Mark Hopkins, Jr.
Photo by I. W. Taber
September 1, 1813|
Henderson, New York
|Died||March 29, 1878
Mark Hopkins (September 1, 1813 – March 29, 1878) was one of four principal investors who formed the Central Pacific Railroad along with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, and Collis Huntington in 1861.
Hopkins was born in Henderson, Jefferson County, New York to Mark Hopkins and Anastasia Lukens Kellogg, who were first cousins. Because his father died when he was a boy, he was never known as "Junior." The family moved to St. Clair, Michigan in 1824. His father, Mark Hopkins (1779–1828), served as Postmaster, first in Henderson, NY, then in St. Clair, MI (known then as Palmer), where he was also Judge of Probate.
The elder Hopkins died in 1828, and his son left school to work as a clerk. In 1837 he studied law with his brother Henry, but moved on through several business ventures. He was a partner in a firm called "Hopkins and Hughes", then a bookkeeper and later manager for "James Rowland and Company".
When the California Gold Rush began, Hopkins created the "New England Mining and Trading Company", a group of 26 men each of whom invested $500 to purchase goods and ship them to California for sale. On January 22, 1849 Hopkins left New York City on the ship Pacific. After rounding Cape Horn, the ship arrived in San Francisco on August 5, 1849.
Hopkins opened a store in Placerville, California but it did not succeed and he relocated to Sacramento where he opened a wholesale grocery in 1850 with his friend Edward H. Miller. Miller would later be secretary of the Central Pacific Railroad.
In 1855, Hopkins and Collis P. Huntington formed "Huntington Hopkins and Company" to operate a hardware and iron business in Sacramento.
In 1861, as part of The Big Four, he founded the Central Pacific Railroad. Sometimes called "Uncle Mark", he was the eldest of the four partners and was well known for his thriftiness (it was said that he knew how to "squeeze 106 cents out of every dollar", a reputation that gained him the post of company treasurer. Noted American historian Hubert Howe Bancroft quotes Collis Huntington as saying, "I never thought anything finished until Hopkins looked at it". Bancroft described Hopkins as the "balance-wheel of the Associates and one of the truest and best men that ever lived." A Whig and later associated with the Free Soil Party, Hopkins was an abolitionist and an organizer of the Republican Party in California.
Despite his thriftiness, his wife managed eventually to persuade him to build an ornate mansion at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco, California, close to the mansions of other Central Pacific founders. The construction commenced in 1875. The architects were the prominent San Francisco firm of Wright and Sanders and the project manager was architectural engineer William Wallace Barbour Sheldon, who worked for Hopkins under the Southern Pacific Improvement Company.
By then Hopkins was having health problems, and died aboard a company train near Yuma, Arizona in 1878, the house not yet completed. Eventually finished and occupied by Mary, the structure burned to the ground in a fire caused by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The Mark Hopkins Hotel (currently InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco) was built in its place in 1926.
Mary and Mark Hopkins had no children of their own. Mary adopted Timothy Nolan, the adult son of her housekeeper, who took the Hopkins name and was given an administrative position at the Union Pacific Railroad.
Mark Hopkins never saw the grand mansion on Nob Hill Mary began completed; he died in 1878 without a will, though his fortune estimated at $20-$40 million was inherited by Mary. Faced with the task of completing their new estate alone, Mary retained Herter Brothers, a prominent furniture and interior decorating firm in New York to finish furnish and decorate the estate.
Edward Francis Searles dispatched by Herter Brothers to manage the completion of Mary’s project. Despite being 22 years her junior they developed a close relationship. The unseemly courtship raised eyebrows and questions about the motives of the decorator and the wealthy social circles of San Francisco, but they married in 1887 to begin a six month grand tour of Europe.
Shortly after their return, Mary re-drew her will; explicitly excluding her adopted son Timothy Nolan Hopkins from her will explaining; “The omission to provide in this will for my adopted son, Timothy Hopkins, is intentional, and not occasioned by accident or mistake.”, and left her fortunes to her new husband, Edward.
Mr. and Mrs. Searles moved to Edward’s home town of Methuen, Massachusetts, where Edward embarked on building a series of grand homes designed by English architect Henry Vaughan. Vaughan was best known for his Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture including; the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., three chapels at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and Christ Church in New Haven, Conn.
Mary died in 1891 less than four years after her marriage, and the Estate went to probate to reconcile a series of legal challenges by Timothy Hopkins (Mary’s adopted son) that lasted for several years, to reclaim his lost inheritance.
The controversy made good fodder for the press, CA papers published stories suggesting Edward may have exploited Mary’s interest in spiritualism, falsified records to wrest the estate from her adopted son and defraud business partners. Under oath, Edward testified that he had married Mary “…partly out of affection and partly for her money.” Despite the publicity, Timothy lost his appeals, and was left penniless.
What was rumored at the time, but not widely published was Edward Searles had a friend / lover living with him after Mary’s death; and Timothy Hopkins used this to blackmail Edward after losing the court case. In the end Edward and his lawyers settled on a “token” settlement of several million dollars. Timothy got the contents of the mansion in San Francisco, and the art institute got the building.
General Thomas Hubbard had been named the executor of Mary Frances Searle’s will, and had been embroiled in the controversy as a witness with detailed knowledge of the Hopkins and Searles estates. When the Probate case closed in Edward's favor, Hubbard declined any personal compensation, but suggested an endowment to his alma mater Bowdoin College might make an enduring symbol of Edward’s love for Mary. Edward agreed to build them the modern science building still in service, Searles Hall.
For the remainder of his life, Edward, increasingly reclusive, continued building castles and estates designed by Henry Vaughan, including Searles Castle in Windham, N.H., (a ¼ replica of Stanton Harcourt Manor in Oxon, England) and Pine Lodge in his home town of Methuen. Eventually Edward Searles lover inherited the Hopkins estate, and subsequently died several years later living modestly as though he never inherited a thing. 
- Hopkins, Timothy (1932). John Hopkins of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1634, and Some of His Descendants. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 304.
- Yenne, Bill (1985). The History Of The Southern Pacific. Bison Books Corp. p. 11. ISBN 0-517-46084-X.
- Self Guided Tour (PDF). Historic City Cemetery, Inc. January 2006. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
- the Bowdoin College Daily Sun; Whispering Pines: Stranger Than Fiction? The Story of Searles Science Building, December 1, 2011 By John R. Cross '76
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mark Hopkins, Jr..|
- Ambrose, Stephen E. (2000). Nothing Like It In The World; The men who built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-1869. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0317-8.
- Findagrave.com, Mark Hopkins. Retrieved December 13, 2005.
- Genealogy of Mark HOPKINS & Mary Frances SHERWOOD.
- Galloway, John Debo; Chapter Four (1950). The First Intercontinental Railway. New York: Simmons-Boardman. OCLC 491805. Retrieved 15 September 2010.