Genealogy has become a hobby for me over the last 10 years. For me, it's like a puzzle, I love fitting the pieces together. But over the years, I've researched a lot that does not pertain to our family lines. Some for extended family, some for close friends, and some because I was trying to rule out lines to figure out where our line went exactly. I do not want these notes on my Heather's Genealogy Notes blog - because they are not our lines. But I do like to share all of my research, in case it benefits others. That is what this blog is for - research I have done that does not apply to our own family lines, but may be helpful for someone else.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Hepburn Journal


Jas. H. Wilkins

120 Laurel Place

San Rafael, Calif

San Rafael June 3 '33
My dear Cousin:

I am sending you herewith memorabilia of the Hepburn family so far as I am have been able to assemble them. The photostatic copies of the old bibles were somewhat disappointing. In the case of the Samuel bible, it is in very bad shape and the handwriting on the family page so indistinct that much of it could only be read by a strong glass. Two attempts at photographs and photostatic reproduction were practically blanks. So I have only sent you the data, typewritten. The same is true of the bible of James, the son of Samuel. The page containing the family record has been apparently pawed over by a child who had recently been eating molasses and the whole had a disreputable look. So that I have only given the facts. However I have had several photostatic copies made of the volume itself and of the first page of Genesis showing the signature of James Hepburn at the top.
I am absolutely certain that my Mother's statement is correct, that the original Hepburn, James, settled in Donegal about 1680, that his son Samuel was born there, and thenceforth the succession of events is without question. I am strengthened in this belief by statements made to me by Mr. Geo. A. Hepburn of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co, also of Donegal ancestry though he does not claim direct relationship, who has reason to believe the race originated from a Scottish coventer by the name of James Hepburn, who, with the other members of his family, settled in Donegal about the time I have mentioned.  

In the narrative, I have departed entirely from thh stately historical style. It seemed to me that it read better as a story, but you are at liberty to alter it in any way you please. According to your request, I am mailing two copies to your son in Boston. I have compiled this work under more or less stress. Last April I was thrown from the platform of a rapidly moving street car in San Francisco. Luckily, I landed on the concrete fairly on my head. Had any other part of my anatomy been subject to such an impact, the results would have been immediately fatal. As it was I escaped with only a slightly fractured skull, which soon righted itself. But my medical advisers cautioned me not to tax my head piece in any way.
Very truly yours

The Hepburn Journal
by Harriet Hepburn Wilkins
edited by Robert Hopewell Hepburn

In my possession is a manuscript whose faded characters indicate its antiquity.  It is almost a hundred years old and is in the handwriting of my mother, Harriet Hepburn. before she became Harriet Hepburn Wilkins.  It purports to be the history of the Hepburn family.
The narrative, she says, ís founded entirely on what her grandfather told her father of the family's ancestry. The chain seems reasonably complete. James Hepburn was the constant companion of his father, Samuel, and it is most probable that he learned from him the general facts of his origin.
Therefore I am convinced that it may be accepted as a fact that Samuel Hepburn was bom in county Donegal, Ireland, that his father's name was James Hepburn’ a Presbyterian covenanter, whose head was in danger( during the religious persecutions) in Scotland and used Donegal as a sanctuary about 1680. And While Samuel spent most of' his youth and middle age in
Scotland, his return to Donegal was more or less ,in the nature of a home going.  Certainly religious persecution was not the motive, for at 'that period of his migration to Donegal, that is to say, 1747, Scotland was ín a state of peace and toleratíon. * Descendants of Samuel Hepburn can look back to more than two hundred and fifty years of respectability.
Almost from the nature of the case, the narrative cannot be given complete. It contains some matters personal to my mother which were not intended for the public eye. In what; follows I have tried to give, in m own way , all the essential features of her story.
* This is an error. The Rebellion of Prince Charlie took place in 1745.

R. H. H.(Robert Hopewell Hepburn)


At a time when James the Second was king of England, a Scottish gentleman of some means and consideration settled in county Donegal Ireland. His name was James Hepburn. It may be inferred that his migration from his native land was not entirely for his health. He was a stout Presbyterian, as were his descendants after him for at at least three generations, when some of  them began to backslide.

