Reminiscences of the Home School and the Village

Is it possible that fifty years have rolled their slow course along since my father deposited me and my small trunk at the front door of the Home School, where I spent the most of two happy years, a half-century behind us? Surely that suggests spectacles, gray hair, corpulence, wrinkles, and rheumatism. Memory also begins to lag. Mine at least, is not so prompt at my bidding, as she was a score of years ago, but many of the pleasant memories of those years in Hopedale are safely stowed away never to be forgotten.

Reminiscences of the Home School would seem no hopeless task, but interesting chronicles of the village is another matter, for if my memory serves me right, we were but little acquainted, either with the village or its people. To be sure our Gospel teachings on Sundays we obtained at the little school house at the upper end of the village [on Hopedale Street, between Chapel and Freedom] about opposite the large shop, now made over into a dwelling house. Here we went in the morning to Sunday School, and again in the afternoon for Church Services. Usually Mr. Ballou occupied the teacher’s desk which served for the pulpit, exchanging frequently with Mr. Heywood.

I also remember the Saturday night dancing parties which were held in the second story of one of the shops. I know we went up a rickety stairway into a large, unoccupied room, which served as a sort of hall, in an old red building. Machinery of various kinds occupied the lower floor, but we had great fun dancing till, I believe, about half past nine, when an intermission or lull in the music (I think it was a violin and an accordion) would be the favorable opportunity that Mr. Lowell Heywood would take, to request the Home School scholars to go home, and we would go, feeling very much abused.

The Main Street of the village is changed almost beyond recognition. Indeed, one can hardly help feeling as forlorn as did Rip Van Winkle in returning to his old home, so much that was familiar is gone. The store of H.L. Patrick, on the Milford road [Route 16], was not then built. Speaking of that store reminds me of the early ambition of the proprietor. A favorite morning exercise at the opening of school was to express in a few words our dreams of future greatness and what large place in life we hoped to fill. Henry’s taste for mercantile pursuits had probably not developed, for he then expected to become a circus rider.

The old school house and the boarding house near it look fairly natural, but I miss the pleasant home of the Humphreys with its garden of flowers, especially the roses; also the little cottage homes of Mary Reed and Dr. Emily Gay, who, by the way, at that time, was a familiar figure on the street, dressed in her bloomer costume, whose only justification was its convenience, carrying her little medicine chest, hurrying along with her swinging arms and gait, doubtless reaching her patient’s side in good time, even if a runabout had not been heard of.

I also remember well Harriet N. Greene Butts and her husband, although the latter is hardly anything but a myth in my mind.  The beautiful church [Unitarian] of today, I think, must occupy about the same site of one built about 1860.The most delightful association with that place was our happy reunion in 1867, a day long to be remembered by all who were privileged to be present.

An old house that I miss in my frequent visits to Hopedale is one in some way connected with the old Community, in my day occupied by a family by the name of Moore. It has probably gone the way of many other old landmarks and is no more. One can afford to spare much in exchange for the fine Library and Town Hall, and numerous buildings that take their places.

The side streets leading from Main [now Hopedale Street], on which have been built so many beautiful residences, were not even laid out. The usual way of reaching Milford was over the hill from the Mendon road. An old stage coach went back and forth as a public conveyance once or twice a day, but we Home School scholars usually annihilated the distance by walking; that is, when we could get permission, which wasn’t often. The old stage coach and the tired horses that dragged it over the hill are no more, – Peace to their ashes! In their stead, as if by magic, shining rails traverse the quiet streets, over which speed half hourly trolley cars, which in our day were not even dreamed of. But I must not let my pen stray away into the past save to assure you that were I to allow it full license you would weary of its wanderings.

Changes, many and strange, have come to all of us, as well as the village, since we went out form the protection of the dear old Home School, and the experience has taught us many a lesson, since we recited so glibly in yonder recitation room. I remember my zeal and love for Hopedale was so great, that when I said, “Goodbye,” I fully intended that all my sons and daughters should be sent her to be fitted after the most approved manner for higher posts of influence and usefulness. Alas, for my dreams! The juveniles did not materialize, and the Home School is no more. That it once existed, and I was permitted to belong to it; and for the friendships formed there, which add much pleasure to the waning years; these are events in my life for which I am ever entirely thankful.

Imogene Mascroft,
Uxbridge, Massachusetts

Late in 2006 I was speaking to Bob Mallard and he mentioned that his house had once been a school. Part of the evidence was that, starting several feet from the floor, the walls of some rooms had been painted black. Evidently that was what served as a blackboard.  At the bottom of the black section of the wall were pieces of molding that must have been the chalk trays. Before Bob bought and moved it, the house had been at the corner of Depot and Hopedale streets and had been used for many years as the American Legion home. After Bob bought it, he moved it and attached it to his house behind the post office. (See Now and Then at Depot Street.)
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Born in Northbridge, Mass.

Descendant of Capt. David Batcheller, of Massachusetts.

Daughter of William D. Mascroft and Harriet G. Staples, his wife.

Granddaughter of William P. Mascroft and Celestina Batcheller, his wife.

Gr-granddaughter of Simeon Batcheller and Lucy Adams, his wife.

Gr-gr-granddaughter of David Batcheller and Lois Woods, his wife.

David Batcheller (1742-1805), responded to the Lexington Alarm as lieutenant in Capt. Josiah Wood’s company from Northbridge, and in 1778-79 was captain in Col. Ezra Wood’s regiment. He was born in Grafton; died in Northbridge, Mass. Lineage book – National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Volume 52, 1919, By Daughters of the American Revolution.