When Emma was eleven years old, her older sister got married at the family home in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, and everyone cried. Emma decided right then that she would elope when she got married to avoid all that crying. Nine years later, on 11 October 1920, Emma Ewers Taylor and Elmer Dennis Hopkins eloped to Jellico, Tennessee.
Elmer worked for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) out of Corbin, Kentucky. Emma worked as an assistant cashier and bookkeeper for Peoples Bank in Mt. Vernon. She went home for lunch that day, but instead of returning to work, she and Elmer took a taxi to nearby Wildie to catch the train to Jellico. They did not want to take a chance of someone seeing them board the train in Mt. Vernon.
A justice of the peace performed the ceremony in a furniture store with just one witness. Emma wore a blue suit with a white beaded georgette blouse. The newlyweds had supper at a hotel in Jellico, then caught the train to Corbin, where Elmer had already bought a house. Emma left a special delivery letter to be delivered to her mother about the time she would have gotten home from work. She told her she would be married by the time she read it. Her younger brother told her later that there was “weeping and wailing,” and Emma was glad she missed that.
Her mother sent a letter the next day inviting them to come for a visit. On the third day of their honeymoon, Emma and Elmer went to Mt. Vernon. Her mother cooked a big supper and had a nice cake, and Emma appreciated that no one cried. Elmer always claimed he asked John Taylor to forgive him for running off to marry his daughter and promised, if forgiven, he would never do it again. The next day, they visited Elmer’s family at Gum Sulphur, near Brodhead, before returning to their new home in Corbin.
Emma had bought sheets, linens, and other household items ahead of time and kept them hidden at the bank. She bought a trunk to take her things home with her and later moved her piano.
Emma was born on 24 October 1900 at her parent’s home near Fairground Hill on West Main Street in Mt. Vernon. She was the first child born to John Cook Taylor and his third wife, Emma Jane Owens. John had two daughters, Gracie and Susie, and one son, Bill, from previous marriages. Emma’s brother Hartford was born in 1905 and her sister Anna Rose in 1918.
When Emma was two years old, she fell out a door and landed on a sharp ax, cutting a big gash in her hip. There were no hospitals, and the local doctor was not nearby. Emma Jane took her to an old neighbor woman who poured turpentine in the gash and filled it with brown sugar to stop the bleeding. This worked, and Emma’s hip healed.
Home remedies were common during Emma’s childhood. Her mother would give a spoonful of sugar with coal oil in it to stop the croup. She also believed in wearing a little sack of asafetida around your neck to keep diseases away. Emma remembered being teased by kids at school because of the potent smell.
Emma started school at seven, attending Mt. Vernon Graded and High School, also known as the “free” school. She finished the 3rd grade that year. Her teacher was Miranda McKenzie, and Emma claimed she was the teacher’s pet. The next year, her teacher was Mrs. Mat Ballard, whom Emma didn’t like as much. One day, Mrs. Ballard made her stay in during lunch, which did not set well with her father. He enrolled Emma in a “pay” school being taught by Miss Ida Mae Adams. Emma attended that school for two years before returning to Mt. Vernon Graded and High School.
When she was nine years old, Emma took pneumonia. She was very sick, and the family even thought she might die. Her father would bring her a present every day while she was sick. Since there were few toys in those days, her gifts included a sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and a woman’s purse.
During Emma’s childhood, the family moved several times in and around Mt. Vernon. In 1905, they moved from the house where she was born to a large two-story house in the center of town. Around 1911, they moved back to West Main Street to a house across the street from their previous house. They next lived in a house on Crawford Street, behind what is now the Rockcastle County School Board building. That house burned before 1920. After the fire, they moved in with Susie and her family on West Main Street. From there, they moved to a two-family house down the street from Susie and across the street from the First Christian Church.
Emma played with dolls until she was 12 years old. She named her favorites Theodocia and Doris. She also enjoyed singing and always wanted a piano or organ. Emma would put a chair in front of her and pretend to play the piano for hours at a time. When she was a teenager, her mother bought her a second hand organ. Emma Jane sewed for a girl who gave Emma lessons in return.
