A Model Community

    Hopedale – They builded better than they knew who in 1841 bought the central part of this Worcester
    County town which had long been known as “the dale,” and, to indicate their great and glowing
    anticipations in regard to the future, said, “We will call this place Hopedale and we will establish here
    a community which shall hold all property in common “ Fifteen years later the “community” ceased to
    exist by vote of its members, but although the anticipations of the founders were not realized in the
    way which had been expected, they have nevertheless been fulfilled in the building up here by
    individual energy and business foresight of a town which is a typical and model New England
    community and which is a standing exemplification of the results of well directed industry and thrift.
    Here is a town of 1200 people with water, gas, electric lights, macadamized streets, asphalt walks,
    long lines of beautiful shade trees, well-kept lawns, roomy houses, and spacious yards and
    everywhere the air of prosperity and content. In politics the town is strongly Republican and no liquor
    saloon has ever blighted the place. At the last town election the vote on licensing the sale of liquor
    was 91 against licensing and not a solitary yes vote. The annual tax levy amounts to about $18,000,
    nearly one-third of which is spent upon the public schools. What more could the founders of the
    Hopedale Community have had in mind that such results as these, and was not the failure of the
    communal idea which opened the way for individual enterprise the best possible success after all?

    Hopedale as it is today is the monument of the late George Draper and tells the story of his life and
    character more impressively and effectively than could any shaft of marble or pillar of bronze. Thirty-
    six years ago the firm of E.D. and G. Draper was formed and began business in a one-story machine
    shop 20 by 40 feet in size. That shop is still standing, but the business which was begun in it has
    been extended and enlarged until now it occupies over three acres of floor surface instead of the 800
    square feet occupied at the beginning, and arrangements are now being made for the addition of
    another acre of floor surface the present season. In 1868, E.D. Draper retired from the firm which
    had then been in existence for 16 years and George Draper took his eldest son, William F., as his
    business partner, under the firm name of George Draper & Son. In 1877, Mr. Draper’s second son,
    George A. became a partner, and the firm name became George Draper & Sons. In 1880, Mr. Draper’
    s third son, Eben S. was admitted to partnership, and in 1887 his grandson, William f. Draper, Jr. In
    June 1887, Mr. Draper died and his three sons and grandson now carry on the business, the firm
    name of George Draper & Sons remaining unchanged. The business which Mr. Draper began, and
    which his sons and grandson now conduct, was the manufacture of mill machinery, especially roving,
    warping, reeling, spooling and twisting machinery. They also manufacture large quantities of high
    speed spindles and have control of the entire product of these spindles in the country, and other
    specialties of there are machine screws and spinning rings. The automatic machines that produce
    the screws are marvels of ingenuity in construction and of intelligence in working and each machine
    turns out from 50 to 4000 screws per day, according to size. The knitting machines used by the Shaw
    Stocking Company of Lowell in manufacturing the seamless socks that Roger Mills eulogized so
    highly as evidencing the superior skill of foreign inventors and manufacturers are made here. An
    industry of comparatively recent establishment in Hopedale is the manufacture of elastic fabric for
    suspenders, etc, and in the several industries which the Drapers now carry on here they give
    employment to about 600 people, one-sixth of them being women and girls who are employed in the
    elastic fabric mills. Of the 1200 inhabitants of the town of Hopedale, at least 1,000 derive their
    support directly or indirectly from the industries referred to above, and probably an equal number
    living in the neighboring towns of Milford and Mendon receive their support in the same way. The
    average rate of wages paid here is high, both because of the character of the work and the skill and
    intelligence of those who are employed, and the weekly payroll is $1000 per day or an average of
    $10 per week per hand, for men, women and girls. The total business done is from $600,000 to
    $800,000 per year.

