Memories of Wash, Harry V. & Charles Hoppes by Harry Hoppes


    I never knew my great grandfather George Washington (Wash) Hoppes, who died on February 21, 1924, or his oldest son, my grandfather, Harrison Victor (Harry) Hoppes, who died on March 26, 1935, four months before I was born.  But I grew up in the Hoppes residence at 156 South Fourth Street in Lehighton, the only son of my parents Charles H. and Margaret L. (Troxell) Hoppes, both of whom were high school teachers.   I was surrounded by links to our Hoppes heritage.  Our house was owned and managed by my grandmother, Lizzie A. (Ruch) Hoppes, Harry’s wife.  Her mother Elizabeth (Mantz) Ruch, born October 17, 1849, lived with us until her death on February 3, 1942.  Grammy Hoppes spoke both English and Pennsylvania German, but I never can remember Grammy Ruch speaking anything but German.  In addition to tales told by my grandmother and great grandmother, our home contained many reminders of our family’s history.  As one entered the first living room, a large picture of Wash Hoppes, his wife Annie (Straub) Hoppes, and their four children taken about 1915 greeted all entrants.

From left to right, it showed Wash Hoppes, born February 13, 1853; Harry, born February 25, 1881; Emma P., born October 9, 1892; Charles Solomon, born March 18, 1889; Clara D., born June 23, 1884; and Annie (Straub) Hoppes, born June 11, 1857.  Wash Hoppes was known as a hard-working, yet gentle, individual, content to allow his wife to dominate family affairs.  On the Hoppes Generations web site, he already is remembered for his artistic abilities (see “Treasures Shared: Drawings, Sketches, and Art”) and his skill at catching snakes (see “Harry’s Corner: More Hoppes Tales”)!  Wash’s wife Annie lost a leg in a thrashing machine accident, but continued to direct farm operations from the porch of their house, which was located near Ben Salem Church in East Penn Township, Carbon County.

Wash Hoppes sold farm produce to customers in neighboring communities, most often Lehighton, PA.  Once each year he would invite his regular customers to a free feast of Hoppes farm products. A picture of the 1910 annual gathering is shown below: 

Wash Hoppes (in vest) and Annie Hoppes (in black dress) are seated in the center of the third row.  Their son Harry, holding my father Charles Hoppes, not quite one year old at the time, is located in the lower left-hand corner.

   Wash Hoppes, being the youngest of five boys and six girls (nine of whom survived to maturity) never received a large inheritance from his parents, Solomon and Polly (Schneider) Hoppes.  However, his wife Annie (Straub) Hoppes was more fortunate in this regard. Her mother Drucilla Harter was the only daughter of George and Catharine (Peters) Harter. Moreover, Annie was the only child of David Harrison Straub and his first wife Drucilla Harter. According to Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania (John W. Jordan and Edgar Moore Green, editors.  The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905), “David H. Straub was born in Towamencing Township, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, July 20, 1833. He was reared and educated there, and in his youth learned the bricklayer's trade, which he followed for five years, from 1851 until 1856. He then turned his attention to farming and for thirty years resided upon a farm, continuing to make it his home until 1886, when he removed to Lehighton. Here he owns good city property in addition to his rich and productive tract of land of two hundred acres in East Penn Township, Carbon County.”  When David H. Straub died on November 30, 1906, his estate exceeded $100,000, an amount equivalent to well over a million dollars today.

