Hopedale History
    June 15, 2015
    No. 278
    Mill River Men

    Hopedale in June   

    Hopedale High graduation - a few minutes of stills and video on YouTube.

    During the past two weeks, additions to pages on hope1842 have been made to: George Otis Draper
    (Obituary for his father-in-law, Herbert T. Duncan.)     Red Barn Fire (Another newspaper article and a picture
    added.)     Fire Department HIstory (Contract awarded for the building of the Dutcher Street fire station.)     
    Now and Then - The Unitarian Church (1938 article on renovations to the church, including mention that it
    would soon be heated by steam from Draper Corporation.)     Pistol, Skeet and Rifle clubs (1938 article on a
    pistol range at what had been the Hopedale Coal & Ice stable.)     Deaths     

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    A debate between representatives of the junior and senior classes on the topic "Resolved that the United
    States should fortify the Panama Canal" was held at the high school Friday. The seniors, who supported the
    negative, won. Milford Gazette, January 20, 1911

    Extra Guard for Draper Payroll Follows "Tip." Utmost Precautions Taken as Report Comes That Hopedale
    Firm's Payroll One of Objects of New York Gunmen. Milford Daily News, January 17, 1936 (Nothing
    happened.)

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    The Milford Congregational Church, the Town of Milford, and the Hopedale Community all had their
    beginnings in the Old House of Hopedale. The Old House stood from 1700 until 1874 along the Mill River, a
    short distance downstream from where the dam at Freedom Street is now. Here's an article by Peter Hackett
    about Milford's separation from Mendon.

                                                         Mill River Men Part from Mendon

                                                                               By Peter Hackett

    The 225th anniversary celebration of the Milford Congregational Church April 17-24, (1966) puts the
    spotlight on history. The house where the Congregational Church was organized was originally in Mendon.
    Mendon will be noting its own 300th anniversary in June of next year. (1967) Its historical link to Milford is
    firmly established in the history books and much of the land now called Milford was once part of the Mendon
    territory.

    John Jones of Hull built the house shown above about 1700. Tradition says he built himself a log cabin first
    and lived there while building the house. It was in this house where the church was organized. In time
    Jones became a prominent townsman, and an elder in the Mendon church.

    Soon others began to settle nearby. A small stream, the Mill River, flowed through the Jones farm. The
    settlers of this area became known as the Mill River men. The area was also known as the Dale. A mile or
    more, including two hills, separated them from the center of Mendon where the meetinghouse was.
    While this wasn't a great distance, it was the principal reason for the Mill River men seeking separation to
    form a new town. A formal petition, presented to the town, December 10, 1735, was promptly "negative."
    This procedure was repeated annually for the next six years, but was always "negatived."

    Finally the petitioners decided to form a church of their own - the actual beginning of the new town that was
    to become Milford - and from their records we read: "April ye 1st, 1741, being a meeting ye brethren of the
    Church of Mendon who are styled aggrieved, it was agreed to appoint Wednesday, ye 15th instant, to be a
    day of fasting and prayer, and renewing their covenant with God and one another, and settling their affairs
    according to ye order of the Gospel in these churches."

    It was agreed to meet on said day at ye house of Elder Jones at nine of ye clock . The next record reads:
    "April ye 15th, 1741, the brethren of ye church of Mendon, who have been styled aggrieved, met according to
    appointment; ye with the assistance of the Elders and Messengers of the Church of Hopkinton and the
    Church of Holliston, solemnly framed themselves into a Church state, by signing a Chh. Covenant."

    The town bitterly protested this action and took its case to the General Court which compromised the issue
    by granting the Mill River men the incorporated status of a precinct rather than a town.

    The date of that act was December 23, 1741. To become permanently valid the act stipulated "that the said
    inhabitants, so set off, shall, within the space of two years from this time, erect a convenient Meeting House,
    and settle a learned orthodox Minister for the public Worship of God."

    Building a meeting house and settling a minister were the next two problems to be solved before the
    expiration date stated in the Act of Incorporation. A shell was erected by 1743 and their first minister, Rev.
    Amariah Frost, who was to serve them for forty-nine years, was duly called and settled. The council that
    arranged for this ordination met on December 21, 1743, "at the house of Eld. Jones." The records do not
    state where the services were solemnized but Ballou, in his History of Milford, says, "We may safely infer
    that they (ceremonies and festivities) all took place in the commodious mansion of the Jonses, latterly
    known as the Old House in Hopedale."

    When the precinct became incorporated as the Town of Milford in 1780, the new church - the Second
    Church of Mendon - became the First Congregational Church of Milford. The meeting house erected in
    1743, was not finished inside, suitable for church services until 1748. During that time it was used
    principally for precinct meetings, the people meanwhile meeting in their homes for worship services.
    By 1791, the population of the new town had increased considerably and it became necessary to enlarge
    the building. Yankee thrift and ingenuity solved the problem by cutting it in two and inserting fourteen feet
    between the ends. But the town kept growing and the old church became inadequate to meet the demands
    placed upon it. It was taken down in 1819 and the present church erected in its place.

    In typical New England White Church character there she sits right in the center of the town, with Draper
    Park, originally the Common, to set her off. It is good to observe also that its gleaming spire still towers
    majestically above the surrounding buildings, a mute but impressive reminder of the place it has held in the
    religious affairs of this community these past 225 years. Milford Daily News, April 26, 1966

                            
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Congregational Church, Milford