John Henry Hopkins

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John Henry Hopkins
Born January 30, 1792 (1792-01-30)
Dublin, Ireland
Died January 9, 1868 (1868-01-10) (aged 75)
Rock Point, Burlington, Vermont
Occupation American bishop
Bishop Hopkins.

John Henry Hopkins (January 30, 1792 – January 9, 1868) was the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont and was the eighth Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Early life and career

Hopkins was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1792, the son of Thomas Hopkins and his wife Elizabeth nee Fitzakerly.[1] The family emigrated to the United States in 1801. Neither parent was religious, but both valued education: Elizabeth Hopkins established a school for girls in Trenton, New Jersey and eventually sent her son to a Baptist boy's school in Bordentown, and then to Princeton University.[2]

Hopkins' family then moved to Philadelphia where his mother established another school. At a young age Hopkins met Bishop William White and his assistant, a Dr. Abercrombie, and joined the Philological Society. Because of the family's straightened circumstances, Hopkins took a job at a counting-house, although his mother always wanted him to become a lawyer.[3] At that time Hopkins was not particularly religious and his parents' marriage was troubled. When his mother moved to Frederick, Maryland to establish another school, he stayed with his father and friends in Philadelphia.[4] Influenced by his Scottish friends, Hopkins decided to become an ironmaster and, in addition to studying books, he worked for an ironmaster in New Jersey and another in Philadelphia. While westward expansion and the Embargo Act increased demand for American-made iron, Hopkins moved west and managed the ironworks at Bassenheim, Butler County.[5][6] Although that partnership dissolved after the War of 1812, Hopkins made important contacts, including James O'Hara of Pittsburgh, an Irish immigrant who became the wealthiest man in Pittsburgh as well as Quartermaster General. O'Hara employed Hopkins to run ironworks in the Ligonier Valley. There, at the remote Hermitage Furnace, Hopkins encountered the Muller family, descended from a long line of Lutheran ministers, and, after a religious awakening, began studying the bible and other materials, including of Quakers and Swedenborgians.[7]

A trip to Greensburg to be a witness in a lawsuit, revived Hopkins' interest in law. After borrowing Blackstone's Commentaries and other books from a Greensburg lawyer, and studying them, Hopkins also traveled back to Harmony, Pennsylvania to marry Caspar Muller's daughter and bring her (and her sister) back to Hermitage Furnace.[8] However, the iron business failed.[9] After wrapping up matters, Hopkins moved to Pittsburgh and taught drawing and painting (and his wife music), as well as read law under a local lawyer. In April 1819, he was admitted to the bar and established a legal practice in Pittsburgh, as well as became a Freemason.[10] While he and his wife attended the Presbyterian Church, Hopkins was also persuaded to play the organ for the local Episcopal Church.[11] In 1824-25 Hopkins became a professor of rhetoric and belles-lettres at the Western University of Pennsylvania, now known as the University of Pittsburgh.[12] Eventually, after the rector moved back to New Jersey and the next Episcopal priest proved inadequate, Hopkins applied to become a candidate for the priesthood, planning to merge his religious and legal vocations.[13]


In 1823, Hopkins entered the ministry of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in response to the call of Trinity Church in Pittsburgh, PA in which he was a vestryman. He also served as organist/choirmaster of Trinity Church from 1824 to 1830. In 1831, he accepted the charge of Trinity Church, Boston, and the next year was elected the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont, taking also the rectorship of a church in Burlington. He took great interest in education and made heavy economic sacrifices for its promotion. After 1856, he devoted his whole time to the care of the diocese.

Presiding Bishop

John Henry Hopkins was the eighth presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church and served from January 13, 1865 to January 9, 1868. Largely through the efforts of Presiding Bishop Hopkins and his friend Bishop Stephen Elliott of Georgia, who was the presiding bishop of the breakaway Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, the Northern and Southern branches of the Church were reunited after the end of the Civil War. Both men considered this crucial to the survival of the Church and the nation.


In 1861, a pamphlet titled A Scriptural, Ecclesiastical, and Historical View of Slavery written by Bishop Hopkins attempted to justify slavery based on the New Testament, and gave a clear insight into the Episcopal Church's involvement in slavery.

