Stephen and Elizabeth Hopkins – Mayflower Survivors

I’m hiding out in the 17th Century until news in the 21st Century improves. The Stephen Hopkins Family make a marvelous distraction. They traveled to Plymouth, MA on the Mayflower in 1620. Stephen and Elizabeth are one of the more famous and fascinating couples among the eighteen couples aboard. On this trip to North American Stephen traveled with his second wife, Elizabeth Fisher Hopkins, and three children. Elizabeth was pregnant with a fourth child when they began the crossing.

Stephen’s first cross-Atlantic voyage resulted in his being shipwrecked for ten months in Bermuda. Eventually he made it to Jamestown, after helping construct a new ship from the remnants of the original one. He stayed in England several years during which time his first wife Mary died. When he eventually received work of her death months later, he returned to England to assume responsibility for his motherless children.

Stephen was from Hampshire, England. He and Mary lived in Hampshire, where their three children were born and baptized. Two of their children, Constance, and Giles, accompanied Stephen and second wife Elizabeth on the Mayflower. Stephen and Mary had another daughter, also an Elizabeth, who did not travel with her father. She may have died by 1620. Stephen and Elizabeth had a daughter, Damaris, born in 1618, who also traveled with them.

Who was Elizabeth Hopkins?

As is typical for women’s history, we know little about Elizabeth other than she married Stephen and traveled with him on his second voyage. She is perhaps best known for delivering her baby as they sailed across the ocean. Babies are born when they’re ready to be born, unless medical intervention alters the birth date. There was no medical intervention available for Elizabeth. She went into labor on the ship, in deplorable living conditions, with no privacy and few of the comforts typically offered birthing mothers. Miraculously, the child was born healthy and Elizabeth lived to raise him. They named the child Oceanus. Apparently the child did not live long, though he did survive childbirth. The death rate through the first winter was nearly 50%.

Elizabeth’s maiden name was Fisher, but information about her family is inconclusive. She and Stephen married on 19 February 1617/18. Dates for historical events in this time period fluctuate, depending on whether one uses the Julian calendar, in use until 1752, or the Gregorian calendar, the one used today. Elizabeth was one of only four adult women still alive by the famous Thanksgiving feast in the fall of 1621..

Stephen Hopkins’ Shipwreck Story

While married to his first wife, Stephen went to work as a clerk for Pastor Richard Buck and traveled with him on the Sea Venture toward Jamestown in 1609. Hopkins signed on for a three-year-term as an indentured servant to the Virginia Company, leaving Mary and three young children behind.

The Sea Venture traveled with a fleet of ships, but got separated from them in a violent storm. The ship blew off course and shipwrecked in the “Isle of Devils” in Bermuda. The stranded men survived for ten months, living on wildlife. Stephen was part of an organized mutiny against the governor and sentenced to death for his part in it. However, he begged for mercy on behalf of his wife and children back in England and his life was spared. He and the others built two small ships, the Deliverance and Patience. Stephen sailed to Jamestown on the Deliverance.

The Jamestown colonists’ situation was desperate. No one had planted a garden, their food supply was nearly gone, and they had so alienated the Indigenous people that they were afraid to leave the fort to hunt for food. Hopkins stayed at Jamestown until September 1614. When he got the news that Mary had died in May 1613, he returned to England to assume care of his minor children and then married Elizabeth.

On the Sea Again

Stephen must have possessed a large portion of persuasion for he convinced Elizabeth to join him and the others on the Mayflower voyage. Or, more likely, Elizabeth decided taking her chances on the crossing was a better option than staying back to raise her children, and his motherless children by herself.  She most certainly would have have known Mary died while Stephen was away and feared facing the same fate. The ship was supposed to sail in July, giving them plenty of time to arrive in the New World and perhaps even build their own shelter before the baby was born.

