John and Mary O’Farrell had seven children. Two died in infancy. They raised five daughters and seven adopted children. In the interest of space, I will leave the stories of most of the O’Farrells for another time, concentrating on two daughters. Theresa, born in 1867, gets three cameo appearances in the story, which is largely about Angela, who was born in 1880.
Angela O’Farrell’s name appeared frequently in early newspapers. She was a student at St. Teresa’s, and by early accounts a good one. She was lauded for her careful embroidery, her skill at playing the piano, her singing, her drawing, and the essays she wrote. In 1889 she received a “crown of excellence” for perfect conduct.
When she was 17, Angela was one of dozens of contestants in the “Queen of Idaho” or “Queen of the Intermountain Fair” contest. The 1897 Intermountain Fair was Boise’s first big chance to show itself off. It would be a spectacular event if the Idaho Statesman had anything to say about it. The newspaper reported for weeks on the celebrities who might appear, the competitions to be held, and the rodeo that would attract cowboys from several states. The Statesman sponsored the “Queen” contest, raising money for the fair by soliciting votes from all over Idaho. You could vote as often as you liked, but each vote cost ten cents.
The winner of the contest was the daughter of a wealthy Lewiston businessman, 20-year-old Miss Bessie Volmer. The Statesman described her as “six feet tall and exceedingly graceful,” and they reported, “Few women are endowed by nature with greater personal beauty.”
Volmer received 3,813 votes. The runner up, with 2002 votes was Teresa O’Farrell. Angela O’Farrell received 16 votes. We don’t know how Angela felt about this, but it is likely she was happy for her older sister.
Angela had her life to get on with, anyway. She wanted to be a teacher and was in the first class of the “Teachers Institute and School of Methods,” housed for a time at Boise High School.
The mentions in the paper of Angela O’Farrell soon after were of the well-liked teacher in Meridian.
Angela married Edward Hopper in 1907. In 1911 the Hoppers had a son and named him John.
In 1920 Angela Hopper became the Boise City Clerk. Her name appeared in the news frequently in that official capacity. Then, in 1933 her world fell apart.
The headline in the Idaho Statesman on September 28 read, “Embezzlement Charges Rock Boise City Hall; Angela Hopper Arrested.”
As the story played out over the next few weeks and months the amount of the embezzlement climbed from $10,000, to $75,000, to somewhere near $100,000. A full accounting of what she took could never be made.
Hopper pleaded guilty and was sentenced to from one to ten years in the Idaho State Penitentiary.
One question on the minds of many Boiseans was, why? Why did a well-respected woman from a pioneer family risk embezzling all that money? A second question was, where did it go?
We’re going to answer those questions in tomorrow’s blog.