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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

Crumrine, Boyd, ed. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1882.


Photo credit:

Crumrine, Boyd, ed. History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1882.

 

William Hopkins

Born: September 17, 1804, West Pike Run Township, Washington County, PA.  Died: March 5, 1873, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, PA.  Member of the House: Washington County, 1834-1835, 1836-1840, 1862, 1863. Affiliation: Democrat.

William Hopkins was born September 17, 1804, in Washington County, Pennsylvania.  On January 1, 1824, Hopkins married the former Rachel Herron, and the couple had 3 children: Andrew, Catherine M., and Hon. James H.  In 1827 he was a gubernatorial appointee to the office of justice of the peace for Pike Run Township, and in 1834 was commissioned as justice of the peace for East Bethlehem Township, both in Washington County.  He was elected auditor of Washington County in 1831.  Hopkins engaged in the tannery business from 1832-1838.

Hopkins was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1834, serving in the 1834-1835, 1836-1837, 1837-1838, 1838-1839, and 1840 sessions.  Hopkins was elected the 65th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on December 4, 1838, only to resign and be re-elected to the position on December 27, 1838.  The cause of this unusual circumstance was a political controversy that verged on violent confrontation known as the Buckshot War.  The conflict arose after Democratic and Whig factions in the state legislature clashed over control of the government.  A number of contested seats, which were eventually settled, led Hopkins to resign so newly seated members could cast their vote for Speaker. During his Speakership, Hopkins signed legislation to build a waterworks for the city of Harrisburg with Act 86 of 1839. Also during the 1838-1839 session, 10 female seminaries were incorporated.  Hopkins was re-elected Speaker on January 7, 1840. 

Following his years of service in the House, Hopkins was appointed Commissioner of the Cumberland Road in 1840, holding that office until May of 1842. He served as Secretary of the State Land Office from May 10, 1842, until the position was abolished on April 17, 1843. In 1852 he was elected Canal Commissioner for the state, serving in that office for 3 years.

Hopkins was re-elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1861, serving from 1862-1863, when he was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate, in which he served from 1864-1866.

During the Civil War, Company K of the Eighth Reserve Regiment, also known as the 37th Regiment of Pennsylvania, of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, which recruited in Washington County, was occasionally referred to as “Hopkins’ Infantry” after Hopkins was offered its command.  He ultimately declined the position due to his health; however, he was credited with promoting their interests even though he did not join them in battle.

His career of public service ended in 1872 with his attendance at the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention.  Hopkins was in attendance at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia until he obtained a leave of absence to return home.  Upon his arrival in Pittsburgh via train, he became ill and was taken to Union Depot Hotel and received medical attention. He was diagnosed with pneumonia.

William Hopkins died on March 5, 1873, in the Union Depot Hotel in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  He is interred at Washington Cemetery in Washington, Washington County, Pennsylvania.


Historical Member Biography

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