William Harlen (Bee) Hopkins, Panhandle pioneer and rancher, was born on March 24, 1856, on a farm near Bloomfield, Indiana. During his early years his family moved several times, first to Iowa, then to Shawnee County near Topeka, Kansas, and then in 1877 to North Dakota. Soon after that Bee Hopkins began his career as a rancher, when he went to Colorado to join his brother-in-law Will Young. In 1878 they helped trail the Pollard brothers' cattle to the Panhandle to begin the PO Ranch in Hemphill County. Hopkins turned over the PO cattle to Robert Moody after Moody bought out Milton Pollard's interest in 1881. In the meantime Hopkins had gone to work for the Horseshoe Ranch (see LAUREL LEAF RANCH) of Frank Kerrick (or Karrick). When J. V. Andrews bought the Horseshoe from Kerrick in 1879, Hopkins was made foreman. His two younger brothers, Joseph (Hoos) and Andrew (Josh), joined him there. Hopkins was retained as foreman after the Texas Land and Cattle Company bought out the Horseshoe and started using the Laurel Leaf brand in 1882. Friction developed when Edgar Wilson, the syndicate's general manager, tried to get Hopkins to run off some neighboring farmers and small stockmen who had recently settled the area along the Gunter-Munson survey strip. The foreman refused to do so, and his threatened resignation was averted only by a raise in salary to twenty-five dollars a month.
Hopkins helped organize the Panhandle Stock Association in 1880. In 1883, while returning by stagecoach to the Laurel Leaf from a business trip, he met Hannah Nation, who was traveling from her hometown of Gonzales to visit her sister in Mobeetie. They were married at Mobeetie later that year. They had two children; their oldest, Bessie Lorene, was said to be the first girl born in Canadian, a town that Hopkins and his wife helped found in 1887. In 1892 Hannah's sister, Bessie, married Andrew Hopkins. All three Hopkins brothers and their families became civic leaders during the Panhandle's early development. William Hopkins remained foreman of the Laurel Leaf until 1888, when the Texas Land and Cattle Company sold its Panhandle holdings. At that time he purchased a portion of the Laurel Leaf range and subsequently developed his own ranch with the help of his brother Hoos. Hopkins devoted the major part of his later years to his ranch south of Canadian. He was a Mason and a member of the Shrine of Amarillo. He died in July 1933 and was buried in Canadian.