Jim and Cindy were both born in small communities in the mountains—Jim in Tennessee, Cindy in Kentucky. Jim’s birthplace, Mulberry Gap, is in northwestern Hancock County, Tennessee, near the Virginia border. Wallins Creek, Kentucky, where Cindy was born, is on the Cumberland River in western Harlan County.
Lucinda Howard was born on 16 February 1867, to John Covey Howard and his third wife, Mary F. Morris. She was the sixth of their seven children. John Covey had thirteen other children from his two earlier marriages, and Mary had one daughter from a previous relationship. That gave Cindy twenty siblings, the oldest of whom turned 39 years old two months after Cindy’s birth.
Cindy grew up in Wallins Creek. As a three-year-old in 1870, she lived with her parents, full siblings Idress, Henry, and Sarah, and half-siblings Jacob, Newberry, and Ary. At thirteen-years-old in 1880, Cindy could read and write and attended school. The household then included her parents, her maternal grandfather, Littleton Morris, siblings Sarah, Madison, and Idress (who was divorced), and Idress’s two children, Elijah and Laura Howard.
James Arton Hopkins was born on 1 December 1861 to Eliza Hopkins, daughter of Stephen Hopkins and Rachel McFarland. Family lore identifies his father as Stephen Wolfenbarger, but that remains unproven.
The story is that Eliza married Stephen in Hancock County just before the Civil War. They had two sons (James Arton and his older brother William Columbus), and Stephen died during the war. Eliza married Ephram Simpson and moved away, leaving the boys with her parents. Because their Hopkins grandparents raised the boys, they went by Hopkins instead of Wolfenbarger.
The facts do not fully support that story. Eliza Hopkins was the boys’ mother. She and the boys lived with her parents in Hancock County and moved with them to Harlan County after the Civil War. Eliza Hopkins married Ephram Simpson in Harlan County in 1866 and moved to Indiana, then later Missouri. She left Jim and Lum with her parents.
Stephen Wolfenbarger, the son of Wilkerson Hilton Wolfenbarger and Sarah Taylor, lived in Hancock County. In 1860, Stephen (age 22) lived in Mulberry Gap with an apparent wife named Margaret (age 18). Eliza and her oldest son, Lum, both with the surname Hopkins, lived with her parents in 1860. Stephen joined the Confederacy on 22 May 1861 and died in battle before 14 May 1863.
Margaret Wolfenbarger (age 27) was in Lee County, Virginia, which adjoins Hancock County, in 1870. She had two sons, Peter (age 9) and Richard (age 3). This is almost certainly the Margaret listed with Stephen in 1860 as the 1870 census record states she and her children were born in Hancock County. Based on age, Richard could not be Stephen’s son, but Peter could.
A few researchers have theorized that the boys went by Hopkins instead of Wolfenbarger because the families were on opposite sides during the war. Stephen fought and died for the Confederacy while Eliza’s only two brothers fought for the Union. Others have “solved” the problem by combining Margaret and Eliza into one woman named Margaret “Eliza” as if Eliza is a nickname for Margaret.
The Hancock County courthouse burned in 1880 and again in 1930. Marriage records for this time do not survive. But Stephen almost certainly had a wife named Margaret. And Eliza’s name on her and Simpson’s marriage record is Eliza Hopkins, not Eliza Wolfenbarger.
DNA may someday answer the question of Jim’s paternity. Y-DNA results for one of his grandsons are inconclusive due to lack of close matches. But autosomal DNA results for that grandson and two granddaughters show a connection to the Wolfenbargers that can only be through his paternal side. So far, it has not been possible to identify a specific Wolfenbarger man as their father. It could be Stephen, but it also could be his father, an uncle, a cousin, or even a more distant relative.
In 1870, Jim and his brother lived with their grandparents at Jerrys Branch near Molus. Their aunts Elizabeth, Cerena, and Martha, and cousins George, William, Mack, and Landan lived with them. Jim’s whereabouts in 1880 are unknown. He was not with his grandparents or Eliza. Jim told of visiting his mother in Indiana as a young man, saying that his step-father made him feel unwelcome, so he returned to Harlan County. He may have been missed in that census because he was travelling during the time it was taken.
Life in Wallins Creek
Jim and Cindy married on Christmas Day in 1885 at Wallins Creek, likely at the home of Cindy’s parents. Jim was twenty-four years old, and Cindy was eighteen.
