Tuesday, May 27, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 21: William Sprague arrives in America in 1628

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This is the research work of Warren Vincent Sprague in 1913 (with some embellishments).  Here is a synopsis:

William Sprague was born in 1609, the youngest of six children.  His father, Edward Sprague owned a fulling mill (cloth manufacturing) in Upway, County of Dorset, England. Edward (age 37) died in 1614 when William was only 5. The father left a detailed will, and a detailed inventory was done of his estate totaling £258.

William (age 19) with two of his brothers, Ralph ( age 25), and Richard (age 23) came with Governor Endecott aboard the Abigail, in the interests of the Massachusetts Bay Company, paying their own transportation. The ship departed with fifty or so "planters and servants" on 20 June 1628 and arrived at Salem, 6 Sept 1628.

John Endecott, first Governor
of the Mass. Bay Company
Soon after their arrival, the three brothers and a few other men were commissioned by Governor Endecott of Salem to explore the country about Mishawum.

They undertook the journey, traveling about twelve miles to the southwest through the woods on a neck of land between the Mystic and Charles Rivers.  This was in the country of the Albergenians, an Indian Tribe with whom they made peace.  Thomas Walford, a smith, was already living there.  It is presumed that the Spragues wintered there in tents.

In the spring of 1629 came Mr Graves, the Company’s engineer and Mr Bright, the minister and others.  Mr. Graves laid out the town and the building of houses was commenced.  They named the town Charlestown (after the reigning King Charles I of England).

Graves was attracted by the narrow Mishawum Peninsula between the Charles and Mystic rivers. Charlestown became one of a handful of early settlements, preceding Boston.  The area of earliest settlement, at Town Hill, still retains the elliptical street pattern that Thomas Graves laid out.  (1)

Early map of Charlestown
(Charlestown was burnt to the ground
at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775)
1629. The names of the three brothers, Ralph, Richard and William Sprague stand at the head of the list of settlers in the record of the first meeting of the inhabitants of Charlestown.

William (age 25) married Millicent Eames (age 19) in 1634. They had ten children, only eight surviving, between 1635 and 1654.

1636, Jan 2. William’s name appears for the last time in the list of inhabitants of Charlestown.

1636. William and his father-in-law obtained grants of land in Hingham and removed there, where he continued to live. His house lot, on Union St. "over the river" was said to be the pleasantest lot in Hingham.

1645. William was chosen one of the seven Selectmen, "to order the prudential affairs of the town."

1651, March 28. William purchased of Thomas Hammond, "planter" a dwelling house with 5 acres of land adjoining his own homestead, together with other lands in that locality; also 20 acres on the opposite side of the river against the end of the aforesaid house lot.

1662. William was the constable and collector of town rates.

1675, October 19. William made his will, and a copy is in the Sprague Genealogy, p.125.

William Sprague (age 66) died Oct. 26, 1675, at Hingham. His widow (age 81) died Feb. 8, 1696, about 20 years later. William Sprague left a large estate, which gave his widow a comfortable income, besides providing for all his children.

From Salem to Charlestown to Hingham

An interesting side note: The actress, Lucille Ball shares the Sprague Ancestry.  We would be 10th cousins.


  • (1)http://www.cityofboston.gov/images_documents/Charlestown_brochure_tcm3-19114.pdf
  • Sprague, Warren Vincent. Sprague Families in America. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, Printers, 1913. Print, pages 119-122
  • Sprague, Henry Harrison. The Founding of Charlestown by the Spragues, a Glimpse of the Beginning of the Massachusetts Bay Settlement. Boston: W. B. Clarke, 1910. Print.
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Endecott
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sprague_(1609-1675)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 20: Jonathan Sprague (1648-1741) and his son William Sprague (1691-1778), Baptists in Rhode Island.

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This is the research work of Warren Vincent Sprague in 1913 (with some embellishments).  Here is a synopsis:

Jonathan Sprague was born 29 May 1648 in Hingham, Mass.  He was the 7th child of 10. Interestingly, he had on older brother with a similar name, John, who was 10 years older and also a brother with the exact same name who was 6 years older but who died in 1647, the year before he was born.

Jonathan (age 22) married Mehitable Holbrook (age 21) on 20 July 1670.  They had 6 children.

In 1671-2, Jonathan and his wife were living near his brother John, and father-in-law, William Holbrook, in Mendon, MA.  He was elected the Recorder of Mendon.

In 1675, his father died and left to him sixty acres of land in Providence, RI, where he located before 1680.

"Jonathan Sprague was evidently a man of strong character, and was one of the most prominent and influential citizens of Providence, RI, and served frequently in public office. He was a member of the House of Deputies for sixteen years between 1695 and 1714; Speaker of the House in 1703, and member of the Town Council, eight years, from 1705 to 1712; Clerk of the Assembly in 1707. In 1703, he, with two others, was appointed to draw up the methods and proceedings of the Court of Common Pleas. Of a decidedly religious bent, he professed the Baptist faith, and preached as an exhorter." (1)

In 1687, Jonathan’s estate was appraised:  2 oxen, 6 cows, 2 mares, a horse, 18 sheep, 8 acres of planting ground and 6 acres of meadow.

