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Fourth generation grandson of Hopkinton founder welcomed at town hall

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HOPKINTON - A historic trip more than 200 years in the making was completed on Tuesday afternoon, as Martyn Roswell Bettel and his wife, Jaqui, made their way up the steps of Hopkinton Town Hall shortly before 1 p.m.

A crowd of approximately 40 people welcomed Mr. Bettel, the great, great, great, great grandson of the founder of Hopkinton, Colonel Roswell Hopkins (1733-1827).

Mr. Hopkins purchased the land that would eventually become Hopkinton for $1.50 an acre in 1801. Then in 1802 he traveled from Vergennes, Vt., to Hopkinton with five other men including his son, Benjamin Hopkins; brother-in-law, Jared Dewey; Eliphalet Brush; Samuel Goodell and Joel Goodell.

The historic ancestry of Mr. Bettel goes back even longer though.

“I’ve done quite a bit of genealogy over the years and my ancestors go back to a guy called John Hopkins. He arrived (to the United States) in 1634. So we went to Hartford (Conn.) first of all to go and look at the monument with the Hartford’s founders, and he’s listed among the 147 original founders,” Mr. Bettel said.

“We also went to see the ancient burial grounds. That’s where he would have been buried. The family stayed in the Hartford area and then my group moved off to Amenia in New York state and that was where the first Colonel Roswell Hopkins (lived). He was the first town supervisor there and his son, who founded Hopkinton, was also there. They were both part of the sixth Dutchess County Militia during the World Revolution.”

From there, Mr. Bettel and his wife (who live in Northumberland, England) went to Bennington (Vt.) to see the Bennington Battle Monument before making their way to Saratoga.

“While we were in Bennington, we found the grave of my great times six grandmother, which would have been (Mr. Hopkins) grandmother. ... The idea of this trip is really to look at places in America where my ancestors came from, and obviously Hopkinton is a very focal point,” Mr. Bettel said.

“We’ve toured all over the west (coast). We’ve never been to this area. We went to Poughkeepsie, and we’ve started to have a look around. We’re off to Boston next week because again there’s some more history there,” Ms. Bettel added. “(The trip) is about two and a half weeks. It’s a pilgrimage I have to say and this is just so gracious for people to come out and meet him. He just loves it.”

Mr. Bettel was commissioned into the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1968 and after service in the Middle East and Northern Ireland, among assignments, he rose to the rank of group captain. The husband and wife of 40 years actually met in the Air Force in the early 1970s before marrying in 1972.

“He arrived on our base, and he was supposed to check in at my headquarters and he was late. I’ll always remember that. And I thought, ‘Who is this young (man) who doesn’t follow the rules?’ As they say, the rest is history,” Ms. Bettel explained.

Mr. Bettel retired from the RAF in 2002 and has since been a deputy governor and governor-in-charge of several correctional facilities in the Scottish Prison Service. He retired from full-time employment earlier this year.

In 1993, Mr. Bettel took over responsibility for maintaining their branch of the family tree, eventually leading to an internet connection with Hopkinton Town Historian Mary Converse in January 2009.

“I hadn’t heard from him this year, and he wrote me in April or May (saying) that he retired in January, which I hadn’t known. ... It hadn’t been that long since he told me this was the day he was going to be here, but it’s coming together nicely,” Ms. Converse said.

“I just didn’t know where (the Hopkins ancestors) had disappeared to. Roswell Hopkins died in about 1829. I said to (Mr. Bettel) ‘What do you want to see?’ And he goes, ‘Well I want to see the places that were around when Roswell was here. So I will take him down to the cemetery later.”

“Mary Converse has been absolutely fabulous, she really has. I reached out to her, I was sort of fiddling on the internet and found out that there was a town historian,” Mr. Bettel said. “There was an e-mail address, and I e-mailed Mary and introduced myself over the net. We’ve been exchanging e-mails for the better part of three or four years now. She’s helped me understand what Hopkinton is like, she’s sent me photographs and she very kindly sent me a book on the history of Hopkinton.”

Mr. Bettel also noted that he was aware of his famous ancestry when he was young, but he did not come to appreciate it fully until he reached adulthood.

“I learned of it fairly early on, but I didn’t really appreciate it until my 20s or 30s. There came a point when somebody has to take over my branch of the family tree, and I was the only one who had any interest, so I took it over. Due to the internet, there is so much more you can find out about your ancestors. For example, the guys in Hartford, together wrote the original constitution which then became the basis of the Constitution of the United States. So when you think about it, it’s a fair contribution to make to the world,” he said sarcastically.

The name “Roswell” entered the family history in 1733 with the Hopkinton founder’s father, Colonel Roswell Hopkins Sr., bearing the name. Mr. Bettel says that the name will continue on for at least another two generations though.

“The first Roswell was Colonel Roswell Hopkins who was the guy who was in Amenia. The second Roswell Hopkins was the one here (in Hopkinton). There was a Roswell Hopkins in my line in the next generation and then it skipped a generation and then there was another Roswell Hopkins and then he died,” he said. “He had married a woman from Wales, who is my great-grandmother and she went back to Wales to bring her children. That’s why my branch of the family left the United States and moved back to the U.K. ... I’ve got three daughters so none of them are called Roswell. But each of them has got a son and each of them have given their sons the middle name Roswell. So the name’s continuing, which is rather nice.”

While this entire journey has brought upon additional discoveries and an expansion of knowledge for Mr. Bettel, his wife said that she has experienced first hand a different side of her husband of four decades.

“He’s actually been quite emotional. When he spotted those two graves at that little church, he was quite tearful because suddenly he was standing there and the lady in the church said, ‘Well actually they’re probably buried under this site.’ And it’s amazing, he’s not an emotional man but he was,” Ms. Bettel said. “He just said, ‘It just means so much. I feel now that I’m actually in touch with them in a very strange way.’”

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