Separation from Milford - Hopedale Town Report, 1886
Hopedale, to incorporate therein a brief statement of the facts connected with the
establishment of the new municipality.
The village, from which our town takes its name, had a peculiar origin. In 1842 under the
lead of the Rev. Adin Ballou, an organization known as the Hopedale Community purchased
what was then known as the Jones Farm, upon which most of the village of Hopedale now
stands. Within a few years they build up a village of fifty dwellings besides mills, shops and
other conveniences, multiplied their population to 300 and enlarged their domain to an area
of about 600 acres.
Their object was to establish a fraternal community which should avoid the vices of society
as far as possible, educate the rising generation properly, and establish, if they could, a
better system of industry for themselves.
This community as an industrial organization failed to meet with lasting success, but the fact
of its existence here, with the further fact that a large number of its original members and
their families still reside here, has given the village rather a peculiar character as compared
with the population of most manufacturing towns. Among other peculiarities there has never
been in the village a place where intoxicating liquors could be purchased, and it is hoped by
us that this peculiarity may long continue. [Hopedale remained a "dry" town until 1970.]
As a part of the town of Milford the relations of this section were as a rule harmonious; but it
became evident in recent years that, so far as Hopedale was concerned, its needs could be
better and more economically supplied if we had a local government of our own, than if we
remained as a small part of a large municipality like Milford, with different wants and
During the spring of the year 1885 a petition was drawn up and signed by nearly all the
voters and resident taxpayers of Hopedale, asking that the territory of Milford be divided in
accordance with a line stated, and that a part of the town lying west of the said line be
established as a new township.
Public meetings were held in the village of Hopedale and in South Milford, and the following
committee was chosen to carry out the wishes of the people:
George Draper, Wm. F. Draper, Adin Ballou, Michael Gannon, E. S. Stimson, F. J. Dutcher,
Frank Dewing, A. B. Edmands, E. S. Adams, C. F. Roper, E. D. Bancroft, A. B. C. Deming,
Edwd. Schofield, Frank H. French, Murty O. Connell, S. L. Madden, Lucius Lowell, Geo. W.
Knight, Charles Thayer, J. S. Bailey, Charles E. Pierce. Thomas H. Bradley, C. H. Messinger,
R. C. Fay, G. L. Tarr, J. S. Chase, Fred E. Smith, W. N. Goddard, Samuel A. Andrew,
Timothy Osgood, George O. Hatch, E. M. Wheelock, A. A. Westcott, Sumner A. Dudley,
Almon Thwing, Robert Ross, Eben S. Draper, Henry Walker, John A. Peckham, A. W. Ham,
John L. Cook, F. S. Hayward, F. D. Montague, I. W. Blanchard, B. H. Knight, H. B. Fisk, J. B.
Bancroft, George H. Williams, A. W. Westcott, George A. Draper.
They engaged Hon. S. Z. Bowman, Esq., of Somerville, and N. Sumner Myrick, Esq., of
Boston, as counsel, and were more than satisfied with their services. In due season the
petition came before a committee of the Legislature, consisting of Messrs. Phillips of
Hampden, Gleason of Worcester, and Locke of Essex, of the Senate, and Messrs. Taft of
Palmer, Field of Boston, Sampson of Pembroke, Blythe of Wakefield, Jenney of Hyde Park,
Allen of Oakham, Woodward of Boston, and Shaw of Lowell of the House, who reported a bill
in favor of the division without a dissenting voice.
On the 12th day of March, 1886, the first vote was taken in the Senate after a long
discussion, and the measure was carried, 14 in favor, and 11 against. It was brought up in
the House on the 25th day of March, and was again discussed at length, but again carried
118 in favor, and 82 against. Returning to the Senate it was finally passed on the 6th day of
April by a vote of 18 to 16, and the bill was signed by Gov. George D. Robinson, on the 7th.
The first town meeting was held of the 19th day of April 1886, and officers were elected,
this volume being a report of their doings for the past year.
So far as the results can be judged by a year's experience, it seems evident that both
sections of the old town of Milford are better off than before. In both towns the taxes are
lower; in both towns there is greater interest in good local government; and in both towns
there has been marked increase of material prosperity, while the prospect of growth and
continued prosperity was never brighter. Few citizens of Hopedale, and perhaps few citizens
of Milford, would desire to see the division act repealed if it could be done.
With due modesty we think we can say that in Hopedale we have better schools, better
roads and better attention to all local wants than we had under the former regime, or than we
could have expected had it continued. Our relations with our mother town have been
pleasant, and we are glad to note that the little asperity caused by friction of the division
conflict has substantially passed away
Hopedale Leaves Milford
The genteel religious idealism of the original settlers of Hopedale was a far cry from the
political wrangling and bitterness that accompanied the official incorporation of the town
when it separated from Milford in 1886.
Attorneys for Milford described the split as a "mutilation," while lawyers for the would-be
town argued that Hopedalians were held in "bondage" to Milford, likening the situation to that
of Ireland and England.
The question of class, tax dodges, "certain moral questions," meaning prohibition, and the
still-argued issue of rich town vs. poor town also entered the fray during the testimony at
legislative hearings in January and February of 1886.