    Gen. William F. Draper, the present head of the firm and who inherits in a marked degree his father’s
    personal appearance and business ability, is yet a young man, being only 46 years old. He was born
    in Lowell in 1842, his father at that time being employed in one of the mills there, and at the age of
    16, after supplementing the common school advantages with a year or two of academy instruction,*  
    he went to work in a cotton mill himself. When the war broke out in 1861, he was 19 years old and he
    enlisted as a private in company B of the 25th Massachusetts regiment, a company which went from
    Milford. He was promoted through the various grades until he became first lieutenant, and when the
    36th regiment was formed in Worcester he was captain of one of those companies. His faithful and
    gallant service led to his promotion to major and lieutenant colonel, and while holding the latter rank
    he commanded a brigade in the Army of the Potomac. He was most severely wounded in one of the
    battles of the Wilderness, so severely indeed that he was given up for dead, but after three months
    at home, he returned to the front and rejoined his regiment a short time before the war closed and
    the regiment was mustered out of service.* *  Few men who went to the war from Massachusetts gave
    a better account of themselves in the service than did Gen. Draper, who enlisted at 19 as a private
    and was mustered out at 23 as brevet brigadier general. When he returned from the war Gen.
    Draper at once went to work with his father, and just 20 years ago became the junior partner in the
    firm of which he is now the senior member.

    Originally a strong anti-slavery man and keeper of a station on the Underground Railroad which led
    from slavery to freedom, George Draper was a prominent and active Republican from the time the
    party was formed until his death, and his sons follow in his footsteps. William F. has served several
    times as member of the Republican state committee and so has his brother, George A., and the
    brothers are all no less strong in their devotion to Republicanism and protection (tariffs) than was
    their father. The Home Market Club owes its existence to the labors in that direction of the late
    George Draper, who was its first president, and after his death the general was made one of the club’
    s vice presidents. Timothy Merrick of Holyoke being elected president. Gen. Draper has never yet
    held any public office, but he is prominently mentioned this year in all parts of the State in connection
    with the Republican nomination for governor and is developing a strength in that direction which is
    very gratifying to his friends. He is one of those men who never fail to give a good account of
    themselves wherever they are placed, and if he is called to the governorship he will give the
    Commonwealth no less faithful and efficient service as her chief executive than he rendered his
    country during the war whether as private in the ranks or at the head of a brigade. Springfield Daily
    Union, July 9, 1888.

    The general never became governor, but eleven years later his brother, Eben, did.

    *Based on the general’s autobiography, I presume the academy referred to was the Home School in

    ** Draper’s account of leaving the Army is a little different than the one above.  About this date
    (October 1864) an order was received from the War Department, to the effect that officers who had
    served three years were entitled to an honorable discharge if they so elected. The order may or may
    not have been a wise one, - I hardly think it was, - but still there was an element of fairness in it and
    many took advantage of it. My letters home show that I debated the question with my friends carefully
    (I may say, prayerfully), and I finally decided to avail myself of it. I would not have resigned of my own
    volition, but here was a discharge offered to me as a right, and I felt that I could properly take my
    condition and circumstances into account. I was suffering from my wounds, which were very painful
    with the increasing cold. I believed that military operations for the fall were over, as they proved to be
    for us, and that I should be physically unable to take part in winter campaigning if it should be
    necessary. I saw that the regiment would not be filled up and that commanders of new regiments, with
    little or no experience as compared to mine, would be placed over me in case of vacancies in the
    command of our brigade. I had also been a married man for more than two years, with little or no
    chance to make my wife’s acquaintance. On the other hand, I hated to leave the service before the
    war was over, and the ties between me and my command had become very close. The reasons in
    favor of going, however, seemed to grow stronger the more I thought of the subject, and I was
    mustered out of the service the 12th of October. Soon after, as the regimental history says, I
    received brevet rank as colonel and brigadier-general, for gallant and meritorious service in the field
    during the war. William F. Draper, Recollections of a Varied Career, pp.175-176.

                     Draper Menu                   Hopedale map, 1888                               HOME

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