Let’s Talk Clovis: Frank Drury, Grand Old Man of Clovis

By Peg Bos |  Clovis Museum

Frank Holloway Drury (1852-1953) remains “The Grand Old Man of Clovis.” He was a charismatic, successful human being when he arrived in Clovis in 1906. In addition to his many accomplishments, he had two life goals: “To see President Franklin Roosevelt out of office and to live to be 100 years old.” He realized both.

Frank was born on May 8, 1852 in Cooper Township, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. He was the fifth of seven children. Only three would survive to adulthood. During the Civil War, 10-year-old Frank would earn six bits (75 cents) for clearing and plowing 40 acres with a team of oxen. Wheat was selling for $2 a bushel at that time.

In 1885, the Drury family moved to Cass County, Missouri which was located in the beautiful plateau region of the Ozark Mountains. Frank was very active in church affairs, school and politics. He organized the Independent Telephone Co. that fought Bell Telephone and won. He built a timber dam across Finley River for the Ozark Electric Co. He helped organize the Ozark Special Road District and was their first supervisor.

Marcus Pollasky brought the San Joaquin Valley Railroad to Clovis in 1891 and commissioned Ingvart Teilman to subdivide the square acre of land that would become the City of Clovis. The influential Shepherd and Teague Land Company hired H. G. DeWitt (retired Baptist Minister) to market the property.

DeWitt (a Clovis street is named after him) did not have a realtor license and he hired Frank Drury as his sales manager. Their office was located on the northeast corner of Fourth and Pollasky. Their marketing pitch: “Money loaned, long term, low interest. Buy a lot in Clovis before they are all sold.”

Drury would frequently sell land to young Clovis families with no down payment and years to pay with minimal interest. He would provide low rentals for struggling families.

His wife Hannah suffered from asthma and he moved her to Pine Ridge which is approximately eight miles east of Auberry. He would leave at noon Saturday in a one horse buggy, switch to a double team on Tollhouse Road to reach his wife by sunrise the next day. He would return on the same day in the late afternoon. He trusted his team and could relax and sleep on the journey home after passing the steep part of the grade.

Daughter Pearl Drury arrived in Clovis in 1903 to visit the Lewis P. Gibson family. The City of Clovis incorporated on Feb. 27, 1912. Lewis P. Gibson was elected President (Mayor) and Frank Drury was elected to the Board of Directors. Frank was not re-elected at a second election held on April 8, 1912.

Pearl would marry Friant rancher Harry Willis Ball. Their daughter Azalea Ball Knight Biglione was born on Jan. 1, 1909 at the home Harry built on the present sight of the Clovis Veteran’s Memorial Building.

Frank’s son, Clayton W. Drury (1875-1950), enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1899 and mustered out in 1902. He moved to Clovis after WWI. He was a plumber and became the Plumbing Inspector for the City of Clovis. His young son James Frank would die at age 14.

The Drury home was located at 446 Oxford. Their garden was decorated with many figurines. Its uniqueness provided a show place for many years.

Frank enjoyed speeding and the community called his car the “blue streak.” His license was suspended and he retaliated by riding his favorite strawberry roan (stabled at his home) daily to Old Town. He was Grand Marshall of the Clovis Rodeo in 1950.

Frank’s personal strength and community spirit is a part of our rich heritage.