|City/Town: • Hopper|
|Location Class: • School|
|Year Built: • 1902|
|Year Abandoned: • 1960|
|Status: • Abandoned • Endangered • Gutted|
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz • Eddy Sisson • Jared Holt|
Entire communities come and go and, like the people that we simply meet passing us on the street, they frequently leave very little to mark their passing. While some communities last for a mere span of decades, others might last for well over a hundred years, and yet in their passing they all generally bear one thing in common: They just don’t leave very much by way of marking their passing. And this is probably nowhere more true than in the smaller rural communities far removed from the more populated centers of our land.
Once upon a time, deep in the heart of Arkansas, there was a place known as The Hopper Community. Located along Highway 240 just below the community of Caddo Gap, it sat on the southernmost edge of Montgomery County and rested just below Tweedle Mountain where The South Fork Creek ran from the foot of the mountain and emptied into the nearby Caddo River.
The community of Hopper was originally known as Parks because of Jack Parks, an early resident who gave land for a community building which was used for a school, a Masonic Lodge, and as a church meeting house for any group wishing to make such use of it. When William Jacking hopper came around 1868, however, the regular mail was left at Hopper’s store which sat about a mile north of the community where the Hopper Church of Christ sits. It was from this first mail drop that a post office was establish and that the name of “Hopper” was adopted.
Over the years and the decades that followed, the small rural community saw a gradual stream of Post Masters beginning with John C. Smith in 1888 and ending with Avedelle Whisenhunt who was serving when the Post Office was discontinued in 1968. A total of 12 different Post Masters served the small Post Office over the 80 years of its operation and service.
Like most small southern rural communities, the town of Hopper has several stores as most people couldn’t travel great distances for their daily and regular needs. The community was also home to a gristmill in which corn was ground into meal, a part of which was usually given to the mill owner to pay for the cost of the grinding. The Parks Branch Creek itself was dammed up to provide power for the running of a stave mill within the community, which was also the home to a saw mill. And the first electric lights within the community were at the home of Mr. Coffman, the owner and operator of the local grist mill.
Today, all that remains to mark the passage of all of the homes, stores, and businesses that the community of Hopper at one time boasted is the old solitary school house and church building…a single building still filled the distant echoes of purposes past and the quiet memories of day long gone. Throughout its operation, the school typically was the home of two teachers – one for the grade school and the other for the high school – both of which would meet simultaneously within the school house. A building filled with life, it was the site of box suppers, Christmas programs, and singing schools – one of the first of which was held in 1902 with teachers J.L. Ray, Silas Horn, and Olen Pate. People came along “The Big Road” to attend them, as Highway 240 was known of and referred to back then. The Church of Christ itself would meet within the building well up into the 1950’s, at which time the church was able to construct its own meeting house. And “The Big Road” itself was finally paved in the 1950’s as well.
A largely forgotten community cemetery is located a distance from the old school and church building where those who once ran the community and lived within it now quietly rest, silent witnesses of the world the community that at one time thrived all around them.
A cemetery, a paved road, and an aging building that at one time housed the very soul of the community itself…the town of Hopper’s existence and ultimate fate is not uncommon…and yet the fading glory of the Hopper School building is a serene reminder that every community must be considered as unique, it’s presence as a gift, and its passing with all of the reverence that it is most certainly due.
So whenever you come across an empty, decaying, and seemingly forgotten old build out in what seems like “the middle of nowhere”…understand that within its hallowed halls the entire spirit of a once lively and thriving community rest, quietly whispering “Remember me…”