Will Mayfield College

Mary Louisa Hopkins was born in Zalma, Missouri, in 1911 to Charles F. and Della Rowland Hopkins.  In 1925 she began her freshman year of high school at Will

Mayfield College in Marble Hill.  She completed a bachelor’s degree in elementary education at the University of Missouri at Columbia.  While attending Will Mayfield College, she became acquainted with Lawrence Hahn who was a junior in the high school department in 1925.

Lawrence Lee Hahn, “Doc” to most everyone who knew him, was born in 1906 in Marble Hill to Lee Otis and Mattie Lawrence Hahn.  Mattie died shortly after Doc’s birth.  His father married Nellie Bedwell when Doc was three.

Doc taught just two years in the Marble Hill elementary school, but maintained friendships with many of his students for the rest of his life.  in 1935, the year they were married,  Doc began working for the Banner Press newspaper and remained a full-time employee until 1968.  Mary taught school for about 20 years and then worked as a bank cashier another 20 years before retiring.

A program on Bollinger County history prepared by Mary for the  local chapter of the International Sorority of Women Educators was so well received that a series of newspaper articles  followed and culminated in the publication of Bits of History in 1972.  In the chapter dedicated to Will Mayfield College she called it  “a blessing of the past.”

Doc at left with Webster and Zahn Wells and Coach Reeves in front of Will Mayfield College gymnasium.

The U.S. Bicentennial Celebration in 1976 presented another opportunity to document local history.  The Bicentennial Commission appointed Cletis Ellinghouse, former editor of the Banner Press, to direct publication of a commemorative history of Bollinger County.  Ellinghouse convinced Mary to act as editor and Blanche Reilly  as associate editor of the project.  They wrote, researched and coordinated photographs and manuscripts submitted by 70 volunteers and produced Bollinger County: 1851-1976, a thousand-page, indexed volume.

The collaboration sparked by the Bicentennial project lead to the formation of  the Bollinger County Historical Society in 1977.  Between 1979 and 1981 the Society published  4 volumes of  The Echo; a fifth was published in 2001.   Doc provided information, photos and exceptional proof-reading skills.  In 1984, sales of publications provided sufficient funding for the Historical Society to obtain land close to the county courthouse and to erect a relocated log structure donated by Bill and Lena Mae Fulton.  The Massey House, originally built around 1851, is a two-story, 4-pen structure and a local landmark.

Mary served as President of the Historical Society for many years.   She was Corresponding Secretary and Chair of the Publications Committee at the time of her death in 1992.  Doc deeply missed his friend and traveling companion.   His memory and his love for Mary never dimmed.  Doc left this world April 5, 2000.

Mary and Doc never had children, but  they were like the story-telling elders to everyone who loved Bollinger County.  A portion of their estate was set aside for the purpose of establishing a museum in Bollinger County.  Their financial support made it possible to begin the renovation of the Art and Science Building on the former Will Mayfield Campus to become the home of the Bollinger County Museum of Natural History.

The biggest portion of their estate is not measured in real estate or bank accounts or artifacts but in their abiding ability to connect us to people and places that are gone or radically changed and perhaps, to give us a better picture of who we are.   The more you share history, the more you have.