The Water Cure House is in the middle of this picture, just across Hopedale Street from the two
houses in the foreground. For many years there were houses on the west side of Hopedale Street.
Expansion of the shop, probably a bit after 1890, resulted in them being moved. (I've seen that some
were moved to Prospect Street, and others to Hopedale Street, south of Route 16.) The Water Cure
House was razed in 1968.
When former Water Cure House resident, Richard Bodreau first looked
at this page and saw the Milford News photo above, he got quite a
surprise. Here's his comment on it.."My first car. 1956 Chevy parked in
the yard of Water Cure House... LOL."
buried near this stone at Hopedale Village Cemetery.
The name on the stone is that of their daughter.
This is the house that is now on the site
where the Water Cure House once stood.
The Wilmarths and the Water Cure
go to the Water Cure House on what is now Hopedale Street and have Drs. Butler and Phila Wilmarth
tend to them. Well, for a few months in 1850 they could, anyway. The name "Water Cure House"lived on
long after the place closed and even after Wilmarths were buried in the Hopedale Village Cemetery. It
was known by that name up until the time it was razed in 1968. The Bancroft Library has a book about
the water cure by Butler and bound copies of the Water Cure Journal, which contains all you'd ever
want to know about the treatment. The information on the Wilmarths below was found on a website.
DR. BUTLER WILMARTH - the illegitimate son of Peggy Coleman; grandson of James Coleman, a
native of Ireland, whose wife's maiden name was Molly Wetherell (a descendant of the first settler);
was born Dec. 18, 1798. Uncertain who his father was, but believed a man of some note in town. June
28, 1802, Butler was bound out by the selectmen to Amos Wilmarth of Rowe, till he was 21 years old to
learn the art of husbandry. Then was adopted by Mr. Wilmarth, and took his name. Though compelled
to labor hard during his minority, he managed to gather sufficient education to teach school. About 23
years old, he began the study of medicine with Dr. William F. Selden of Amherst, paying his board by
working on the farm. He put himself under the tuition of Dr. Brigham of Greenfield, who soon after
moved away. Without having completed his studies, and without any diploma or license, with that self-
reliance that always characterized his actions, entered upon the duties of physician at Montague
(where his foster-father had resided), and soon won the confidence and respect of many influential
citizens, and became widely known as a skillful practitioner.
In 1831 he married Phila Osgood of Wendell, and had two children. About 1834 he removed to
Leverett. Ten years later he joined the Hopedale Community at Milford. In 1847 ill health sent him to the
Watercure Institution at New Lebanon, N.Y., where he was so much benefited that he became a
convert to hydropathy. In 1852 he and Dr. J.H. Hero opened a Water Cure at Westborough. In 1851 he
was chosen President of the Hydropathic Association of Physicians and Surgeons which then met at
NYC. In 1853 as he returned home from the annual meeting of which he was still president, the ill-
fated train was precipitated into the river at Norwalk, CT (and probably by drowning) his life was
terminated on May 6, 1853.
The information above is from: http://www.webspawner.com/users/norton4gen/movedon2.html
Here's what Adin Ballou had to say about the Wilmarths and the water cure in his History of the
The Hopedale Water Cure Establishment. The method of treating disease by a free and judicious use
of pure water accompanied by a greatly diminished resort to drugs and medicines, usually termed
Hydropathy, had a few adherents among us at an early day. Our genial, cautious, open-minded,
conscientious physician, Butler Wilmarth, M.D., a skillful practitioner of the Allopathic school, quite
incredulous at first of the new system, was led to look carefully into its workings and merits by
witnessing the somewhat wonderful cure through its agency of a little boy -- the four year old son of
Bro. Wm. H. Fish -- who had been stricken down with a severe and alarming attack of scarlet fever. The
result of his investigation was a thorough conversion to and subsequent championship of its claims at
home and abroad whenever his voice could be heard. Having become fully convinced of the essential
efficacy of water as a remedial agent, and the antidotes and restoratives employed in connection
therewith, he very soon started the project of founding an Infirmary at Hopedale for the accommodation
and treatment of patients, however afflicted, according to the principles and requirements of the
Hydropathic system. The Community, to whose members he made and appeal for approval and help
as soon as his plans were sufficiently mature, being favorably disposed towards the undertaking,
voted in April 1850, "to appropriate $600.00 to establish a Water Cure Infirmary, provided new Joint-
Stock can be obtained" for that purpose. The funds were forthcoming and the large double house built
by Amos J. Cook and Edmund Price, which had come into the possession of the Community, was
remodeled and fitted up of the purpose indicated during the ensuing summer. In the month of
September it was opened to the public agreeably to the terms stated in the following advertisement.