Emma enjoyed visiting family as a child. She never knew her Taylor grandparents, who died before she was born. But her Aunt Lou, Aunt Nannie, and Uncle Bob lived in their house near Renfro Valley, and she visited them often. She remembered that Aunt Lou was an excellent cook and had soft feather beds.
Emma only had a short time with her grandmother Owens, who died when she was about eight years old, but her grandfather Owens lived until she was nineteen. Emma loved spending time at her Uncle Dave and Aunt Ida Owens’s house at Freedom, because they had five daughters, Sallie, Ollie, Myrtle, Mary Ellen, and Dolly. They would have candy-pulling parties when she visited them.
Emma was always an excellent student. She graduated from high school at age sixteen, always made As, and was the youngest person in her class. Some of her classes were Latin, French, algebra, geometry, botany, physics, chemistry, English, history, and domestic science (home economics). She went through high school without missing a day or even being tardy.
Emma wanted to be a teacher, but at sixteen, she was not old enough to take the exam. College was not a requirement for teaching, but anyone interested had to pass the teacher’s examination. Some people went to normal school after high school to prepare for the exam, but Emma was sure she could pass it as soon as she was old enough. In the meantime, she went to work at the Mt. Vernon Post Office.
As soon as she was old enough, Emma took and passed the teacher’s exam, scoring a first-class certificate. She started teaching school in July 1918 at Maywood in neighboring Lincoln County before she was eighteen years old. Her father hired someone with an old rattletrap car to take her to Lincoln County.
To be close to the school, Emma boarded with a local family named Jackson from Michigan. Emma paid them $12 a month for room and board. They had five children and a nice house. They also had a Victrola and records for entertainment. Emma’s room was a “davenport” in the parlor. It took Emma a while to adjust to Mrs. Jackson’s cooking, such as green beans cooked in milk, which differed from what her mother fixed at home.
Emma walked to the school from the Jackson’s house. On her first day, the school trustee went with her to introduce her to the students, who covered first through eighth grades. Emma described the schoolhouse as dismal looking. It was one room with two outside toilets. Besides teaching, her responsibilities included cleaning and building a fire, and she earned $48 a month. The boys would bring kindling and carry in coal. They also carried water in a bucket, and everyone drank from the same dipper. There was a long seat in the front for recitations. Some old pictures, a flag, and a quart jar for flowers were the décor of the room, but there was no paint on the walls. Emma had a little bell that she bought for 25¢.
While she was teaching school, Emma bought a piano, which was one of her most prized possessions. She took lessons for about three months and learned to play songs like “Home Sweet Home,” “Syncopated Time,” and “The March of the Sleepy Heads.”
As the World War ended in the fall of 1918, the influenza pandemic was getting started and would last through the next spring. In Feb 1919, the schools closed, and Emma returned home. She never taught full time again, although she later did some substitute teaching after her children were in school.
When Emma returned home from Lincoln County, she went back to work at the post office. Many people were suffering from the flu, including the postmaster. The assistant postmaster had left for the Navy, so Emma ended up running the post office alone at eighteen years old. People would come in to get their mail and die within a day or two. Somehow, Emma avoided taking the flu that killed 675,000 people in the U.S. and 50 million people worldwide.
Elmer was born on 2 April 1894 in Wallins Creek, Kentucky, to James Arton Hopkins and Lucinda Howard. Jim and Cindy had nine other children. When Elmer was about seven years old, the family moved from Harlan County to a farm near Brodhead in Rockcastle County. The Hopkins children, including Elmer, attended Red Bud School, which was on Rose Hill Road about three miles from their house. Elmer only went to school a few years, probably not more than 5th grade.
Elmer joined the U.S. Army on 4 December 1911 at Middlesboro, Kentucky, and served three years. He served in Troop E of the 15th Cavalry Regiment. In January 1914, he took part in interning the Mexican Federal Army at Ft. Bliss, Texas, after Pancho Villa and his army drove them out of Ojinaga, Mexico. Elmer received an honorable discharged on 3 December 1914 at Ft. Bliss.
