General Samuel Hopkins
"Father of Henderson"
Daughters Of The American Revolution
This information abstracted from
the Gleaner Journal of Henderson, Ky, April 8, 1973 in regard to the General
Samuel Hopkins Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution honoring
General Samuel Hopkins in their Bi-Centennial Commemorative Project. Researched
and Compiled by Katheryn Howe Baskett
General Samuel Hopkins was destined to become a very great and famous man. He was born April 9, 1753 in Albemarle County, Virginia, the first son of Dr. Samuel Hopkins and his wife, Isabella Taylor, and a grandson of Dr. Arthur Hopkins and his wife, Elizabeth Pettus. Dr. Arthur Hopkins was the first of the Hopkins name to settle in Virginia. He came to America from Ireland with his two brothers in the year 1705. One of the brothers settled in the East and from him descended Stephen Hopkins, one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.›
Samuel Hopkins, through his mother, Isabella Taylor, was a descendant of many very prominent and distinguished Virginia families, namely Pendle, Taylor, Barbour, Breckenridge and Cabell and others. Isabella Taylor Hopkins was a first cousin to Patrick Henry and was closely related to both President Zachary Taylor and President Madison. Her lineage has been traced back to William the Conqueror and to Emperor Charlemagne.
›Samuel Hopkins studied to become a lawyer and a surveyor. But when the great struggle began with the British for our freedom and independence, he at once answered the call of his Country. He was one of the most distinguished officers of the Revolutionary War and played a conspicuous and noted part for eight long years. Few officers of is rank or station performed more active duty, rendered more the respect and confidence of the Command-in-chief George Washington. He served with distinction as a member of General Washington's staff and was one of the picked men who crossed the Delaware on a Christmas Even night, in a driving storm of sleet and drifting ice when Washington surprised the Hessians at Trenton. In the old original orderly book of the Tenth Virginia Regiment there were frequent entries recording the devoted and arduous duties of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hopkinss during the terrible and tragic winter at Valley Forge - from presiding at Court Martials to maintaining the "espirit de corps." of General Washington's ragged veterans.
›The services of Lieutenant Colonel Samuel Hopkins as given in Heitman's "Historical Register of Officers in the Continental Army -- 1775 - 1783 are as follows:
* "Captain" -- 6th Virginia Regiment -- Feb 24, 1776
* "Major" - 6th Virginia Regiment -- Nov 29, 1777
* "Lieutenant Colonel" - - 14th Virginia Regiment -- Jun 19, 1778
* "Lieutenant Colonel -- 10th Virginia Regiment -- Oct 13, 1778
Samuel Hopkins fought valiantly in the Battles of Brandywine, Princeton, Trenton, Monmouth and Germantown. In the Battle of Germantown he commanded a Battalion of Light Infantry, and while nobly battling for his Country and for her rights, he received a very severe wound, after almost the entire loss of those under his command. He was Lieutenant Colonel of the Tenth Virginia Regiment at the siege of Charleston in South Carolina, and after the death of Colonel Richard Parker, he became the Colonel of the Regiment and served as such until the end of the war. At the surrender of Charleston on May 20, 1780, Colonel Hopkins was taken prisoner along with his officers. The prisoners were taken by British ship around the coast to Virginia. The prisoners were badly treated and Samuel Hopkins determined to help his officers. He threatened to raise a mutiny and seize the ship. After this the men were treated with more kindness and respect. After sometime, Samuel Hopkins and his officers were exchanged and on February 12, 1781, Samuel Hopkins was transferred to the 1st Virginia Regiment. He was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati in Virginia.
On August 27, 1774, The Transylvania
Company, sometimes called the Richard Henderson Company was formed in North
Carolina. This was one of first of many land companies and was composed
of a "Company of Gentlemen Adventurers" -- nine in number and all living
in north Carolina. The President and leader was the brilliant and eloquent
Jurist and colonizer, Judge Richard Henderson.
