Where I Come From: Stephen Hopkins (Part I)

The Sea Venture

I have been reading a lot about this grandfather of mine (11th).

I wanted to be as close to historically accurate as I could be, which has required the reading of a ton of material. I have taken what seems to be consistent between the accounts and included it here. It is long but a good story. Promise.

So let's get started. In May 1609, At 28 years old he left his wife and two children in England and signed on with the Virginia Company as part of their third supply expedition to the new world. As he had no money to invest he was listed as a servant on the flagship The Sea Venture. He was to receive free passage, lodging, food and ten shillings every three weeks/months to send home. After his three year contract he was to receive 30 acres in the colony. While on board he was known as a loud mouth who quoted the Bible a lot. He is later described by William Strachey, who chronicled the voyage of the Sea Venture, as "A fellow who had much knowledge in the Scriptures, and could reason well therein" 

On July 24th the fleet sailed into a hurricane. The Sea Venture was taking on water and had lost contact with the other ships in the fleet. Fortunately within the week (4 days) they spotted land and ran the ship aground upon a reef about a mile from Bermuda. Not one passenger, including a dog, perished in the incident and Stephen himself made it to Bermuda clinging to a wine barrel.
The Sea Venture, while not sea worthy, did not break apart and the men were able to retrieve supplies from the ship as well as use the wood along with local cedar to build two new vessels.

Bermuda turned out to be a happy accident. They were on an uninhabited island so there was no threat of natives, and an island with plenty of food, and “bibby” made from the fermented fruit of the palmetto tree.
Despite this, their goal was still Jamestown, Hopkins was no fool however and thought they should stay in paradise and colonize it. He also thought that if they never made it to Virginia then they could not be held to their contract with the Virginia company. However, this line of thinking was seen as treason and he was tried for such his sentence was execution. However, due to his pleading on behalf of his wife and children at home in England that they would be ruined should word reach England of his mutiny, he was pardoned and was on one of the ships (Patience or Deliverance) bound for Virgina when they left Bermuda.

Both ships arrived safely in Jamestown in May of 1610 where they found that all the other ships in the company had made it safely to Jamestown. However the settlers had been met with adverse conditions and had dwindled dramatically in numbers. Even turning to cannibalism to survive. Records don't show if Stephan remained in Jamestown or as a mutineer was shipped straight back to England on the next available ship. However his wife dies in England in 1613 and he was not there. He also has vast knowledge of the local Indians when he returns on the Mayflower in 1620, leaving historians to speculate that he had spent a significant amount of time in Virginia before returning to England.

Once back in England, whenever it was, he discovers that his wife has perished and his three children are in the custody of the church. One of which is Constance Hopkins, My Great-Grandma (10). In 1618 he marrys again, they take up residence in a home just outside the east wall of London nearby the infamous Henage house. Henage house being home to a group of Separatists looking for funding for a Patent to settle a community of religious freedom in the new world. They were recruiting men with economic ambition to join them and Stephen was the perfect match. In 1620, this time with his entire family, he departs for the new world aboard the Mayflower.

(Part II The Mayflower)

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