It was the policy of James the Second to put down Scottish coventers at all cost.  In those distant days religious differences were settled in a summary way.  So a  law was passed in 1685 that anyone who attended a conventicle should be punished by death.  It is quite possible that James Hepburn's voluntary exile from Scotland had some connection with this somewhat drastic legislation.

To trace back the ancestry of James Hepburn, after this lapse of two hundred and fifty years, could not yield any positive result But he handed down to his descendants that eminent respectability that they have evidenced in the new world. One thing ís certain, however: No matter how well ordered might have been his spiritual side, he was by no means a pacifist. This was proved sufficiently by the lethal weapons transferred to America by his descendants. These embraced a blunderbuss, several flint-look horse pistols, a collection of swords and daggers, bagpipes, plaids, etc., which finally disappeared in Philadelphia.

Of the stout old covenanters family we know nothing except that in the year 1698 a son was born to him who was later known as Samuel Hepburn. Whether there were other sons and daughters we do not know. Probably there were for quite a sprinkling of Hepburns are found in Donegal to this day. Samuel was of historical importance as the common ancestor of an unusually vital family, now widely distributed.

Shortly after the birth of Samuel, certainly while he was very young, the family returned to Scotland and settled in the neighborhood of Glasgow.  Of his early manhood and middle age, next to nothing is known.  He was well educated, according to the times. Some proof of it can be found in his small library, indicating a cultivated literary taste.  Some of its books were once in my possession - notably an ancient edition of Plutarch's Lives.  Also, he must have known familiarly many people of note and prominence, both in Scotland and England.  He carried on quite a correspondence with men well known in the old world up to within a few years of his death.  It was entirely through his letters that his friend, Dr. Priestly, that strange combination of scientist and theologian, was induced to settle in Northumberland.

Samuel had nearly reached fifty years of age before he married Janet Sinclair in January 15 1747.  The same year he returned to Donegal, Ireland, for what reason is not known. *  His eldest son James, named after his grandfather, was born there on November 27 1747.  And in the succeeding ten years the family was further added to by the births of Janet, William, Samuel, and John, in order of succession.

* Did he flee to Ireland on account of having participated in the Prince Charlie rebellion? R.H.H.

It seemed as if the residence in Donegal was to be permanent.  Samuel Hepburn lived there for a quarter of a century as a substantial country gentlemen, meanwhile giving his descendants the benefit of his own education.  He had reached the age of seventy-five years, when wanderlust is supposed to be dead.  But old Samuel had still twenty-two perfectly good years coming to him, and probably knew about it. So when Stories filtered across tho ocean concerning, that wonderful land of opportunities in the new world the British Colonies in North America, he financed his two oldest sons, James, who was than twenty-five, and his brother, William, aged twenty yearn, to look things over beyond the Atlantic.

Here was a high adventure in the field of pioneering. Two young men, little more than boys, accustomed to a quiet life in an old country, set out to find a new family homo in a land of which they knew next to nothing. The chance of their making good was almost nil.

But evidently old Samuel Hepburn knew his boys. They examined conditions like trained exports and arrived maturely at  fixed purpose, which they pursued persistently during, the balance of their lives. The cities, like New York and Philadelphia, did not appeal to them. The large opportunity, as they saw it, was to acquire great areas of fertile land, which could be had almost for the asking. Looking around the country for a location, they found what they wanted in the rich and beautiful valley of the Susquehanna River.

Their reports to their father in Donegal were sufficiently optimistic to induce Samuel Hepburn to set sail for America with his two younger sons. Mrs. Hepburn and her daughter Janet remained in Donegal waiting a final adjustment of affairs. The older Hepburn fully concurred in his sons' plans and decided to make his future home in this country.  The younger son was sent to Donegal to wind up
affairs and return with his mother and sister.

