Monday, January 21, 2013

Stephen Hopkins

  • Stephen Hopkins 
  • Born: April 30, 1581 (Christened)  Upper Clatfor, Hampshire, England
  • Died: between June 6, 1644 and July 17, 1644
  • Related through: Dan's grandfather Lynn Crookston

The son of John Hopkins and Elizabeth Williams. He was a tanner and merchant who was one of the passengers on the Mayflower in 1620, settling in Plymouth Colony. Hopkins was recruited by the Merchant Adventurers to provide the governance for the colony as well as assist with the colony's ventures. Hopkins was one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact and was an assistant to the governor of the colony through 1636.

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)
Not much is known about his early life in Hampshire, but his family appears to have removed to Winchester, Hampshire by 1586. His father died there in 1593, and by 1604 he had moved to Hursley, Hampshire and was married to a woman named Mary. Their three children, Elizabeth, Constance and Giles were baptized at Hursley between 1603/4 and 1607/8.
In early 1609 Stephen Hopkins began employment as a minister’s clerk, reading religious works to a congregation including members of the Virginia Company. 

On June 2, 1609 Hopkins left his wife and family and in his ministerial clerk‘s position, departed for Jamestown in Virginia on the 300-ton Sea Venture, flagship of a flotilla lead by Sir George Somers. The Sea Venture was carrying the new Jamestown governor, Sir Thomas Gates, to his post as well as resupplying the colony with goods and new settlers. Recent scholarship believes that this is the same Stephen Hopkins who was the only Mayflower passenger who had previously been to the New World and that Hopkins had adventures that included surviving a shipwreck in Bermuda and working from 1610–14 in Jamestown as well as possibly knowing the legendary Pocahontas, who married John Rolfe, a fellow Bermuda castaway.

After almost two months into the voyage, a severe storm separated the ships of the flotilla on July 24, 1609, and by evening the storm began raging worse and lasted for five days. Just when the Sea Venture was about to sink from storm damage, “land” was called out with that being the island of Bermuda. The ship was forced to run itself aground about mile off-shore to keep from sinking. The castaways soon found that Bermuda was a Paradise, with plentiful water and food.
On September 1, 1609, a month after the shipwreck and after they had built up their ship’s longboat for an ocean voyage, they sent eight men out to try to reach Jamestown, Virginia to get help but they never returned.

In late November 1609, commenced construction of boats enough to take everyone off the island. By January 1610, even though Stephen Hopkins had remained with Governor Gate’s group, he starting voicing dissatisfaction to the governance of Thomas Gates and questioning his authority.
 Hopkins was arrested and charged with mutiny and was found guilty for which the sentence was death. Many persons begged mercy for him and he obtained a pardon. Hopkins ceased voicing controversial issues.

The English in Jamestown and those later in Plymouth were the antithesis of each other — with those in Virginia composed of titled leaders who were in charge of often inexperienced settlers and soldiers who were veterans of European wars, such as Capt. John Smith. All at Jamestown were focused on returning a profit to their London investors, and under great stress when no gold, minerals or anything else of much value to London was found in the Chesapeake area. The colonists could not/would not farm, tried to barter for food with the Indians and later stole food from them, leading to much violence, which continued for years.

On May 10, 1610, the two newly constructed boats departed Bermuda with all on board and arrived at Jamestown in Virginia eleven days later. What they found there was that the colonists in Jamestown were starving to death due to their inability and in some cases unwillingness to produce food. They were afraid to go outside their fort so were tearing down their houses for firewood. They were not planting crops, nor trading with the Indians or catching fish. Much of this had to do with some settlers feeling it was beneath their dignity to work and the violent abuse they gave the local Indians which caused much enmity towards the English. 

At his arrival from Bermuda, Governor Gates estimated there was only days worth of food left, and decided to voyage to Newfoundland and from there find a ship heading for England. Just as they were preparing to depart, an English ship came into the harbor with supplies and new settlers along with a new governor, Lord de la Warr. The colonists were forced to return and reestablish their fort, albeit reluctantly.

In England, William Shakespeare first presented “The Tempest” in November 1611, which is about a group of passengers being shipwrecked by a mighty storm in Bermuda. A subplot involves a character which could have been based on Stephen Hopkins.

Back in England, Stephen’s wife Mary has survived by being a shopkeeper as well as receiving some of Stephen’s wages. But she unexpectedly died in May 1613, leaving her three young children all alone. By 1614, a letter arrived for a "Hopkins" in Jamestown and it is presumed that this is how he learned of her death, as he did return to England soon afterward to care for his children.
 He then took up residence in London, and there married his second wife Elizabeth Fisher.

Although he had been through all manner of hardships and trials in the New World, including shipwreck, sentenced to death with a last-minute pardon, went to Jamestown, Virginia where he labored for several years, possibly having known Pocahontas, who married one of his fellow Bermuda castaways, John Rolf. When he learned of the planned Mayflower voyage to Northern Virginia to establish a colony, he signed on to go to America.

The Mayflower Compact, a painting byJean Leon Gerome Ferris
which was widely reproduced through much of the 20th century
Stephen Hopkins departed Plymouth, England on the Mayflower on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.

On November 9/19, 1620, after about three months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day.

Stephen Hopkins was a member of the early Mayflower exploratory parties while the ship was anchored in the Cape Cod area. As he was well-versed in the hunting techniques and general lifestyle of American Indians from his years in Jamestown Virginia, which was later found to be quite useful to the Pilgrim leadership.

The first formal meeting with the Indians was held at Hopkins’ house and he was called upon to participate in early Pilgrim visits with the Indian leader Massasoit. Over the years Hopkins assistance to Pilgrims leaders such as Myles Standish and Edward Winslow regarding his knowledge of the local Indian languages was found to be quite useful.

This article was taken from the Wikipedia article about Stephen Hopkins. Thanks Wikipedia!