Note: This information was supplied to us by Mrs. Ella J. Ashley who will be 84 years old on her next birthday, January 21st. Mrs. Ashley (Former Ella Osmond) came to Hopeville with her parents when only ten months old in the fall of 1851 which was a short time after the first settlers came to Hopeville. This paper was to have been read by Mrs. Ashley at the Old Settlers Picnic at Hopeville a short time ago, but because of the strong wind, people were unable to hear her and lest her effort in compiling the information be lost, we are publishing same, which we feel will be of interest.
By Mrs. Ella Ashley
(Thursday, Aug. 2, 1934)
Last summer I promised to write some of my recollections about the early times here. I cannot tell of the very first years of the settlement of this place as I was only ten months old when brought here. My mother often told me I would not have lived through the first winter here had it not been for the kindness of Mrs. Keplinger, who lived one-half mile away,bringing a pint of milk every day to me. As I remember her, she was the happiest woman I ever knew, always ready to laugh and see the bright side of life. She united with the Methodist church when six years old, always a worker in the church, helped the early church here.
The family moved to Kansas the year the first M.E. Church was built in the northwest part of Hopeville. They had sold their farm and were spending two or three weeks with my folks before leaving. The new church was dedicated while they were with us. That Sunday morning Mrs. Keplinger hid her husband's purse for she said they had given all they could give here and were going to a new place and would have to help build there, but if he were asked for money that day he would just give and give. It was a loss to this place when they went away. Many other good people have been lost to this place, yet many more are here.
As churches are the most important part of any community, first I will tell of my memories of them. Reverend See was one of the first preachers I remember. His home was in the eastern part of the country. He rode a horse and had saddle bags as the early preachers always carried with them. He came to care for a few Baptists who, I have been told, were the first to have meetings here. They met in a small log house in the northwest part of Hopeville. Reverend See was always a welcome guest in my father's home and a very pleasant man. I had the pleasure of meeting a grandson of his a few years ago.
Soon the Methodist people organized and their meetings were where the fourth schoolhouse is now. As soon as they could, they built a church in the northwest part of Hopeville. Then the next to organize a church here were the Christians as several families of them had come here. I think their first meetings were in their homes. One of the first winters after they came, Dr. Jesse Emery got the material ready to build a barn. It was built early in the spring, and all the rest of that season, until too cold to do so, the Christians held their meetings in that. Meanwhile they were getting ready to build and, I think, the next year built their church here.
Several years after the building of these churches another was built by what was known as the New Light Christian people. This stood at the east line of the city. The first church building was sold and moved onto a farm south of Hopeville. Then the Methodists built another, the one that now stands here.
The first two churches front the north, each had two front doors. "Why two?" you will ask. One was for the men and the other for the women and children. A family would come together to the platform along the front before the doors, there they would separate, men always going in one door, women and children at other. There were two exceptions to this, sometimes when a woman had more little children than she could care for alone, the father would sit with her and help care for them, for they were kept as quiet as possible and not allowed to run about and disturb others. Then at the evening meetings some of the young men would come in with the girl they brought there and sit by her.The first churches had a division through the center. Sometimes when there were more than a house full, some of the men would go out and stand by the windows, while women had their seats. I have had to sit on the "mens side" but always felt uncomfortable and out of place there.
Now about the homes, the very first ones were all log cabins. A few years later some small frame ones were built by those coming, for a sawmill had come making lumber from the logs. Then the farms were to be fenced by all these early settlers and rail had to be made to do that. Cattle and hogs ran at large for nearly fifty years. Wire fences were not known until the seventies. The homes and farms were all protected by rail fences through which stock often broke, or they were blown down by high winds.
The early settlers were always glad to see new homes and soon visited and made them welcome. Yet it hurt, in a way, to see the beautiful flowers destroyed. How I wish I could give each of you the power to see the prairies as I have. I now think of them as God's flower gardens that no manmade ones can ever equal. In the homes there was spinning, weaving, sewing and knitting to be done besides the other housework. Everyone was busy and happy.
At Hopeville there would be six months of each school year. The first school house was built of logs. I never went to school in that, but I remember going to meetings there. Late in the fifities or early in the sixties a frame house was built; I think it must have been about eighteen or twenty feet wide and twenty-five or thirty feet long. Always two teachers, the one who taught the larger scholars had one end of the room in which there were two long desks with a long bench.
Oliver Brown and Emma Johnson taught the first school I went to. The last day of school I was crying because it was the last day. All the others were so happy, and when they knew why I cried, Iwas just made fun of, yet every last day of school was to me a sad day. The first three months of school year were December, January and February. No school in March. April, May and June called the spring or summer term. This last term was all I ever went to as my mother would not let me go in the winter. She taught me at home so I was always the equal of the others my age.