He has been called the "Political Father of Kentucky" and "one of the greatest
of American land speculators and Commonwealth builders." His talents demanded
stirring and brilliant opportunities -- so he turned towards Kentucky,
then a most exciting subject.
Under the leadership of Richard
Henderson, the Transylvania Company accomplished
great things in Kentucky. It was this Company that laid the foundation
on which Kentucky was built. It was also this Company that negotiated the
Great Treaty with the Indians at Wataugua. And it was after the loss of
the vast lands acquired from the Cherokees in this treaty, that Virginia
"in consideration" of their great loss, gave the Company 200,000 acres
of land situated between the Ohio and Green Rivers. This was known as the
Henderson Grant. But the settling of this Grand was long delayed. It lay
far beyond the frontier and was considered the "Far West" open to Indian
raids and over run by a ruthless band of river pirates. The Indiana village
of Shawneetown was across the river and not far away.
Near the end of the eighteenth
century, all of the members of the Transylvania or Richard Henderson Company
had passed away except three, Judge John Williams,
James Hogg and Nathaniel Hart. Their great
leader, Judge Richard Henderson
had died, at his home in North Carolina, on January 30, 1785. But there
were heirs from the deceased members and Amelia
Johnston, the only child and heir of William
Johnston, became the only woman member. William Johnston had acted as secretary
and treasurer of the Company for over a decade.
Now this group, decided to found
a town on the Richard Henderson Grant along the Ohio river. They had some
knowledge of the chosen site, as it was known to the river men as "Red
Banks" from the high red bluffs that lifted the land far above the highest
floods. In later years, the town was known as the "Floodless City" on the
The Company also knew that a
few settlers had come down the river on flatboats and landed at Red banks
and had built cabins and a small stockade. This was at the crossroads of
the Shawnee Trail and the Natchez Trace. These pioneers, fifteen families
in all, had settled within the Grant with neither title or grant to the
land, as early as 1791 - 1792.
It was about this time, now that
the Revolutionary War was over, that Samuel
Hopkins had left his home in Virginia and
gone to Hillsborough, North Carolina. Here he contracted for the erection
of the first building ever erected upon the Campus of any State University
in America the old East Building, and also the building of the official
home of the President of the University of North Carolina. because of his
efficient work, Colonel Richard Burton, secretary of the Board of Trustees,
urged the Transylvania Company to engage Samuel Hopkins as agent to arrange
for and direct the subdivision of the land lying on the Ohio and Green
Early in the year 1797, The Company
did engage Samuel Hopkins as agent and attorney and Captain Thomas Allin
as surveyor and sent them to the Henderson Grant to lay out the town.
Hopkins and Allin kept very complete
notes of their work and from these notes we learn that "Samuel
Hopkins set out from his home in Hanover County,
Virginia on February 16, 1797 for Kentucky." After passing the first mountains
the weather became violent, with rain and snow. He reached Danville, Ky.,
on March 10, 1797 and was joined by Captain
Thomas Allin, who was to survey the Grant.
Three hands were also engaged as chain men and markers. At Lexington, Mr.
Purviance, a land speculator, also joined
the party. On the way Elisha Howard
was employed as a guide, hunter and messenger. The horses and supplies
were sent on by land but Hopkins and his group of men came down the Green
river to the Ohio by a parogue. They reached the site of Red Banks, March
30, 1797. The business of laying out the town began immediately. The work
was greatly retarded by heavy rains and flooding rivers. It rained for
twenty days and both the Ohio and Green rivers were flooded.
did a most intelligent piece of work in laying off the Town. The original
plan of he "Old City" shows that four streets were two and a quarter miles
long and parallel with the Ohio river; three of them were one hundred feet
wide, the fourth street, Water Street, was two hundred feet wide. These
four streets were intersected by twenty-five cross streets, also one hundred
feet wide. These beautiful wide streets in Henderson came about because
Samuel Hopkins had a haunting fear of fire. Therefore, he made the streets
wide so a fire could not "jump across" and only one block was likely to
burn down at a time. Six blocks cutting through the exact center of the
town were given by the Transylvania Company for a park and other uses.
