Recollections of Hopedale  

Early in the Community Days a Council was formed, called the Council of Religious Conciliation and Justice.  To this council many of the affairs of the Community were referred for settlement.  Complaints being made of the behavior of the children and youth connected with the public schools, it was voted that the president of the council should visit the school and reprove the scholars for rude, boisterous and other inappropriate conduct; later a committee was chosen who drew up a statement of what was expected of the youth and aliens residing in the Community Domain, and these rules after being subjected to the board of education and approved by them, were printed and posted in every tenement, and in all those places where it would prove useful.  The hearty cooperation of parents and those who had charge of children was asked.  This method proved successful in a measure.

From their journal we read that on the 26th of July, 1847, the trustees of the Community agreed that Henry Lillie should occupy “The Old House,” so called; except the tenement occupied by William Rich, and the south room, which was to be used as an office by the trustees; at the rate of thirty five dollars per year, to be paid quarterly; also that he should have all the milk from the town farm, and furnish the same to individuals at one half cent per quart in advance.  Mr. Lillie agreed to take boarders at the rate of one dollar and seventy five cents per week for men, and one dollar and twenty five cents for women.  We also learn that in those early days the sum of twenty five dollars was allowed each adult person, yearly, for clothing, and was allowed to enjoy a ride of fifty miles during the year.

From this Council a Sponsorial Committee was formed whose duty it was to become personally acquainted with the character and sentiments of those desiring to become members, that those thus desiring might have a correct idea of the real burdens and responsibilities.  These applicants were to be placed on probation, to receive, while they remained probationers, such treatment for their faults as they would if members in full fellowship.  “For it is not the highest Christianity for any one to be knowing to faults and practices in Probationers which are inconsistent with the principles of the Community, without taking some measure to have them corrected.  And especially so, when they are brought forward as things which should cause their rejection.”

When persons desired to become members the examinations were carefully conducted and if it was found that they were not fully acquainted with the principles but still wished to become co-workers, they were given time for consideration of them.

The meetings of the Council for the most part, at the homes of the members, were opened by prayer, either vocal or silent, and they often lasted many hours.  Intemperance was not tolerated.  At one meeting of the Council a lady presented a charge against her husband for exceedingly intemperate habits, and in consequence of his outrageous conduct, and continued threats, she had come to the conclusion that if
he stayed in the family it must be as a boarder, and not as a husband and father.  The Council voted that they did not approve of his remaining in the Community, longer, in any capacity.  However, later on, the Council called a meeting to consider a written promise from the man to abstain from the use of all intoxicating beverages, for the future, and to acquiesce in all the rules and regulations of the Community if allowed to remain in the Domain.  Brother Ballou offered to be responsible for his good conduct, and the Council consented to his further residence.

There was but one principal street; where Adin and Dutcher streets are, were dense woods, and where this church stands were rocks and bushes, where we as children played, and picked berries.  I remember the clearing of the land and of the Church being built, which a few years ago was torn down that this Memorial Church might be built.

No dogs were allowed in town.  On one occasion a family who owned a dog moved here, and so incensed were the people that the owners were told that they must either get rid of the dog or move.  The family moved out of town.

Card playing was not countenanced, and, if indulged in, it was in secret.  No tobacco was sold, and tea and coffee were to be used sparingly.

The houses were few and far between, very simple in architecture; in many houses the chimneys went only as far as the floor, seldom into the cellar.

The exterior of the houses was made attractive with running vines and had flower gardens around them, the work being done mostly by women clad in bloomers.  It was no unusual sight to see women, thus garbed, with wheelbarrow, rake and shovel, at work.

The clothes of the men and women were of the simplest, but always neat and clean.  Men wore overalls, and the women, calico dresses, aprons and sunbonnets to church,  Flowers in their bonnets were forbidden.  When Alonzo Cook brought his bride, who was a school teacher from Blackstone, to church, and she wore a silk dress and a bonnet much bedecked with flowers, it was said that they feared Alonzo had married a very extravagant woman.  

At one time twenty-five women, all clad in bloomers, went in a barge to Worcester,  [No, they were’t going on the water.  The dictionary gives this as an old-time New England usage.  A barge in this sense, meant a large wagon or omnibus.] to attend a Women’s Rights Convention.  They attracted so much attention that the police were called upon to
protect them.

Great care was taken with the children, – in fact everything was done to promote their happiness.  The schools were of the best, so the children were educated in the most approved manner.  Their physical education commenced in a common nursery, into which they were received with the consent of their parents, then promoted to higher grades.

Margaret Fish had a Sewing Class and at one of the sales we realized a little over two dollars, this money being used to buy shoes for the poor children of Milford.

The custom of observing the birthdays of members, both old and young, was said to be truly affecting, profitable and refreshing.  Original songs were sung, and appropriate remarks were always made by members.

A man by the name of Edmund Soward, being interested in the Hopedale Community, came here to live.  He was very much interested in the education and social welfare of the young.  In his will, he left most of his property to the Community, in trust, to be expended in the culture and comfort of the children of Hopedale.  On one ever to be remembered occasion, Reverend W. S. Heywood told the younger school children that on the following Saturday we were to go to Boston to see the trained seals and mice, the money to defray the expenses to be taken from the Soward Fund.  Great excitement prevailed.  One little girl asked her mother what she should wear for a wrap, and when told she could wear her sister’s cape, she replied, “Why, everybody will know it is my sister’s, because she wore it last spring when she went to Boston.”  We took our dinners and ate them on Boston Common.

We were brought up very strictly; children were supposed to be in the house, if not in bed, by nine o’clock at night.

We were taught obedience in all things.  One Fourth of July there was to be an unusual celebration in Milford; Hopedale being then part of Milford, the school children were to march through the streets, the band to play, the children to sing patriotic songs and carry flags.  Now this was contrary to the Non-Resistance principles of the Community, so when our parents were interviewed we were not allowed to join in the exercises.

A general kindly feeling existed among the members of the Community.  It was like one large family.

As one walks through the streets of Hopedale, under the forest trees transplanted to adorn the village street and to stand as sentinels through the coming years, he cannot help but feel that God has blessed the hands of those early workers.  

Ida D. Smith,  
Hopedale, Massachusetts

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Above, from a page on the Albee family in Adin Ballou’s History of Milford you can see a bit of Ida (Albee) Smith’s family tree.