New England on a Pedestal

204. Utopian Hopefuls

November 30, 2023 Doug Farquharson Season 2 Episode 4
New England on a Pedestal
204. Utopian Hopefuls
Show Notes Transcript

Ghandhi in Sherborn Mass? A utopian society in Hopedale? What is the connection? And who is Emily the Cow? All this and more in episode 204!

(Recorded live in the field.) If you have ever driven through Sherborn, Massachusetts at the intersection of Route 16 and Route 27, you may have seen a memorial off to the side of the road. There’s a statue there, some red brick walls, some chairs are set up, a nice pathway. But what exactly is it? Today, we are visiting at The Peace Abbey, the Pacifist Memorial. It’s a public place for peace under the care of the Peace Abbey Foundation, established in 1994. As I said, it’s a nice little park. Trees all around it. Red brick walls capped by a stone top. And in the center of it is a nine foot tall statue of Ghandhi. 1869 to 1948. Quote “My life is my message.” End quote. It’s an area dedicated to the ideals of pacifism, conscientious objection, and nonviolence. Multiple plaques with quotes from Ghandhi all around his statue. People come here and visit and pay homage to him and sit and think. On the walls there are, on the brick walls there are numerous bronze plaques with the names of various people throughout the last couple centuries that embraced the same ideals. Pacifism, conscientious objection, nonviolence. You’ll recognize some of the names. Some of them you won’t. I see one here for Jesus of Nazareth. I see one here for, where did I just see it? One here for Anne Frank. Mother Teresa. Mohamed Ali. Einstein. And there are plenty of names that somebody like me has never heard of before. They have prayers for peace from various world religions on plaques all about. It’s a super, super pleasant park. And as we walk a little bit further down, we come into an area that is dedicated to basically, animals, with a couple messages reminding us that wars kill animals, too. And that there’s the sacred cow. And straight ahead of us is a statue of a large cow. I do remember this story going back years ago and it’s this cow…this statue here indicates that it is the final resting place of Emily the Cow. Emily the Cow was on its way to a slaughterhouse and escaped from the trailer and wound up on the lam for a while. The people here at The Peace Abbey at the time took her in and she lived out the rest of her life here in Sherborn, I believe on a farm. And as we walk through this very, very nice park, there are plenty of other plaques and memorials indicating…you know…a peaceful lifestyle, advocating for vegetarianism or veganism. Oh, and off to the side here, we have a memorial to conscientious objectors who walked the earth spreading the tradition of nonviolence to future generations. And on this hill are the cremated remains of many, many of them. It’s a busy intersection but a peaceful, peaceful little park. I think that in an odd twist right next door, literally on the other side of a stone wall is the…is a very, very old cemetery dating back to I would say the Revolutionary War. And as part of that is the Town of Sherborn’s memorial to war veterans and citizens of this town who perished in various wars leading back to before the Civil War, before the Revolutionarty War actually. The King Phillips War is mentioned on this. So, why are we visiting a statue of Ghandi? Well, I think we are going to drive further up the road and visit another statue over in Hopedale, Massachusetts.

Hello and welcome. I am your host, Doug Farquharson. Here at the New England on a Pedestal podcast, we look at the history of New England, its stories, its people, and its places through the lens of its various statues, sculptures, monuments, and memorials. You know the ones. The ones we pass by all the time and don’t really notice or remember why they’re here in the first place. Or the odd ones, that make you wonder what possible reason it’s there. 

If you listen to us here, please subscribe to us through your favorite podcast platform and consider leaving a review for us. Please help spread the word by telling family and friends about our podcast. It will help us reach more listeners and expand our audience. Thank you! We have some exciting news that I’ll share with you at the end of this episode, too!

(Recorded live in the field.) Today, we find ourselves in Hopedale, Massachusetts right along Hopedale Street and Peace Street. Nearby is the post office, the police station, several churches. And in the corner here, we’re standing in the park with a statue with a view that was once dominated by the Drapier Manufacturing Company’s mills. It was a huge, huge, multi-story, multi-building mill complex. In recent years, it fell into abandonment and it was recently completely demolished brick by brick and carted away to parts unknown. It’s unfortunate because it would have made a wonderful, renovated, probably mixed use facility, but after years of misuse and abandonment, it just wasn’t structurally sound enough to repair. So, what we now look at is a large, open expanse that, no doubt, one day will be remade into something else. So, we are along part of what’s known as the Blackstone River Valley. That’s known as being part of the Industrial Revolution and it was established in, I believe, 1986 as the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor and it recognizes this regions special place in American history. Parts of this may be in other episodes. For instance, on a plaque here they talk about Grafton Common and in the works is an episode based right there at the Grafton Common. We’ll see how that comes out later.

