April 1, 2011
Hopedale Leaves Milford
Hopedale in March
Most of my website time over the last two weeks was spent on Mendon pages, but I did find some time to
add a few Hopedale things from Cotton Chats, including Hopedale in 1946 …in 1952 … and in 1954 …
and Draper baseball, 1948.
For the third time in four years, the ice visible from the lower end of Hopedale Pond was gone on March 20.
Click here for more.
Grafton Historical Society Civil War program – April 3.
I’ve had the following article on my Hopedale website for some time, but I thought since this month marks
the 125the anniversary of the establishment of Hopedale as a town, it would be the one to send out today.
Hopedale Leaves Milford
The genteel religious idealism of the original settlers of Hopedale was a far cry from the political wrangling
and bitterness that accompanied the official incorporation of the town when it separated from Milford in
1886. Attorneys for Milford described the split as a "mutilation," while lawyers for the would-be town argued
that Hopedalians were held in "bondage" to Milford, likening the situation to that of Ireland and England.
The question of class, tax dodges, "certain moral questions," meaning prohibition, and the still-argued
issue of rich town vs. poor town also entered the fray during the testimony at legislative hearings in January
and February of 1886.
George Draper had broached the proposal for the separation in an open letter to the Milford Journal in June
1885, writing that he would petition the legislature to set off Hopedale as a separate town. The state senate
voted 18 - 16 on April 3, 1886, to enact the bill of separation, and the town was incorporated four days later.
Although selectmen from both towns formally settled all differences between the two towns in July 1887,
and Milford and Hopedale have enjoyed friendly relations ever since, the testimony at the legislative
hearings foreshadowed anything but an amicable resolution. Hopedale's attorneys implied that Milford was
infested with taverns and indifferent to the needs of Hopedalians. They said the government of a smaller
town would create better schools, better roads, and a more responsive municipality.
Milford's attorney, Joseph Benton, countered by labeling the split a tax dodge totally under the control of the
Draper family. He also speculated that the idea of the split was planted by the whim of a Draper daughter
who wanted a town of her own. He called the plan a "mutilation of (this) ancient and honored town, merely to
gratify the personal pride, and promote the personal interest, of one man and his family...that the Draper
family may be incorporated as a town and relieved from the fair burdens of just and equal taxation."
He said the Drapers had controlled the separation at every step, "from its inception at a private meeting of
the Draper family, when one of the daughters wanted to know why they could not have a town of their own.
Take them out of it, and the project for division would dissolve into thin air. There is nothing to justify it, there
is nothing to sustain it, except the personal ambition and self-interest of one strong, persistent, obstinate
man," Benton, referring to George Draper, told the hearing.
Hopedale attorney, N. Sumner Myrick said the split would spare Hopedalians "the personal insults and
abuse which have often attended their participation in the business of the Town Meetings of Milford."
George Draper testified the lengthy disputes and "stupid" actions by Milford officials over the building of Adin
Street and "the amount of opposition and exasperation I had in relation to that matter...caused a stroke of
apoplexy, which very nearly finished me, and I did not feel natural for two years." He described those few
Hopedalians opposed to the split as "cranks."
Hopedale lawyer Selwyn Z. Bowman raised the "moral" question of liquor, saying it was unfair for the
prohibitionist residents of the Dale to be hooked up with Milford.
Abstinence from liquor was one of the hallmarks of the Christian socialists who founded the Hopedale
Community commune in 1841, and Bowman said the residents in 1886 were "almost unanimous" in
support of that tradition.
"We say that we are a temperance community. We say that we are a different community from the town of
Milford...with its 63 saloons. And if we desire to build up here a model New England town, where no liquors
are sold, industrious, thrifty, prosperous, I say we have a right to do so," he said.
Benton said the split would hurt Milford's ability to raise taxes. "The constantly increasing inequality in local
taxation is a great and growing evil. Rich men have either moved into small towns and taken possession of
them, or have induced the legislature to create small towns for them, and then have assessed their property
at less than its real value...," he argued. “They thus avoid state taxes, and by attracting other rich men, create
an ever lower tax rate in their small town
havens,” Benton said.
"It is a stock argument always made by every rich man, or clique of rich men, who desire to have a town
made for them, where they may enjoy low taxes, and exercise arbitrary power, that the ideal town
government is that of a little town...,' he said.
Draper also denied under questioning that he had said it was a waste of time to educate the children of
laborers. Milford Daily News.
In the evening of April 13, Hopedale wildly celebrated its victory. Bells were rung, cannons discharged and
great fireworks set off. Battery B, from Worcester, fired a salute of eleven guns to General William F. Draper
and eighty-six in honor of Hopedale, the eighty-sixth town to be incorporated in that century. From an article
by Peter Hackett and Senator Richard Moore.
Hopedale Centennial parade – Part 1 Part 2
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