Abolitionists in Hopedale

     This plaque, obtained by a grant from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor written
    by Elaine Malloy, was placed on the grounds of Sacred Heart Church on Hopedale Street in 2002.  The
    nearby treebelt between the street and sidewalk was considered as a location for the marker but the
    Highway Department advised against it, so the churchyard was chosen as the best site available.  The
    anti-slavery meetings were said to have been held in Nelson's Grove, a half mile south of the village.  
    The house on the other side of the railroad tracks from the plaque  (155 Hopedale Street) was one of
    the original Community homes. Perhaps some of the famous speakers stayed there during their visits.

     Since the wording on the picture of the plaque may be difficult to read, it is reprinted below.:

     Adin Ballou and his followers, the original members of the Hopedale Community, called themselves
    Practical Christians.  Believing in the brotherhood of man, they were opposed to slavery.  In the late
    1840s and into the 1850s, abolitionists would meet in this vicinity on August first to celebrate
    emancipation in the British West Indies and to express their outrage with American slavery.  Together
    they would picnic in Nelson's Grove near the Mill River.  Included among the prominent guests were
    William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Lucy Stone Blackwell, and Abby Kelley Foster.  Notable
    escaped slaves, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Henry "Box" Brown, and William and Ellen Craft
    came to tell their stories.

    Here is how Ballou describes the event in 1854:   Celebration of West India Emancipation.  It was our
    custom at Hopedale, as radical Abolitionsts, to celebrate from year to year the Anniversary of
    Emancipation of 800,000 slaves in the British West Indies; an event which took place by a decree of
    the English Government on the 1st of August, 1834.  This was done on the year in review in a pleasant
    grove near the southerly border of our domain, half a mile from the central part of our village.  It was
    estimated that an audience of about  eight hundred  persons was in regular attendance upon the
    exercises and that not less than a thousand visited the grounds during the day.  Besides speakers of
    our own, Adin Ballou, Wm. H. Fish, and Wm. S. Heywood, there were present from outside, Rev. James
    T. Woodbury of Milford, Rev. Robert Hassell of Mendon, Rev. John Boyden of Woonsocket, R. I., Rev.
    Geo. S. Ball of Upton, Rev. Daniel S. Whitney of Southboro, and those well-known redoubtable
    champions of Impartial Liberty, Henry C. Wright and Charles C. Burleigh.  There was also with us a
    remarkable colored woman, once a slave in the State of New York, Sojourner Truth, whose
    impassioned utterances on the occasion were like the fiery outbursts of some ancient prophet of God
    "lifting up his voice like a trumpet and showing the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob
    their sins."  The general tone of the meeting and the nature of the testimonials given may be inferred
    from one of the seven resolutions passed, which in view of what afterward transpired, seems like a
    veritable prophecy written by inspiration from on high, as evidenced by its reproduction here:

     Resolved, That the celebration of this day naturally turns our eyes to the horrible abomination of
    American slavery and inspires us with fearful forebodings of the tremendous retribution which our
    professedly Republican nation is treasuring up for itself by obstinately persisting in the perpetration of
    its unparalleled crimes against God and humanity; that we abhor and deplore the brazen impudence
    with which its government justifies the wickedness of enslaving millions of beings confessedly
    endowed with unalienable human rights; that we behold in its merciless Fugitive Slave Laws, in its
    insatiable ambition to extend the ravages of slavery into new territories, in its daily declension from all
    its former professed love of liberty, in its utter contempt of British emancipation, in the recklessness of
    its aspiring politicians, in the subserviency of all its departments to the dictation of slaveholders, in its
    constitutional, inherent, habitual, confirmed, and inveterate pro-slavery tendencies, unmistakable
    evidence that it is ripening for some terrible convulsion -- some overwhelming visitation of calamity, in
    which the whole nation must inevitably share."  Adin Ballou, History of the Hopedale Community, pp.
    266 - 268.

    And Edward Spann's book about Hopedale has this to say: As in the past, the village made 1 August,
    the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, a day for a major celebration of
    freedom. In 1856 over a thousand people from the vicinity gathered at a "sweet pine grove" south of
    the village to listen to speeches by Ballou and various other local abolitionists, including George
    Stacy, and to sing "stirring Anti-Slavery songs." The gathering also approved thirteen antislavery
    resolutions that concluded with a renewal of dedication to the great goal: "Slavery nowhere but Liberty
    everywhere, throughout our nation and throughout the world." In 1857 another large crowd, which
    included William Lloyd Garrison, again gathered at Hopedale to celebrate the cause of freedom, in
    part with songs composed for the occasion by members of the community. That the commitment to
    freedom was more than mere theory is indicated by the census of 1860, where one of Hopedale's two
    black residents, Henry Johnson, was boldly identified as an "Alabama fugitive."  Edward Spann,
    Hopedale: Commune to Company Town, pp. 141 - 142.

         Underground Railroad        Anna Thwing Fields' memories of abolitionists' visits to Hopedale      

                                
Abolitionism in Milford, Hopedale and Mendon     Underground Railroad House     

                                    
Rosetta Hall, Escaped Slave      Abolition Meeting, Milford Methodist Church  

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