April 15, 2014
Dogwood and Shuttles
Hopedale in April
"Tootsie" Deletti - Memories of growing up in Milford, working at Uncle George's Hopedale Pharmacy,
The Larches, etc.
an occasional burglary, a bit of arson, a holdup near the park, an illegal alcohol raid, some false
alarms, etc. Three or four cases a year sometimes. There was even a connection to the biggest
murder story in Massachusetts in 1934. The murder took place in Needham, but there was a
Hopedale connection, So here it is, crime in Hopedale in the early twentieth century.
For links to the Hopedale High School Alumni Association 2014 letter, financial report and list of
deceased, go to the homepage of the association website.
During the past two weeks, I've made additions to my Hopedale site on Town Park Millstones
(millstone info sent by Peter Metzke) The Remains of the Trolley Path (article on the dedication of an
historic marker about the trolley bridge over Hopedale Pond) Bristow and Queena Draper (Salary as
president of Draper Corporation in 1937, plus adjusted for inflation, what it would be now Also, obit for
Bristow.) George Albert Draper (Residence razed, replaced by B.H.B. Draper, Jr.) Eben. S. Draper,
Jr (Nancy Carroll Draper obit)
The selectmen will give a hearing tomorrow evening, on the petition of Cenedella & Co. for a permit to
erect a building on Dutcher street extension for the storage of dynamite. Milford Journal, July 25, 1913.
Owing to the recent reorganization at state headquarters of the Women's Defense Corps, the local
branch of which Mrs. John D. Gannett is the chairman, has changed the routine of the work. The gas
corps, canteen and drill will be eliminated and the training of the air wardens and motor corps
divisions will be developed. The motor corps will meet Tuesday night at the garage of Mrs. B.H.
Bristow Draper, Sr., at 7, and the air wardens will meet at the Community House at the same hour.
Milford Daily News, March 2, 1942.
Dogwood and Draper Shuttles
By Bill Wright
CLICKITY-CLACK, CLICKITY –CLACK.
The music and rhythm that was heard by all that lived in Hopedale through the first seven decades of
the 20th century. The beat that came from The Shop. It was the sound that was created as shuttles
worked their way back and forth across the loom warp at 180 picks per minute. Shuttles play a vital role
in the weaving process but also served, upon being populated with artificial flowers, as decorative
pieces through local homes. But, where did they come from?
The first hint of the origin Draper shuttles is contained in “Five Generations of Loom Builders – A
History of Draper Corporation” by William Chase:
“Dogwood for Draper Shuttles, gathered from a score or more sawmills in Southern states, is received
at the Draper concentration plant at Biltmore, N.C., and prepared there for shuttle making at Hopedale.”
When a decorative shuttle appeared on the coffee table at our Dutcher Street home, the question
“What’s that?” was asked. “It’s a loom shuttle, from Swannanoa” was the answer. That answer
satisfied a child but through the years during which “Five Generations…” was finally read, there
seemed to be a conflict. Biltmore just isn’t Swannanoa.
A trip to the Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mountain, NC began to unravel the conflict. Anne
Chesky-Smith, curator of the museum, though unfamiliar with Draper, became a wonderful resource in
the quest. She was able to point to people and places that provided answers.
Among the many questions is “What or where is Swannanoa?” Politically, Swannanoa is an
“unincorporated township” in Buncombe County, NC (thank you, Gary Bartlett).
It lies within the Swannanoa River Valley. The Swannanoa flows along the base of the Appalachians
near the Blue Ridge. The name is derived from the Cherokee, “Suwa linunna hi”, translating to, among
other things, “beautiful River”.
Pertaining to the “places” to visit, as suggested by Anne, was the “Pack Memorial Library” in Asheville,
North Carolina. There, the Resource Desk in the North Carolina Room was able to provide historical
newspaper articles and aerial photos of the Biltmore Concentration Plant.