On 15 December 1915, Elmer went to work for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad (L&N) out of Corbin. In January 1918, the Cumberland River flooded in Harlan and Bell counties where L&N ran hauling coal out of the mountains. On the 28 January, engine 1302 and her crew ended up in the river. Elmer was the middle brakeman on that crew. Over 100 years later, L&N Magazine published “Thirteen-Two’s in the River at Tremont!…” describing the wreck.
“As the train crawled around a sharp right-hand curve near Tremont, the engine, tender, and two or three cars rolled over into the rampaging river on the fireman’s side. Bathed in the oil headlight’s dim beam, the track had appeared passable. Tragically, the riverbank and roadbed beneath it had been hidden by the rushing, relentless water and had severely eroded away.”
Elmer had been riding in the caboose but had traded places with the head brakeman at Wallins to allow him to dry out in the caboose. Elmer almost drowned and suffered a broken leg, but he got out a window and swam to safety. The fireman, Bob Hocker, was pinned in the wreckage and drowned. The rest of the six-man crew survived.
Less than four months later, Elmer joined the U.S. Army for a second time. He was inducted on 24 May 1918 at Mt. Vernon. He was stationed in France from 6 August 1918 to 28 May 1919. Elmer returned from France in May 1919, sailing on the 18th from St. Nazaire onboard the U.S.S. Henry R. Mallory. The ship arrived in Brooklyn, New York, on the 28th. He received a second honorable discharge on 12 June 1919 at Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky, and returned to work for L&N.
Elmer & Emma
The house Elmer bought in Corbin was on Bryant Street, in the part of Corbin that is in Knox County. The four-room house had shade trees in the yard and a garden. Elmer furnished it before their wedding with a dining table, six chairs, a rocker, kitchen cabinet, cook stove, bed, and dresser. After the wedding, they bought a couch, living room chair, rugs, a washstand, and a few other things. They had that dining room table for the rest of their lives.
Emma claimed she could not boil water when she got married, even though her mother was a wonderful cook. She took a cookbook with her when she left Mt. Vernon to get married. The first biscuits she ever made were hard as rocks, but Elmer bragged about them. Emma credited him with teaching her how to do plain cooking, and she learned more from cookbooks.
While they lived in Corbin, Elmer had to work out of Cumberland for a short time. They took a few things and set up “light housekeeping” there for six months, then returned to Corbin.
The first of their four daughters, Edna Ewers, was born on 28 August 1921 at Emma’s parents’ home in Mt. Vernon. They moved to Shonn (now Loyall) in Harlan County, Kentucky, in February 1924 and their second daughter, Ruby Marie, was born there on 26 February.
When they moved to Shonn, the streets were pure mud. They moved their things on the train and then hauled them in a wagon to their house. There were no telephones, but the grocery man would come to the house to take orders and then deliver the groceries later in the day in a wagon. The family moved three times before building a house on the southwest corner of Johnie and Mapother Streets. They moved into their new house in Apr 1925.
A few months later, Ruby died on 28 October after being sick for fourteen days with diphtheria and scarlet fever. Ruby was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon.
After Ruby’s death, they moved back to their house in Corbin in December 1925. Elmer and Emma’s third child, Helen Virginia, was born there in 1926. They stayed in Corbin until June 1927, when they returned to Shonn and the house on Johnie Street. Their fourth and last child, Uta Faye, was born in Shonn in 1930.
All four children were born at home. A doctor came to the house and stayed several hours for the deliveries. Two or three neighbor woman came in to help the doctor, who charge $25.00. Emma had someone stay with her a month before and after each child was born. She said she believed in being waited on then.
When the girls were little, Emma bought a sewing machine, learned to sew, and made most of their clothes. Sometimes she would be in a hurry to finish a dress. Instead of putting in a zipper, she would sew the dress up on one of them and finish it later. She also raised a sizeable garden every summer and canned 400-500 quarts of vegetables and kept a cow and bees for milk and honey.
