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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Men and Money: The Building of Draper Memorial Church

Free presentation on April 7 at 2 p.m. 

In June 1897, two sons of the late George Draper offered the Hopedale Unitarian Parish a new church. It was to be based on an English design, built of granite and oak, and finished within a year. The parish gratefully accepted and the workers broke ground quickly. But the building’s construction involved razing Hopedale’s original church – a church built by George Draper and his brother, Ebenezer, to honor Adin Ballou, the man who founded the town. The construction timeframe was short, only a little over a year from the destruction of Ballou’s egalitarian community church and meetinghouse to the finishing touches being put on this new “Draper Memorial Church.”  

As with any tale, there is a backstory to this generous offer. Eben S. and George Albert Draper weren’t George Draper’s only children – he had two daughters and another son, Civil War hero and statesman General William F. Draper. The General was not involved in this project and did not attend the dedication in 1898. During much of the construction, the local newspapers seemed unimpressed as political one-upmanship and a war took the headlines. Then, to top it off, a family feud began to brew.

The Unitarian church has become a beautiful Hopedale landmark, but questions remain: Why were George Draper’s two youngest sons so determined to build an expensive memorial to their parents when Hopedale had a perfectly good and much larger church? And did the project help lead to a Draper family feud that would last for decades? Join Hopedale Women’s History Project founder Linda Hixon to learn the story behind the façade. This free presentation will be held at Hopedale Unitarian Church on Sunday, April 7, 2024 at 2:00 p.m.