This institution was something entirely new in this part of the country, as was its mode of treatment for
the various ills which flesh is heir to, and hence failed of sufficient patronage to render it pecuniarily
successful. It was therefore deemed expedient, after it had been open a few months, to close it and
restore the building to its original use. This decision was made with the entire approval of Dr. Wilmarth
who had received a somewhat flattering offer to take charge of a similar establishment at New
Graefenburg, N.Y., which had already acquired a good reputation and standing with the general public,
and to that place he removed with his family in the spring of 1851, much to the regret of all of us, by
whom he was held in sincere esteem as a truly Christian man and a physician of high degree. Ballou,
HHC, pp. 204 - 206.
Here are a couple of paragraphs on Wilmarth from Commune to Company Town.
Wilmarth was so thoroughly converted [to the concept of the powers of the water cure] that by
September 1847 he was advertising in the Practical Christian for people to buy stock in his proposed
"Hopedale Water-Cure infirmary," intended to be a boarding establishment for the sickly of the outside
world. Despite his promises that the infirmary would cure a long list of nervous and physical disorders,
he initially got little support, but eventually the community gave him some assistance. He was a
popular figure at Hopedale, beloved for his flashes of high good humor and his sharp eye for the
ludicrous side of human behavior. Moreover with the end of the well-regulated economy, his projected
infirmary seemed to be the kind of business the village needed. When in 1849 the community again
initiated a program to expand the range of its enterprises, it fitted up its largest house for the infirmary
and granted six hundred dollars to begin the new business, the money to be raised by the sale of a
special issue of its joint stock. By May 1850 the Practical Christian announced that Hopedale was
prepared to accommodate twenty-five water-cure patients, noting that it was only thirty-two miles from
Boston by railroad: "We have a free circulation of air through the Dale, abundance of good water,
pleasant scenery, delightful walking grounds."
Unfortunately, the hope of making the village a center of Christian health was doomed to
disappointment by the darker side of Wilmarth's personality. Given to fits of depression and irritability,
the doctor soon decided that he could not succeed in the water-cure business at Hopedale, and in
1851 he departed to "operate on a larger scale Hydriatically" as the resident physician at the New
Graeffenberg Water-Cure Establishment near Utica, New York; two years later, the community was still
trying to find a use for the vacant water-cure house, possibly as "a bathing place for Males & Females."
In May 1851 Wilmarth was elected president of the American Hygienic and Hydropathic Association,
but his career in the outside world was short. He became dissatisfied with his situation at Utica, and in
1852 entered into a partnership to open a new establishment at Westboro, perhaps with some
financial assistance from friends at Hopedale. Whether he would have succeeded in this new venture
was never to be determined, since in May 1853 the train that he was taking to New York plunged off an
open drawbridge into the Norwalk River in Connecticut, and this great advocate of the curative power of
water was drowned along with more than fifty other passengers; his body was recovered and buried in
the Hopedale cemetery, forever among friends. Later, his widow, Phila O. Wilmarth, studied at the
Female Medical College in Philadelphia and in 1856 advertised that from her home at Hopedale she
was prepared to attend to the medical problems of the women of the surrounding towns. Edward
Spann, Hopedale: Commune to Company Town, pp. 60 - 61.
And here's a bit more from a biography of Wilmarth.
Here is an unpretending Memoir of an unpretending but most excellent Man, Christian, and Physician.
Dr. Wilmarth was not widely known, out of his sphere, but he was greatly respected, honored and
loved. and when the intelligence of his death at the fatal and memorable "Norwalk Bridge," was
circulated among those who knew him, I doubt if any other victim of that terrible and melancholy tragedy
was more sincerely and deeply lamented than he.
Butler Wilmarth ·Married: 1831, Franklin, [County] Massachusetts
Marriage Information: Butler married Phila Osgood, daughter of Joseph Osgood and Sarah Graves,
(both born in 1768) in 1831 in Franklin, [County] Massachusetts.
Phila Osgood ·Born: 21 Nov 1806, Wendell, Franklin, [County] Massachusetts ·Married: 1831,
Franklin, [County] Massachusetts .