On 18 December 1932, Elmer bought a seventy-five acre farm with a small house at Buckeye, about a mile and a half from Mt. Vernon. He bought the farm for Emma’s parents. Elmer bought two pieces of property in Mt. Vernon in 1938. One property ran from Highway 150 up Town Hill. Elmer had five small rent houses built on Town Hill. About 1952, he had a service station built on the lot fronting Hwy 150 and talked his son-in-law David McCauley into moving from Louisville to Mt. Vernon to run it. The other property was on West Main Street, across the street from First Christian Church. That property had two duplexes, which he also rented. Emma’s parents had lived in one of the duplexes around 1920, renting from the previous owner. When Emma’s father’s health deteriorated in the 1940s, Elmer sold the Buckeye farm and moved the Taylors back to one of the duplexes. Emma’s mother collected the rent from both properties for him until she died in 1968.
In 1935 and 1936, Elmer was sick for about eighteen months and could not work. Doctors could not determine what was wrong with him, but his appendix eventually ruptured. He spent a long time at the hospital in London, Kentucky. Doctors were not sure he would survive, but he recovered and returned to work at L&N.
Emma took and passed the postmaster test and on 4 March 1937 received an appointment as postmaster for Loyall. With her commission signed on 31 March, Emma assumed charge of the post office on 4 April. She remained in that job until September 1941. During that time, her sister Gracie lived with the family to take care of the girls while Emma worked. This was the first time since her marriage that Emma had worked outside her home. She later ran a restaurant near the Loyall school for a year, substitute taught for several years, and kept books for a mine they had part-ownership in for about three years in the 1940s.
The United States had remained neutral in the War in Europe that started in 1939 until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 Dec 1941. By early 1942, rationing began. Emma had worried that rationing might happen months before it did. She bought supplies of dried beans, sugar, and flour, which she stored in lard cans hidden behind the piano.
When the girls were growing up, the family traveled in the summers to visit family. Elmer’s parents had moved to Blanchester, Ohio, about 1923 and all of his siblings, except Lige, left Kentucky. His brothers Lum and Grant lived near their parents in Ohio and brothers Henry and Berry lived in Detroit and Flint, Michigan. After his brother John retired from the U.S. Army, he and their sister Lula lived in Tampa, Florida. Elmer’s brother Doc and Emma’s brother Hartford both lived in Chicago. Emma and the girls went to the Chicago World’s Fair in both 1933 and 1934. They also made trips to Niagara Falls, St. Louis, Missouri, and Canada.
Since Elmer worked for the L&N, the family could get passes to ride the train. Emma and the girls would take the train to Mt. Vernon to visit her parents or to Louisville to shop. Some of those trips to visit family in Chicago, Detroit, and Tampa were made by train. Sometimes they took longer trips, including one to New Orleans when they slept in Pullman berths. Other train trips Emma took included Washington, D.C., Boston, New York, and Portland, Maine.
Emma joined the Loyall Church of Christ in 1930 and taught the Senior Ladies’ Sunday School Class for 25 years. She was also a member of the Ladies Auxiliary at the church for many years.
Elmer became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1937. He traveled around the country to attend many of the church’s annual conventions. Sometimes he took the whole family. Emma and the girls were not interested in spending all day at the convention center listening to the program. They would skip out to go shopping and sight-seeing and meet up with Elmer later, giving him the impression they had been there all day.
In June 1940, Elmer and five other area Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested in Harlan County and charged with sedition. They were held on bonds fixed at $10,000 each for distributing un-American literature, which promoted the religion’s tenets against saluting the flag and in favor of a theocratic government. If convicted, the charges provided for prison terms of up to twenty-one years, fines up to $10,000, or both. The other five arrested were S. F. Lehman and M. L. Lehman of Bell County and L. E. Carr, Louis Beeler, and Elihu Hurst of Harlan. The defense’s legal team included attorneys from Brooklyn, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Harlan.
Elmer was released on bond, but was again arrested on 11 July. This arrest, on similar charges, followed a door-to-door campaign on 6 July distributing literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York across the city. These charges were dismissed on 2 August, but he remained under $10,000 bond for the original charges.
