March 27, 1845 - May 2, 1911
Hopewell was born March 27, 1845, in Monroe County, Indiana, the son
of Benjamin C. and Sarah Reeves Hopewell. In 1851, he moved with his
parents to Collin County, Texas, where his mother died in 1854, when
Melville was nine. In 1855,
the family returned to Indiana, Benjamin married Caroline Heaps on
August 2, and later that year the family moved to Kansas.
The following year, 1856, the family moved to Gentry County,
Missouri, where Benjamin engaged in farming and Melville attended the
district school during the winter.
In 1863, Melville enlisted in Co. G, 3d Missouri
Mounted Militia, organized under the leadership of the notorious Bill
Davidson, to suppress marauding bands of bushwhackers and robbers that
infested the state. He served with his regiment until the spring of
1864, when it was disbanded. Melville
Following this service, he made several trips as a roustabout on
the steamboat, "Denver," then plying between St. Joseph and
Omaha. Also in 1864, he hired out to a government freight transportation
company and became, in the parlance of the times, a "bull
whacker," driving six yoke of cattle, pulling six thousand pounds
of government stores in heavy wagons from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to
Fort Laramie, Wyoming, a distance of more than 1000 miles. This was
before the Union Pacific railroad was built, when the present states of
Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado were a vast prairie. He clearly
liked what he saw in Nebraska.
Returning from this trip in the fall of 1864, he entered Indiana Asbury
University for what was a five-year college career due to his additional
studies in law. During his
third year, he was one of the 12 men who founded the Psi Phi chapter
of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Throughout his life, “founding” was a
theme. Melville clearly was an organizer, as he later founded a
newspaper and a bank.
He graduated from Indiana Asbury in 1869 and was admitted to
practice law in Indiana. In the fall of 1870, he moved to Tekamah,
Nebraska, and began teaching school.
Tekamah was, and is, the Burt County seat.
Being situated on the Omaha & Northern Nebraska Railway, Tekamah had
fine commercial advantages, and it was the chief shipping point and
business center of the county. Elevators, warehouses and stock yards
facilitated extensive shipments of grain and stock. In the fall of 1872,
Melville, with W. B. White, established the “Weekly Burtonian”
In 1873, Melville founded the first Burt County
bank, called the “Exchange Bank.”
His younger brother, Henry, joined him at the bank in 1875, and
the bank went through a series of names--Hopewell, Latta & Co. and
Hopewell, Harrington & Co.—before Melville withdrew his interest
in September, 1892. The bank
then was incorporated and organized into a State Bank, known as the
"Burt County State Bank"
after founding the bank, Melville married Hattie E. Nelson, a native of
Tekamah, on October 2, 1874. He
was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1875 and from then to
1887 he gave his full attention to his law, real estate and banking
In 1887 he was appointed by Nebraska Governor Thayer as
district judge, a position to which he was repeatedly elected until 1896
when he retired from the bench and returned to his law practice, with
his son, W.M. Hopewell, and the management of his “large land
Melville returned to public life when he was elected Nebraska‘s
Lieutenant Governor, on the Republican ticket.
He was re-elected in 1909 and in 1911.
Melville died in office on May 2, 1911.