Here occurred a tragedy.  The ship bearing the Hepburn party was wrecked off the Jersey Coast.  Mother and daughter were drowned.  John Hepburn, an athlete and strong swimmer, managed to reach the mainland in an exhausted condition.  By the irony of fate, another vessel, on which were stowed the personal belongings of the family, arrived safely in Philadelphia.  Many of the relics of this ancient migration, a few of which are in the writer's possession, indicate a graceful home life in the old Donegal homestead.  As late as 1861 or 1862 the garret of my late grandfathers house in Philadelphia was filled with ancient Hepburn paraphernalia.  Among them were the military equipment of the first Hepburn of whom we have certain knowledge, James, the father of Samuel.  The blunderbuss, swords, pistols, highland garb, were all there.  My mother and i Were on a visit from California and she showed and explained to me these antiquities.  Some she brought home with her on our return, but to my great regret overlooked the blunderbuss, the swords and horse pistols.  It may be said in passing that the ancient family mementos were concentrated in the possession of James Hepburn and his son of he same name, my grandfather.  James and his father (Samuel) were never separated after their arrival in America. Naturally the effects were transferred from Philadelphia to Northumberland.  My grandfather lived in the house where he was born until he move to Baltimore, after which the old house was virtually abandoned.  It is natural conclusion that he removed the furniture, etc., to his new home and thence to Philadelphia.  The final dispersal came in 1868, when my grandmother Hepburn died. Her daughter, Emma, who had been the companion of her  old age, Prepared to join her two sisters in California, part of the contents Of the house were sold, some given away, and some shipped to California vía Cape Horn. I never heard what became of the blunderbuss.

Pardon this digression: The family found themselves in the new world in a most ínauspìcíous time. The waves of revolution were Sweeping over the land. Hostile Indians were menacing settlers in the open country. still, the brothers, James and William, never faltered in their design to become large landowners in the Susquehanna Valley; but, of course, it was quite impossible to expose their father, stricken with years and grief, to the exposure and perils of frontier life. So it was arranged that William should keep in touch with the objective, while James remained in Philadelphia giving sanctuary to their ancestor and looking out for the main chance from a vantage point. The writer has no record of the precise nature of James Hepburn's business in Philadelphia, but it is known that he had close connection with a very prominent Philadelphian by the name of Andrew Doz, (Executor of the estate of Daniel Hopewell, father-ín1aw of James Hepburn ) after whom he named his second son.

The Revolutionary War was practically ended by 1782, and the brothers at once began to carry out their grand scheme of land acquisition which they had already commenced. Most of the holdings were on joint account, but James, the more avid of the two, sometimes made personal investment. Long before the end of the century they had acquired many thousand acres of the best land in the Susquehanna Valley.

In 1784 James Hepburn and John Cowden opened a trading post at Northumberland under the name of Hepburn & Cowden.  It carried a very large stock of goods, useful to the farmers of that day, and was a distribution point for an extensive territory. The farmers brought in their produce and received supplied or spot cash.  Heavy shipments of grain were received, which required the service of a large distillery in order to convert the produce into a liquid form, more easily transported and more profitably disposed of.  In 1794 the firm was dissolved, but he members parted not in anger.  The two families were often reunited in marriage.  The business of the firm was carried on by James Hepburn until his death in 1817.

William Hepburn was a virtual partner of his brother James in his wide flung land transactions.  After the country had become pacified, he seems to have been engaged mainly in farming and looking after the real estate holdings.  In 1790 he opened a store at what afterwards became the thriving city of Williamsport, which was in fact named after him.  He took an active part in public affairs, was elected State Senator in 1794, and largely by his efforts the county of Lycoming was created out of the very large county of Northumberland.  In addition, Williamsport was chosen as the county seat, and soon spread out over much of the land owned by the Hepburn brothers.  Also, he was elected 1st President Judge of Lycoming County, and continues to exercise judicial powers for a number of years.  He died in 1821, ending an unusually robust and active life.

Samuel Hepburn Jr., settled in the community of Milton and engaged in commercial He married Edith Miner. He died in 1801 leaving no issue. At his request his remains were taken to Northumberland and buried beside his father.

John Hepburn, the youngest of the brothers, married Mary Elliot by whom he had six children. They seem to have led a migratory life and handed down that instinct to their children. A main branch settled in Iowa, and as in a number of far Western States I have found Hepburns who trace their ancestry, often in a rather vague way, to Pennsylvania, I presume they are descendants from this branch .

It must be evident from the foregoing that it was due that it was due to the foresight and energy of the two elder brothers that the Hepburn family gained a substantial place in the sun in the new world, or wherever they have rested long. Their personalities are therefore of interest.

