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James Hope

and his many Interests in History,
Genealogy, Family, and Friends


Bill Treichler

from the May 1990 issue of the Crooked Lake Review

Six weeks of convalescence 25 or 30 years ago resulted in a new interest in local history and genealogy for Jim Hope. During the time that he was laid up, back in the early sixties, Jim occupied himself reading letters written by members of the Dunn family in Scotland to their relatives who had emigrated to America and settled on Italy Hill in Yates County, New York. A large wooden tea box filled with letters had passed down to Jim's wife, Marion McConnel Hope. These letters with all their family references started Jim into searching out Marion's antecedents and then his own. Jim says, now, "I have been able to go back farther in Marion's family than in my own where I have run into too many dead ends."

He does just remember his grandfather, Thomas Hope, who had come from Lincoln County, North Carolina. Grandfather Hope was a soldier in the Confederate Army and had been captured and later imprisoned at Elmira, New York. Some local people became concerned with the plight of the soldiers held at the Elmira camp and contributed blankets and other provisions to ease their condition. Among the prisoner's benefactors was Miss Frances Hamilton who lived and taught a Sunday School class in Caton. She took items to the camp and met Thomas Hope. A correspondence began between them and when the war was over and Thomas was free, he didn't go back to North Carolina but went immediately to Caton. Frances and Thomas were married.

Jim proudly refers to him as "my rebel grandfather" and has marked his grave with a confederate emblem in the same manner that he has placed union emblems on graves of many other Civil War veterans. Jim himself was a World War II navigator in the Air Transport Command and regularly rode in planes being flown to India, Africa and Europe.

Grandfather Thomas Hope never went back to North Carolina and until his descendants went in search of their southern relatives, the family remaining in North Carolina didn't know that Thomas had survived the war.

Jim in his researches has learned that Thomas's father Christian Hope was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in 1789 and the next year left that locality with his parents. Searches through records in Chester, York, Montgomery, Lancaster and other Pennsylvania counties haven't found much more information about the family except that Christian's father may have been named Henry Hope.

When Marion and Jim travel they often include genealogy searches on the way. His mother's parents were John Taylor and Henrietta Cady. Following the Cady family's movements led the Hopes back to Cherokee, Iowa, on one trip.

All the work of looking in old records and searching cemeteries for stones with names and dates has made Jim very familiar with many of the family histories in Bath and other Steuben County communities.

Jim was the person who got the tombstones reset in the old cemetery along West Steuben Street in Bath. At one time this earliest Bath graveyard was so covered with brush that the village considered it for a town and village office building site. Sarah Parker thought the burial ground should be preserved, and she wrote a series of articles about "the good folks who lie buried in the old Bath cemetery." Her stories awakened the village people to the early history of Bath, and the graveyard was saved.

However, by that time the tombstones had been piled in a corner of the plot. Jim Hope got them set up again. There is no way to know now their original locations, but they are again upright in the same cemetery where they had been first set. Not long ago a large tree blew down in the cemetery and miraculously didn't disturb one stone. A branch did break the support post for the bronze plate commemorating the burial there in 1793 of Christina Williamson, daughter of Charles Williamson. Jim fixed the marker back on its standard by himself.

At the County Farm north of Bath is a burial ground with 500 numbered graves. The book that identified each number with a name was lost, but Jim's careful checking through old records of the County Home connected names with the numbered markers. He worked on this project for a period of ten years. This is typical of the careful, patient work that Jim Hope has done so generously for many groups and individuals.

Jim says of the old cemetery at the County Home that it was easier to get around and see the stones when cows were kept at the County Farm and pastured in the graveyard. The cows really didn't disturb the stones much and they ate the grass close to the markers. But there are no cows kept at the farm anymore.

In Pulteney Jim helped another cemetery restoration project get carried through. He is a trustee of the Grove Cemetery in Bath that was the old Episcopal Cemetery on East Morris Street. He is always searching for lost graveyards, and is also a member of the Jo-Ho genealogy group that has done a lot of work "reading" old graveyards all around the area of Steuben, Schuyler and Chemung counties. Often these plots are very overgrown; finding the stones is sometimes a crawling-on-hands-and- knees adventure.

At one time James Hope was historian for Steuben County, for the Town of Bath, and for the Village of Bath, all at the same time! He presently is a member of the historical societies of Steuben and Schuyler counties and of local societies in Hammondsport, Hornby and Prattsburgh. Jim is on the board of the Elm Cottage Museum and the Bath Veterans Museum. He and Marion are at the historical booth at the Bath Fair every year. Jim is always ready to explain to booth visitors how to search for their family names in the computer printouts of the census records and the recorded deeds.

Jim helped Dick and Alice Sherer refurbish the Pioneer Museum and the Pioneer Log Cabin on the Bath Fairgrounds last year. He is a member of the Steuben County Agricultural Society, the sponsor of the 170-year-old Bath Fair.

Right along with his historical interests goes his liking for books. Jim Hope has been a trustee of the Davenport Memorial Library in Bath for 20 years. Presently he is in charge of a project to build a new entrance at the rear of the library that will be more convenient for library visitors using the parking area behind the building. This improved entrance will be in harmony with the style of the building and will use a fanlight window above the doorway just like the one above the front entrance.

Not surprisingly Jim Hope is a collector of historical memorabilia including an extensive postcard collection.

Marion and Jim were married Dec. 10, 1942, and have lived in Bath ever since. They have a daughter, Connie, who lives in Fairport, NY, with her husband, Bill Bly, and two little daughters. They also have a son, Joe, who lives with his wife, Melissa, in Springfield, Mass. Marion was born in Pulteney and lived there until her marriage. Jim was born in Connecticut and grew up in Addison, NY. His father, Joseph Hope, was born in Lindley and his mother, May Taylor Hope, was born in Corning.

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