OUR HOPKINS FAMILY
In his History of New England under date of 14 August 1632, Governor Winthrop says: “The Braintree Company* (which had begun to sit down at Mount Wallastown) by order of Court removed to Newtown. These were Mr. Hooker’s company.”
* The parish of Braintree, on the River Stour, in the County of Essex, England, is about 40 miles NE from London and 15 from Colchester, with which place it is connected by the old Roman road, which in the olden days was the great thoroughfare between London, Suffolk, and Norfolk. Bocking, the home of several of the early settlers of Hartford, is separated from Braintree by the width of a street, while Chelmsford, where Reverend Hooker was assistant minister until silenced for nonconformity, is about 11 miles south. Essex and Suffolk furnished the bulk of the earliest emigrants who came with the Winthrop fleet in 1630 and the three following years. Col. Charles E. Banks states that “of about 2,400 emigrants who came before 1650, whose origin I have clues to or actual knowledge of, over 200 came from Essex.”
It is not known if JOHN HOPKINS was earlier associated with this company, but it was at Newtown (Cambridge) that he made his first appearance in America, the 4th of Aug 1634, when he received a grant of four acres of land, followed by others in the same year, and more in 1635.
Although 1634 was a year of heavy immigration and of colonists of a superior type, but few sailing lists have been found, and the Winthrop Journal is our main source of information as to arrivals. Under date of 14 May 1634, he records that six ships had come during that week “with store of passengers.”
Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon of Hartford, whose first husband was Timothy Stanley, made a deposition in connection with the estate of Samuel Greenhill in which, while stating that she arrived in New England in May 1634, the name of the vessel is omitted. She does, however, mention as fellow passengers Timothy Stanley, Mr. William Pantry (Peintree), Samuel Greenill, Mr. Simon Willard, and Mr. Crayfoote (Crawford). Peintree and Stanley received grants of land in Cambridge on the same day as John Hopkins (those of Stanley and Hopkins adjoining); Stanley, Hopkins, and James Ensign (an executor of Hopkins’s will) were admitted the same day, and all four were Original Proprietors of Hartford. It is not unlikely that all came on the unnamed ships mentioned by Winthrop.
John Hopkins was admitted Freeman by the General Court held at New Towne (Cambridge) 4 Mar 1634/35. The age of admission previous to that date had been twenty years or above, but at this session was changed to sixteen years or over. The only bearing this reduced age of admission has upon Hopkins is that he might have been a youth when he took the oath. That he was older is shown by the presence of his name among those having houses at Cambridge 8 February 1635. Upon the plan of the town given by Paige, the location of this house was Number 24, situated on Spring Street.
In 1636 he removed* with the Rev. Thomas Hooker and his congregation to Hartford, Connecticut, and on 25 September 1637, he deeded this house and all of his lands in Cambridge to Edmond Auger.
* Dissatisfaction with the government of Massachusetts caused the removal in 1635 of the main body of Watertown to Wethersfield, that of Dorchester to Windsor, and in 1636 Cambridge to Hartford. “These three townships formed the nucleus of the Connecticut Colony and at the end of the year 1636 contained about 160 families and 800 persons.”
So wholesale was the move that only eleven families were left in Cambridge, which, but for a new arrival from England, would have presented the appearance of a deserted village.
John was an Original Proprietor of Hartford in 1636, Selectman 1640, juror 1643, and a charter member of the First Church. It is stated that the most distinguished families among the first settlers were located on the two sides of the “Little River.” A map of Hartford as it existed in 1640 shows the house of John Hopkins, opposite the two islands, upon the south bank of this stream, in what is now the East Park.
As one of the original proprietors, John Hopkins's name is etched on the Founders' Monument, situated in the Ancient Burying Ground of the First Congregational Church at the corner of Main and Gold Streets in Hartford, Connecticut.
All John Hopkins descendants are eligible to be members of the Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford (see their link under "Websites").
Like most of the settlers of the period he cultivated the soil, but that he might have had other activities is suggested by the appraisal of a shop and tools in the inventory of his estate.
