Abolitionists in Hopedale

 This plaque, obtained by a grant from the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor written by Elaine Malloy, was placed on the grounds of Sacred Heart Church on Hopedale Street in 2002.  The nearby treebelt between the street and sidewalk was considered as a location for the marker but the Highway Department advised against it, so the churchyard was chosen as the best site available.  The anti-slavery meetings were said to have been held in Nelson’s Grove, a half mile south of the village.  The house on the other side of the railroad tracks from the plaque  (155 Hopedale Street) was one of the original Community homes. Perhaps some of the famous speakers stayed there during their visits.

 Since the wording on the picture of the plaque may be difficult to read, it is reprinted below.:

 Adin Ballou and his followers, the original members of the Hopedale Community, called themselves Practical Christians.  Believing in the brotherhood of man, they were opposed to slavery.  In the late 1840s and into the 1850s, abolitionists would meet in this vicinity on August first to celebrate emancipation in the British West Indies and to express their outrage with American slavery.  Together they would picnic in Nelson’s Grove near the Mill River.  Included among the prominent guests were William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Lucy Stone Blackwell, and Abby Kelley Foster.  Notable escaped slaves, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Henry “Box” Brown, and William and Ellen Craft came to tell their stories.


Here is how Ballou describes the event in 1854:   Celebration of West India Emancipation.  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, Adin Ballou, Wm. H. Fish, and Wm. S. Heywood, there were present from outside, Rev. James T. Woodbury of Milford, Rev. Robert Hassell of Mendon, Rev. John Boyden of Woonsocket, R. I., Rev. Geo. S. Ball of Upton, Rev. Daniel S. Whitney of Southboro, and those well-known redoubtable champions of Impartial 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.”  The general tone of the meeting and the nature of the testimonials given may be inferred from one of the seven resolutions passed, which in view of what afterward transpired, seems like a veritable prophecy written by inspiration from on high, as evidenced by its reproduction here:

 Resolved, That the celebration of this day naturally turns our eyes to the horrible abomination of American slavery and inspires us with fearful forebodings of the tremendous retribution which our professedly Republican nation is treasuring up for itself by obstinately persisting in the perpetration of its unparalleled crimes against God and humanity; that we abhor and deplore the brazen impudence with which its government justifies the wickedness of enslaving millions of beings confessedly endowed with unalienable human rights; that we behold in its merciless Fugitive Slave Laws, in its insatiable ambition to extend the ravages of slavery into new territories, in its daily declension from all its former professed love of liberty, in its utter contempt of British emancipation, in the recklessness of its aspiring politicians, in the subserviency of all its departments to the dictation of slaveholders, in its constitutional, inherent, habitual, confirmed, and inveterate pro-slavery tendencies, unmistakable evidence that it is ripening for some terrible convulsion — some overwhelming visitation of calamity, in which the whole nation must inevitably share. Adin Ballou, History of the Hopedale Community, pp. 266 – 268.

And Edward Spann’s book about Hopedale has this to say: As in the past, the village made 1 August, the anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, a day for a major celebration of freedom. In 1856 over a thousand people from the vicinity gathered at a “sweet pine grove” south of the village to listen to speeches by Ballou and various other local abolitionists, including George Stacy, and to sing “stirring Anti-Slavery songs.” The gathering also approved thirteen antislavery resolutions that concluded with a renewal of dedication to the great goal: “Slavery nowhere but Liberty everywhere, throughout our nation and throughout the world.” In 1857 another large crowd, which included William Lloyd Garrison, again gathered at Hopedale to celebrate the cause of freedom, in part with songs composed for the occasion by members of the community. That the commitment to freedom was more than mere theory is indicated by the census of 1860, where one of Hopedale’s two black residents, Henry Johnson, was boldly identified as an “Alabama fugitive.”  Edward Spann, Hopedale: Commune to Company Town, pp. 141 – 142.

Underground Railroad in Hopedale                      UGRR House   

    Prominent Visitors to the Community  

  The Man with the Branded Hand

   Abolition Activities in Hopedale, Milford and Mendon 

   Abolitionism in the Hopedale Community by Ernest Dalton   

   Meeting at Milford Methodist Church  

     Escaped Slave, Rosetta Hall            Hopedale Community Menu  

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