During the years of 1860-70 and 80's there were many of school age in the Hopeville district. One year I know there were 130 of school age. The one room school house was too small, so early in 1870 a two-story brick house took its place and was used about forty years when it was replaced by the one now here. I have been told the first teacher in Hopeville was Joshua Pounds. Then Henry Adkins and others.
In those early days there was never any account of the holiday time, school went right along. One Christmas day while Henry Adkins was the teacher he was kept out of the school house and a demand was made for a treat. He went to the store and got a sack of frozen apples and was let in where he was then "the school master" and the school went on.
I do not know how much the first teachers were paid a month. The teachers for the older school probably earned $20.00 and those for the little ones $15.00 The most I remember a teacher getting was $40.00 a month. They had to go early in the winter and make the fire or hire it done. The same way in the country schools although they only got $15.00 to$18.00 a month. In all those early time schools the boys and girls were seated on opposite sides of the room. One of the worst punishments a boy could be given was to have to sit on the girls' side. I do not remember ever seeing a girl punished by having to sit on the boys' side. I've wondered why, whether it would have been too great a punishment, or they might have only laughed. No such thing as a grade was ever known, beginning with learning the letters, each child went on to learn all they could.
At first a doctor had to be brought from far off, the nearest being Dr. Sherrick, of Decatur City. By the time someone would ride a horse there to get him, he would come drunk and would sleep awhile before he would do anything, the patient would be on its way to recovery. Then came Doctors Monroe, Wright, Jewett, Dunn and Woods. There would be three or four at a time living here. Jesse Emery came here early and at first doctored only sick animals but would help sick folks also, and was so sure to help them that many called him and he became one of the doctors here, ever ready to help cure people or their stock. He was a very good and useful man. Dr. Emery moved to Murray, Dr. Monroe died at Hopeville, and the Doctors of Wright, Jewett and Woods all left. Dr. S. L. Landis moved to Murray; his nephew, Dr. Albert Landis moved from here to Brooklyn.
Then in 1877, Dr. Parrish came and stayed thirty years. There were a few others, Doctors Armitage and Carr, moving away to railroad towns and leaving Hopeville to its own good health. Yes, as all the years from 1860 to 1900 passed, there were many other doctors that came and stayed a few years and were gone. I can remember the names of some of them, others I have forgotten.
This place had a full share of preachers, teachers and doctors, all good. Few preachers ever lived long here. The M.E. preachers had a parsonage, but were changed every year or two. There would be a Saturday evening meeting to which would come everyone from the country that could. The stores would be closed and the storekeepers would go to the meeting after which they would open the stores for an hour. Sundays at 11 o'clock there would be preaching, again at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and then in the evening. All these services were well attended. This was at the Christian church every other Sunday as their preacher seldom lived here. On the Sunday without a preacher a social meeting and communion services would be held at 11 o'clock. The Methodist preacher living here preached every Sunday and also had class or prayer meeting each Wednesday or Thursday. Some time in the sixties Sunday Schools were organized at the churches. Those who could read brought Bibles at first for its lessons were printed then, they were not used here.
Mr. Newton was the first postmaster here for many years. Lon Ketchum, his step-son, would ride a horse, I think, to Eddyville omnibus line was run from east to west nine or ten miles of here, one stopping place was at a house a mile west of where Murray is. A family named Pennals lived there, and the mail would come there for Murray as yet was not. Great prairie fires swept over where it is now. In one of those fires a man named Robert Crooks was overtaken and he, his horse and wagon burned; also a woman who was in danger and he stopped to help to safety, but all perished, for those fires were terrible things to contend with.
It was fire, not Indians, the early settlers had to fight. There was a small company of them on Grand River, southwest of Hopeville. They would come to trade with the white settlers. I remember seeing some of them. A white man out hunting was shot and killed near the Indian settlement. The cry was raised that the Indians did it; so, they were driven away to an Indian reservation in the eastern part of Iowa. They passed by our home all walking, a few ponies with poles tied to their sides, and ends dragging on the ground, to these were fastened their tents and goods. A sick one was carried on a stretcher. My father said it was a shame to drive them off, for they had offered if the white folks could prove one of them did it, they would give him up. Not long after they left, it was almost proved a white man was the guilty part, but he left for parts unknown and took with him the wife of the man that was killed.
Before the war of 1861 there was a railroad through here (underground railroad). My father's house was one of the stations. This railroad was used at night only by black folks. The first black person I ever saw was on this underground road as it was called. Two young black men were brought one night to my father's house and mother got a meal for them. Father and a neighbor put some sacks of grain in the wagon, the black men lay between them and all covered over like an ordinary grist going to the mill. They were taken to the station near a mill. Canada and freedom were where these slaves were going. A few years later all slaves were free, made so by four years of war. Many of the young men around here went to that war, from which some never returned. And now, seventy years later, all I know of going to war from here are gone to the comrades they left on the battlefields so long ago.