The defense filed a petition asking the Court of Appeals to free the men, declaring they had been unlawfully held to the grand jury. On 30 July, the Court of Appeals in Frankfort, Kentucky, ruled it lacked jurisdiction to interfere with the jailing of the group. Charges brought before the court included that the six men had been threatened with mob violence and re-arrest again and again. Two attorneys had already withdrawn from the case because of threats. Elmer and Hurst had made bond, but the other four remained in jail. The two attorneys who appeared before the court asking for immediate release of the men said they had also been threatened with being thrown in jail. They insisted their clients had been preaching only the kingdom of God and did not advocate violence or opposition to the government. The Appeals Court recommended they ask the Circuit Judge for an injunction to prevent re-arrests and advised they could return to them if they did not get it.
The grand jury in Harlan County returned indictments against all six on 22 August. Each man’s bond was reduced to $5,000. Their cases were added to the docket for a special term of circuit court to begin on 6 September, but they were never brought to trial.
A preliminary hearing was held in Federal District Court on 21 September 1940 on a complaint brought by the defense. A tentative date of 19 October was set for a three-judge court to hear their request that the sedition law under which they were indicted be declared void. The complaint also asked for an injunction preventing further interference with the distribution of their literature. The complaint asserted that the plaintiffs had been arrested and held on excessive bail for distributing books, magazines and pamphlets designed to further their cause.
On 30 November 1940, Harlan County and state officials agreed before a three-judge federal court in London, Kentucky, to suspend prosecution of the six Jehovah’s Witnesses. They reached this agreement after a three-day hearing on a petition filed by the six questioning the constitutionality of the state’s anti-sedition law. The court granted the men permission to return to Harlan County and continue distributing their literature in public places. In return, the men agreed to stop making house-to-house calls unless invited.
The three-judge court handed down their final ruling on this matter on 4 June 1941. Their opinion enjoined and restrained Harlan County law enforcement and court officers from arresting, imprisoning, or prosecuting these six men and any other Jehovah’s Witnesses on charges that publications of the sect constituted sedition. The judges stated the publications circulated by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Harlan County did not violate any law, statute, or ordinance of the State of Kentucky. They said the plaintiffs and all others may distribute the sect’s materials in a peaceable and orderly manner. The ruling further stated that the men were not guilty of sedition under Chapter 100 of the Acts of the Legislature of Kentucky, as charged by the Harlan officials. Since the statute did not apply in this case, the court felt no necessity to rule on its constitutionality.
Edna married Aubrey E. Chesnut, Jr. on 19 June 1943 in Tampa, Florida, where Aubrey was stations in the U.S. Army. Emma and Edna took the train to Tampa for the wedding, which was held at Elmer’s brother John’s home. Emma returned home on the train by herself and said she cried all the way.
Over the years, Elmer and Emma had several cars. The first three were a 1925 Model T Ford, a 1927 Dodge Touring, and a 1930 Erskine Sedan. Other cars included two more Fords, two Pontiacs, a Buick, a Chevrolet, a Plymouth, and a Volkswagen.
In the summer of 1949, Elmer bought a new Ford at a dealer in Harlan. He called home and told Faye that if she would catch the bus to Harlan, she could be the first one to drive it. And she did. Elmer made a big production of presenting Emma, Helen, and Faye with a key to the new car. The next day, after he went to work, Emma was going to drive the new car to the grocery. But when she and the girls got to the garage, they discovered Elmer had put a new padlock on the door and none of them had that key. Not to be out done, Emma broke the lock with a hammer. She got a key to the next lock that went on the garage door.
On 18 Feb 1950, Elmer and Emma’s youngest daughter, Faye, married David Hankins McCauley at the Loyall Church of Christ. Emma held both the rehearsal dinner and reception at home. Faye and David lived in several towns in Tennessee and in Middlesboro and Louisville, Kentucky, before settling in Mt. Vernon in 1952. They had four children.
Their daughter Helen married Rex Yonce in 1954. Emma made her wedding gown and veil, the four bridesmaid’s dresses, and the flower girl’s dress. Helen and Rex lived across the street from Elmer and Emma and had one child.
