This is the complete Thesis prepared by Elvera Mullen. Excerpts are already listed on this site.

Our thanks to Elvera Mullen for this great piece of history and to Candy (Davis) Brown for sharing this with us. I used OCR to move all the data into html pages, rather than display the photos of the original pages.

Since I grew up in the Murray and Hopeville areas, I can really appreciate this. I can remember getting a haircut at the Hopeville barber shop just southeast of the square for 25 cents. Other memories are of the two general stores in Hopeville. One of which had the old fashioned gravity pump outside for gasoline where you had to pump the gasoline up into the glass area of the pump by hand and then gravity would allow you to dispense it into your vehicle. I also remember the supplies in the glass bins where you had to just reach in with your hand or scoop to get to them. This was in the 1950's.--- David W. Dinham




Social Organization 1

Social Disorganization 8

Social Psychology 9

Population and Human Ecology 10






Hopeville is a name to conjure with. Every village hopes to be a town; every town desires to become a city; and every city aspires to become a metropolitan center. Every municipality hopes for a post office, a railroad, paved streets, sidewalks, a water system, churches, schools and a multitude of other improvements. In a sense every town is a Hopeville. But alas, hopes often vanish.  The long-looked for railroad never comes. The post office is abandoned. Business houses close, until perhaps only a single store remains. Like Goldsmith‘s Sweet Auburn, "loveliest village of the plain," the once thriving town becomes a deserted village. 

Every State in the Union has had its Hopeville, though it may have been known by another name. But in Doyle Township, Clarke County, Iowa, there is a village which is actually named Hopeville. Its name is, perhaps, more fitting than its founders suspected. 

The first white settlers in Clarke County were Mormon emigrants who started  from Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1846, with the hope of reaching Salt Lake City. When they came to the region that is now Clarke County, they became separated from the larger group of emigrants, and tarried for a while. They erected cabins at a place which they called "Last Camp, " planted corn, and remained for a year or two before moving on westward. 

In 1850 the first permanent settlement was made in the vicinity of Hopeville.  Bernard Arnold, J. Arnold, I. Ellis, J. Jamison, A. Collier and J. Shearer were among the first settlers. 

The history of one township of Clarke County is not likely now to ever be repeated anywhere. A man named Charles Cheny conceived a scheme for settling  a new county. He had heard of communities holding goods in common. He was  an imaginative, restless man, thinking of things other people cared little about.  This we stern part of Iowa was unsettled and seemed remote, no railroad had been built in this territory. He heard of Clarke County, its township not surveyed, named or determined yet. 

Cheny was a man who knew how to influence others and he soon had a colony collected to work under his direction. They organized at Farmington. It was a regular society with constitution and bylaws all in due form and its officers elected.

During the year of 1850 Cheny and his Communistic Colony came. They might have located near the county seat, but they were fascinated by the green hills and winding river in the southwest corner of the county. A railroad had not then made a location near a county seat town and this seemed to be as desirable a place as any. This became known as the "Hopewell Colony." This lasted only a short time. Every man wanted to boss his own work and do as he pleased.  It was but a waste of time to try to work together, so they soon scattered onto farms of their own. 

In 1851 a post office was requested for "Hopewell." It happened, however, that there was already a Hopewell Post Office in Mahaska County, so the name of Hopeville was adopted instead and a post office was established on the same day on which the post office was established in Osceola. The first postmaster in Hopeville was David Newton. 

Moving to this county from Farmington was a tedious business. It was mostly done by oxen and from one to two weeks were occupied. Houses were scarce and as each family arrived it went into a one or two roomed cabin with some other family to stay until another cabin was built. They were kindly welcomed and treated well by all. Everybody carne to see them.

Good land could be bought in the vicinity of Hopeville in those days for $1.25 an acre, but the people who toiled to make their homes there, sometimes "shook with chills" or "burned with fever. " The winters were hard to endure. 

Wells for a few months were unknown. The prairie streams and springs supplied the water. One or two wells were dug later and water carried from these a half mile or more. 

