Hopedale History No. 4

    The following was written in 1910 by Frank Dutcher for Hopedale Reminiscinces, a booklet put out by
    the Ladies' Sewing Society and Branch Alliance.  In that year they contacted about a dozen people who
    had been children during the early days of the Hopedale Community and asked them to write down
    some of their memories of those years.  Click here to read the full version of Dutcher's paper.

    In these days of Christmas trees, public and private, in all religious denominations, it is difficult to
    realize that the evolution of the Christmas tree in this country covers comparatively few years; and that
    the little village of Hopedale was one of the pioneers in this line, some sixty years ago.

    It is desirable at the outset to remember that the Hopedale environment at that time was quite different.  
    Hopedale was a village of 200 to 300 people, in the town of Milford.

    With this small isolated community, affairs of Church and State were closely identified.  Up to 1856 all
    families, or at least one of the heads, belonged to the Community, and thus all church services and
    festivals were of general interest.  My first Christmas at Hopedale was in the year 1856, and to obtain
    earlier data I have looked over the file of the “Practical Christian,” a semi-weekly paper edited by Mr.  
    Ballou and published from 1840 to 1860.  Unfortunately the earlier volumes were devoted more to local
    news, and the first mention of the local Christmas exercises at length, is in what was called the
    “Youths’ Department,” edited by Mrs. Margaret E.  Fish, in the January 14th issue of 1854.
    The following extracts are from three long columns of special report: --

    “Christmas Festival.” “The people of Hopedale had a Christmas festival of Saturday, Dec.  24th, ult.,
    commencing at 2:30 P.M.  The exercises commenced by singing an originally hymn, composed by
    Joseph Bailey.  A prayer was then offered by William H.  Fish, which was succeeded by a welcome
    spoken by Eddie Hewitt, aged about eleven, after which we listened to a song from the infant class, “Let
    Us Love One Another.” An address was then delivered by Adin Ballou.  (I've omitted the summary of the
    address.)

    The address was followed by a song from the little children commencing, “I want to be an angel.” We
    next listened to a declamation for Ida Albee, and another by Eben Bancroft, little children about six years
    of age.  Then Willie Fish and Willie Draper spoke the dialogue between William Penn and King
    Charles.  Two declamations followed, one by Ellen Walker, aged about nine, another by Amanda Albee,
    “The Best Use of a Penny.” “The Three Prayers” was then spoken by Lizzie Wentworth, about nine years
    of age: a declamation followed from Asa Inman five or six years of age.  Next we had a fairy song, which
    the writer of this sketch was not ethereal enough to understand.

    “Take the spade of perseverance,” “Dig the field of progress wide,” was then spoken by Lizzie Humphry,
    about thirteen years of age.

    Then came some thrilling music performed by Willie Draper on the seraphine, Lyman Allen on the flute
    and W.  W.  Cook on the violin.  A piece was the spoken by Frances Draper, aged about six, entitled, “Is
    It Sunday?” Little Susan Thwing then spoke a piece of poetry illustrating the mother’s love.  Next came a
    piece spoken by Joseph Harlow, aged about twelve, Asa Inman, Eben Bancroft, and Susan Thwing,
    showing the unhappiness arising from selfishness.

    The reporter goes on with an additional array of single declamations by Emily Sutcliff, Hattie Walker,
    Anne Munyan, Elisha Davis, Allen Price, Lucy Lillie and others.  Dialogues of two, four and six
    characters each are interspersed with extracts and descriptions.

    We then had some conundrums which were got up for the occasion by Joseph Bailey, and were in the
    form of a dialogue, and spoken by four young persons.  This excited some mirth which seemed to be
    relished …The exercises were closed by a song, “Good-night.” Midway in the program, “came a simple
    repast of bread and butter, plain cake, and popcorn.”

                                                        
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