HOPEDALE COMMUNITY, FOUNDED IN 1841,
IN ITS ORIGIN AND EARLY HISTORY
fact, that it may be and probably is true that no one now in the earth life, knows personally, now, as
much of the origin and earliest history of the Hopedale Community, as does the writer of these
They are written in part at the request of friends who would be better acquainted with its origin, and
in part too, to refresh my own memory with its several details.
The time is well remembered when a few friends assembled at my father's [Adin Ballou] house in
Mendon where he was then settled as minister of the Unitarian Society. The subject of Social Reform
occupied largely their attention. Charles Fournier, a Frenchman, had been studied and his principles
to some extent adopted by Robert Dale Owen. Following his theories somewhat, they decided upon
a standard which should embody their ideas of a Christian life, calling together those who could
subscribe to such a standard, and if practical found a new social order. Accordingly this Community
was started and known as Fraternal Community No. 1, at Mendon, by some thirty individuals from
different parts of the state. They were poor in all the resources necessary to prosecute this great
enterprise save faith, zeal and determination.
They purchased what was called the "Jones Farm," a tract of land lying between Mendon and
Milford, alias "The Dale," prefixing the word, "Hope," to its ancient designation, as significant of the
great things they hoped for, from an humble, unpropitious beginning. It then contained only two
hundred fifty-eight acres and a shabby two-story house, more than one hundred twenty years old, and
some outside buildings. Fournier placed great strength on the doctrine of Circumstances, as the
chief remedial cause of all life's ills. These were tried, but failed to accomplish the result sought. My
father did not object to their modus operandi, but laid greater stress upon the moral and spiritual
element as essential to man's highest development. True to these convictions two or three families
with their dependents moved thither early in the spring of 1842. These were followed by my father's
family who together entered upon their untried experiment. True to their pledged cause and to each
other they were happy in this first step toward an anticipated glorious fruition.
They published to the world their attempt to live, "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men." Daily, letters
and friends poured in upon them, too many for their limited means. Most of those who came were
ready to accommodate themselves to circumstances, and all the old buildings were speedily over-
run with occupants seeking for a restful hose, free from the discouragements and disappointments
found in individualism. Alas! They little realized that their own imperfections might engulf them the
ruin they sought to escape.
In 1851, the "Old House" in which most of the members had been domiciled, as I have said before,
was more than one hundred and twenty years old; their domain consisted of five hundred acres; of
twenty-five dwelling houses; three machine shops with water power; facilities for manufacturing; and
a small chapel for educational, moral, and spiritual enlightenment. There were then about thirty-four
families and in all one hundred and seventy-five persons.
They had many burdens, anxieties, and trials which the true-hearted alone could bear with
cheerfulness an by patient forbearance overcome. Notwithstanding all, its devoted friends now
considered it an established institution destined ultimately to exert a glorious influence toward the
regeneration of individual and social life.
Previous to this, they had erected a new house, 32 feet by 14 feet above the basement, for a
schoolroom, two upper sleeping rooms; and a printing office, where their organ, the Practical
Christian was printed every fortnight for twenty years, and continued to proclaim the pure Christian
ideals of a ransomed race. It was published from 1840 to 1860. It ended April 1, 1860.
There were four or five preachers who addressed our people and those of surrounding regions on
Sunday, and at other times as invited or urged. Regular meetings were held on Sunday, in the
Home; a conference meeting for praise and exhortation on Thursday evening.
To maintain discipline in the "Old House" and to keep so many lively boys and girls in order, it was
necessary to resort to various expedients. Among these was calling them together to listen to
rhymes, which they might learn, perhaps, inculcating their various duties, in and about the house,
some may here be noted in part.
"I'll think and take care how I stamp, stamp, stamp
When I traverse the rooms, above or below
And I'll never disturb with a wild hors tramp, tramp,
The feelings of those to whom noise is a woe.
"I'll think, too, when opening or shutting the door,
To do it so softly and still and unheard,
That no on shall complain of me more
As a heedless, neglectful, wild passage bird
I'll think of my voice, my coarse, loud, voice,
How it sounds when I scream, or yell, or halloo,
And endeavor to keep it so close and choice,
And never to make any needless ado.
