October 1, 2004
At long last the future of the Little Red Shop seems secure. State Senator Richard Moore, former
president of the Hopedale Historical Society and Hopedale selectman, with the aid of Rep. Marie
Parente in the House, obtained $100,000 from the state for the badly needed work. The grant was
announced by the senator on October 1 at a gathering of Historic Commission members and other
town officials and members of Friends of Historic Hopedale at the Red Shop. Money has also been
raised through the efforts of the Hopedale Historical Commission, The Friends of Historic Hopedale
and the Hopedale Foundation.
Camel Red, the biography of Larry Heron, seems to be doing very well. I noticed it was listed in fourth
place on the Framingham Border’s Books non-fiction best sellers list a couple of weeks ago. It’s also
available at the Bancroft Library.
Over the next few months I hope to finish copying Hopedale Reminiscences and have it all on the
website. This week I typed Nellie Gifford’s memories and you’ll find a shortened version below. The
complete Nellie chapter is at http://www.hope1842/hoperemNGifford.html
Childhood Days in the Hopedale Community, and other Recollections
From the many recollections of long ago those I am giving are mostly of childhood days in Hopedale
Community, where my father’s family came Nov, 1853, our first home being in an old-fashioned red
house belonging to Newton Daniels, on the site of which, I think, now stands Governor Draper’s barn.
A few months later we moved into the so-called “Water Cure” house, which was our house for many
years. [The Water Cure house was located at 33 Hopedale Street. In the early days of the Community,
Dr, and Mrs. Wilmarth would attempt to cure whatever ailed their patients with a remedy evidently
involving a combination of hot and cold baths. The house was demolished a few years ago and
replaced with a duplex.]
My school experience in Hopedale began in the building now occupied by Mr. Arnold, then half its size,
later enlarged. [The building referred to was on Hopedale Street between Freedom and Chapel
streets. Mr. Arnold was the father of Marge Hattersley who was the children’s librarian at the Bancroft
Library for many years. Marge was born and lived as a child in the building that had been the
Community chapel and school. Probably the last resident there was Dutcher Street School sixth grade
teacher, Jessie Gover. She was at that address in the 1955 street listing but not in 1956. The building
had been converted into a duplex and a couple named Wigglesworth lived on the other side but were
not listed there in 1955. At about that time, that house along with another at the corner of Hopedale and
Freedom streets, and the Chapel Street School were razed. At the time, Draper Corporation had plans
to build a research center on the site.] It also served as church, and for all public meetings, and was
heated in winter by a small box stove. A little room at one side of the entrance, used for storage
purposes, was also the children’s Sunday School Library, books being kept on shelves in a wooden
closet. The adult’s library, on the other side, was more pretentious, having a large bookcase with
In the basement was the Community variety store, kept by Mr. Munyon, afterward by Mr. Swazey. Mrs.
Abbie Heywood, (we called her “Mrs. Abbie”) [daughter of Adin Ballou] was my first teacher, Mrs.
Mulliken the second, for both of whom I have pleasant memories. Across the pond lived Mr. Soward,
who taught us writing. His cousin and housekeeper, Aunty Burton, was a quaint, kindly woman, with a
badly disfigured face, caustic in criticism, but a favorite with all. The schoolhouse was the scene of
many happy festivals, that at Christmas being an especially joyous one for children; some taking part
in the exercises and all sure of a gift from the tree.
Children had many amusements, simple but enjoyable, among them occasional rides in the large
and only boat on the pond; skating and coasting in winter; berrying and picnics in summer; hanging
May baskets all through the month; and hunting wild flowers in the fields and sprout land woods
growing on part of what now is Dutcher Street. After a time dancing was allowed for adults and
children, Mr. Ballou approving, as to quote his words “Innocent recreation in due season accords with
true Religion.” The dance hall was in the upper part of the Dutcher shop; hours for dancing from 6 to 9:
30 P.M Square and Contra dances, only, were allowed, masculine arms encircling feminine waists,
as in polka and waltz, being considered detrimental, by some of the elders.
I well remember the shock to the Community caused by the death, in a railroad accident, of Dr. Butler
Wilmarth, and not long after, the drowning, in a pool in front of the Samuel Walker estate, of a son of
Aunty Johnson, a colored woman whom many will remember. In those early days the dead were taken
to the cemetery in a large wagon, friends following on foot.
The Community was strongly Anti-Slavery in sentiment, and the celebrations of Emancipation in the
West Indies, held in “Nelson’s Grove,” were enthusiastic events, enjoyed too by the children. Some
noted speakers would be present, among them Garrison, Phillips, Abbie Kelley Foster and Sojourner
Truth, once a slave, a powerful, if not cultured, advocate of freedom for those of her race in bondage.
She was a large, very black woman, very witty, and an inveterate smoker. The late Theodore Tilton
once asked her how she expected “to enter Heaven with a tobacco scented breath.” Her reply was,
“When I die and go to Heaven, I ‘spect to leave my bref behind me.” The “Man with the Branded Hand”
was at one time a resident of Hopedale. He was called so, as in aiding slaves to escape, he was
caught by owners, and the letters S.S. (Slave Stealer) burned in his hand.
The Civil War wrought a great change in Hopedale. Excitement ran high, and with some, the Non-
Resistant principles were overcome by the “Spirit of ’76.” The Post Office was at that time a room in
the house, now occupied by Mrs. Susan Whitney, and at mail time was filled with a crowd eager for the
New York Tribune, with its details of the killed and wounded in engagements. The battlefield,
“Andersonville Prison Pen,” and disease claimed as victims several who enlisted from Hopedale, and
the peaceful life of the village was over for a time.
Since then Hopedale has become a flourishing town; many of the old residents have passed away,
and old landmarks are fast disappearing, but as advancing years bring more vividly memories of the
past with its joys and sorrows, I realize that some of the happiest hours of my life were those spent in
“Old Community Days.” Nellie T. Gifford, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 1910
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