The Old House of Hopedale
In America there are few dwellings whose history dates back over 150 years, [This was
written in 1910.] their builders constructing on such firm foundations, as to endure for so
long a period the daily tread of the many feet that crossed their thresholds, as one family
after another entered and departed from their doors. The Old House of Hopedale was one
of this number. From the raising of its walls to the tearing apart of its timbers, it sheltered a
multitude of souls, notably a good class of honorable people.
To review its history, before it became antiquated enough to receive the name of Old
House, and after its occupancy as such, is a pleasurable task, as it was the early home of
The years in Massachusetts following King Phillip's War, in 1676, were followed by the
return of settlers to their homes, having been driven away by the Indians who had destroyed
John Jones came as a new settler, about the year 1700, to make a home on the banks of
the Mill River in a section called The Dale, now Hopedale. His family was left behind in a
distant town. With his axe over his shoulder, alone with his dog, he made daily trips over the
Mendon hills to hew out of the forest, timbers for a barrack, that he might be secure from
roving Indians and wild beasts. Bears, wolves, and panthers were then numerous enough to
shorten his day's work, and he returned before dusk to the settlement he left in the morning.
Faith in a kind Providence sustained him through all the trials of a pioneer life. He knelt in
prayer before each frugal meal, believing that an over-ruling power protected him. Later on,
behind the walls of his stockade, he remained all night, lengthening out his days.
This enclosure was built on the banks of the river on Water Street. [Water Street is shown
on early maps of Hopedale but it eventually disappeared, built over by Draper buildings.] As
late as 1805, it is related, that workmen unearthed the hearthstone of the old barrack, its
embers having been preserved for a century.
About three years after his axe struck the first blow, his wife and five children joined him, he
having prepared a small house for them. Prospering in later years, he added valuable
parcels of land to his estate, and finally completed a fine mansion, unequaled by any other
in the vicinity, and destined, years after, to be called The Old House.
John Jones was a very pious man. For many years he was an Elder in the First Church of
Mendon. Finally, a new church was organized, as the people living at The Dale, and
easterly, considered it a hardship to climb the Mendon hills.
Jones was chosen to fill the position of Elder in the new church, called the Second or
Easterly Precinct Church of Mendon. It was situated on Sherborn Road, now Main Street.
The services attending the election of officers of the Church, was held in the Mansion
house of Elder Jones. Its dining room with a seating capacity of fifty guests, must have had,
on this occasion, its long tables loaded with the profusion of country hospitality.
Reverend Amariah Frost was ordained pastor in 1743. For forty nine years he ministered
to the spiritual wants of his little flock, dying in 1792, at seventy two years of age. (He
married for his third wife, Sarah Thwing, grand-daughter of Elder Jones, an ancestor of
Susan Thwing Whitney.)
The children of Elder Jones, sooner or later, became members of the Church. After
marriage they moved elsewhere with the exception of the youngest son, Joseph, who was
associated with his father in the management of the estate. Elder Jones died in 1753, being
over eighty years of age.
From an humble pioneer, striking out alone in the forest, in his early manhood he subdued
the wilderness around him, and from the rich meadows of The Dale, his cattle brought him
increase of wealth, until he became a landed proprietor. He had a family of nine children;
they, with their grand children, inheriting the estate.
After the death of Joseph Jones, in 1796, at the age of 87, the property was rented by the
heirs for some time. My mother's uncle, Elisha Daniels, lived in the place for some years,
dying there in 1821. His widow and children continued to reside there. The eldest son,
Hastings, finally bought the place. After his death in 1839, the family left for Milford.
My mother's visits to the old homestead were frequent when a young woman. The
hospitality of her uncle's house was proverbial. Tradition tells of Washington's visit there on
In 1841, the property was purchased as a site for the Hopedale Community. I was then a
child of two years when my father, Henry Lillie and his wife took up their abode in The Old
House, previous to the coming of other members of the Community. In October 1841 my
sister Lucy was born. Hers was the distinction of being the first child born in the Hopedale
Community. She was named Lucy Ballou Lillie, for the beloved wife of Reverend Adin Ballou.
The winter was a memorable one to my mother, for it was her first experience of frontier
life. Being a very timid woman, she suffered exceedingly. From the back roads, leading
from Mendon, there often appeared, wandering dissolute men, who in those days were
called "Shacks." On one occasion, father happened to be away and a "shack" made his
appearance frightening us all, with his peculiar actions. He drew out a long knife from his
belt and commenced to sharpen it. No harm resulted there-from, but we were glad to see
One family after another came in the course of the next few months, and Community life
began in earnest. Families were crowded, each into one room, which served as sleeping
room. Dining room, and kitchen.
My parents occupied the southeast chamber, a pleasant room with four windows. The bed
was an old fashioned four-poster, in summer curtained with mosquito netting. A trundle-bed
underneath held the two youngest children, my sister and me.
