William Evelyn Hopkins

William Evelyn Hopkins was born on January 10, 1821, in Clark County, Virginia, to John Hopkins and Abigail Byrd Page. His father died in 1841 after a long illness, leaving behind three children. 

In 1838, William enrolled at the University of Virginia to study chemistry, mathematics, and natural philosophy. He was a poor student, cited for being “badly prepared” for his classes. In July 1839, the faculty voted to deny him admission to the university for the following term. That September, however, after Hopkins “made explanations…in regard to his conduct and want of proficiency,” they allowed him to re-enroll. Later that session, Hopkins requested a leave of absence, and on November 13, 1839, he received an appointment as a midshipman in the navy.

He spent the next two years aboard the USS Constitution, serving off the coast of Brazil and throughout the Pacific Ocean. In 1842, he sailed for Africa aboard the sloop USS Vandalia, and on July 2, 1842, he achieved the rank of passed midshipman. On March 28, 1847, while serving aboard the USS Potomac, he took part in the siege of Vera Cruz during the Mexican-American War. He spent the following year on blockade duty in the Gulf of Mexico, and from 1850 to 1851 he participated in a coastal survey expedition.

On March 30, 1852, he married Louise Kimball at St. Luke’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. They had eight children: Mariah B., born around 1853; Jennett D., born around 1856, who died between 1860 and 1870; William Evelyn, Jr., born around 1859; Louise, born and died between 1860 and 1870; Abby P., born around 1860; Henry St. George, born around 1863; Edward "Ned" K., born around 1869; and John P., born around 1871. He was promoted to master on December 2, 1853, and to lieutenant on July 10, 1854. Hopkins served aboard a receiving ship in Philadelphia from 1856 to 1858, and spent the next two years stationed in the Mediterranean aboard the USS Macedonian. The navy transferred him to Philadelphia in September 1860.

Hopkins remained in the navy during the Civil War. He was stationed in South Carolina aboard the USS Preble in 1862, and he spent the next year blockading the Confederate coastlines. He received a promotion to lieutenant commander in the summer of 1862. That December, he was assigned to the USS Saginaw in the Pacific Squadron. The ship was stationed off Mexico and Central America, where it protected U.S. interests from Confederate attack and protected steamers carrying Californian gold. He was promoted to commander on November 4, 1863; the navy briefly revoked his commission in May 1863 but reinstated it that July. He fell ill during the winter of 1864-1865, and in November 1865 he appeared before the retiring board. He managed to stay in the navy, and in April 1866 he was placed in command of the USS Shamrock.

In May 1869, he was sent to the navy yard in Philadelphia and then to New York. He was promoted to captain in July 1870. Later that year, he was sent to the Mare Island Yard, near San Francisco, California, where he would serve for the next ten years. On December 1, 1877, he was promoted to the rank of commodore. Three years later, in 1880, he was sent to take command of the naval station in New London, Connecticut.

While serving in this capacity, Hopkins was sent to recuperate at the Naval Hospital in Brooklyn from August 5 to August 16, 1882, for complications resulting from diabetes and melancholia. According to hospital records, “his disease was due to long and faithful service and exposure incident thereto…he has had prostatitis for forty years, and of late it has affected him so that he has been unable to have an erection for the past five years, that he wants to have his [illegible] restored—and if that cannot be accomplished speedily he would rather be affected with a mortal disease or commit suicide.… He is rational upon all other subjects than that of his private griefs and personal condition.”

A few months later, Hopkins retired from active duty on January 10, 1883, to Fresno City, California, before settling in Marin County. He died of diabetes on October 24, 1894, in Ross Valley and is buried in Mountainview Cemetery in Oakland. His obituary describes him as a “faithful and valiant officer.” His wife Louise filed a pension shortly after his death. Although her first application was unsuccessful, her second proved that her husband’s death resulted from diabetes contracted in the service and she began receiving $30 a month in 1895. She died at the family’s home in Ross Valley on January 5, 1901.


William E. Hopkins Service Record, January 2, 1895

Name:Hopkins, William Evelyn
Alternative names:
  • UVA (Union)
  • Sailor
U.S.S. Preble
U.S.S. Macedonian
U.S.S. Cumberland
U.S.S. Falcon
U.S.S. Independence
U.S.S. Saginaw
U.S.S. Shamrock
U.S.S. South Carolina
Branch of service:Navy
Muster Out1883-01-10Retired
Residence at UVA:Clarke County, VA
UVA Begin Year:1838
UVA End Year:1839
Residence at enlistment:
Rank In:Midshipman
Rank Out:Commodore
Highest rank achieved:Commodore
Person 1Person 2NumberRelation Type
Hopkins, William Evelynnoneapplication-invalid
Hopkins, William Evelynnoneapplication-minor
Hopkins, William Evelynnoneapplication-parent
Hopkins, William EvelynHopkins, Louise Kimball9670application-widow
Hopkins, William EvelynHopkins, Louise Kimball10555certificate-widow
Birth date:1821-01-10
Birth date certainty:Certain
Birth place:Clark County, VA
Death date:1894-10-24
Death place:Ross Valley, CA
Causes of death:disease: diabetes
Occupations:Naval Officer
Person 1Relation TypePerson 2
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins Jr., William Evelyn
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Louise
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Mariah B.
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Jennett D.
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Abby P.
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Henry S.
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, Edward K.
Hopkins, William Evelynparent ofHopkins, John P.
Hopkins, Louise Kimballwife ofHopkins, William Evelyn

Pension Record for William E. Hopkins, RG 15, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.; William Evelyn Hopkins in the U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900; 1860 U.S. Federal Census, accessed on Ancestry.com; Session 16 of the Faculty Minutes September 1, 1839 - July 4, 1840, University of Virginia, accessed on Jefferson's University: Early Life; William E. Hopkins, Registers of Patients at Naval Hospitals, 1812-1934; and William E. Hopkins, U.S., Naval Hospital Tickets and Case Papers, 1825-1889, accessed on Ancestry.com; San Francisco Call, October 25, 1894; Lewis Randolph Hamersly, The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy & Marine Corps: Compiled from Official Sources (Lippincott, 1878), 90; Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1884), 56; "Como William Evelyn Hopkins," Findagrave.com, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15630575; “Preble II (Sloop-of-War),” “South Carolina,” and “Saginaw I (Side-wheel Steamer),” accessed on Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/research/histories/shi... William Evelyn Hopkins Commodore USN, Public Member Profile, accessed on Ancestry.com; Niles National Register, November 6, 1841; Richmond Enquirer, July 27, 1847.