John Dean Hopkins, a native resident of Ellsworth, elsewhere spoken of as a man who has been for more than a generation one of the most notable characters of Eastern Maine, was born February 13, 1817, while the State was yet a part of Massachusetts. His parents were John and Abigail (Brimmer) Hopkins. His father was a native of Cape Cod, probably a descendant of Stephen Hopkins, who came over in the “Mayflower” in 1620, and whose son Giles settled at Yarmouth on the Cape; and his mother was a daughter of George B. and Abigail (Eddy) Brimmer, who removed to Ellsworth from Boston, it is said, about the year 1794.
When a young man John Hopkins came in a coasting-vessel to Hancock County, Maine; and, foreseeing in a measure the possibilities that might be realized from a further development of this part of the State, he located at Ellsworth, then a small village. ‘There were no markets near, and in order to purchase goods he often drove to Boston in his chaise. He bought and sold land, carrying on quite an extensive real estate business for some years, and accumulated a good sum of money. He became active in local affairs, and for some time was Sheriff of Hancock County. He died in 1840, at the age of fifty-six years. To him and his wife, whose maiden name was Abigail Brimmer, eleven children were born, as follows: George B., deceased; John D., the special subject of this sketch; James H.; Abigail B.; Francis A., deceased; Sarah; Albert M.; Mary J., deceased; Alphonso, deceased; Eliza Ann, deceased; and Edward K. All of those now living, six in number, are residents of Ellsworth.
John D. Hopkins received such educational advantages as were afforded by the pioneer schools of his day, and until the death of his father worked on the borne farm, after which he engaged in teaming and lumbering ten years or more. He has since been actively employed as a dealer in lumber much of the time, but is now practically retired from business pursuits. Wonderful changes have taken place in the face of the country during his remembrance, the dense forests having been cut down and converted into lumber, much of which has been used in the erection of dwellings and public buildings; and the straggling hamlet has grown into a prosperous and beautiful city, the pride of its inhabitants. During the late Rebellion, for three years, Mr. Hopkins was a member of the State legislature, and took an active part on behalf of the brave soldiers. He has also been prominent in municipal matters, and for four or five years succeeding the incorporation of the city was one of its Aldermen. In 1869 he was appointed Collector of Internal Revenue, a position which he retained four years. He was appointed Collector of Customs in 1873, and served twelve years, reappointed in 1889, and served four years, thus making his term of service in this department longer than that of any other incumbent of the office in the town’s history. He cast his first Presidential vote in 1840 for William Henry Harrison, and until 1856 was identified with the Whigs. Since that time he has been a firm supporter of the principles of the Republican party; and for fifteen years, under James G. Blaine, he was one of the Republican State Committee. He is a Free Mason and a member of the Unitarian church.
Mr. Hopkins was married in 1843 to Elmira Jourdan, who died a few years later, leaving two children, namely: Maria S., wife of Gilbert Howell, of Bangor, Maine; and Frances, wife of Charles A. Lyon, a merchant in Bangor, who has one son, John H. Lyon. November 10, 1866, Mr. Hopkins was again married to Mrs. Carrie M. Jarvis, a widow with one daughter.
The firmly written, handsome signature of “John D. Hopkins, eighty-two years young,” is indicative of a state of physical and mental vigor that might be envied by many a man of sixty. The estimation in which he is held by those who know him best is shown in the following paragraph from the Whig and Courier: –
One of the pleasing incidents of the recent meeting (1897) of the State Board of Trade at Ellsworth was the spontaneous tribute paid to one of its oldest and most distinguished citizens, the Hon. John D. Hopkins, who has for more than a generation been one of the most notable characters of Eastern Maine. In his opening address at the banquet, the president of the State Board, the Hon. Henry Lord, of this city, referred in eloquent and complimentary terms to the venerable citizen whose absence from the festivities he regretted, and paid a tribute to his sturdy patriotism, tireless energy, and enthusiastic championship of every good cause, that elicited rounds of heartiest applause from the Representative men assembled from all parts of the State. On Thursday, at the entertainment of the board and other guests at the home of Senator Hale, the presence of Mr. Hopkins was signalized by heartiest demonstrations of good will.; and among the groups on the lawn his erect and towering form, surmounted by the familiar white felt hat, was constantly surrounded by the friends he has made during his long and honorable participation in public affairs. It was a gratifying tribute to a strong and earnest character and career.”Whig and Courier
Source: Biographical review: containing life sketches of leading citizens of Somerset, Piscataquis, Hancock, Washington, and Aroostook counties, Maine. Boston: Biographical Review Publishing Company, 1898.