Emma joined the Loyall Parent Teacher Association (PTA) in 1927 and remained active in the organization long after her children were out of school. She served two years as local president in 1944-45, three years as District President in 1954-1957, and six years on the Kentucky PTA State Board from 1954 to 1960. She attended national PTA conventions in Cincinnati and San Francisco and all the state conventions while she was on the board. Emma was a delegate to the Kentucky White House Conference on Education held in Louisville in 1955 and the Kentucky Governor’s Conference on Education in 1956. In 1965, the Kentucky superintendent of public instruction appointed her to a twenty-two member citizens advisory committee to study Kentucky’s foundation program for education.
In 1930, Emma joined the Loyall Homemaker’s Club and held the office of county president twice. She served as vice president of the Harlan Civic Club and was a member of the Harlan Business and Professional Women Club (BPW). They named her BPW Club Senior Citizen of the Month in December 1976.
Emma took only one airplane trip, flying to San Francisco to attend a national PTA convention in 1956. She enjoyed the flight out but had a problem on the return flight. Emma had trouble breathing, so went to the restroom, took off her corset, and left it there. The stewardess noticed she was having a problem and put her on oxygen for two hours. When they landed in Kansas City to change planes, she handed Emma a brown paper sack with her corset inside. She had to change planes again in Chicago and the plane was late. Emma feared she would not get back to Kentucky in time to see two of her grandchildren in a dance recital that evening. Elmer was waiting for her at the Louisville airport, and they made it to the recital in Mt. Vernon. Emma never wanted to fly again. Elmer never flew. His stock comment about it was that he had “never been in that big a hurry.”
Elmer retired from the L&N Railroad on 28 April 1960. His three daughters, six grandchildren, and Emma “jumped” the train and rode part of the way on the caboose for his last run. In reality, the train slowed to a stop at two points during the run. The family boarded at the first stop and disembarked at the second, because they could not go into the depot with the train.
After Elmer retired, he and Emma took several trips west to visit his brother Grant in Tuscon, Arizona, and her brother Bill in Kansas. They drove to Tuscon several times but also made a few trips by train. While in Arizona, they also visited Los Angeles and Juarez, Mexico.
Elmer and Emma started making a trip to Mt. Vernon, where Faye and her family lived, most every week. After Elmer’s retirement, they would leave home on Monday morning and stop in Barbourville to visit Edna. They often had lunch that Emma brought. Then they went on to Mt. Vernon, where they spent the night at Faye’s before returning home the next day. Emma’s mother and sisters Gracie and Susie and Elmer’s brother Lige were still living when they started this routine and they visited with them as well. Elmer often took a drive out by “the old home place” where he had spent most of his childhood while they were there.
Emma was diagnosed with type II diabetes when she was in her early fifties. She took medication to control it and later developed high blood pressure. When she was sixty-nine years old, Emma was hospitalized for the first time because both her diabetes and blood pressure were out of control. Two years later, she had gall bladder surgery and, in January 1977, she had surgery for colon cancer.
In April 1977, floodwater reached thirty-eight inches deep in Elmer and Emma’s house. It was the first time water got more than a few inches deep in the yard and basement in the fifty-two years they had lived there. However, when six inches of rain fell in a short time, the Cumberland River rose fast. They had to grab a few necessities and head for higher ground, with no time to think about saving anything. Emma and Elmer and many others sheltered at the Loyall Church of Christ, which was up hill a few blocks from their house.
They lost almost everything, including irreplaceable books, papers, pictures, and newspaper clippings. Emma’s prized piano, which was by then at her daughter’s house across the street, was also a casualty of the flood. Emma had just had surgery for colon cancer three months earlier and could not do much. She went to Mt. Vernon to stay with Faye for two weeks while the worst of the clean up was going on. When she returned to Loyall, she and Elmer lived in a trailer for about six weeks until the house was livable again. As part of the renovation, they had the house raised seven feet off the ground.
