| In April 2004 Elaine and I were asked by Milford radio station WMRC to record some stories of Hopedale's history. The hard part was keeping to the one and a half minute time limit. The five below were first broadcast in May.
Hopedale As I Found It
In 1957, Charles Merrill wrote of his early years in Hopedale for the Hopedale Community Historical Association. Here is a little of what he had to say:
I knew nothing of Hopedale before 1910. On the nineteenth of April in that year, in the early morning, I stepped off the trolley car that had brought me from Framingham in an hour and a quarter, for the price of fifteen cents.
I found myself in a neat, quiet, well-ordered village, whose inhabitants were, apparently, comfortably prosperous, and the air had a country freshness that was delightful; quite different from the city atmosphere I had so recently left behind me.
The first church supper I attended here was of the ham and baked beans variety, with all accessories and in generous portions, and priced at fifteen cents. My first winter's fuel cost $42.00. We bought eggs in the fall for 22 cents a dozen and preserved them in a solution of water-glass; two big stone jars full of them. When milk went up to ten cents a quart, we felt as if the hand of oppression were being laid heavily upon us, and we squirmed uncomfortably.
Our house in Bancroft Park had been built to be heated by stoves but it had been supplied with a hot-air furnace before we arrived. There were no laundry facilities, and the week's washing had to be done in the kitchen with tubs, buckets, scrub-board, hand wringer and copper boiler on the stove. There was no gas or electricity, and our light came from kerosene lamps. The week's ironing was done with half a dozen irons that were heated on top of the stove, and tested for heat with a wet finger. A few years later, gas was brought across the pond and we became quite modern. Charles Merrill, Hopedale As I Found It.
The First Few Months
The following is a report on the first few months of the settlement of the Hopedale Community printed in the the Community newspaper.
We have now on the Hopedale Estate about 45 persons great and small. These are all boarded in one general family. There are 13 men, 12 women, and 20 children and youth. We have 13 cows, 4 yokes of oxen and steers, 2 horses and 6 swine. We have planted with garden sauce for market and our own use some 3 acres, with Indian corn 4 or more, with potatoes and beans 10 or more; in all from 17 to 20 acres.
We have made numerous repairs in and upon our old buildings, erected a new building calculated for a Printing Office, schoolroom, two upper sleeping rooms and two basement shop rooms. The brethren have just commenced building a dam and the foundation for a Mechanics shop to be 30 by 40 feet, two stories high above the basement, designed for various machines to be operated by water power. The erection and furnishing of this establishment will occupy all the labor and resources, which we can spare from other demands for several months to come. Our little school will go into operation shortly.
Our business is multiform and arduous. There is everything to do and small means with which to operate. Division of labor is also difficult; but we have got along better than most people would normally imagine, and hope for better days to come. Adin Ballou, The Practical Christian, June 11, 1842.
The Old House
The original home of the Hopedale Community was the Jones farmhouse which was 150 years old when the Ballou Practical Christians moved in. Here is a memory of those early days written in 1910.
In 1841, the [Jones] property was purchased as a site for the Hopedale Community. I was then a child of two years when my parents took up their abode in The Old House. In October my sister Lucy was born. Hers was the distinction of being the first child born in the Hopedale Community. The winter was a memorable one to my mother, for it was her first experience of frontier life.
One family after another came in the course of the next few months, and Community life began in earnest. Families were crowded, each into one room, which served as dining room, kitchen and sleeping room. The bed was an old fashioned four-poster, in summer curtained with mosquito netting. A trundle-bed underneath held the two youngest children, my sister and me. On the upper floor was a large attic. I remember the fragrant smell of herbs as the door opened. There were bunches of penny-royal, sage, catnip and peppermint hanging with downward heads. Sassafras root and sweet-flag were bundled away in safe corners. Old trunks were there with the ballroom dresses of my mother's dancing days, later on to be utilized for Sunday wear for her little girls. I remember that one gown with its ample skirt, clothed us like Red Riding Hood. Resplendent in bright hues, with hoods and cloaks alike, we must have illumined our snowy pathway to Church. Sarah Daniels, Hopedale Reminiscences
The founders of the Hopedale Community were backers of many of the causes of the mid-nineteenth century. Their writings suggest that abolitionism was the most important. Here's a report of one activity related to that.
It was our custom at Hopedale, as radical Abolitionsts, to celebrate from year to year the Anniversary of Emancipation of 800,000 slaves in the British West Indies; an event which took place by a decree of the English Government on the 1st of August, 1834.
This was done on the year in review in a pleasant grove near the southerly border of our domain, half a mile from the central part of our village. It was estimated that an audience of about eight hundred persons was in regular attendance upon the exercises and that not less than a thousand visited the grounds during the day.
Besides speakers of our own,, and those well-known champions of Liberty, Henry C. Wright and Charles C. Burleigh, there was also with us a remarkable colored woman, once a slave in the State of New York, Sojourner Truth, whose impassioned utterances on the occasion were like the fiery outbursts of some ancient prophet of God "lifting up his voice like a trumpet and showing the people their transgressions and the house of Jacob their sins." Adin Ballou, History of the Hopedale Community
Woonsocket Patriot Article
The Hopedale Community was a unique institution and consequently was written about in many newspapers and magazines. Here's one early report.
On Tuesday we made a flying visit to this home of Associated Industry located in the neighboring town of Milford. The village is one of the pleasantest in this section of country, presenting an inviting, homelike aspect. The pretty dwellings and their surroundings give evidence of order and neatness; while the inhabitants looked like pictures of happy content. All were busy; we saw not an idler in the village, notwithstanding the Community suffers, in common with all of us, by the general dullness of the times.
There are sixteen branches of business carried on under Community auspices, among them a printing office and three occupied mill privileges. Of dwelling-houses there are forty-one, including three concrete octagons.
The presiding genius of this "Happy Valley" is Adin Ballou, who has spent the prime of his manhood in efforts to practically demonstrate the advantages of associated labor. He is a man of enlarged, philanthropic views, guided by a clear head, and governed by principles. We think he is not fully appreciated by the great world - and perhaps this is consequent upon his being shut up in his little world of Hopedale. The Woonsocket Patriot, May 1855
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