Later life

Bishop Hopkins served for a time as the Chancellor of the University of Vermont and was later prominent in the Lambeth Conference in London in 1867. He died the next January at Rock Point and was buried there at Bishop’s House, Rock Point, Burlington, Vermont.


On May 8, 1816, John Henry Hopkins married Melusina Muller, and they had 13 children.[1] In 1866 most of their large family gathered at the family home at Rock Point to celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary, and their daughter-in-law, Alice Leavenworth Hopkins (married to Theodore, see below), published a book to commemorate the event. One on their sons was John Henry Hopkins, Jr., born on October 28, 1820, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who became an Episcopal priest and hymn writer, and delivered the eulogy at the Funeral of President Ulysses S. Grant in 1885. He died on August 14, 1891, in Hudson, New York, and is buried with his father at Bishop’s House, Rock Point.[14] Many of the Bishop's children were multi-talented and multi-disciplined. One of the elder sons, Theodore Austin Hopkins, took over at Rock Point as Headmaster for many years before entering local politics as a town auditor in South Burlington. He was also a gifted musician and architect, having designed a lovely Queen Anne Victorian home for his family to reside in that stands to this day in Vermont. Another son, Charles Jerome Hopkins, known commonly as "Jerome" or "C.J." Hopkins in musical circles, was a composer and fierce advocate of public support for American musical composition and for free education in the musical arts. One of Jerome's best known pieces was "The Wind Demon", though he composed over 700 pieces over the course of his lifetime, including the sacred opera "Samuel". One of Bishop Hopkins' great-grandchildren was the illustrious Dorothy Canfield Fisher, renowned for being the namesake of the prestigious literary award in children's publishing. Teachers, pioneers, scientists, medical doctors, artists, musicians, men and women of holy orders... Bishop Hopkins' children continued a long and proud legacy of academia and creativity. Annually, until the mid-1980s, the "Hopkinsfolk" would travel to Vermont to have a reunion. When time, energy, and the sheer numbers of people prohibited this reunion, the gatherings ceased. Many of the Hopkins descendants live far and wide across the United States today. One Hopkins descendant appeared on the popular television show Antiques Roadshow with a family portrait painted by Bishop Hopkins, as well as photographs of Rev. Hopkins and his wife, and a letter describing the portrait and the family. Members of the Vermont Historical Society in the 1800s, the Bishop, his wife and children knew the value of preserving family memorabilia. Many of their family letters are annotated with dates and relative data so as to tell future generations the story of their lives. The University of Vermont and Harvard University preserve some of the family's records.


Hopkins was a prolific writer. His major works include:

Hopkins was also a fine painter and left several family portraits and a book of prints filled with his botanical observations of flowers and other plant life. Three of his botanical lithographs are on display at the Passavant House Museum in Zelienople, Pennsylvania. His architectural legacy has been mostly erased, unfortunately, as his beautiful gothic St. Paul's Cathedral in Burlington, Vermont was destroyed by fire in 1972. However, one of his first Gothic designs still stands today, St. Paul Lutheran in Zelienople, PA (built in 1826). His wife's family were members of St. Paul's congregation. Many plates of his designs for the cathedral and other studies made of Gothic architecture also survive and are preserved in the University of Vermont Historical Archives.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Who Was Who in America, vol. 1, 1897–1942, (1943) Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, p. 259
  2. J.H.Hopkins, Jr., The Life of the late right reverend John Henry Hopkins (New York, 1873) at pp. 23-27, available at
  3. Hopkins at p. 29
  4. Hopkins pp. 30-31
  5. at p. 11
  6. Hopkins p. 35
  7. Hopkins at pp. 40-44
  8. Hopkins pp. 46-47
  9. Hopkins pp. 49-51
  10. Hopkins, pp. 52-53, 57
  11. Hopkins p. 61
  12. Starrett, Agnes Lynch (1937). Through one hundred and fifty years: the University of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press. p. 76. Retrieved August 1, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Hopkins, p. 64
  14. "John Henry Hopkins, Jr". Retrieved November 20, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • John Henry Hopkins, Jr. (his son), Biography (New York, 1873)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "article name needed". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Episcopal Church (USA) titles
Preceded by
Thomas Church Brownell
8th Presiding Bishop
Succeeded by
Benjamin Bosworth Smith
Preceded by
New Diocese
1st Bishop of Vermont
Succeeded by
William H. A. Bissell