Sophia Annie Brasier Mann (nee Hopwood) - 1866-1925

One of Montana's Remarkable Pioneers

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Sophia Annie Brasier Hopwood was born on September 13, 1866 at Mile End, a suburb of London, England. She was the second of eight children of William Edwin Hopwood and Eliza Brasier Van Wyck. Sophia was christened at St Mary's Whitechapel, Stepney, London, on October 7, 1866. She stood at 5 foot 3 inches in height and weighed about 100 lbs., until later in life when she weighed about 200 lbs. Little is known of her formative years.

Her father was a descendant of a family of butchers who lived in London for centuries. Her mother was a descendant of a Dutch family who had immigrated to England. Sophia attended school in England. Her religious faith was that of the Church of England. In later years in America she attended the Congregationalist church.

She left England and made the voyage to Canada alone on a sailing ship around 1885.     The trip to western Canada took nine weeks. From information gathered from other English and Canadian family descendants, it appears that the family may have suffered internal conflicts. This may have prompted her leave England to seek a new life in Canada? It appears that she did not keep in contact with her family in England and may have been unaware of family events, even to the death of her father in 1905 or the death of her mother in 1924.

(Sophia - 2nd from left)

She talked about her family very little but gave the impression that she and her father were never close, that he was very strict and cold. She had three brothers she spoke of as being statesmen, her favorite being her brother Jim. She claimed her mother died when she was a child, although, in fact, her mother left home and was employed as a housekeeper with another family when Sophia was about 14 years old. Perhaps Sophia wished to avoid any social stigma attached to the separation of parents.

Her younger brother Tom left England for western Canada in 1908 to improve his circumstances and to distant himself and his family from tension and conflict with some of his siblings. It may be that Sophia chose to leave for Canada for similar reasons. We do not know! It is uncertain whether or not Tom and Sophia knew of each other's presence in Canada and the US. All knowledge and contact appear to have been lost between Sophia and her family in England.

In Canada, Sophia worked as a nurse to a sick lady when she met Richard Mann. They were married on September 21, 1889, at Glenwood, Brandon, Manitoba. She was a wonderful stepmother to Richard's four children who always praised her. The children's names were William Russell, Florence Alberta, Katherine Alvina, and Claydon Emerson. In addition to mothering and raising these four children she bore Richard ten children. They were Eva, Archie Andrew, Lionel, Winifred Violet, Walter Martin, Ernest, Sarah Mabel, Marjorie Annie, Stella Effie and Ray Stephen. Sophia left the mark of her English upbringing on her children in preparing them for life.

Photos of Sophia's Descendants Living in Montana - 2002

                                         Mark and Faye Nelson                         Mark, Faye & Teresa Nelson - Betty& Dave Mann            Betty and David Mann

Soon after her marriage to Richard Mann the couple moved west and settled in Souris, Manitoba, for about three years, where Richard farmed and was a blacksmith in conjunction with raising horses and cows. They moved west again and stayed one winter at Moosemontain, however they moved on because of unfriendly neighbors who did not welcome newcomers. It was a tough winter. Distance to towns was great and food was scarce. They could only obtain flour and sugar and were able to live off the wildfowl that Richard managed to kill with his muzzle-loading shotgun.

In 1894, Richard moved his family south over open country toward Montana using two covered wagons. A team of horses and a team of bulls pulled one wagon. One horse and three milk cows pulled the second wagon. The milk cows did double duty in pulling the wagon and providing milk and butter for the family. In the morning, Sophia would hang five-gallon cans on the shady side of the wagon. Jolting over the rough prairie there would be small gobules of butter floating in the milk by nighttime. Thus they were kept in butter. About a dozen hens and a rooster on one wagon provided eggs for the family. Wild game provided needed meat. The older children herded the cattle behind the wagons.

Richard met his brother Austin W. Mann at Estevan, Canada. The two families continued by covered wagons and entered the United States at Ray, North Dakota and settled close to Culbertson, Montana. They lived there for five years raising horses and cattle. Richard and Sophia then moved to what is now Sheridan County and settled south of the big muddy river nine and a half miles west of what is now Plentywood, Montana. This was mostly open unsettled country. Here the range was good and it was easier to keep their stock separated from the larger Star, Diamond and Bain Cattle Companies herds.