Oxen were used for draught purposes. There was but one team of horses in the colony. During the three years the colony existed, about twenty men belonged, most of them were married and had families. There were not enough teams for all to take care of the soil but there was plenty of work, especially rail splitting and building of a cabin for each family was mutual labor. Every
Saturday evening a meeting was held to discuss plans and report progress. One of the drawbacks to getting the work done was the endless consultation. On summer mornings the young men would bring the oxen in from the prairie and the older men sitting on the fence would discuss whether it was best to plow the corn, mow grass, break up more prairie or spend the day fencing. 

Early settlers brought dogs with them but cats were scarce. When they did arrive, some riding in wagons 150 miles or more, they were much thought of for a long time. Hogs were scarce. At first each family received one-half hog for his yearly share of meat. 

Wheat was a doubtful crop, but each had a few pounds of flour for his share but it was so dark no one now would think of baking bread with it. The bran could not be fully separated and no middlings were taken out. Buckwheat was raised and ground in coffee mills at home, sifted and made into better pancakes than any you eat now. Corn was the staple bread food. Two men took two yoke of oxen and went to mill being gone two days. They took a wagon. full of sacks of shelled corn, quilts (to cover up at night), and lunch to last until they returned home. Then the grist was divided among the families. One year the meal was used up and the corn was too soft to grind. The days of time passed before corn could be dried by being carefully shelled and dried on sheets in the sun and taken to mill. People lived on potatoes and other vegetables, but no bread. Groceries were a scarce article. There was practically no tea and coffee used. The substitutes for coffee were cornbread browned to a cinder and rye grains scorched. Willow leaf tea was used. Many a family didn’t buy apound of sugar for two or three years.

Once in 6 weeks or 2 months a peddler's wagon came. Money was scarce. Many a family didn't own $5 for the first year here. They lived on what was raised and wore old clothes. It was the fashion to buy domestic muslin, color it with sumac berries or maple bark and make it into dresses which would last for years. No tailor or milliner came for over 5 years. Sunbonnets were the only wear. 

The earliest wedding was Elizabeth Davis and Sam McCutchan at the bride's father‘s house and the invitations were general, for the colony was like a family.  The men took a large bobsled and two yoke of oxen and drove from house to house collecting the families who all went, even to the youngest child. The bride's dress was as much the subject of comment as now. It was neat but scarcely like one now. 

When the county was civilized enough to make bridges and roads, a market sprang up. Corn brought $2.00 a bushel and was paid for in gold. There were no hotels - emigrants were accomodated in homes.

The common jealousies that would come in colonies of that kind arose, and everybody wanted to dissolve it. It was done by common consent. Each man had his own farm and the colony farm sold and the price divided and went into the hands of an individual. The colony survey and ownership of the site of Hopeville was declared of no account and it was sold for a farm. lf the buyer had not found that he was expected to pay for its previous survey into town lots, no town would ever have been there. But he rebelled against it as an injustice before the sale was finished and the site was bought by David Newton who sold the lots and so became the founder of this classic city of our county.

This is one of the two earliest settlements of Clarke County. Let no one think it these people were miserable. They were not. There was less anxiety about the means of life then than now. Wants were so much simpler and there was not so much competition in everything undertaken. Mistakes were made, but if the people had been wealthier, progress would have been faster.

The winters were too cold to set out orchards for years but finally, T. Gregg succeeded and others followed.

The town was laid out around a public square consisting of an entire block, which formed the center of the village. The first schoolhouse in Hopeville was a log cabin. A few of the youngest could go to school, the older children had to stay home and work. ln this building all public gatherings were held. Here, too, the Methodist Episcopal Church of the village was organized and held its first meetings. A little later more people arrived and those of the Baptist faith erected a little log cabin for themselves. Meanwhile, people of the Christian Church organized and held meetings at the home of Dr. Jesse Emery. With the passing of time, small frame houses came to take the place of log cabins. About 1860, two frame churches - Methodist and Christian - were erected.

These two churches were south of the village square, facing north. Each had two front doors, one for the men and the other for the women and children. A family would come together to the platform along the front, then separate, the men going to one side, the women and children to the other side. If there were a large family of children the father as well as the mother might accompany them and sit on the women's side to assist in maintaining quiet and reverence during the long services. On Sunday evenings young rnen might accompany their sweethearts and sit with them on the distaff side. When the church was crowded, the women might sit on the men's side while the men stood at the rear or outside looking in at an open window.

