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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project


Part I

August 29, 2009.

This morning I met Mike Avitt by the Murray Cemetery and off we went through the country on a road trip through Decatur County. Our first destination was Hopeville in Clarke County.

According to Hiram LAMB's account of Hopeville history [published August 21, 1951 in the Osceola Sentinel Centennial issue], Hopeville was founded as a communistic colony from Farmington in Lee County, Iowa, and was called the "Hopewell colony" in February of 1851. Approximately a dozen families entered land around the present town site. The colony failed in 1852 and the group disintegrated.

The first house in Hopeville was erected in 1852. It was considered by the other settlers in the area to be a fancy house, made of hewed logs with a shingled roof. In 1852, David NEWTON and Dr. EMERY named the settlement "Hopeville." David NEWTON was the first postmaster. A Mr. FREEMAN opened the first store.

Elvera MULLEN noted in her thesis, History of Hopeville: 1846 - 1965 that a Mr. CHENY from Farmington and his communistic Colony came to Hopeville in 1850 when Clarke County had not been surveyed or named. The colony operated on the theory of a utopic community based upon communal living, not of the modern-day concept of Communism. Seemingly everyone wanted to be the boss and the settlers could not work together, not a good thing for the survival of a communistic community. The settlers disbanded as a colony and concentrated on their own farms throughout the vicinity.

NOTE: Elvera MULLIN was a teacher at the Grand River School when I was an elementary student there in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

Mrs. Ella (OSMOND) ASHLEY wrote in 1934 that the first school house in Hopeville was built of logs, as were most of the homes. A larger school house was built in the late 1850's or early 1860's, a one-roomed building that was about 18 to 20 feet wide, and 25 to 30 feet long. By the early 1870's, there were 130 pupils in Hopeville. Clearly the town had outgrown its school. A two-story brick school house was built in 1870 and put to use for the next 40 years. The school house that still stands in Hopeville was built around the year 1910.

Hopeville School
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

Elvera MULLEN, in her thesis, noted that Hopeville's first church was the Methodist Episcopal, followed by the Baptist Church which was a log cabin. Dr. Jesse EMERY organized a Christian Church and held services out of his home until a small frame church was built around the year 1860. The Methodists erected a frame church, too. Two more churches were established in Hopeville - the New-Light and the Dunkard.

The United Methodist Church of Hopeville is still standing and is in exceptional condition. Outside of a few minor changes around the entry, it looks fairly much the way it did when I was a child, attending church, Sunday School, and vacation Bible school there in the late 1950's. There were many a good-hearted soul who attended church there - Edith CHEW, Blanche and Myron COON, and many whose names I have forgotten. Blanche and Myron COON's daughter Janice played the piano for church with the congregation singing all of the old pioneer hymns - Bringing In The Sheaves, renamed Bringing in the Cheese by us younger kids, In the Garden, The Old Rugged Cross, Till We Meet Again, Shall we Gather at the River, and so on. As I remember it, the congregation filled the church every Sunday morning and we were a boisterous and spirited lot, singing from our hearts and loudly enough so that God Himself heard us from his Throne in Heaven. We may have been a tad-bit off-key but I doubt if anyone could have questioned our spirit and firmly held belief in what we sang about. Rev. Charles WHITE was the pastor when I attended services at Hopeville.

United Methodist Church, Hopeville
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

When I was a kid in the late 1950's and early 1960's, there used to be a large two-story building across the street of the northside of the town square. To the west of that building, there was a small one-story building that was the telephone office. A couple of lots north of the Methodist Church was another one-story store that had a couple of gas pumps out front. I think there might have been a kerosene pump there, too. All of these buildings are long gone as are many of the houses that used to stand around the town square.

Visit Hopeville's page at Clarke County IAGenWeb site for more information about Hopeville, Iowa.

About 2 miles south of Hopeville is where the four counties meet - Union, Clarke, Decatur and Ringgold. Here in 1856, a posse representing Union, Clarke, Ringgold, and Decatur Counties brought Silas RUDE to justice in the only way available at the time with no court system or anyone to determine which county had jurisdiction over the matter. So the posse carried out a form of 4-County Justice.

Directly south and a little bit east of this location was where we lived. The house and garage looks pretty much the same as it did when I was a kid. We had a big garden west of the garage. The front porch has been added on since I was a kid. We moved from there to the farm east of Westerville when I my grandfather Homer FOLAND retired from farming and moved to Grand River.

Childhood Home
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

Along the road from Hopeville to Westerville is what I knew as the Luke CONWELL farm. Directly north of this farmhouse is a wood-framed building. Mike believes it used to be a schoolhouse, judging from the architecture, with an enclosed front porch added on or re-vamped later.

Building on Old CONWELL Farm
photograph by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

CONFIRMED!! Martha writes, saying "The building north of Luke Conwells farm was a school house. His daughter Nellie taught school there for a few years while I was growing up.. I was born in Hopeville along with my brothers and sister and lived there till I moved to Des Moines in the spring in 1957.

