I agree with Carolyn that “Controversial Mark Hopkins” by Estelle Latta (1898-1982) is interesting and difficult to find in bookstores.Mrs. Latta’sdescription of “how Mark Hopkins’ holdings, through fraud, were swindled from his heirs and went to others not rightfully entitled to them” appears to be well-documented, and is probably fairly accurate.After that, Estelle Latta becomes a fraud.
The reader should beware that the genealogy presented in the book is more fiction than fact.Although Mrs. Latta had access to correct genealogy charts for the Hopkins family, the truth did not suit her purposes --- to claim that she was related to Mark Hopkins (Treasurer of the Central Pacific Railroad) on both sides of her family --- a double grand-niece.So she chopped-off the limbs and branches of the family tree and re-arranged them to suit herself.Personally, I doubt that she was related him at all; hence the “need” for the phony genealogies.Although she used many of the same names, the places and the people don’t match-up!A few examples of the phony genealogy that she crafted: (1) She retained the correct names for some of the Hopkins wives, but gave them fabricated parents and places of birth.(2) She converted a father-son relationship into a fictitious brother relationship.(3) She omitted an entire generation because it was inconvenient to her purposes.(4) Although there is not a shred of evidence that any members of this Hopkins family ever lived in Vermont or Person & Orange Counties, NC, Mrs. Latta “transported” numerous family members from Randolph & Montgomery Counties, NC to those locations to create an artificial relationship to her people.The reader should approach the book with extreme caution and skepticism about any part of the lineage that she describes.
Estelle Latta was a superior con-artist.From the late 1940s through the early 1970s, she made a self-serving career of conning people with the Hopkins surname out of money, under the guise of winning “our case” in the California courts.She told these people that she had been a graduate student of history at the University of NC, after getting her bachelor’s degree at Duke University.(I have letters from both universities, stating that she did not receive a degree from either school, and that she never attended UNC at all.)Nevertheless, she was tapping Hopkins people in at least ten states for money, and among her various schemes, she sold people “contracts” priced from $100 to $500, promising an interest, if and when she succeeded in bringing about a re-distribution of the original Mark Hopkins estate.
In 1965, Mrs. Latta found herself in trouble with the U.S. Government --- the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) took her into Federal Court and issued a permanent injunction, barring her from selling such “contracts”, which they deemed to be securities that were not registered with the SEC.The "contracts" violated the registration and anti-fraud provisions of the Federal Securities Act.Estelle totally disregarded the court order, and in 1971 she was on trial for criminal contempt for violating the earlier injunction against selling “shares” in the Hopkins estate.These court proceedings were well documented in the Sacramento Bee newspaper.
To summarize the main point of this posting:One should read “Controversial Mark Hopkins” for the interesting story of how fraud surrounded the original distribution of Mr. Hopkins’ estate.But one should also beware of getting caught-up in the fraudulent genealogies that Mrs. Latta lays-out.The book is rife with error, when it comes to family relationships.