At a time in the history of Hopeville there were four churches established, Methodist, Christian, New-Light and Dunkard.

When the Civil War broke out, Hopeville responded with its full quota of "Boys in Blue" Under the leadership of Sergeant Edwin F. Aiden, twenty- one Hopeville boys joined Company B, Sixth Iowa Infantry. One of these, Orin S. Rarick was cited for bravery and promoted to Captain. Two of Hopeville's young men were killed in action.

When the war was over, the Grand Army post at Hopeville became one of the strongest in southwestern Iowa, and the Hopeville Grand Army Fife and Drum Corps served its own and neighboring communities for many years. A remnant of that patriotic group was taken to Murray to help celebrate Armistice Day in 1918 at the close of World War I.

There was a time in the decade of the sixtie's when Concordia Lodge No. 215 at Hopeville was one of the strongest Masonic Lodges in that section of Iowa. Members came for miles around and frequently remained to an early hour to partake of refreshments. In 1869 when the new lodge was being established at Murray the ladies brushed past the tiler to serve refreshments to all present.  It was a complete surprise to the lodge members and so the Murray lodge was named Surprise Lodge No. 369. Thereafter the membership in the Hopeville Lodge soon dwindled and Concordia Lodge No. 215 was moved to Thayer.

When Hopeville was in its heyday there was an array of hitching posts surrounding the four sides of the village square where farmers might hitch their teams while they did the shopping and many were the occasions when all the hitching posts were in use. In 1869 Hopeville was the second largest town in Clarke County — being surpassed only by Osceola. At that time the town boasted "three general variety stores, two grocery stores, one drugstore, one school, one tin shop, one harness shop, one shoe shop, one wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, two lawyers and three physicians.

How many people lived in Hopeville then? There have been census figures on the population. The census for 1875 reported 332. That was the high point.  By 1890 the population was not quite half as large as it had been in l875.   It had been evident by that time that no railroad would reach Hopeville in the near future. During the next fifty years the population varied but it never justified the name of the town.

In 1870 the citizens of Hopeville celebrated the Fourth of July "under their own vine and fig tree."  Ample arrangements were made to accommodate the audience in "a large and commodious bower having been previously erected adjoining the Christian Church.  A procession was formed in the morning, headed by the Hopeville Martial Band, which marched to the grounds. The meeting was called to order by Chief Marshal Harlan, and James Bates, Esq. was elected President. The Declaration of Independence was read by O. G. Brown, who did credit himself as a reader." The oration was delivered by M. B. Reese.  At the afternoon session a speech was made by P. O. Goss.  Joseph Howard, a resident of Hopeville and a veteran of the war of 1812, volunteered a toast to the "Sons of Iowa," which was responded by M. B. Reese. Upon the adjournment of the meeting the Calathumpeans, in fantastic garbs made their appearance and entertained the audience; their performance was quite laughable.  "The Glee Club, which discoursed such fine music," the Osceola Republican declared, deserved much praise. It is but to say that the best musical talent in Clarke County is to be found in Hopeville, and the best that Hopeville had was furnished on that occasion.

In 1871, Wm. Adkins taught classes in vocal music. He lived on a farm near Hopeville. A minister once remarked about Wm. that he was the best tune raiser of any man he ever saw or knew, leading the singing with no piano or organ.

"Lively Times" were reported at Hopeville. A prominent citizen locally known as "Ur Fitch," wanted to become a postmaster, but did not receive the appointment. By way of protest, he moved to Murray and began the operation of a "Star Line" carrying freight, express and other packages that might be sent between Murray and Hopeville. Later Mr. Fitch moved back to Hopeville to continue his operation. The Osceola Republican in reporting this news item said "Ur Fitch wanted the Post Office at Hopeville a year ago. The incumbent, Mr. Newton, demurred and Ur didn't get it. Not to be foiled, Ur went up to Murray and bought one. He has moved back to Hopeville and proposes to take the property with him. The old postmaster is said to be mad about it, he says that two Post Offices at Hopeville won't pay. We advise consolidation.

In December 1871, the Republican reported that "Dr. Newton, the old and reliable postmaster of Hopeville retires and Ur C. Fitch succeeds him. Ur will have to watch his P’s and Q's if he comes up to Mr. Newton's standard."