In an article dated August 19, 1946, The Asheville Times reported; “DRAPER PLANT BUYS BUSINESS
OF MEDGENTRA”. The transaction involved the purchase of the Biltmore facility as well as 14 sawmills
in Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. Biltmore is the approximate center of a region
stretching from Virginia to the Gulf Coast and from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River, the range of a
plentiful dogwood supply. It was not uncommon to have dogwood logs trucked from within a 100-mile
radius to Biltmore.
Those sawmills purchased by Draper were not the only sources of the supply chain. In response to a
solicitation for information I received a reply from Malcolm Burnette: “The dogwood was cut by many
local folks all around the Swannanoa Valley and sold to Draper. During hard times in the fifties, dad
and I cut dogwood on our Watch Knob property. Dad carried the small logs off the mountain on his
shoulders. He was a giant of a man in my eyes.”
Anne Chesky- Smith recently sent another piece that supports Burette’s memory, but points to a
slightly darker side. The excerpt is from Martin Duberman’s book: Black Mountain: An Exploration in
Community” about Black Mountain College, 1953.
“The worst of it involved the destruction of a lovely dogwood forest in the expectation that †he wood
would be purchased by a local shuttle manufacturer. But after the dogwood had been cut and stacked,
the shuttle manufacturer turned down the whole lot: the wood had been cut at the wrong time, in the
wrong sizes and splits had developed in the ends.”
Reader, please be mindful that Draper enterprises as described in the Tupper Lake article, practiced
Gary Bartlett was identified as a source by the Swannanoa Valley Museum. He was kind enough to
drive me to the site of a former Draper shuttle plant, in Swannanoa. The building still stands, though
modified and is home to East-West Trucking. During the visit, he was able to recall stories told by his
grandfather who worked as a guard at Draper. His memories:
Dogwoods of five inch plus diameter were marked (after receiving permission from land owners) when
they flowered. They were harvested, probably in autumn and brought to the plant where they were
graded. Here, they were sawn into 2 ½ in square blocks and again graded.
Gary further recalled hearing that the blocks were shaped on lathes and graded a third time. He was
unable to describe the final configuration, only that sometime after being shaped, they were sent north.
Biltmore used six or more saws to shape the dogwood. The number of owned or affiliated sawmills
grew from 14 in 1946 to “scores” of sawmills (Asheville Times May 15, 1952 “Dogwood Aids Fibre
(sic) Mills”). Draper contracted within its purchase agreement with Medgentra to maintain the same
dogwood supply lines as Medgentra had used. These included what are referred to as sawmills and
dimension plants. The documents currently on hand indicate that while Draper had significant
holdings of sawmills, independent sawmills and individuals supplied both logs and dimensioned
blocks to the Biltmore plant. The research has uncovered a heretofore unheard of Draper warehouse
in Ellisville, Mississippi. It was there that shuttle blocks from a number of mills in lower Alabama and
Mississippi were consolidated and inspected (Asheville Times May 15, 1952).
Little else has been found about the Draper shuttle operations in and around Swannanoa/Asheville. At
some point, the shuttle operation in Hopedale was moved to Marian, South Carolina. Dogwood
shuttles were coming to their end as the Formica Corporation had perfected the more efficient transfer
The dogwoods were now safe.
Ezine Menu HOME
Shuttle and Five Generations of Loom Builders donated to
the Swannanoa Valley Museum by Bill Wright and Dave
"Common loom" shuttles
This photo dated May 18, 1949, shows the BILTMORE CONCENTRATION
PLANT (lower left). Note the terrain along the top of the frame. This is
"Dogwood Country". Photo provided by PACK LIBRARY, ASHEVILLE, NC.
This is the structure that contained the SWANNANOA DRAPER SHUTTLE PLANT. A little has
yet to be discovered as to the precise stage in which the shuttles left. The factory was outfitted
with saws and lathes. Thank you to Gary Bartlett for bringing the writer to this facility.