Many are the changes brought by the years. I will try to tell some; I can remember when homes had no trees, not even in Hopeville or Osceola. Seventy-five years ago Hopeville was as large as Osceola and might have been the county seat only it is in one corner of the county. Dr. Parrish and others obtained a City Charter for this town more than fifity years ago. It has been a good, though small city, never darkened by murder or any great crime.
Seventy years ago people would have laughed at the thought of going to see the picture of a covered wagon for they were a common site on the roads, from two or three to a dozen or more, some drawn by oxen and some by horses, all loaded with household goods and the movers, as we called the people, riding on them. When they would camp at night, all living near would go in the evening to see them and hear the news of where they were from and where they were going. A plow, generally tied on the outside of the wagon, was their only farm machinery. That and some hoes being all the early settlers had to till the ground with.
A team and the plow would turn the sod over in furrows in which cuts were made and corn dropped. Often, or soon as that came up, beans were planted by each hill, or melons, pumpkins or squashes several hills apart to give the vines room to grow; and grow they would, great wagon loads of them. Pumpkins and squashes were cut into pieces and strings of them dried around the fireplaces. The corn was cut in the fall and the stalks were for the horses and cattle that they should have enough feed, prairie grass was cut and stacked up for them. The wild blue stem grass grew taller than a man. Mice lived in the grass, but rats were not here until the railroad came and brought them.
The first homes were not so warm and comfortable as we have today, so to protect ourselves from the cold we wore clothes, plenty of them, covering all of our bodies. Our dresses were lined, yes, and the men's shirts also to the waist. Our dress sleeves were wrist length, always lined. Then for use in the winter, we had knit woolen wristlets, they were three or four inches long, ribbed knitting, to fit close to the wrist. These or a pair of mittens were a common Christmas gift. In the 1850's much heavy unbleached muslin was used for clothing. The men's shirts were made of this for a long time. The washing of them was indeed hard work, yet it was the fashion then, and I remember my mother saying she would be ashamed for my father to wear a colored shirt. Dresses were colored with dye made of shummack berries or walnut bark. These were for everyday dresses. We had calico or delaine dresses to wear when dressed up to go some place. Girls had their hair cut as much as they have today. No woman had her hair "bobbed" in early times here. Long sleeves were worn both summer and winter so that even yet bare arms give me the impression they are going into the wash tub or some dirty work.
Shoes were not kept in stores in paper boxes. When a pair was needed, the feet that were to wear them were measured with a little stick just the length of the foot which was taken to Mr. Howard, who kept a little shop here, and made shoes and boots for all from the hides he kept. Those shoes were made from real oak tanned hides and when well-greased would keep our feet as dry as our rubbers or overshoes do. I was seven or eight years old before I had the great pleasure of having a stick measure taken of my foot to Mr. Howard and a pair of shoes made for me. I had worn till then moccasins made by my mother out of my fathers old boot tops.
A few sheep were kept on the farms and the wool from them washed, picked, carded and spun into yarn or woven into cloth. Any woman sitting without work would have been called lazy, it was knit or sew all the time, for machines to do such work had not been invented. Some women would knit while riding along the road, yet on Sunday all such work was put away and every one that could would go to meeting. If people now would go as they did then, we would have to enlarge the church buildings.
One spring a notice was put up here that Mr. A. P. Rillfirst would lecture at the school house next Thursday evening. Now anything like that would draw a crowd in the early days, and it did, to find a paper tacked on the locked door with the words "April fool" on it.
After harvest, ten days passed before corn could be dried by being carefully shelled, dried on sheets in the sun, and taken to the mill. People lived on potatoes and other vegetables, actually without bread for the time. Groceries were a scarce article. Hardly any family used tea or coffee. The substitutes for coffee were various; cornbread browned to a cinder, rye grains scorched, were the most common. Willow leaf teas were in use. Many a family did not buy a pound of sugar for the first two or three years. One woman had a little white sugar in a bottle brought from the old home, and it was a curiosity to the children who saw it. Something like a piece of lava to us.
One of the first settlers here brought a barrel of whiskey; there was no law to prevent his selling it. The pioneer mothers said that he should not make drunkards out of their sons. So one dark and stormy night, three of them went to the first saloon here and opened the spigot of that barrel, letting the contents all run out. Those women were Mrs. Cheney, Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Griggs. They all had sons to save and they did all they could for them. It was some time before any more liquor was brought here to sell.
Mr. Gregg was the first white man to plant apple trees here, for the first settlers thought that it was so cold that it was no use to try to have fruit. They thought that it would all winter kill.
