Who Was Stephen Hopkins?
What do Jamestowne, the Mayflower and Shakespeare have in common? The answer is Stephen Hopkins: a Jamestowne settler, Mayflower passenger and survivor of the wreck of the Sea Venture, reputed to be the basis for Shakespeare’s comedy, The Tempest.
Hopkins (1581-1644), second son of John Hopkins (1550-1593) and Elizabeth Williams (b. and d. unknown), was baptized at All Saints church, Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England 30 April 1581. In 1603/4, he married his first wife, Mary. By 1608, they had three children, when Hopkins’ life took a dramatic turn; he was hired by the Reverend Richard Buck and charged with the reading of the Psalms and Chapters at Sunday services for the Virginia Company.
On 2 June, 1609, he boarded the Sea Venture with Jamestowne Governor Sir Thomas Gates, , Admiral Sir George Somers, and Christopher Newport, who previously was Captain of the Susan Constant that brought the first settlers to Jamestowne in 1607. On 28 July 1609, the Sea Venture was separated from the remainder of the third supply fleet during a hurricane. For three days the vessel was tossed by monstrous waves, became sailless and took on water. Just as hope seemed lost, Somers spotted land and Newport beached the ship on the coast of the “Isle of Devils” – Bermuda.
Life on Bermuda proved to be so easy that when Somers and Gates ordered two smaller ships built from the wreckage of the Sea Venture and local cedar to take the survivors to Jamestowne, some crew members refused to cooperate. Their leader was Stephen Hopkins. He was apprehended and tried for mutiny. Sentenced to death, he pleaded for his life so eloquently that he was pardoned.
The story of the Sea Venture is said to be the inspiration for The Tempest by William Shakespeare, when it first appeared on the London stage in November 1611. The episode when drunken, power-hungry butler Stephano tries to depose the island’s ruler, Prospero, may be based on Hopkin’s mutiny.
Finally, on 24 May 1610, the shipwrecked party with Stephen Hopkins and 140 others arrived at Jamestowne after having been marooned for nine months on Bermuda. There, Hopkins witnessed the results of Jamestowne’s Starving Times of 1609-10, when only 60 out of a population of 240 colonists had survived. He remained in Virginia until 1614, when the death of his wife forced his return to England. He worked as a shopkeeper and married Elizabeth Fisher in 1617/8.
Still longing to return to the New World, he, his wife and three children joined the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620. His wife gave birth in route to a son named Oceanus. Hopkins signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620. In Plymouth, he served an ambassador between the settlers and Native Americans and as an aid to the Governor. In later life he became a shopkeeper and died a wealthy man between 6 June and 17 July 1644. He had 10 children, 37 grandchildren and about 330 great-grandchildren.
This biography was submitted by Mary Jane Simpson, Central North Carolina Company Historian, and later supplemented by Frederick Cron, Registrar of the First Colorado Company.
Descendants of Stephen Hopkins who belong to the Central North Carolina Company include Dr. John Blue Clark, Jr. and Mr. Samuel M. Hobbs.
Richard C. Bradley III
2/27/2019 10:28:15 am
Very interesting history. Great blog.
11/21/2019 11:39:01 am
5/7/2020 03:42:06 pm
Stephen Hopkins was my 9th Grate Grandfather on my Mothers side
6/6/2020 09:24:48 pm
My aunt has done extensive research on ancestry.com and Stephen Hopkins is most likely my 11th great grandfather through his daughter Constance.
11/28/2021 08:37:27 pm
We are showing to be connected through Constance also. My daughter is working now on making the connections going back. She already did the paperwork for us with DAR. Does your aunt belong to any online groups of like minded and related people?
6/15/2020 04:15:13 am
This is my 10th grate grandfather
2/2/2021 03:38:07 am
he is my 9th great grandfather on my fathers side
7/15/2020 05:08:24 pm
I am a member of the Mayflower descendants,I am Stephen Hopkins 13 Great Granddaughter, Through his Son Giles.
Adam J Gould
9/22/2020 01:26:43 pm
I am a 10th or 11th great grandson of Stephen Hopkins, from his daughter Constance Hopkins and her husband Nicholas Snow. I also have William Brewster and Kenelm Winslow the brother of Governor Winslow as my ancestors.
11/2/2020 05:03:45 pm
Thrice. Twice by Giles, one line through Constance. 10th and 11th great grandfather. They intermarried a lot, and I have 11 signers and 5 other passengers.
12/27/2020 09:54:49 am
I am related to both Stephen Hopkins and Edward Doty his indentured servant. Their respective lines meet at my great grandparents in Texas. We are through the Co stance and Nicholas Snow Chain of Stephen Hopkins. So proud to be a part of such History
7/21/2021 03:29:47 am
He was my 9th great grandfather.
Robin Hall Peters
7/25/2021 09:09:45 pm
He is my 13th great grandfather on my dads side
10/18/2021 11:00:56 am
He was my 10th great uncle x
12/8/2021 08:26:35 am
I am the 12th Great-Grandson of Stephen Hopkins. I would be pleased to learn more about him and his descendants.
12/14/2021 05:49:43 pm
Related to Hopkins and Brewer of the Mayflower, also related to David Bushnell, inventor of the Turtle, 1st submarine, my mother belonged to the Mayflower Society and DAR. David died in Ga.as a teacher and doctor known as David Bush. After his service in the Revolutionary War he disappeared supposedly to France before returning and living with a friend who was a Senator representing Ga. After his death it was discovered he actually was David Bushnell, inventor and Captain of what is today, the Corp of Engineers serving at West Point and appointed by George Washington.
3/2/2022 07:16:51 am
Stephen Hopkins is my great grandfather on my mothers side. I can’t remember how far back, but seeing so many people on here with this shared ancestry excites me and makes me feel so proud! Happy to see you all here!
6/26/2022 07:32:28 am
Stephan Hopkins is my 9th great grandpa on my dads side.
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We welcome properly researched contributions of ancestor profiles, vignettes and comments from members that focus on their ancestors’ roles in Jamestown’s history, plus other aspects of their lives, events and experiences in the colony. PLEASE NOTE that all information must be documented and backed up by primary source documents, and not unverifiable information and family and urban legends. Submissions without this backup may be rejected. Please limit contributions and blog entries solely to the ancestors themselves, and do not include subsequent lineage information. Entries should be no more than 400 words.