The Post Office

Had you chanced to be in Hopedale fifty years ago [1860], or a little earlier, you might have seen a chubby, rosy girl, with brown eyes and hair, who, every evening, except Sunday, between seven and eight traveled over that part of Hopedale between Hope Street and the Corner.  It was not Patrick’s Corner then.

If you had happened to meet this little girl some stormy evening in winter, you could have seen that she wore a warm hood, rubber boots and leather mittens.

In one hand she carried a lantern, a queer four-sided lantern, three sides of which were of glass and the fourth side had a handle to carry it by, and would also open, so the lamp could be taken out to be filled with whale-oil.  In the other hand she carried a carpet-bag from which she took sometimes a letter and sometimes a paper, which she left in a house near by.

So, allow me to present to you, Susie Thwing, one of the first mail carriers of Hopedale. The other carrier, whose route was the upper part of the village, was Anna Thwing, her sister.

When the Community was first started the mail for Hopedale was brought from the Milford Post Office by any one who happened to go there.  About 1853 when Appendix A of the Constitution of the Community was written, Enactment 8 provided for establishing a Post Office in Hopedale.  Soon after, my mother, Mrs. Almon Thwing, was elected Post Mistress.  All mail leaving Hopedale was carried to my father’s, [Almon Thwing] who lived where Mrs. Charles M. Day’s house is. [The Thwing house, shown above,  was across Hopedale Street from the Bancroft Library. It was eventually moved to Union Street and replaced with the house that’s on the site now. Mrs. Charles Day was the daughter of Joseph and Sylvia Bancroft. Almon Thwing and his wife were Mrs. Day’s uncle and aunt. Based on what Anna Thwing Field wrote for Hopedale Reminiscences, the Thwing house is evidently the only surviving structure in Hopedale that can be identified as having been a station of the Underground Railroad. Click here for more on this. In Abbie Ballou’s reminiscences, she wrote that the original house on the lot where the Day house was later built, was the first house built in the Community, and was originally the home of George Stacey and family.]

The letters were counted and securely locked in a bag, which was carried to the Milford Post Office by Mr. Pliny Southwick, or whoever drove the “express” to and from the railroad station.  There were two mails daily, each way.  The first arrived here in the middle of the forenoon, and the other, about half past six in the afternoon, but the carriers were only on duty after the latter.

Some of the older residents will no doubt remember the sign, “Letter Box,” over a hole cut in the south side of my father’s house, where the mail could be dropped into a box in the wood-shed.

To pay for the work of carrying and caring for the mails, a little stamp was issued which cost the sender or receiver of a letter, living in Hopedale, one and one half cents,  The first issue was a pink, oblong stamp, about an inch long, and the second was square and yellow, and both had printed on them, the words “Hopedale Penny Post.”  When carrying the mail I also carried a supply of these stamps in a pen-box in my bag, and if the receiver of a letter had no little stamp to give in return, he usually tendered a silver three-cent piece and I gave him a stamp.  On the outgoing mail the Hopedale stamp was affixed to the middle of the back of the envelope.

There were only fourteen or fifteen houses on my route then, and the Hopedale Home School received the greater number of letters. The best remembered newspapers that came in the mail, were the “New York Tribune,” “The Liberator,” “Worcester Spy,” and  “Woonsocket Patriot.”

As Hopedale grew the Post Office was transferred to the grocery store, first to the house where I now reside, when Mr. Ansel Harlow was store-keeper and post-master.

I can show you where the hole was cut in my front door to receive the mail.

After the Home School was closed and the school-house was altered into a dwelling-house, Mr. Hiram Gibson had a grocery-store there, and filled both positions.  That was in the first house north of the Town House.

I think the little stamp was used until Hopedale had a regular United States Post-Office. These stamps have now become objects of interest to stamp-collectors.

One has recently been sold by a Hopedale lady for five dollars, and had it been a perfect stamp it would have brought her more money.

Sometimes I carried other letters than those that came in “Uncle Sam’s” mail-bag.

There lived in Hopedale, in a little house at the corner of Union and Dutcher Streets, although Dutcher Street was not there then, four unmarried sisters.  Mary Ann, albeit the youngest, so much desired to be married that she advertised for a husband in some paper.  I think it was the “Phrenological Journal.”  One morning Mr. Humphrey came to my father’s and asked if I would do an errand for a man who was stopping at his house.  I gladly consented and upon going to the gentleman received a letter which I was requested to carry to Mary Ann Hayward and wait for a reply. I distinctly remember what excitement prevailed among the sisters and how Mary Ann hastened to pen the answer. This I duly carried to the waiting gentleman and O, what bliss!!  I received a bright new ten-cent piece for my trouble.  The man proved to be Justin Soule who had answered Mary Ann’s advertisement.  Soon after they were married  and, as far as I know, lived happily ever after.

Susan Thwing Whitney,
Hopedale, Massachusetts
                                          The Elusive Hopedale Stamp
                                                       By James Johnston

There is one little thing that has seemed to have alluded me however as a collector of stamps, and it is something that should be sort of easy to find. It is a local stamp issue printed for the Hopedale Penny Post of Milford.

Hopedale, back in 1849, was a substantial farming community located southwest of Milford. On Feb. 2, 1849, Hopedale residents held a meeting and voted to arrange for regular transportation of the mail to the nearest post office which happened to be located in Milford. Milford was about a mile and a half away and a charge of one cent was voted to transport the mail from Hopedale to Milford.

Paper on which some of the stamps were printed was a glazed pink color. The stamps were primitive and printed in black typeset letters reading in two lines “Hopedale Penny Post.” Other Hopedale stamps were printed on pink woven paper. The wording “Hopedale Penny Post” appears in a circle of four concentrrings.

In very fine condition, these stamps carry a value in the “2011 Scott Specialized Catalog of United States Stamps and Covers” (the Bible of stamp collecting) of from $600 to as much as $4,500 in excellent condition and on the original envelope. A nice used copy off of its original envelope is a decent find too. In all my years collecting stamps, I have never owned one of these Hopedale local stamps. Someday, I hope to find one or two, hopefully on the original envelope.

Maybe somebody out there has one or two of these hidden treasures and does not even know it. These local stamps look like some little label that somebody cut from a sheet of paper with a pair of scissors, because that is just what these stamps are. If anybody out there finds one of these little gems, please let me know. I think that I also owe my life to my various hobbies. I would love to see kids again getting interested in collecting stamps. Milford Daily News, June 15, 2011

For the Johnston article on the Milford News site, click here.   

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