Marriage Information: Phila married Butler Wilmarth in 1831 in Franklin, [County] Massachusetts.
Joseph Osgood ·Born: 6 Apr 1768, Wendell, Franklin, [County] Massachusetts ·Married: 1793
Marriage Information: Joseph married Sarah Graves, daughter of Benoni Graves and Mary Clark, in
1793. (Sarah Graves was born on 21 Apr 1768 in Sunderland, Franklin, [County] Massachusetts.)
Anyone who wants to learn more about the water cure could start at the Bancroft Library in Hopedale.
They have a good number of issues of the Water Cure Journal in the safe.
Worcester Telegram article on Dr. Wilmarth Hopedale Community Menu HOME
Thanks to Peter Metzke for sending this.
The two paragraphs above are the introduction to an article Hackett wrote that was
mainly on Gideon Putnam of Sutton. Putnam established a water cure house at
Saratoga Springs. The paragraphs above are all there was about Wilmarth in the
article.As to the mention in the first sentence, that the house was razed to make room
for a Draper project, I've never seen that anywhere else. As you've seen above, a duplex
was built on the site. By 1968, Drapers was owned by Rockwell, and they certainly
weren't building houses here.
(Milford), Mass., and is under the care of Dr. Butler Wilmarth, who, with his wife, will
devote their constant attention and services to restore to health all who place
themselves under their care as patients. Terms: $4 to $5 per week (payment weekly)
exclusive of washing. Extra privileges or attention will subject the patient to extra
charges. Patients will furnish the usual articles for treatment.
B. Wilmarth, M.D.
Hopedale (Milford), Sept. 28, 1850
All issues of the Water Cure Journal can be seen at
the Bancroft Library in Hopedale, Massachusetts.
Apartment Building in Hopedale
Once Was “Water Cure House”
HOPEDALE – In 1850 Hopedale had an infirmary known as the “Water Cure House.” It still stands at
Hopedale and Union streets but now it’s an apartment house. (That was true when this article was written,
but it was razed some years ago. Click on the link to the Wilmarths and the Water Cure House near the
bottom of this page to see a photo of the house that is on the site now.)
This method of treating diseases by the free and judicious use of pure water accompanied by a greatly
diminished use of drugs and medicines known as hydropathy had quite a few adherents a century ago. Dr.
Butler Wilmarth, a practitioner, quite incredulous at first at the new system, looked carefully into it after
witnessing the cure of a four-year old son of William H. Fish who had been stricken with scarlet fever. He
was then converted to hydropathy. (Fish later wrote a book about Wilmarth. I found it for sale on a rare
books site for $275.)
Convinced of the efficiency of water as a remedial agent, he started the infirmary for the accommodation
and treatment of patients, however affected, according to the principles and requirements of the hydropathic
system. The Community was sympathetic and voted in April 1850 “to appropriate $600 to establish the
Water Cure Infirmary provided joint stock can be obtained for the purpose.”
The funds were forthcoming, and the large double house built by Amos J. Cook and Edmund Price, which
had come into the possession of the Community, was remodeled and fitted for the purpose during the
ensuing summer. It was opened in September 1850.
An advertisement at the time said, “This establishment is situated in the pleasant and peaceful village of
Hopedale and is under the care of Dr. Butler Wilmarth, who, with his wife, will devote their constant attention
and services to restore to health all who place themselves under their care as patients. Terms: $4 to $5 per
week (payment weekly) exclusive of washing. Extra privileges or attention will subject the patients to extra
charges. Patients will furnish the usual articles for treatment.”
The institution was a financial failure. After it had been open a few months it was deemed expedient to
close it and restore the building to its original use. The Draper industry here owned the building for many
years until it was sold a few years ago to Francis Larkin of Milford.
Wilmarth subsequently received a flattering offer to take charge of a similar establishment at New
Graefenburg, N.Y., which had already acquired a good reputation with the general public. He moved his
family there in the spring of 1851, much to the regret of the people of Hopedale, who held Wilmarth in
sincere esteem as a truly Christian man and a physician of high degree.
The two-story house has been known ever since 1850 as “The Water Cure House,” and this name rings a
bell with many of the older residents. The younger people, however, treat mention of it as a joke. It was not
intended as such, but was a serious movement on the part of Wilmarth. The Worcester Telegram. No date
on clipping – probably 1967.
