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.”

    The Milford High School was built and ready for use in 1851. Some pupils from Hopedale attended
    until the year 1889 when Hopedale had its own high school. (Actually there are Hopedale School
    Committee reports in the town report, beginning in 1887 that mention Hopedale having a high school
    and reporting on graduations. There were two graduates in 1887 and one in 1888. Evidently some
    Hopedale students who had started high school in Milford, remained there until they graduated. As is
    mentioned below, classes were held in the Hopedale town hall until Hopedale’s first high school was
    completed in 1889.) After 1886, when Hopedale became an independent town, such pupils paid one
    dollar per week tuition. It is interesting to note that Hopedale’s founder, Adin Ballou, was on the
    building committee of the Milford High School.

    In 1868, the Hopedale Grammar and Primary Schoolhouse was completed. The description reads, “It
    is of wood, one story, with dimensions affording accommodation for both a grammar and a primary
    school.” The cost of the site, construction, fixtures, etc., was $5,000. It was built by the town (the town
    of Milford, at that time) into whose hands the public school property had by this time passed. This
    structure remains as part of the Chapel School, named for the site, designated by the Hopedale
    Community as Chapel Square. (Just to be clear on this, there have been three schools on the block
    between Chapel and Freedom streets. The first was the chapel and school of the Hopedale
    Community. The second was the one referred to in this paragraph, which at some point was enlarged
    to have two stories. The third was the Dutcher Street School.)

    Upon the occasion of leaving the Schoolhouse Chapel, Adin Ballou wrote a touching poem of seven
    stanzas whose first line reads, “Farewell, dear Schoolhouse-Chapel. Farewell to the Schoolhouse-

    The Hopedale High School opened in 1889. Pupils from the town, now independent from Milford, had
    been attending the Milford High School, or in some cases, the Hopedale town hall. The new school
    had accommodations for fifty pupils. It was the gift of the Hopedale Machine Company, George
    Draper and Sons, and the Dutcher Temple Company. The cost was $6,000, exclusive of land and
    furnishings. The school was used until the new high school was opened in 1929. The Roman
    Catholic Church is now located on this site and uses the remodeled building.

    The Dutcher Street School was opened in 1898. At that time it was called the New Grammar School.
    This handsome structure of red brick with granite trimmings was erected at a cost of $40,000. It has
    been in constant use since its building, with several useful interior alterations.

    Seven years later, in October 1915, the Park Street School was ready for use, having cost $37,000,
    with the lot valued at $1,000. This school has taken care of the first four grades, sharing this
    responsibility with other elementary schools.

    In 1928, the General Draper High School on Adin Street was ready for use, and dedicated April 6,
    1929. While the building was erected by the town, the lot, formerly the site of the General Draper
    home, was the gift of the General’s daughter, now Madame Draper-Boncompagni. The following
    year, the Memorial room, containing the family library, now the High School library, was decorated
    and furnished by Madame Draper-Boncompagni and has been maintained by her ever since.

    In 1929, the Hopedale Town Report reads, “The South Hopedale one-room school has gone on in
    the usually harmonious and successful manner…” The pupils of the three highest grades had been
    attending the Dutcher Street School by bus. However, the school, whose value in 1915 was
    estimated at $2,000, was given up and sold for a dwelling place, and is still used as such after much

    In 1932, Mrs. Frank J. Dutcher, whose husband was long a member of the School Committee, gave
    the lot adjoining the high school property as a memorial to Mr. Dutcher. If, at the end of fifty years the
    land is not needed for school purposes, it becomes a park.

    It is a far cry from the one-room school house built in the year 1709 at a cost of fifteen pounds to the
    ultra-modern Hopedale school for which the sum of $375,000 was appropriated in town meeting. But
    standards and values have always been of highest New England quality in Hopedale.

More on the early history of Hopedale schools   

Town Buildings and Departments Menu             Now and Then - Hopedale High School   

Superintendent's report, graduation program, honor roll, class photo, 1909   

Home School of the Hopedale Community            The General Draper Library              HOME  

    A couple of months after finding the school history above, in the files of the Hopedale Community
    Historical Society at the Bancroft Library, I was going through scrapbooks of newspaper clippings at
    the library and found that many years earlier, Rachael Day's sister-in-law, Lucy Day had written a
    school history also. It has many anecdotes about the early years of the schools. You can see it below.

    The schoolhouse-chapel of the Hopedale
    Community on Hopedale Street. c. 1843

    The Chapel Street School on the corner
    of Chapel and Hopedale streets.

The original Hopedale High School - Hopedale Street, 1889

The original Hopedale High School with addition.

Dutcher Street School, 1898

Park Street School, 1914

General Draper High School, 1927

Hopedale Junior-Senior High School

Memorial Elementary School, 1954 - Adin Street side

    Memorial Elementary School -
    Prospect Street entrance side

    The Henrietta Walker Day page on the Find a Grave site. Since the
    box above is a graphic, none of what appear to be links will work.
    However, if you use the link in the first sentence in this parpagraph,
    it will take you the Henrietta Walker Day page where the links to
    more on Lucy and other family members will work.

More on the Walker family   

    The town hall was dedicated on October 25, 1887. That makes me wonder where
    the first Hopedale High graduation was held. The high school wasn't built until
    1889 and I don't think the Chapel Street School would have been suitable for it. My
    guess is that the best location in town for the graduation of 1887 would have been
    the Unitarian Church. The original Unitarian Church; not the present one. The
    present one was built in 1898.

    The name Edith Draper appears twice in the program for the 1888 graduation. I
    think "Miss Draper" in the 1887 program also would have been Edith.  She was
    the daughter of General Draper and his first wife, Lilla. Edith married Montgomery
    Blair, Jr, and they lived in what was then the Blair family home in Washington, D.C.
    now known as Blair House, or the president's guest house. If you click on Edith's
    name, you'll go to a page with a condensed version of the diary she kept while a
    student at Miss Porter's School.

    Another name in the program is Paul Day. Rachel Day, who wrote the school
    history near the top of this page was, years later of course, his wife.

    Henry W B Arnold graduated from Hopedale High School in the first class,
    1888, at age of 17 -- and was the only graduate. Two former members had
    dropped out during the year.  (In June 1938 he was toastmaster at the 50th
    anniversary of the first graduation, a big celebration in the Community House
    in Hopedale.)

    Click here to read more about Henry W. B. Arnold's life.

                                           More on the early history of Hopedale schools   

Town Buildings and Departments Menu             Now and Then - Hopedale High School   

Superintendent's report, graduation program, honor roll, class photo, 1909   

Home School of the Hopedale Community            The General Draper Library              HOME