This was the first municipal park west of the Alleghenies and was named
Transylvania Park in honor of the founding fathers. Later it was renamed
On July 15, 1797, Samuel Hopkins
sent his report, together with Captain Allin's description of the tract
to the Transylvania Company in North Carolina. The report closed with these
"As to our work, I hope and believe
it will be found as accurate as a work of this kind can well be -- that
there may be imperfections in it, I have no doubt, but I am morally certain
that it contains as much perfection as is necessary.--We left the Grant
on the 1st of June, when we arrived in Mercer, it employed the Surveyor
twelve days to finish the Platts, certificates, etc. I left that place
22 June and arrived at my home on 6th, July 1797, having been out 141 days."
Signed Richard Hopkins
A meeting of the Transylvania
or Richard Henderson Company was held at Williamsborough, North Carolina
on Monday, 31st of July, 1797. Samuel Hopkins
met with them and reported his proceedings in the said business with a
Plat and description of the survey, -- all of which was unanimously approved
of. It was also approved that the new town was to be called Henderson in
honor of Colonel Richard Henderson,
who had been the guiding influence of the Company until his death in 1785.
But the old name "Red Banks" still clung to the town for many years.
Samuel Hopkins was given his
preference of the ten acre lots laid out around the town of Henderson and
the thanks of the Company for the faithful and complete manner in which
her performed his duties of his appointment.
The Hopkins family was one of
the first to return and settle on the newly opened Grant. Samuel Hopkins
became a promoter, conceiving and starting many good things for the new
town and county of Henderson. He wrote glowing reports to his friends in
Virginia and North Carolina and soon many of the heirs of the members of
the Transylvania Company came and settled on their land in the Grant. Others
came and built their homes on plantations or in the town. In 1817, John
James Audubon and his family came from Louisville,
Ky., to the new Henderson. Land outside the Grant was given by Virginia
to Officers and soldiers of the Revolutionary War.
Samuel Hopkins began the practice of law and became the first judge of the first Court held in Henderson. The following story is recorded in one of the Old Court books: "Being made angry, he uttered an oath by saying "By God." The law at that time was that whosoever uttered an oath should pay a fine to be determined by the Court. So, Hopkins was presented before the Commissioners and upon being examined, he confessed his crime and paid a fine of five shillings to the Court. He then took his seat and presided as Judge on the first day of the first Court.
kept in touch with every phase of life in Henderson and Henderson county.
As a farmer he took great delight in the rich Kentucky soil. He experimented
with different crops and kept exact records of the results of these crops,
where sold and the price obtained. By 1800 Henderson County was producing
abundant crops and immense quantities of them, especially tobacco, were
floated down the river to New Orleans.
The health of the settlers seemed
to be excellent. Samuel Hopkins
recorded in his notes on July 15, 1800 - "There is not at this time ten
sick persons of all disorders in Henderson County." In 1802, he wrote:
- "Through this year the people in all our settlement have been extremely
healthy. I have not heard of anyone sick enough to take physic or had died."
By the year 1799, Henderson did
not have representation in the Kentucky Assembly. Hopkins commented on
this state of affairs in a letter written to Colonel Thomas Hart of Lexington,
Kentucky: - "I hear your town and neighborhood are deeply engaged in politics
- the subject of the approaching election will cause the explosion off
much wind and shedding of much ink. Not so here. I do not think one-half
hour has been consumed with us on the subject. The Assembly in their law
arranging the places of holding the elections and appointing the Representatives
did us such manifest injustice that we care very little for the present.
Besides in a few years you know, there will be another convention conjured
up by some restless Spirits and then perhaps we shall be thought entitled
to an equal representation."
