Arundel History

May 21, 2006


Johns Hopkins, Maryland's greatest educational and medical philanthropist, was born May 19, 1795, in his Quaker family's tobacco farm near Crofton. In the Quakers' plain language, he was born in "5th month."

When Johns was about 12, his father, Samuel, and mother, Hannah, followed the Society of Friends' collective decision to oppose slavery and freed the slaves who worked the 500-acre Hopkins plantation. This was a turning point in the youth's life, for it abruptly ended his South River school days and brought many more work days out in the fields.

Hopkins began in business helping his uncle, a grocer, in Baltimore. As a budding banker and capitalist, he lent money to other entrepreneurs, helped to rebuild the city's sagging harbor industries and then - the smartest move of all - invested in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad before the Civil War.

In the fresh country air northeast of Baltimore, the bachelor later acquired a mansion with an Italianate tower, Clifton, as a summer home. In his later years, he made specific plans for how to improve intellectual life of future generations with his estate of $7 million to $8 million. His greatest gifts to Baltimore - the private university and hospital named in his honor - remain centerpieces of the city's economy and nationally recognized institutions.

[Sources: Johns Hopkins magazine, Sun library researcher Paul McCardell.]

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