Sunday, February 6, 2011


Here is another great find, thanks to the historic newspapers at
G-pop Caterson's mother was Pauline Hopkins, known to us as Mudz. Her parents were Melvin and Pauline (Phillips) Hopkins. He was born in Maryland, she in PA.
Melvin's parents were both from Maryland. His father was Samuel G. Hopkins and his mother was Rebecca C. (Skillman) Hopkins. They were married in Baltimore in 1843. I still don't know who their parents were as in the 1850 census they were already married with three children and living in Baltimore. Samuel's occupation is shown as an auctioneer. In 1860 in Baltimore, the census shows them with six children but Melvin is not amongst them. Samuel's occupation is given as agent. By 1870 we find them in Philadelphia with six children, and again Samuel's occupation is clerk in auction store. In 1880, Samuel is not listed at all. Our ancestor Melvin is married to Pauline by then and has three children. We find Rebecca living with her daughter, Emma Mayland in Philadelphia. 
So again I turned to the newspapers to try to solve some of these mysteries. One of the first articles I found is the one below, from October, 1888 entitled “An Aged Rascal”. It tells of an older gentleman caught counterfeiting in Baltimore. When I found this I didn't think much of it as Hopkins is a very common name in Baltimore. 

So I kept digging through the archives. Then I came across another article that gave more details. It said that he was originally from Baltimore, had been arrested in Philadelphia for similar charges, and used to work at an auction house in Baltimore. This had to be my Samuel! There was another earlier article from 1880 about a Philadelphian who had been caught counterfeiting and it listed one of his aliases, A. B. Rowland.
 I started searching around in Philadelphia newspapers using that alias and found an incredible article from April, 1880 that told the whole story:
"An Old Counterfeiter Arrested-Secret Service officers EH Gilkenson and Francis Kelly made an important arrest yesterday afternoon in the person of Samuel Hopkins, alias George Robinson, alias AB Rowlands. He is a noted counterfeiter, and the officers have been looking for him since last May. He was arrested at his home, number 617 Clifton St., and made no opposition. Hopkins is charged with altering and raising one dollar green backs to twos by placing a printed figure 2 over the one on the corner of the note. He has served two terms of imprisonment in the Eastern penitentiary, and one term in Baltimore, his native city. He was discharged from the latter place, after serving a two-years term, early in February 1879, and came to Philadelphia, and immediately commenced operations here.
In May last a Secret Service officer got on his track, and traced him to his house on S. 17th St. The officer entered and found him asleep on the lounge in the parlor of the house. At the request of Hopkins the officer allowed him to go to the second story for the purpose, which he alleged, of procuring some clothing.
Hopkins, when reaching the second floor, jumped from a window to a shed and escaped. Since that time the officers have been searching for him, but have been unable to get their hands on him until yesterday afternoon. Sometime ago he sent a letter to the United States District Attorney stating that he was anxious to come home and see his family, after which he desired to get a position on the ---- of that city, provided he should not be disturbed by the United States authorities. He wished he could lead a better life. He wanted to know if he would not be molested.
The United States District Attorney, however, took no notice of the letter, thinking that Hopkins was trying to do something in order to throw the officers off of his track. It is believed, however, that he has been in the city very frequently of late. It is stated that Hopkins was once a respectable man, and not so long ago either. He had considerable cash in Cyrus Cadwallader's Franklin Saving Fund and when that institution exploded, of course he lost it, or at least the greater part of it. This loss drove him to his wits and finally he got into the counterfeiting business and operated with one and two dollar bills as stated. When he was first convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, his family, which is a very respectable one, took it very hard. In fact it caused the death of two of his children, and three others nearly died from scarlet fever soon after. He has a daughter living in the city, and it was at her home that he was arrested. The family have done everything possible to get him to reform, but without avail. After altering the one dollar notes into twos he passes them himself. For instance, he will go into a small store, and a lady will be in attendance. He will purchase 15 or 25 cents worth of some article will then show a raise to dollar note from his pocket, and, handing it to her, will say quote “I don't know whether that is a one dollar note or a two, as I can't see very well, because I left my glasses at home.” The lady will then say it is a two dollar bill, and will give him his change, and he will walk out. A closer examination of the bill afterward will show its true character. Hopkins is between 60 and 65 years old, but, notwithstanding his age, he is sharper and shrewder than many younger men. He had a hearing yesterday afternoon before United States Commissioner Gibbons, and was committed for a further hearing on Tuesday next."
You can read the whole series of articles HERE.
So, if all these stories are correct, it appears that Samuel Hopkins' first conviction in Baltimore ended in Feb 1870, he was convicted to 2 1/2 years in October 1874, then again in 1877 and 1880 in Philadelphia. His last conviction was 1888 where he was sentenced to five years in the Maryland penitentiary. He died there in 1890 and his body was shipped to Philadelphia for burial. 
Eastern State Penitentiary

As a side note, the prison where he resided in Philadelphia was the Eastern State Penitentiary, the most famous and expensive prison in the world. Their philosophy was one of solitary confinement, allowing inmates to reflect upon their digressions and be rehabilitated. You can read about it HERE.
So, what about Samuel's family while he was cooling his heels in jail all those years? My next post will answer that question! 

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