In the years 1800-1801-1803-1806,
Hopkins represented his district in the House
of Representatives. He procured the passage of a law "Enabling aliens residing
in the State of Kentucky to hold lands in fee." This was a privilege not
extended to that class in any other State. Hopkins also served as a member
of the Kentucky State Senate from 1809 to 1813. In 1809 he was one of Kentucky's
Presidential Electors, casting his vote for Madison.
With the outbreak of the second
war with Great Britain, Samuel Hopkins
again answered the call of his Country. In this War of 1812, he was commissioned
Major General by President Madison. After that he was always referred to
as "General". he was put in charge of 2,000 men and in October, 1812, Governor
Isaac Shelby gave him permission to take these
mounted volunteers against the Kickapoo Indians on the Illinois river.
This party was misled by guides and after wandering several days about
the prairie, the men began to desert against the wishes and commands of
the officers. There was a lack of provisions as their beef had been lost
on the trail. Other provisions had not been delivered. In November, 1812,
General Hopkins collected another band of infantry and marched up the Wabash
as far as Prophets Town, destroying several Indian Villages, but lost part
of the force by ambush. The Indians refused to combat and later sued for
peace. Samuel Goode Hopkins, son of the General served as Captain in the
United States Army in the War of 1812.
Samuel Hopkins returned to his home in Henderson,
but he was elected Representative to the 13th United States Congress from
Kentucky, and took his seat -- June 26, 1813. After one term, he returned
to his plantation and his family and friends.
General Hopkins had married Elizabeth
(Betty) Branch Bugg, the daughter of Jacob
Bugg. Their marriage license was dated January 10, 1783 in Mecklenburg
County, Virginia. To this union was born, in Virginia, eight children.
1. Samuel Goode Hopkins -- born 1784. Died in Missouri›
2. Elizabeth Branch Hopkins - born 1786,. Married Colonel Philip Barbour.
3. Nancy Ann Taylor - born 1788. Married Judge Thomas Towels.
4. Jacob Bugg Hopkins - born 1790. Married Carolina Imlay Brent.
5. Lucinda (Lucy) Bugg Hopkins - born 1791. Married Dr. James Wardlow.
6. Sarah Pettus Hopkins - born 1794. Married Nicholas Horseley. She was noted for being the most intelligent and best informed woman in Kentucky.
7. Martha Isabella Hopkins - born 1796. Married George Lynn of Henderson.
8. Mary (Maria) Bush Hopkins - born 1796. Unmarried. Became the owner of the home plantation after the death of the General.
General Samuel Hopkins was certainly an extraordinary man. He was the first person of the Episcopalian faith in Henderson and often read services in the Union Church, located on a hill in Transylvania ( now Central) Park. He was a self made man and rose to such a position of popularity that he was considered, all over the Sate of Kentucky, as one of her most talented sons. Hopkins County, Kentucky and Hopkinsville, Kentucky., were named in his honor. such was the character of General Samuel Hopkins, that without doubt, he did more for the good and prosperity of the early settlement of Red Banks, later named Henderson, than any other man. He can truly be called the "Father of Henderson and Henderson County, Kentucky."
General Hopkins was quite a rich
man in his time and "Spring Garden" his beautiful plantation, located about
two miles east of Henderson, on the Zion road, was among his landed possessions.
The appraisement of his estate in 1820 was listed as $20,474.00, a fortune
at that time.
At the age of sixty-six, the
"Old General" died - September 16, 1819 at his home. His remains were interred
in the family burying ground at "Spring Garden." A simple marble shaft
was placed on his last resting place. The inscription on this monument
"Sacred to the Memory of General Samuel Hopkins
Who was born 9th. Apr. 1753 and Died Sept. 16th 1819.
Firm with Temperance, Benevolent with Sincerity and Liberal without Ostentation. He Closed in the Bosom of his Family, a Long Life of Exemplary Usefulness in Military and Civil Employment, Characterized by Ardent Devotion to his Country and the Best Interests of Man.