German Immigrant Wife Heroine
From the Fairbury Tribune
To Pioneers of Jansen, Plymouth
Jan. 16, 1967
by Dick Mezzy
The Nebraska frontier didnít cease the day the state was admitted to the union. There was still a great lack of many essentials, including doctors.
In many cases a wife of an immigrant farmer used her "home remedies" for cures and a good deal of the time played the part of a midwife to women having children.
Such a woman was Sophie Meier Hoppe, well known to the settlers in Jefferson County from 1876 to 1910. During that 43-year span, Sophie delivered and cared for 253 infants born to the pioneer settlers around Jansen and Plymouth.
Sophie was born in Bantorf, Germany, in 1834. She married Frederick Hoppe and immigrated to the United States about 1869.
In the early spring of 1867 the Hoppes arrived in Nebraska City, purchased a team of oxen and a wagon and set out for Beatrice and the home of a friend in whose cabin they intended to stay until provision could be made to continue on to Jefferson County and a homestead on Cub Creek.
According to surviving relatives to Sophie Hoppe, an unseasonal snow storm arose during their stay in the cabin. Because the cabin had no roof, those sleeping within were covered with a blanket of snow. The situation was remedied, however, after a trip to a local sawmill.
September 4, 1869, Frederick and Sophie Hoppe arrived at their homestead "four miles north and 40 rods east" of Jansen.
For the next 10 years following their arrival, information as to their movements is vague. They built up the cabin (only half of one was standing when they arrived), their crops and cattle.
In October of 1875 Sophie performed her first act as a midwife. She helped deliver a baby boy to a family by the name of Kaufman, the first of 253.
Records that Sophie kept from that date until October 17, 1910, testify to the fact that in the 43-year period she delivered 127 girls and 124 boys to area families. (The figures total 251, but two of the names were not recorded in the book. Though Sophie had them, she forgot to add them to the list. They were numbers 236 and 237).
Sophie not only delivered babies, but on many occasions she would hitch her white horse, "Fanny," to an open buggy and make trips to others who were sick. Some trips were from 10 to 12 miles...a long trip in those days.
Some of the notes Sophie kept on pioneer life in Jefferson County are not clearly read. The notes were written in German and in place of ink, bluing was used, a substance much like the laundry additive used today, and it had a tendency to fade.
Of the total children delivered, one pair of twins was recorded, and only one death among the infants.
Two granddaughters of Sophie Hoppe now live in Fairbury. Mrs. Antoinette Hagar and Mrs. Emma Melcher, sisters, have collected some of the relics pertaining to Sophie and the original record of her "children" as they were called.
Mrs. Hagar recalled one day when Grandma Sophie took her along on one of her calls.
"It was the thrill of my life," Mrs. Hagar recalled. "We climbed in her wagon and away we went. It was about a 12-mile trip."
She did most of it for charity, Mrs. Hagar added. "That white horse and Grandma were widely known throughout the Jansen and Plymouth area. She always drove through the country herself."
Sophie died October 1, 1911, at the age of "77 years, 21 days," one year to the month she delivered her last child, a girl, to the Ezra Lote family.
Many of the descendants of the families Sophie Hoppe assisted still live in this same area as their forefathers; some have moved away, but many of the old timers in Jefferson County can recall Sophie and the buggy drawn by a white horse.
Sophie Hoppe's midwife record of births, 1876-1910
Published for the
Hoppe Family Association
April 26, 1998