James Hepburn, eldest son of Samuel Hepburn, was unusually handsome. In some respects he tended toward the aristocratic. He was a most immaculate dresser, without over-doing the part. The material must be of the best, the cut correct, and neatness was a matter of second nature. In his personal contacts, he was easily accessible and democratic, yet there was a certain  distinction about him that only comes from long ancestral good breeding.

Among other things, he had a coach-and-four which he used in ceremonial calls. My mother remembered seeing the wreckage of this vehicle in her Northumberland home. He had many intimates and entertained royally, and among other things he always kept a stock of choice French wines. He enlarged the Hepburn library and his reading covered a large field.  It was doubtless due to this that his conversation, naturally fluent, had an added charm. Though gifted with an unusual share of business sense, his projects were always constructive - to improve facilities of transportation and trade, thereby offering new inducement to settlement.  By nature he was a warm-hearted and affectionate, and departed leaving no enemy behind.

In 1781 James Hepburn married Mary Becket Hopewell, daughter of Daniel Hopewell of Mount Holly, New Jersey.  this added a dash of French ancestry to the blood.  The mother of his wife was the niece of Doctor Jean de Normandie, of Bristol Pa, a French Empire, who came to America following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  By her he had nine children, whose names and dates of birth are given on a separate page.  His family bible is still in my possession, but unfortunately the page containing the family record is in such condition that it cannot be reproduced, either by photostat or photography.  The same is true of the bible of Samuel Hepburn.  The writing is so dim that it can only be read accurately with aid of a magnifying glass.  They have been submitted to the best artists in San Francisco, but without satisfactory results.  Something might be accomplished by re-touching, but that, I think, would detract somewhat from their value.

William Hepburn, through bound to his brother James by lifelong ties, was of a somewhat different type. He had the same shrewd intelligence, but paid more attention to what might be called political affairs.  As before related, he was a prime factor in the movement to create a new county out of the superabundant territory of Northumberland County, was elected a State Senator, and successfully advocated a. bill by which the County of Lycoming came into existence. Again, largely through his efforts, Williamsport was named as the County Seat. He was elected lst President Judge of Lycoming County: Pennsylvania, and held that office for a number of years. He also enducted a store at Williamsport, with a distillery attachment of course. He died in 1821 leaving a large estate and a still larger family.

William Hepburn was one of the few men who have risen to the distinction of being; the father of nineteen children. He was married twice, first to Crecy Covenhoven, by whom he had ten children, and second to Elizabeth Huston, who was the mother of nine.

During ten years of his very early life, ín a rough and ready period, punctuated by Indian uprisings and a Revolutionary War, where every man had to be a law unto himself, and a knowledge of the art of self defense imperative, William Hepburn was by no means a novice. And ín after life, though by no means a belligerent, when pressed to an extremity, he was not disillusioned to arbitrate moot questions with man's natural weapons. Being brave and athletic, victory uniformly perched on his banner. Such occasions were few and far between, but served to increase the respect in which he was held by his contemporaries.

From the combined issue of James and William have descended many men who have shone often brilliantly ín nearly all the activities of modern life, and many women of personal charms who were always faithful mothers and wives.

The Family Bible of my grandfather, James Hepburn, is in excellent condition and the family record complete. He lived in the house where he was born, with his father, James the elder, who he was said to have resembled in a marked degree.  
Unlike most of his race, he married at very early age, just as he reached his majority.  Uncle Sam and John Bull had so far forgotten their former misunderstanding as to make an international union possible.  The young lady's name was Maria Hiatt.  Her father, Captain Hiatt, had been a captain in the British Navy, had fought under Nelson during the Napoleonic Wars and had received gold medals from the British Government for gallantry in action in the battles of Nile and Trafalgar.  These medals are still in my possession.  In latter engagement he lost a leg, which of course, incapacitates him from further service.  In 1810 he made a tour of America with his pretty daughter, and late in that year fate led him to Northumberland.  Here my grandfather appeared upon the scene, and apparently the young couple made short work of it.

