President’s Letter Feb. 2014
Seems like this winter has been 6 months long already. Usually for my son’s birthday the third week of Feb., I have my early spring flowers blooming. This year they will be buried under several feet of snow. I have had lots of time to work on things that I have wanted to for months. I FINALLY was able to get my sketching supplies out. I scanned a few of them that had not yet been scanned and also have had the time to sketch and paint the Hopper Mansion. I am now working on a sketch of the old Methodist Church that used to be located just north of the Town Hall. I already have Zion Methodist and Zion Lutheran finished. I am still waiting for the weather to break so I can get into the BGSU archives and scan photos of Scotch Ridge. I would really like to have the scans so I can finish the “Ortha Wight ‘This is a Long Letter’” project. The weathermen promise that spring WILL arrive. I don’t think I trust them. There have been years in American history when there was NO summer in this area. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
For your entertainment, edification and enjoyment, I have written a collaborative essay on The Hopper Settlement. You will notice that the map is hand drawn. Maps from most web sites are not to be used without written permission, keep that in mind if you use them.
“ ‘Hopper Settlement’ was the term local residents gave to a small community that grew up north of Luckey and south of Stony Ridge along Dowling Road. The name, of course, is that of the earliest settler in that section, George Hopper. George Hopper was born in Kent, England in 1808. Along with his mother, he arrived in America in 1829 to New York State. While in New York State in 1830 he married Anna Robin. In 1836 George and Anna moved to Perrysburg, OH. He worked there in the warehouse of Smith and Hollister for three years. At the end of his service with the company in 1839 he took as pay 160 acres of land in troy Township on what would become Dowling Road and began to clear the sizable acreage in that thinly settled wilderness area.” [“Story of the Hopper Settlement”, Mike Sibberson]
In 1839 Troy Township was part of the Black Swamp and most of the time (except when the ground was frozen) traveling was near impossible. To go from Perrysburg to his purchased land in Troy Township, George walked on fallen trees, some of which were 6 foot in diameter. In the spring or summer of 1839 George brought his family with all of their belongings on a wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen. After leaving the pike (now rte. 20) they had to cut a trail as they journeyed toward the place that was to be their home. Together on a sand ridge they built the log hut which was to be their temporary shelter.
“Then came a struggle for existence the like of which we can scarcely imagine. The trees had to be felled, the underbrush cleared away, great heaps of logs burned, (oh, what a fortune would be in that timber today) – stumps pulled, as dynamite was unknown to them, the ground broken up and planted to corn. The nearest neighbor was two and a half miles away – Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Gorrill. All the water for family use was carried from that place for some time. The nearest school was three miles away in what is now known as Stony Ridge.” [Memoirs of Jessie Belle Hopper Lantz] “After 18 months of this struggle, Mr. Hopper went to Perrysburg where he was foreman on the farm of J. W. Smith for some time. Afterward returning to farm his own place.” [Memoirs of Jessie Belle Hopper Lantz] “Grandfather continued to work when possible in Perrysburg to earn money to live on while clearing the land and raising a crop. Grandmother stayed alone all week in the cabin and Saturday nights Grandpa would walk the eight miles over fallen trees through the swamp carrying supplies for the next week.” Writings of Marion James Hopper]
“It is related that at the time grandfather was away from home from Monday morning until Saturday night, they had a very faithful dog who was a great protection to the family. He would run around the clearing which surrounded the house barking away the wild animals. Then he would go into the house through an opening which had been made for him, go to the beds and see that the family were there, then return to his watch outside. This he would keep up all night.” [Memoirs of Jessie Belle Hopper Lantz]
“While grandfather was subduing the forest and clearing his fields, grandmother was not idle. The children three in number in 1839, increased to seven with Elijah, Benjamin, Priscilla and Augustus being the new additions. The first log hut had been replaced by a larger one and later by a third. In 1851, the frame house known around the country as the “Mansion” was built.” [Memoirs of Jessie Belle Hopper Lantz] “Grandfather’s industry had paid off. He paid for the farm and built the first frame house in that vicinity. As the timber was cut down and the fields expanded rails were split and fences put up around the fields. When the corn was green and the squirrels wanted the green ears to eat, the boys were sent out to patrol the fences and club the squirrels out of the fields. They begged to be allowed to use the old muzzle loading rifle, but Grandpa always told them a squirrel was not worth powder and ball. So they had to club them down and kept the table supplied with fresh killed squirrel. Grandfather liked the wild animals and would not allow the boys to hunt deer, but they were allowed to kill some of the pest animals. Grandma had learned to spin and made all their clothes out of home-spun.” [The Writings of Marion James Hopper Horn]
“In later years, he and his wife Annie related that a night seldom passed without the howl of wolves, sometimes right outside the cabin door. On one occasion, Mr. Hopper had gone to Perrysburg for provisions and returned unaware that he was being followed. Just as he entered the cabin door, he heard the wolves jumping his fence. As he slammed it shut, they set up their unearthly howling, enough (so he said) to make a ‘dead man’s hair stand on end’. The Hoppers lived ten years in that area before close neighbors began to settle about them. By 1860, the Daniel Snyder family had arrived and began clearing a farm on the north side of Dowling Road. The farmhouse that the Hoppers built was on a slight ridge. Frederick Wlecke later bought the farm and his grandson, Fred Blecke, replaced the old Hopper house with a square cement block house on that same ridge.”