Why are we here in Hopedale? Well, we are standing at the Aiden Ballou Park. I’m hoping I am pronouncing his name correctly. Hopedale was originally founded as a utopian community. I will read from the sign right here at the park and I quote “Hopedale began as an utopian community founded in 1842 by the Reverend Aiden Ballou, (born in 1803 and died in 1890,) and his followers. Ballou’s spiritual and civic beliefs included the sharing of ownership, responsibility, and success and were based in part on the writings of French utopianist, Charles Fourier. Ballou separated working and residential areas into different phalanxes and determined which land would be used for orchards, crops, livestock, residences. Among dozens of utopian communities established during the era, Hopedale is the most beautiful and best preserved. Ballou’s vision for the town can still be seen in its careful organization with a central town common and placement of other institutions, churches, schools, post office, library all along Hopedale Street. Hopedale continued as a company town when the utopian experiment began to falter in 1855. The Drapier Brothers, Ebenezer and George, took control of the town and built the Drapier Company, a successful textile equipment manufacturer. They and their heirs attempted to continue, to varying degrees, some of the ideals of the commune as they planned and controlled the community. Company housing was extremely well built, large, and offered garden and lawn space. Roads and yards were well maintained, and the company sponsored social, educational, and civic institutions. The Drapier Corporation sold its factory in the 1960s ending the era of corporate domination in Hopedale. The company lives on through the Hopedale Foundation which continues to be used as a source of funding for civic endeavors and serves as a lasting reminder of the Drapiers’ paternalistic role in the town. End quote. At the bottom of the sign they have a very old picture of the Drapier Manufacturing building which I was just describing to you. They show the Jones homestead which is part of the utopian community where they first started having some meetings and it has, of course, the picture of Minister Aiden Ballou.

As we walk into the park, there are several trees, a few very nice bushes. It’s well maintained and there’s a gravel pathway that leads towards the statue. But first, probably a good twenty feet away from the statue, we come to a large granite square that’s just in the ground with something protruding out of it. And anybody familiar with early I would say colonial through 1800s front door steps would recognize this as a boot scape which is exactly what it sounds like. Old fashioned people would come to your house and of course the streets at the time were not paved. So, you would scrape your boot before entering the house so that you would not bring the mud in. So what is this large granite block with the boot scrape? Well there is a plaque right here and it shows an engraving of the house we just talked about. And it is the front door step of the old house. Originally located a little over 400 feet from this spot, it was built by John Jones in around 1700, enlarged in 1735, but razed in 1874. In it was organized in 1741 the Second Church of Mendon. First meeting of the Hopedale Community held in the west room. March 24, 1842.

And then we continue down this gravel path to a couple very nice granite benches. Semi curved, where you can sit. And this is where you come to what we are looking for today: the statue of Aiden Ballou. He stands atop a granite pedestal which is a good six to seven feet tall. The statue itself is another oh I would guess six feet above that. A very distinguished looking gentleman. Thinning hair, close cropped beard. He’s wearing a vest, bowtie, long overcoat, well, to his knees. He looks like a well dressed gentleman. His left hand clutches what I would presume to be a bible sitting atop a small pedestal. And his left hand, correction, his right hand is aimed out in a welcoming gesture to whomever he is speaking to. On the front of it, it says Aiden Ballou, Preacher, Author, Philanthropist, Apostle of Christian Socialism, and Founder of the Hopedale Community. 1803 to 1890. Blessed are the peacemakers not disobedient to the heavenly vision. Each side of this pedestal is engraved with a different quote or a different description of the minister. The back side I can barely read. Weather has taken its toll on it. In fact, I can’t read it at all. Nor can I read this one! So, we’ll go with that. Standing right next to it is a short obelisk which has a couple bronze plaques on it. And those I can definitely read. The first one says…exactly what I read off the front of the statue. The second side says: A man of rational Christian faith, sterling qualities of mind and rare excellence of character who’s life was devoted to the works of righteousness, brotherhood, and peace; to the wellbeing of his kind and the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God on the earth. The back side says this monument is erected and these grounds are set apart as a memorial to Aiden Ballou. A tribute of affection, gratitude, and honor from many friends. On this spot he spent the greater portion of his life where he wrought his chief work and entered into rest. Dedicated and presented to the people of Hopedale October 27th, 1900. And the final side says, extract from the preface to the History of Hopedale Community. If Providence has entrusted me with any distinctive mission in the world, it is to aid in showing my fellow men the way into that Christ like order of life which illustrates the great ideas of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It only took me a minute to walk around that obelisk and its bronze plaques to realize that at some point they were added here because they are an exact duplicate to what is engraved onto the pedestal holding the statue which weather has since diminished greatly and is very hard to read.

