has many years of public service and farming under his belt.

Between 1982 and 1985, he served as Oro councillor and was reeve from 1985 and 1994, the year Oro and Medonte were amalgamated. He then became the first mayor of the new municipality and was also elected as Simcoe County warden that same year.

In a testament to just how long the family has been playing a role in public service, Bob Drury’s great-great-grandfather, Richard, was the first reeve of Oro Township and Bob was its last.

But the Drury legacy is not restricted to Simcoe County.

Ernest Charles (E.C.) Drury was elected Ontario premier in 1919 and his government brought together “dozens of progressive measures” during his time in office, according to the family’s website.

“It introduced allowances for widows and children, a minimum wage for women, a mandatory day of rest, broadened workers compensation benefits, improved support mechanisms for parents and children, introduced legislation to allow for public adoptions, extended hydro-electricity to rural areas, supported the nationalization of private electricity companies by Ontario Hydro (making it the largest electric power system in the world) and created the Province of Ontario Savings Office as a provincially owned bank to provide competition to the private banks,” the website states.

“Under the Drury government, Ontario began the first major reforestation program in North America, initiated construction of the modern highway system, funded Banting and Best’s discovery of insulin, raised the age of mandatory school attendance from 14 to 16 years, instituted the inspection of workplaces for unsafe conditions and created the Ontario Provincial Police force," the website adds.

The government also established a Department of Mines to support the new mining industry and an Ontario College of Education to raise the standard of teachers, "cleaned up Conservative corruption in the sale of timber rights to their business friends," and passed the Children’s Protection Act.

Craig Drury’s pride in his relatives’ accomplishments is plain to see as he stands in front of a farm home built in 1888.

“We’re proud of the leadership we’ve taken as a family politically,” he said. “One of the neat things about researching this event (in August) is how many people and communities have been touched by our family, whether it’s just from a support perspective of our neighbours or in terms of the black community who settled here at the same time we did on the Second and Third lines of Oro,” he said.

In the 1940s, E.C. wrote extensively on local history and presented a paper on the history of African Canadians in Oro and also led a fundraising campaign to restore the African Church near Edgar. 

“When you have a family that has been as active as ours for 200 years, it is difficult to narrow down the effect it has had,” Craig said, adding history can reveal much about ourselves as a community and a country.

Over the generations Drury women and men have equally distinguished themselves, whether it was professionally, academically, personally or on the farm fields of Simcoe County, he said.

“We are (today) where we came from. If we can understand where we came from maybe we can have a better understanding of who we are,” he said. “I’m nostalgic. I have trouble throwing out tools my grandparents used: wrenches, hammerheads. They are hanging around here and some of them are still functional.

“I go into the bush and I’m walking by trees my ancestors walked by. There’s a great connection there.”

He feels fortunate to be part of a living history.

“It’s the way it was 200 years ago as the farms got cut out of the bush here,” Drury said. “We’re not the only ones on this road — which was carved out during the War of 1812 as a military road — who have stories. We feel lucky to be a part of those stories.”

The Drury farm, located at 661 Penetanguishene Rd., will be open to the public from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4. Visitors can meet descendants of the Drury family, tour the farm, view old and new farm equipment and celebrate with political dignitaries and other members of the community.

Visit www.druryfamily.ca to learn more.

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An Ode To Freedom in Canada

By E.C. Drury, Premier of Ontario

From the darker night of slavery,

Through the night they journeyed far,

In their hearts was the flame of freedom,

And their guide was the pale Pole Star.

Northward, and northward ever

To the land of Liberty,

Where no man need say, "Master"

For every man was free

 

Honour to these, the lowly,

Like cattle bought and sold

For they ventured their all for Freedom,

And venturing, they were bold.

To brave the whip and shackle,

To brave the noose and stake,

That they might be men, not chattels,

They ventured for Freedom's sake.

 

O Canada, be this your pride,

As the changeful years succeed,

That under your flag, a man's a man,

Whatever his race or creed,

Whatever his rank or station,

His poverty or pelf,

A man's a man, with a man's proud right,

The right to own himself.An Ode To Freedom in Canada

Written By -The Honourable E.C. Drury-

 

From the darker night of slavery,

Through the night they journeyed far,

In their hearts was the flame of freedom,

And their guide was the pale Pole Star.

Northward, and northward ever

To the land of Liberty,

Where no man need say, "Master"

For every man was free

 

Honour to these, the lowly,

Like cattle bought and sold

For they ventured their all for Freedom,

And venturing, they were bold.

To brave the whip and shackle,

To brave the noose and stake,

That they might be men, not chattels,

They ventured for Freedom's sake.

 

O Canada, be this your pride,

As the changeful years succeed,

That under your flag, a man's a man,

Whatever his race or creed,

Whatever his rank or station,

His poverty or pelf,

A man's a man, with a man's proud right,

The right to own himself.




Ian McInroy

About the Author: Ian McInroy

Ian McInroy is an award-winning photographer and journalist with more than 30 years in the industry
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