May 1, 2004
The Hopedale Penny Post
I received an e-mail a couple of weeks ago asking about the origin of the name of the Hopedale Senior
Ruth team, the Js. (Or maybe it's the J's.) Let me know if you have the answer and I'll pass it on.
Today's story is another one from Hopedale Reminiscences. It's by Susan Thwing Whitney and it tells
how the mail was handled and delivered in the early Community. Last year, a children's picture book
on life in early Hopedale, based in part on Susan's story, was written by Lynn Hughes, a member of the
Friends of Adin Ballou. You can purchase a copy through the Friends' website at http://www.adinballou.
The Post Office
Had you chanced to be in Hopedale fifty years ago , or a little earlier, you might have seen a
chubby, rosy girl, with brown eyes and hair, who, every evening, except Sunday, between seven and
eight traveled over that part of Hopedale between Hope Street and the Corner. It was not Patrick's
Corner then. If you had happened to meet this little girl some stormy evening in winter, you could have
seen that she wore a warm hood, rubber boots and leather mittens.
In one hand she carried a lantern, a queer four-sided lantern, three sides of which were of glass and
the fourth side had a handle to carry it by, and would also open, so the lamp could be taken out to be
filled with whale-oil. In the other hand she carried a carpet-bag from which she took sometimes a
letter and sometimes a paper, which she left in a house nearby.
So, allow me to present to you, Susie Thwing, one of the first mail carriers of Hopedale. The other
carrier, whose route was the upper part of the village, was Anna Thwing, her sister.
When the Community was first started the mail for Hopedale was brought from the Milford Post Office
by any one who happened to go there. About 1853 when Appendix A of the Constitution of the
Community was written, Enactment 8 provided for establishing a Post Office in Hopedale. Soon after,
my mother, Mrs. Almon Thwing, was elected Post Mistress. All mail leaving Hopedale was carried to
my father's, who lived where Mrs. Charles M. Day's house is. (It's the house directly across Hopedale
Street from the library.)The letters were counted and securely locked in a bag, which was carried to the
Milford Post Office by Mr. Pliny Southwick, or whoever drove the “express” to and from the railroad
station. There were two mails daily, each way. The first arrived here in the middle of the forenoon, and
the other, about half past six in the afternoon, but the carriers were only on duty after the latter.
Some of the older residents will no doubt remember the sing, “Letter Box,” over a hole cut in the south
side of my father's house, where the mail could be dropped into a box in the wood-shed.
To pay for the work of carrying and caring for the mails, a little stamp was issued which cost the sender
or receiver of a letter, living in Hopedale, one and one half cents, The first issue was a pink, oblong
stamp, about an inch long, and the second was square and yellow, and both had printed on them, the
works “Hopedale Penny Post.” When carrying the mail I also carried a supply of these stamps in a pen-
box in my bag, and if the receiver of a letter had no little stamp to give in return, he usually tendered a
silver three-cent piece and I gave him a stamp. On the outgoing mail the Hopedale stamp was affixed
to the middle of the back of the envelope.
There were only fourteen or fifteen houses on my route then, and the Hopedale Home School received
the greater number of letters. The best remembered newspapers that came in the mail, were the
“New York Tribune,” “The Liberator,” “Worcester Spy,” and “Woonsocket Patriot.” As Hopedale grew the
Post Office was transferred to the grocery story, first to the house where I now reside, when Mr. Ansel
Harlow was store-keeper and post-master. I can show you where the hole was cut in my front door to
receive the mail.
After the Home School was closed and the school-house was altered into a dwelling-house, Mr.
Hiram Gibson had a grocery-store there, and filled both positions. That was in the first house north of
the Town House. I think the little stamp was used until Hopedale had a regular United States Post-
Office. These stamps have now become objects of interest to stamp-collectors. One has recently
been sold by a Hopedale lady for five dollars, and had it been a perfect stamp it would have brought her
more money. Sometimes I carried other letters than those that came in “Uncle Sam's” mail-bag.
There lived in Hopedale, in a little house at the corner of Union and Dutcher Streets, although Dutcher
Street was not there then, four unmarried sisters. Mary Ann, albeit the youngest, so much desired to be
married that she advertised for a husband in some paper. I think it was the “Phrenological Journal.”
One morning Mr. Humphrey came to my father's and asked if I would do an errand for a man who was
stopping at his house. I gladly consented and upon going to the gentleman received a letter which I
was requested to carry to Mary Ann Hayward and wait for a reply. I distinctly remember what excitement
prevailed among the sisters and how Mary Ann hastened to pen the answer. This I duly carried to the
waiting gentleman and O, what bliss!! I received a bright new ten-cent piece for my trouble. The man
proved to be Justin Soule who had answered Mary Ann's advertisement. Soon after they were married
and, as far as I know, lived happily ever after. Susan Thwing Whitney, Hopedale, Massachusetts
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Susan Thwing Whitney