October 15, 2011
Problems at the Old School
Hopedale in October
Hopedale in 1910 – a Boston American article
Summary of the book, Hopedale: Commune to Company Town
Who are these kids? Five photos of kids at an art exhibit at the Community House.
If you were a Hopedale Boy Scout in the mid-60s, you probably remember the Adirondack huts at
the Lookout. If you were a Hopedale arsonist at that time, you too probably remember them.
Hopedale business directory and ads – 1907 Hopedale businesses – 1948
G&U Hazel Street 173 acre parcel from Hazel Street and Route 140 to west of the Mill River
available for development.
Will the G&U Railroad offer passenger tours? Thanks to John Lapoint of Grafton for sending a
link to the article.
The Milford Historical Commission will hold their Annual Open House, Sunday, October 16 at 2
PM in Memorial Hall, 30 School Street. This year we will view pictures of Milford from years ago.
Lyn Lovell will narrate the show that will include pictures of downtown buildings, churches,
schools , businesses and storms that hit the area. We will also note the 150th anniversary of the
start of the Civil War that began in 1861.
Blackstone River Greenway project gets $15 million to continue construction.
I’ve only occasionally strayed outside the five square miles of Hopedale in these stories, but this
time I’m going all the way to Mendon for one. The operation of the small school districts around
here were probably not too different from town to town, and the issues in the Albeeville district,
the subject of this article, were likely similar to school issues throughout the area. Click here for a
version that also includes a picture of the Albeeville school.
Problems at the District School
By Lessie Mae Drown
Not long ago the Mendon Historical Society was presented with a very old record book
concerning one of Mendon’s own schools.
It was a record of the school meetings of the Seventh School District from 1812 to 1860. The
Seventh District, better known as Albeeville, was one of 14 into which the town was divided.
(Albeeville was in the Millville Road area of Mendon.) Each was a little world in itself, a good
example of democracy. School matters were settled at the district meetings, which were very
similar to our town meetings.
In 1812, the town appropriated $38.57 for the Seventh District School. The schoolmaster’s salary
was $12.50 a month. In 1823 Ruth Staples taught a summer school for 75 cents a week. We
read that there were 67 “scholars” in 1824 and 74 in 1832. Incidentally, many distinguished men
got their start in education in the little school at Albeeville. Many fine old New England families
grew up in Albeeville. Several generations of Tafts have lived there, including the ancestors of
The teacher had to board around in the district. In the 1845 record we read, “It was voted to have
21 means for one week’s board.” What could be back of a vote like that? Did someone feel
something should be deducted if the teacher was invited out to supper? At the price usually paid
for board then, one meal would be less than five cents.
One amusing item appeared in each report for a number of years. In 1812 it read, “Johnson
Legg bid off the ashes for 77 cents.” It was the custom to sell the ashes to the highest bidder at
each annual meeting. At a meeting in 1813, Leonard Staples agreed to repair a chair for 33
cents. Does it seem possible that anyone ever did anything for 33 cents?
The question of building a new schoolhouse came up in 1821. They voted to raise $160 to build
one. They appointed a committee “to find a spot to set the schoolhouse on,” and another
committee to make a contract with someone according to law for building the schoolhouse.
Before the meeting adjourned, “Simeon Wheelock took the schoolhouse to build for $193.” They
adjourned for one week.
At the adjourned meeting, they voted to release Simeon Wheelock from his bid and to contact
with Arnold Taft for the same sum, $193. They voted to give Wheelock $1.50 for a piece of land
upon which to set the schoolhouse. Arnold Taft built the new school, and it was finished within a
year. In October of that year (1821) there was a meeting at which they voted to “put out to the
lowest bidder the building necessary, leveling around the schoolhouse,” and a few other jobs.
Simeon Wheelock agreed to finish the cellar for $2 and to build a necessary for $5.
In 1830 they were facing what must have seemed a very serious and urgent problem. That was
vandalism. The schoolhouse had been broken into, and property damaged. The extent of the
damage is not given, but much or little, it must be stopped. They voted that the committee repair
the door lock, nail down the windows, and close the schoolhouse against intruders. They also
voted that the agent prosecute any person or persons “who shall break into the schoolhouse
unnecessarily or damage the house in any way.”
In 1845 they again needed a new schoolhouse. They were now more ambitious, or prices had
risen, for they voted to raise $425. They also voted that the building committee negotiate with
Varville Taft for a site and if they failed, to take legal measures to obtain the same. They need not
have worried. Mr. Taft evidently was glad to sell them the desired land, one acre for $12.50. Soon
the land was purchased and the schoolhouse was built.
Of course they wanted a new stove for the new schoolhouse, so in October 1846 they voted to
authorize the prudential committee to buy and set up a stove. The year 1847 arrived and at the
first meeting held they voted to buy a stove and pipe and instructed the prudential committee to
carry the vote into effect. Apparently the voters’ wishes were again disregarded, for at a later
meeting the same year, “the prudential committee is instructed to buy a stove adapted to the
wants of the district.”
Time went on and at another meeting they chose a committee to take up a subscription to obtain
a stove, and buy a separate vote, they were instructed to sell the old stove. At a still later meeting
they voted to raise $15 to buy a stove, but the vote was reconsidered. There is no record of the
stove being bought. Why did anyone hesitate? Was there a feeling that stoves were “new-fangled
notions” and fireplaces were better?
If we should look in other old town records we would find that men then were paid 10 cents an
hour to work on the road, and 10 cents an hour for the use of a pair of oxen. We do not need to
smile at these figures. They were wonderful dollars. One of them would buy a bag of groceries
so big we could scarcely lift it. It would buy other things in the same proportion. Those dollars
command our respect.
From all this we can see something of a past life and a past pattern of thinking and living which
was very different from our own. Undated newspaper article.
from the Rustic Bridge, Hopedale Pond.