Besides his own cattle, Richard was financed by concerns in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He would ship yearlings from Minnesota, hold them two or three years then ship them to market out of Williston, North Dakota. In addition to cattle, they raised horses. Horses at that time were only worth two or three dollars each. Richard crossed the wild Mustang with Percheron and developed a hardy strain that averaged one thousand to thirteen hundred pounds each and could be distinguished from other breeds at a great distance by build alone.

<---Sophie and Richard Mann's Homestead

Richard and Sophia, as pioneers, had to work very hard to become self-sufficient, raise their family and to build their small ranching enterprise. Richard was a very versatile and enterprising man. He built their prairie home and barns and out of stones and later extensions and corrals out of logs. He was not a good farmer and preferred raising horses and cattle. A prairie fire in 1916 destroyed their crop, but did not consume the property buildings. He seemed to lose heart as the open range was gone and it was impossible to raise large herds for sale and market.

Sophia, like all wives and mothers, had her days filled with the work and cares of family life. This was particularly heavy work for pioneer women. The children, of course, did much to help her and Richard. Sophia stood the rigors of the frontier life very well indeed. Long hours, very little to work with, and a large family to care for. She abhorred waste or extravagance in any form. Yet she was not stingy! A neighbor never came to visit but that Sophia insisted they take with them a chicken, a duck, a roast, a dozen eggs, an armful of fresh rhubarb, a glass of homemade jelly or canned wild berries, she would always think of something. In addition she spent many happy hours crocheting, tatting or sewing articles which she gave as presents at Christmas and for birthdays. She always remained the Good Samaritan to the surrounding community. If any neighbor had sickness or trouble Sophia would hitch up her driving mare Nellie go and help until the crisis was over.

Sophia's grandson, David Mann, tells the story of how she befriended the Sioux Indians who would pass through during the summer and raise their Teepees close by the homestead. She could speak a little of the Sioux language and responded to their questions with "Washte" (yes) or "Connu" (no). It seems they admired her fair play. She would give them half of whatever she had if they needed it! Often she would open her sack of flour and give them half. This impressed the Sioux very much! Dave said that, of course, she hid her main stores of flour and food, otherwise they could go dangerously short during the winter months if they depleted it by half every time the Indians appeared.

This life was a long way from that of a young woman who had lived above her father's butcher shop with her six brothers and a sister at Aldgate in the great city of London, England. Sophia exhibited extraordinary courage and determination --- to make it to Canada on her own --- to marry a hard working farmer and to raise fourteen children in Montana. To live on the open plains in some of the harshest conditions the New World had to offer --- without any of the conveniences we benefit from today. Truly, like many of her sisters in those days, she was a remarkable woman.

Sophia was very active until she was carrying her tenth child (Ray Stephen), at which time she contracted arthritis and rheumatism and became quite heavy, close to two hundred pounds. From that time until her death it was difficult for her to get around.

Sophia died of pneumonia. She caught a heavy cold and after six or seven days this developed into pneumonia. She died April 1, 1925 at the home place west of Plentywood, Montana. She was laid to rest in the Plentywood cemetery and later Archie, her son, had the children that were buried on the farm, moved to rest beside her in the cemetery.

Sophia was a wonderful woman, may God keep her in His care and may she rest in peace!

Richard re-married, however three years later he died on April 10, 1928 and was laid beside Sophia in the Plentywood cemetery.


My thanks to David and Betty Mann and to Mark and Faye Nelson, Sophia's descendants, of Montana, U.S.A., for their generosity and help in my search for information on Sophia's life in Canada and the United States. My thanks, also, to Pamela Woolcombe, of Pinner, Middlesex, UK for her valuable assistance in obtaining family history records on the Hopwood family of Bow, in east London.  Sophia's youngest brother John see John Hopwood (1878-1920?) To learn about her brother Tom click on Thomas Henry Hopwood (1873-1945?).

John Farrell Hopwood

North Vancouver BC