Edward Hopkins

Edward Hopkins (1600 – March 1657) was an English colonist and politician and Governor of the Connecticut Colony. Active on both sides of the Atlantic, he was a founder of the New Haven and Connecticut colonies, serving seven one-year terms as governor of Connecticut. He returned to England in the 1650s, where he was politically active in the administration of Oliver Cromwell. He remained in England despite being elected governor of Connecticut in 1655, and died in London in 1657.

Edward Hopkins
2nd Governor of the Colony of Connecticut
In office
1640 – 1655
(7 separate terms)
Member of Parliament
for Dartmouth
In office
Personal details
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
DiedMarch 1657

Hopkins' will left substantial assets, in trust, for "Encouragement unto those forreign Plantations for the breeding up of Hopefull youth in the way of Learning both at ye Gramar School & Colledge for the publick Service of the Country in future times [and] for the upholding & promoting of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ in those parts of the earth." However, the inchoate state of American law on trusts kept The Charity of Edward Hopkins (as this trust is now known) mired in litigation for the next 135 years. The eventual resolution of the case made Harvard College the major beneficiary of the trust, along with the Hopkins School of New Haven, Connecticut, the schools of[vague] Cambridge, Massachusetts, and other institutions.

As a side effect of the early administration of the trust, the town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts is named for him.


Edward Hopkins was born in 1600 in Shrewsbury, Shropshire to Edward Hopkins and Katharine Lello Hopkins. Educated at Shrewsbury School, he then went to London where he became a successful merchant engaging in trade with the Near East. He may have benefited from connections with his uncle, Sir Henry Lello, who served for a time as English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

He married Ann Yale (born about 1615, daughter of David and Ann (Lloyd) Yale of Wales, and step-daughter of Theophilus Eaton) in 1636 or 1637 in Hartford, Connecticut).[1]

He became involved in efforts to establish a colony on the shore of Long Island Sound that were under the aegis of the Lord Say and Sele and Baron Brooke. Although Hopkins was not apparently a signer of the Saybrook Colony's patent, he was involved in procuring provisions for the colonization effort's inaugural expedition in 1635, headed by Lion Gardiner. After restrictions were placed on emigration to New England, the proprietors of the venture essentially abandoned it.

In 1637 he joined a venture led by Theophilus Eaton, an indirect relation through his wife, and John Davenport which led to the establishment of a settlement at the mouth of the Quinnipiac River and the founding of the New Haven Colony. Two months later he was sent north to recently founded Hartford on the Connecticut River to negotiate additional land purchases for the New Haven colonists, but decided to instead stay in Hartford, becoming one of the early settlers of the Connecticut Colony. In the colony's first election in 1639 he became one of several Assistants to the General Court. Then, in 1640 Hopkins was elected governor. Because the colony's charter forbade reelection to the governorship, Hopkins and John Haynes (Connecticut's first governor) traded off as governor (save one term by George Wyllys) between 1639 and 1655, each serving as Deputy Governor to the other when not governor.

Hopkins survived an assassination attempt in 1646 by a Native American tribe, made because Connecticut protected the chief of their rival tribe. He advocated the New England Confederation, serving as one of its commissioners. Even though he invested significantly in the colony, he also made money, supplying the colony with provisions from Europe and monopolizing the local fur trade among other activities.

In 1650 he negotiated the Treaty of Hartford with Dutch Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant, which established boundaries between the Dutch and English colonies in Connecticut and Long-Island.

Hopkins returned to England several times during his rotating stints as governor. Oliver Cromwell appointed him a commissioner of the Royal Navy (later admiralty commissioner), oversaw the printing of the New Haven Colony's first laws, and served in the English Parliament during Cromwell's reign.

Hopkins was elected Connecticut's governor a final time in 1655 (despite still being in England) as an attempt by Connecticut residents to draw back their well-respected governor. He did not return, however, and the lieutenant governor Thomas Welles served out Hopkins' final term. Hopkins died in March 1657 in the London parish of St Olave Hart Street.


Money from Hopkins' estate funded the creation of Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Hopkins Classical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The creation of such a school was the wish of John Davenport, founder of the New Haven colony. Hopkinton, Massachusetts, named for him, was established on land purchased using funds from his estate.


General sources
  • "The Charity of Edward Hopkins: The Hazards of Charitable Trusts in Colonial America" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 11, 2011.[better source needed]
  • An Account of the Trust Administered by the Trustees of the Charity of Edward Hopkins alt

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
John Haynes, George Wyllys
Governor of the Connecticut Colony
1640-1656 (seven separate one-year terms)
Succeeded by
John Haynes, Thomas Welles
Parliament of England
Preceded by
Thomas Boone
Member of Parliament representing Dartmouth
Succeeded by
Thomas Boone