Hopedale The Town

Written by Peter Hackett
Edited by Richard Moore

We are in our fourth year of business (Oct 24, 1960) as the Hopedale Community Historical Society and have not yet had a paper on Hopedale the town. It was my feeling that the time had come for such a paper.

As towns go, Hopedale is still in the cradle roll, being the third youngest in the state. It was incorporated April 7, 1886. Millville followed in 1916 and East Brookfield in 1920. There are still people in Hopedale, indeed in this society, that are older than the town. Viewed strictly from that angle, it is a question whether it is properly and historical subject after all. That in turn reminds us from a strictly historical point of view it was Adin Ballou’s Hopedale Community that give to Hopedale it’s historical importance. Never-the-less, Hopedale, the town, is not without its significant interests. It presents and interesting study in the growth, development and character of a small New England manufacturing town peculiar to the nineteenth century.

The following notes are based on the article on Hopedale in Hurd’s history and was written by Rev. Adin Ballou. When the Community failed in 1856, due largely to the withdrawal of the brothers E.D. Draper and George Draper, who owned about three-quarters of the joint stock, the assets of the Community and the consequent control of the village fell into their hands. Speaking of these two men, Mr. Ballou said they had a fortunate specialty of pursuit, and knew how to succeed in it. They were shrewd, generous, and public spirited and honorable men of the higher type among civilized accumulations. They dropped the less profitable branches on industry which had been carried on by the Community, concentrated their resources on profitable ones of their own favorite line, called into partnership outsiders of inventive genius and capital, multiplied their productive facilities continually, brought out many valuable patents and steadily ascended to eminence as manufacturers of cotton and woolen machinery.

“Conspicuous among their new coadjutors was Mr. Warren W. Dutcher, from North Bennington, Vermont. He brought strength to the Drapers, and gained wealth by the connection. One or two of our members were taken into the new corporations, and shared in the advancing pecuniary successes. The writer and remaining preachers received a small income for public services as religious teachers, also as printers, editors and educators. Riches came only to the favored few and their well-salaried lieutenants. As to the Community (now reduced to a feeble religious society) it’s various surviving institutional agencies and instrumentalities were largely dependent on their (Draper) contributions and received them—-. They were provided with a village well planned and populated by intelligent, virtuous and orderly inhabitants such as manufacturing enterprise alone could hardly have gathered.

“It was, therefore, not only reasonable for them to preserve and build up the common interests, but for their own honor and pleasure, as virtual lords of a goodly vicinage.” A new church edifice was needed and built by subscription in 1860. “They (Drapers) headed the subscription liberally and ultimately fathered the expense of completion. It cost over $6,000, towards which they contributed all but $1,423, though the minor portion drew harder on most of the givers, according to their ability, than the major on it’s donors.”

Under the Drapers and their allies, Hopedale marched rapidly forward to commanding attainments and distinctions. Expansion, improvement and beautification were more and more conspicuous from year to year. As the shops prospered so also did the village. The number of dwellings trebled, some fine mansions were built, population increased from a few hundred to almost a thousand in 1886, and was thence forth energetically prosecuted to successful consummation.

Next time – Separation from Milford and Incorporation