January 1, 2005
A few days ago I finished typing Abbie Ballou Heywood’s chapter from Hopedale Reminiscences and
added it to the website. Abbie was the daughter of Adin Ballou and his first wife. It’s the longest
chapter, amounting to about 3400 words. Below is about a quarter of that. Click here if you’d like to
read the entire chapter.
The time is well remembered when a few friends assembled at my father’s house in Mendon where
he was then settled as minister of the Unitarian Society. The subject of Social Reform occupied
largely their attention. Charles Fourier, a Frenchman, had been studied and his principles to some
extent adopted by Robert Dale Owen. Following his theories somewhat, they decided upon a standard
which should embody their ideas of a Christian life, calling to-gether those who could subscribe to
such a standard, and if practical found a new social order. Accordingly this Community was started
and known as Fraternal Community No. 1, at Mendon, by some thirty individuals from different parts of
the state. They were poor in all the resources necessary to prosecute this great enterprise save faith,
zeal and determination
They purchased what was called the “Jones Farm,” a tract of land lying between Mendon and Milford,
alias “The Dale,” prefixing the word, “Hope,” to its ancient designation, as significant of the great
things they hoped for, from an humble, unpropitious beginning. It then contained only two hundred fifty-
eight acres and a shabby two-story house, more than one hundred twenty years old, and some
outside buildings. Fournier placed great strength on the doctrine of Circumstances, as the chief
remedial cause of all life’s ills. These were tried, but failed to accomplish the result sought. My father
did not object to their modus operandi, but laid greater stress upon the moral and spiritual element as
essential to man’s highest development. True to these convictions two or three families with their
dependents moved thither early in the spring of 1842.. These were followed by my father’s family who
to-gether entered upon their untried experiment. True to their pledged cause and to each other they
were happy in this first step toward an anticipated glorious fruition.
They published to the world their attempt to live, “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.” Daily, letters and
friends poured in upon them, too many for their limited means. Most of those who came were ready to
accommodate themselves to circumstances, and all the old buildings were speedily over-run with
occupants seeking for a restful hose, free from the discouragements and disappointments found in
individualism. Alas! They little realized that their own imperfections might engulf them the ruin they
sought to escape.
In 1851, the “Old House” in which most of the members had been domiciled, as I have said before,
was more than one hundred and twenty years old; their domain consisted of five hundred acres; of
twenty-five dwelling houses; three machine shops with water power; facilities for manufacturing; and a
small chapel for educational, moral, and spiritual enlightenment. There were then about thirty-four
families and in all one hundred and seventy-five persons.
They had many burdens, anxieties, and trials which the true-hearted alone could bear with
cheerfulness and by patient forbearance overcome. Notwithstanding all, its devoted friends now
considered it an established institution destined ultimately to exert a glorious influence toward the
regeneration of individual and social life.
Previous to this, they had erected a new house, 32 feet by 14 feet above the basement, for a
schoolroom, two upper sleeping rooms; and a printing office, where their organ, the Practical Christian
was printed every fortnight for twenty years, and continued to proclaim the pure Christian ideals of a
ransomed race. It was published from 1840 to 1860. It ended April 1, 1860.
My parents much worn and weary with their experience in the Old House decided to build a home of
their own, to live “under their own vine and fig tree,” and prosecute their labors for the good of
mankind. They accordingly erected a cottage on Peace Street near by where now stands my father’s
monument. This was the third house in the village. Their labors were not much diminished, so large
a number of visitors was constantly seeking a haven of rest, which they believed Hopedale Community
alone could afford. Without money and without price they entertained many such inquirers for several
years, still homing for a blessed fruition of their work.
Through the usual kindness of a wealthy brother, an invitation was accepted to share with himself and
wife a western trip to the state of Ohio. They visited a warm hearted Community friend, and on their
return received a cordial welcome. Their experiences abroad were recounted and a group picture of
the Inductive Communion, with a small sum of money, was presented to my father, all of which proved
very acceptable. The picture is now in the possession of one of the members.
It is proper that I tell you what became of our first-born in Hopedale. Lucy Ballou Lillie went to the West
for a short time and later to the South. I have since learned that long ago she passed to the Spirit Land.
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