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The Yankee Express

An unobtrusive Fourth, and a Declaration of Independence, in Auburn

Auburn’s own Bruce Hopper recreates Isaiah Thomas’s rendition of the Declaration of Independence in front of Town Hall.

By Rod Lee
It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon and a quiet Fourth of July in the town of Auburn this year. Businesses were mostly closed for the holiday. Auburn Town Pizza, closed. Bells Lawn & Garden Center, closed. Arcade Snacks, closed. Capitol Siding, closed. The Coffee Mug, closed. Fuller Automotive, closed. The Framer’s Gallery, closed.
No fireworks to commemorate the holiday, as was true of virtually every community in Central Massachusetts.
That is not to say that the celebration of American freedom from British rule went unrecognized. Shortly before four o’clock, a small crowd began to gather in front of Auburn Town Hall on Central St. to hear a recitation of the Declaration of Independence by resident Bruce Hopper.
Mr. Hopper is fairly well known in Auburn and the region. An attorney by trade, he is also the brains behind the “Pure BS Maple Shack.” During a “Chamber Exchange” interview with Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Tim Murray in March of 2019, Mr. Hopper said that upon purchasing his home, he “got excited” at the sight of maple trees “in the backyard.” So began experimentation making maple syrup in the kitchen. “I ruined an oven, got kicked  out of the kitchen and sat in the driveway with a turkey fryer,” he said, with a chuckle. But he did not give up on his idea of maple syrup as an entrepreneurial venture.
Fast forward to 2020 and beyond. Mr. Hopper’s product is now in demand at the Birch Tree Bread Co., in the hill towns in Western Massachusetts, and at Chuck’s Steak House and the Salem Cross Inn—for instance.
It was a “pinch me” moment when he realized that the syrup generated at Pure BS Maple Shack could become so popular, he told Mr. Murray.
An interesting man possessed of an inherent curiosity, it is not surprising, then, that Mr. Hopper took on the garb of Worcester’s own Isaiah Thomas to replicate “the patriot printer,” newspaper publisher and author’s performance in the first-ever public reading of the Declaration more than two hundred years ago, in his reenactment of the speech, all this time afterwards.
Milling around before the event, looking puzzled as the appointed hour arrived and people grew anxious, Mr. Hopper was asked whether there was a problem that would prevent the reading from taking place. “No, just waiting on my daughter,” he said with a smile.
Lauren Hopper did not disappoint, in delivering a preamble in the same ringing tones as her father would then employ, when it was his turn. Ms. Hopper introduced Isaiah Thomas, relating how with “no shots fired” he helped “end British rule in this area.”
Isaiah Thomas was no shrinking violet. His first accounts of the battles of Lexington and Concord and his resistance to British authority that propelled the Revolution forward also put his life in jeopardy and resulted in his escape from Boston to Worcester, where he printed and sold books, built a paper mill and bindery, published the Massachusetts Spy, and founded the American Antiquarian Society.
Mr. Hopper isn’t shy, either. Following his daughter to a lectern that faced Town Hall, he delivered the Declaration with energy and force. Often his voice rose to a crescendo, his face turned red and his fingers thumped on the lectern as he described the grievances against King George III contained in the original document. He did this flawlessly, without even stumbling over a word like “magnanimity.”
King George III had to be held accountable for a variety of offenses, Mr. Hopper proclaimed (capitalization retained where it appeared in the Declaration): “For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States…For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world…For imposing taxes on us without our Consent…For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury…” and so on.
“He,” Mr. Hopper said, thunderously, “has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.”
Congratulated on his reading as applause filtered across the grounds and told “it’s too bad there wasn’t a larger turnout for this event,” Mr. Hopper was not dismayed. “Well, word will get around,” he said.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.