Community Life As Seen by One of the “Young People”

   After the reading of Mrs. Whitney’s paper on the Inductive Communion of the Hopedale Community, a member of one of the old families born too late to have known Community life, exclaimed with deep conviction, “How dreary those days must have been!” The conviction, though natural from an up to date point of view, was not true of the time referred to.

  The members were men and women drawn together by a common interest in the great principles of liberal and practical Christianity at a time when church doctrines were narrow. In addition to the vital principles of ultimate salvation for all, temperance, non-resistance, etc., each one brought some fad of his own – belief in Spiritualism, or the vegetarian diet. Some were non-shavers, and all, I think, were non-smokers. The fads, which were almost as dear to the hearts of their owners as the principles, were often discussed in public, and the free play of the various natures, grave and gay, matter of fact and mischievously humorous, made these meetings a “continuous performance” of vast entertainment. The argument was earnest of either side, and usually closed by each with the same emphatic utterance, “So it seems to me and I cannot see it otherwise!” Neither party convinced the other, but the war of words afforded a certain relief to strenuous natures who, as good non-resistants could indulge in no other form of warfare.

  The small band of vegetarians were firm in the faith and provided much amusement for those who had no scruples against a meat diet.

  A wag among the latter having discovered that Mr. Asaph Spaulding, one of the most voluable defenders of vegetarianism had fallen from grace by partaking of codfish charged him with it in open meeting. Mr. Spaulding being for once at a loss for words, his wife came to the rescue, exclaiming, “Asaph wanted a codfish and I got him one!”

   On another occasion a young man who wished to deal fairly by both sides of the question, remarked that one’s occupation should be considered in the matter of diet, and that the performance of manual labor required meat.

  To shave or not to shave was a burning question. I remember a non-shaver who, having worked his fiery way to the climax exclaimed, “I have not shaved for five years, and I never will shave again!” Instantly the quiet voice of Mr. Swasey answered, “You may get shaved though.”

  We young people had great enjoyment in what we called music, and at least one evening of the week was devoted to singing under the direction of Mr. W.W. Cook, or Mr. Hatch, and our unskilled performances gave great pleasure at the frequent picnics and festivals.

   We were especially happy in our school under the inspiring teaching of Miss Abbie Ballou, afterwards Mrs. William S. Heywood. Her methods were in advance of those in use at that day, and the excellence of the little Hopedale district school attracted the attention of William Lloyd Garrison, C.F. Hovey and Samuel May who each sent sons to receive the benefit of Mrs. Heywood’s instruction. All who came under her influence in the old school house must feel that their lives had a fortunate beginning.

  We children shared the feeling of our parents that we were a chosen band, safely sheltered from the wicked world. Milford, our nearest point of contact, was as remote as Boston seems to-day, and was perhaps more seldom visited. It was a long way off around by the road, and the short cut lay through woods and over rocky pastures. Mr. Bailey brought the mail over every evening by the latter route. I lived where I could see him emerge from the woods, on what is now Dutcher Street, and when the night was wild, he seemed to my fancy a veritable hero.

  Community life was for children a simple and happy one. But later when it became necessary to take a practical view of things and lower our standards to those of the ordinary business village, the charm dissolved – life became commonplace, and glimpses of the here-to-fore “wicked world” were eagerly sought by the young people.
Sarah E. Bradbury, Arlington, Massachusetts, Hopedale Reminiscences.

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