There is an outer suberb of Melbourne, Australia called ‘Hopper’s Crossing’. It got its name from one of two Hopper bothers who emigrated from Kent in the 1850s. This is their amazing story.
Stephen Hopper (1798-1833) and his wife Susan (1799-1837) were married in Walmer, Kent in 1819 and went on to raise their four children in the village of East Langdon, near Dover.
Two of their sons, John (born 1829) and Stephen (born 1832), were in their early twenties when they were seemingly enticed by news of the Australian Gold Rush and decided get a ship to Australia, arriving there in 1856.
Stephen met and married Elizabeth (‘Betsy’) Rogers in Melbourne in 1859. Its assumed that Stephen had spent the previous three years on the goldfields, but how he met Betsy is not known. However there is a family story that Stephen was ‘a bit of a villain’ and that Betsy was actually 16 years old at her wedding and not 18 as stated on the marriage certificate. She was already pregnant with her and Stephen’s first child. Apparently Betsy’s father told Stephen that he was to marry Betsy ‘or else’ = a so-called ‘shotgun wedding’!
Stephen and Betsy had a small farm in the Werribee area of Melbourne and Stephen was also employed to open and close the railway gates at the level crossing there (where the station is now situated). This location became known as ‘Hopper’s Crossing’ and today is a bustling suburb of Melbourne with a population of around 37,000 people. There is also ‘Hoppers Lane’ which runs through Werribee’s animal research institute, crossing Princes Highway and the Railway Line: this street and the suburb were both named after the Hopper family. Stephen and Betsy eventually had eleven children and there are still Hoppers in the Hoppers Crossing area who are descendants of some of those children.
Stephen died in 1908 and in 1912 Betsy married again, this time to Albert Olsen who was of Swedish origin. Betsy died in 1917.
John – Stephen’s older brother -married a girl called Thirza Trafford in November 1857. Thirza was born in Headington, Oxfordshire in England in 1840 and so was only about 16 when she gave birth to a son, Joshua, in April 1857. The child’s father was Joseph Wroe, a man some thirty years Thirza’s senior. The couple did not marry.
It seems John Hopper was prepared to stand by Thirza and her child when the baby’s father clearly wasn’t. He married Thirza in November 1857 but unfortunately baby Joshua died in March 1858 and it was John who was the informant to the registrar of the baby’s death.
John and Thirza moved around the goldfields area for a while, eventually settling in a place called Timor in the central goldfields region of Victoria. They had six children: Phoebe (b1859), Henry (b1861), Walter (b1864), John (b1867), Bertha (1871) and George (b1873).
John and Thirza didn’t have an easy life – they lost their youngest son, George Trafford Hopper, when he was only seven years old and Thirza died when she was in her thirties. John died when he was in his mid-fifties.
As a matter of interest Stephen Hopper, Betsy Rogers and Thirza Trafford were all illiterate and signed their registers with their X mark; John Hopper was able to read and write and so signed the register for baby Joshua Wroe’s death.
No photos are known to exist of Stephen & Betsy or John & Thirza, but images of their children and grandchildren do.
In 1924 Stephen’s grandson (also called Stephen), his wife Florence (nee Hill), one step-daughter and seven children were on holiday at Queenscliff in Victoria, Australia and had this group photo taken.
Stephen & Florence Hopper, Queenscliff, VIC – 1924