“The very first school building in District No. 6 was located about an eighth of a mile directly west of the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Oblinger, who lived at the intersection of the Luckey and Dowling Roads. The Dowling Road was then called the Hopper Settlement Road, later still the Metzger Road. By the middle of the last century, large numbers of settlers moved to Troy Township from other counties in Ohio. Among them were the Hopper, Swartz, Miller, Snyder and Metzger families. Some of the names found in the earliest records of District No. 6 are: Samuel Schriner, S. Gushard, George Hopper, Daniel Snyder, G. Keppler, George Miller, John G. Swartz, Louis Metzger and Jacob Kurfess. The first school building in the district stood on property owned by Frank Hasel [Hasel Nursery on Luckey Rd.] The depression made in the soil by the foundation of the school can still be seen today and shows the building to have been twenty-four feet wide and thirty-two feet long. The population in the district grew so large that a second school was deemed necessary. Less than a mile to the west a second school was erected along what is now the Dowling Road on the Jacob Kurfess farm (later owned by Gottlieb Pertner). [Luckey Centennial Book pgs. 78 & 79]
“The early Hopper Settlement School was the center of activity for the area.” [“Story of the Hopper Settlement”, Mike Sibberson] Besides being the schoolhouse meeting place, it was also used for church gatherings.” “The seeds of Faith United Methodist Church at 111 Main Street were sown when a Methodist Sunday School Class was organized in School No. 6 in the Hopper Settlement about 1870. When the school was moved to another location, the congregation went to the Methodist Church at Stony Ridge, which at that time was located north of the present Lutheran Church on the east side of the road. In 1882, the congregation from the Hopper Settlement decided to build a church in Luckey. Among the first members were James Hopper and William Lanze. [Luckey Centennial Book pgs. 54 – 55]
The Hoppers built several homes in the Hopper Settlement outside of Luckey, OH. “The first log hut had been replaced by a larger one and later by a third. In 1851, the frame house known around the county as the “Mansion” was built.” “As time went on, much earth increased in value, and additions were made to the house, the children all married and settled in homes of their own, and grandchildren came and visited in the old home, earned by such prodigious labor. How well we remember driving or walking down the lane, bordered with locust trees, to the house set well back from the road. In front of the house was grandmother’s flower garden, in which was a perfect riot of old fashioned flowers; peonies, larkspur, roses, columbine, bleeding hearts, hollyhocks and all the other varieties so dear to the hearts of the one who tended them in spite of the rheumatism which affected her in later years. As we enter the yard at the back of the house, we pass by the summer kitchen and just beyond is the old dinner bell. We enter the house, and there beside the table sits grandmother with a lace cap over her snowy hair, a dress made full in the skirt and an apron on. Should it be Sunday, the apron will be of black silk. Also, should it be Sunday, the small boy or girl may be invited into the parlor which is a high honor indeed, as this room is never used except for weddings or funerals. Owing to the fact that grandma is living in one of the additions to the house, we must go out on the front porch in order to reach the parlor. As she stands on the porch and reaches into her pocket for the key to the next door, she impresses upon us that if we enter we must promise not to touch any article in the room. Then we are piloted through the sitting-room past the ‘Bridal Chamber’ (a room set apart for the newlyweds when they come home to visit) and then we are ushered into the parlor, a room with an ingrain carpet on the floor, a stand on one side of the room upon which there is a bouquet of worsted or hair flowers, and a pin cushion with the word ‘Anna’ made with pins, a haircloth sofa, oh, that slippery haircloth sofa and some chairs. After being allowed to gaze for a little while we are ushered out again. A simple room? Yes. Somewhat meagerly furnished? Yes, according to the standards of today. But before we smile, let us think for a moment of the years and years of labor which went into the making of that home before even that room was attainable. What wonder that it was prized and cared for as something precious?
According to the “Story of the Hopper Settlement”, Frederick Wlecke later bought the farm and his grandson Fred Blecke replaced the old Hopper house with a square cement block house and a magnificent barn on the same ridge.
The photograph of the Hopper Mansion above was provided by Mike Sibbersen. He is related to the Blecke Family who purchased the property from the Hoppers. Mr. Sibberson writes; “This is my great-grandmother Winifred E. (Blecke) Schober in front of the old Hopper House. This is where her childhood years were spent. The home was purchased from the Hoppers by Frederick E. Wlecke [my great-great-great grandfather], father of Henry Blecke [my great-great grandfather]. Henry lived here with his father until he (Henry) was able to purchase a farm just south of Luckey. When great-grandmother, Winefred E. Blecke (daughter of Henry) married Julius Schober in 1899, they went to housekeeping here and their eldest son (my grandfather) was born here in 1901. Uncle Fred Blecke (another son of Henry and brother to Winefred) and Fred’s wife, Aunt Pearl moved here when they married. At this time Henry Blecke built them the new house which still stands in 2014 and The Hopper Mansion was torn down.” [“Story of the Hopper Settlement”, Mike Sibberson]
Our next meeting will be Thursday Feb. 20th at 6:30 in the Luckey Library, hope to see you there.