Ole’ Ben Hopfer

Benjamin Hopfer and Emma Vogel were married on this date 114 years ago.  Although Emma lived to the ripe, old age of 92, her husband, Ole’ Ben Hopfer, oulived her, making it into three-digit territory.  We will take a look at this couple today.

Benjamin Hopfer was born on November 10, 1882, the son of Gotthold and Amalia (Kasten) Hopfer.  Ben was child #8 in a family of 10 children.  Benjamin was baptized and confirmed at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown, but I cannot show his baptism record today.  We cannot view the 1890 census, and Benjamin’s father died in 1893, so by the time of the first census in which we find him, his mother was a widow.  This is not an easy census entry to read.  It looks like the 1900 census for Salem Township.  Benjamin was 17 years old.  The head of the household was his older brother, Paul Hopfer.

Benjamin Hopfer 1900 census Union Township MO
1900 census – Union Township, MO

Benjamin’s future bride was Emma Vogel, who was born on July 25, 1884, the daughter of Salomo and Helene (Schmidt) Vogel.  She  was baptized and confirmed at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna.  Emma was 15 years old when the 1900 census was taken, and we can find her in one of Theodore Goehring’s records which are so much easier to read.  Her father was a cooper.

Emma Vogel 1900 census Brazeau Township MO
1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Benjamin Hopfer and Emma Vogel were married at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown on May 20, 1906.  Below is their marriage license.

Hopfer Vogel marriage license
Hopfer/Vogel marriage license

The German Family Tree shows 5 children born to this couple.  The first 4 were born between 1907 and 1915.  They may have thought they were through having children when a 5th child was born in 1926.  When we see the first census after their marriage, we find their first two children had been born, but we also see 11 year-old Roy Layton in their household shown as an adoptive son.

Benjamin Hopfer 1910 census Union Township MO
1910 census – Union Township, MO

This is the only census in which we find Roy Layton.  He would later be found living most of his life on a farm not far from Eugene, Oregon.  He was also born in Jacob, Illinois.

Benjamin had his World War I draft registration completed in 1918.  It does not appear that he served in the military.

Benjamin Hopfer – WWI draft registration

The 1920 census shows this family still living in Perry County with their first 4 children.

Benjamin Hopfer 1920 census Union Township MO
1920 census – Union Township, MO

Benjamin’s obituary states that he moved his family to Illinois in 1920, the same year as the above census.  That move may have been influenced by Emma having some Vogel’s living where they moved.  Benjamin is said to have lived near Gorham, Illinois, and his family attended Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob.  Their last child, another girl, was born in 1926, so we find this household in the 1930 census.

Benjamin Hopfer 1930 census Fountain Bluff Township IL
1930 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

The last census in which we find the Hopfer family was the one taken in 1940.

Benjamin Hopfer 1940 census Fountain Bluff Township IL
1940 census – Fountain Bluff Township, MO

Benjamin was required to fill out a World War II draft card in 1942 despite being almost 60 years old.

Benjamin Hopfer – WWII draft card

Benjamin’s obituary also states that he was a farmer for at least 74 years.  He and his wife, Emma, lived quite a few years after that 1940 census.

Emma Hopfer died in 1976 at the age of 92.  Her death record in the Christ Lutheran Church books state she died of old age and hardening of the arteries.  We can view her obituary which demonstrates her activity at her church.  Their daughter, Laura, was married to a Lutheran pastor, Rev. Edwin Riske, who spent much of his career in Colorado.

Emma Hopfer obituary
Emma Hopfer obituary

After a fall in 1981, Benjamin was confined to a wheelchair.  He was living with his youngest daughter, Doris, in the St. Louis area when he died in 1984 at the age of 101.  We can also read his obituary.

Benjamin Hopfer obituary
Benjamin Hopfer obituary

When it says he survived a near-miss tornado, that was undoubtedly the Tri-State Tornado, the deadliest tornado in American history, which decimated the town of Gorham in 1925.

Gorham, Illinois tornado damage – 1925

After his death in 1984, Benjamin’s body was brought back to Jacob, Illinois, where he and Emma are buried together in the Christ Lutheran Cemetery.

Benjamin and Emma Hopfer gravestone Christ Jacob IL
Benjamin and Emma Hopfer gravestone – Christ, Jacob, IL

I especially like it when I see evidence of old German Lutherans enjoying life.  I love the phrase we see in Ole’ Ben’s obituary.  He “remained active and cheerful, reading extensively and joking with his family”.  I hope someone can honestly write that about me someday.



2 thoughts on “Ole’ Ben Hopfer

  1. We had the honor of attending his 100th birthday. At the time he was living with his daughter Paula. My husband was serving as Pastor of Christ Lutheran Jacob at that time. My husband, our 5 year old son, and I enjoyed a simple celebration of a great man who reached a great milestone. He was truly a delight and shared his many years of wisdom with us as our son sat on his knee. We were very blessed by this gem.


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