November 15, 2004
The Religious Evolution of Adin Ballou
If you were living in Hopedale if the fifties you probably remember that Dutcher Street was the modern
merchandising part of town. There was the milk-o-mat across from the gas station and the egg-o-
mat at Henry’s chicken farm at 200 Dutcher Street. I was reminded of this the other day when I ran
across a Milford News clipping with a picture of Robbie Billings at the egg-o-mat. The caption read,
“Here is the first picture taken of the new egg-vending machine in Hopedale, at the Parkside Poultry
store on Dutcher Street. The gadget dispenses eggs in the large, medium and small sizes, returning
change taped to the egg box. That’s six-year old Robin Billings, who lives nearby, operating the coin
box. The vendor is located in a small open building which permits the sale of eggs on a 24-hour
basis. It is the first such machine installed in Massachusetts.” Click here to see the clipping and read
about the Henry farm.
The 100th anniversary celebration of the dedication of the Statue of Hope on October 30 was quite a
success, in spite of less than ideal weather and competition from the Red Sox parade. There were
about fifty people in attendance. Everyone was happy to see the fountain operating and thanks go to
Mayer Spivack for that. It’s likely that Warren Harding was president the last time water flowed from
Medusa’s mouth. Speakers included Nancy Kelly Verdolino, Senator Dick Moore, Rep. Marie Parente,
Elaine Malloy, Louise Freedman, Merrily Sparling, Fred Oldfield, Alan Ryan and Kathy Wright. Dave
Clark of the Glenis and Dave alumni website team was taking pictures. When he adds them to their
site, I’ll mention it and send a link.
The story below is a summary of Edward Spann’s From Commune to Company Town, pp. 3 – 9.
Adin Ballou was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island in 1803. He was a descendant of Maturin Ballou,
a Huguenot who was with Roger Williams at the time of the founding of Rhode Island.
Adin went to school about three months a year until he was fifteen and then went to Dean Academy in
Franklin for a few months.
In 1803, during a period referred to as the Second Great Awakening, joined a newly organized faith
called the Christian Connexion. (The Spann book uses this spelling. I’ve seen it elsewhere as
“Connection.”) A common argument of the time involved the fate of sinners. Many rejected the idea of
Hell, and questioned why God would create billions of souls, while knowing that many (most?) of
them were to suffer eternal punishment. Some felt that all would be saved while members of the
Christian Connexion thought that, rather than being punished, the souls of the sinners would be
destroyed. This view became known as “Destructionism.”
At the age of seventeen, engaged to Abby Sayles and with no particular career in mind, Ballou began
giving some thought to the ministry but was evidently not totally sold on the idea. One night, however,
he had a vision of his dead brother, Cyrus, saying, “God commands you to preach the Gospel of
Christ to your fellow man.” Soon after, he preached a sermon at the local meeting-house where his
father was a deacon, and shortly later became its minister.
Several years went by and Ballou became the defender of the local Destructionists. As he debated
the merits of the idea with the Universalists, he eventually became convinced that he was wrong and
they were right. This, of course, led to his dismissal by the Christian Connexion congregation.
Ballou joined the Universalists and spent a brief but somewhat lively period as a once a month
preacher in Bellingham. In 1823, at the age of twenty, he became the Universalist minister in Milford.
While he didn’t believe in eternal damnation, neither did he believe that the souls of the sinners were
to be let off easy. He felt there would be a time of punishment for those who deserved it, followed by
While in Milford, three weeks after the birth of their second child, Abby died. A year later Ballou
married Lucy Hunt.
Most Universalists of the time believed in universal salvation without punishment but as time went on,
Ballou became more vocal in his opinion that sinners would be punished before being restored to
their rightful place in Heaven. Those who held this view were referred to as Restorationists. In 1830,
Ballou began publishing The Independent Messenger, a Restorationist weekly newspaper. Within a
month, he was fired from the Milford church.
Before long, Ballou’s Restorationism as well as his other liberal religious beliefs led to his
appointment as minister of the First Congregational (Unitarian) Church in Mendon. He remained
there until his move to Hopedale in 1842.
During his time in Mendon in the 1830s, Ballou gradually increased his interest in the various causes
of the era. These included opposition to smoking (after a successful struggle to give it up himself)
and alcohol, promotion of moral reform, women’s rights, non-resistance, Practical Christian
socialism and, above all, abolitionism. In 1841, these ideals became the basis for the formation of
the Hopedale Community.
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