By June Mathews
Several members of the extended Roper family of Trussville recently attended a dedication ceremony honoring one of their own for his service to his country. Held at the Oak Level United Methodist Church Cemetery in the tiny East Alabama town of Fruithurst in mid-May, the ceremony was a grave marking for Revolutionary War Patriot John Roper.
Attendees included five of John Roper’s third great-grandchilden: John R. Hollingsworth, Rowena Hollingsworth Pugh, Elizabeth Tucker Newman, Robert J. Roper and Gary Michael Roper.
“Members of three generations of these families were present, all of whom live in Trussville and the surrounding area,” said Lynne Williams, a fourth great-granddaughter. “Other family members and friends, special guests from the community and members of numerous patriotic organizations were also present for the ceremony.”
According to a biographical account provided by Williams, John Roper was born February 24, 1763 in Brunswick County, Va. In 1780, at age 17, he volunteered to fight for the independence of his country. His brief but storied military career, which included notable engagements (Battle of Camden, Battle of Guilford Courthouse and others), multiple tours of duty and at least one head wound, ended with the war a little over two years later, and Roper returned home to Virginia.
“By the time the Revolutionary War ended, though not quite 21 years old, Private John Roper was quite the seasoned veteran,” Williams said. “He had served with the military of his beloved country for 26 months over the terrain of at least three states.”
In 1797, Roper married Sarah Fincher, and over the next 16 years, they had 10 children. Some of those children eventually migrated to Alabama, and in their later years, the Ropers moved south to be near them. When some of their grandchildren moved into northeast Jefferson County, the Roper family’s Trussville connection was established.
John Roper died in Oak Level on July 25, 1852, but his legacy lives on in the names of Trussville roads and landmarks like Roper Hill, Roper Road, Old Roper Road, Roper Tunnel Road and Roper Station. His descendants also owned and operated several early area businesses, including two sawmills, Roper Dairy (now the site of Trussville Country Club), a service station, a garage and two general merchandise stores, one of which continues to operate as Rogers in Clay.
The recent grave marking ceremony honoring Roper was led by Mary Lewey, Regent of the Josiah Brunson Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Bill Clement, Past President of the Birmingham Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution. In addition to Williams another fourth great-grandchild, Mike Roper, participated in the ceremony, as did fifth great-grandchildren Carley Newman, Eli Hollingsworth and Kathryn Petty.
Oak Level pastor Henry Donald Payne, and chaplain of the Josiah Brunson Chapter, Betty Payne, also participated in the ceremony. A reception hosted by Oak Level members Ruth Boswell Piper and Kay Howell Melton took place afterward.