August 1, 2011
History of Hopedale Schools, Part 1
Hopedale in July
Tennis champs of 1938
Baseball team photos – Hopedale High, c. 1940 Sacred Heart Peewees, 1947
News articles added to Our Gang Circus in Hopedale page Lots of names from the thirties.
Italian Club dedicated – 1936.
The Spa, the fire station, the Water Cure House, the plane crash at Hopedale Airport, band concerts,
Drapers, the G&U. All that and more in Richard Bodreau’s memories of Hopedale in the 1960s and
IAQs – Infrequently Asked Questions about Hopedale history.
Here is part 1 of Rachel Day’s history of Hopedale schools. I’ll send the rest next time.
History of Hopedale Public Schools
By Rachel C. Day
With the opening of Hopedale’s new elementary school on Adin Street, it is interesting to take a
backward look into educational affairs in this district.
This takes us to the time when Hopedale was part of the mother town of Mendon, a sparsely populated
region known as The Dale. The first record of a school house comes from Dr. Metcalf’s Annals of the
Town of Mendon: “1709, Jan. 8. At a public town meeting it was voted to erect a school house twenty
feet in length, sixteen feet wide and seven feet between joints. This was the first school house built,
and was situated upon the hill below Deacon Warfield’s house, being, as near as can be ascertained,
upon the site of the family cemetery of the Messrs. George.”
As the district was widespread, it was voted in 1714 that school be kept six months in the center of
town and “the other six months upon the out scirts of the town.” These sessions kept in different parts
of the town were called moving schools.
High standards in the way of teacher were the rule. Grindal Rawson, Harvard graduate, was one of the
earliest. Mr. Dorr’s son, Joseph, and Capt. Eleazer Taft’s son, Moses, both Harvard men, were chosen
“to Keep School by Spells as they can agree with them at a reasonable rate, for this present year.” A
Latin master was also proposed in addition to one to teach the “Children to Reed, writ and cifer,” but
whether such was provided history does not tell.
At a town meeting in May 1732, it was voted to choose “School Dames (for the first time) to keep School
in the Out Skirts of the Town,” and thirty pounds was allowed for that purpose.
In 1747, the town agreed to build a new school house, “the second and only school house in the town,
the old one having been sold to Samuel Thayer.”
The Mendon records tell that, in a meeting held May 25th, 1750, it was voted, “to build a School House
near the East Precinct Meeting House for ye use of the Town, and that the interest money arising from
the sale of the School lands be equally divided between the two precincts.”
On the site of the Roman Catholic Church in Hopedale, formerly the high school lot, there was a village
school. According to Adin Ballou’s Milford history, the school was held “in an ancient domicil built by
Seth Chapin, jun.” This is of especial interest to us, for here our Milford Revolutionary hero, Alexander
Scammel, afterwards on Gen. Washington’s staff, taught while still a student at Harvard.
Milford left the parent-town of Mendon in 1780, so schools of what is now Hopedale were in the town of
Milford. In the year 1790 or about this date, the South Milford District including what is now Hopedale,
“had an original School house of very humble pretensions, which stood at the southwest corner of the
graveyard, on the spot now occupied by the Warfield lots and monuments, or thereabouts.” Its
successor, ten rods farther south, was built, probably in 1814. The contract for the construction was
three hundred dollars. The American flag, was now flying over school-houses and school expenses
were paid in dollars, instead of pounds.
In 1841, Hopedale was founded by a small band of men and women led by Adin Ballou. This group
had dreams of building a community where all would share in the benefits of toil. One of the first
articles in their constitution begins, “All the children and youth connected with any Community in this
Association shall be educated in the most approved manner…” The ideas along educational lines
were ahead of the times in many ways, such as having pre-school training, music, and art. School was
held in the Old House where members of Fraternal Community #1 were living, but as soon as a new
building could be put up, the school was held there.
In 1844, the first school in the Hopedale Community was opened. By this time the Community had
found this name for the Dale. The building was called the School-House Chapel and was used as a
meeting house as well as a school. This well-built structure was taken down this year, 1955, after
being used for many years in the form of tenements. It was used as a school until 1868. (The year
Chapel Street School opened.)
The Hopedale Community took all financial responsibility for running their school, although paying
school taxes as citizens of Milford. In 1847, the Hopedale School became the Twelfth District of the
Milford school system. To quote from the Milford history, “No. 12, Hopedale, owned no schoolhouse. It
hired the old Schoolhouse Chapel, so called, for some years.”
A teacher, especially successful and beloved, was the daughter of the leader of the Community, Miss
Abbie Ballou. She had attended the State Normal School, then at West Newton. One of her pupils wrote
of his dreams for the future, “He wished he would live to be one hundred and go to school to Miss
Abbie every day of his life.”
A visit to this Hopedale school by a member of the school committee resulted in a most favorable
report: “The scholars at Hopedale could not have shown, at their age, such readiness in answering
difficult questions, and passed so accurately through the long processes of mental arithmetic, and they
certainly would not have shown such interest, if there had not been a deep, strong and hearty influence
felt and exerted at home.”
South Hopedale School