The Story of Judge Hopson, Godfather of Hop Alley …
"Let us now praise famous men" and with this well-known phrase, the author of
Ecclesiastes launches out in Chapter LX into a series of biographies of the heroes of Israel. Corning pioneers had their fame recorded in Goodspeed's Biographical and Historical Memoirs of N. E. Arkansas, compiled in 1888, but Douglas Hopson, Esq., arrived in town in 1889, just missing that boat. His contribution to the community entitles him to this private yacht into history.
Douglas Hopson was born in Carmi, Ill., in 1860 and was a very eligible young bachelor and practicing law when he arrived here, aged 29. His popularity was immediate. In 1891 he was elected City Attorney and served two terms as County Judge, 1892-1896. Teaching in the local school at the time was a young lady, Anna Carr, from Lawrenceville, Ill. and the two natives of Illinois discovered romance and marriage.
The wife of S. W. Alexander, a wealthy landowner, died in 1895 and the Alexander home on Second Street, built in 1886, was for sale. Rated as one of the prettiest homes in Corning, it was an ideal site for a newly wed couple. But they did not live happily ever after. Death dissolved the marriage after a very few years. Back in his home town of Carmi, the judge remembered a boyhood sweetheart, Minnie Jones, and in due time she was asked to take over the home. The Hopsons reared two children, Marie and William in the Hopson nest. The youngsters attended the Corning Schools and were popular members of the small fry and the Hopson surrey with the fringe on top, drawn by a spirited span of perfectly matched bays, added a note of elegance to Corning thoroughfares when the Hopson family went driving on Sunday afternoon.
There is scarcely an area of community life that did not enjoy the Hopson touch. D. Hopson, member of building committee, is engraved on the cornerstone of the M. E. Church South, built in 1906 at the northwest corner of Pine and Third. In 1904 he organized The Citizens Bank and served as President of the Board, continuing in that capacity when it became the First National Bank on First Street, The bank was moved to Second Street, on Hop Alley, in 1909 when the Hopson bricks were extended North to change the street from residential to business property.
The Hopson law office and abstract company was moved from the frame building on the Northwest corner of Second and Olive, to the location of Hop Alley. Miss Ethel Walk was joined by H. C. Hickman in 1913 and Squire W. G. Smith to look after the abstract and farm management side of the Hopson interests.
Judge Hopson was also a forerunner in the Good Roads Movement and the organization of Drainage Districts. Education was another facet of his total involvement. He served as school director of School District No. Eight, setup the Hopsonville school at Hopsonville, four miles West of Moark at the State Line so that tenants on his land could give their children an education. The Hopson gold medal to valedictorians was awarded in 1914 the first year C.H.S. graduated a four-year class.
Unfortunately, the Drainage Districts did not raise the demand and price for farm land as expected. Ditch taxes on unproductive land became burdensome, prices for farm, products went down and Judge Hopson had acquired vast holdings of unproductive acres in Hopson Valley. In 1918, the family moved to Little Rock where the judge entered realty and banking fields. In 1935 he returned to Corning to resume the practice of law. In 1938 he suffered a broken leg from falling on the ice and died in Little Rock from exposure and shock. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. C. M Reves at the First Methodist Church in Little Rock with burial in Rose Lawn Memorial Park. He was survived by his wife; Wm. D. Hopson, son; and Marie (Mrs. Lawrence Scott; and three grandchildren).
The diversity of Douglas Hopson's interests and his dedication to so many enterprises to benefit Corning and Clay county will renew his memory when we walk Hop Alley. For a gentleman of so many talents, the most fitting epitaph to inscribe under Judge Douglas Hopson, 1860-1938, would be this from the prologue of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" - "He was a very perfect gently knight."