They began life together in a small house on her parents’ Wallins Creek property near the top of the mountain. Eight of their ten children were born in that house. Their first child, John Covey, was born on 9 November 1886. Next came Henry Mattison on 9 January 1899 and Elijah L. on 8 August 1890 or 1891. Elmer Dennis was born on 2 April 1894, Columbus Ora on 24 May 1896, and Leo Berry on 28 February 1898. The last two children born there were Howard Doctor on 26 January 1900 and General Grant on 2 August 1902.
On 2 March 1889, Cindy’s parents deeded the 150 acre Wallins Creek farm where they lived to their four living children, Henry, Sarah, Lucinda, and Madison, and the heirs of their deceased daughter, Idress. They gave the land for care, support, and attention and retained control and possession of the land for their natural lives.
Jim bought other property in Harlan County starting in 1891, when he, along with Cindy’s brother Henry Howard and her brother-in-law Elijah Brock, bought property on Rocky Field Branch from William Blanton for $105. In 1892, Jim added to their Wallins Creek property with a tract adjoining his father-in-law’s farm, purchased from John M. and Birdie Napier for $1,225. Between 1895 and 1901, Jim bought property on Watts Creek and on Saylor’s Creek.
Jim once served as a magistrate, but his principal occupation was farming. What he raised is unknown. Most of their property at Wallins Creek was a mountainside, and that was likely true for the other Harlan County property he owned.
Cindy’s nephew Wilse Howard, son of her half-brother Hiram Brock Howard, was a ringleader in the Howard-Turner Feud in the late 1800s. He once came to Cindy running from the law. She hid him under a feather bed mattress and made the bed up over him. Officials searched her house but did not find him, and he later escaped from Harlan County. Wilse was hanged in Missouri in 1894, but that is a different story.
Move to Rockcastle County
Jim and Cindy sold their Wallins Creek and Saylor’s Creek properties on 22 February 1904 to make way for a move to Rockcastle County. They had sold the Watts Creek property in 1899 and 1903. Jim’s brother, Lum, moved to Rockcastle County around the same time. They likely moved to find better farmland.
On 16 March 1904, Jim bought a farm near Brodhead from S. Monie and Joshua Dunn for $2,000. He paid $1,900 in cash, with the final $100 due in a year, for 112 acres on Boone Fork on what is now Kentucky Highway 1326. They added six acres, bought from Hannah Whitehead for $60, on 31 January 1912.
The two-story house on the farm had seven rooms, plus a porch the length of the house on both levels. Jim usually had fifty acres of corn and a hayfield to cultivate every year, and the children helped with the farm work.
According to Jim’s niece Cindy Hopkins Saylor troops on one side or the other used the house during the Civil War. When the family moved in blood stains left by wounded soldiers remained on the upstairs walls and porch.
Two more children were born after the move to Rockcastle County—Lula Mae on 26 November 1904 and Walter in 1906. Walter died as an infant. The exact dates of his birth and death are unknown. He was buried in Maretburg Cemetery in Rockcastle County.
The Mt. Vernon Signal reported on 22 May 1908 that Jim had refused to allow the East Tennessee Telephone Company to set 14 poles on his property. The company instituted a lawsuit to condemn the land for that purpose. Specifics of the lawsuit are unknown, but on 25 May, the Rockcastle County court dismissed the case. The plaintiff moved for a dismissal without prejudice and at their expense.
Cindy was an excellent cook and seamstress. She quilted, made clothes for herself and daughter, Lula, and even made suits for her sons. She exhibited samples of her sewing and jelly at local fairs. In 1909 and 1912, she won an award in the handmade articles category for ladies’ gloves. In 1913, her blackberry jelly was a first place winner.
On 28 October 1919, Jim and Cindy sold their farm, advertised as 140 acres, at an auction run by Rockcastle Real Estate Company in Mt. Vernon. The newspaper ad described the property and the reason for the sale:
“Its location and general character make it a most desirable place and the only reason why Mr. Hopkins has consented to sell is because his years and health are such that he cannot work it himself; his boys have all grown to manhood and gone out into the world to do for themselves and outside labor is too high to hire.”
At fifty-seven years old, Jim was younger than the ad implies, and several of their sons still lived with them. Jim continued to farm other properties for over ten years. Jim and Cindy made a nice profit on the farm, which sold for $10,055.75. While the real estate company ad said the farm was 140 acres, the deed to buyer W. B. Sigman called it 132 acres. Even that is more than the 118 acres identified in the two deeds from when Jim bought the property.
