Select Hepburn Miscellany

Here are some Hepburn stories and accounts over the years:

The Affairs of James Hepburn, the Fourth Earl of Boswell

In 1559 Mary the Queen Regent of Scotland gave the Earl command of a body of French auxilliaries and six months later sent him on a mission to France.  He travelled thither via Denmark where he had an affair with an Anna Throndsson, daughter of a Norwegian nobleman.  She went with him as far as the Netherlands and eventually turned up in Scotland in 1563.  Her expectations were disappointed as the Earl was already married.  While in France it is said the Earl made further promises of marriage to a lady there with whom he had a liaison.  The Earl returned to Scotland in 1561. 

The next year he was accused of treason and was held in Edinburgh castle, but escaped from custody and took a ship to France.  He returned in 1565 and was thenceforth in great and increasing favor with Queen Mary.  The murder of the King Consort, Lord Darnley, in which the Earl was the principal player, took place two years later in 1567.  Soon afterwards the Earl was created Duke of Orkney and he married the Queen. However, opposition to the pair was strong in Scotland and their forces were defeated at Carberry Hill. Bothwell fled to Norway.  He was made a prisoner there and remained in confinement until his death in 1578. 

The Earl had been married firstly, in the late 1550’s, to Jonet Betoun, widow of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch.  Her fate is unclear.  Secondly he married, in 1566, Lady Jane Gordon, daughter of the then deceased George 4th Earl of Huntly.  She divorced him on May 5, 1567 - citing his adultery with one of her maidservants.   Then at Holyrood castle, ten days later on May 15, 1567, came his marriage to Mary, Queen of Scots.  This marriage produced no children as the Queen miscarried twins that year while detained at Lochleven.

Hepburns in Raphoe, Donegal

The first recorded Hepburn in this locality was Alexander Hepburn, a ruling elder of the Presbyterian chapel in Raymoghy near Raphoe in 1680. 

One family line started with William Hepburn, a mason living on McBride Street in Raphoe in the early 1800’s. Hepburns still live on McBride Street today.  William’s son Andrew, also a mason, built a cottage for himself in the townsland of Sessiagh Allson in Castlefinn.  The cottage was rebuilt in 1910 by his grandsons and remains occupied by the Hepburns today.

The Lineage of Robert Hepburn of Tasmania

Robert Hepburn died in Tasmania in 1862.  His last will and testament began with this florid description of his lineage: 

“This is the last Will and Testament of me Robert Hepburn of Roys Hill in the district of Fingal, Tasmania.  I am a lineal descendant: 
  • by my father, Captain Hepburn, of the family of Hepburns of Keith in East Lothian Scotland; 
  • by my mother Mary Ann Roy, great grandson of Rob Roy Macgregor;  
  • and by my grandmother Isabella Princess of Diabenti, daughter of the King of the Koromantic nation of the Gold Coast in Africa, I am Prince of Diabenti, the lineal descendant of the King of the nation in Africa.” 
Robert himself was born in Jamaica and was a descendant of the Rev. William Hepburn of Fowlis Wester in Perthshire.

James Curtis Hepburn, Christian Missionary in Japan

James Curtis Hepburn was the great grandson of Samuel Hepburn who had departed his native Scotland because of religious persecution and left for America with his family in 1773.  In 1840 he volunteered as a medical missionary of the Presbyterian board of foreign missions and was sent to Siam.  His destination was then changed to China.  He remained in Singapore until the end of the Opium War in 1843 and then went to China where he worked in Amoy from 1843 to 1846. 

He was back in America after that but returned East in 1859, becoming one of the first Western missionaries in Japan.  In addition to his medical missionary work he assisted in the translation of the Holy Scriptures, made a Japanese-English and English-Japanese lexicon which passed through three editions and became the basis of all other similar works.  He translated and published several Christian tracts and hymns and the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church.  In 1892, the year he returned to America, he published a Japanese dictionary of the Bible.

Reader Feedback - Hepburns in the East End of London

By chance I came across your site and was very interested in a statement that a docker on the Clyde moved to the east end of London.  My father Albert Hepburn was a stevedore at Tilbury docks.  At the outbreak of war in 1939 he was transferred to Gourock.  I remember my mother telling me that we lodged at number one Drumshantie Road.  However he was soon conscripted into the army. 

Whilst trying to find the family tree, I have found that prior to my grandfather moving to Essex, all of the generations before him lived in the east end of London, Stepney, Poplar, etc.  I have got back to John Hepburn, born around 1740, and some of his descendants were listed as dock laborers.  

Frank Hepburn (JeanandFrank@aol.

The Rev. Sewell Hepburn

The Rev. Sewell Hepburn was the grandfather of that famous actress Katharine Hepburn.  It was said that, at the advanced age of 83, he married her in 1928 to Ludlow Ogden Smith at the Hepburn home in West Hartford (the marriage, however, was short-lived and soon ended in divorce).  When Katharine died in 2003, she remembered him with a $10,000 bequest to the Kent county chapel of St. Paul’s in Maryland where her grandfather had served for so long as a parish priest. 

The Rev. Sewell Hepborn was born in Missouri.  But his roots were with a long-established farming family in Kent county on Maryland’s eastern shore.  The family there had been split by the Civil War.  Maryland was a border state that remained under Union control during the war but where the ownership of slaves was permitted.  Sewell’s father, Sewell Stavely Hepborn of Still Pond, was a slave-owner.  As an outspoken supporter of the Confederate cause, he was imprisoned for a time.  After Hepborn’s death, the Rev. Sewell Hepborn defended his father’s right to own slaves.  But he did draw a distance from him by changing his last name from Hepborn to Hepburn. 

The Rev. Sewell Hepburn was for sixty years a rural Episcopalian minister in Maryland and Virginia.  He came to be known as “Brother Hep” by his parishioners because of the deep affection in which they held him.


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