Milton Ashley kept weather records at Hopeville starting in 1884 and continued until 1911.

In 1883 Hopeville was dependent upon the town of Osceola for banking facilities and the nearest railroad shipping point was the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy at Murray. There was stagecoach service to Murray and also southward to Decatur in Decatur County. Hopeville received mail daily and it was hoping still for the day when a railroad would come and bring to it a greater and lasting prosperity. The railroad had not come by 1890 but the stagecoach remained.  The population had changed but little and the post office was maintained in connection with Sam Lockwood's hardware store.

In 1906 hopes of obtaining adequate transportation facilities were revived. In January of that year the Osceola Sentinel said, "Hopeville is wonderfully excited over the prospect of getting two railroads, one from Sioux City via Winterset, Thayer and Hopeville on to St. Louis. This is to be a standard gauge cable track State Railroad. The route has been viewed and pronounced practicable.  The papers of incorporation will soon be filed and as soon as the Company gets their franchise the route will be surveyed and the work on the grade will begin as soon as spring opens up. The other road is to be a Motor from Creston to Arispe on to Osceola via way of Hopeville and Lacelle. Those who want to buy Hopeville property had better do so at once as property as already advance 25 per cent and the boom has just begun. For thirty years we have been living between hope and fear, hoping for a railroad and fearing it would not come. How gratifying, even in our old age and declining years, to think that our fond hopes are about to be realized. Already we fancy we see a fine depot standing on some nearby spot where we may be able to catch the morning train to Osceola without having to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning, drive 10 miles over rough roads or through mud and rain, but in a palace car we shall reach the city, transact business, shake hands with our old friends, return home in the evening and wonder how we got along so many years without a railroad.

In May of that year a Hopeville news item reported that "The two strangers who are stopping at the Dewey house are here in the interest of a new railroad.  "They are pricing the lots and looking the city over." At least in the thought of the news reporter, Hopeville had become a city and there was hope that it might flourish with the coming of the railroad.

But alas, hopes vanish! By August 1906, it was apparent that the railroad would not come. Moreover, it appeared that Hopeville might even lose its post office. There remained only the hope that an interurban might come.  A news commentator referring to this situation said: "The town of Hopeville, historic spot of Clarke County and at one time one of the most prosperous towns in this part of the state, is apt to lose its post office. The new arrangement of the rural routes will probably provide for the distribution of the mails in the place by carriers on one of the Murray routes. The people of the town are very much disappointed at the news, and efforts will be made to maintain the office.

While if will be only an added convenience to the people to have their mail distributed at the same time it seems hard to allow the name of a town with the historic career of Hopeville, founded in the earliest days of this section of the Country, to be taken from the directory of the postal department. But the Hopevillians can wait until we get that interurban out that way and then it will be a City of no small importance."

In September 1906, the postmaster at Hopeville, still firm in his belief that the report relative to discontinuing the post office was mere rumor, inserted in the weekly newspaper this item: "Notice - It has been reported that the post office at Hopeville is to be discontinued and I am asked the question nearly every day so I thought best to answer through the Sentinel that it is a mistake. The Star Route (the stage and express service) will stop on the 15th of October 1906."

Meanwhile the town of Hopeville maintained its local interests. Now and again a store would close and the population decreased somewhat. But the churches, the school, the lodges, remaining stores and the village part continued to be the centers of interest. Indeed, the village part for many years played an important role in community life. It was the scene of many Fourth of July celebrations, G. A. R. reunions, church and lodge picnics, strawberry festivals, ice cream socials, band concerts, horseshoe pitching and ball games.

It is reported that on one occasion during the days of the Civil War a copperhead came to town and was "giving free voice to his opinions" when the commanding officer of the militia ordered him placed under arrest. He was sullen and impudent and refused to salute the flag. Whereupon he was compelled to carry the flag around the village square while a few members of the militia prodded him with their bayonets. He was then ordered to kiss the flag three times and
give three cheers for Lincoln.