James Jr, occupied the parental home during the lifetime of his father and for many years after. All his nine children were born there.  He was admitted to the bar and enjoyed a large practice.  When the Bank Of Northumberland was organized, he was elected its first President.  Having handled other large affairs successfully, his fame as an executive brought him the office of President of the Tidewater Canal Company, with headquarters in Baltimore, at the then fabulous salary of $15,000 a year.

In 1839 James Hepburn removed to Baltimore. With him were three marriageable daughters, who soon made fortunate matrimonial alliances although except in the case of my mother they were very Short lived and left no issue.
His son, Hiatt Park, was a pioneer lawyer of San Francisco. All through the fifties and part of the sixties he was the acknowledged leader of the bar of that city, at a time when it was Perhaps the most brilliant in the United States. He left at least one permanent record ín the State. 1t may be noticed that the first three volumes of the Supreme Court Reports for the years 1850, 1851 and 1852 bear the name of " Hepburn ".

It came about in the following way:   For the above mentioned years the decisions of the Supreme Court of California had not been reported or printed, and were to be found only in the office of the Clerk, pígeonholed, and, of course, in longhand. This condition caused endless embarrassment to bench and bar. To remedy the situation, Mr. Hepburn had each case copied, wrote a syllabus of the decision, sent the copy to Philadelphia, where it was printed, and a copy of each volume was presented to every judge in the State and  to most of his fellow attorneys.

In the Journal of the Senate for the session of 1854 appears a letter signed by all the Justices of the Supreme Court of California reciting that Mr. Hiatt P. Hepburn, at his own expense, had caused to be printed three volumes of reports and distributed them gratis, to the great advantage of legal procedure.  It was the opinion of the court that the sum of $15,000 should be appropriated to pay him for his large expense.  Such a bill was actually introduced.  But in a letter, also made part of the record, Mr. Hepburn asked that the bill be withdrawn, for he would refuse to receive any compensation for a voluntary act.

From The Bible of Samuel Hepburn -0- Samuel Hepburn and Janet Sinclair were married January 15 1747 -0- James Hepburn, son of Samuel and Janet (Sinclair) Hepburn, was born November 27 1747 -0- Janet Hepburn, daughter of of Samuel and Janet (Sinclair) Hepburn, was born August 5, 1749 -0- William Hepburn, son of Samuel and Janet (Sinclair) Hepburn, was born April 7, 1753 -0- Samuel Hepburn, son of Samuel and Janet (Sinclair) Hepburn, was born October 21, 1755 -0- John Hepburn, son of Samuel and Janet (Sinclair) Hepburn, was born September 14 1757 -0-
Family Page Bible Of James Hepburn* James Hepburn and Mary (Becket) Hopewell were married December 17, 1781 -0- Samuel Hepburn, son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born November 5, 1782 -0- Andrew Doz Hepburn, son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born March 10 1784 -0- William Hepburn, son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born May 23 1786 -0- James Hepburn, Jr., son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born May 19 1789 -0- John Hepburn, son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born October 8, 1792 -0- Jane Hepburn, daughter of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born March 19 1795 -0- Mary Hepburn, daughter of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born May 6 1797 -0- Hopewell, son of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born February 4, 1799 -0-
Sarah Hepburn, daughter of James and Mary (Hopewell) Hepburn, was born September 10 1801
-0- * Grandson of Samuel Hepburn


Misc Added Research Notes:

Define: Coventicle - a secret or unlawful religious meeting, typically of people with nonconformist views.

"The reintroduction of episcopacy was a source of particular trouble in the south-west of the country, an area with strong Presbyterian sympathies. Abandoning the official church, many of the people here began to attend illegal field assemblies led by excluded ministers, known as conventicles. Official attempts to suppress these led to a rising in 1679, defeated by James, Duke of Monmouth, the King's illegitimate son, at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. In the early 1680s a more intense phase of persecution began, in what was later to be known in Protestant historiography as "the Killing Time", with dissenters summarily executed by the dragoons of James Graham, Laird of Claverhouse or sentenced to transportation or death by Sir George Mackenzie, the Lord Advocate."

The blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel, which is flared at the muzzle and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and/or caliber.

Hepburn Tartan

The Hepburns of Donegal

The Joseph Priestly House in Northumberland

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