Anti-slavery, and Other Visitors to the Community
By Anna Thwing Field
In the early days of the Community many persons were interested in its establishment; and reformers with varied causes came to present their “isms” and secure a following. It was their custom to receive all who came courteously, to give a patient, candid hearing to whatever cause or progressive idea they advocated, provided always that Mr. Ballou should question, review and confute the whole matter, not only at the time presented, but when discussed for approval or rejection. No hotel received the stranger, – they were entertained at private houses and treated as guests. Mr. Eben[ezer] Draper‘s house was oftenest their headquarters. Many were honest, earnest men, but some were cranks. Well I remember the long, long sessions when the various subjects were discussed and the excitement when the adherents and opponents parried questions and answers, till flushed faces and angry gestures followed.
Theodore Parker brought here his then radical ideas of the Bible and Jesus. Samuel May and his brother were interested in prison reform and wished substantial aid. Henry Wright came to advocate “free love,” and living with your “affinity,” kindred topics, but met with a chilling reception, and although he was allowed “free speech” was politely “frozen out.” Advocates of frugality in diet were numerous and experiments were tried to reduce the cost of living to the lowest figures without impairing the health. Here came Graham. I well remember the trouble my aunt took sending to Boston to procure graham flour for his cooking, though at supper he astonished her by declining the graham flour and choosing white biscuit, saying he had plenty of graham bread at home. “Consistency, thou art a jewel.” Animal magnetism and clairvoyance were presented and their exponents gave many exhibitions at my own home, as did also the spiritual mediums, when the rappings, writing, and tipping of tables were investigated. Two mediums of note dwelt in Hopedale, Fannie Davis Smith and Cora Scott Hatch Tappum.
Reform extended to dress and many women became wearers of the Bloomer costume, a short skirt reaching to the knees with long trousers like the dress. The abbreviated skirts were convenient about the house, but some wore them abroad, made from silk or broadcloth and were victims of ridicule and amusement in the neighboring towns. Many women gave up their simple earrings, bracelets, etc., feeling it wrong to wear jewelry when so many lacked the comforts of life; knowing also that “a meek and lowly spirit is the greatest ornament.”
The Shakers, Quakers and other religious organizations sent representatives to promulgate their peculiar ideals. Peace and temperance advocates were welcome and received prompt endorsement. Edwin Thompson from England was one.
Perhaps the people who interested me most were the abolitionists, for as a child, nothing so stirred my temper or caused my tears to flow, as the wrongs and sorrows of the colored people. Boston was agitating the subject at Faneuil Hall and in the “Liberator.” Grove meetings were held at South Framingham, and annually in August, in a small, pine grove near where the High School building now is, (Where the high school was in 1910, that is. On the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church,) Hopedale had an Anti-Slavery meeting. I recall many earnest men and women who spoke from that platform. There came Parker Pillsbury, the dark-skinned, dark haired, scowling man, who stormed across the stage, shook his clenched fists and said things that scared one; ably seconded by Charles Burleigh who wore his hair and beard long, having vowed he never would cut them till the slave was free. William Lloyd Garrison, always in earnest but more moderate in voice and wiser in counsel-was always present, and usually Wendell Phillips with his gentlemanly, polished ways and scholarly oratory.
Among the women speakers were Lucy Stone Blackwell, Abby Kelly Foster and Anna Dickenson. Mrs. Foster was a sister of Grandmother Earl who lived where Mrs. Sornberger now lives. (According to the town directory for 1905, Harriet Sornberger was the librarian at the Bancroft Library and lived at 4 Union Street. Emma Sornberger, listed as a widow, presumably Harriet’s mother, lived there also. The house is at the corner of Dutcher Street. I believe Harriet later lived at the corner of Hope and Dutcher streets – north of Hope, west of Dutcher.) Stephen Foster and his wife were from Worcester and were always friends of the slave. Frederick Douglass, a colored man who was an escaped slave, was an interesting speaker. The weightier matters discussed were advocated in the “Practical Christian,” the newspaper published by the Community, but I was too young to appreciate the ideas that were being advanced, that were afterwards the occasion of national dissension and civil war. I was more interested when a man arose on the platform and showed branded in the palm of his uplifted hand the letters S.S. He had labored among the slaves to aid them to escape from slavery and as a punishment was burned S.S. for Slave Stealer. He afterwards married Dr. Emily Gay’s sister and lived in Hopedale.
(It seems rather doubtful that Jonathan Walker, known as the man with the branded hand, married Emily Gay’s sister. For more on this, go to the December 1, 2010 Hopedale history ezine. The part about this claim is in the second half of the article, just below a quote by Rachel Day which makes the same claim. I presume Mrs. Day’s information came from Anna Thwing Field’s sentence about it above.)
