Stephen Hopkins was an adventurer and had been to North America prior to the Mayflower. He probably knew Christopher Newport, who was the mariner that brought colonists and supplies to Jamestown, because Hopkins himself was a mariner who sailed on the Sea Venture, which ran aground and had to rebuild in Bermuda to sail to Jamestown.
While in Bermuda, Hopkins promoted mutiny against the Governor but failed.
Hopkins had a reputation as a religious man but was defiant toward authority. This defiance would almost cost him his life, and he would become a character in William Shakespeare's drama The Tempest.
He would make it to Jamestown and stay there until his first wife's death.
When he arrived in England, he tied up his affairs and remarried. Hopkins would not be able to stay in the Old World too long since he had his taste of the New World. He and his family would depart for the New World with the Pilgrims. Their original target was Virginia, which Hopkins was familiar with, but the ship would be pushed off course and landed in Plymouth.
While in Plymouth, he established himself as an influential figure. His past, which involved mutiny, was a natural fit for Plymouth when the Pilgrims decided to create their own government and sign the Mayflower Compact.
He was given six acres of land due to the size of his household.
Stephen Hopkins headed a list of persons chosen to arrange for trade with outsiders-- a sort of incipient chamber of commerce. He was added to the Governor and Assistants in 1637 as an assessor to raise a fund for sending aid to the Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut colonies in the impending Native American War.
In the same year, he and his two sons, Giles and Caleb, were among the forty-two who volunteered their services as soldiers to aid these same colonies.
He is also repeatedly mentioned as an appraiser of estates, administrator, guardian, juryman (foreman, apparently), etc.
On June 18, 1621, Edwards Doty and Leister (Mr. Hopkins' two servants) fought what was the first dual on record in New England, with sword and dagger. Hopkins petitioned for the release of his servants from cruel punishment. Both were wounded, one in the hand and the other in the thigh.
They were sentenced by the whole company to have their heads and feet tied together, and so to lie for 24 hours without meat or drink, 'but within an hour, because of their great pains, at their own & their master's humble request, upon the promise of better carriage, they are released by the governor.'
He went with Governor Edward Winslow and Squanto on the first embassy sent to Chief Massasoit to conclude a treaty. It was in Hopkins' home that the first ever Indian treaties were signed. This treaty would last until King Philip's War.
As Indian Ambassador, Stephen Hopkins participated in the arrangement and planning of the first Thanksgiving.
Mr. Hopkins opened the first bar, built the first port of ships, and erected the first trading post in American history. He was engaged in trade, selling liquors and various other articles.
He was charged at times with abuse of his traffic in liquors and with selling liquors and other articles at excessive rates, according to the views of the period, but he never lost the confidence of the leading men.
He remained influential for the remainder of his life and was held in high esteem by the influencers of the colony.
Stephen Hopkins was the son of John and Elizabeth Hopkins, but there is little known of them. It seems as if he came from humble beginnings but, through his ability on the sea, rose to prominence.
He married Mary Kent, and despite having children with her, his adventures would keep him away from England. He returned home after learning of her death and soon remarried.
After arriving in Plymouth, he and his new wife would begin their family. He had a son who was born on the voyage and would have six more, with some living to adulthood. His son Caleb took after him and became a successful seaman.
He lived until 1644, when he died around the age of 63. His family would go on to have many descendants that trace back to him.
Family Tree Chart
John Hopkins (1549 - 1593) - Born in England and had 4 children.
Elizabeth Williams (1552 - 1593) - She birthed four children and outlived her husband.
Mary Kent (1583 - 1613) - She was the first wife of Hopkins and died 7 years prior to the voyage. Two of her children would travel to Plymouth.
Elizabeth Fisher (1585 - 1639) - She had seven children, all surviving or being born after the first winter, but many did not have long lives.
Elizabeth Hopkins (1604 - 1620) - She died prior to her father leaving for the New World.
Constance Hopkins (1606 - 1677) - She traveled to Plymouth with her father and married Nicholas Snow, who came to Plymouth after the first winter. She had many children.
Giles Hopkins (1608 - 1690) - He was known for his laid-back personality. He helped during the Pequot War and would eventually marry and have many children to carry on the Hopkins name.
Damaris Hopkins (1618 - 1627) - She was the last child of Hopkins's first marriage and would survive the first winter. She, unfortunately, died in 1627 at the age of 9.
Oceanus Hopkins (1620 - 1627) - He was born on a trip over the Atlantic. He died the same year as his sister.
Caleb Hopkins (1622 - 1644) - He was trusted by his father, a mariner, and well-respected in the community. He became the heir of his father's estate but died young and would give much of it to his older brother Giles.
Deborah Hopkins (1624 - 1674) - There is not much said of her. She married and had six children.
Damaris Hopkins (1628 - 1669) - She married the son of Francis Cooke and had 7 children.