John Hopkins’s association with Hooker and other leaders of the progressive Hartford colony, and his social position among them, would indicate good family connections. That he was a man of some education is shown by the presence of books in the inventory of his estate, and by the composition, fine penmanship, and signature of the only known specimen of his handwriting which has recently been found in the “Winthrop Medical Journal,” an unpublished manuscript of the Massachusetts Historical Society.* The contents of this letter written in 1653 give no family information, as it merely accompanied a gift of turkeys to Governor John Winthrop, Jr., of New London, Connecticut, but as an indication of his social position it is endorsed for filing “Mr. John Hopkins.” **
* The Winthrop MS is probably one of the most extensive and valuable collections of Colonial documents in America, and the finding in it of the John Hopkins letter by Col. Charles E. Banks is a piece of good fortune. Through the courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society this letter is reproduced as a frontispiece and its text is as follows:
I present my respects to you kindly thanking you for your great love. I wth my service have sent you 2 Turkys and would have sent some to Mr. Blinman but cold not gett ym and yrfore desire that when the henn lays Mr. Blinman might have some of the Eggs. Mr. Blinman desired me to gett some oatmeal groats to be used for my distemper but I cannot procure them. Wrfor I would desire to Know of him whether oatmeale will not doe as well, soe with my respects to your selfe and Mrs. Winthrop & Mr. Blinman I rest
Yours much obliged,
July 27th, '53
** “When settlements began in New England the people of Old England, below baronets and knights, and above the plebeians, were esquires and gentlemen and they bore the title of Master or Mister or Mr. Lawyers, physicians, educated men, captains in the wars, wealthy merchants, and others who could live without manual labor and bear the part of a gentleman were called Master and taken for gentlemen....Mr. was gradually extended and became so general that it ceased to be a distinctive title in the first half of the [18th] century.”
We have so little to work upon that the determination of the age of our emigrant is surmise. The Winthrop letter indicates a man in the prime of life, and this hypothesis is strengthened by the fact that he must have been twenty-one years of age to be admitted as a freeman, and to have been a householder of Cambridge in 1635, therefore born in 1614 or earlier. The acceptance of these conjectural figures would make him thirty-nine years old when he wrote Governor Winthrop, and forty when he died.
Our knowledge of the family of John Hopkins is derived from his will, dated 1 January 1648-49, in which he mentions his wife Jane, a daughter Bethiah, and a son Stephen – the children being under legal age.
It has been generally supposed that his wife accompanied him from England, but the recent establishment of the birth of Bethiah at Hartford in 1641, and the probability of Stephen having been also born there a little earlier, has opened possibilities that John might have married after his arrival.
We do not know the date of his death, but as the inventory* of his estate (£236-08-00) was taken 14 April 1654, it is probable that he died shortly before.
INVENTORY OF THE ESTATE
|£ - s. - d.|
|In the haul on high bedsted with ye furnitur||06-00-00|
|on trundl bed with the furnitur||01-14-00|
|on table 3 chaires 2 chests & 2 boxes||01-12-00|
|two wheels at||00-06-00|
|two match lock muskits & two swords,|
a pair of bandileers & on rest
|on warming pan on pair of bellows on pair of tubirons|
2 pair pot hoocks 2 pair of tramels on fier pan
a pair of tongs on pothook framed on gridiron
on trevit on brass mortar & pestle
|In pewter & lattin ware||02-16-00|
|In the kitchen 2 brass ketls||02-08-00|
|4 brass postnets at||00-10-06|
|two iron pots at||01-02-00|
|In wooden war and other lumber||00-16-00|
|Twenty & on bushels of wheat||04-04-00|
|two bushels of barly||00-09-00|
|two bushels of peas at||00-06-00|
|thirty bushels of Indian corne||03-15-00|
|on bushel of salt at||00-03-00|
|In the chamber on bedstead with bedding|
& other ffurnitur to it
|4 pair of sheets two pillow beirs 10 napkins|
& other small linnen
|In the Celler in meat vessels & other small things||03-13- 00|
|ffour oxen at||32-00-00|
|three cowes & a two year old steir||19-00-00|
|Two calves at||01-15-00|
|In tooles in the shop||04-03-06|
|In timber beetl & wedges axes & Howes
|Thw Dwelling hous barn & shop with the hows
|Seaven acres of meadow||36-00-00|
|Six acres of Swamp||24-00-00|
|20 acres of upland near the town||15-00-00|
|10 acres of upland at rocky hill||03-00-00|
|A cart & wheels, a plow & harrow chaines
& yoaks with other implements|
CHILDREN OF JOHN & JANE HOPKINS
(All birth and death dates remain unknown.)