I well remember the black, black man of large stature who was called Henry Box Brown. He was a slave and had come all the way from the South, sent by friends in a dry goods box with holes in the cover, and labeled, “This side up. With care,” and shipped, if I remember rightly, to Isaac T. Hopper, New York.
Here, too, came Ellen Crafts and her husband, who were of special interest. Ellen was short, slender and light skinned, he was tall and perfectly black. He was a cabinetmaker and she a lady’s maid and were married as all slaves were, without clergy, no legal marriage. They escaped from slavery, she disguised as a young gentleman and he as her servant. Neither could read nor write, so she made a sore on her right hand, bound it up and started North to consult a physician. They came to Charleston on a steamer, then took a carriage for the best hotel, William anxious for his master’s health, securing the best room and service and sleeping on a mat outside his master’s door. Every passenger accompanied by a colored servant was obliged to sign a paper declaring that the servant was his slave, before they could leave the state, and Ellen asked a gentleman to sign for her as her hand was disabled and he politely complied. Her invalidism increased and that helped them on. They were met in Philadelphia and passed on to Boston and married by Theodore Parker and then sent to England. After the Civil War they lived in Georgia and worked for the colored people.
Many escaped slaves lived in the families of Hopedale. My father had a colored man called John who did some work about the place, but never went alone from the house. At night he was there, in the morning gone. I was too young to be entrusted with important secrets. In the opposite house a man, woman, and two children, all black, dwelt one winter in the cellar kitchen and one summer in the attic. The oldest girl went to school and learned to read and write. Another neighbor had as a guest Lizzie Hall, a handsome mulatto young woman with a history somewhat like Eliza of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, though Lizzie Hall was her master’s daughter. [Adin Ballou wrote of Rosetta Hall, who was brought to Hopedale by Frederick Douglass. Could there have been two escaped slaves named Hall who spent some time in Hopedale? It seems more likely to me that Lizzie was a nickname for Rosetta. Another possibility is that Anna had forgotten the name. She was telling the story about sixty years after it had happened.] She stayed till after her little child was born, then she too, had gone away. Several others there were who lived among us for weeks or months. They were fed, clothed, and sheltered. We knew them and saw them moving in and out, one day here, the next, gone. Sometimes we heard they had reached Worcester, Boston, New York, or the Mecca of their wanderings, Canada.
There can be no doubt that the early inhabitants of Hopedale were earnest and conscientious in their devotion to convictions of duty, whatever its cost and penalties. Anna Thwing Field, Hopedale Reminiscences
Anna Field tells us that “Box” Brown was mailed to New York, but I read elsewhere that to escape he had himself shipped from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia.
After writing a paragraph of various quacks and people evidently just dropping in on the Community to enjoy their hospitality, Lewis Wilson did have praise for some of the visitors. He wrote, “Occasionally, however, the Community received real help and encouragement from genuine and powerful philanthropists. Among the latter, Dr. William E. Channing wrote to Mr. Ballou many words of sympathy and wisdom, and Theodore Parker added expressions of friendship and esteem. Visits were enjoyed from a long list of eminent men and women, including Robert Dale Owen, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Henry C. Wright, Stephen Symonds Foster, Edmund Quincy, Frederick Douglass, Samuel J. May, Samuel May, Anna E. Dickenson, Abby Kelley Foster, Oliver Johnson, the Alcotts, Margaret Fuller, eminent representatives from the Shakers, and one prominent elder from the Mormons. Pleasant excursions were enjoyed mutually between the Hopedale Community and the Brook Farm Association. Lewis G. Wilson, Hopedale and its Founder, New England Magazine, April 1891.
Click on the names for more about them.
Anna Thwing Field, author of the article on this page, grew up in the house marked “C” in the picture. (At the corner of Hope and Hopedale streets.) She was the daughter of Almon and Sarah Thwing. The house, later moved to Union Street, was originally across from the present location of the Bancroft Library. (The house marked “D” was razed or moved to build the library. The house just beyond it is also long-gone.) Anna’s aunt and uncle, Sylvia and Joseph Bancroft lived in the house marked “A,” and her cousin, Lilla Bancroft Bracken Pratt lived at the house marked “B.” The house now on the lot where the Thwing house once stood was originally the home of Anna’s cousin, Lura Bancroft Day and her husband, Charles. (Anna, Lilla and Lura’s mothers were sisters.) The picture was taken after 1887 and before 1898. More on the picture.