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The Hopewell Family of North Carolina

This website is intended to distribute the family history of our Hopewell ancestors to descendants and other interested parties. All Hopewell family members are invited to participate. Please communicate family history questions or information to the author.

Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of a draft manuscript the author has been writing for 35 years or so.

The first Hopewell in North Carolina showed up in the 1840 census, .... maybe! The text of the census entry is hard to read. It looks like Hopewell, but you can't be sure.

The first for-sure appearance of a Hopewell in North Carolina is in 1844 when a James Hopewell appears on a Lenoir County[1] tax record. Next, according to the U.S. censuses, the first and only Hopewell family in North Carolina appears in 1850.

Here are the 1850 and 1860 census records:[2]










Sally Sanderson






Sallie Hopewell





James Hopewell



James Hopewell



Betsey Hopewell



Elizabeth Hopewell



Martha Hopewell



Martha Hopewell



Egbert Hopewell



Egbert Hopewell



Nancy Sanderson



Nancy Hopewell






Mary Hopewell






Jesse Hopewell



James H. Hopewell

The census record of 1850 shows no sign of the father of the Hopewell children. Only their presumed mother is listed. Neither does he appear in any later or earlier census. Our first clue to the Hopewell father is in the 1883 marriage record[3] of his son Jesse. In it Jesse lists his parents as “J.H. and Sarah Hopewell, both dead.” Sally is a nickname for Sarah.

Earlier courthouse records in both Lenoir and Green counties were destroyed by fire.[4] No marriage record of any other of the above children has been found in Green, Lenoir, Craven or Wayne counties.

The next clue to James H. Hopewell is found in a Lenoir County property tax record.[5] James Hopewell appears in an 1844 list. He is added to the end of an alphabetized list and has no other details, only his name. One could speculate that he came into or departed from the county, or, at least came to the attention of the tax authorities in that year. From the age of his son, James Hopewell, 10, in the 1850 Census, we can assume he was “around” in 1840.

Finally, we know that the James Hopewell, aged 10, listed in the above census is James H. Hopewell (Jr.) who served in the 27th North Carolina. Infantry, C.S.A. and who died in 1862. His mother Sarah Hopewell filed a claim after his death.

From the above evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that his father was James H. Hopewell.

From where did James H. Hopewell come? There is only one piece of evidence. All census records of J.H. Hopewell's children show their parents as being born in North Carolina, with one exception. In the 1900 and 1910 census, Jesse Pridgen Hopewell consistently cites his father's birth state as Maryland. On the entire census page, North Carolina is shown as the birthplace of each parent of every person listed except for this one line. Thus, it is not likely that this is an error.

Some idea of where the James Hopewell family lived in 1850 can be deduced as follows. James’s son Egbert Oliver Hopewell married Susan Winefred Waller (see below.) In the 1850 census for Lenoir County the Hopewell household was entry 531. Egbert was three years old.

The Waller household was listed as entry 532. Susan was shown as five years old. Obviously the families lived next door to each other. One of Susan's and Egbert's daughters was Nora O’Neil Hopewell who married Joseph J. Webber. Their daughter Rosa Lee Webber married Robert Franklin Ewell. Frank remembers his mother-in-law showing him a house in the Woodington section (in the area of Jim Smith Road) in which her mother (Susan Waller) was raised. About a half-mile from this area is the Waller family graveyard. In it are the graves of Susan Waller's parents. This indicates the location of the Waller and therefore the Hopewell homestead.

An index to Lenoir County deeds for the 1800s shows no property owned by Hopewells.

The author has queried many members of the Hopewell family, especially the grandchildren of Egbert Oliver Hopewell, son of James H. Hopewell. Egbert Oliver Hopewell died in 1905 so none alive today knew him. No Hopewell today recalls their parent ever speaking of their Hopewell grandfather. Neither do they recall their parents speaking of any first cousins from the Hopewell side of the family (these would have been the children of Egbert's sisters Martha, Betsey and Nancy of whom we know nothing.)

There is only one hint that must be viewed with great skepticism. Several great-grandchildren of James H. Hopewell told the author that their parents had said of their grandfather—“he was a full-blooded Irishman.” Several also told a story that two brothers had emigrated from England, one settling north and one south.

Sarah Sanderson, Presumed Wife of James H. Hopewell

Who was Sally Sanderson listed along with the Hopewell children in the 1850 census? Compare the 1850 with the 1860 census listings. The data offer an intriguing set of possibilities.

In the 1850 census, Sally and Nancy have Sanderson as their last name, as distinct from the Hopewell children. However, in the 1860 census, all have the Hopewell surname.

Here are some possibilities:

1.      Sally was married to a Sanderson and had Nancy. Then he died. Sally could have been keeping house and taking care of the Hopewell children who were not hers.

2.      Same situation except Sally was not married but had Nancy.

3.      In 1850 was Sally not married to James, but had children by him and named them Hopewell? This is unlikely because illegitimate children, by law, took their mother's name.

4.      Sally later married James Hopewell and Nancy took his name. This is supported by the fact that:

·        Sally is a nickname for Sarah.

·        Sarah was named as Jesse’s mother in his marriage license.

So are the two new children, Mary and Jesse listed on the 1860 census Sally's children by James; and the others are James' by an unknown mother?

Contradicting this is that Sarah was also listed in James’ civil war record as the name of his mother. But does this mean that she was his birth mother or that, because she raised him, he considered her his mother?

Deciding between these possible explanations and scenarios is difficult. This family history will list Sally as the mother of all the Hopewell children, but the above reservations must be remembered.

No trace of Sarah Hopewell is found in the Lenoir, Green or Wayne County censuses of 1870 or 1880. James is dead. Jessie and Polly are living away from home —the 1870 census shows them boarding and working at other farms in Lenoir county.[6] Possibly Sarah Hopewell died between 1860 and 1870 although she would have been only aged 50 in 1870. Alternatively, since the children were all grown, she could have moved out of Lenoir County. However, she has not been found in any other North Carolina Census index.

No photographs or letters of James or Sarah have been found.

Of the children of James and Sarah Hopewell, we know a lot about four, and nothing of the rest.

For Elizabeth, Martha and Nancy, no information has ever been found.[7] Research on statewide death records in Georgia and North Carolina are possible research approaches.

James H. Hopewell, (Jr.) is covered in Chapter 2.

Egbert Oliver Hopewell is covered in Chapter 3.

Mary E. "Polly" Hopewell is covered in Chapter 4.

Jesse Pridgen Hopewell is covered in Chapter 5.

[1] Lenoir was formed in 1791 from Dobbs. It was named in honor of William Lenoir, one of the heroes of Kings Mountain. It is in the eastern section of the State and is bounded by Craven, Jones, Duplin, Wayne, Green and Pitt counties. The present land area is 399.42 square miles and the 1990 population was 57,274. When Kinston was established in 1762 it was in Dobbs County. It was made the county seat of Dobbs in 1764, and when Dobbs was established in 1791, Kinston became the county seat of Lenoir.

[2]U.S. Census; Lenoir County Entry 531, 19 October, 1850.

[3]Green Co., North Carolina. marriages.

[4] Records were lost in fires in 1878 and 1880.

[5]Lenoir Co. Tax list, 1840, North Carolina. State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.

[6] Egbert was not found in the 1870 census.

[7]One clue: Cora Moore Sanderson, granddaughter of Egbert Oliver Hopewell once told the author that she thought the girls went to Georgia. Cora was about 85 at the time, and was not sure. A subject for future research.


For further information, contact Lynn Hopewell.