Seeking the Enslaved Background of the Hopkins Family of Posey County, Indiana

In our continuing efforts to trace the family histories of the victims of the October 1878 racial terror lynching in Mount Vernon, Posey County, Indiana, what can be determined about the antebellum background of the family of Jeff Hopkins (who was one of the four men hanged in front of the County Courthouse on October 11)? In a previous post, I try to trace the children of Jeff and his wife Pheba Hopkins, who all appear to have relocated to Chicago by 1880. (I have not been able to locate any records of Pheba herself, after the 1870 census entry.)

Let us begin with information listed in the 1870 census in Black Township. Posey County, Indiana, about the Hopkins family.

Jeff Hopkins, b. 1842, Kentucky (farmer)

Pheba Hopkins, b. 1841, Kentucky

Florida Hopkins, p. 1853, Kentucky

Fredric Hopkins, b, 1860, Kentucky

Gabrella Hopkins, 1864-1929, b. Kentucky

Abe Hopkins, b. 1867, Kentucky

Ulysses S Grant Hopkins, b. 1869 Indiana

Family of Jeff Hopkins, 1870 census, Black township, Posey County, Indiana

Evidently, Jeff and Pheba like their children Florida, Fredric and Gabrella were all born in slavery, while Abe and US Grant were born in freedom. Since Abe was born in Kentucky in 1867 and US Grant Hopkins was born in Indiana in 1869, it follows that the family relocated from Kentucky at some point between 1867 and 1869.

Where might Jeff and Pheba Hopkins and their children have been enslaved in Kentucky? It is possible though not a certainty, that Jeff and his family were owned by a slaveowner with the surname of Hopkins, so let us look at Hopkins slaveowners who might have owned Jeff, born around 1842.

In nearly all cases, the 1850 and 1860 slave schedules do not list the names of enslaved persons. However the search functions on make it possible to limit results based on gender and age.

The 1850 slaves schedule lists about ten Kentucky slaveowners named Hopkins who owned at least one male slave between the ages of six and ten:

James Speed Hopkins (1799-1873) in District 2, Boyle County Kentucky, about 200 miles east of Mount Vernon, Indiana, owned a total of 34 slaves, including four eight-year old males and 2 ten-year old males. His father, John Hopkins, died in Boyle County in 1824. By 1860, James Speed Hopkins had settled in Heaths Creek, Pettis County, Missouri, with 35 slaves, including adolescent male slaves that are consistent with those listed in the 1850 slave schedule, so he can probably be eliminated as the source of Jeff and his family.

  1. Samuel Hopkins, in District 2, Christian, Kentucky (about about 120 miles south of Mount Vernon, Indiana) ) owned a total of 20 slaves, including two ten-year old males, two eight year old males, and one six-year old male.
  2. Thomas Hopkins, in District 2, Owen County, Kentucky (about 200 miles east of Mount Vernon, Indiana) owned three slaves, including one eight year old male.
  3. John N. Hopkins, of District 2, Christian County, Kentucky (about 120 miles south of Mount Vernon, Indiana) , owned six slaves, including one seven year old male.
  4. Lucy A Hopkins, of District 1, Graves County, Kentucky (about 150 miles southwest of Mount Vernon Indiana), owns eleven slaves, including two seven year old males.
  5. Joslin J Hopkins (1795-1865), of District 1, Nicholas County, Kentucky (about 280 miles east of Mount Vernon, Indiana) owns eight people, including one nine year male and one seven year old male.
  6. E Hopkins, of District 1, Shelby, Kentucky (about 200 miles east of Mount Vernon, Indiana) owns two slaves, including one nine year old male.
  7. Joseph Haiden Hopkins, son of Samuel Hopkins, of District 2, Christian, Kentucky (about 120 miles south of Mount Vernon, Indiana) owns 15 slaves, including two 6 year old males (one of them mulatto) and one 8 year old male.
  8. B Hopkins of Scott County, Kentucky (about 240 miles east of Mount Vernon, Indiana) owns one ten year old male
  9. Vol Hopkins of District 3, Hardin County, Kentucky, owns one six year old male mulatto and one ten year old male mulatto (all are fugitive at the time of the census, so can presumably be excluded from consideration)

In turn, the 1860 slave schedule lists seven Kentucky slaveowners named Hopkins. who own about ten enslaved males between ages 16 and 20 years:

Mary B Hopkins, who owns 31 people (residing in three slave dwellings) in Division 1, Henderson County, about 15 miles southwest of Mount Vernon, Indiana. Her slaves in 1860 include:

18 year old male, who could be Jeff
18 year old female, who could be Pheba
5 year old female, who could be Florida

The identity of this slaveowner is not entirely clear. She seem to be Mary Ann Hamilton Hopkins, married to Edmund Henry Hopkins, who in the 1860 census lists her real estate value as $7,000 (and her personal estate as only $200.) Mary Ann Hamilton Hopkins’s mother Mary Hamilton died in 1861??, and in her will bequeaths one slave Charles to her daughter for the duration of her life, and expresses hope that afterwards he be made a freedman.

