December 1, 2004
Gen. William Draper, Part 1
Gordon Hopper wrote a history of the Hopedale Fire Department that was published in two parts in the
Milford Daily News in 1975. I recently added the first part to the website. Click here to read it.
I don’t want this to become one Draper story after another, but lately that’s been where I’ve been
finding the most interesting ones. Recently I’ve been reading General Draper’s autobiography,
Recollections of a Varied Career, and that contains so much material that I’m going to send parts of it to
you from time to time. The first chapter is titled Ancestry. I’ll add that to the website soon. Below is a bit
from Chapter 2, Hopedale.
I was born in Lowell, Mass., the ninth day of April 1842, my father at this time being an overseer of
weaving for the Massachusetts Corporation in that city, and an occupant of one of the factory houses.
My first recollection is of the firing of cannon, which I have since been told was during my father’s
residence in Woonsocket, R.I., the occasion for the firing (which was close to the house occupied by
him), being the release of Governor Dorr from prison.
In Ware, Mass., at the age of seven, I began to attend the public schools, and made such progress that
the fall after I was nine years of age I entered the High School. I suppose the qualifications of such
entry were not as high as at the present day, but I immediately began the study of Latin and algebra,
and before leaving Ware, at the age of eleven, I had made considerable progress in both mathematics
In 1853 my father resigned his position with the Otis Company, and went into partnership with my
uncle, Ebenezer D. Draper, in the business of making and selling temples. My uncle had carried on
this business for several years, having inherited it from his older brother, James Draper; and the
mechanical work was done at the shop of the Hopedale Community at Hopedale, of which
Community, Mr. Ebenezer D. Draper was president. The business was small, employing only a few
men, but it indirectly furnished the financial backbone of the Hopedale Community, through the
royalties that it yielded, though their amount would not seem large at the present day. In removing to
Hopedale my father became a member of the Community, with whose ideas he was in sympathy, and
so remained until its financial failure a few years later.
During the year 1841 a company of men and women, who believed that the organization of society, as
it was then and is now, was on a wrong basis, associated themselves together under the name of
“Fraternal Community No. 1,” at Mendon, Mass. The founder and leader of the enterprise through all
its subsequent vicissitudes was the Rev. Adin Ballou, at that time pastor of the First Church and Parish
of the town of Mendon. He was a man of commanding presence, great intellectual ability, and a
character above reproach. Count Tolstoi, in a recent interview, named him as the best writer that
America has produced, and though that may be a partial estimate, I here state my belief that she has
produced no better man. He is to me the highest embodiment of Christian character and unselfish
devotion to duty, as he saw it, that I have ever come in contact with.
Within a few years of its origin no less than sixty of these communities were established and of that
sixty, not one now remains. Hopedale was one of the first to be organized, and one of the last to be
I’ll end this with a few words about William’s mother. This is from the first chapter.
My mother seems to me to have been the very embodiment of New England common sense. Though
her life was largely devoted to household duties and the rearing of her children, she was thoroughly
interested in public questions, and never satisfied until she had settled to her own satisfaction the right
or wrong of anything that came up for consideration. Though my father was a positive man, she was
equally sure in her own views.—one evidence of which was that though he became a member of the
Hopedale Community, she persistently refused to join, on the ground that she did not believe all
questions should be settled by a majority vote or that there should be no rewards for pre-eminent
ability and services.
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