Emma died of a heart attack on 19 January 1978 at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital during one of the worst snowstorms on record in Kentucky. She was seventy-seven years old. Her funeral was held on 22 January at Loyall Funeral Home with Rev. Bob Hull of Loyall Church of Christ officiating.
Following the funeral, the family made the 100-mile trip over partially cleared highways with scrapped snow piled several feet high along the shoulder of the road to Mt. Vernon for her burial. Because of the weather, many of Emma’s cousins from Rockcastle County had not made the trip to Loyall. When the funeral caravan arrived in Mt. Vernon, a short visitation was held at Cox Funeral Home Chapel before the burial at Elmwood Cemetery. Emma was laid to rest beside Ruby.
In December 1976, Elmer was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which led to his death three and a half years later. He died on 26 May 1980 at the Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital. Elmer was eighty-six years old. His funeral was held on 29 May at the Loyall Funeral Home with Jim Copland of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses officiating. Elmer was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon beside Emma.
Edna Ewers Hopkins
Edna weighed nine and a half lbs. when she was born at noon on 28 August 1921 at Emma’s parents’ home in Mt. Vernon. She was baptized at the Loyall Church of Christ in 1934. Edna played clarinet in the band at Loyall High School and graduated in 1939. In 1942, she graduated from Union College in Barbourville, Knox County, Kentucky.
While at Union, Edna met Aubrey Edgar Chesnut, Jr., son of Aubrey Edgar Chesnut, Sr. and Jennie Brown. Aubrey was born on 27 April 1921 in Tuttle, Knox County, Kentucky, a community on the Knox and Laurel County line. By 1930, the family lived at 333 Catron Avenue in Barbourville, the home his parents kept for the rest of their lives.
After graduation from Union, Edna returned home and taught school in Harlan County for the 1942-43 school year. Her first assignment was a two-room school at Putney, a community between Harlan and Cumberland. She soon transferred to Loyall High School as the business/commerce teacher.
Aubrey joined the U.S. Army on 24 September 1942 in Cincinnati. Prior to that, he attended Union College and Bowling Green Business University and worked at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. Aubrey was stationed at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida, when he and Edna decided to get married.
Emma made Edna’s wedding dress, and the two of them took the train to Florida. Elmer’s brother John was retired from the Army and lived in Tampa. Edna and Aubrey got married at his house at 802 East Hanna Street in Hillsborough County on 19 June 1943. Edna wore a simple string of pearls with the long white silk dress, which had a sweetheart neckline, long sleeves, and a floor length bouffant skirt. Poinciana flowers decorated the house and the mother of the bride wore a black dress trimmed in blue.
Several months later, when Aubrey went overseas, Edna returned to Loyall to stay until he came home. She also returned to teaching. Edna and Aubrey’s oldest son was born while she was living with her parents. He was eighteen months old when his father returned from the war. Edna and Aubrey settled in his hometown of Barbourville, in Knox County, about an hour away from Loyall. They had two more sons.
Aubrey worked for the U.S. Postal Service, eventually becoming postmaster at Barbourville. Edna did substitute teaching in Knox County but never return to full time teaching. Her father-in-law ran Chesnut Tax Service, and she worked with him. Edna eventually took over the business when Aubrey Sr. retired and ran it until she retired.
After retirement, Edna and Aubrey moved to St. Cloud in Osceola County, Florida. They returned to Kentucky in 1993.
Aubrey died on 25 January 1996 in Barbourville. Edna died there on 11 October 2016. Both funerals were held at Knox Funeral Home in Barbourville, and they were both buried in Barbourville Cemetery.
Ruby Marie Hopkins
Blonde and blue-eyed Ruby was born at 8:00 a.m. on 26 February 1924 at Shonn. She weighed eleven lbs. Ruby lived one year, eight months, and two days. Emma said she was born to be an angel, but she was grateful God let them have her, even for such a short time.
Ruby became ill with scarlet fever and dyphteria on 14 October 1925. She died at home on 28 October. Her body was taken to Mt. Vernon. Reverend Phillip Bornwasser of First Christian Church in Mt. Vernon officiated at her funeral, held on 30 October at the home of Emma’s parents. Ruby was buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon.