In the Hopedale history e-letter of June 1, I passed a question on to you folks about the origin of the
Hopedale Senior Ruth team name, the Js. By the next morning I had an answer. It came from Rick
Buroni. Here it is:
I think the J's came from Ben Phillips who founded the team back in the 70's. It was a take off on the
Elton John song, Benny and the Jets. One of my classmates was part of the team back then. I'll pop
him off a note to see if I'm way off. Rick
A few hours later Rick got back to me with confirmation from Ron Larson, who wrote:
Bennie (Ben Phillips) and the Jets (J's)
I send these stories to more than fifty people. A couple of them were in Hopedale back in the twenties
and thirties and we have the rest of the time up to the present well covered. It occurred to me after
getting an answer to the Js question so quickly that others might have questions about Hopedale that I
could post here. If you have one, send it to me and I’ll include it with the next story and we’ll see what
The early Hopedale Community had many members who were quite interested in spiritual healing and
communicating with the dead. It seems that séances were held fairly frequently. Last fall, Elaine was
asked to speak at a meeting of the Friends of Adin Ballou. We spent quite a few hours at the library
collecting information for the speech, much of it from the Community newspaper, The Practical
Christian, and some from another paper published in Hopedale, The Spiritual Reformer. Here’s the
part of the talk that covered spiritualism.
In the May 1855 issue of the Practical Christian, a story relates that “Charles Main, a medium of
spiritual manifestations from Boston, to whom was given a somewhat remarkable gift of healing,
made us a 2 days visit a fortnight since, for the purpose of relieving, if possible, the physical ailments
of some of our people. His labors here, so far as can be judged, were not altogether ineffectual. It is
thought by many that he will be able to alleviate, if not entirely cure, the pains and debilities of years.
He relates some most striking cases of spirit-healing through his mediumship. At a public meeting on
Sunday evening, the 20th, he exhibited a large number of drawings executed with much taste and
design by the use of the hands of persons entirely unacquainted with the art. Who laughs at our
gullibility? Let them read this item and laugh again!”
This subject was apparently important in those days of Hopedale. The “Spiritual Reformer,” August
1860, had a detailed story, “Spirit Manifestations,” at John J. Gilbert's residence, Milford. “A company,
mostly of Hopedale, met Jul 2, to witness the manifestations through Annie E. Lord, of Portland, ME.
Among the members of the circle, seated around a long table (with a musician outside to play an
introductory tune), were well known personages of this village- PB Southwick, William and Abbie S.
Heywood, Principals of the Home School, the editors of this paper (Harriet N. Greene and Bryan J.
Butts), and others. On a small, adjacent table, at one end of the circle, near the medium, rested a
guitar, tambourines, several bells, a vase of flowers, two drumsticks - the drum being placed under the
table. Mrs. G. and Miss Fannie Davis, the celebrated trance speaker, sat next to the medium, on either
side. Adjoining them opposite each other, sat Mr. H and Mr. S, whose hands were continuously
manipulated by the hands of the medium during the manifestations which followed. All the other
hands in the circle being joined, the light was removed, and the outside musician played. “Soon the
guitar was heard to vibrate, touching the high ceiling overhead, and the floor outside of the circle-
passing over the heads of several persons and touching others. The bells were rung, the
tambourines played with violence, the drum sounded several times; flowers were distributed (not
thrown apparently) in different parts of the circle. “At one time, as the guitar was at rest on the long
table in front of Mr. H, he touched it, by moving his hand forward, without violating a previous direction
given by the spirits, 'not to break the circle.' The absolute darkness would preclude the medium from
any occult knowledge of this simple circumstance; yet she, or the spirits through her, immediately said,
'You should not touch the instrument if you do not break the circle.' Mr. H thinks this circumstance
alone, a strong proof of the intelligence beyond that of the medium, or the circle.
“When the light was brought into the room, the small table was entirely stripped of its previous loads,
and the long table was displayed with flowers, musical instruments, etc.
“Another evening, July 4, we again attended the circle convened at J. G. Gilbert's. On this evening, the
drum was suspended between the ceiling and floor, and it seemed impossible for the medium to
reach it without moving from the table. Now, if Miss Lord “humbugged” us on those evenings, Mrs.
Gilbert, Miss Davis, as well as others, were easily duped. Who thinks it? We do not. The drum was
played upon with favorable force; the guitar and other instruments were carried round the room, and
played while passing over our heads. There was a pitcher of water standing on the mantel, out of the
medium's reach; Mr. Dutcher and others were pretty well sprinkled. The guitar, while lying upon the
table, went through the process of tuning. We distinctly heard the screw turn, and the strings vibrate.
Mr. Dutcher asked how they (the spirits) knew the instruments to be in tune without trying it. Instantly
the guitar was raised from the table, and commenced playing in perfect time with the flute, which all
listened to with pleasure.
“The spirit purporting to communicate was Red Jackson, whose name was written on the wall of the
room, 7.5' from the floor, 1' or more beyond the reach of the medium, as testified by a half dozen or
more honest witnesses. Touches of a spirit hand were also felt by persons in different parts of the
circle, as they affirmed. These facts occurred several evenings after the forgoing. We saw the “Hand-
writing on the wall” a day or two after its inscription.”
There was counter testimony. On another evening Mrs. (E.M.) Marshall, “struck a match” in the circle,
and herself, and Mr. Jencks, testify to having seen the guitar in the hands of the medium. Mr. E.M.
Marshall has written an “Expose” in the Bay State Chronicle.
The Spiritual Reformer, in the November 1861 issue, had an article written by editor Harriet N.
Greene. It was entitled “Hand Writing on the Arm.” She was invited by kind friends Mr. and Mrs. D. to
go to Boston and visit Mr. Foster, the great test medium. All participants had previously written
questions and had rolled them up. At the beginning, everyone tossed them onto the table. He became
influenced, and said to me, “There is a spirit here, who, as a test of her presence, will give you her
name upon my arm.” He rolled up his sleeve, and there was written the name ELLA. It then
disappeared. He opened a paper and handed it to me. Upon opening it, I found a question I had
asked- if Ella could come she would, as a test of her presence, write her name upon the medium's
arm. He then turned to Mrs. D. and said, “There is a spirit here who says she will write her name on
my arm.” He rolled up his sleeve- the name MARY was there. The paper handed to Mrs. D. contained
her request that her niece Mary make herself known. Harriet Greene had also asked about a sister
who had gone to the Spirit-Land. Words through the medium were those of her sister- Harriet knew
Adelaine was there.
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