"I'll speak in a whisper, or gentle low tone,
So kind, and so pleasant, so grateful to hear,
That all my superiors and equals shall own
Me, a welcome companion, accepted and dear,
"I'll think of my temper, my wayward old will,
So surly and stubborn, so peevish and cross,
That now I must labor to quell all its ills,
And trust in my Savior to purge out the dross.
"Blessed work of reform, O, I'll sing, sing, sing,
As I hie to the task of reform now begun,
And never get weary or dread anything,
Till the great and good work is thoroughly done."
Amusements combined with the educational, were considered indispensable and the several
evenings of the week were accordingly appropriated to this end. Monday evening was devoted to the
young, in general, elevating talks. These were afterwards merged into the Inductive Communion, so
called, which has here before been treated in a comprehensive manner. Tuesday evening was the
night given to the Lyceum, a popular organization in the world at large, when lectures, discussions,
and classes came before the assembled people. There were classes in Chemistry, Botany and
Philosophy, examined in a general review. These classes had their stated hours through the week
for study and recitation. It may seem somewhat singular that the class in Botany, in the summer,
chose to meet at five o'clock in the morning at the "Old House," and then they sallied forth for such
rare plants as they might find, returning in an hour, for study and analysis. They were led by some
competent teacher in this Branch. That the attraction for these morning walks was not always for the
study, I leave the hearer to judge. Wednesday eve was given usually to the social claims pertaining
to the Association when the various phases were canvassed, always creating an unusual interest.
Dancing among the members generally was abjured, and as a substitute marching was introduced
by one of our procurators, similar to the contra dance. A dozen or more couples took the floor, while
one of our veterans, skilled on the violin, furnished the music. The room over the shop was utilized
for this purpose. Old and young mingled in the entertainment, and the following prophetic
Community lines were sung in which nearly all united, These were composed by one of the original
ministers, to whom I shall refer, who was always devising schemes with which to divert and interest
the people, and especially the young, with whom he was a favorite. They were not only prophetic, but
I copy here the significant lines in part.
"We have come from various quarters,
Both parents, sons and daughters,
We have come from various quarters
To live a truer life.
And here we stand, joined heart and hand,
And here we hope to win the day,
Oppose who will, oppose who may;
And here we hope to win the day
And live a truer life.
"'Twas not the want of affection
For any dear connection,
'Twas not the want of affection,
That brought us to this place.
But 'twas the love of God above
And all our fellow creatures,
Whate'er their hue or features;
And all our fellow creatures
Of all the human race.
"We've met with many trials,
Have had some self-denials,
We've met with many trials
In founding here a home.
Yet here we stand, joined heart and hand,
And here we mean to conquer sin,
Our foes without and foes within;
Then Heaven on earth will here begin
For humble souls a home.
"Now all our prospects brighten,
Experience doth enlighten,
Small matters do not frighten,
In order we progress.
We labor, all, both great and small;
All energies uniting,
Makes labor more inviting,
Right onward now we press.
"In our sequestered dwelling,
All nature's voice impelling,
Kind hearts with love are swelling
For human want and woe.
Our Father's near, we need not fear
But place our furrow deeply,
And sing our songs more sweetly, In all good works act meekly
And onward, onward, go."
A part only of these stanzas are inscribed, All present united, singing them with spirit and
The long table with thirty or more guests gave a pleasing variety, After breakfast, the roll was called,
each responding to the number of hours they had been employed the previous day.
My father in mentioning the condition of things at this time was much encouraged, saying, "We are
unlearning old dispositions, habits, tastes and manners, acquiring new ones, as we trust for the
better. Inquirers are coming more and more frequently and we press forward with determined step to
the fulfillment of our high mission."
About this time there were many visitors who lectured on various themes. Being amenable as we
were, to new ideas, each lecturer readily found a place. The subject of Phrenology was then claiming
public attention and the appearance of a man treating this there, with a "bust" of a finely organized
head, was welcomed. He explained in a long poetical dissertation the theories advanced, examined
heads, stated their various proclivities, as one after another came forward for predictions. The room
was well filled, the attention good, and at an early hour they generally retired, well satisfied with the
thought on Phrenology, as expressed by the lecturer.