Many years ago Felix Pryor lived one-half mile south of Hopeville. He went to Hopeville often to sit in the stores, many times forgetting to go home till long after noon hour. One day his wife took a good dinner to him, telling him she was so sorry to have him going without a warm dinner. After that he always went home.
It was some time late in the seventies before white, or granulated as it was called, was brought here for sale. There was a very dark brown sugar and then a light brown, costing a little more than the dark. Then at first the white cost more and was not used so much. Before and after sugar was to be had, cane was raised and molasses made. The wild crabs, plums and grapes sweetened with molasses made a very good sauce.
The first corn cribs were of rails built up four sides and covered with slough grass. Oats and wheat bins were made the same way only lined with straw. Stables were made to shelter the horses or stock by setting posts in the ground, nailing rails or poles each side of them, and packing straw in the space between, and covering with slough grass.
It may be of interest to you to know some prices of things seventy years ago. Hogs were six to seven dollars a hundred weight, chickens 75 cents a dozen, butter 10 cents to 14 cents a pound, eggs from 5 cents to 10 cents a dozen, potatoes 50 cents a bushel, flour $2.50 to $3.35 a sack of fifty pounds, calico 25 cents a yard, muslin from 25 cents to 75 cents a yard according to quality. These prices are taken from an old account book I have. Eggs were at one time only 3 cents a dozen. My folks would not take them to market. They told me I might have them, and I did carry them 1 3/4 miles to get some money to give to the Sunday School.
Men in those times did many things to earn money. My father and Christopher McCumber had a little shop where they made the wooden parts of plows, ax handles, brooms, barrels, etc. even making coffins. These were made of the best of the walnut lumber. They were sold for from $5.00 to $15.00. They were lined with white muslin. My mother and I did the lining of them. Ran Bates made furniture and spinning wheels. I have a large closet he made for his mother.
Each spring soap was made by the housewives. They had a saying it would not make unless some ugly man looked into the kettle. The men knowing this had lots of fun keeping away; sometimes they were dragged up for fun by the women.
I have many recollections of the war time, some very sad and some amusing. Looking east from my old home, where Owen Chew now lives, half mile away, two went to the army, Cyrus and Wilson Huff. Wilson came back alone. From a home not a half mile north, Wash Nelson went and never came back. About a half mile northwest, Lem Garrison went, never to return. A short distance west of the Garrison home Conines lived, two, Joe and Bart, went from there. Six near neighbor boys and only three came back. My brother tried to go with them but could not because he had a deformed hand. Yet, he could shoot a gun as well as they, but war takes only the perfect ones for cannon fodder.
One of the first springs the wind took the hat off Daniel Leas' head. He followed it a long time until it went over the hill and was lost. No store where he could get another, so he went without one until his wife could get straw at harvest time and make a hat for him. This was the way the men here got their summer hats. The straw was braided and sewed together by the women.
During the fifties Henry Huff, living some two miles southeast of here, thought he could make a little extra money by bringing some drygoods and groceries here to his home and sell. He was in debt for them when people began to go to Pikes Peak for gold. He took his son George and went with others to "get rich quick." While he was gone, his wife and children worked hard and paid off the debt. His son got into a fight and was killed there. He made just enough to get home and that was all I think anyone made that went from here.
Some winters there would be very heavy snow falls, and the wind would drive over the top of fences, then thaw a little and freeze so solid a team could be driven over the fence. Such times as that made lots of fun for the children with their sleds. Water was plenty before the breaking up of the land.There were springs in the sloughs and natural ponds on the prairies. They dried up and wells had to be dug.
There was good singing and all that could would sing with a right good will, although at first without books, and the leader would read two lines to be sung. Then some hymn books came, just the words without the notes.
The Adkin's family were noted singers here for many years. By the way, one of the grandchildren are with us today, Henry Adkin's son, Dr. Albert Adkins of Sheridan, Wyoming. One of the Fillmore brothers, I think it was H. D. Fillmore, a noted singer and author of some of our best hymns, was here and sang along "Whosoever Will May come". A treat never to be forgotten by those who had the pleasure of hearing that song.
Seventy, yes, sixty years ago there was no powder or paint used, at least not away out here in the west, only by Indians. Sometimes the girls wanting rosy cheeks would rub them with the rough mullen leaves, but that hurt. Girls or women never went to the Blacksmith's shop, only the men or boys. The boys would get pieces of coal and bring them to school and the scholar would eat it like candy. Candy was seldom to be had, but there was plenty of taffy to eat and to pull and our taffy pulling parties were great fun to us, as were the spelling bees, debates over some foolish question or those jolly never-to-be-forgotten sleigh rides.
There are more customs and incidents I could tell of early times, but these are enough to tire your patience with at one time, so wishing you all happiness in the homes the early settles made possible for you, I am,
(Signed) Ella J. AshleySource: Historic Hopeville and Vicinity: 1850-1982, p. 20-25.