Stephen Hopkins (Mayflower passenger)
Stephen Hopkins (1581 – June or July 1644) was a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620, one of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact, and an assistant to the governor of Plymouth Colony through 1636. He worked as a tanner and merchant and was recruited by the Merchant Adventurers to provide the governance for the colony and assist with the colony's ventures. He is known as the only Mayflower passenger with prior New World experience being shipwrecked in Bermuda in 1609 and after rescue served for several years under Capt. John Smith at Jamestowne Colony.
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. He was married to a woman named Mary about 1603.
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.
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 led 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.
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 started 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 Colony 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. A subplot involves a character which could have been based on Stephen Hopkins.
Back in England, Stephen’s wife Mary had 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, when he learned of the planned Mayflower voyage to Northern Virginia to establish a colony, he signed on to go to America along with his family.
The Mayflower Voyage
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 3 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.
In Plymouth Colony
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.
Stephen Hopkins married: Mary ____ about 1603 in England and had three children. She died at Hursley in Hampshire, England and was buried on May 9, 1613. Her death occurred while her husband was in Jamestown, Virginia.
- Elizabeth Fisher on February 19, 1617/8 at St. Mary Matfellon, Whitechapel, London and had seven children. Elizabeth died in Plymouth in the early 1640s. Her husband, at his death, desired to be buried near her, but their burial places are presently unknown. She travelled with her husband on the Mayflower.
Children of Stephen and Mary Hopkins, born in Hursley, Hampshire, England:
- Elizabeth was baptized on March 13, 1604. She was alive at her mother’s death in 1613, but there is no further reference.
- Constance was baptized on May 11, 1606 and died in Eastham, Mass. in mid-October 1677. She married Nicholas Snow in Plymouth by May 22, 1627 and had twelve children. She was a Mayflower passenger. Her husband came over in 1623 on the 'Anne'.
- Giles was baptized on January 30, 1607/8 and died in Eastham between March 5, 1688/9 and April 16, 1690. He married Catherine Whelden in Plymouth on October 9, 1639 and had ten children. He was a Mayflower passenger. He was buried at Cove Burying Ground, Eastham, Mass.
- Damaris (1) was born about 1618 in England and died young in Plymouth. Mayflower passenger.
- Oceanus was born in the fall of 1620 aboard the Mayflower. He had died by May 22, 1627.
- Caleb was born in Plymouth about 1624. He became a seaman and died at Barbados between 1644 and 1651.
- Deborah was born in Plymouth about 1626 and died probably before 1674. She married Andrew Ring at Plymouth on April 23, 1646 and had six children.
- Damaris (2) was born in Plymouth about 1627-8 and died in Plymouth between January 1665/6 and November 18, 1669. She married Jacob Cooke after June 10, 1646 and had seven children. Jacob was a son of Pilgrim Francis Cooke.
- Ruth was born about 1630 and died in Plymouth between November 30, 1644 and spring 1651. She was unmarried.
- Elizabeth was born in Plymouth about 1632 and probably died before October 6, 1659. She was unmarried.
Will and Death of Stephen Hopkins
Stephen Hopkins died sometime between June 6, 1644 and July 17th of that year. He made his will on June 6, 1644 and requested that he be buried next to his deceased wife, Elizabeth. The inventory was taken on July 17, 1644 and besides his deceased wife, he mentions sons Giles and Caleb, daughter Constance, wife of Nicholas Snow, daughters Deborah, Damaris, Ruth and Elizabeth. The burial place of Stephen Hopkins is unknown.
- Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins : Immigrants to New England, 1620–1633 (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society 1995), p. 987
- George Ernest Bowman. The Mayflower Compact and its signers (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920). Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document.
- Robert Charles Anderson, New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS) Pilgrim Family Sketch Stephen Hopkins
- Hopkins' biographers had long stated he had originated in Wortley, Gloucester and had married Constance Dudley, but this claim was disproven in 1998 with the discovery of his origins in Hursley. His wife Mary's maiden name is unknown. Caleb Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 160.
- Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), pp. 61–62
- Historic Jamestown Stephen Hopkins 12
- Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), pp. 61- 62
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 160–161
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 161–162
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 163
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 162–163
- Tee Loftin Snell, The Wild Shores: America’s Beginnings. National Geographic Society. (c. 1973 NGS) Chpt. 4 pp. 83–85
- Caleb H. Johnson. The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 164
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 165
- Caleb H. Johnson. The Mayflower and her passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), pp. 165–166
- Allison Lassieur Peter McDonnall The voyage of the Mayflower (Pub. Capstone Press, ©2006 Mankato, Minnesota)
- Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
- George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers, (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920), Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document, pp. 7-19.
- Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), p. 62
- Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), pp. 62–63
- Memorial for Mary Hopkins 
- Memorial for Elizabeth Hopkins
- A genealogical profile of Stephen Hopkins, (a collaboration of Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society accessed 2013)
- William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford, the second Governor of Plymouth (Boston: 1856), p. 448
- Memorial for Hopkins Family
- Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 309
- Caleb Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., copyright 2006 Caleb Johnson), p. 160
- Memorial for Stephen Hopkins 
- Caleb Johnson, Here Shall I Die Ashore: Stephen Hopkins, Bermuda Castaway, Jamestown Survivor, and Mayflower Pilgrim (Xlibris, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4257-9638-9.
- Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, Volume Six, Third Edition, Stephen Hopkins ISBN 0-930270-03-7
- Stephen Hopkins of the Mayflower
- Stephen Hopkins First encounter marker
- MayflowerHistory.com page on Stephen Hopkins
- Stephen Hopkins in the Records of the 17th Century
- Last Will and Testament of Stephen Hopkins at The Plymouth Colony Archive Project