Confessions of Boyhood
By John Albee
Universalism, temperance, peace and abolition on Sunday afternoons following the morning
services in his neighboring parish, the Hopedale Community. As my family was attached to the
Baptist and Methodist persuasion I cannot now imagine what drew them to hear this famous
reformer of society and religion. They must have attended in this hall, for though I cannot recall
anything else. I do remember going to sleep there in the hot summer afternoon in my sister's lap.
But any kind of a meeting was a temptation not to be resisted in that little community. Adin Ballou
was in full sympathy with all the other reformers and transcendentalists of the Commonwealth and
when I search myself for an explanation of my early and intuitive attraction to their ideals I sometimes
fancy they must have visited me in my sleep in that old hall, or perhaps I heard something which lay
like a seed in the unconscious, secret recesses of my being until time and circumstances called it
forth. For I find it recorded that he fired his hearers with aspirations for "grand objects and noble
The paragraph above was copied for us (Elaine and Dan Malloy) by Myla Thayer when we were
working on our book on Hopedale during the spring of 2002. Elaine inquired about a source of
information on the Green Store and was told that we should contact Myla who had been a member of
the Community Bible Chapel for many years. When we first visited her, a carpenter was making
repairs to damage done by a car that had crashed into her house in the middle of the night, several
months earlier. Myla, well into her 90s, seemed to have taken the accident in stride and was evidently
sleeping well, not worrying about a possible repeat of the accident. She provided us with all the
information we needed and even copied the lines above from John Albee's Confessions of Boyhood.
We used some of Albee's recollections in a caption under a picture of the Green Store in the book. DM
History of South Hopedale Bellingham Historical Commission Green Store article
Milford News Green Store article HOME
John was a little boy. He began to work at twelve years of age as a farmer's boy, clerk, etc., but was
sent away later to school and college, and graduated at the Harvard Divinity School in 1858. While
he was a teacher and a preacher in Western Massachusetts he was married, and his wife, who was
a nurse for love of the work, established a remarkable charitable hospital in Boston. They had a
beautiful home on the seashore at Newcastle, N. H., where he wrote books of poetry and
imagination. He was one of the chief supporters of the Concord School of Philosophy, lectured
there, and edited the Portsmouth, N. H., daily paper awhile.
His second wife was a writer also, and their home was at Tamworth, N. H. His "Confessions of
Boyhood" is an imaginative autobiography, with pictures of life in Bellingham long ago. His home
was not far from the Scammel house at South Milford, and he never lived in a village here. Here are
a few sentences from that book.
"The traveller, journeying through the highways of Bellingham, would see nothing to attract his
attention or interest. It has no monuments, ruins nor historic associations; no mountain, nor hill
even. The Charles River has travelled so little way from its source as hardly yet to be a river. The soil
is stony and pays back not much more than is put into it. The fine forests of white oak have been
mostly reduced to ashes. Scrub oak and gray birch have taken their places, but do not fill them.
No eminent sons have yet remembered the town with noble benefactions. It has had no poet and
no mention in literature. The reporters pass it by. It is not even a suburb, last sad fate of many towns
and villages. This is one of the reasons for my attachment — its unchangeableness, its entire
satisfaction of sentiment.
Fortunate is the town with a river flowing through its whole length and boys and girls to accompany
its unhasting waters. It was made for them, also for the little fishes and the white-scented lilies. For
a few hours of the day the great floats of the mill wheel drank of it, sending it onward in the only
agitation it ever permitted itself. Then there was Bear Hill, though never a bear in the oldest memory,
yet the name was ominous to children.
Before cities and factories had begun to stir the ambition and attract the young by opportunities for
fortune and fame, Bellingham was the home of an intelligent, liberty-loving people. It was the best
place in the world to be born in. I thank Heaven for a town removed from the track of progress,
uninvaded by summer visitors and business enterprises; land left sacred to its native inhabitants, a
sluggish stream, unprofitable earth, huckleberry bushes and the imagination.
It grieves me that the Charles has never been celebrated in verse or prose, but by one short song
of Longfellow, while the Concord, which rises on the same watershed and almost from the same
spring, has had several famous poets and is historic in Revolutionary annals. Our stream wanders
a hundred miles in its efforts to find the ocean, and it never has any headlong haste to arrive. It
saunters like a schoolboy and stops to visit a thousand recesses and indentations of upland and
meadow. It stays for a cow to drink, or an alder to root itself in the bank, or to explore a swamp, and it
rather wriggles than runs through its eighteen townships. It is likely to stop at any one of them and
give up the effort to reach the sea. For my part I wish it had, and actually, as in my memory and fancy,
ended at the outermost shores of Bellingham." History of the town of Bellingham, Massachusetts,
1719-1919, George Fairbanks Partridge.