This is a beautiful spot. Well worth the trip. And we will delve into a little bit more of his life and the establishment of the Town of Hopedale and explain a little bit why we visited the Ghandhi statue earlier in this episode.

As we can see from information gathered during our visit to the park and statue, Aiden Ballou was a man who held true to his beliefs and tried very hard to live by them and create a utopian society. He was a prolific writer and published many books that were translated to many languages worldwide. It is said that his writings inspired and influenced many famous historical figures including Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr among others. It is believed that his books had a direct influence on Gandhi’s early development of non-violent pacifism and protest. And that would obviously be what lead us to the Peace Abby park in Sherborn. Pretty interesting that a man from a small town in Massachusetts could have such a far reaching impact in the world. 

Taken directly from the Town of Hopedale’s webpage, we get the following information: “Hopedale is on the southeastern edge of Worcester County and occupies the valley of the upper Mill River. Benjamin Albee set up a grist mill on the Mill River to grind settlers' corn in 1669 in the first recorded settlement. Until the mid-19th century, the town followed the pattern of many communities with a combination of agriculture and small industry. But in 1842, Adin Ballou and his followers, idealists who wanted to combine biblical individualism with social responsibility and religious liberalism, purchased 600 acres in what is now downtown Hopedale to establish Fraternal Community Number One. Thirty houses, chapel and workshops were built on an architectural plan for the 170 people who joined in the social experiment, which combined farming with manufacturing, and took strong social stands on temperance, women's rights and abolition.

Unfortunately, disagreements over how to administer the community ended in bankruptcy by 1856 and George and Ebenezer Draper, followers of Ballou, took over the property. The brothers made doors, window sashes and blinds and ran a printing office, but they discovered early on that their most profitable business was making textile machinery. By 1880 there were 400 patents held in Hopedale for textile machinery, 800 Draper employees and $1 million in sales. By 1892, with the advent of the Northrop Loom, Draper became the largest producer of textile machinery in the country. There were 78,000 Northrop looms sold in 1903 because they used less power and could be operated by untrained hands (which resulted in the textile industry abandoning New England and moving south). By World War I, the majority of the 400,000 looms in the United States had been made by Draper and the company was selling to China, Russia and Mexico.”

As we discussed in the In the Field portion of this episode, The Drapers believed that by treating their workers well, their business would prosper. They built quality housing and charged low rents. They provided educational and recreational facilities and provided time for their employees to take advantage of them. They built significant infrastructure for the town and provided upkeep and maintenance. According to the town’s webpage, “Only one strike, in 1913, was ever recorded in Hopedale through the most turbulent eras of American labor unrest.” We saw what some of that unrest did to other areas when we looked at the Shoemakers of nearby Marlboro in an earlier episode.

Let’s take a quick look back to our earlier visit to Sherborn. As we mentioned in our first In the Field segment today, Emily the Cow had escaped from a slaughterhouse in Nearby Hopkinton MA and remained on the run for forty days. She was seen roaming with a local herd of deer and foraging for food on several nearby farms and agricultural areas. Once she was eventually recaptured, a local family was able to purchase her from the slaughterhouse for a reported price of one dollar. That was probably due to all the attention brought to her escapade by the local press. After receiving veterinary care, she was brought to the Peace Abby on Christmas Eve and lived out the remainder of her years there inspiring animal rights issues and vegetarianism.

While researching and writing this episode, I received some great info on a nearby statue. I originally thought I would include it here. However, due to the length of this episode already, I think it best if we make that the subject of the next episode of New England on a Pedestal.

We would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. What are we doing right? What can we do better? Tell us about a favorite or unique or odd statue you know. If you have additional information or maybe a correction about something we have already shared, please send it our way and perhaps, we will add an addendum to a later episode. We can be reached via email at That’s New England on a Pedestal all one word at F A R Q I E dot com.  Go to Facebook and like the New England on a Pedestal page. Follow us on Instagram. We post photos and links on those social media platforms. It takes a lot of effort to produce this podcast. I want to thank Jason, Sam, Jake, and Bekka for their talent, skill, and help.

So, what is that exciting news we mentioned back in the beginning of this episode? I was recently interviewed by Sue O’Connell of NECN and NBC10 Boston for a segment entitled Listen to This where she interviews hosts of various New England based podcasts. It was a fun and exciting process, and I really appreciated the exposure. It aired in early October and has been posted online. Search NECN Listen to This with Sue O’connell and New England on a Pedestal to find it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Until next time, be safe, be well, and keep discovering. Thanks for Joining us!