Beanery Online Literary Magazine

July 14, 2010

The Legacy of Hopedale, Massachusetts




    Throughout her life my grandmother often spoke about growing up “near Heaven, this wonderful Hopedale of ours.”

Elizabeth Noyes (rt) with her sister May (c 1898)

     Elizabeth Amanda Noyes was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts, in 1890. Her parents, William and Mary Cotton Noyes, had moved there to raise their children in a place where faith and family came first, where they knew a hard work ethic would prevail, and where they would feel secure. The self-contained town was religiously based. Sundays were always for faith and family. It remained that way during my grandmother’s entire life.
     Lizzie, as she was known, loved to speak of those first days swimming in the pond was allowed for girls. Apparently a somewhat scandalous event, she felt it was a big step forward for women. This always amazed me as she truly was old-fashioned: she cooked, cleaned, knew nothing about driving, or voting, and my grandfather made all decisions.


     Draper Mill, one of the oldest textile mills in the country, dominated the town, providing almost the only employment to the men in the town.

     While tinkering with the mill’s machinery, Ira Draper made improvements that were sent worldwide. In the early 1800s he received a patent on a new type of loom, which enabled the company to “take off huge.”


    My great grandfather, William Noyes, worked for the mill. My grandmother spoke of his long hours of work, but always said he returned home with a smile. His sons, John and William, also worked in the mill.

     (The Noyes family at one time lived on the no-longer-existing part of Union Street that was west of Hopedale Street. The houses there were moved when the Draper Company needed space to build a larger foundry, and became the “Seven Sisters” on Freedom Street. Later the Noyes family lived near the five-corner intersection at 14 Freedom Street.)


    My grandmother married a Hopedale man, Henry Bromley who lived with his brothers and widowed mother and worked for the Dramer Mill. All five of the Bromley boys worked there at some point in their lives—one, Jesse Bromley, worked at the mill as an accountant from 1898 until the late 1940’s, when he went blind. (The 1939 street listing shows Jesse and Evelyn Bromley living at 23 Bancroft Park and William Bromley at 83 Hopedale Street.)


     Christmas was a time to remember how the Draper Company always provided a stocking for every child. My grandmother said she always smelled the oranges before she got downstairs. Younger children counted on some small toy. If someone needed medical help, it was received. Her parents knew they had a good solid roof over the heads of their family.

     My grandmother felt the small community feeling, the help of the Draper Mill and the strict rules of faith, all benefited mankind, making each resident a better person to go out into the world. She saw, with sadness, that by the 1930s things were beginning to change. I can’t imagine what she would think today if she saw the destruction of the mill, the many old homes being torn down, and the feeling of “community” beginning to ebb away.
     Thinking back, I realize I envy her sense of peace and her joy at her remembrance of her childhood. It truly did shape the wonderful woman she became. So few of us can say that the place we were born and raised influenced the outcome of our lives.

     What a gift the town of Hopedale gave to its people!



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Earthquakes in (Southwestern) Pennsylvania

My Childhood Home: 29 Spring St., Portsmouth, N. H.


Linn Run’s Shallow Sound

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