There is a lane just north of the Methodist church and we lived east on that lane. Our home is still standing. The land around the house is used for a camp ground through out the summer and fall. It is owned now by a Reasoner.

Elvera Mullen taught me my 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade. She was a wonderful lady, truly dedicated.

Wonderful Memories."

Thank you for sharing your memories with us, Martha!!

We stopped at Westerville, where I didn't take any photographs since I had done so on August 3rd.

From Westerville, we drove around the old Tennessee neighborhood, then went on to Grand River.

Contribution by Sharon R. Becker, August of 2009

Mary Cannon Apodac wrote:

The telephone office was located to the west of the old store on the north side of the square, not to the east of it. My faulty memory, I corrected this above. ~ SRB

There was an empty lot to the east of the store, and next door west was a house, owned by Sockie Smith, (sorry I don't recall his given name) the local sortta/kinda Veterinarian. He was not certified, but everyone called upon him when they had need for assistance with sick or injured animals.

There was another empty lot to the west of his place, and then the phone office, which was operated by "Rosie" ~ I can tell you the phone system was still operational when we moved to Osceola in 1961.

Rosie lived in the phone office. I think it was actually a little house, and the front room was the telephone office. Once a year we would go to pay the phone line service fees.

I don't recall who the last person was to operate the stores in Hopeville. I am pretty sure Ray and Frannie Symonds were the last people to have the store on the east side of the square, and I am thinking maybe Earl and Kiethie Glazebrook, had the north store. I know George and Mabel Warren had the north store for quite a while and am thinking they sold to Galzebrooks.

I believe you are right about there being a kerosene pump at one of the stores, but not sure which one.

Do you also recall that the east store, owned at the time by Gerald and ("Velma" I think) Johnson bought eggs and cream from local farmers? His son, Duane and wife took over the store for a while before the Symonds bought it. Also, just north of the Methodist Church, on the corner (now Methodist Church parking lot) was a small structure which was a barber shop, owned and operated by "Puny" Booth.

Not sure what his given name was either.. may have been Pearl.

He was a barber until 1957 when he suffered a stroke and was no longer able to cut hair.. LOL... I recall this BECAUSE... My Grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Dec of 57 and my Dad went to Puny for a hair cut so he would look presentable at the open house for his parents. Dad looked like he had a mow hawk when Puny got done.. We later learned he had the stroke at the time he cut Dad's hair. Dad was his last customer. I think I am older than you are so might have some memories you wouldn't have.

I am writing about the building of the church based on what was told to me by my Great Grandmother, May Jackson, when I was about 10 years old.

I was searching for more history of Hopeville to include with my write, and am including Elvera Mullen's write. She was a neighbor and family friend.

My parents were Clark & Bessie Lamb, and they owned a farm just north of Orvill Burchet's place on the west side of the road. My Aunt, Alberta (Dad's sister) and her husband bought the farm from my parents and built a new house there in 1963. Aunt Berta still lives there.

You are right about the Conwell School... I know there was another name for the school, not sure what it was. Aunt Berta might be able to tell you. My Mom atteneded school there her first years of school, and then went to Doyle & which was 2 miles south of Hoepville.

The story about the 4 county corners is one I have heard often.. Want to add, there was a farm located on the four county corners, and it had buildings in three of the 4 counties. My dad lived there as a child, and in fact his parents moved onto the farm in March of 1914.

Within a few weeks of moving in the house burnt to the ground. My grandfather was only able to save his wife, their three children, and a clock they had bought new that year, I have the clock.

Do you know the story of Walter Case? This is a story I wish to know more about as it is a fascinating part of rural history of the area. He was murdered and as far as I know the killer was never discovered.

My Grandparents lived on the 4 county corners farm at the time. My Dad was an adult by this time, but was still living at home with his parents as he farmed with my Grandpa up until after I was born in 1947, and he bought his own place in 1949 south east of Hopeville.

I often tell people, that if they have never been to Hopeville, then they have never traveled.

A classmate of my Mom said he had traveled the world over, but said Hopeville was the best place he had ever been. Not sure who that was, either a Conwell, or a Havard. I will ask my sister if she remembers.

Marge Lamb wrote:

"The Hopeville school was built in either 1912 or 1914, can't remember which. Somewhere I have a picture of it with the year still painted above the door. The school house by the Luke Conwell place was called the "Conwell School". My mother went there her first year of school. Evidently there weren't enough kids in the area for the Doyle # 7 or "Beaman" school to be open that year. The Doyle # 7 school sat South of Petersons and North of where you lived on the West side of the road. Alot of my relatives attended that school; aunts, an uncle, both parents, grandparents, my sister and two cousins as well as myself."

Thank you for all of this insight into Hopeville and vicinity history, Mary and Marge!! How interesting!!!

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.

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