Strange and crude ideas existed among many, respecting Community finance, in the world
outside. For instance, a man of wealth, the husband of a widow with whom I had once boarded,
when attending school, called to see and learn what such a peculiar people were like. Walking
around to visit the shops, he spoke to me, saying as he did so and passing me fifty cents, "Do not put
this into the Community purse, but in your pocket; buy candy and knickknacks with it when you
please. Say nothing to nobody." Of course I took his kindly advice, and the money was placed in a
safe repository. A common purse existed in the minds of many, whereas it was a Joint Stock
It was an episode in our circle when a young man appeared, attired in a garb of white, with large
books under his arm, and we were elated at the idea that a "Brook Farm" student had come to us to
enliven our passing days. He had some cherished ideas, one of which was to summon the boys
and girls early in the summer morning, to weed with him in the garden. This was a novelty for awhile
and was very pleasing so that fresh recruits were daily added to our number. At length, however, the
new wore off and the idea of weeding was relinquished for another morning nap. The young man's
white apparel was soon exchanged for an ordinary suit, more appropriate to his duties, and more in
accordance with the custom in vogue.
In 1843, one of the original ministers became so dissatisfied, that he sought a home among the
Shakers, and soon after sent a thrilling letter to the Secretary, stating that he had found an Elysium.
How long he remained with the good people, deponent saith not, but it is to be presumed that he
continued to seek the more divine.
Slang and oaths among the members were rare, and I recall none; although what is so common in
these days, probably existed to some extent then.
Singing was a prominent amusement and on Friday evenings, we often engaged in Temperance
and other secular songs. What a dull entertainment for our young people now, only fascinated with
card playing, dancing and similar amusements! It was not tedious in those days.
Being fond of children, another young girl and I were ordinarily assigned a position in the nursery
group, where I managed at times, three or four cradles, while the mothers engaged in household
duties. Fortunate was I, when the occupants of the cradles did not all at once demand too much of
my attention and left me rime for reading.
Each month was held some festive gathering in which all participated. One of the first was the
"Haymakers," when a song was introduced in which the pet names of the horses and the cattle were
brought in, as "Nabby, "Dick," and "Trotty," of the horses, -- I think it was in the days of "King Alcohol,"
"Buck," etc., of the oxen. These excited some merriment. Other festivals as May and Christmas had
a place. The latter, as you know continues to the present time. This was looked forward to as the
gala day of the year. Then appeared our conundrum master with his humorous play upon the names
of some of our number, which were acceptable to the company. Gifts were plentiful for old and
young. Poets were common with us, and all along they interspersed their poetical effusions. The
most gifted of these was Mrs. Abby H, Price who generously served us on festive days, as on the
more sad and serious, for nearly ten years, when she sought more congenial surroundings. Others
of no ordinary merit might be named did time permit. At one of our May Festivals a very pleasing
exercise was presented,. Several children marched into the Chapel bearing bouquets of wild flowers,
singing as they entered, --
"We have been in search of wild flowers
In Hopedale's glens and shady bowers,
And gathered each a fair bouquet
To celebrate this festal day."
"And why should we not love the flowers
That grow about this dale of ours.
Sweet tokens they will ever prove
Of our dear Father's precious love."
I omit the remaining excellent stanzas. If any are interested I refer them to page 182, in the "History
of the Hopedale Community," to be obtained in your Memorial Library. The author of these lines was
our kind friend, Reverend D.S. Whitney, and are well worth reading and repeating in song. Henry C.
Wright, a great social reformer and peace man was present and so much pleased was he with this
exercise and others, that he sent and enthusiastic letter to a friend in Europe, and also a western
letter describing what he had witnessed.
One of the original ministers, Mr. Stacey, later residing in Milford, whose wife was opposed to
Communal life, erected the first dwelling house in the village, on the site now occupied by Mrs. C.M.
Day's mansion, on Hopedale Street. [The 1905 street listing: Day, Laura B., widow of Charles M. (died
February 21, 1903), house Hopedale cor Hope (the house across from the library) Laura - In all other
references to her I've seen elsewhere the name spelled Lura - was the daughter of Joseph and Sylvia
Bancroft. The Almon Thwing family later lived in the house built by Stacy, and as far as I've been able
to tell, it's the only house in Hopedale recorded as housing an escaped slave. Click here for more
about it. ]
My parents much worn and weary with their experience in the Old House decided to build a home of
their own, to live "under their own vine and fig tree," and prosecute their labors for the good of
mankind. They accordingly erected a cottage on Peace Street near by where now stands my father's
monument. This was the third house in the village. Their labors were not much diminished, so large
a number of visitors was constantly seeking a haven of rest, which they believed Hopedale
Community alone could afford. Without money and without price they entertained many such
inquirers for several years, still hoping for a blessed fruition of their work.
