Hopfer Merchant in Sylvan Grove

Stories have appeared fairly regularly on this blog that mention Perry County natives who ended up living in Sylvan Grove, Kansas. And a few of them have even made note of a Hopfer living in that little Kansas town. You will read another such story today.

Benjamin Gottfried Hopfer was born on April 2, 1873, the son of Gottfried and Katherine (Schaefer) Hopfer. There is some question about his birthday. Our German Family Tree gives an April 1st date of birth, but I think that is a mistake. This boy would go by the name of Gottfried or Godfrey during his life. I have this photo of his father that I can display.

Gottfried Hopfer

The baby that carried his father’s name was baptized at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. We can view an image of his baptism record from that church’s books. I think you’ll agree that this document says Gottfried was born on April 2nd.

Gottfried B. Hopfer baptism record – Grace, Uniontown, MO

The only census entry in which we find Gottfried living in Missouri is the one taken in 1880. He was 7 years old, and his family was living in the Apple Creek Township, where his father was a farmer.

1880 census – Apple Creek Township, MO

The obituary for his father shown below says that this Hopfer family moved to Linn, Kansas in 1889. Gottfried would have been about 16 years old at that time.

Gottfried Hopfer obituary

Before the younger Gottfried is shown in another census entry, he got married, so I will take some time to look at the early life of the woman who would become his bride. This takes us to another different setting. Her name was Anna Louise Kurtz, who was born on March 6, 1873. She was the daughter of Julius and Marie (Liesman) Kurtz. Her parents had spent the early years of their marriage in St. Louis, Missouri, and that was where Anna was born. The Kurtz family probably moved from St. Louis in 1880, and I was unable to find them in that year’s census. A later obituary says the Kurtz family moved to Meinert, Missouri in 1882, where the Kurtz’s helped establish Zion Lutheran Church. Here are photos of Anna’s parents.

I have no idea how Anna Kurtz, living in Missouri, managed to meet up with Gottfried Hopfer, living in Kansas, but on August 23, 1896, these two were married in Meinert. That means today would be the 126th anniversary for these two. We can look at a Missouri marriage license for this couple. They were married at Zion Lutheran Church in Meinert.

Hopfer/Kurtz marriage license

It doesn’t look like a wedding photo, but we have this photo of Gottfried and Anna Hopfer when they were fairly young.

Gottfried and Anna Hopfer

Gottfried took his new bride back to Linn, Kansas. That is where we find them in the 1900 census. They had their first child, a boy named Otto, in 1899, not long before this census was taken. Gottfried was called a general merchant.

1900 census – Linn, KS

I think it is possible that Gottfried was working in the Carl Stueve store that was located in Linn, Kansas in 1900. A photo of that store is shown here. Carl Stueve had changed the spelling of his name to Stuive, as you can see in this photo. Perhaps Gottfried is stand on the porch.

Stuive Store – Linn, KS

Carl Stuive moved to Sylvan, Kansas in 1903, and I think Gottfried moved his family to that location at about the same time. We find the Hopfer’s living in Sylvan Grove when the 1910 census was taken. Gottfried was called a retail merchant in this entry. By this time, Gottfried and Anna had their last child, a girl named Gladys.

1910 census – Sylvan Grove, KS

I’m going to backtrack a little to return to the story of Anna’s parents. The photo below is said to be the Kurtz homestead in Sylvan Grove, Kansas, but I think it was their home in Meinert. Anna is supposed to be the girl standing on the left.

Julius Kurtz home

In 1909, Anna’s mother died in Meinert. A rather detailed obituary for her is found on Ancestry.com. This obituary provides some valuable facts about the life of the Kurtz family. It wasn’t until after I read this obituary that I discovered that she was born on today’s date, August 23rd, in 1844. That means her daughter, Anna, was married on her birthday.

Marie Kurtz obituary

I think it was the death of his wife that precipitated Julius Kurtz’s move to Sylvan Grove, Kansas. We find him living there when the 1910 census was taken. His daughter, Mary, and an adopted girl named Stella Ragner, were living with him.

1910 census – Sylvan Grove, KS

Julius Kurtz died not long after this census in 1912. We can also read his obituary, although it is a little difficult.

Julius Kurtz obituary

Julius’s body was taken back to Mienert where he and his wife, Marie, are buried together in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery.

Julius and Mary Kurtz gravestone – Zion, Meinert, MO

In 1918, Gottfried had a World War I draft registration completed. He gives his first name as Godfrey on this form. It also gives an April 2nd birthday.

Gottfried Hopfer – WWI draft registration

The Hopfer’s are found in the 1920 census in which Gottfried is called a manager of a mercantile store.

1920 census – Sylvan Grove, KS

Next, the Hopfer’s are found in the 1930 census. Only their daughter, Gladys, remained in their household. Gottfried was a merchant and Glady was listed as a manager of produce, probably in her father’s store.

1930 census – Sylvan Grove, KS

The last census in which we find the Hopfer’s was the one taken in 1940. These two had an empty nest. This time Gottfried was called a jeweler and his industry is called novelties.

1940 census – Sylvan Grove, KS

Gottfried Hopfer died in 1945 at the age of 71; Anna Hopfer died in 1967 at the age of 94. These two are buried together in the Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery in Sylvan Grove, which is a cemetery containing grave sites with many “Perry County Names”.

Gottfried and Anna Hopfer gravestone – Bethlehem, Sylvan Grove, KS

Gottfried and Anna’s story is yet another one that contains a mystery that I have found in other stories told on this blog. Just how couples like this got to know one another is a complete mystery to me. Maybe someone familiar with the Hopfer or Kurtz family histories could solve this mystery for us.


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