On the upper floor was a large attic which was divided into two rooms, one of which was
occupied by the older girls of the various families, the other by the boys. The history of these
old attic rooms would be an account of delightfully good times. The girls enjoying
themselves especially, with credit to their memory. I have heard that some of the pranks the
boys used to play on each other, frequently went beyond the limit of decent behavior.
There was still another attic, one over the kitchen which was filled with odds and ends, such
as we read about. I remember the fragrant smell of herbs as the door opened. There were
bunches of penny-royal, sage, catnip and peppermint hanging with downward heads.
Sassafras root and sweet-flag were bundled away in safe corners. Old trunks were there
with the ballroom dresses of my mother's dancing days, later on to be utilized for Sunday
wear for her little girls. I remember that one gown with its ample skirt, clothed us like Red
Riding Hood. Resplendent in bright hues, with hoods and cloaks alike, we must have
illumined our snowy pathway to Church.
This attic held another memory dear. As a child, I was very fond of pets. I remember it as a
place of refuge from my boy tormentors, who delighted to tease me and my kittens. The
mother cat seemed also to know the safety of this place, for here, year after year, she raised
her families undisturbed.
Down the back stairs, from the second floor, was a half-way landing before a window. This
was a favorite corner for our dolls and their housekeeping arrangements. At the foot of the
stairs was a hall with an outside door, and doors leading into the east room and the long
dining Hall. Here the Community table was spread and as it was filled with the gathered
crowd, the number often reached fifty or more. The cooking was done by the women, who
took turns, so many for a given period, My mother, who thoroughly enjoyed catering to a
crowd, prided herself, when it came her turn to superintend, to give them all something extra
good to eat. When some others, with less experience than she, had charge, oftentimes all
the family had for supper was corn-meal mush and milk.
From the dining-room, opened a large pantry with its little window. I well remember its many
drawers, shelves and little cupboards, and especially the musty, moldy smell as the doors
swung backward. The storage of food therein for more than a hundred years had
permeated the wood with an odor that no washing could remove.
The kitchen was an ell, perhaps the original house built for the Jones family. The main part
of the Old House, that afterwards received the name of Mansion, was not built until 1735.
One great feature of kitchens in olden times was a set kettle, so called because it was
kettle of huge dimensions set around with brick, with a place for a fire underneath. Here the
clothes were boiled and unless there was another for farm purposes, the chicken and hog
feed were prepared, grease tried out after hog-killing, and water boiled for various
purposes. Such a kettle was cornered in our kitchen. Stretched out at right angles from the
ell was a long shed building. A bakery was established in one end, and a man was
employed to bake the bread, pies, ginger-bread, and beans and meat for the large family. A
fire was kindled in the big oven, when thoroughly heated, the coals were withdrawn and it
was then ready for use. Beyond the bakery, connecting was the woodshed of immense
Returning to the dining room, a door opened therefrom to the cellar stairs. A black hole at
the bottom I well remember, without ventilation, I imagine, as the house had an embankment
of earth all around to keep out the frost. A candle was necessary even in daylight to
penetrate its gloom. In one corner was a room with shelves for milk.
A dining hall door opened into the north room, and here was a corner wainscot cupboard
with glass paned doors in front and closet underneath. I imagine the china of the Jones
family and later that of Uncle Daniels would be of treasured value now. I remember the
porringers of pewter that were kept in this cupboard. They were low dishes with bulging
sides with side handles, each containing about a pint, being a favorite dish in use for bread
I remember how badly my mother felt, years after, when Bridget turned one over and used
it as a stand for her flat-iron, melting it all out of shape - and this, the last one.
Great oaken beams stretched across the ceiling of each room. Swings for the children
were often upheld by them.
The four large rooms in the house had each four windows with small panes of glass.
Smaller rooms were on the upper floor in the rear. The outside door, midway between the
two front rooms, opened into a long narrow hall. Underneath the front stairway was a closet,
from the interior of which, could be seen the immense stone chimney build in the middle of
the house from its foundations. Huge fireplaces in the large rooms opened into it.
In the front yard stood two large lilac trees, reaching to the chamber windows, on either
side. On the north side were two flourishing elms.
From a gentle slope on the north end of the house, stone steps led into the garden. I
suppose all sorts of vegetables were planted there in season. I remember most distinctly a
fine large cherry tree that bore delicious fruit.
The old barns in front of the house were my delight. Wagon sheds to the left, the oxen and
cows were stabled in in the middle, and the horses to the right. Of the names of the horses,
so familiar then only one is now remembered, that of Pompey. The happy days of memory
that stood out from the rest were those when we drove with father and mother, to visit one of
our many aunts in an adjoining town, the only discord on such occasions being caused by
the irritation of my father, who was constantly reminded by my mother of his inattention to his
horse, her timidity preventing her from enjoying our ride.
