Preserving Our History

I ran across this article yesterday in the Greencastle Banner-Graphic (a local paper) and am reproducing it below in it's entirety (sans photos) because way too much information is ephemeral, even (or especially) on the Internet. And this kind of tale is an important part of our shared history. Considering this blog, I can relate.

Clan treks to view family history

BARNARD -- On Dec. 29, 1923, Raymond L. Hopkins turned 21 years old.

Sometime between Christmas and his birthday that year, Raymond received a pocketknife as a gift. He took that knife into the woods on the farm where he lived with his parents, Ernest and Hattie, and his brothers and sisters, and carved his name and the date into a beech tree there.

On Friday, several members of Raymond's family trekked into those woods, located one mile south of Barnard, to look at the carving, which, 85 years later, is still clearly visible on the dusky white trunk of the tree.

Leading the march down a steep grade to the tree was Raymond's son Lloyd, 78, who now lives in Crawfordsville. Lloyd was accompanied by his wife Betty, daughters Pam Stevenson and Beth Jensen, son Kerry Hopkins and grandsons Skylar Stevenson and Seth Maxwell.

"This is all he talked about at Christmas," Skylar said.

Family lore has it that Raymond also carved a heart in the tree that bore his initials and those of the girl he would marry, Lottie Page. The heart has been weathered away, Lloyd said.

This past summer was the first time Lloyd had seen the carving. He was contacted by the people who now own the land, who said they had discovered it.

"We knew it was there, we just never had found it," Lloyd said. "We'd always heard the story."

Lloyd was thrilled to finally see the carving, as were his children and grandchildren.

"It really is something for it to still be here after all these years," Pam said.

In July, Lloyd and his brother Marion, who lives in Maine, went out to view their father's handiwork.

The Hopkins family moved to the Barnard property from Illinois when Raymond was a teenager.

Hattie Hopkins died on May 6, 1958, and Ernest died on June 11, 1961. The property, originally one 40-acre tract, has been subdivided and purchased by several different parties.

The land the carved tree is on is owned by an individual from Brownsburg.

"They said they're going to take some of the trees down," Betty said, looking around at the majestic forest. "Hopefully they'll leave this one."

In the last few years, Raymond has taken a great interest in his family history. He and a cousin discovered seven of their ancestors were buried in a small family plot, known as the Page Cemetery, in a wooded area just over the line into Hendricks County.

With the help of local cemetery restoration expert Jessica Felix, spruced up the area. A dedication ceremony for the tiny cemetery, where Raymond's great-great-great-grandfather was laid to rest, was held this past October.

"People talk about working the graveyard shift at night," Raymond said. "I worked the graveyard shift in the middle of the day."

By JAMIE BARRAND, Editor and JARED JERNAGAN, Assistant Editor


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