Friday, October 10, 2014

Thollie Wilbur Druley (1879-1952)

From the 1933 Indiana State Senate composite portrait.

    In the near two hundred year history of the Indiana state senate you'd be hard-pressed to find a name funnier than Thollie Wilbur Druley, a two-term senator from the county of Wayne. A farmer and teacher in that county for a good majority of his life, Mr. Druley is also one of the more obscure Hoosier political figures I've profiled thus far, and the following write-up on Druley could not have been possible without the help of the Wayne County Historical Museum in Richmond, Indiana.  As it stands now there is but a tiny amount of information available online in regards to Mr. Druley, and I'm pleased to relate that upon the completion of the following article there will be at least one biography for him available online, and this would not have been possible without the help of Sue King and the staff at the Wayne County Historical Museum!!
  A lifelong resident of Wayne County, Thollie Wilbur Druley was one of three sons born to local farmer Joseph S. Druley and Mollie Rutter Druley, his birth occurring in Boston Township on January 2, 1879.  His early life was centered around work upon the family farm as well as attending the Richmond High School. He continued his education at the Earlham College and Purdue University and married on November 25, 1903 to Emma Elizabeth Minneman (died 1967). The couple would later become the parents of three children: Pauline (1905-2005), Ivan (1907-1998) and Byron (1911-1984).
   Around 1910 Druley took over the operations of the family farm from his father and would continue to farm for the remainder of his life. Druley began a longstanding connection to civic and religious affairs in Richmond when in October 1910 he spoke at a rally celebrating Richmond's centennial, and in addition to farming was a school teacher and member of the Boston township school board.  As a member of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Richmond Druley is also recorded as having taught Sunday school classes for many years.
   Beginning in 1918 Th0llie Druley took on the position of superintendent of the Wayne County Sunday School Association and in this role was prominent in the running of Wayne County's annual Rally Day. In the October 1928 notice (shown below) Druley is also noted as being a member of the Wayne County "organization committee" that would take part in the Indiana Young People's conference being held in Richmond that month.

From the Richmond Item, Sept, 23, 1928, (courtesy of the Wayne County Historical Museum.)

    Thollie W. Druley made his first move into Hoosier state politics in 1921 when he became a candidate for the state legislature from Wayne County. As one of three Democratic candidates vying for the seat Druley garnered only 800 votes, being defeated by Republican incumbent James M. Knapp, who polled 5, 473. Druley's political fortunes changed in 1930 when he was a successful candidate for the Indiana senate. 
    Taking his seat at the start of the 1931-33 term Druley was the primary sponsor of the so-called "Druley bill" during that session of the legislature. The bill (which "provided for diverting fees from county officials to the general fund and for placing all county officials on straight salaries to be fixed by county councils") was noted as having resulted in "much agitation", which culminated in a rather humorous incident in 1932. The Vidette-Messenger reported in its August 3rd edition that the Druley bill had been stolen from the desk of state Rep. J.W. Ellyson, and that a grand jury investigation into the theft had been announced by then-House Speaker Walter Myers. However, the brouhaha proved to be short-lived, as Rep. Ellyson (who had been in possession of the bill) had inadvertently left it in the "legislative reference bureau" a day prior to it being discovered missing.
    In November 1932 Druley was elected to a second term in the senate and served until the close of the session. He was an unsuccessful candidate for a third senate term in November 1934, narrowly losing the election to Republican Albert Ferris, 10, 886 votes to 10, 292.  Druley made one further attempt at reelection in 1941 when he was a candidate for state representative, being defeated in November by Lee J. Reynolds (1877-1955), who bested him by over 4,000 votes.

From the 1931 Indiana State Senate composite portrait.

    After his time in state government, Druley returned to his farm on the "Boston pike" and busied himself with memberships in several fraternal groups, including both the Eagles and Lion's lodges and the local Masonic chapter. The life of this oddly named state senator came to an end in rather unusual circumstances of the afternoon of March 27, 1952 as the result of a tractor accident which occurred on his farm. On that date Druley had been using a tractor to remove boulders from a field on his property when it overturned, pinning him underneath. Byron Druley discovered his father two hours  later and his death was recorded by his death certificate as being the result of a "crushed chest"
    Following funeral services at the Trinity Lutheran Church Thollie Druley was interred at the Lutherania Cemetery in Richmond. He was survived by all of his children and his wife Emma, who passed away in 1967. Pauline Druley Kaufman, the Druley's eldest child, was also the last surviving of their three children, dying in March 2005, six months short of her 100th birthday.

Druley's obituary (courtesy of the Wayne County Historical Museum), from the Palladium, Mar. 28, 1952.


  1. Thollie Druley is my great grandfather. My father was raised on the farm in which Thollie died of a tractor overturning and I have been there many times. My cousin still lives there with her family. Signed, Todd E. Druley. St. Louis, MO. July 25, 2016.

  2. I too am the great grandchild of Thollie, and Todd's sister from above. One thing not mentioned about him is that he was also a published author. He wrote many poems, mostly sonnets, and a wonderful violin player!