Hung as a Horse Thief.

I haven’t done any genealogy for quite a long while.  One ancestor, a 5th great-grandfather, Francis Hopkins, was apparently on the losing side of the American Revolutionary War.  He didn’t make it to the end of the war as he was “lynched” as a horse thief. The narrative below is from History of Southwest Virginia, 1746-1786: Washington County, 1777-1870 by Lewis Preston Summers, published 1903.

Mike> Marilyn>Vivian>Samuel Hopkins>James Francis>Eldridge>William>Francis Hopkins b: Abt 1720 d: abt 1778

Horse Thief“At this time there lived in Washington County two men by the names of FRANCIS HOPKINS & WILLIAM HOPKINS. FRANCIS HOPKINS was a counterfeiter and, at the May term of the County Court in the year 1778, he was tried by the court on suspicion of his having counterfeited, erased and altered sundry treasury notes; the currency of this Commonwealth, knowing the same to be bad. He was found guilty, fined fifty dollars lawful money of Virginia, sentenced to six months in prison, and was ordered to be confined within the walls of the Fort at William Cocke’s (now C.L. Clyce’s), on Renfro’s Creek, alias Spring creek, until the county goal was completed. He was conveyed to Cocke’s Fort, but, within a short time thereafter, made his escape and began a series of very bold and daring depredations upon the Whig settlers of the county. He organized a band of Tories, whose occupation was to steal the horses of the settlers and intimidate the citizens whenever possible. He went so far as to post notices at and near the home of Colonel William Campbell, warning him that if he did not desist from his prosecution of the loyal adherents of George III, a terrible calamity would befall him, either in the loss of his property or his life.

“On a quiet and beautiful Sabbath in the spring time of the year 1780, General Campbell accompanied by his wife (who was a sister of Patrick Henry), and several of their neighbors, attended a religious service at a Presbyterian house of worship known as Ebbing Spring Church in the upper end of this county. As they were returning to their homes they happened to be conversing about the audacity of the Tory who had been so bold and defiant in his declarations and was suspected of having posted these notices above referred to. Just as they arrived at the top of a hill, a short distance west of the present residence of Colonel Hiram A. Greever, they observed a man on horseback on the opposite hill, coming
towards them. General Campbell was riding beside his wife, with an infant on before him. One of them remarked that the individual meeting them was the Tory of whom they had been speaking, probably now on a horse-stealing expedition, as he was observed to be carrying a rope halter in his hand. Hearing this, Colonel Campbell, without halting, handed the infant over to its mother and dashed out in front. Seeing the movement and recognizing the man whom he so much feared and hated, the Tory wheeled his horse and started back at quite a rapid gait, pursued at full speed by Colonel Campbell and one of the gentlemen of the company, whose name was Thompson. Never, it may be presumed, either before or since, has such a dashing and exciting race been witnessed upon that long level between the residences of Colonels Greever and
Beattie. As they reached the branch at the base of the hill a little west of Colonel Beattie’s, Colonel Campbell dashed up alongside the fleeing Tory, who, seeing that he would be caught, turned short to the right down the bank and plunged into the river. As he struck the water, Colonel Campbell, who had left his companion in the rear, leaped in beside him, grasped the Tory’s holsters and threw them into the stream, and then dragged him from his horse into the water. At this moment Mr. Thompson rode up. They took their prisoner out on the bank and held what may be termed a drum-head court. The Tory,
who, bad as he was, had the virtue to being a brave, candid man, at once acknowledged the truth of the charge preferred against him and boldly declared his defiance and determination to take horses wherever he could find them. But he was mistaken in his man, for in less than ten minutes he was dangling from the limb of a large sycamore that stood upon the
bank of the river, the stump of which was to be seen a few years ago, and may be there yet for aught the writer knows” *
* written by Charles B. Coale.

american history, ancestry, family, genealogy, history, virginia

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  • Rummuser Aug 15, 2016

    Very interesting story and it is always nice to come to know about one’s ancestors.
    Rummuser recently posted…The Namesake.My Profile

  • Hilary Aug 16, 2016

    Hi Mike – so interesting to know about one’s forebears … and oh if I could ride – but not something that I can do … in those days hanging, or beheading ‘were common’ … and very likely so often – cheers Hilary
    Hilary recently posted…ABCs of Shakespeare – snippets, unravelled again, pond pudding …My Profile

    • Mike Aug 16, 2016

      It is interesting, but, for most generations, there’s little information other than names and dates.

      Speaking of beheading, it was long believed that Francis Hopkins’s grandfather, Theophilus Whaley (or Whale) was actually Edward Whaley, the second son of Richard Whalley, who had been High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1595, by his second wife Frances Cromwell, an aunt of Oliver Cromwell. Edward was one of the regicides who signed the death warrant of King Charles I of England. Another explanation has it that that Theophilus Whaley had been an officer in the parliamentary army in the civil war, and had taken an active part in the execution of the king; that he was of the Whalley family, a wealthy family closely allied to the Cromwells, and prominent in the civil war; that he was born in England about 1617, and was the fourth son of Richard and Frances (Cromwell) Whalley, and that he was most likely Robert Whalley, a brother of Edward, the regicide, who is said to have been “a lieutenant under Cromwell” and “an officer in Hacker’s regiment.” Hacker commanded at the execution of the king, and was himself executed in 1660.
      Mike recently posted…Coal miner’s child. Omar, West Virginia.–The Bitter Years 002My Profile

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