Mary Hamilton Hopkins died in 1861. He husband Edmund Henry Hopkins died in 1863.

Curiously, Mary’s appraised estate, on 21 December 1861, only lists one slave, an enslaved man, Harry. valued at $800. The other slaves in her possession were perhaps held on account of one or more heirs to an estate, and do not appear, so far as I can tell, in probate records.

2, An apparently different Mary B Hopkins in Henderson County KY appears to own three slaves in 1860. She may be the daughter of Mary Hamilton Hopkins. This Mary Hopkins, born 1844, in Division 1, Henderson County, seems to have died in 1862.

  1. G S Hopkins, who owns 8 people in Division 1, Logan County, Kentucky, including

18 year old male, who could be Jeff
20 year old woman, who could be Pheba
(but no female in the 7 year range)

  1. William Boyd Hopkins (1819-1885), son of Joslin J Hopkins (mentioned above, re the 1850 slave schedule) owns 8 people in District 1, Nicholas County, Kentucky, including an 18 year old man, but no females in the age range of Phebe or Florida
  2. William P Hopkins, who owns 2 people in Christian County, Kentucky, specifically a 16 year old male and a 17 year old male, but no females in the age range of Phebe or Florida
  3. Joseph Haiden Hopkins, who owns 27 people in Christian County, Kentucky, about 100 miles due south of Mount Vernon, Indian. Potential matches include:

17 year old male who might be Jeff
18 year old female who might be Phebe
5 year old female who might be Florida
6 month old male who might be Fredric

As noted above, Joseph Haiden Hopkins’ father Samuel Hopkins, who died in 1859, had, in 1850, 20 slaves in Christian County, KY, including an 8 year old male, who could have been Jeff, and an eleven year old female, who could have been Phebe.

The inventory of Samuel Hopkins estate, Christian County Kentucky Probate Records, Will Records, Vol R, p, 152 ff, names about twelve slaves, listed minors as ‘children,’ None of these names correspond with Jeff, Pheba, or Florida, but since they might be kin to Jeff’s family, their names and ages are worth noting:

Christian County KY probate records, vol F p. 156.
Inventory and appraisement of the negroes belonging to the estate of said decedent (Samuel Hopkins)

Silla, about 21 years and 3 children
Killa, 17 years old
Henry, 20
William, 16
Isaac, 28
Daniel, 24
Samuel, 19
Frank, 21
Smith, 43
Wesley, 20
James, 18
Phillis and child, 22

In his will (10 August 1859; Christian County Kentucky Probate Records, WIll Records, Vol R, p. 74.) Samuel Hopkins bequeaths to his grandson Samuel Herndon in Missouri, the slaves Phillis age 20 and infant 18 months old named Willis and a boy seventeen years old Wesley. Phillis and Wesley are married. Also three old negroes Judith (blind), and Isaac and Nancy, who should select which home they will go to. Rest of property to divided up between his children.


  1. Mary Hopkins, who owns 5 people in Union County, Kentucky, who appear to be part of the same nuclear family:

20 year old male who might be Jeff
22 year old female who might be Phebe, although on the older sisde
3 month old male who might be Fredric
But no female child in the age range for Florida

The widowed Mary Hopkins had been married to Thomas Hopkins, who died 15 July 1858 in Union County, In the 1850 slave schedule Thomas Hopkins in District 2, Union County, KY, owned three slaves:

Female, age 50
Female, 16
Male, 13

Union County Probate Records, Vol E, p 321, from 1858, indicate the following appraisment of Thomas Hopkins’ five slaves:

Negro Woman, Ambigail l(?) valued at $1000
Negro boy Issac 800
Small boy Will, 200
Small Girl Nancy 150
Old woman Hannah (unintelligle) value at 00

Concluding Observations: Of these seven slaveowners, the most likely candidate would seem to be the large slaveowner Mary B Hopkins in Henderson County, KY,, who in 1860 owns three people who more or less match up with Jeff, Pheba and Florida, and who resided relatively near Posey Couny, Indiana.

The next most likely would seem to be Joseph Haiden Hopkins, son of Samuel Hopkins, whose slaves may match up with Jeff, Phebe, Florida and Fredric. His plantation, as noted, was within 100 miles of Posey County, Indiana.

However, as of this writing, I have not come across any probate records of other documents listing the names of the enslaved persons Jeff or Pheba or their children Florida, Fredric, or Gabrella.

I would be grateful for any guidance or suggestions as we continue to seek the early history of Jeff and Pheba Hopkins.

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