Putnam County


In the death of Joel Willis Hopkins, Putnam county mourned the loss of one whom it had grown to esteem and honor by reason of his genuine personal worth. No history of Putnam county would be adequate that did not take into account his great influence in molding the character of its people, in shaping the policy of the county and in promoting public interests along the lines of progress, good order and moral and religious development. He was active in public affairs of the county, state and nation and at all times he stood for high ideals.

"His life was noble, and the elements So mixed in him that Nature might stand up And say to all the world: 'This was a man.' Mr. Hopkins became a resident of Putnam county in 1835, and therefore witnessed its growth and development for almost sixty-seven years, his death occurring on the 16th of February, 1902. He was born on the 29th of July, 1814, at Ripley, Brown county, Ohio, his parents being William and Jane (Willis) Hopkins, the former a native of Virginia and the latter of South Carolina. When young people, however, they removed to Ohio from their respective states and were there married. In 1835 they brought their family to Putnam county, Illinois, settling upon the farm which later became the home of their son Joel, the residence which now stands there occupying the site of the first log cabin of the family.

William Hopkins secured land of the government, to the cultivation and improvement of which he devoted his energies until his death in 1842. His wife survived him for about seven years. One son of the family, Archibald Wilson, had previously come to Putnam county, locating here in 1832, and while here participated in the Indian war. His death occurred in 1839. John Crawford is a resident of Marshall county, Iowa. Stephen D., who was an invalid, died at the age of forty-four years. George B., who lived near Granville, died May 30, 1904. Elizabeth, who was the wife of Willis Margrave, died May 24, 1892, at Hiawatha, Kansas. Martha married James B. McCord and died June 24, 1881. Margaret engaged in teaching for several years in Putnam and Grundy counties, Illinois, and died when past the age of thirty years. Melinda wedded Abbott Barker, of Grundy county, and died May 22, 1865. The parents were earnest Christian people, holding membership in the early years of their residence here with the Union Grove Presbyterian church, while in later life they assisted in the organization of the Congregational church at Granville.

Joel Willis Hopkins, the second son of his father's family, was a young man of twenty-one years at the time of the removal to Illinois, and he assisted in the arduous task of developing a new farm, sharing in the hardships and privations incident to settlement upon the frontier. His preparation for having a home of his own was completed in 1840 by his marriage to Miss Eleanor Jane Harrison, a sister of Stephen Harrison. She and her brother, Richard D. Harrison, died in the same week in 1849, and in 1862 Mr. Hopkins wedded the widow of the latter, Mrs. Sarah Harrison, a daughter of Alba Smith, who was one of the pioneer settlers of Bureau county, Illinois, taking up his abode near Princeton in 1835. Mrs. Hopkins is a native of New York and was eleven years of age when she accompanied her father to this state. By his first marriage Mr. Hopkins had five children, of whom two, Eveline and Jennie, died in childhood, while those living are Archibald Wilson, residing upon the home farm; Helen De Armand, the wife of Rev. Robert McCord, of Lake City, Iowa; and Mary Harrison, the wife of Judge W. Wright, of Toulon, Illinois. One daughter graced the second marriage, Martha Belle, who is the wife of Sidney Whitaker. By her first husband Mrs. Hopkins had one son, Richard D. Harrison, who is living in Bureau county, near Princeton.

Viewed from a business standpoint the life record of Mr. Hopkins was a distinguished one, for he so conducted his affairs and placed his investments that he became one of the extensive landowners of this section of Illinois. Upon the organization of the Peru National Bank Mr. Hopkins became its president and so continued until his death. The safe, conservative policy which he inaugurated made this one of the strong financial institutions of this part of Illinois, and in moneyed as well as agricultural circles he sustained an unassailable reputation. He was also president of the Putnam County Bank at Hennepin and of the Granville Bank. In all his business dealings he manifested a fidelity to a high standard of commercial ethics that won him the honor and admiration of all.

A leading and popular citizen, Mr. Hopkins was called upon to fill various important positions of honor and trust, serving as supervisor, while for ten years he was county judge. He resigned his place on the bench in order to become a member of the twenty-sixth general assembly, to which he was elected on the republican ticket. He was actively and helpfully interested in political questions, giving to the principles in which he believed a firm and stalwart support. He served as a delegate to the convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes for the presidency, and he was frequently a delegate to the state conventions of his party. During the dark days of the Civil war he assisted in raising money for substitutes and for the care of the soldiers' widows and orphans, and upheld to the fullest extent the administration and the Union cause. He served for many years as an officer in the Congregational church at Granville, in which he held membership. He died February 16, 1902, leaving a valuable estate to his family, chiefly represented in his landed interests. In his character there was an unusual combination of qualities. To the world, the church, his neighbors and his friends, he was a tower of strength; to his family all of that and a world of tenderness beside. He was at ease in the presence of the highest dignitaries of the nation, and was so simple and kindly that no one, however humble, felt abashed in his presence. At his death it could truly be said, "Know ye not that there is a prince and great man fallen this day in Israel ?"

Source: Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne in 1907, page 150.

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