The Water Cure House
By Peter Hackett
has been razed at Hopedale and Union streets.
The house has been referred to as having been a Draper tenement for many years. True, but much more
important, historically, is the fact that long before it came into the hands of the Draper interests it belonged
to the old Hopedale Community. Built in 1843 - 125 years ago - "as a large double tenement," it was among
the first half-dozen houses built by the Community.
Skipping over the years, to 1850, we begin to find the first reference to Hydrotherapy - a system of treating
diseases with pure water and a greatly diminished resort to drugs and medicines.
Knowledge of the system was voiced to the Community members by Dr. Butler Wilmarth, himself a member
of the Community.
Of him, Rev. Adin Ballou, historian, said he was highly regarded as "a genial, conscientious, cautious and
open-minded physician." It might be said that the water-cure idea was not Dr. Wilmarth's alone. It was at the
time being seriously considered by the medical profession in general.
He conceived the idea of establishing a Water Cure Infirmary and made his plans known to the Community.
At a meeting held April 1850, the Community voted its approval, and further voted "to appropriate $600 to
establish a Water Cure Infirmary, provided new joint stock can be obtained."
The funds were forthcoming, and the large double house built in 1842 by Amos J. Cook and Edmund Price
was remodeled and fitted for water cure uses.
It would be interesting to know if there was any relationship between the Amos J. Cook who built the house
and M. Cook of the Cook Wrecking Co. that leveled the house.
When the Water Cure Infirmary was ready for public service it announced the fact in the following
"This Establishment is situated in the pleasant and peaceful village of Hopedale (Milford), Mass., and is
under the care of Dr. Butler Wilmarth, who, with his wife, will devote their constant attention and services to
restore health all who place themselves under their care as patients.
"Terms, $4 to $5 per week (payment weekly) exclusive of washing. Extra privileges or attention will subject
the patient to extra charges. Patients will furnish the usual articles for treatment. B. Wilmarth, M.D. Hopedale
(Milford), Sept. 28, 1850
The new infirmary failed in a matter of months from lack of sufficient patronage. It was decided to close it
and restore the building to its original use as a tenement house.
The decision was made with the approval of Dr. Wilmarth, who meanwhile had received a flattering offer to
take charge of a similar infirmary at New Grafenburg, N.Y., which had already established a good reputation
and standing. To that place, in the spring of 1851, the doctor and his family removed, "much," as Ballou
said, "to the regret of all of us, by whom he was held in sincere esteem as a truly Christian man, and a
physician of high degree."
On May 6th, 1853, Dr. Wilmarth was killed in a catastrophic train wreck at Norwalk Bridge, Conn. while
enroute to a convention of water cure physicians. His body was first brought to Westboro, where for a
season he was residing while establishing a water cure establishment.
The body was then brought to Hopedale for burial. The funeral was attended by a large "concourse" of
people and Adin Ballou was the officiating clergyman.
Our article would hardly be complete without mentioning that the doctor's son, Jerome Wilmarth, M.D., was
one of Upton's most highly regarded physicians, where he practiced his profession for twenty years. He
died in 1890 at the age of 59, and was buried in the family lot in Hopedale.
As a footnote, with respect to water cures, Mendon did a brisk business for years selling its famous Miscoe
Spring water in Milford and neighboring towns.
In a 1902-3 Business Directory is the following: "Mendon has been superb in its proclivities of its ancestors
but out-rivals all others in the essential features of good health and old age in its pure water from the
Miscoe Spring, located far away from all sources of contamination, on the slope of Miscoe Hill at an
elevation of nearly 600 feet.
The water comes to the surface from a broken granite ledge, in a perpetual flow through clean white sand.
Its analysis shows the water to be of the purest and softest known.
Samples submitted to the best consulting chemists place it ahead of Poland Springs, or any other springs
so extensively advertised for their life prolonging and invigorating properties.
In the description of Hopkinton, as found in Barber's Historical Collections," (pub. 1839), we find this
interesting statement. "The Mineral Spring in this town near White Hall Pond is much visited. It contains
carbonic acid, carbonate of lime, and iron. There is a large and commodious hotel in this place, and it is a
fashionable place of resort."
Such simple pleasures - fashionable places of resort based on fresh air and pure spring water contributed
much, no doubt, to the expression, Age of Innocence. Milford Daily News, January 4, 1969