This letter was written by Ephraim Stiles Hopping (1799-1853) — a High Shoals, Georgia, pioneer who co-founded the High Shoals Manufacturing Company along with Isaac Powell, Jacob Kluttz, and others. He was the son of Daniel Hopping (1769 – 1856) and Martha Stiles (1770 – 1825). Daniel lived in Morris County, New Jersey in a house located on Hanover Road in Hanover, New Jersey.
Ephraim Stiles Hopping graduated from Princeton University in 1824 and came south the following year to Georgia where took a position on the faculty of the University of Georgia in Athens. “He married Permelia Wray, the daughter of Judge Phillip Wray of Wrayswood Plantation. In 1827, Hopping purchased a cotton mill on the Oconee River known as the Scull Shoals Factory. In 1833, he began to purchase lands in Clarke, Walton, and Morgan Counties from both his earnings from the mill and from his wife’s inheritance. In 1836, he moved his family to the town of High Shoals, previously known as Big Shoals, and became postmaster there in 1839.
Hopping organized the High Shoals Manufacturing Company in 1846 with Powell, Kluttz, et al. Ephraim also built a large, handsome home for his family on the granite hill beside the Apalachee River on the opposite side from the mill but he did not live long to enjoy it; he fell victim to the typhoid epidemic of 1853 and died along with a daughter. He was buried in the upper part of his formal gardens in an unmarked grave. His wife, Permelia, would later auction off 17 acres of his property in Athens for the establishment of the Oconee Hill Cemetery. A section of Highway 186 which runs through High Shoals was named “Hopping Road” in his memory. [Sources: Gray-White, Kathryn “The Story of High Shoals” North Georgia Journal. Autumn 1995. Sommer, Margaret F. The History of Oconee County, Georgia, 1993.]
The newborn daughter, mentioned by Ephraim in this letter to his father, was Caroline Sophia Hopping, whom we learn was born 25 August 1844. She was the couple’s 6th child and would grow up to marry James Trice Patterson.
Ephraim refers to his brother “Sam” a couple of times; Samuel Miller Hopping (1796-1866) lived in Hanover, New Jersey, where he farmed and was active in the First Presbyterian Church. His first wife, Rachel Lyon Howell, gave him seven children before her death in 1840. He married his second wife, Maria S. Conner (1807-1895) in May 1844.
Ephraim also mentions his younger sisters, Martha Ann Hopping (1809-1894) and Ellen Caroline Hopping (1806-1882), who were both married and with families of their own by this time.
Addressed to Daniel Hopping, Esqr., Hanover Neck, Morris County, New Jersey
High Shoals [Georgia]
October 25th 1844
My venerated Father,
I will endeavor to put aside the care & trouble & turmoil & strife & vexation & vanity of this unsatisfied & unsatisfying spirit of this world & devote an hour to the sacred, but pleasing duty of inserting a short communication with my much loved parent. I had proceeded about this far [writing you a letter] on the 21st September last, when in comes a neighbor & insists upon my sawing up a log for him, the lumber of which he was compelled to have, & all the other mills for twenty miles round were unable to saw on account of the drought. Isham was then boss Miller, & I was in a measure compelled to enter again into that spirit of the world which I had but a few moments before endeavored to lay aside. I have resumed my pen again — not with the intention of writing a studied letter, but merely to throw off one of those familiar colloquial epistles that “don’t take long to write” as Martha Ann said. Not that I do not derive as much gratification in employing my time — even a long time — in composing a letter to you as in any other way, & more, but I fear interruption. And even now, old Uncle Johnny McMencey is seated by my side awaiting an opportunity to tell me the political news — a subject on which he easts, drinks, sleeps, talks & dreams. But I must let him sit & muse it out for tomorrow is mail day & I am anxious to fill a side & two about our family, domestic, & private individual matters.
In the first place, my wife gave to our love, care, affection & responsibilities another daughter, on the 25th of last August. She soon got about again & has since enjoyed excellent health. In fact, we have all been blessed with an unusual show of health — particularly when we take into the consideration the unusual amount of sickness & mortality that have prevailed in the whole surrounding county. During last winter & spring, the scarlet fever, accompanied with measles & whooping cough carried off great numbers all around us. During the summer & early fall, the common Billious Fever prevailed with uncommon fatality on the Rivers & Creeks south & west of us.
Perhaps you may recollect the McCluskey family (the old man used to haul wood from the new ground with his old white horse). They moved to the Scull Shoals to work in the factory there. The old Father & his sister & five grown children (all grown but one) have died this summer & fall with scarlet fever. I mention these facts that our exemption from disease, which appears lake (almost like) a special interposition of a special Providence, may stand out in bold relief against these manifestations of the Devine dissuasion. Oh, that I could cease to sin & manifest by my obedient & self denying life, a degree of gratitude corresponding to these distinguishing mercies.
You advised me in your last to procure a Miller & Overseer & throw on their shoulders some of the cares of my various operations. I did procure two Millers, but as I told you, & brother Sam, in a few lines I wrote him some months ago, they did not remain two months. I have now hired another for a year who will “set in” next week. I have also hired an Overseer who moved here yesterday. I anticipate considerable relief from these arrangements.
We are now in the very height of our cotton picking. I told you that in July my cotton crop promised a hundred bales — but expected the drought would reduce that number one third or one fourth. I think now we shall make eighty or the rise. We are getting about two bales per day at this time. The price of the article keeps at such a reduced price that it is scarce worth making; 4½ to 5 cents being the height of the market in Madison. But I have a great advantage on the Planter who has no other means of turning it into money but to sell the raw material. By turning it into yarns & cloth, I can make my cotton bring me from 15 to 20 cents per pound.
Mr. Mason is still with me, but if I could procure a more efficient hand, I should be very glad to do so. I wrote to Brother Sam some time since with a request to enquire out such a one, but have not heard from him on the subject. I expect he, like myself, is very busy at home & I will write to someone in Paterson to send me a man who understands the operation of all kinds of cotton machinery & is a pretty good machinist withal, capable of doing jobs of repairing. I have resolved over & over again to answer Martha Ann’s last letter, but it is now Saturday & within ¾ of an hour of closing the mail. I will, however, endeavor to answer hers next week. In the meantime, I hope her goodness will take the will for the deed.
Give my love to Grandma, Brother Sam, Sister Caroline & Martha Ann & all the children, grandchildren, & great-grandchildren, if so be. Tell some of them to come & spend the winter with us. It would delight me over much if Arch & Caroline would pay us a visit, or Samuel & his lady, or last but not less so, yourself & Uncle John.
Believe me yours very affectionately, — E. S. Hopping