STEPHEN HOPKINS, born about 1635-36. He married Dorcas Bronson.
Bethia Hopkins, born about 1641*.
* In the absence of records there is conclusive evidence that Bethiah Hopkins was born after the family removed to Hartford, Conn. Governor Winthrop attended her child in 1669, and the entry in his Journal reads: “Bethia Stockin about 28 years, wife of Stockin of Middletown, child of about one month old” (p. 926). In Mar 1697/98, Bethiah Steele, “57 years of age or thereabouts” made a deposition in the Hartford Court concerning the will of her first husband. Twenty-nine years intervened between these statements, but both are in agreement that she was born in 1641.
Governor John Winthrop, Jr., practiced medicine in Connecticut and kept a record of his cases. The former books have been lost but those from 1657-69 inclusive are preserved among the unpublished manuscripts in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s collections. In many instances he made personal notes of value concerning his patients, and had a fortunate habit of giving their ages – which in children was necessary in order to regulate the size of the doses of medicine. It was customary for people at a distance to write him for remedies, and it would appear that he only charged their cost.
Bethiah Hopkins married (1) on 27 May 1652, Deacon Samuel Stocking of Middletown Connecticut. He was born in England, the son of George and Anna Stocking. Bethiah’s marriage at the age of eleven and the birth of her first child when thirteen is unusual and would indicate that she might have been a “big” girl, precociously developed. There are records of similar early marriages. She and Samuel had 10 children; detailed in my PAF records. She married (2) at Hartford, Conn., James Steele. They both died after 1698.
Jane, the widow of John Hopkins, married secondly Nathaniel Ward* and removed with him to Hadley, Massachusetts, where he died in 1664.
* Nathaniel Ward was an early settler of Hartford and a gentleman of good standing in the Colony of Connecticut. It was in his house at Hartford, 18 April 1659, that the “withdrawers met and engaged themselves to remove themselves and their families out of the jurisdiction of Connecticut into the jurisdiction of Massachusetts.” This resulted in the founding of Hadley, Massachusetts, of which Ward was one of the first settlers.
In 1657 Governor John Winthrop, Jr., in his Medical Journal, mentions Mrs. Bethiah Stocking as staying at her mother’s, Goody Ward’s, house in Hartford, so that the widow of Hopkins was already married to Ward in that year.
She married thirdly as his third wife, Gregory Walterton, as we learn from a letter from Elizabeth Stone of Hartford to Elizabeth Winthrop of Boston under date of 24 October 1670: “Here is little news stirring, but Goodman Walterton marrying Goody Ward of Hadley.” Walterton and his wife were received into the Second Church of Hartford from the church in Hadley, and she is mentioned in his will, the inventory of which was taken 6 August 1674.
As the children of John finally settled their father’s estate (November 11th, 1679), in which their mother had a life interest, it is probable that Jane died at about that time.
Hopkins, Timothy. John Hopkins of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1634, and Some of His Descendants (Stanford University Press, 1932).
Barbour, Lucius. Families of Early Hartford (Baltimore MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977). At SLC FHL 974.63 D2b; also on Microfilm #1421857 Item 13.
Fiske, John Fiske. The Dutch and Quaker Colonies, 1:153.
Judd, Sylvester. History of Hadley, Massachusetts SLC FHL Call No. 974.423 H2j 1976. See p. 243.
WEBSITES OF INTEREST
Historic Sites at Hartford, Connecticut.
Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford.
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