Adin Ballou, 1803 - 1890

Hopedale History
September 1, 2010
No. 163
The Fatal Crisis

Hopedale in August  

The upper end of Hopedale Pond, August 14
.   I recently noticed in Ballou’s History of the Hopedale Community, in 1852 he wrote, “We have from 75 to 100 acres of cranberry meadows, which, with small outlay, can be made to yield in a few years greater profits than we now realize from our entire territory, woodlands and all.” I wonder the meadows he was referring to looked a bit like the upper pond does now.

Now and Then at the Community House

Now and Then at the West Side of the Draper Plant  

Peace Garden at Union Evangelical Church
 

The Draper plant, 1890 – 1913.   How it grew and changed.

Road race, August 21.  

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The cause of the end of the Hopedale Community in 1856 has been covered by a good many writers in the years since then. Here’s Adin Ballou’s account of, what was to him, one of the most devastating events of his life.


                                                          
The Fatal Crisis

As I have already stated, the affairs of the Community were apparently in a highly prosperous and encouraging condition through the years 1854 and 1855, and I flattered myself with the idea that all was well for the future beyond doubt or peradventure. So I felt when we convened in annual meeting Jan. 9, 1856. The financial statement of the treasurer was not ready in all its details, but the general declaration was made by him that the joint stock operations had suffered no detriment and that the industrial and financial outlook was bright and encouraging. I was greatly pleased with this assurance and my gratification was enhanced by the concluding sentences of the address of our president, Brother Ebenezer D. Draper, as follows:

“We may rejoice together in considering the degree of harmony that exists at the present time in our Community; greater, I think, than ever before. And I hope and believe that with our past experience and present advantages, we shall continue to increase in love and wisdom and so become more and more a light to those around us, proving to the world that Christian Socialism opens a more excellent way in which men my live together as brethren, and that it gives us, as it will all who yield to its saving power, peace and good will to one another and to the whole human race. May the good God prosper and bless us all.”

After such an assuring benediction, which set the bells of gladness ringing in all our hearts, what but a thunder clap from a clear sky could fill us with greater consternation that the announcement of the same president, only a six weeks later, that the financial condition of the Community was so desperate and hopeless that he and his brother, George Draper, had decided to withdraw their investments from the joint stock capital. What had happened to cause such a reversal of the representations made at the annual meeting? We were then told that the deficit in the entire operations of the previous year was only $146. 15 – an insignificant sum. But a more critical examination of monetary affairs disclosed the fact that the 4 per cent dividends due to the joint stock had not been reckoned, and that the natural depreciation in the value of buildings, machinery, etc., had also been overlooked; which, with sundry other omissions, made our actual loss some ten or twelve thousand dollars – an ominous and, as was thought, insurmountable burden!

As soon as this state of things became known, a Community meeting was called and continued by adjournment through several sessions. Earnest and pungent discussions were carried on, and the feelings of many members were greatly disturbed. If there were blame anywhere in the management, it was found difficult to locate it. Evidently there had been a lack of business ability or gross neglect somewhere, and, failing to discover where it was, it was natural and easy to attribute it to the system, and this was the culminating accusation. In making it, the lead was taken by George Draper who had been with us but two years, and who, from the beginning, had only dubious faith in Community life. He was a natural born man of the world, given to money-making, impatient of high ideals, but thoroughly honest in his opinions, upright in his dealings, and of unquestioned integrity and honor. He was moreover inflexible of will and purpose, and when once determined on an object, he pursued it without hesitation or prevarication. So thoroughly persuaded was he in his own mind that our socialistic scheme was impractical and the cause of all our troubles, and so persistent was he in attempting to bring his brother, our president, with whom he was closely associated in business, over to the same conclusion, the he at length, though with much difficulty, succeeded. This accomplished, the doom of the Community was irrevocably sealed.

Our fate was in the hands of these two men. They were in possession of three-fourths of the joint stock, and the withdrawal of their share would so cripple our movement financially, that it would be absolutely impossible to go on.

As soon as this was settled in my mind, my first care was to see to it that in the final adjustment of affairs with the Draper brothers, provision should be made for the full payment, principal and interest, of all just demands against the Community. This was accordingly done, to the satisfaction of all parties, and no creditors of ours ever lost a dollar by his confidence in us.
Adin Ballou, Autobiography of Adin Ballou, pp. 400 – 402.

General Draper's account of the end of the Community.

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