Feast of John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and John Henry Hopkins, III (August 14)   3 comments


Above:  The John Henry Hopkinses

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor



Episcopal Priest and Hymnodist

uncle of


Episcopal Priest and Musician




In this post I use the suffixes “Sr.,” “Jr.,” and “III” for the sake of convenience and clarity.  Although one can find frequent listings of “John Henry Hopkins, Jr.” one can also find him listed in indices as “John Henry Hopkins (Jr.).”  Likewise, one might read simply of “John Henry Hopkins” in various sources.  He might be Sr. (the bishop) or the grandson, depending on the dates of his life.  I strive for clarity.




The Hopkins family has given much to The Episcopal Church.  These contributions began with one couple, John Henry Hopkins (Sr.) (1792-1868), and Melusina Muller (1795-1884).  Hopkins Sr., a native of Dublin, Ireland, had been an ironworker, a teacher, and an attorney prior to becoming a priest.  He was also a poet, painter, and architect.  Muller was a native of Hamburg, now in the Federal Republic of Germany.  They married in 1816 and had 13 children.  Their home nurtured artistic and literary excellence.  Among their children were John Henry Hopkins (Jr.) (1820-1891) and Theodore Austin Hopkins (1828-1889), father of John Henry Hobart (III) (1861-1945), the second saint in this post.

Hopkins Sr. was a major figure in The Episcopal Church in the 1800s.  He occupied the middle ground between the Low Church faction (Evangelicals) and the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church.  The theological and liturgical argument between them was the great ecclesiastical controversy of the day, with certain Evangelical Episcopalians going so far as to describe supporters of the Oxford Movement as being in league with Satan.  Hopkins Sr., although not an Evangelical Episcopalian, had the support of that party in the episcopal election in the Diocese of Pennsylvania in 1827.  Henry Ustick Onderdonk (1789-1858) won that election.  Hopkins Sr. became the Bishop of Vermont in 1832, serving until 1868.  From 1865 to 1868 he doubled as the Presiding Bishop of the national church.  He also helped The Episcopal Church to reunited rapidly after the end of the Civil War.  Unfortunately, he also defended slavery by quoting the Bible in writing in the 1850s and 1860s.  (Such defenses were, unfortunately, commonplace in the North, South, East, and West during the Antebellum period and the Civil War.)  Hopkins Sr.’s defenses of slavery, which he seemed not to have retracted, constituted the primary reason I decided not to add him to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  I have added some people to the Ecumenical Calendar despite such defenses, but other aspects of their lives outweighed this issue significantly.  I found no sufficient counterweight in the life of Hopkins Sr.


JOHN HENRY HOPKINS (JR.) (1820-1891)


John Henry Hopkins (Jr.), born at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 28, 1820, became a great hymnodist.  He graduated from the University of Vermont (A.B., 1839).  Next he worked as a reporter in New York City while studying law.  In 1842-1844 Hopkins Jr. lived in Savannah, Georgia, where he tutored the children of Stephen Elliott (1806-1866), who served as the first Bishop of Georgia from 1841 to 1866 and as the Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1866.  (Bishops Elliott and Hopkins Sr. were friends.)  Then Hopkins Jr. returned to the University of Vermont, from which he graduated with his M.A. in 1845.  After he graduated from the General Theological Seminary, New York, New York, in 1850, he joined the ranks of the Sacred Order of Deacons.

Hopkins Jr. contributed greatly to The Episcopal Church also.  In 1853 he founded the Church Journal, which he edited for 15 years.  He was also the first instructor of church music at the General Theological Seminary, teaching there from 1855 to 1857.  Hopkins Jr. also designed stained-glass windows, episcopal seals, and other ecclesiastical ornamenta.  He, ordained a priest in 1872, served as the Rector of Trinity Church, Plattsburg, New York, from 1872 to 1876 then of Christ Church, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, from 1876 to 1887.

Hopkins Jr. specialized in hymnody, composing both texts and tunes.  His hymn tunes included THREE KINGS OF ORIENT (for his most famous hymn, “We Three Kings of Orient Are“) and COME, HOLY GHOST.  An especially excellent text from 1863 was the following, for which our saint also composed the accompanying tune:

Alleluia!  Christ is risen today

From the tomb in the garden wherein he lay;

Shining angels raise their shout on high,

And on earth we exultingly make reply:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Nature too, that, through long dreary gloom,

Lay embalmed in the shroud of her wintry tomb,

Rises now to meet her rising Lord,

And in myriad echo repeats word:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.


See the streamlet burst its icy chain!

Leaping into sunlight it seeks the plain,

And its joy in liquid tones it tells

To the rocks and the woods and the winding dells:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Giant pines, whose broad, up reaching arms

Bore the frosts and snows of the northern storms,

To the balmy breezes blowing now

Give a murmuring whisper on ev’ry bough:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.


