Illinois Genealogy Trails

Rock Island County Biographies
- D Surnames -

Courtney Drury was born in Wayne county, Indiana, November 23, 1820. He came to Mercer county, Illinois, with William Willits and family, in the fall of 1834. He remained with them for some time, and then sold goods for the firm of Drury & Willits. In 1842 he returned to his old home in Indiana, and went to school that fall and winter.

He was married April 12, 1842, to Ruth Willits, and removed to Mercer county, Illinois, in the fall of the same year. That winter he bought eighty acres of land, partly improved. He sold his farm in the winter of 1845, and the following spring moved to the village of New Boston.

Mr. Drury lost his wife February, 1847. He then returned to the State of Indiana, and spent the most of that summer there; then returned to New Boston, and, with James S. Thompson, purchased the mercantile establishment of Drury & Willits. The new firm conducted the trade of this house for eight years, at the end of which time they sold out, and Mr. Drury bought land near the village of New Boston, which he improved, and has engaged in farming and stock rising ever since.

Mr. Drury has made a specialty of breeding fine horses, and has had some of the best stock ever kept or owned in Mercer county. He has a passion for a fine horse, and gratifies it.

Editor's Note: New Boston is on the border of Mercer and Rock Island Counties. - History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882; Pages 93-94 -Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter


 John W. Drury
 A list of the early citizens of Rock Island would be decidedly incomplete did it not contain the name of Judge John W. Drury, who as early as 1856 was judge of the circuit court and presided over an extensive district. In later years he became widely known as a legalist, and with the rising property values of a growing community accumulated a large fortune in realty.

Judge Drury was born at Rhinebeck, N. Y., in 1813, and was a member of a large family of children, all of whom he survived. After attaining a legal education in his native East, in 1836 Judge Drury took passage on a vessel at Pittsburgh, and came down the Ohio and up the Mississippi river.

On the trip West he met and became acquainted with General Harding, and both left the boat at Oquawka and traveled across the country to Monmouth, where General Harding located, becoming in time a wealthy and influential citizen.

Judge Drury continued to Rock Island and here put out his shingle and solicited the legal business of the early residents. At that time the old town of Stephenson, as Rock Island was then known, was an exceedingly quiet point, the only excitement being occasioned by the arrival of a tramp boat, which would give the people a topic to discuss. Black Hawk and his braves had left the locality, crossing over into the territory of Iowa, and were never to return as occupants of Illinois soil.

It was not the young lawyer's idea, however, to live as a drone. Soon after coming he showed his progressive spirit by commencing to speculate in real estate upon a small scale, for while his confidence in the community was marked, his capital was somewhat limited.

His first investment was in the Chicago, or Lower, Addition to Rock Island, for which he paid five dollars, and after holding it for some time he disposed of it for double its cost. Thus early he made a profit on his transaction, and it was said of him in after life that he invariably made a gain on his real estate dealings.

Later, he had an eighty-acre tract about a mile from the river, on the bluff, near what is now the site of Eighteenth avenue, in disposing of which he gave an excellent illustration of the methods which were to later make him one of the largest realty holders of his day. A citizen called upon him at his office and inquired the price of the land. "Eight dollars an acre," was Mr. Drury's reply. The caller declared that the price was exorbitant and left, but returned on the following day and again asked the price. "Ten dollars today, for each acre," said Mr. Drury, and the deal was closed that way.

This same land has been selling readily of late years for $1,000 an acre, which gives an excellent idea as to the increase in values in this section during the past half a century. At one time Judge Drury was the owner of the ten acres known as the Rodman property, lying east of Doctor Gregg's Addition, which he had purchased for $400. About a quarter of a century ago, including improvements, the property sold for $22,000, and the land is now covered with beautiful homes.

About the year 1856, John W. Drury was elected judge of the circuit court, and presided over a large district of several counties. His tastes were rural, and while administering justice in his courts he was also engaged in operating a 400-acre farm lying on Rock river, above Milan.

At the close of his judicial term he formed a law partnership with John P. Cook, of Davenport, which continued for some years. He was engaged in a great deal of important litigation, being attorney of the southwestern branch of the Rock Island railroad system for some years, a position to which he was appointed by President Tracy. This branch ran to Kansas City, and Judge Drury's connection therewith caused him to move to Chicago, that city being his home until the time of his retirement, in 1894, when he returned to his farm on the Rock river.

After the death of his devoted wife he went back to the home of his youth, in Rhinebeck, N. Y., and was there tenderly cared for during his declining years by his nieces, his death occurring in 1899, when he was eighty-six years of age. He was one of the very few of his contemporary lawyers of Rock Island county who accumulated a large fortune. His estate was administered by Maj. Henry C. Connelly and his means were distributed among his nieces and nephews, of Rhinebeck and New York City.

Judge Drury was a personal friend of Senator Stephen A. Douglas, and at his request accepted the office of state elector in 1856, making speeches throughout Illinois. In all the senator's aspirations Judge Drury proved a true and faithful friend, and was especially active in the Charleston convention of 1860, to which he was a delegate. A man of the utmost integrity and probity of character, he was esteemed by all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and the news of his death came as a distinct shock to those who had lived and labored with him for so many years.

[Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Rock Island County, 1914 - Pgs. 1113 - 1114, Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter]

William Drury
William Drury, the subject of this sketch, was born in Pickaway county, Ohio, September 17, 1809, and removed to Wayne county in 1811, with his parents, where Mr. Drury remained until he attained the age of manhood.

The family were subject to all the privations of pioneer life as well as the alarms of savage warfare, and during the troubles in 1812 they often had to retreat to the block-houses for protection.

Mr. Drury's education was limited to a common school, but he attained education enough to teach several terms of school before he came west.

In 1833 Mr. Drury came to Illinois to look at the country, and for the first time saw real "prairie land" quite a curiosity to one who has been reared in a wooded country. Mr. Drury determined to make this his home, made a selection, and in 1834 returned and made a claim, and settled down at the foot of the bluffs, near where he now resides.

Through his influence several families came with him. So disgusted with things were they, that they threatened dissolution of friendship with him if he did not desist in speaking in praise of the country.

In 1840 Mr. Drury returned to Indiana, and was married, July 1, to Miss Vashti Lewis, daughter of Caleb and Polly (Willits) Lewis. Mrs. Drury's father served as a member of the legislature a number of times.

Mr. Drury was elected to fill the office of county recorder a number of consecutive years. In 1836 he was elected county clerk, in conjunction with the former office. While holding these offices Mr. Drury furnished all his own stationery and met his office expenses out of his own private means. In 1836 he commenced a small trade in dry goods and groceries in partnership with Levi Willits, under the firm name of Drury & Willits. They furnished the people with all necessities that were required.

They bought pork, grain and other products, and shipped them to St. Louis. They did the first pork packing in the county. They continued business until 1848, when they sold out to Courtney Drury and James S. Thompson, who formed a partnership under the name of Thompson & Drury.

Mr. Drury spent about a year, after the sale of his interest, in setting up his business, when, in 1850, he started a small cash store, which he conducted until 1853, when on account of failing health, he sold out his interest, and has since given his attention to the management of his large estate, and to the importation and raising of fine stock, and the banking business.

In 1871, in partnership with other wealthy men of the county, he assisted in organizing a Farmer's National Bank, at Keithsburg, of which he is a large stockholder and president. Mr. Drury says he has made it a practice all his life, that at the end of each year his income shall be greater than his expenses.

He thinks this accounts for his large estate, and not to any mental gift. Mr. Drury was among the first settlers of the county. He was well acquainted with Black Hawk and Keokuk, the two noted Indian chiefs.

[History of Mercer County, Illinois, 1882 Pages 93-94, Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter]

Silas Drury

In the spring of 1834 Silas Drury and father, accompanied by a cousin, Charles Drury, and J. P. Reynolds, arrived. Silas Drury entered a piece of land, where he built a cabin and lived until he sold out to Daniel Noble, when he moved to Rock Island county, town of Drury, which bears his name. He then built a large mill on Copperas creek, familiarly known to all the old settlers as Drury's mill.

Mr. Drury's father, Charles Drury, and J. P. Reynolds did not remain long in Illinois, but took passage on board a steamboat at New Boston on their way back to Indiana by way of Cincinnati.

Reynolds returning the same season lived with Dr. Reynolds until the following spring of 1835, when he was married to Miss Hettie Elliott, formerly from Morgan county, Indiana. This was the first marriage in the township, which event is distinctly remembered from the circumstance that followed. Reynolds died in just four weeks after the wedding day, and was buried in Eliza cemetery.

Charles Drury, returning in the fall of 1835, was also married to Miss Nancy Prentice, who died eleven months after. He then moved to Rock Island county and studied medicine with Dr. Reynolds, after which he married Mrs. Eliza McGreer, moved back and practiced medicine throughout the township, living upon what is known as the E. W. Mardock farm. He quit the practice of medicine in 1851 and moved to Oregon.

Page 272- Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter

To the Drury family is also due the establishment of several mills, Isaiah and Silas Drury building a grist-mill, a sawmill and a Wool-carding machine, quite a novelty in those days, on Copperas creek, as early as 1837. To these mills, operated by water power, came the settlers from miles around, carrying their grain on horse-back, or in flat-boats, if they made the trip by water. Going to the mill was a journey those days, and often was used as a reward of merit, to be bestowed upon the best worker on the family farm.

[Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter]

Reynolds Drury was the first storekeeper of the township. He opened his little store at the landing that bore the name of his family, and he was the only trader within a number of miles, did a large business. In return for the grain and pork of the settlers, he furnished them with the bare necessities of life.

Probably weeks went by without the exchange of a single cent of money, for currency was scarce in those days. There was but little need of it, the merchant readily accepting produce in trade for his goods.

To the Drury family is also due the establishment of several mills, Isaiah and Silas Drury building a grist-mill, a sawmill and a Wool-carding machine, quite a novelty in those days, on Copperas creek, as early as 1837. To these mills, operated by water power, came the settlers from miles around, carrying their grain on horse-back, or in flat-boats, if they made the trip by water.

Going to the mill was a journey those days, and often was used as a reward of merit, to be bestowed upon the best worker on the family farm.

[Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Mercer County, 1914; Submitted by Mary Lou Schaechter]

Rock Island County, Illinois Genealogy Trails