Through the usual kindness of a wealthy brother, an invitation was accepted to share with himself
and wife a western trip to the state of Ohio. They visited a warm hearted Community friend, and on
their return received a cordial welcome. Their experiences abroad were recounted and a group
picture of the Inductive Communion, with a small sum of money, was presented to my father, all of
which proved very acceptable. The picture is now in the possession of one of the members.
It is proper that I tell you what became of our first-born in Hopedale. Lucy Ballou Lillie went to the
West for a short time and later to the South. I have since learned that long ago she passed to the
Adin Ballou Harris I lost sight of for nearly forty years. Being informed where he was I wrote him and
in return received interesting letters from him, giving me great pleasure. He is settled in New
Hampton, Iowa, and is a prosperous farmer, an Abstractor of Titles. He has a fine family and some
grandchildren. He seems to be a very busy man. In his last correspondence he writes of the early
sacrifices and self-denials and of the general aspect of the country on his arrival when a boy, as
compared with its present thriving condition, inviting me to visit his "Paradise" as he now deems it. I
sent him the History of the Hopedale Community in which he manifested great interest. The names
of several parties were familiar but he could not recall the faces. He alludes to his pleasant
childhood, and at playing "Leap Frog" at one of our festivals to the amusement of the company. I
think of him as an unusual lad, adept at figures and a marvel to the school committee. He seems, so
far as I know, a worthy follower of the teachings which were so earnestly inculcated in the earliest
days of the Community.
Notwithstanding there was much happiness in Community life as a whole, disaffections began to
spring up; the spirit of conciliation and forbearance was not always exhibited; human genius began
to unfold when least expected. Our original ministers and some laymen gradually began to sigh for
the "loaves and fishes" which but a short time before they had exchanged for the new order of
society. They had failed to realized either their own imperfections of those of the others. While
claiming their principles were mainly the same as ever, they thought times were not ripe for such
experiments, and that their dreams were Utopian. So they were pleased to return to the old order of
society and to accept their old ways, leaving the founder and a few faithful adherents to fight the battle
Thus have I partially indicated from memory's page the origin and early history of the Hopedale
Community. Its greatest crisis took place in 1856 after many changes and governmental
transformations adapted to the necessities of the case. But the final act of dissolution was declared
Dec. 15, 1873. Thus ended one of the grandest experiments ever attempted for the good of mankind.
Seemingly it failed to accomplish what its founder had hoped for, but the seed sown by him and his
earnest co-workers for a higher civilization will one day be realized, and a truer, better order of society
will then supplant the present disorderly and crude state that exists.
Adin Ballou's faith continued to the end of a long life. He always believed that man would develop
into a true nobleness of life and character after the Christ-like pattern of Jesus of Nazareth. That we
may be infused with his spirit and that of his faithful co-workers is the sincere wish of your friend,
Abbie Ballou Heywood,
The Home School Hopedale Reminiscences Menu
Below is the message from Patricia Hatch, sent along with the pictures of Abbie Ballou Heywood and her
husband, Rev. William S. Heywood. These photos, it seems, are the only ones known to exist of the
Heywoods, and it was a wonderful piece of luck that Patricia's connection to the Unitarian Church of
Marlboro and Hudson, as well as to the Unitarian Church of Hopedale, and the Friends of Adin Ballou,
brought them to us. Thanks very much, Patricia!!!
Hello, Abbie Ballou Heywood!
Here are the two shots of Mrs. Heywood. The first was inscribed "Mrs. Hayward at the last of their
pastorate," so that would be c. 1874.
I think it's meaningful that it says at the last of "THEIR" pastorate, even though William was the minister. :-)
The second photo is one of the two I showed at the FAB lecture. That photo is marked, "when she first
came," so that would date the photo c. 1867. I especially like this one of the three photos we've found of
her (the two attached pictures and the other one I showed in the crumbling frame with glass).
Again, I see the difference in spelling, but knowing what I know about spelling variations and other proof, I
am thoroughly convinced this is "our" Abbie. The companion picture (of the ones under glass) was clearly
marked with a "Wm. S." and some spelling of Heywood, and I believe it even had the dates when he was
minister. We now know what these good folks looked like. I am so glad we can share them with the world.
Photos Courtesy of the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson.
With warm regards,