The history of Hopewell Church begins nearly two centuries ago when widower John Foster married widow Elizabeth Porter Leslie in Hopewell, South Carolina. The couple took his children, her children and their children to Preble County, Ohio, a part of the Northwest Territory.
Convinced that slavery was wrong, the Fosters left South Carolina for Ohio, where slavery was forbidden. There the family helped organize an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (later the Hopewell United Presbyterian Church.) By 1830, this congregation had 400 members.
The names "Leslie" and "Hopewell" are the thread that holds the story together as the scene shifts to Illinois. Samuel and Harriet Leslie left the Hopewell church in Ohio to make their home in Henderson County, Illinois. Again the scene was changed, this time to Mitchell County, Kansas; time early 1870's. The John Henderson Leslie and the Alexander Oliver Leslie families left to join United Presbyterian families located on both sides of the Solomon River. Permission for a merger between the "Hopewellites" of Ohio and Solomon Rapids U.P.'s was given at a meeting of the Presbytery of Kansas at Winchester on April 9, 1873. Thus the new United Presbyterian church home was established on the north side of the Solomon River on May 17,1873, with thirteen members.
The Solomon River provided a natural boundary for worshippers traveling laboriously to church in wagons. Therefore, a called meeting of Presbytery was held in February 1876 to consider a petition asking permission to divide and establish a second church south of the river. Logic was seen in the matter and on March 13, 1876, the congregation was officially organized; this was the actual birth date. Chosen to lead the new church were: Thomas Humphreys, chairman; M.S. Mitchell, secretary; J.L. Buchanan, treasurer; G.W. Rankin, J.H. Leslie, J.C. Stewart, A.O.Leslie and T.R. Buchanan trustees. Rev. McKelvy was asked to return as stated supply in connection with the Solomon Rapids church.
Growth was immediate. Most Sundays the session admitted members, which made meeting in small homes even more difficult. The time had come to consider building and on July 22, 1876, a special meeting was held. The next month, a decision was made to erect a 24' by 40' frame building with a six-foot vestibule taken out of one end.
Constructing the small frame church was most difficult. With the nearest railroad terminal at Greenleaf, at least 80 miles northeast, it took as much as two weeks to get a load of lumber.
At last on February 4,1878,the building was completed--cost was $1,200. February 22 was a thrilling day as session met for the first time in the new sanctuary.
33 years went by since the church had first been used. Now, with membership having steadily increased, the 24 X 40 building seemed crowded. On February 10, 1911, a committee was appointed to make plans for a new church building. Twelve days later, two plans were submitted--one for erecting a new building and one for remodeling the old. It was decided that a new building would be best and that the lumber in the current church used in the building of the new. Construction went quickly and sometime that same year the "new" Hopewell Church was completed--cost, $4,000.
64 years later, during the winter of 1975-1976, members, many of them descendents of the original members, of the church embarked on a face-lifting of the building. Transformations took place both inside and out. When finished everything gleamed--cost $12,512.
One year later (1976) the congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the church. Finally, in 1989, after 113 years of service, the church closed its doors to it congregation for the last time.