Outline Historical Trail For Hopedale Hikers
By Peter Hackett
of Hopedale suggests an historical trail that can be followed by hikers in pursuit of knowledge of
their community area as well as for the Historical Merit badge of the Boy Scouts. The trail could well
prove of interest to other Boy Scout units in the general Milford area, as well as to adults. In his
research the author turned up a little known fact, concerning Nathan Hale's trip and visit through
Mendon, when he was barely 21, and just six months before he was hanged. The story is a highlight
of this presentation.)
Since a hike was contemplated over an historical trail, the landmarks were chosen so that the
distance encompassed would satisfy the urge for a hike without causing undue fatigue, yet have
enough history to make the hike interesting and pleasant.
Let’s follow the boys. What better place to start than Ballou Park, there to look at the fine monument
of Rev. Adin Ballou, recognized as the Founder of Hopedale. The boys will find it difficult to read the
inscriptions, the lettering, Cape Ann granite, apparently not lending itself too legible. Nearby is a
plaque referring to the "Old House" where Hopedale had its beginning; also to the huge door step
of the Old House.
From here we will, with permission, of course, go into Draper shop yard and, on the wall of one of
the buildings we will see a bronze plaque which reads:
"The Old House," birthplace of Hopedale, built near this spot in 1700 by Elder Jones. The Old
House was occupied by the Hopedale Community 1842, and razed in 1874.
Leaving the yard we will continue on Hopedale Street and make a stop between the housing for the
elderly development and the filling station at the corner. At this point, as shown on an old map of
1854 was a road that came from Mendon, known as Post Lane. It originated as an Indian trail.
When the Milford - Mendon road (now Route 16) was built in 1800 the old Post Lane was
Continuing our hike across Route 16 we will stop at Spindleville, which takes its name from the
millions of textile spindles made there, until quite recently, by the Westcott factory. Long before that
factory there was a grist mill and saw mill on the same site, dating back to the early 1700's. Both
are indicated as late as 1870 on a Worcester County Atlas. About that time, and later, the site was
known as the Gaskill place.
Continuing our hike up George Street towards Mendon, we turn left into that ancient piece of
roadway, still a dirt road now known as Old Hartford avenue. Originally it was a part of the Boston-
Hartford Turnpike. Before that, however, it is frequently referred to in old Mendon records as the
"Country Road." In effect the writer considers this old road as an historic site, hence its inclusion in
Albee Corn Mill
Coming out of the old road we come to Hartford avenue and near the bridge that crosses Mill River
is the site of the historically famous Albee Corn Mill. Of it Ballou says, "The very oldest parcel of land
on our (Milford) territory assigned to individual possession was one acre for a Corn Mill seat. This
was at the present (1880) Lewis B. Gaskill place, aforetime known as the Alvin Allen place. There on
Mill River, just north of the highway, where the ancient dam still remains the old Committee of
Quinshipaug Plantation (Mendon) gave Benjamin Alby (Albee) a one acre mill lot or 'seat', in return
for which he was to grind the settler's corn. This contract, made in Roxbury and dated 1664, also
granted him twenty acres for a house lot."
The mill was built soon after. It is first referred to in Mendon records in 1672 at which time the town
confirmed the contract and granted Albee 50 more acres for his encouragement towards
maintaining the mill.
Albee's house and mill were burned by the Indians , in King Philip's War, in 1676. After the
resettlement of the town in 1680, Matthias Puffer, became the next miller by town agreement. He
built his mill in 1684, on the same site where the Albee mill stood. Albee left the town during the
Indian troubles and never returned. Before his mill was built, also Puffer's, the settlers had to cart
their corn to Medfield for grinding, a great inconvenience. For many years, corn, it its various forms,
including the bread made from the ground corn, was their staple food, actually their survival food.
Mill River and Mill Street take their names from the fact of the Albee and other mills being on that
stream for so many years. On or near the Albee mill site is a small stone weaving mill which at one
time was a shoddy mill.
Leaving the old mill site, the first mark of civilization in this area, we will follow Hartford avenue,
passing Swandale Cemetery on our left, till we reach Providence street and there we find the
marker telling about the Indian Massacre of July 14, 1675. It is interesting to note, as the marker
states, that this was the beginning of King Philip's War in what is now Massachusetts. The war
started in Swansea which, at that time, was in Plymouth Colony.
Disheartened with this turn of events and, fearful of their lives, the settlers fled the town. The Indians
returned the following winter and completed their savage destruction by burning every building in
the town. (This paragraph gives the impression that no one was in Mendon at the time, but actually
the settlers were there, and five or six were killed.)
Hard, rough, times indeed they were.
Heading north on Providence street we turn down George street a short distance and, on our right,
a sign erected by the Mendon Historical Society, tells us we are at the Friends (Quaker) Cemetery.
In that yard formerly stood the first Friends Meeting House in Mendon. Due to a diminishing
membership, it was closed for meetings (services) in 1841 and finally razed in 1850
Returning to Providence street and continuing through the center our next stop is at the former
Ammidon Tavern (now private apartments). This is one of the most historic buildings in this entire
area, to say nothing of Mendon, and in the writer's opinion, should have a marker. It derives some of
its fame from the fact that President Washington almost slept here. On his way home to New York
from his memorable tour of New England in 1789, he stopped here to put up for the night. Due to a
misunderstanding, variously explained, but always blaming the maid who answered the door, he
was not permitted a room. It was a cold, miserable rainy night in November and the party continued
to Taft's Tavern in Uxbridge where better luck prevailed.
The writer was pleased, indeed thrilled, to discover recently, that Nathan Hale passed through
Mendon on his way to join his regiment in Boston. The date was Jan. 26, 1776. He had with him
Quoting from his diary, he said, "Stopped at Amadon's Mendon and breakfasted." A note in his
account book says, "to Reckoning, Amadon's 7 d per man."
That was 13 years before Washington passed through Mendon. Hale, at the time, was only 21, and
a captain. Less than six months after his stop at Amadon's he was hanged by the British as a spy.
He was allegedly betrayed by a cousin, a Tory sympathizer.
Old Post Lane Road
Leaving the rest home, we cross Route 16 and nearly opposite the school we find beautiful marker,
erected by the Mendon Historical Society, which tells the story of the Old Post Lane Road.
How far down the lane we may go is not certain, since house lots on the left side of Route 16, going
down the hill into Hopedale no doubt extend into the old road. Traces of it however, could still be
seen in fairly recent years.
In any case we will follow the old trail as far as possible and then go out to Route 16 and home to
the starting point, a bit tired, but well pleased with our historically interesting hike. Milford Daily
News Article, May 4, 1966 - Thanks to Sharon Cutler of Mendon for this article, and to Dick
Grady for passing it on to me.
Peter Hackett with the Old House plaque.
Outline Historical Trail For Hopedale Hikers
By Peter Hackett