The Mayflower did not sail in July. Or August. It left England, after two delayed departures, on September 6. Though we know little about Elizabeth, I think it safe to conclude she must have been a resilient and hearty woman. She survived a storm that nearly capsized the ship, gave birth while sailing, and lived through the first winter, when most of the other women did not. Stephen and Elizabeth had five more children in Plymouth: Caleb, Deborah, Damaris, Ruth, and Elizabeth. Stephen had two daughters named Elizabeth, one mothered by Mary, and one with his second wife, Elizabeth. Stephen and Elizabeth named their first daughter Damaris. She died in  childhood and they gave another daughter the same name.

Life in Plymouth

Stephen played an active role among the Separatists when they first arrived in Cape Cod, though he was not part of the Separatist fellowship. He went on the early explorations in search of the best place to establish their colony. He’d encountered Indigenous people before and thus presented himself as the resident expert on them. He and Elizabeth hosted Samoset for a night when the Native visited the new Plantation in the spring of 1621.

When the Pokanoket leader, Massasoit Ousa Mequin, called on the English to work out a treaty, Hopkins offered up their home as a meeting place for the negotiations. Later he and other Englishmen visited the Pokanoket people and he served as an assistant to the governor through 1636.

Stephen was brave, but also trouble-prone. In 1636 he got into a fight with John Tisdale and seriously wounded him. The next year he was fined for allowing people to drink and play shuffleboard on the Sabbath in his house. In each of the next two years he was again fined; once for selling beer at an inflated price and a second time for charging double what a looking glass should have cost.

It makes sense that a man who survived a shipwreck, helped build a new ship, and convinced his pregnant wife to sail far from home, with three children, would be capable of taking risks that sometimes ended in trouble. His troubles ended in 1644 when he died and was interred next to his Elizabeth in Cove Burying Ground in Eastham, MA. Her death in Plymouth is calculated to have been between 1638 and 1644.

The photo of the Deliverance is the property of Caleb Johnson and used with his permission. More details about Stephen Hopkins is available at Mayflower History and in Johnson’s book about the man, Here Shall I Die Ashore. You may also enjoy reading Pilgrim and Native Peace Talks.

Thank you for taking time to read about this remarkable Mayflower couple. If you enjoyed it, share it with a friend. If you got this from a friend, you can sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen.

Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures covers the Pilgrim’s escape from England and much more of the interaction between them and the Pokanoket people. Available wherever books are sold in paperback, eBook, and audio. (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Autographed copies available from


  1. Roberta ODonnell

    Are you sure that Stephen and Elizabeth are buried at the Cove cemetery. I have visited that cemetery and saw no mention of their graves. Thank you

  2. Hello Roberta – I have not been to Cove cemetery. I got that information off the mayflower which is managed by Caleb Johnson, a professional genealogist and I believe a descendant of Hopkins. He wrote a book about Stephen. He maintains a lot of great information about Mayflower passengers. You might check there and if you e-mail him, he will eventually write back.

  3. how did Elizabeth Hopkins die ?

  4. Not sure, but I believe of natural causes. Check out Caleb Johnson’s website. He has details about each and every one of the Mayflower passengers and has written a book about Stephen Hopkins.

  5. Being a decendant of Stephen of Stephen by both of his wives through three of his children, I found this very interesting!

  6. Are you familiar with Caleb Johnson’s “Here Shall I Die Ashore” about Stephen’s experiences first in Bermuda, then Jamestown, and finally with the Mayflower group? I relied on Caleb’s research for some of my book.

  7. Just recently discovered that I am a desendant of Steven Hopkins, on my mother’s biological fathers side..just looking for more info on him..he seems like he was quite a character..such an interesting life.

  8. Hello Louise – You have an amazing ancestor. To learn more about him visit It is managed by Caleb Johnson, who is I believe, a descendant of Hopkins. He’s written a good book biography of the man, which you can purchase through his website. Thanks for stopping by. Please let others know about How Wise Then. Thanks.

  9. I’m not sure how Elizabeth died, but given she survived the first winter and many more after that, most likely of natural causes.

  10. Love your opening line – I’m hiding out in the 17th Century until news in the 21st Century improves.

    Move over! I’d like to join you!

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