Hopedale May Be Young, But It Is Deep In History
By Virginia Cyr
town is young in comparison to other towns in the Commonwealth, it is rich in history.
It was born out of a Utopian dream of Rev. Adin Ballou, and it was founded on a socialistic concept.
On April 6, 1886, Hopedale was incorporated as a town and on April 6, 1986 a "Toast To The Town"
will be held at the Community House, marking the kickoff of a year of activities in conjunction with the
birth of the town.
Although the Draper family and its loom manufacturing business provide mulch of the history of the
town, that area of town referred to through the years as South Hopedale is also rich in history.
One of the oldest buildings in Hopedale is the home of Community Bible Chapel, which is located at
the corner of Hartford Avenue and South Main Street. The building is most commonly known as "The
Through the years, as long as most can remember, the building was painted green, but it recent
years it has had white siding and trim added to its exterior.
The building was almost lost to history a number of years ago, but the faith and effort of a few chapel
members saved it from demolition after it had been condemned by the Building Commissioner as
unsafe for use. It was at the re-dedication of the chapel, after extensive repairs had been made, that
Myla Thayer of Mendon, a long-time member of the chapel, who also serves as organist, delivered a
reading on the history of the building.
In the history which Miss Thayer prepared, she stated that the building had been constructed by Major
Samuel Penniman about 1780. If that is the case, it enjoys the distinction of having been constructed
during the Revolutionary War. Major Penniman owned a tavern to the east of the building. It was
located in what is now the middle of Route 140 and a narrow dirt road separated the new general
store (the Green Store) from the tavern. This area housed a thriving community. The Old Hartford
Turnpike (which is now Hartford Avenue) ran by the door and was the only direct route from the Boston
Colony to the Connecticut Colony.
The lower floor of the building was the general store until 1917. The upper floor had various uses.
The first record was about 1810 when Major Penniman brought into New England the new industry of
manufacturing straw bonnets. The braid was made by women and children of the surrounding area
who would bring the finished braid to Penniman and barter for needed household supplies.
On March 7, 1814, a post office was established in the store. It predated the Milford Post Office by
nine years and continued for 100 years, closing in 1914. According to Miss Thayer's history,
sometime between 1846 and 1853, 16 people from the First Baptist Church in Bellingham formed the
South Milford Baptist Church. They occupied the second floor and installed box pews. Each head of
the house had to buy his own pew for five dollars.
In the late 1850s, Samuel Gilbert bought the property and added the back section to the building. He
closed the original stairwell and built an outside stair with a door at the top that remained until
reconstruction began in 1978.
Rev. Adin Ballou held Sunday afternoon religious meetings at the building according to information
contained in records of the building.
Prior to 1916, a group of interested persons in the neighborhood formed the Chapel Association and
sought to buy some land to build their own church. Various possibilities were looked into, but nothing
In 1916, J. Stuart Cox, who owned the Green Store, wanted to sell it and the Chapel Association
bought it. The lower floor continued in use for one year after the sale and then it was taken over by the
association for its activities. As was the custom of the day, the Sunday afternoon services were
continued, with ministers from Milford and surrounding towns preaching.
On May 2, 1972 the state building inspector met with three members of Community Bible Chapel and
advised them that the building was being condemned.
The years had taken their toll on the underpinning, sills, floating support posts by rotting them, and
the roof and wall were parting on the upper northeast corner. The upper southwest corner, where the
posts were sagging, was a nesting site for birds.
A promise was made to the inspector that the building would not be used until a decision was made
about its future by the chapel members.
Meetings were held and the end options were to take down the building at a cost of $3,000 or rebuild
it at a cost of $75,000. The chapel members held services at the Franklin Gospel Mission in Franklin
while the building was in disuse. The parsonage, which is located near the chapel, was put into use
for services while the congregation prayed for a solution to the dilemma.
Various laymen and ministers came to preach on Sundays and in 1977, one who was Rev. Robert
MacDonald. He had a weekday ministry in Boston but was free on Sundays. It was through him that
things began to happen relating to the restoration of the building.
Early in March of 1978, Pastor MacDonald brought Ronald Boyd, who was both a contractor and a
minister, to meet with the chapel members. Boyd felt strongly that the building could be restored at a
figure that could be accepted by the congregation. Plans began. Boyd, who lived in Weymouth, would
move into the parsonage with his family in order to save time and money in travel expenses. He would
preach on Sundays. On Christmas Day in 1978, three months after he had started the work, the first
service since the building was condemned in 1972, was held in the building. The service was held on
the lower floor, because the upper level had not been completed. In 1982, the work was completed on
the entire building and because of the faith and prayers of the chapel members, the building stands
as a proud reminder of its heritage. Milford Daily News, March 22, 1986.
Green Store article by John Albee Green Store article from Crimpville Comments
Community Bible Chapel Hopedale South of Route 16
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