Monday, December 28, 2009

Emma Ewers Taylor Hopkins

I called her Mamaw and if not for her writings, I might never have developed an interest in genealogy. That earns her the spot as the subject of my first real blog post.

Emma Ewers Taylor was born on 24 Oct 1900 at her parents' home on West Main Street in Mt. Vernon, Rockcastle County, Kentucky. William McKinley was in his first term as President of the United States and the Spanish-American War had ended less than two years earlier. She was the first child born to John Cook Taylor and his third wife, Emma Jane Owens, although John had two daughters and a son (Gracie, Susie and Bill) from previous marriages. After the birth of her younger brother and sister (Hartford and Anna Rose), the family was complete.

Emma started school at the age of seven, attending Mt. Vernon Graded and High School and finished the 3rd grade that first year. She was a good student; always made A's and was the youngest person in her class when she graduated from high school at the age of 16. She wanted to be a teacher but wasn't old enough to take the teachers exam. College wasn't a requirement for teachers at that time but some people went to Normal School after high school to prepare for the exam. Emma was sure she could pass it as soon as she was old enough so, in the meantime, she went to work at the Post Office in Mt. Vernon.

The US entered World War I in April, 1917; a few months later, Emma took and passed the teacher's exam. She started teaching school in July, 1918, at Maywood in neighboring Lincoln County. She stayed with a local family and paid them $12 a month for room and board. The school was one room with two outside toilets. In addition to her teaching duties, Emma was responsible for cleaning and building a fire and she earned $48 a month.

As the World War fighting ended in the fall of 1918, the influenza pandemic was just getting started and would last through the next spring. In February, 1919, the schools closed because of the flu. Emma returned home to Rockcastle County and went back to work at the Post Office. Many people were suffering from the flu including the Post Master. The Assistant Post Master left for the Navy during this time so Emma ended up running the Post Office alone at 18 years old. People would come in to get their mail and die within a day or two but somehow, she managed to avoid taking the flu that killed more than the 16 million people who died as a result of the war.

When Emma was eleven year old, her older sister, Susie, married August Krueger and everyone cried causing her to decide she would elope when she got married. Nine years later, she did just that. On 11 Oct 1920, Emma and Elmer Dennis Hopkins left Mt. Vernon on the train heading to Jellico, Tennessee where they were married by a Justice of the Peace in a furniture store.

Emma and Elmer had four daughters and had been married for 57 years when she died on 19 Jan 1978 in Harlan, Kentucky during one of the worst snow storms on record. She was buried back in her native Rockcastle County in Elmwood Cemetery in Mt. Vernon.

In the 1970's, Mamaw received a fill-in-the-blanks family history book as a gift from my youngest sister. She not only filled in those pages with information about her family and my grandfather's, she also started writing about her life in a spiral notebook around the same time. I read that notebook and looked through the family history book right after she died then never really thought about them again for many years. In the summer of 2001, something prompted me to take a second look at those books and that's when I decided I wanted to know more. I bought a family tree software program to organize her information and before I knew it, Genealogy became a hobby that some might say has turned into an obsession.


  1. Those written memories are precious treasures!

  2. Wow, Linda! That is awesome that you have her writings. My grandmother had the same birthday as your grandmother, except mine was born in 1930.