The Burglary

 In the early Hopedale days, when a stranger came to the place, he was directed to Mr. William Humphrey’s for food and lodging. The house occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey stood just where West Hope Street is, and was torn down when the street and the bridge were built.

 One night Miss Lizzie Humphrey was awakened by strange and unusual noises. After satisfying herself that someone was prowling around the house, she partially dressed, went down stairs and told her parents what she had heard. They arose and upon looking around found the dining-room silver packed in a bag, and the feet of a man were protruding from under the end of the long, haircloth sofa in the parlor.

Lizzie hastened to arouse the neighbors. Mr. Ballou, Mr. Eben[ezer] Draper,  Mr. Thwing and Arthur Clark, a boarder at Mr. Thwing’s, were summoned, and they called some others.

Here was a dilemma which had not previously confronted the people of Hopedale.

There was no policeman here then, no lockup, and the non-resistant principles of the people kept them from using violence in any form, but something must be done, and that quickly.

The parlor extended across the entire front of the house and had two doors, one of which opened into the front hall, and the other into the dining room. At each of these doors, a man was stationed and if the prisoner tried to escape, they were to call the other men who were in consultation.

Many were the questions which arose. Who was he? Was he armed? Would he come from his hiding place if ordered to do so, and what should they do with him when they had him? At last it was decided that all should enter the parlor, and four men should lift the sofa away from the burglar, while the others should capture him if he tried to escape.

Imagine the procession headed by one man carrying an old-fashioned oil-lamp. Cautiously they advanced, lifted the sofa, and lo, they beheld a poor, half-witted fellow, whom the Humphreys had recently fed, doctored and otherwise befriended.

He sat up and surveyed the company. When questioned as to why he was there and in that condition, he answered that he had no house and could find nothing to do, and he thought if he came there and stole something, the Humphreys would send him to some place where he would, at least, have enough to eat. After stopping with them for a time that is just what they did do.

Later, when someone asked Mrs. Humphrey if she didn’t feel real provoked with him for returning all their kindness in that way, she, the dear, kind-hearted woman, replied, “Why, no; I felt as if I wanted to take him right in my arms.”  Susan Thwing Whitney, Hopedale Massachusetts,  Hopedale Reminiscences.

The Humphrey house was just a little south of where the Bancroft Library is now; probably where the drive into the parking lot for the medical building is. The Thwing House was across the street from the library, but was eventually moved.

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