Contributing Writer

HOPKINTON – The building where Woodmansee & Son is now located on Main Street in Hope Valley once housed the print shop of the towns’ newspaper ‘The Hope Valley Advertiser’.

Run by Edgar Spencer, a small staff rounded up the local news and gossip, printed it out and delivered it for all to read. 

In 1899, the staff at the Advertiser included 18-year-old Lucy James, who was employed as a compositor, setting the type for the printer.

 The only child of Benjamin James and Ruth (Sherman), her paycheck was her family’s only financial means of support as her father had been suffering for several months from the effects of a gunshot wound. 

Lucy hadn’t been feeling well but the matter wasn’t taken seriously. She carried her responsibilities and set out for work on Jan. 28. 

Just as she exited her house, she was suddenly overcome with horrific pain in her head and neck. She quickly turned and ran back into the house screaming. Falling onto her bed, she writhed in agony for a few minutes before falling unconscious.

The doctor was sent for and diagnosed the young girl with cerebrospinal meningitis, an infectious disease which causes painful swelling of the brain and spinal cord.

Silent and unmoving, but still breathing, she lay in bed for the next eighteen days. Fleeting hopes for recovery came to life on a couple of occasions in which she stirred, but everyone knew there was little chance she would survive.

The Hope Valley Baptist Church came to the physical and financial rescue of the family through their Finding and Doing Society. However, thirteen days before her 19th birthday, on Feb. 15, she passed away. 

Those mourning Lucy’s death pondered sadly how things might have been different had her illness been addressed from the very beginning. Many also commented on how her stress and worry over her parents’ poor financial situation probably hadn’t helped matters. 

She was laid to rest in Hopkinton’s Town Farm Cemetery, where the poor were let to repose. Today, she and at least 63 other individuals, buried on the Town Farm cemetery between 1862 and 1927, are considered “lost”.

Those town residents whose families could not afford burial expenses, or who left no family behind to cover final costs, were laid to rest in simple pauper graves in an area which, today, has yet to be located with any degree of accuracy.    

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