Ruth Hopkins (1630 - 1644) - Her birthdate is an estimate, and was believed to be a sickly child who died young and never married.
Elizabeth Hopkins (1632 - 1659) - She was the last child of Stephen, who died when she was young. She was never married.
William Hopkins (1575) - There is nothing known of him except for his name.
Alice Hopkins (1578) - Similar to William, there is little known of her.
Susanna Hopkins (1584 - 1647) - She lived in England her entire life. There is no record of a husband or children.
Stephen Hopkins's Last Will and Testament
The last Will and Testament of Mr. Stephen Hopkins exhibited upon the Oathes of mr Willm Bradford and Captaine Miles Standish at the generall Court holden at Plymouth the xxth of August Anno dm 1644 as it followeth in these wordes vizt.
The sixt of June 1644 I Stephen Hopkins of Plymouth in New England being weake yet in good and prfect memory blessed be God yet considering the fraile estate of all men I do ordaine and make this to be my last will and testament in manner and forme following and first I do committ my body to the earth from whence it was taken, and my soule to the Lord who gave it, my body to b eburyed as neare as convenyently may be to my wyfe DeceasedAnd first my will is that out of my whole estate my funerall expences be discharged
secondly that out of the remayneing part of my said estate that all my lawfull Debts be payd
thirdly I do bequeath by this my will to my sonn Giles Hopkins my great Bull wch is now in the hands of Mris Warren.
Also I do give to Stephen Hopkins my sonn Giles his sonne twenty shillings in Mris Warrens hands for the hire of the said Bull
Also I give and bequeath to my daughter Constanc Snow the wyfe of Nicholas Snow my mare
also I give unto my daughter Deborah Hopkins the brodhorned black cowe and her calf and half the Cowe called Motley
Also I doe give and bequeath unto my daughter Damaris Hopkins the Cowe called Damaris heiffer and the white faced calf and half the cowe called Mottley
Also I give to my daughter Ruth the Cowe called Red Cole and her calfe and a Bull at Yarmouth wch is in the keepeing of Giles Hopkins wch is an yeare and advantage old and half the curld Cowe
Also I give and bequeath to my daughter Elizabeth the Cowe called Smykins and her calf and thother half of the Curld Cowe wth Ruth and an yearelinge heiffer wth out a tayle in the keeping of Gyles Hopkins at Yarmouth
Also I do give and bequeath unto my foure daughters that is to say Deborah Hopkins Damaris Hopkins Ruth Hopkins and Elizabeth Hopkins all the mooveable goods the wch do belong to my house as linnen wollen beds bedcloathes pott kettles pewter or whatsoevr are moveable belonging to my said house of what kynd soever and not named by their prticular names all wch said mooveables to be equally devided amongst my said daughters foure silver spoones that is to say to eich of them one, And in case any of my said daughters should be taken away by death before they be marryed that then the part of their division to be equally devided amongst the Survivors.
I do also by this my will make Caleb Hopkins my sonn and heire apparent giveing and bequeathing unto my said sonn aforesaid all my Right title and interrest to my house and lands at Plymouth wth all the Right title and interrest wch doth might or of Right doth or may hereafter belong unto mee, as also I give unto my saide heire all such land wch of Right is Rightly due unto me and not at prsent in my reall possession wch belongs unto me by right of my first comeing into this land or by any other due Right, as by such freedome or otherwise giveing unto my said heire my full & whole and entire Right in all divisions allottments appoyntments or distributions whatsoever to all or any pt of the said lande at any tyme or tymes so to be disposed
Also I do give moreover unto my foresaid heire one paire or yooke of oxen and the hyer of them wch are in the hands of Richard Church as may appeare by bill under his handAlso I do give unto my said heire Caleb Hopkins all my debts wch are now oweing unto me, or at the day of my death may be oweing unto mee either by booke bill or bills or any other way rightfully due unto mee
ffurthermore my will is that my daughters aforesaid shall have free recourse to my house in Plymouth upon any occation there to abide and remayne for such tyme as any of them shall thinke meete and convenyent & they single persons
And for the faythfull prformance of this my will I do make and ordayne my aforesaid sonn and heire Caleb Hopkins my true and lawfull Executor
ffurther I do by this my will appoynt and make my said sonn and Captaine Miles Standish joyntly supervisors of this my will according to the true meaneing of the same that is to say that my Executor & supervisor shall make the severall divisions parts or porcons legacies or whatsoever doth appertaine to the fullfilling of this my will
It is also my will that my Executr & Supervisor shall advise devise and dispose by the best wayes & meanes they cann for the disposeing in marriage or other wise for the best advancnt of the estate of the forenamed Deborah Damaris Ruth and Elizabeth Hopkins
Thus trusting in the Lord my will shalbe truly prformed according to the true meaneing of the same I committ the whole Disposeing hereof to the Lord that hee may direct you herein
June 6th 1644
Witnesses hereof By me Steven Hopkins