Selection of a Site for Fraternal Community No. 1
The Community was now fully organized and equipped for service whenever an opportunity for service, by the purchase and occupancy of a proper domain, should occur. Meanwhile the President and Intendants, both as a Board of Trustees and as Executive council, were in frequent consultation by personal interview or by letter in regard to the general affairs of the body they represented, as well as in regard to the particular duties of the positions they respectively occupied. They were united in the determination to commence practical operations at the earliest possible date. The first thing to be done was of course to secure a location, and a large section of country was brought under consideration as the field from which a selection was ultimately to be made. This field was narrowed down very much by a critical examination, until the judgment of the council settled upon a single farm, which seemed to offer more advantages and fewer disadvantages than any other and which was in due time made the site of the Community.
Much thinking and much planning was done subsequently to the meeting in April, of which the public knew nothing. It was regarded as good policy for us to keep our own counsels and noise our doings abroad as little as possible, until something definite was decided upon and we were prepared to go forward with our work in a well-ordered, systematic, effective way. The doings of our April meeting even were not published in The Practical Christian, and the fact of one organization was known only to those immediately concerned and a few of our more deeply interested and intimate friends. At length, just before our next meeting, on the 21st of August, Br. David R. Lamson, in the leading editorial of our little journal, discussed the subject of “Communities” in a general way, treating of the advantages to be derived from the mode of life which they provided for, and setting forth in a few particulars its superiority when compared to that existing under the established order of society. Only a few hints were thrown out in the article of what had been already done by us, or of what we had planned and were preparing to do at an early day.
The third meeting of the Community was held at Millville, Mass., where Bro. William H. Fish was pastor of the Restorationist Church, on Thursday, the 26th day of August 1841. The first business transacted was the consideration of a Report from the Executive Council relating to the purchase of a farm and the incipient steps taken toward a settlement of the members upon it. That Report gave a detailed statement concerning two estates that were for sale, both of which had been carefully examined and were deemed desirable. It said:
“They are both situated on Mill River in the westerly part of Milford adjacent to the Mendon line, about a mile distant from each other, and have respectable mill privileges. The most southerly of them had formerly been known as ‘the Green Farm,’ but latterly as ‘the Grady place.’ The other lies…higher up the stream and was formerly called the ‘Jones Place,’ but later the ‘Hastings Daniels place.’ The last contains over 258 acres in one body, inclusive of the old roads which run through it. Some 35 acres are woodland, 13 of which are said to contain well-grown wood; the rest is mostly sprout land of from three to six years growth and generally very thrifty. Large quantities of wood have been cut and sold off this farm within the past few years. There are from 10 to 20 acres of very young sprout land on another part of the farm. It has from 50 to 75 acres of mowing and probably cuts not less than forty tons of hay, much of it good English hay. It has been rented for the last thirty years, and its productions cannot be definitely stated, though always respectable. It keeps from sixteen to twenty head of cattle, and has an abundance of good pasturage. It has a large amount of orcharding and smaller fruitage. The land is naturally divided into sandy, ledgy, and gravelly loams. A fair proportion is tolerably smooth and free. It has great capabilities and advantages as a farm, and would, with good management, produce a large income. The buildings are old and in rather poor repair, though comfortable for the present. There is a dwelling-house two stories high, some 30 by 38 feet ground measurement, with back kitchen and other appurtenances. It has two barns of perhaps 30 by 40 feet in size, a cider house, and various outbuildings. There is no mill on the premises, and only the remains of an old dam. But the fall of the river is 24 feet, affording fine opportunities for applying it to various mechanical establishments. It was ascertained that this property was in the market and could be bought at the comparatively modest price of $3800, less than $15 per acre, to be paid on coming into possession of it, April 1, 1842.
“Taking into consideration the great capabilities and advantages of this estate, together with the price and the probability that it might be purchased by some other party at an early day, the President deemed it his duty to buy it in his own name and assume the responsibility of securing it for the Community. He accordingly entered into a contract for it with Mr. Cyrus Ballou, who had recently bought it; which contract was ratified by the proper writings being passed between them on the 30th day of June last. This act has received the cordial approbation and sanction of the Council, who take pleasure in declaring unanimously that it has greatly enhanced the prospects of the Community and opened the way for the successful settlement in compact form and the industrial organization of its now widely scattered members.
It would be very desirable, if the Community had the pecuniary means to purchase the ‘Grady place’ and other adjacent lands immediately. But the Council cannot express any hope that the necessary funds will be forthcoming at present. They therefore recommend the abandonment of any attempt to make further real estate purchases till the assurance of more capital shall warrant it. They are confident that the Community will be able to pay for the estate bought by the President and begin improvements thereon in a few months. They therefore advise that all its energies and resources be forthwith concentrated on this estate; to pay for it, erect buildings and other works thereon, and cultivate the land. They are not without hopes that some kind of a beginning may be made on the premises during the ensuing autumn. If the property could be paid for and improvements on it commenced this fall. It would be highly auspicious and advantageous to the fraternity. It is, however, recommended to proceed with all due caution, and to enter upon no measures of expenditure not fully warranted by our resources and all the circumstances of the case.
“The Council are happy to assure the Community that the number of persons anxious to unite with them in this enterprise is rapidly increasing. One here and another there of the pure and good, the honest and the oppressed, are eager to join in one energetic, industrious brotherhood as soon as a home and profitable employment can be furnished them. There are several individuals and families so situated that it is quite inconvenient for them to wait till we can provide for them. It is therefore suggested whether measures might not be taken to fit up and furnish the Community dwelling-house at the earliest possible day, with a view to locate such members and organize the industry of as many operatives as can be boarded on the estate. It is also suggested whether tenements in the surrounding neighborhood might not be secured for such families as cannot be sheltered there, and whether a school cannot be commenced at an early day. If the members could thus be approaching a center, and be employed a part or all of the time in the service of the Community; if a school could be opened, a library founded, a printing office established, and other humble beginnings made, our social fabric would gradually rise to its intended height without conflicting effort or perceptible difficulty.
“Should the Community deem it proper to entrust the Council with discretionary power to act in accordance with their own judgment relative to all these matters, and guarantee the necessary appropriation of funds, it is believed that measures might be taken to accomplish much for the common interest.
“The Council would respectfully suggest that the time has now arrived when it is necessary for the Community to enact certain important By-Laws. They have accordingly appealed to this Report the draft of a series of Resolves and By-Laws which they believe ought to be passed immediately.
“All which, being reported for consideration, they now respectfully submit to the disposal of their constituents.
“By order of the Council,
“Adin Ballou, Pres’t.”
Adin Ballou, History of the Hopedale Community, pp. 49-52.
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