Hoping history’s well-kept
New society’s goal preserving Hopewell legacy
The curious observer would be hard-pressed to find Hopewell, Kan., on a map. And forget trying to look up a ZIP code. But the small community, southeast of Eudora, lives on in the hearts of those in the Eudora area.
And those whose roots reach down in the community near the Johnson-Douglas county line are working to immortalize the community through a historical society concerned exclusively with Hopewell. Earlier this month a group of about 30 met for a second time at a house southeast of Eudora in an area known as Hopewell.
Linda and Richard Knabe are trying to keep aspects of life in Hopewell alive with another society meeting slated for March. The Knabes, who are also incorporating threshing and farming activities, said they hoped to get a group of antique tractor enthusiasts to parade from Hopewell to the CPA picnic in downtown Eudora.
"If we just do anything antique, people come out of the woodwork,"Linda Knabe said.
The Knabes also have plans to bring a peg barn to the home site, with a barn raising hoped for May.
"We need help getting it down and getting it up," Richard Knabe told the group. "We sure need all the help we could get."
The couple and the group also hope to figure out why the area was named Hopewell or why one site was designated Hopewell Farm. Hopewell was the name given to a Native American farming culture centuries ago in the Great Lakes region, roughly the same area where the Shawnee Indians lived before being transferred to northeast Kansas.
But the Knabes aren't certain of any such link to the county-line community's name.
A two-story white farmhouse off 143rd Street that used to be rented out has now become a gathering place for Hopewell historical society members, who are in the process of gathering photographs, books and other items for a collection housed on site.
"We get more and more stuff each time," said Martha Harris. "People go home and go, 'Oh, I've got that.'"
Of the items finding their way out of basements and attics and back to Hopewell are church documents, the older of which were sometimes written in German.
During a show-and-tell portion of the meeting, Audrey Osburn shared an ornate baptismal certificate of Hazel Audrey Brecheisen, one of two grandmothers after whom she was named.
Many of those involved in the Hopewell historical preservation effort, including the Knabes, are connected to the community through either the Methodist church or the school. Members told of their close ties with the school, like Jean Gabriel, who dropped her sister, the school's teacher, off in a Model A Ford driven from Keystone Korner. She said Paul Gabriel would help them start the fire in the school's stove.
Many members like Keith Knabe attended the Hopewell church, and some even married there.
Although both buildings have since moved from their original locations, they played an important part in Hopewell for about 90 years. Not being a town in the sense of having a commercial or residential district, the Hopewell church and school kept connected the community of rural-dwellers.
Marie (Brecheisen) Foster remembers days at the Hopewell school with an enthusiastic teacher, Doris Mullen, who took her first- through eighth-grade students on picnics in the timber and to a pow-wow in Lawrence, after which the students made Indian bread and beef jerky.
"That's the way you learn," Foster said.
Unfortunately for her and other appreciative students, the teaching methods, unconventional for the time, came to the chagrin of administrators.
Just sharing stories and reminiscing has become a large part of the society's focus. During the January meeting, Arlene Lawson shared that as a girl she would walk to the white farmhouse where the Hopewell group was meeting that afternoon to take piano lessons in the very room where people were now gathered.
"It's so nice to be able to come and talk about the old times," Lawson said.