Milford - 1780

                                                                              by Adin Ballou

    Milford, including what is now Hopedale, separated from Mendon in 1780. As part of their large centennial
    celebration in 1880, Adin Ballou wrote History of Milford. What follows comes from that book, telling about
    the area a century earlier. DM

                                                                              One Hundred Years Ago

    When we reach the commencement of the centennial period, whose glorious completion this day we
    celebrate, Milford was still a mere parochial precinct, with less than seven hundred inhabitants. They had
    thus far multiplied by natural increase and influx from the older colonial settlements. They inhabited
    comparatively lowly dwellings, situated here and there on more than fifty legally laid town-roads, ways and
    bridle paths. Most of these were crooked and cheaply constructed thread-lines of communication. The main
    thoroughfare through our center was known, in early days, as "the Sherborn road." It led from Mendon Town
    to Holliston, originally a part of Sherborn, and was a rustic bridle and cart path long before being sanctioned
    as a regular public highway. It will astonish the present generation to be told the fact, that down to 1800
    there were not above twenty-five residences on this Sherborn road, from Mendon line to that of Holliston. Yet
    it has always been the most populous road within our nearly nineteen square miles of territory.

    The inhabitants generally subsisted, before the Revolution and for years afterward, mainly on the products
    of their diligent husbandry. There were only a few mechanical craftsmen pursuing their respective
    avocations, such as blacksmiths, carpenters, tanners, shoemakers, tailors, clothiers, etc. Manufactures
    were so primitive and crude, that smart wags of neighboring localities contemptuously nicknamed the
    "Easterly Precinct" Broomshire; implying that it throve by the manufacture and sale of splint brooms, wrought
    Indian-fashion from ash and birch saplings. But when they saw Capt. Samuel Warren raise thirty resolute
    minute-men, and march them well drilled to Roxbury, before the sun had set on the bloody field of
    Lexington, most of whom served through the war; and that Dr. William Jennison, a chosen delegate to the
    famous Provincial Congress, was so fired with patriotism as to give the town of Mendon a brass field-piece,
    -- even Broomshire commanded their respect; for Milford never lacked martial patriotism or physical
    enterprise. So its nickname soon fell into oblivion, and at length it outgrew its early superiors.

    Here, then, we may briefly contrast our past with our present. One hundred years ago Milford was a small
    precinct, having a sparsely settled population of less than 700 souls; to-day it is a flourishing town, with
    almost 10,000 inhabitants. One hundred years ago it probably had 110 families; to-day it has 2,000
    families. Then, perhaps, 100 dwelling houses; now more than 1,500. Then not more than 150 legal voters;
    now more than 2,600. Then a valuation probably not exceeding $350,000; now one of over $5,000,000. Then
    little or no public schooling; now almost 2,400 children and youth liberally provided for in schools of higher
    and lower grade, at an annual expense of over $23,000. Milford reports an investment in schoolhouses of
    $64,300. It has over a dozen, several of them, beginning with the high-school edifice, eminently substantial
    and commodious. These significantly confront the cipher of a hundred years ago.

                                                                                         Rapid Transit

    Shall I refer to our three railroads, whose snorting steam-horses take us to Boston, Worcester, or
    Providence in less time than formerly we could ride a few miles into the neighboring towns? Our ancestors
    were happy to foot it over hill and through dale, wherever occasion called, or to ride on horseback, single or
    double, or, rising in the scale of luxury, to enjoy conveyances in their memorable springless, hard-jolting,
    open wagons. Later, the famous old square-top chaise awoke the envious admiration of non-possessors,
    and then the bellows-top, and so on to our present genteel vehicles. Herein and all about us we behold the
    strides of progress. Adin Ballou, History of Milford, 437 - 439.

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