On 5 December 1919, Jim paid $4,500 for a farm at Gum Sulphur, a community in Rockcastle County between Brodhead and Crab Orchard. This farm, on Boone Highway (now Kentucky Highway 2750, formerly U. S. Highway 150), included 100 acres and a two-story frame house near the road. The Hopkins family lived there until moving to Ohio two years later.
Move to Ohio
Jim and Cindy sold the Gum Sulphur farm on 26 November 1921 for $4,000 and bought 169 acres in Harlan Township in Warren County, Ohio, on 19 December 1921. That farm was on Templin Road, between Morrow and Blanchester.
Jim and Cindy moved their belongings from Kentucky to Ohio on the train. Why they moved to Ohio is not known. It could have again been a move spurred by better farmland.
They moved into the existing two-story brick house, which had been a stagecoach way house. Grant and Lula, and possibly Berry and Doc, moved with them. Henry and his wife, Bess, lived with them in 1920 in Rockcastle County and may have also moved with them to Ohio, although they eventually moved to Michigan. Jim and Cindy had a smaller, one-story house built in a different location on the farm and moved into it by the summer of 1932.
On 8 December 1932, less than one month before he died, Jim deeded the Warren County property to Cindy, stipulating that it go to their nine living children at her death. Jim died at home of lobar pneumonia on 5 January 1933 after being ill for six days. He was buried on 7 January in Morrow Cemetery in Salem Township.
Jim and Cindy’s granddaughter Faye was not yet three years old when Jim died, but she remembers her grandfather sitting in a straight-back chair on the front porch. She also remembers that, while his hair was gray, his mustache had a red tint.
Two months after Jim died, Cindy’s sister Sarah became a widow, too. Sarie and Elijah Brock lived in Wallins Creek and had no children. She soon moved to Ohio to live with Cindy, and the sisters lived together for the rest of their lives. Family members did not remember them ever disagreeing.
Return to Wallins Creek
When Cindy’s brother Henry died in 1931, his will specified that his Wallins Creek house go to Cindy after the death of his wife, Elizabeth. Besides the house, Henry left $3,000 to Cindy and $2,000 to Sarie, also to be distributed after Elizabeth’s death. Elizabeth died in 1939 and a few years later, Cindy and Sarie returned “home” to Wallins Creek. Their new house was on their parents’ old farm, where they had both spent many years of their lives.
Elizabeth had moved out of the house several years before she died and rented it out. When Cindy decided to move into the house, the renters did not want to leave. They told Cindy the house was haunted, thinking that might dissuade her. Without hesitation, Cindy said that was fine because the ghosts would all be relatives, and she would be happy to see them. She told that story so often that her granddaughter Faye was afraid to go upstairs in the house.
Cindy sold the Ohio farm to John Houston on 17 January 1947. The deed does not name the price Houston paid for the property. Because Jim deeded Cindy the property with instructions for it to go to their children at her death, the children and their spouses had to agree to the sale and sign the deed.
The Wallins Creek house had a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom on the first floor and two bedrooms upstairs. Cindy’s daughter, Lula, who lived in Tampa, Florida, by then, wrote with instructions on where to put everything in the house. Cindy followed her directions, including hanging a doll that belonged to Lula on the living room wall.
The kitchen had a sink, a stove, and a big pantry. In the dining room, they had a table and chairs and a half bed. The first-floor bedroom had two double beds and a dresser. Cindy and Sarie both slept in that bedroom. Throws made by their mother covered each bed.
The house was across Wallins Creek from the main road, but a car bridge did not exist. When the creek was low, people drove through it to get to their house. When the creek was up, they walked across a small pedestrian bridge.
Cindy’s son Elmer lived less than ten miles away in Loyall. From the time they moved back to Wallins Creek until they died, he visited daily to check on his mother and aunt. He went either before or after work, depending on his shift with the railroad.
Cindy and Sarie raised most of their own food. They had a cow for milk and kept chickens for eggs and meat. They canned vegetables, dried green beans and apples, and made preserves and jelly. They kept potatoes and cabbage in feed sacks buried in the ground to last most of the winter. Cindy made biscuits most mornings and kept honey on the dining room table.
Cindy was 90 years old when she died at home on 16 May 1957 of arteriosclerotic heart disease. Her funeral was held in Morrow on 20 May, and she was buried beside Jim in Morrow Cemetery. Sarie died eight months later at 96 years old and was buried beside her husband, Lige, in Old Creech Cemetery at Wallins Creek.