HISTORY GEOGRAPHY AND NOTABLE CITIZENS

Hoopeston History and Geography

Hoopeston is located at the intersection of Illinois Route 1 and Illinois Route 9 about a mile from the north edge of Vermilion County.

Hoopeston’s coordinates are 40°28?1?N 87°40?16?W? / ?40.46694°N 87.67111°W? / 40.46694; -87.67111 (40.467012, -87.670988)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.1 square miles (8.1 km²), all of it land.

History

Hoopeston was laid out in 1871 and was originally referred to as the Village of Leeds. It was later renamed for Thomas Hoopes, one of the men who offered land for the crossing of two railroads: the Lafayette, Bloomington and Western Railroad and the Chicago, Danville and Vincennes Railroad. The two railroads separated the town into four sections that remained clear social boundaries for many decades.. The latter railroad still exists and is now operated jointly by CSX Transportation and Union Pacific Railroad.

Business and manufacturing in Hoopeston have historically been related to agriculture, most notably the production and canning of Sweetcorn, or Sugar Corn as it was known in the early days. In 1875, S. S. McCall established the Illinois Canning Company to can locally-grown vegetables; and this was so successful that in 1878 the Hoopeston Canning Company was established, which later became part of Stokely-Van Camp Inc. , and finally Okonomowok, who closed the facility in the early 1990s. In addition, Silgan Can (formerly American Can) has a factory in Hoopeston which manufactured the tin cans themselves. An FMC plant manufactured agricultural machinery for the local farming and canning concerns.

In honor of its agricultural roots, Hoopeston holds a Sweet Corn Festival each September, starting the Thursday before Labor Day and ending on Labor Day.

In association with the Sweet Corn Festival, the Miss America Sweetheart Pageant is also held during the week as well. All 52 first runners-up from the Miss America state pageants compete for the title of Miss America Sweetheart.


Many stately Victorian Mansions dotted the landscape of Hoopeston during its early years, and a few magnificent examples remain today. The brisk agricultural economy was bolstered by the proximity of the two railroads and later by the two main highways that provided ease of transportation of the local products. The opportunities attracted many wealthy businessmen who built a fabulous small city filled with cultural amenities known to very few small towns.

Local banker, Jacob S. McFerren and his sons William and Donald built and financed one of the grandest commercial downtown districts in the midwest.

Using a donation of $12,500 from Andrew Carnegie, a new library building was built in 1904 on land donated by Alba Honeywell. The library was expanded to add a reading room, meeting room, and archives in 1975. In 2002, the library was completely renovated and modernized, its size nearly doubled. It now serves as one of the finest district libraries in Illinois.

In 1890, Greer College was established in Hoopeston, funded by a gift of $40,000 and 500 acres (2.0 km2) of land from philanthropist, John Greer. Mr. Greer died in 1891, 18 months before his college would open. The college merged Hoopeston High School into its facility in 1914. The college closed in 1926 and John Greer High School flourished there until 1956. A large gymnasium and performing arts auditorium with addtional classroom space was added in 1927. A new high school was built and opened as Hoopeston High School in 1957. The stately college then became John Greer Jr High School until it was torn down in late 1969. A new Junior High School, now known as Hoopeston Area Middle School was erected adjacent to Hoopeston High school. The site of the former college is now home to John Greer Elementary School in a modern facility that replaced the now defunct Lincoln School.

Hoopeston has long been known as a center for cultural activity in the area, and as a bustling center of commerce.

Once described as “Sin City”, Hoopeston at one time had 32 Saloons and only 6 Churches. That mentality changed greatly as the population grew and settled. Here are a few examples of some Early Churches.

Founders saw a need for outdoor recreation areas and were avid builders of magnificent parks.

A look at Early Hoopeston from above.

Hoopeston was also the location of one of several prisoner of war camps housing German soldiers during World War II .

Schools

  • Hoopeston Area High School
  • Hoopeston Area Middle School
  • John Greer Grade School (originally known as John Greer College) serves 5th and 6th grade students.
  • Honeywell School serves 3rd and 4th grade students.
  • Maple Grade School serves kindergarten through 2nd grade students.

The school district has faced increasingly declining enrollment over the past 10 years. The district has also struggled financially in recent years. The school teams are named the “Cornjerkers”, a term describing farm workers who picked corn prior to the use of mechanized corn picker implements.

Hoopeston Area High School is the alma mater of, current Ohio State University men’s varsity head basketball coach, Thad Matta.

Demographics

At the 2000 census, there were 5,965 people, 2,297 households, and 1,499 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,913.8 per square mile (738.2/km²). There were 2,520 housing units at an average density of 808.5/sq mi (311.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.79% White, 0.82% African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.13% Asian, 5.60% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 8.38% of the population.

There were 2,297 households of which 30.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.5% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.7% were non-families. 31.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.04.

Age distribution was 24.8% under the age of 18, 8.3% from 18 to 24, 24.1% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 20.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.6 males.

The median household income was $31,947, and the median family income $39,368. Males had a median income of $31,656 versus $20,474 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,055. About 12.3% of families and 13.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.6% of those under age 18 and 11.7% of those age 65 or over.