Submitted 2019 by Rebecca Burton
How My Family Became Seventh-day Adventists
My great-grandfather, John A. Hopkins and my great-grandmother, Alice Roberts, were married in 1875 in Illinois, then went to Potwin, Kansas, where John filed for a homestead about three miles south of his parents’ homestead. John’s father, Robert, was an active member of the Baptist church, and John had been raised as a Baptist. Alice’s parents, Charles and Catherine Roberts, had joined the Church of the Brethren when Alice was three years old. It was said that, “Charles had a deep bass voice singing in the church. Many came to church just to hear him sing. Even the saloons would empty out and the back pews of the church would fill up when he sang, without a piano or organ.”
Alice Hopkins’ Story
John and Alice attended the local Methodist church in Potwin because that was the only church in town. They had two children, Gertrude, my great aunt, born in 1879, and Johnny Jr., my grandpa, born in 1886. In 1896, Seventh-day Adventists held a camp meeting in Council Grove, Kansas, about an hour from where the Hopkins family lived. That year Alice and both children joined the Seventh-day Adventist church. They continued to attend camp meetings over the years and in 1903, an evangelist and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. Rufus W. Parmele, who were holding meetings in Newton, Kansas, stayed with my great-grandparents. (R. W. Parmele later became the third Louisiana Conference President from 1912-1916.) August 19-29, 1909, a camp meeting and General Conference session were again held at Council Grove, Kansas. Again, Mrs. Hopkins and Johnny attended the camp meeting, and this time, they were privileged to hear Ellen White speak. Johnny never forgot that special time in his life.
10 Sep 1903, The Walnut Valley Times, El Dorado, Kansas
Johnny Hopkins’ Story
In 1914, Johnny, married a young lady named Violet, who was also a Seventh-day Adventist. They had four children, then Violet died unexpectedly in 1923 of complications following appendicitis. A couple of years later, Johnny placed an ad in the Denver Post for a “housekeeper”. He got several responses, but chose Lois Edmonds. They were married a year later.
Lois Edmonds’ Story
Lois Edmonds, my grandma, had been born in 1906 in Coldwater, Kansas, but in 1916, her family moved to La Junta, Colorado. There, a Seventh-day Adventist neighbor influenced the family to attend church with her, and the Edmonds family soon became Seventh-day Adventists. Lois, at the age of 10, was sent to stay with an Adventist family in Rocky Ford where she could attend an Adventist school. About 1923, Lois went to work as a cook at the Boulder Sanitarium. It was there that she was working when she answered Johnny Hopkins’ ad for a housekeeper.
Johnny and Lois were married in 1926 and had three children, Betty, my mother, born in 1927, LaVerna, born in 1932, and Donald, born in 1935, in addition to Johnny’s four older children. Johnny’s two oldest children, Dorothy and Viona, attended Enterprise Academy from 1928-1930. They were both baptized at the Fall Week of Prayer in 1930, however, they soon rejected the faith and none of Johnny’s four oldest children lived as Seventh-day Adventists in their adult lives. The three younger children all became Seventh-day Adventists, although Donald left the church when he was around 40 years of age.
Betty Hopkins’ Story
Betty Hopkins, remembering her childhood said, “When the weather permitted we attended the El Dorado SDA Church.” She added, “We had dirt roads and had to go several miles to get to a gravel road. Many a time we would get stuck in the mud when we were not far from home. Someone would go get the tractor to get us back home.” Betty received her first Bible for Christmas when she was seven. She could read parts of it. When she was about nine, her mother suggested that she should pray, so Betty started praying before she went to sleep. She had a set of the Testimonies that her grandmother, Alice, had given to her mother, Lois. Betty would sit on her bed and read these. When Betty was 13, she had her appendix out. Her dad, Johnny, remembering his first wife’s death from appendicitis, talked to Betty about being ready for Jesus to come.
Johnny often led out in the church services at the El Dorado church, since they had no minister. They also had no baptistry, so when Betty attended Wichita Junior Academy for 9th grade, she was baptized at the Wichita SDA Church. (Eleven years later she was married in the same church). For grades 10-12, Betty attended Enterprise Academy, which was almost 100 miles from her home. After her graduation in 1945, Betty spent the summer colporteuring to earn money for college. That fall, she rode the train to Lincoln, Nebraska, to attend Union College. She attended Union College from 1945-1951, taking a year off to teach grades 1-4 at Hutchinson, Kansas, for the 1948-49 school year before completing her teaching degree.
In 1947, Betty Hopkins met Marvin Gunter, my father. He was also studying to become a teacher and they became friends while attending the 1948 Teachers’ Convention at Camp Beulah, near Pueblo, Colorado. They began dating in the summer of 1951 and were married June 1, 1952.
Marvin Gunter’s Story
Marvin Gunter was born in 1925 in Tampa, Florida. His mother, Norma, had contracted tuberculosis the year before and when Marvin was three months old, she took him with her to stay with her parents in Osceola, Missouri, where she died five months later. Marvin was raised by his grandparents there in Osceola. He said of his early religious training, “My Aunt Ruth took me to a branch Sabbath School at a neighbor’s house when I was perhaps five or so. My grandmother taught me about God and the Bible when I was very young. I accepted Jesus and was baptized when I was a teenager. I gave my life to Him and tried to serve Him.”
When Marvin was nine years old, his grandfather passed away, then his grandmother passed away in 1943 when Marvin was 17. Two neighbor families invited Marvin to live with them. The Laymans were Mormons and the Rileys were Seventh-day Adventists. Marvin decided to stay with the Rileys, and it was from Mrs. Riley that he learned about the seventh-day Sabbath and other beliefs. In 1944, Marvin was drafted into the army. It was then that a cousin of his gave him his first Bible. When he was discharged from the army, Mrs. Riley encouraged Marvin to take a Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence Course, so Marvin enrolled and completed his first set of lessons on March 14, 1945, then completed the next set on July 27, 1945. In 1947, Marvin decided to attend Union College. It was there that he met Betty Hopkins and they were married in 1952.
Marvin and Betty’s Story
Marvin and Betty Gunter had four children, David, Kathy, Karen, and Rebecca (me). The family lived in many states over the years—Kansas, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, California, Michigan, and Texas, but Marvin and Betty had their hearts set on living in Arkansas when they retired. In 1981, they bought a cabin between Eureka Springs and Berryville, Arkansas. Their cabin burned down in 1984, so they bought some land in Mena, Arkansas. Gunters hired Rebecca’s husband, Stephen Burton, to build their retirement house and Marvin and Betty moved to Mena when Marvin retired from Southwestern Union College in 1988. Then in 1996, they sold their place in Mena and moved to Ozark, but their hearts were still set on living in Berryville, so they moved there in 1999 and became active members of the Berryville Church. Marvin lived there until his death in 2007. Betty remained in Berryville until 2009, at which time she moved to Gentry to be near her daughter, Rebecca. In 2010, Stephen Burton took a call to the conference office in Shreveport, Louisiana, to become the Superintendent of Schools. Betty moved to Shreveport a few months later. She stayed about a year and a half, and then in her final months, asked to go to Wolfe Living Center in Harrah, Oklahoma. She remained there until her death in 2015.
It is clear to me that God led my family to the right people, at the right places, at the right time, to provide them with the opportunity to learn the unique message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I am thankful for this heritage, and to have grown up in a family whose highest goal has been to serve God, wherever He leads. I am also thankful to be a part of the wonderful family of believers who make up the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Sheldon, Chester C., editor. (1903, Sep. 10). Daily Walnut Valley Times. The Walnut Valley Times, p. 4.