MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Marion, his 'first love,' turns from dream to nightmare
Marion Historical Museum photo
Evan Hoops in an undated photo
Like many Marion County pioneers, stone mason and farmer Evan “Snipper” Hoops (1831-1912) endured many hardships and tragedies during his life here.
Again, like many, when the frontier became a bit too tamed, he moved — not once but twice — to more untamed areas. The second of those moves may have been precipitated by some of the most serious tragedies he endured.
In Indiana in 1860, Hoops had married into the Griffith family, one of three clans that originally settled Marion. He joined his in-laws here in 1864, arriving with his wife, Mary Ann, and the first two of their six children.
One of his first experiences here was to help lead a search party for 18-year-old Edgar Miller, who had gone missing while trying to fetch a physician from Galva to care for the wife of fellow pioneer “Lank” Moore.
Kaw or Kansa Indians were frequent and peaceful visitors at the time, but Kiowa, Comanche, Arapahoe, and Cheyenne Indians were on the warpath.
Miller, known to be a daring young man, had volunteered to make the treacherous journey despite not knowing the precise location of warring Indian banks.
On the Santa Fe Trail around Turkey Creek, he ran across a band of 20 Cheyenne who had killed a settler’s cow. A band of Kiowa also were nearby. They had set fire to a ranch and made off with eight of the rancher’s mules and two of his horses.
When Miller never reached Galva and never returned to Marion, a search party made up of Hoops and four others set out to find him. Hoops eventually located Miller’s body, pierced by a spear and covered over with ripped up weeds, 50 feet off the trail near Canton.
While burying the body in what eventually became Fairview Cemetery, Hoops and the others encountered a wagon master who rode by, seeking help from the cavalry in Council Grove after his train of 100 wagons had been surrounded by yet more warring Indians.
Participating in such daring events as discovering the body of the first settler killed by Indians in Marion County help propel Hoops to a political career.
The next year he was elected register of deeds, and two years later, in 1867, he was elected sheriff. By 1880, he had become a city councilman, serving as Marion street commissioner and worrying, among other things, about decay of the hillside and eastern bank of Luta Creek downtown.
Hoops didn’t stay long in Marion, however. Shortly after completing his term he left what was growing into something more than a town on the edge of the frontier and moved to California. In 1883, however, he returned to what the Marion Record of that time referred to as “his first love,” Marion.
Here he remained until three years later when tragedy struck even closer to home.
Around 6 p.m. one hot Sunday in July, a stranger came to the front door of Hoops’s house, a mile south of Marion, and asked Hoops’s 18-year-old daughter, Matie, for a drink.
When she arose to accommodate him, he grabbed her, thrust a gun to her chest, and threatened, according to the Record, “If you say a word, I will blow your heart out.”
Hoops, sitting on a back porch awaiting return of the rest of his family, who had been visiting in Marion, heard nothing as the intruder bound and gagged his daughter, ransacked the house, and raped and seriously injured her before escaping.
The newspaper reported the attack in dramatic form:
“The inhuman wretch lowered a window that was raised and then came back and proceeded at his hellish purpose,” editor E.W. Hoch wrote. “A reward of $100 (equivalent to $2,750 today) is offered for his arrest, but if he is caught we think a rope and a tree will be the closing scene.”
Weeks later, another of his daughters, 10-year-old Jennie, fell from a pair of stilts and painfully impaled her arm on the sharp point of one of them.
Soon after that, Hoops again left Marion for California — this time for good.
Unconfirmed reports in 1901 indicated he had struck gold on his farm. He moved to the posh Pasadena area, where he remained until his death 11 years later at age 81.
Last modified March 26, 2020