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Stephen Hopkins (Mayflower passenger) facts for kids

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Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, by William Halsall
Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882)

Stephen Hopkins (1581 – 1644) He was a passenger on the Mayflower in 1620, and signed the Mayflower Compact. He was also an assistant to the Governor of Plymouth Colony in 1636.

Hopkins was born in 1581 at Upper Clatford, Hampshire, England and was the son of John and Elizabeth Hopkins. He worked as a tanner and merchant.

There is little information about his early life. He married a woman named Mary and they had three children: Elizabeth, Constance, and Giles.

Early adventures in the New World

On June 2, 1609 Hopkins sailed over the Atlantic Ocean for Jamestown, Virginia on the Sea Venture. This was the head ship of a group of ships lead by Sir George Somers. The Sea Venture was carrying the new Jamestown governor, Thomas Gates, and was also delivering supplies to Jamestown.

The ships were on the sea for nearly two months when a severe storm that lasted for five days caused the ships to become separated. The Sea Venture was badly damaged and about to sink. They saw land which was the island of Bermuda. They made it to land but were shipwrecked on the island. Fortunately there was much food and water.

In September 1, 1609, they built a long boat and sent 8 men out to try to reach Jamestown to get help but that boat never returned.

In late November 1609, they begin repairing smaller boats enough to take everyone off the island and continue to Jamestown. Hopkins and other people did not agree with Captain Gates and did not think he was a good leader. They had a dispute and Hopkins was charged with mutiny. He was sentenced to death but the people on the ship begged the Captain to take mercy and Hopkins was forgiven.

The settlers in Jamestown did not get along with the Native Americans and they also refused to farm and grow food. They sometimes cheated the Native Americans and they turned against the settlers with violence which lasted for years.

On May 10, 1610, Hopkins and others left the island of Bermuda and came to Jamestown eleven days later. The people in Jamestown were starving to death. They were afraid to go outside the fort and were tearing down their houses for firewood. They were not planting crops. They also refused to trade with the Native Americans or to fish. When he arrived from Bermuda, Governor Gates estimated there was only days worth of food left. He decided to sail to Newfoundland and then went to 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.

William Shakespeare wrote a play called The Tempest in November 1611. It is about a group of passengers being shipwrecked by a mighty storm. That play has a character that was supposed to be Stephen Hokpins.

Back in England, Hopkins' wife Mary unexpectedly died in May 1613, leaving her three young children all alone. Hopkins returned to England to care for his children. Some time later, he married his second wife Elizabeth Fisher.

When Hopkins learned of the planned ‘’Mayflower’’ voyage to Northern Virginia to establish a colony, he decided he would like to go.

The children of Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins were Damaris, Oceanus, Caleb, Deborah, Damaris, Ruth and Elizabeth. Oceanus was born during the voyage.

The Mayflower Voyage

The Mayflower Compact 1620 cph.3g07155
Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

Hopkins left Plymouth, England on 16 September 1620. There were 102 passengers and 30–40 crew. On 19 November 1620, the Mayflower spotted land. The Mayflower was supposed to land in Virginia Colony, but the ship was damaged and they were forced to land 21 November at Cape Cod now called Provincetown Harbor. They wrote the Mayflower Compact, which made rules on how they would live and treat each other. Hopkins signed the Mayflower Compact.

In Plymouth Colony

Hopkins and other men went to land to explore the area for a place where everyone could live. Hopkins was very valuable because he had experience from his time at Jamestown.

One of the earliest missions included William Bradford, John Carver, Myles Standish , Edward Winslow, John Howland, Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins and Edwary Doty. Bradford wrote that they set off in freezing weather, "and when the set sail the salt spray froze on their coats, as if they had been glazed". Of this group Hopkins was the most experienced havings spent time at Jamestown. During their trip they observed Native Americans who appeared to be cutting up a large whale but when they saw the men approaching the natives fled.

Hopkins taught the pilgrims to hunt and to make friends with the Native Americans. The first meeting with the Native Americans Samoset and Massasoit was held at Hopkins’ house. Over the years Hopkins was a great help to colony leaders such as Myles Standish and Edward Winslow.

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."

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