A Model Community
Hopedale – They builded better than they knew who in 1841 bought the central part of this Worcester County town which had long
been known as “the dale,” and, to indicate their great and glowing anticipations in regard to the future, said, “We will call this
place Hopedale and we will establish here a community which shall hold all property in common “ Fifteen years later the
“community” ceased to exist by vote of its members, but although the anticipations of the founders were not realized in the way
which had been expected, they have nevertheless been fulfilled in the building up here by individual energy and business
foresight of a town which is a typical and model New England community and which is a standing exemplification of the results of
well directed industry and thrift. Here is a town of 1200 people with water, gas, electric lights, macadamized streets, asphalt
walks, long lines of beautiful shade trees, well-kept lawns, roomy houses, and spacious yards and everywhere the air of
prosperity and content. In politics the town is strongly Republican and no liquor saloon has ever blighted the place. At the last
town election the vote on licensing the sale of liquor was 91 against licensing and not a solitary yes vote. The annual tax levy
amounts to about $18,000, nearly one-third of which is spent upon the public schools. What more could the founders of the
Hopedale Community have had in mind that such results as these, and was not the failure of the communal idea which opened
the way for individual enterprise the best possible success after all?
Hopedale as it is today is the monument of the late George Draper and tells the story of his life and character more impressively
and effectively than could any shaft of marble or pillar of bronze. Thirty-six years ago the firm of E.D. and G. Draper was formed
and began business in a one-story machine shop 20 by 40 feet in size. That shop is still standing, but the business which was
begun in it has been extended and enlarged until now it occupies over three acres of floor surface instead of the 800 square feet
occupied at the beginning, and arrangements are now being made for the addition of another acre of floor surface the present
season. In 1868, E.D. Draper retired from the firm which had then been in existence for 16 years and George Draper took his
eldest son, William F., as his business partner, under the firm name of George Draper & Son. In 1877, Mr. Draper’s second son,
George A. became a partner, and the firm name became George Draper & Sons. In 1880, Mr. Draper’s third son, Eben S. was
admitted to partnership, and in 1887 his grandson, William f. Draper, Jr. In June 1887, Mr. Draper died and his three sons and
grandson now carry on the business, the firm name of George Draper & Sons remaining unchanged. The business which Mr.
Draper began, and which his sons and grandson now conduct, was the manufacture of mill machinery, especially roving,
warping, reeling, spooling and twisting machinery. They also manufacture large quantities of high speed spindles and have
control of the entire product of these spindles in the country, and other specialties of there are machine screws and spinning
rings. The automatic machines that produce the screws are marvels of ingenuity in construction and of intelligence in working
and each machine turns out from 50 to 4000 screws per day, according to size. The knitting machines used by the Shaw
Stocking Company of Lowell in manufacturing the seamless socks that Roger Mills eulogized so highly as evidencing the
superior skill of foreign inventors and manufacturers are made here. An industry of comparatively recent establishment in
Hopedale is the manufacture of elastic fabric for suspenders, etc, and in the several industries which the Drapers now carry on
here they give employment to about 600 people, one-sixth of them being women and girls who are employed in the elastic fabric
mills. Of the 1200 inhabitants of the town of Hopedale, at least 1,000 derive their support directly or indirectly from the industries
referred to above, and probably an equal number living in the neighboring towns of Milford and Mendon receive their support in
the same way. The average rate of wages paid here is high, both because of the character of the work and the skill and
intelligence of those who are employed, and the weekly payroll is $1000 per day or an average of $10 per week per hand, for
men, women and girls. The total business done is from $600,000 to $800,000 per year.
Gen. William F. Draper, the present head of the firm and who inherits in a marked degree his father’s personal appearance and
business ability, is yet a young man, being only 46 years old. He was born in Lowell in 1842, his father at that time being
employed in one of the mills there, and at the age of 16, after supplementing the common school advantages with a year or two
of academy instruction,* he went to work in a cotton mill himself. When the war broke out in 1861, he was 19 years old and he
enlisted as a private in company B of the 25th Massachusetts regiment, a company which went from Milford. He was promoted
through the various grades until he became first lieutenant, and when the 36th regiment was formed in Worcester he was
captain of one of those companies. His faithful and gallant service led to his promotion to major and lieutenant colonel, and while
holding the latter rank he commanded a brigade in the Army of the Potomac. He was most severely wounded in one of the battles
of the Wilderness, so severely indeed that he was given up for dead, but after three months at home, he returned to the front and
rejoined his regiment a short time before the war closed and the regiment was mustered out of service.* * Few men who went to
the war from Massachusetts gave a better account of themselves in the service than did Gen. Draper, who enlisted at 19 as a
private and was mustered out at 23 as brevet brigadier general. When he returned from the war Gen. Draper at once went to work
with his father, and just 20 years ago became the junior partner in the firm of which he is now the senior member.
Originally a strong anti-slavery man and keeper of a station on the Underground Railroad which led from slavery to freedom,
George Draper was a prominent and active Republican from the time the party was formed until his death, and his sons follow in
his footsteps. William F. has served several times as member of the Republican state committee and so has his brother,
George A., and the brothers are all no less strong in their devotion to Republicanism and protection (tariffs) than was their father.
The Home Market Club owes its existence to the labors in that direction of the late George Draper, who was its first president,
and after his death the general was made one of the club’s vice presidents. Timothy Merrick of Holyoke being elected president.
Gen. Draper has never yet held any public office, but he is prominently mentioned this year in all parts of the State in connection
with the Republican nomination for governor and is developing a strength in that direction which is very gratifying to his friends.
He is one of those men who never fail to give a good account of themselves wherever they are placed, and if he is called to the
governorship he will give the Commonwealth no less faithful and efficient service as her chief executive than he rendered his
country during the war whether as private in the ranks or at the head of a brigade. Springfield Daily Union, July 9, 1888.
The general never became governor, but eleven years later his brother, Eben, did.
*Based on the general’s autobiography, I presume the academy referred to was the Home School in Hopedale.
** Draper’s account of leaving the Army is a little different than the one above. About this date (October 1864) an order was
received from the War Department, to the effect that officers who had served three years were entitled to an honorable discharge
if they so elected. The order may or may not have been a wise one, - I hardly think it was, - but still there was an element of
fairness in it and many took advantage of it. My letters home show that I debated the question with my friends carefully (I may say,
prayerfully), and I finally decided to avail myself of it. I would not have resigned of my own volition, but here was a discharge
offered to me as a right, and I felt that I could properly take my condition and circumstances into account. I was suffering from my
wounds, which were very painful with the increasing cold. I believed that military operations for the fall were over, as they proved
to be for us, and that I should be physically unable to take part in winter campaigning if it should be necessary. I saw that the
regiment would not be filled up and that commanders of new regiments, with little or no experience as compared to mine, would
be placed over me in case of vacancies in the command of our brigade. I had also been a married man for more than two years,
with little or no chance to make my wife’s acquaintance. On the other hand, I hated to leave the service before the war was over,
and the ties between me and my command had become very close. The reasons in favor of going, however, seemed to grow
stronger the more I thought of the subject, and I was mustered out of the service the 12th of October. Soon after, as the
regimental history says, I received brevet rank as colonel and brigadier-general, for gallant and meritorious service in the field
during the war. William F. Draper, Recollections of a Varied Career, pp.175-176.
Draper Menu Hopedale map, 1888 HOME