The Best Town

    By Henry Gillen

HOPEDALE, JULY 19, — No lawyers, no court or passenger railroad, but town movies, a $150,000 community house and a super-charged public official who swings four big jobs at once – such is the boast of Hopedale for the honor of being known as the best town in New England to live in – bar none.

  The residents, 2800 of them, are serious about it. They not only think their community is the town par excellence. They know it. And they told a Post reporter why today.

                                                          LOOKING FOR BEST TOWN

  The Post man with a Post artist has started on a pilgrimage through the highways and byways of New England in search of the best town to live in. And the only thing the citizens of this town with the inspiring name wanted to learn tonight was why they intended to go further.

  If Hopedale hasn’t everything that the best town should have, it is because the necessary thing has been overlooked. Take the word of Samuel E. Kellogg for that. He ought to know. For isn’t he the chief of police, chief of the fire department, superintendent of highways and deputy sheriff of Worcester County besides?

  “I have seen some towns in my day,” declared the chief returning from a highway’s fence-building job. “But I have been right here in this place 36 years and I do not know of a better town to live in. Why? Well, it is up-to-date. It is clean, yes, spotless. Crime? Why we have no crime here. And as for fires – two or three a year.

                                                                 Good Fire Protection

  “But we’re ready. We have four pieces of motor apparatus and they are up to the minute. There are three permanent men on the department, but I have nine extra call-men. They have rooms in the fire house rent-free which takes the place of salary. On the police end, the big difficulty is traffic. All of the workers in the Draper factories have automobiles to amuse themselves with. And that’s a sign of prosperity.

  “Look at the houses we have here. Take those houses down around Bancroft Park – six or seven rooms, electric lights, furnaces, hard-wood floors, bath and gas. The Draper Corporation rents them to the employees and most of the residents work for the Draper people – fine folks too – the best. What would one of those houses rent for. Let’s see. A tenement like that would come to about $4.40 a week.”

  Equally optimistic was Edwin A. Darling, chairman of the Board of Selectmen and for 40 years a resident.

  “In many ways this is a unique town,” he said with enthusiasm. We have no lawyers. The court is over at Milford. There are only two doctors. George A. Draper, brother of Eben Draper, late governor of Massachusetts, gave the town a community house. It is quite a building It cost – well, I do not know exactly but it was over $100,000. In town there is no privately owned motion picture house. But several times a week, motion pictures are run by the community in the Town Hall.

                                                                    Pool for Children

  “Besides there is a swimming pool for the children and also a playground for them with a fine diamond for baseball. Our tax rate is only $17.75. Financially the town is well off and willing to spend money on improvements. We take pride in its upkeep. The people are happy here and the only problem we face is building more homes for those who want to move here.”

  Another booster, one who came to visit and remained to stay, permanently, is Dr. Currier C. Weymouth, Tufts graduate and a member of the surgical staff of the Milford Hospital. “The cleanliness of the town and the good air and the willingness of the town officers to do all in their power to make it a spotless community – you just can’t help liking Hopedale,” said the doctor. (Hester Chilson, who gave us this story, mentioned a mistake in the cartoon. The man in the lower right, identified as Dr. Currier C. Wentworth is actually Dr. Weymouth. There was a dentist by the name of Dr. Wentworth, who had an office in the Hopedale Town Hall for many years.)

  “It isn’t strange as you may think for a doctor to be seeking a living among healthy people. You know the more healthy people are, the quicker they respond to treatment when ill.  We have no undertaker here. He would starve. I had intended to locate in a town near here. But I took at Hopedale. It was my idea of what an ideal town should be. And I am going to stay here.”

                                                                Broad Green Lawns

  Not far from the Community House, surrounded by broad lawns, homey houses and he green hills of Mendon in the background, is the town library, built in replica of Merton College Chapel at Oxford. On the information desk were a dozen books on ‘”Evolution,” demonstrating that Hopedale, peaceful though it may appear, is up to snuff on the doings a world away. For 25 years Miss Harriet Sornborger has been the town librarian and for the same length of time, a member of the school committee.

  “The best town to live in? There isn’t any doubt of that. I have been to Florida and out to California, but nothing can take the place of Hopedale with me. It is the best town I ever entered. Another thing,” she continued, “that puts it in favor with me is the fact that business and not politics runs this town. We have no politicians and graft – there is no such thing as graft here. The people get a full return for their taxes.”

                                                            Business Administration

  “When I speak of business administration, I mean just that. Whenever I want to have anything done at the library, I use a business argument on the officials. It is no use to try a sentimental argument. You have to show them why what you are after should be done. And they are liberal when anything is needed.”

   Miss Sornborger is more than the librarian. She is likewise the historian and clipping bureau. Just let any newspaper say something nice about Hopedale and its citizens. Down it goes in a scrap book, to be preserved for the generations to come. Several scrap books in her possession are filled with stories about Governor Draper and other members of that family who built up the Draper mills, had the town separated from Milford in 1886 and whose descendants now carry on their work.

  Despite the march of progress, Hopedale has no passenger railroad. The only way to get to the town on a railroad would be to sneak a ride on the motor-drive freight line, owned and maintained by the Drapers. Otherwise one must resort to automobile, trolley, puddle-jumper or Shank’s Mare.

                                                                    General Store

  With no lawyers, courts or railroads, one might expect to find Hopedale without even bananas. But Henry L. Patrick takes care that there is no such a shortage. He is still running the store he started 55 years ago, one of those famous general stores where, even now, one can buy anything from a toothpick to a silk dress.

  It was the same Mr. Patrick who 45 years ago introduced the profit-sharing plan among his employees. Several years back he improved on that idea. He took several faithful workers into partnership. By doing so he carried out a few of the ideals of the founder of Hopedale.

  The founder was Adin Ballou, who in the 40s came to that part of Mendon [Milford actually, by that time] which was known as the Dale, and re-christened it the Dale of Hope. Ballou was a Mendon minister with a powerful belief in the famous Brookfield colony. [Brookfield colony??? Brook Farm, probably.] So in the Dale of Hope he started a Christian socialistic community.

  Hopedale has changed some since. Back in those days chewing tobacco, owning dogs and playing cards were taboo in the communistic community. Adult members of the Ballou experiment were allowed $25 a year for clothing and 50 miles of transportation. After the 50 miles were up they stayed at home. [This didn’t include preaching and matters of Community business which evidently weren’t restricted.]

  Two Draper brothers, [Ebenezer and George] members of the colony, started out on their business enterprise, which is the mainspring of Hopedale today. Owning practically all the town, bestowing all the public gifts and employing nearly all of the people, the town might just as well be known as Draperville.

  But the inhabitants still cling to Hopedale, thinking it to be the best name for what they consider to be the best town in New England to live in. The Boston Post, 1925.