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Which Mark HOPKINS is the Railroad Baron?
 
Despite all the evidence I've placed online regarding the genealogy of Mark HOPKINS, Treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad and namesake of the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, there are still those who email me and challenge his identity.  I am putting forth, here, my reasoning based on the facts known to me, so I don't have to keep repeating it in emails.
The reason Mark HOPKINS's identity has been in dispute for over a century is that he was one of the richest men in the United States in the late 19th Century and he died (in 1878) without issue and intestate.  Mark had a wife, Mary Frances SHERWOOD, but with whom he'd had no children.  As there was no will, Mark's widow automatically inherited.  Though there was litigation at the time, it was when Mark's wife died (in 1891) that the litigation began in earnest.

During the decades of litigation over his vast estate, the incentive to prove a genealogical connection to him was enormous.  I'm not going to rehash the history of the litigation here because, ultimately, it's of no genealogical importance, except to note that Timothy NOLAN-HOPKINS, adopted son of Mark's widow, Mary (SHERWOOD) HOPKINS, succeeded in claiming part of the estate.  What's important to appreciate is that during those decades of litigation, bogus pedigrees were concocted in an effort to gain financially from his estate — some were the result of innocent, but genealogically incompetent wishful thinking, while others were deliberately fraudulent.  Some of these pedigrees still exist, some in online databases, some in print, and some in the memories and among the keepsakes of families who once longed, or perhaps still long, to prove a connection.  And among these, one bogus connection appears to be the most persistent.

The contention that most often rears its head, at least in emails to me, is the dispute over whether Mark HOPKINS was born in New York, the son of Mark HOPKINS & Anastasia Lukens KELLOGG — the same KELLOGG family of cereal fame — or whether Mark was born in North Carolina [some say Virginia], the son of Edward "Ned" HOPKINS & Hannah CROW.  The latter assertion is so easy to disprove, it confounds me that people persist in it so vehemently. 

Mark HOPKINS, railroad baron, died 29 Mar 1878 in Yuma, AZ.  His death was not remotely "mysterious," as some have tried to suggest.  He had gone to Arizona "for his health," which was failing.  His not entirely unexpected death was widely publicized, so it's date, place, and natural cause are not in dispute.  What the date means, for our purposes, is that the last census record of Mark HOPKINS will be found in 1870; and, indeed, we do find Mark HOPKINS living with his wife, Mary Frances SHERWOOD, in the 1870 census of Sacramento, CA. 

In his 1870 census record (see his family group sheet for the complete extraction), Mark's occupation is given as, "Treasr R R Co," his personal property value is $8,655,780(!), his wife is Mary F., and they have no children.  The only people living with them are Timmy NOLAN, whom Mary later adopts, and a Chinese servant.  Can there be any doubt, whatsoever, that this household is that of Mark HOPKINS, Treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad?  Any at all?  No, not the remotest.  So, isn't the fact that both Mark and Mary give their birthplaces in this census as "New York" sufficient proof, in and of itself, that Mark HOPKINS, railroad baron was the one born in New York, not the one born in North Carolina?  Need I go on?  Well, apparently so, because that census record has been on my web site for years and people still email me… 

These people argue that there were two Mark HOPKINSes in business in Sacramento in the mid-1800s, that the one from New York is a different person.  Well, forgetting for the moment that we've already proven that the railroad baron was born in New York, let's look at this "other Mark HOPKINS."

To begin with, there is only one Mark HOPKINS in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of California, not two.  If the one in the 1850 and 1860 censuses isn't the railroad baron in the 1870 census, then where was the future railroad baron in 1850 and 1860?  Nowhere that I can find.  In all three of these censuses, Mark gives his birthplace as New York, but we have better clues that these records all represent the railroad baron. 

There is a letter, published in an 1849 California newspaper, signed by the passengers on a voyage from New York, around the horn, to San Francisco.  Among the passengers signing are Mark HOPKINS, Ezra A. HOPKINS of MI, Edward H. MILLER, Jr., and W.K. SHERWOOD (for complete details, see this page).  This Mark HOPKINS is clearly the one who was brother of Ezra Augustus HOPKINS of Michigan, both of whom were sons of Mark HOPKINS & Anastasia KELLOGG of MA, NY, and MI.  This Mark HOPKINS is also clearly the one who was in the hardware business with Edward H. MILLER, Jr., as evidenced by them living together in the 1850 census of Sacramento, CA.  This is the same Edward H. MILLER, Jr., who later became Secretary of the Central Pacific Railroad, of which Mark HOPKINS was Treasurer.  W.K. SHERWOOD is almost certainly William Kellogg SHERWOOD, brother of the Mary Frances SHERWOOD who married Mark HOPKINS.  He shows up as a merchant in the 1850 census of Yuba Co., CA, north of Sacramento.  The arrival of these four on the same ship bound from New York to San Francisco clearly establishes that Mark HOPKINS, railroad baron, is the one related to this northern family, not the one with an origin in the South.

Mark married in 1854 to Mary Frances SHERWOOD; and, as expected, we find "Mary F." living with Mark in the 1860 census of Sacramento, CA.  Also, as expected, they have no children.  How many census records does it take to prove he was born in New York?  Then there is the book by Timothy NOLAN-HOPKINS… 

Catherine (FALLON) NOLAN, an Irish immigrant along with her husband, Patrick NOLAN, was briefly housekeeper to Mary (SHERWOOD) HOPKINS.  After the death of Patrick NOLAN in 1862, Catherine remarried and moved to St. Louis, leaving behind her son, Timothy NOLAN, to be raised by Mark & Mary HOPKINS.  Mary legally adopted Timothy, as an adult, after Mark's death.

Timothy NOLAN-HOPKINS spent years writing a genealogy of Mark HOPKINS and his HOPKINS kin, and surely Timothy would have known where Mark was born and who his parents and other kin were.  If you're trying to prove a connection to Mark HOPKINS, you simply must consult this book.  It's available as a facsimile reprint from HigginsonBooks.com or via subscription to GenealogyLibrary.com.  There are mistakes in Timothy's book, as there are in any book attempting a large-scale genealogy.  He was not a professional genealogist, and the book is primarily a compilation of information gathered via personal correspondence, but surely the information about the man in whose home he grew up can be considered just short of first-hand.  Timothy's testimony, alone, should be sufficient to put an end to the debate, and he has Mark born in New York.

Family Group Sheet of Mark HOPKINS & Mary Frances SHERWOOD

Family Group Sheet of Edward HOPKINS & Hannah CROW

Family Group Sheet of Patrick NOLAN & Catherine FALLON

Family Group Sheet of Timothy NOLAN-HOPKINS & Mary Kellogg CRITTENDEN

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