Separation from Milford - Hopedale Town Report, 1886
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
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 requirements.
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
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
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 equal taxation."
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 Richard Moore.
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 contrary.
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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