Upon at least one occasion in later years the village square was used for a funeral. On October 4, 1906 a newspaper reported this item: Our town was all excitement last week over the sudden death of Uncle Abe Coon. He was out in the orchard helping his wife gather peaches when he fell stricken with apoplexy and lived but a few hours. The funeral was held in the park Thursday because no church in town was large enough to accommodate the people in attendance. Today the Hopeville village square presents a forlorn aspect. Its once gaily decorated band stand is gone. The hitching posts have been removed. A few trees remain and weeds have crept into the once well-kept park lawn, however, part of the park is kept mowed and a picnic table is there for visitors to use.  To the north of the square is an almost deserted lodge hall, a grocery store and the telephone office. To the east is a little store, barber shop and Methodist or Community Church. A block south of the square is the school where children used to work and play as did their great grandsires in pre-Civil War days. A new two room school house has been built since Civil War days. Due to decrease in population, only one room was used during the last few years the school was open. Reorganization has claimed this school now. South of the square is a garage man or mechanic who has been in the business many years. But everywhere there is evidence that for the most part the glories of Hopeville lie in its historic past.

Had a gifted poet visited Hopeville a half century ago he might have written:

Sweet Hopeville Loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer’d the laboring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer's lingering blooms delay‘d.

As one visits Hopeville today, he might write:

Sweet, smiling village, loveliest of the lawn
Thy hopes are fled and many charms withdrawn.

Hopeville is, indeed, almost a deserted village. Yet not wholly so. It still has a church, a few dwellings, a store, mechanic, telephone office and a double cemetery, although the post office was discontinued on September 15, 1919. But most of all it has a history — a memory of the past, a record that may well be preserved. Moreover, Hopeville is not an isolated example of an Iowa town that has come, served and receded. There have been hundreds of Iowa towns that are now abandoned. Hopeville is perhaps on its way to become a typical deserted village. Meanwhile, it presents a fascinating story in justification of the name of Hopeville.



Bands of Indians hunted and camped in the country around Hopeville for several years after the settlement of the colony in 1851. Two white men living not far from this Indian camp went out hunting one day in the summer and only one returned. The other was found dead from a gunshot wound. The Indians were at once charged with murder and an armed band of 100 or more gathered around the village. The Indians refused to give up their "arms," a war seemed inevitable. A man from Hopeville knew a number of the Indians and counseled with them and the whites. The Indians finally gave up their "arms. " At one time there were about 700 Indians in the territory around Hopeville.

The first murder committed in Hopeville was that of old Dr. Lucas in 1855.  A man named Jacobs shot him. Jacobs had been arrested for horse stealing.  Bad blood came up between Jacobs and Lucas because Jacobs was going to make a confession that would have wrongly reflected on Dr. Lucas.  Jacobs waylaid the Dr. on his premises and killed him instantly. Jacobs was tried, convicted and sentenced for horse stealing but was never tried for murder. He left Hopeville and never appeared again.

Hopeville was the center for the horse thief gang. There were two livery stables here. Adult fights were of common occurrence. Stealing buggy whips, lap robes and harness decorations occurred every night in town.

After World War I ended, a gang of young men decided to celebrate. They made a dummy, a replica of the Kaiser, strung it up on a wire and built a big bonfire under it. They became angry and riotous because everybody didn't take part.

There was a jail northwest of the square to accommodate the lawless victinis.

At one time there was a Creamery here run by a man named Toby.

On the east side of the square was a butcher shop.

A man by the name of Sammy Cane ran a saloon in Hopeville. One night after everyone had gone to bed, a group of women broke in the saloon and dumped out all the liquor.

Joseph Smith operated the stockyards in Hopeville.

Hopeville was a little village long before 1850. When it was incorporated they moved the old cemetery to its present site.

The oldest house in Hopeville is still standing. It is over 100 years old. The town had two divisions, Hopeville and East Hopeville. The town lost its corporation in l930.


When the railroad didn‘t appear and other towns began to prosper, people began moving away. Hopeville had large crowds on the Fourth of July celebrations. The one particular kind of entertainment was the one-horse swing or merry-go-round. Lemonade was made in large tubs and all you could drink for a nickel.  Horseshoe contests, ball games, spelling bees and ciphering matches were common sources of entertainment. Horse racing and betting were as common as car racing today.

Now it is a quiet village except for the voices of children playing.

From the beginning of the "car era", things have changed, the kinds and ways of entertainment, radio, gravel roads, television, school reorganization, people moving to the cities and people driving from. 5-50 miles to work every day.

Many homes have running water and several are as modern as any in the city.