George Draper had broached the proposal for the separation in an open letter to the
Milford Journal in June 1885, writing that he would petition the legislature to set off Hopedale
as a separate town. The state senate voted 18 - 16 on April 3, 1886, to enact the bill of
separation, and the town was incorporated four days later.
Although selectmen from both towns formally settled all differences between the two towns
in July 1887, and Milford and Hopedale have enjoyed friendly relations ever since, the
testimony at the legislative hearings foreshadowed anything but an amicable resolution.
Hopedale's attorneys implied that Milford was infested with taverns and indifferent to the
needs of Hopedalians. They said the government of a smaller town would create better
schools, better roads, and a more responsive municipality.
Milford's attorney, Joseph Benton, countered by labeling the split a tax dodge totally under
the control of the Draper family. He also speculated that the idea of the split was planted by
the whim of a Draper daughter who wanted a town of her own.
He called the plan a "mutilation of (this) ancient and honored town, merely to gratify the
personal pride, and promote the personal interest, of one man and his family...that the
Draper family may be incorporated as a town and relieved from the fair burdens of just and
He said the Drapers had controlled the separation at every step, "from its inception at a
private meeting of the Draper family, when one of the daughters wanted to know why they
could not have a town of their own. Take them out of it, and the project for division would
dissolve into thin air. There is nothing to justify it, there is nothing to sustain it, except the
personal ambition and self-interest of one strong, persistant, obstinate man," Benton,
referring to George Draper, told the hearing.
Hopedale attorney, N. Sumner Myrick said the split would spare Hopedalians "the personal
insults and abuse which have often attended their participation in the business of the Town
Meetings of Milford."
George Draper testified the lengthy disputes and "stupid" actions by Milford officials over
the building of Adin Street and "the amount of opposition and exasperation I had in relation
to that matter...caused a stroke of apoplexy, which very nearly finished me, and I did not feel
natural for two years."
He described those few Hopedalians opposed to the split as "cranks."
Hopedale lawyer Selwyn Z. Bowman raised the "moral" question of liquor, saying it was
unfair for the prohibitionist residents of the Dale to be hooked up with Milford.
Abstinence from liquor was one of the hallmarks of the Christian socialists who founded the
Hopedale Community commune in 1841, and Bowman said the residents in 1886 were
"almost unanimous" in support of that tradition.
"We say that we are a temperance community. We say that we are a different community
from the town of Milford...with its 63 saloons. And if we desire to build up here a model New
England town, where no liquors are sold, industrious, thrifty, prosperous, I say we have a
right to do so," he said.
Benton said the split would hurt Milford's ability to raise taxes.
"The constantly increasing inequality in local taxation is a great and growing evil. Rich men
have either moved into small towns and taken possession of them, or have induced the
legislature to create small towns for them, and then have assessed their property at less
than its real value...," he argued.
They thus avoid state taxes, and by attracting other rich men, create an ever lower tax rate
in their small town havens, Benton said.
"It is a stock argument always made by every rich man, or clique of rich men, who desire to
have a town made for them, where they may enjoy low taxes, and exercise arbitrary power,
that the ideal town government is that of a little town...,' he said.
Draper also denied under questioning that he had said it was a waste of time to educate
the children of laborers. Milford Daily News
Here is another version of the separation story, written by Peter Hacket and edited by
Separation from Milford and Incorporation
The idea of Hopedale separating itself from Milford was received by Milford with
astonishment and ridicule. Its leading residents said it couldn't be done, that it was
"presumptuous, vain and hopeless." "But George Draper and sons, with their influential
coadjutors, went into the undertaking with their accustomed shrewdness, energy,
determination and ability." (Quote from Rev. Adin Ballou)
The petition was placed in the hands of the General Court to be brought up at its next
regular session, January 1886. Meantime, large public committees were appointed and the
best possible legal counsels were obtained. There were many bitter arguments in the
contest. Many unfair and abusive accusations were made against the Drapers. The
principal question the General Court was interested in was - would Milford be seriously
damaged by the incorporation of Hopedale? Milford said it would and Hopedale argued to
The principal question in turn revolved around the tax dollar. Milford stood to lose a
surplus of some $10,000 received annually from Hopedale in taxes. The thought of that loss
made Milford furious. She lost her temper and along with it, her reason. She would be
ruined, she cried out and the incorporation must not go through. She acted like Mr.
Khruschev with the difference that whereas he had but one shoe to play with, she had many,
for after all, Milford was a shoe town. But of all the shoes she threw at the Hopedale people,
not one fit. Amidst many hot debates in the State House, common sense and reason
prevailed and the bill for the incorporation of Hopedale was signed into law by His
Excellency, Governor George D. Robinson, April 7, 1886, and Hopedale became a town.
In the evening of April 13, Hopedale wildly celebrated its victory. Bells were rung, cannons
discharged and great fireworks set off. Battery B, from Worcester, fired a salute of eleven
guns to General William F. Draper and eighty-six in honor of Hopedale, the eighty-sixth town
to be incorporated in that century.
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