February 15, 2009
A Thriving Little Village
Hopedale in February
Hopedale High Class of 1963 Washington trip picture
Oak Street/Jones Road kids, late 1940s
Here’s another Hopedale find by Peter Metzke in Melbourne – Bancroft back alley, 1905. Peter also sent a
link to a book about worker housing in New Bedford, which includes a bit about Hopedale (pp. 91- 92)
and a photo of the Lake Street area.
And from my sister-in-law, Maureen (Holt) Piette, a website with old postcards from all fifty states. Nothing
from Hopedale, but lots of nice old scenes.
Hopedale on YouTube A menu including some things I’ve put on and some done by others. I expect to
add to it over the next few months.
“Centennial kids” identified.
Sunday March 1st is the day the Milford Area Snow Birds in Florida will meet at FT De Soto Park. For more
information, email Mike Cyr at mailto:[email protected]
Cut down on junk mail at the Catalog Choice website. It will take you a few minutes and you probably
won’t be able to find every catalog you want to stop receiving, but you should be able to stop some of
Just to let you know, progress is being made on the Little Red Shop Museum. Much has been
accomplished recently during our twice-monthly Saturday work parties, and we think the time for a grand
opening isn’t too far off.
A Thriving Little Village
Between 1842 and 1856, the Hopedale Community had its ups and downs, partly as a result of internal
matters and sometimes because of economic conditions outside of the village. Here is Edward Spann’s
account of one of the good periods.
By 1846 Hopedale had become a "thriving little village" of some seventy residents with a dozen dwellings,
a schoolhouse, a machine shop, and other facilities. And the community continued to improve its
industrial base. It completed a second dam on the Mill River to increase available waterpower, added a
sawmill and a blacksmith's shop, and experimented with a soap-making business. It also took steps to
expand what proved to be its most important business, the manufacture of temples for power looms in
the textile mills (a temple is a device that keeps the cloth in the loom stretched to the proper width during
the weaving process); in March 1847 the trustees of the community voted "that the Blacksmith Branch
charge the forging of Temples to the Machine Branch at 70 cents and that the Machine Branch charge
finished Temples to Finance and Exchange at 180 cents for the present year.” This decision reflected
Hopedale's growing involvement in the outside economy, where the expansion of the New England textile
industry was creating a steady demand for the appliance. By early 1847 the village had begun to advertise
some of its businesses—notably printing, carpentry, and shoemaking, in addition to loom temples—with
the announcement that it had installed boxes in nearby Milford where orders for its goods could be
Such policies expressed the will of a provincial middle class to create a manufacturing village shaped to
their own needs and experiences. For most members, it was natural to look upon the mill towns of their
native Blackstone region as forms of urban-industrial society comfortably shaped to a human scale. By
adapting the mill village to Christian socialism, they hoped to avoid the future emerging at places like
Boston and Lowell. On the other hand, they had no intention of basing their future on rural ways and on
agriculture. Although they did do some farming, their thoughts were tuned chiefly to the new urban
horticulture. In 1843 the community planted an apple orchard with 325 young trees shipped to it by a
Practical Christian in Cincinnati, but its greatest effort went into its gardens. Its resident inspiration was
the English-born Edmund Soward, a free spirit who had joined the group in 1843. An adept horticulturist,
Soward willingly shared his plants and his knowledge with the other members; after his death in 1854,
one member wrote, "When Spring and Summer and Harvest shall come around again- the time for
tomato plants, for strawberries, for peaches—many will remember him.”
By 1846 Hopedale had a common garden and was offering gardening plots to anyone who might use
them, even young boys. Of greatest importance, of course, were the plots owned by individual
householders. To each householder who planted a garden, it provided from two to four cartloads of "good
manure" per year and, to allow time for cultivation, exemption from twelve days of required work, in
exchange for which the householder was to sell any garden surplus to the community at a fixed rate. In
order to encourage each family to become as self-sufficient in food as possible, it also supplied those
who were willing to raise poultry with fowls and with a bushel of grain per year for each hen.
Under the system adopted in 1844, the community was also obligated to provide every adult with twenty-
five dollars a year in clothing and pocket money and to meet every person's food, fuel, and lighting needs.
Most of the goods were delivered on order from the community store to the resident's house; supplying
these goods and delivering firewood were the responsibility of the Department of Domestic Economy.
Although there were no formal limits on consumption, accounts were kept of the costs of meeting these
needs, for the purpose, said Ballou, of "enabling all to understand what relations our expenditures bear
to our income." In early 1847 this same accounting was applied to personal transportation, in the form of
rent-a-carriage charges of nine cents per mile.
Hopedale seemed well on its way to fulfilling Ballou's hope in 1841 that it would "feed, clothe, educate
and maintain our families better than is now done by the middling class of society." Edward K. Spann,
Commune to Company Town
Philip H. Travers, 65, Upton, January 29, 2009.
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