The "trading at home" plan has changed to going to larger cities to shop. The local towns do not have the variety and quality merchandise people want. The mail order houses have very few rural customers. Most rural families are as up-to-date as the city family. They cannot be classed as back-woodsy in this age of machinery and transportation.



Almost everybody was on the same level financially. Everybody started out poor and with not much education, some with none. As the community grew, there were severall types of persons represented - teachers, ministers, veterinary, state representative and a doctor.

Odd Fellow and Rebecca Lodges were formed. At different periods of time the lodges would gain several new members. Due to some different and modern ideas of some young members the Odd Fellows lost several members and several moved away. The Rebecca Lodge has lost many members too, what few are here go to the Murray Lodge.

The Church Ladies' Aid still meet every two weeks working on something constructive for the community or some needy person or family. They are an asset to the community.

Everybody seems on the same level socially. We have several fine Catholic families in the neighborhood and the community is more like one big family, knowing their neighbor's business about as well as their own.

In a community of this type there has been no direct power group represented.  The leader of an activity or group has been chosen or voted on to fill that position.

This community consists of farmers, mechanics, carpenters, teachers, county office worker, grocers, veterinary. telephone operators, ex-state representative, nurse aid, car salesman, electricians, barbers, home beauty operator, construction worker, auctioneer, truckers, seed corn salesmen and also turkey farms.

We have the original type of telephone service where several families are on one line. When the weather is bad much visiting is done on the telephone, at the local store and in homes.

The afternoon coffee break or lunch hour is a "must" in about all homes.

There are boys and girls 4-H Clubs and community club in which every member does the kind of work the hostess has planned such as; canning, dressing chickens, papering, sewing, patching, etc. It has been successful and interesting.  It is a social event in which all share ideas and visit.

There are several religious denominations or beliefs represented, but everyone is or should be working toward the same ultimate goal.

When a person or family has had sickness or a death in the family the Community helps them. One example was when a neighbor man was injured and two or three friends circulated the word around and about 20 men, cut, sawed and hauled his winter's supply of wood one day. The ladies served a bountiful dinner.

Another example of Community spirit was when a barn was destroyed by a wind storm. Repair on the barn had been started but a short while, when one day a good Samaritan (friend) circulated the word around the Community and about eighteen men came to work on the barn. The ladies brought and served a delicious dinner.

Many more examples of "good neighbor" deeds in this Community could be named.


* * * * * *



Indeed, Hopeville is still on the map. However, a few changes have been made. Because of ill health there is no longer a barber shop or a mechanic.

The dial telephone system will replace the old party line telephones.

Once again a reminiscing of old times is planned for August 1, 1965 at the Old and New Settlers Picnic and Program at the Hopeville Park.



The population of the community from 1875 to 1965:

1875                332

1890                160

1900                145

1910                103

1920                102

1930                82

1940                65

1959                35

1965                36


The decrease in population has been due to deaths, moving to larger towns and to other farming areas. The young people all go to other areas to work. There are very few rented farms in this community now.

The oldest grave in the double cemetery here is marked October 3, 1851, a Mr. Newton, one of the founders of the community of Hopeville. Hopeville has the distinct honor of having the nicest, well-kept cemetery in the county.

Another factor that has affected the population is migration. Years back a resident was dissatisfied with the crops here one year and decided to go to Missouri which he heard was a wonderful place to live. With meager fare he took his family and started out  When he reached Missouri the crops were no better, so he traveled on west. One of the children died on the way. Every place he stopped was no better than here in Iowa. He finally made the circle and came back here just as poor as when he left.

One incident to remember is when a father died leaving the mother and 10 children to survive the hard times. One night the mother went to church and left the children home. The children where playing and having a hilarious time when they heard a knock on the door. One of them went to the door and to their surprise and horror was a strange man. He told them he had been on the road for many hours and wanted to stay all night. A relative had died and he had the body with him. The children were frightened beyond words. They finally decided to let him stay. When the children's mother came home and heard the story she was frightened about as bad as the children were.

The stranger was very grateful for the nights lodging and went on to his destination.

The difference in the kind of homes the people live in doesn't have much pronounced influence, if any, in the friendship of the community.

The political differences do not hinder the friendship or relationship of the community.


Last Revised May 7, 2011