The Almon and Sarah Thwing home on its original location at the corner of Hope and Hopedale streets. Beyond it is the George and Hannah Draper home and barn, on what is now the Community House block.

Are there any homes still standing in Hopedale that were used as stations on the Underground Railroad? After looking at various bits of evidence and talking with several people on the matter over the last few weeks, I now (January 11, 2007) feel confident in saying that there is at least one. It may be that Hopedale wasn’t along any regular Underground Railroad route, but in certain situations, escaped slaves are said to have stayed here. I wish we had more details on this, but there are at least two written accounts that tell a little about it. Adin Ballou only mentions one such case, as far as I’ve seen; that of Rosetta Hall. She came to Hopedale at the request of Frederick Douglass. Ballou didn’t say where she stayed. (I was wondering if a house had to not only house escaped slaves, but to have done it on a fairly regular basis as part of a more or less regular route to be considered an Underground Railroad house. I asked Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Ranger Chuck Arning about this. Click here to read his response.)

In Hopedale Reminiscences, Anna Thwing Field wrote, “Many escaped slaves lived in the families of Hopedale. My father had a colored man called John, who did some work about the place but never went alone from the house. At night he was there, in the morning gone.”  She also mentions that a family of four escaped slaves stayed in the house opposite.” (This must have been from Anna’s memory, and not old family stories handed down. She was born in 1842, so she would have been old enough in the years before the Civil War to be aware of the things she later wrote about.)

So far, the Thwing house and “the house opposite” are the only Hopedale homes that I’ve seen identified as places where escaped slaves stayed. I’m fairly sure the Thwing house can still be found in Hopedale. We know that the house was originally at the corner of Hope and Hopedale streets, across from where the Bancroft Library is now. (See map from 1870) The lot belonged to Charles and Lura Day by 1898 when the map above was drawn. (Lura Day, who lived there, was the daughter of Joseph and Sylvia Bancroft.) It seems likely that by the late1890s, the Thwing house was moved and the present house, (once known as the Day house, although when the Days lived there they called it Bellecrest.) was built. According to a story written in the Milford Daily News in 1934, the Thwing house was moved to Union Street. By the time the  1898 map was drawn, the Day house had been built at the former site of the Thwing house, but it doesn’t show the Thwing house on Union Street. However, there is a house on the map, on the present location of the library, that looks like it could be the Thwing house. I think it was moved across the street to that location when the Day house was built, and then moved to Union Street when the Bancroft Library was built in 1898, with the time of the move and the time of the drawing of the map being off just enough so that the house isn’t shown on Union Street.

The picture at the top of this page was taken in the 1890s. (Click here to go to Anna Thwing Field’s story. At the top of that page, there is the photo that the picture on this page was cropped from. You’ll see what most of the center of town looked like at that time.) The house at 3 Union Street looks to me like it is the Thwing house in the photo on this page. The map shows that the lot at the corner of Hopedale and Union belonged to W. Bancroft, who was almost certainly related to Almon Thwing. (Almon’s sister, Sylvia was the wife of Joseph Bancroft. The Bancroft Memorial Library was named in her memory.)  There’s not much room on either side of the house at 3 Union. It looks as though it was put in the space between the Bancroft house (now a barber shop) and the house at 5 Union Street. There is one window below the peak at the front, the same roof style, the one story part at the back is on the left as you look at it from the front, both in the 1890s picture and the house that’s at 3 Union now. (Also, the Union Street house looks a lot like the Adin Ballou house, suggesting that it was likely built in the 1840s. Pictures of 3 Union Street taken in 2007)

Since this is getting a bit convoluted, let’s see if writing it out step by step will be any better.

 1. A map drawn in 1870 shows A. Thwing as the owner of the house at the northeast corner of Hopedale and Hope streets.

 2. A picture of the center of Hopedale, taken after 1887, shows the Thwing house still where it was on the 1870 map.

 3. A map drawn in 1898, shows the Day house had replaced the Thwing house on the northeast corner of Hopedale and Hope, and what looks like the Thwing house across from its original location, on the site now occupied by the library.

 4. Joseph Bancroft built the Bancroft Memorial Library in 1898. To make room for it, he moved the Thwing house to a lot owned by W. Bancroft according to the 1890s map. (Again, the Thwing house wasn’t on Union Street in the 1898 map. I think if we had a map made after 1898, it would be The library isn’t on that map either, so it seems that either the map was drawn earlier in the year than when construction of the library began, or perhaps it was printed using information a year or so old.)

A problem with the house at 3 Union Street being the Thwing house is that the National Register Nomination, done when Hopedale applied to have the center of town listed in the National Register of Historic Places, records it as having been built in 1905. I think that date is wrong, based largely on what I’ve written above. Also, this wouldn’t be the first case of a mistake in the dates given in the Nomination. One case I’m quite familiar with is that of 7 Oak Street. My parents had the house built and we moved into it in 1942. The National Register Nomination lists it as being built c. 1960. Another clue suggesting that the 1905 date is wrong is a picture we have (see below) that is dated 1902. It shows the house that appears to be the Thwing house on the same location on Union Street as it is now.

Underground Railroad in Hopedale

    Prominent visitors to the Community           The Branded Hand  

  Abolitionism in the Hopedale Community by Ernest Dalton 

    Abolitionist Plaque                  Escaped Slave, Rosetta Hall   

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Union Street, 1902. The white house on the right looks like the Thwing house to me. I’d say this is evidence that it was on Union Street earlier than 1905, the date given in the National Register Nomination. Also Patricia Guertin, who grew up at 3 Union recalls that Irene Damon, whose memories went back to the very early 20th century, had told her (Pat’s) mother that the house had been moved twice. I’d say it must have arrived on Union Street by 1898.

3 Union Street - 2020