Little birds, that flew so far away,

Now return with a sweet, merry roundelay;

Through the shady grove, in soft refrain,

Lo, the voice of the turtle is heard again:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

In the old church-tower the swallows build,

And their nests with the tenderest young are filled;

And they join the chaunting when they hear

Both the organ and choir swelling loud and clear:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.


Now the primrose greets the daffodil,

And the daisy is winking on every hill,

And the pansy drinks the light of day,

And the breath of the violet seems to say:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Now the Rose of Sharon opens wide,

On the sunshiny banks of the mountain side;

And the lily of the valley blooms,

Filling every vale with its rich perfumes:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.


While the fields are clothed in beauty rare,

Shall the altar of Jesus be cold and bare!

Shall the church no loving token show

That the Risen above is to rise below!

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Round the altar let bright flowers be seen,

With the fresh-budding branches of evergreen;

Let the earth, with us, her incense bring,

And the trees of the forest rejoice and sing:

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Amen.

Our saint’s work in hymnody extended also to books.  His Carols, Hymns, and Songs went into three editions (1863, 1872, and 1882).  Hopkins Jr. also produced Canticles Noted with Accompanying Harmonies (1866), which also existed in multiple editions.  Various editors of hymnals found hymn texts in Poems by the Wayside (1883).  And in 1887, Hopkins Jr. edited Great Hymns of the Church, compiled by the late Bishop of Florida John Freeman Young (1820-1885).

Hopkins Jr., who never married, died at a friend’s home near Hudson, New York, on August 14, 1891.  A nephew, Charles Filkins Sweet, wrote a biography, A Champion of the Cross, Being the Life of John Henry Hopkins, S.T.D., Including Extracts and Selections from His Writings (1894).




Another nephew was John Henry Hopkins (III), born at Burlington, Vermont, on September 17, 1861.  His father was Theodore Austin Hopkins (1828-1889), a son of Hopkins Sr. and a brother of Hopkins Jr.   Theodore Austin Hopkins, an Episcopal priest, served as the principle of the Vermont Episcopal Institute, which Hopkins Sr. had founded, from 1860 to 1881, and married Alice Leavenworth Doolittle (1832-1904) in 1855.  Hopkins III graduated from the University of Vermont (A.B., 1883; D.D., 1906) and the General Theological Seminary (B.D., 1893).  He, a priest, ministered mostly in the midwestern United States.  The love of Hopkins III’s life was Marie Moulton Graves (1861-1933), whom he married in 1890.  He published her biography, The Life of Marie Moulton Graves, the Beloved Wife of John Henry Hopkins, and the Story of Their Life and Work Together (1934).  In 1906 he received an honorary degree from Western Theological Seminary.  Among his pastorates was the Church of the Redeemer, Chicago, Illinois, where he served from 1910 to 1929, and from which he retired.

Hopkins III was also a musician and a composer of hymn tunes.  From 1878 to 1890 he played the organ for various churches.  In 1888 he became the first organist at the General Theological Seminary.  Among his compositions were the components of the Communion Service in B-flat (1916) and the hymn tunes WESTERLY and GRAND ISLE, the latter of which is the tune for “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.”  His final effort, which he considered the crowning joy of his long life, was work as a member of the Joint Commission on the Revision of the Hymnal (starting in 1937) and the Committee on Tunes for The Hymnal 1940, published in 1943.

Hopkins III’s other writings included the following:

  1. “Bible Lessons” in St. Andrew’s Cross (1895-1898);
  2. Articles in The Living Church;
  3. Germany’s World Ambitions and the Danger of a Prussianized Peace (1917);
  4. The Great Forty Years in the Diocese of Chicago, A.D. 1893 to A.D. 1934 (1936); and
  5. A Practical Course in Confirmation (1941).

Hopkins III retired to Grand Isle, Vermont, on Lake Champlain.  There he served at “The Lady Chapel” until he died on November 1, 1945.




The process of creating this post started long ago, when I wrote “John Henry Hopkins, Jr.” out of an index in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935).  That process began in earnest late his morning, when I examined the list of proposed saints with feast days in August and decided to read, take notes, and write about Hopkins Jr.  I consulted hymnals, hymnal companion volumes, and histories of The Episcopal Church before turning to the Internet.  Along the way I considered adding three John Henry Hopkinses to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, but decided upon two instead.

They are fine additions indeed.







Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and John Henry Hopkins, III)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26






3 responses to “Feast of John Henry Hopkins, Jr., and John Henry Hopkins, III (August 14)

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  1. Pingback: John Henry Hopkins, Jr. | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. A comment and a small correction, if I may, with regard to the biography of John Henry Hopkins III. “There he served at the “Log Chapel” until he died…” The chapel is actually called “The Lady Chapel”, and is located on a property called Westerly, that was and is the summer home of Marie Graves’ family, hence the name of the hymn.

    When Uncle John Henry died, my grandfather took over services in the chapel until his passing in 1982; I married into the Graves family in 1979.

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