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

     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     Underground Railroad House   

                  Anna Thwing Fields' memories of abolitionists' visits to Hopedale      

Abolitionism in Milford, Hopedale and Mendon      

Rosetta Hall, Escaped Slave      Abolition Meeting, Milford Methodist Church  

                        Origin of Street and Place Names                 HOME  


Near parking lot entrance at Sacred Heart Church.