A painter of landscapes and a minister, George Burton Drake was born August 3, 1870, in Eagle, New York. An only child after the death of his brother, he was enlisted early on to assist his father, whose injury during fighting the Civil War left him without the use of his right arm.
He took up painting while a student at Pike Academy, and learned working in oil, watercolor, as well as pencil sketching. Drake was also a gifted carpenter and tinsmith. He attended Ridgeville College in Indiana, where he met his future wife. They married in 1891, and Drake pursued a career as a minister. His wife died in 1893, and in 1894 he moved to South Wardsboro, Vermont, to work as a congregational aide.
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