Although much research has been done on the Hopkins Family, most of the known history has been relayed by cousins and by our family matriarch, Angeline Croft Hopkins.
John Edward Hopkins was the son of Joshua Hopkins and Rebecca Hopkins. Joshua Hopkins, a free man and blacksmith, moved from Georgia to West Alabama. He came to the United States from England.
In Alabama, Joshua purchased the freedom of the young slave girl Rebecca and married her. Most of their children were born in West Alabama: Dave (married Martha Ann), Gus (married to Frances Henderson), Alex (married to Babe Henderson), Vinie, and Lucinda (married to Marion Clark, Sr.). The family then moved to Arundel, where John Edward was born. His twin sister died at birth. In addition to being a businessman, Joshua was a landowner in the Arundel area.
John Edward was born in March 1871 in Lauderdale County. He was orphaned when he was 14 years old and went to live with his older brother Dave. He later moved in with Gus and remained there until he reached adulthood. John Edward never received any formal education, but he took the imitative to learn to read and write with Angeline as his teacher.
The Hopkins family members were active in the community and were among those who organized New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church. In a family of fiery tempers, John Edward often kept the peace between his brothers and brother-in-laws, all of whom were deacons at New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church.
Angeline was the daughter of Gilliam and Rose Croft, who were slaves. Angeline was born October 16, 1879.
Gilliam came to the Savoy area, having been sold to a Mississippi slave owner in Maryland. After the slaves were freed, Gilliam and his brother, Wesley Chandler, lived in the Savoy area. They were whole brothers but had been sold to different families, thus the different last names. Gilliam was a fiercely independent man who, legend has it, killed a plantation owner who hit Rose with a whip for failing to keep peace while working in the fields. Gilliam allegedly killed the man with his bare hands and remained a fugitive until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. Legend says he managed to evade dog hunts and elude capture through the assistance of others slaves, who slipped food to him as he lived in the woods.
Rose Croft was a black woman with Indian heritage, but little else is known about her heritage. She had nine children: Armistead Croft, Nishie Croft McGlothin (married Robert), Renty Croft (married to Sweet), Emmett Croft, Cornelius Croft Ruffin (married to Forrest Ruffin, Sr.), Ada Croft Swilley (married Hime), Lessie Croft Henderson (married to Frank Henderson Sr.), Sophie Croft McGlothin (married to Oliver McGlothin), and Angeline Croft Hopkins (married to John Edward Hopkins).
Education was illegal for slaves. Gilliam and rose Croft never learned to read and write. They knew the value of education and sent each of their children to school. After learning to read herself, Angeline taught her parents to read and write.
At age twelve, Angeline joined the New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church. Angeline taught herself about the world by reading all the books that she could find and by reading her Bible every day. Her collection of reading materials included everything from math books to novels to many years of the International Sunday School Lesson. Angeline hand pieced quilts. She also enjoyed cooking, her specialties were wonderful stews that she served with roasted sweet potatoes and corn bread cakes baked on top of the stove. Angeline served as the Missionary Society president for many years.
John Edward and Angeline were married in 1895. Angeline medium built, and big on love. She believed in family and families being together and staying together. John and Angeline were close companions and lived very full lives. They were the parents of eight children: Clara Hopkins Reed, Alma Hopkins Clark, Arlena Hopkins Brooks, Oscar Hopkins, Percy Hopkins, Lewis Edward Hopkins, Rebecca Hopkins Naylor, and Joe Hopkins. As she often recounted, they were married for 42 years, 11 months, and seven days. Most of the known family history was repeated by Angeline to her children and grandchildren. Although most never personally knew John Hopkins, Angeline constantly talked about him and provided very vivid descriptions.
John Hopkins died in 1938 after a long bout with kidney disease. Angeline lived a long and fruitful life. Angeline died in March of 1972 at the age of 92.