    Through his wife Annie and keen money management on his part, Wash Hoppes also acquired a sizeable estate.  In an enumeration of his assets titled “Inventory – Close of Year 1915”, he wrote:

List of Properties and value

1. Homestead on 2nd Street                                         $4000.00
2. Home on 3rd St.                                                        9500.00
3. Sandpits                                                                   6500.00
4. Lot near Catholic Cemetery                                          175.00
5. Lot on Cypress St.                                                      250.00
6. 16 Lots at the West End                                            3200.00
7. Two lots on the Heights                                               200.00
8. Seip Property                                                          13000.00
9. Heintzelman property at Allentown                              3700.00

Stocks and Bonds

1. Lehighton Water Stocks                                             $182.00
2. Water Bonds                                                             8500.00

Judgments not on Record (20 individuals)                     10,724.26

Judgments on Record (27 individuals listed)                  37,518.83 

Cash on Hand                                                                150.00

Apparently Wash Hoppes kept very little, if any, cash in the bank.  Whenever, he had unneeded funds on hand, he bought real estate or loaned money to friends and associates at rates of interest that probably were much higher than the bank rates.  When he died in 1924, his debts were very modest and included the following funeral expenses: 

W. Wertman, Undertaker                                               $234.35
C. Hoppes, for meals                                                        96.67
H. V. Hoppes, Executor fees                                           100.00
J. Bond Jr., Inheritance tax                                              245.51
Ben Salem Cemetery Association                                     50.00
All other estate and funeral expenses                               152.72

    During their lifetimes, Wash and Annie Hoppes undoubtedly contributed to community and church associations.  A lasting memory of them is their stained glass church window in the downstairs area of Ben Salem Church, located close to the windows donated by two other sets of my great grandparents:



In Memory of:                               Presented by:                                Presented by:
Mr. and Mrs.                                 Mr. and Mrs.                                  Mr. and Mrs.
Washington Hoppes                      Lewis Ruch                                    Pierce Troxell

      Wash Hoppes’ oldest son, Harry Victor Hoppes, my grandfather, reportedly was a real character.  After he left his father’s farm and moved to 2nd Street in Lehighton, he held a number of jobs including being a chauffer for the Jordan family, a bookkeeper for the Zinc Company in Palmerton, PA, and a foundry workman.  After Wash Hoppes died, my grandfather used some of his inheritance to buy a home at 156 South 4th Street and to invest in a local business, the National Silk Throwing Company, a large mill located at 5th and Iron Streets in Lehighton where the threads from silk cocoons were “thrown” onto spindles, most of which were then shipped to New York City to be woven into silk cloth there.  Gradually, my grandfather bought out the other owners of the mill until he was the sole proprietor.

      There is an abundance of stories about Harry Hoppes’ outgoing personality and love of life, including eating large quantities of Pennsylvania Dutch food.  Gradually, he became quite rotund.  He and his pet dog Foxy, a male fox terrier, were inseparable.  On one occasion during the summer, Foxy burst directly across 4th Street, squeezed through a small hole in the screening of the neighbor’s front door, and mated with the neighbor’s dog on the living room couch.  When the irate neighbor confronted Harry and asked him what he planned to do about the situation, my grandfather reportedly replied, “ I get the pick of the litter”!

      The Great Depression brought hard times for Harry’s silk mill business.  The demand for spindles of silk thread plunged because many people no longer could afford silk garments and because of the introduction of rayon, a synthetic fabric.   Each fall my grandfather shipped free turkeys to his New York buyers at Thanksgiving time.  In 1933 or 1934, however, my grandfather felt he could no longer do so without having to reduce his payroll still farther.  When his New York buyers didn’t get their anticipated turkeys, his sales practically dried up. Perhaps Harry’s biggest mistake from a business perspective, however, was his unwillingness to reduce his work force as rapidly as the business declined.  Laying off people during hard times seemed inhumane to him even though he recognized that the mill losses were coming directly out of his own pocket.

    The bitter end came on March 26, 1935 when he suddenly died at age 54. Many of his friends and neighbors had not known that Harry was diabetic and suffered from coronary heart disease.  Local newspapers wrote:


Passes Away Tuesday Evening
Funeral Saturday At 2 P. M. 

Harrison V. Hoppes died at his home, South Fourth street, Tuesday night, of heart trouble superinduced by a diabetic condition from which he suffered in greater of less degree the last several months.