One of the first schools of the Community was in an upper room of a building, whose lower
part was used for a shop. The entrance was from an outside stairs. Rev. Adin Ballou was
the teacher. I was so young at that time, that all I remember of my school days then was a
reprimand that I received, with another little girl, for fastening a shawl around a tall desk in
the room, making for ourselves a play-room. I think this must have been the same tall desk
that I remember seeing in his home years after, before which he either sat or stood writing
page after page of matter, so instructive and entertaining to his hearers.
A squabble with Abby Lucy Ballou, daughter of Amos Ballou, who was inclined to be
belligerent as myself, was probably the cause of my withdrawal from school. Mrs. Amos bore
down heavily upon me in the midst of our tussle, my mother over-looking from an upper
Knowing from long experience as a teacher that quarrels often arise between parents on
account of their children, I suppose my mother thought I was the injured party, and if taken
from school would no longer come in contact with Abby Lucy and her mother.
When I returned to school in the spring, my mother was highly complimented by Reverend
Adin Ballou, as he considered my progress in reading under her instruction most
satisfactory. Her reply to him firmly impressed itself upon my mind, when I was old enough to
appreciate its merit.
Her plan was to teach each lesson so thoroughly, before going to the next, that the words
therein could not be easily forgotten.
This method must have left its impression for during many years of teaching, I too, received
many compliments for instruction given in Reading.
During our several years of residence in the Old House, as a family, we came in contact
with many singular people. Their peculiarities were indelibly stamped upon my young mind
assisted by the recollections of relatives.
The greater number of them, nearly all of my own family included, have left the world they
tried so hard to benefit. I trust their efforts will be more and more appreciated as the spirit of
reform permeates society generally. The principles of Christian Brotherhood they advocated
are not dead. They are imperishable as the world itself.
Sarah L. Daniels
Greenville, Sonoma County,
The Old House
Curiously enough, our trade literature has never yet included any illustration of or
reference to the original building which formerly occupied a part of our present
manufacturing site. The dwelling shown in the above illustration was built about 1700 by
John Jones, of the neighboring town of Mendon. It being the first building erected in all of
the territory now occupied by the towns of Milford and Hopedale. Although our shops cover
part of the site, one of the three elm trees shown is still standing. It was in this house, March
24, 1842, that the first meeting of the Hopedale Community was held, and the families
forming the nucleus of that organization occupied the dwelling while their various new
habitations were in the process of erection. It was demolished in 1874, being then in an
unsafe condition. Although it is quite possible that the founders of our present business
would have worked out a similar conclusion irrespective of locality, it is certainly true that the
choice of this situation; and the presence of the original building, were important factors in
the development of events which brought the men who built the works now standing. Cotton
Chats, May 1903.
Hopedale Reminiscences Menu
The Lillie house and sawmill after the family left the Old House
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From Family Record of the Jones Family of Milford, Massachusetts and
Providence, Rhode Island. Thanks to Giancarlo BonTempo for sending it.
Above - Peter Hackett. His letter below explains about the plaque.
Perry MacNevin recalls establishing the probable location of the
Old House, which was determined to be a couple of hundred yards
northwest of the Adin Ballou statue. A plaque was placed on the
outside wall of the building that now occupies the site. Like the Old
House, the plaque has also disappeared.
"The eldest son, Alexander Jones, and one or two of his brothers, became adventurers
in trade at the South—Charleston, S. C, if I mistake not—and grew rich, especially
Alexander. He soon settled in Providence, R. I., and was long a wealthy merchant there.
In the Summer season these mercantile brothers, with their families and negro servants,
spent several weeks annually at the old homestead, and seldom failed to signalize this
sojourn by some jovial displays and romantic festivities. One autumn a showy wedding
was celebrated on the occasion of their sister Hannah's bridal union with a dashing
Southern trader. But the young beaux of Milford were slighted; not one of them was
invited. The guests were all from abroad, and of a higher standing in fashionable life.
The wedding went off with eclat; but the young, slighted Milfordonians testified their
resentment by a stealthy joke. That night they carried old Mr. Jones' nicely wrought bean
arbor from his garden, transporting it to the town common, where it next day appeared
as a refreshment booth, some rods in length, ready to serve a military muster then at
hand. Such was the genius of those times.”
Thanks to Susan Elliott for sending this from Family Record of the Jones Family of
Milford, Massachusetts, etc., etc. Evidently "the old homestead" referred to in the
paragraph was the Old House.
The plaque and stone shown above are at Adin Ballou Park.
In this 1870 map of Hopedale, the street going more or less vertically is
Hopedale Street. At that time Social and Union streets crossed Hopedale
Street and continued west for 100 feet or so. They were eventually
discontinued and built over by the shop that's still there. The Old House
was on that discontinued section of Union Street. In this map, it's circled
in red. Click here to see the complete map.
from 1858. Water Street was eventually discontinued and the area built
over, and the name Main Street was changed to Hopedale Street. It
seems that 8 must have been the Water Cure House. To see more early
Hopedale maps, click here to go to the map menu.
Adin Ballou on the Old House More on the Old House
Hopedale Reminiscences Menu
The Lillie house and sawmill after the family left the Old House
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