"My hand trembles but my heart does not!"
Hopkins attained success purely by his own efforts. Born in 1707 at
Providence and equipped with a modicum of basic education, he grew up in the
adjacent agricultural community of Scituate, earned his living as a farmer and
surveyor, and married at the age of 19. Five years later, in 1731, when
Scituate Township separated from Providence, he plunged into politics. During
the next decade, he held the following elective or appointive offices:
moderator of the first town meeting, town clerk, president of the town
council, justice of the peace, justice and clerk of the Providence County
court of common pleas, legislator, and speaker of the house.
In 1742, about 2 years after he and his brother Esek founded a mercantile-
shipping firm, Stephen moved back to Providence. For the next three decades,
he built up his business and would probably have acquired a fortune had he not
at the same time supported a variety of civic enterprises and broadened his
political activities. He continued in the legislature, served as assistant and
chief justice of the Superior Court and ten time Governor, and represented
Rhode Island at various intercolonial meetings. At the Albany Congress (1754),
he cultivated a friendship with Franklin and assisted him in framing a plan
of colonial union that the congress passed but the colonies rejected. The next
year, two years after the demise of his first wife, who had given birth to
five sons and two daughters, he remarried.
About this time, Hopkins took over leadership of the colony's radical
faction, supported by Providence merchants. For more than a decade, it
bitterly fought for political supremacy in Rhode Island with a conservative
group in Newport, led by Samuel Ward, a political enemy of Hopkins.
Hopkins was a man of broad interests, including humanitarianism, education,
and science, and exerted his talents in many fields. About 1754 he helped set
up a public subscription library in Providence. He acted as chancellor of
Rhode Island College ( later Brown University), founded in 1764 at Warren, and
six years later was instrumental in relocating it to Providence. He also held
membership in the Philosophical Society of Newport. Strongly opposing slavery,
in 1774 he authored a bill enacted by the Rhode Island legislature that
prohibited the importation of slaves into the colony, one of the earliest
anti-slavery laws in the United States.
Long before, Hopkins had sided with the Revolutionaries. In 1762 he helped
found the influential Providence Gazette and Country Journal. Two years later,
he contributed to it an article entitled " The Rights of the Colonies
Examined," which criticized parliamentary taxation and recommended colonial
home rule. Issued as a pamphlet the next year, it circulated widely throughout
the colonies and Great Britain and established Hopkins as one of the earliest
of the patriot leaders. He also sat on the Rhode Island committee of
correspondence and carried on with his duties in the Congress (1774-76). He
served on the committees that prepared Articles of Confederation and that
created the Continental Navy and appointed Esek Hopkins as its commander in
chief. Ill health compelled Stephen to retire in September 1776, a month after
he signed the Declaration.
Hopkins declined subsequent reelections to Congress, but sat in the State
Legislature for a time and took part in several New England political
conventions. He withdrew from Public service about 1780 and died five years
later in Providence at the age of 78. Intered in North Burial ground.
GOVERNOR HOPKINS HOUSE, RHODE ISLAND
Location: Providence County, 15 Hopkins Street, Providence
Stephen Hopkins bought his framehouse in 1742 and resided in it until his
death in 1785. It is the only extant structure closely associated with him.
The oldest section, the lower level of the present southwest rear ell, dates
from about 1707, when the small dwelling comprised two first- floor rooms and
an attic. When he acquired the building, Hopkins enlarged and remodeled it
into its present L-shaped, two-story form.
The Georgian building, which has a gabled roof and two chimneys, is
clapboarded. Cornices decorate the first story windows. In 1928, during a
major restoration, a reconstructed door, with triangular pediments and
pilasters typical of the 18th century, was inserted in place of one of the
four windows along the present front elevation. This door, the only major
alteration in the house, became the main entrance. It replaced a door on the
west side, which opens into the original kitchen and is still extant.
The central hall, along the east wall of which is the main stairway, divides
the front of the residence into two rooms, study and parlor. The recessed
parlor bookshelves, set in paneling above the hearths, are distinctive. The
paneling of the two fireplaces in the study and ell is simpler. A passageway
leads from the parlor to the southwest ell, which consists of the original
kitchen and in the southeast corner a small bedroom. Five bedrooms, two of
which are equipped with fireplaces, are located upstairs. The interior of the
house, including stairs, woodwork, floors and fireplaces, is largely original.
The fine garden was designed by a descendant of Stephen Hopkins, late Alden
Hopkins, prominent landscape architect.
The Governor Hopkins House, first located on the northeast corner of Hopkins
and South Main Street, was moved eastward in 1804 along the north side of and
about halfway up Hopkins Street. In 1927, to make way for the construction of
a new courthouse, the building was again relocated eastward along the same
street, to its present site, and the next year was restored. Since then, the
State of Rhode Island has owned the house and maintained the exterior and
grounds. The Society of the Colonial Dames in the State of Rhode Island
maintains and administers the interior as a historic museum.
Signers of the Declaration; National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings,
Series Editor: Robert G.Ferris
Washington,DC: United States Department of the Interior
National Park Service
The book, Israel Wilkinson, Memoirs of the Wilkinson Family in America,
(Jacksonville, Ill.: Davis & Penniman, 1869)
is available on http://genweb.net/~blackwell/books.html
.. by chapter in TIFF
I have printed out a chapter on Stephen Hopkins, signer of the Declaration of
Independence. I grabbed all the names, dates, relationships and some details
that I could out of this chapter, put it into my family tree software, and
printed a report which is included below.
This is Stephen's ancestor line according to the book
Descendants of Thomas HOPKINS
1. Thomas HOPKINS.
First ancestor of Stephen in America. Came from England.
Some have claimed him to be son of Stephen Hopkins from the Mayflower, but
there is no proof.
Thomas married Elizabeth ARNOLD.
Sister to Benedict Arnold (not the traitor). First Governor of Rhode Island
under the last charter granted by King Charles II July 8th, 1663
Thomas and Elizabeth had the following children:
+ 2 M i. William HOPKINS Major.
2. William HOPKINS Major (Thomas).
William married Abigail WHIPPLE, daughter of John WHIPPLE,.
They had the following children:
+ 3 M i. William HOPKINS.
3. William HOPKINS (William, Thomas).
Settled in Scituate, RI.
Only son of Major William Hopkins
William married Ruth WILKINSON, daughter of Samuel WILKINSON Captain and ?
They had the following children:
+ 4 M i. Stephen HOPKINS Governor was born 07 Mar 1707 and died 1785.
5 M ii. Esek HOPKINS.
Commander (in the Navy?)
6 M iii. William HOPKINS.
Older than Stephen. Sea Captain
4. Stephen HOPKINS Governor (William, William, Thomas) was born 07 Mar 1707.
He died 1785.
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Governor of Scituate
Stephen married (1) Sarah SCOTT, daughter of Sylvanus SCOTT and Joanna
JENEKES, on 09 Oct 1726 in Scituate, RI. Sarah was born 24 Jun 1707. She died
died after a long illness
Stephen and Sarah had the following children:
7 i. Sylvanius HOPKINS was born 1734. Sylvanius died 1753 in Cape Briton.
Murdered by savages after shipwreck on Cape Briton
8 M ii. Rufus HOPKINS.
9 M iii. John HOPKINS died 1753.
Died in Spain of Smallpox
Stephen also married (2) Anna SMITH on 1755.
Widow to Benjamin Smith