He is survived by his wife (nee Ruch), one son, Charles Hoppes, a teacher in the public schools at Shinglehouse; two sisters, Mrs. Thompson McLean, Mahoning, and Mrs. George Wehr and a brother Charles S. Hoppes, both of East Penn Township. 

He was fifty-four years of age. 

The deceased was a native of East Penn, a son of the late Mr. And Mrs. G. Washington Hoppes.   Born on a farm he took naturally to the vocation of tilling the soil, fruit raising and the hundred incidentals that comprise the duties of a real agriculturalist.  He was thus employed until about 25 years ago when he came to Lehighton and entered the service of Christmans and later with M. S. Jordan as coachman and later as chauffeur.

Filled with ambition, and the hustle and industry which make dreams come true, he engaged in the silk business.  He purchased an interest in the National Silk Throwing Company, with mill and offices on Iron Street, enlarging his interests until he came into complete control of the well equipped plant and firmly established business. 

Mr. Hoppes was serving as a councilman from the Second ward.  He was chairman of the street committee and a member of the important finance committee, where his business ability and capacity served in good stead. 

Fraternally he was affiliated with the Elks, Moose, Maltas, and Gnaden Hutten Lodge No. 686, L. O. O. F., serving the latter order as its Nobel Grand.  He had but two more meetings to complete his term, which would have placed him in the list of Past Grands of the order. 

He was also a member of Lehigh Fire Company No. 1, being active in all its affairs and serving as chairman of the entertainment committee.

Personally he was affable, courteous, kind, and considerate of his fellows.  His was a splendid record of an energetic and industrious farmer lad who moved to the “city” and made good.  His passing will be deeply mourned by his business and social associates alike. 

Funeral services will be held Saturday afternoon from his residence, conducted by his pastor, Rev. T. H. Atkinson, of the Trinity Lutheran church.  Internment will be made in Ben Salem church cemetery, East Penn, in charge of W. D. Swartz, funeral director. 

Viewing Friday evening at the residence and Saturday at cemetery before internment. 


Regular Business Set Aside
As Councilman Adjourn in
Memory of Popular Col-
league and Civic Worker

      Putting aside all city business scheduled for consideration as part of the monthly calendar, Lehighton councilmen passed a resolution regretting the death of Harry V. Hoppes last night and adjourned in respect to his memory.

    Mr. Hoppes was associated with the council for three years.  He was this year’s chairman of the street committee and was a member of the law and finance committee for several years. 

    The resolution in part was as follows:  “Resolved: That by the sudden and unexpected death of Harry V. Hoppes, the borough council of Lehighton has lost a conscientious, painstaking and devoted councilman, who enjoyed and deserved the highest respect and esteem of his fellow councilmen as well as of the community he so faithfully and impartially served.

    His sincerity and honesty in the discharge of his duties not only commanded the respect, confidence and admiration of every member of council, but of all persons with whom he came in contact.  The openness andfrankness of his dealings, engendered in all, the unshaken assurance that he was endeavoring to preserve the rights of all citizens to the best of his ability.”

    The regular business of council will be conducted at an adjourned meeting set by President William Weyhenmeyer for Wednesday, April 3rd. 

Boro of Lehighton Resolution 

      WHEREAS, in the providence of God, our friend and fellow Councilman, Harry V. Hoppes, late an able, respected and faithful member of the borough Council of the Borough of Lehighton, has been called to the life beyond, therefore

      RESOLVED: ---

      That by the sudden and unexpected death of Harry V. Hoppes, the Borough Council of the Borough of Lehighton has lost a conscientious, painstaking and devoted Councilman, who enjoyed and deserved the highest respect and esteem of his fellow Councilmen as well as of the community he so faithfully and impartially served.

    His sincerity and honesty in the discharge of his duties not only commanded the respect, confidence and admiration of every member of Council, but of all persons with whom he came in contact.  The openness and frankness of his dealings, engendered in all, the unshaken assurance that he was endeavoring to preserve the rights of all citizens to the best of his ability.

        RESOLVED: ---

      That we, the members of the Lehighton Borough Council, revere his memory, as that of an industrious, useful and active citizen, and mourn the loss of an honest, conscientious and loyal friend, of whom we were proud and whom we admired. 

      RESOLVED: ---

     That a copy of these resolutions be sent to his family as conveying our sympathy in their loss; that the same be inserted in both newspapers published in the Borough, and that an adjournment of the Borough Council be had in honor of his memory.

    Unanimously passed by the Borough Council at its regular meeting held April 1, 1935.

                                      W. R. WEYHENMEYER
                                      President Borough Council


    The funeral of Harry Hoppes was held Saturday afternoon from his home on south 4th street, and was attended by relatives, friends, boro officials and mill employees.

    The Rev. Thomas Atkinson officiated and burial was made in Ben Salem Cemetery.  The cortege was escorted to the cemetery by the Lehighton police department.  The Elks had charge of the services at the grave.  Wendell D. Swartz was the funeral director.

    Honorary pallbearers were Mayor William Zahn, Solicitor George E. Gray, President William Weyhenmeyer, and Councilmen George M. Ruch, Edward Teets, Lawrence Nace, LeRoy Ritter, Thomas Saila, Nathan Becker and J. E. Geisel.  

    The following active pallbearers were furnished by the Gnaden Heutten Lodge of Odd Fellows of which Mr. Hoppes was president, Milton Hontz, Lewis Kemmerer, Harry Wert, Ray Smith, Charles Wagner, Charles  F. Bretney, George Meitzler and F. R. Diehl. 

    After his death, my father somehow managed to settle Harry Hoppes’ debts with the banks without losing the family home or the 16 building lots on North 9th Street that Harry had inherited from his father Wash Hoppes.

    If Harry V. Hoppes was a character, then his younger brother Charles Solomon Hoppes was a riot.  He was a jokester, who never missed the opportunity to make people laugh. My father once told me that when times got tough during the Depression, Charlie Hoppes wanted to get a bank loan, but needed a co-signer.  When he asked my grandfather to co-sign, Harry replied that his credit wasn’t very good anymore.   “Oh, that’s OK”, replied Charlie Hoppes.  “ In times like these, you get one debtor to sign for another”.  On this occasion, he wasn’t joking!

    Charlie Hoppes’ farm, located about two miles east of Ben Salem church, had a public riding academy and a dairy, which bottled milk with “Hoppes Dairy” painted onto the milk bottles.  I still can remember drinking “Hoppes milk” every day and visiting his farm on some lucky Sunday afternoons during the early 1940s to ride one of his horses.  The picture below shows Thompon McLean, who married Clara Hoppes, my grandfather Harry Hoppes, and Charlie Hoppes walking some of the horses that were kept on Charlie Hoppes’ farm. 

image007.jpg (16833 bytes)

    Charlie Hoppes died on December 12, 1944.  The thing I remember most about his funeral was the immense meal served inside his farmhouse following his burial at Ben Salem Church.

      The youngest of Wash Hoppes’ four children Emma married George Wehr in January 1912.  George and Emma Wehr acquired the old David Harrison Straub farm just east of Ben Salem Church.  When I was growing up and until Emma Hoppes Wehr died on March 29, 1966, my parents, sister, and I frequently visited the Wehr farm.  On occasion, my father and I even helped in the fields during the harvesting of hay.  “Nemme zwee; sei glee (Take two, they’re small)!” I can recall my father urging the others as they lifted the stacks of hay onto the wagon with their pitchforks.  I never did enjoy such farm work, but the evenings spent around the kitchen table playing Hasenpfeffer, a form of Euchre, with the adult men were a blast.  Never before or since have I seen grown men banging playing cards onto the table so forcefully or whooping and hollering with such pleasure when one’s partner made a good play.  It seemed like the perfect way to end a hard day of work.

By:   Harry Hoppes - September 2002