In 1719, Jonathan made an agreement with his sons-in-law William Jenckes, John Teft, and Daniel Brown, deeding them his house and all his lands, they maintaining him for life and he to have choice of which son-in-law he would dwell with. They were to maintain his horse also and pay him 6 pounds a year and 25 pounds to such persons as he directed at his decease.

In 1722, Jonathan wrote a long letter to three prominent Presbyterian Ministers in Massachusetts in answer to one they had addressed to him and other citizens concerning the establishment of a Church in Providence. Mr. Sprague and his fellow Baptists failed to see the necessity of a Presbyterian establishment however. This correspondence gives his views in very vigorous and unmistakable terms.

Jonathan (age 93) died in Sept 1741 in Smithfield, RI.

Jonathan’s son, William Sprague was born 2 Feb 1691 in Smithfield, Rhode Island, one of 6 children.

William married Ellis (Alice) Brown 16 Sept 1714, and they had 6 children between 1717 and 1729. Joshua (our ancestor) was their youngest.

“For upwards of a century the Spragues were prominent actors in the religious and political history of old Smithfield".

In 1738, William deeded "the land for the Baptist Meeting-House (to be) erected and built for the worship of God ".

1750, Dec. 20. William deeded for love, etc. to dutiful and obedient son Joshua (age 21) the homestead in Smithfield with a dwelling house and half the barn.

William (age 87) died 20 Oct 1778 in Smithfield, RI.


  • (1) "Staples' Annals of Providence".
  • "Sprague Families in America", by Dr. Warren Vincent Sprague, page 132.
  • "Sprague Families in America", by Dr. Warren Vincent Sprague, page 145.
  • http://www.sprague-database.org/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I42597&tree=SpragueProject

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

52 Ancestors, Week 19: Joshua Sprague, enthusiastic patriot

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This is the research work of Warren Vincent Sprague in 1913 (with some embellishments).  Here is a synopsis:

Joshua Sprague was born on July 3, 1729 in Smithfield, Rhode Island. The youngest of six children. He married Amey Darling on 2 Jan 1748 and they had a daughter in May 1749. Sadly, Amey (age 20) died in childbirth. Joshua married again to Abigail Wilbur on 22 Apr 1750, and they had 12 children.  The 8th child was Frederick, our ancestor.

Soon after his first marriage his father William deeded him "300 acres of land in Smithfield, a dwelling house and half a barn.”

In June, 1762, after having disposed of his farm, he with his wife and 7 children followed the tide of emigration into Nova Scotia for the purpose of occupying land left by the luckless Acadians. The Acadians were the descendants of the original French settlers in Nova Scotia. Eventually, after the French and Indian War, the British deported the Acadians from the region. Some migrated to Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns, a corruption of the word Acadians.

The Sprague family took up a homestead of several hundred acres at the town of Sackville, Nova Scotia and resided here about fourteen years, during which time six more children were born.

At the opening of the Revolutionary War, the British in Canada deported Americans (those that were sympathetic with the American cause). The Spragues were forced to leave, losing all their possessions. They settled in Adams, Mass.

Joshua was enthusiastic in the cause of freedom, as were his sons. Joshua (age 47) enlisted four times for service in the Revolutionary War:

  • Joshua was a Private in Crary's Rhode Island Regt. in 1776; had due him 20 pounds, 12 shilling, 10 pence. 
  • In Massachusetts, Joshua served as a Major in Stafford's Co. of volunteers and fought in the battle of Bennington, August 16, 1777:
On the afternoon of August 16, the weather cleared, and American General Stark ordered his men to be ready to attack. Stark is reputed to have rallied his troops by saying, ‘There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow.’ The Germans, most of whom spoke no English, had been told that soldiers with bits of white paper in their hat were Loyalists, and should not be fired on; Stark's men had also heard this and many of them had suitably adorned their hats.

When the fighting broke out around 3:00 PM the German position was immediately surrounded by gunfire, which Stark described as "the hottest engagement I have ever witnessed, resembling a continual clap of thunder."

Total German and British losses at Bennington were recorded at 207 dead and 700 captured; American losses included 30 Americans dead and 40 wounded.

August 16 is a legal holiday in Vermont, known as Bennington Battle Day.
The Bennington Battle Monument in Bennington, Vermont

  • Joshua marched to Fish Kill, in 1778, but was rejected as unfit for service. 
  • However, in 1779, Joshua enlisted as private in Col. Chapens' 3d Regt., and was discharged November 21, 1779, serving one month and nine days. 

After the war Joshua worked at the carpenter trade, building boats. In 1788, Joshua (age 59) and his two older sons left Massachusetts, heading west and arrived at Marietta, Ohio, June 22, 1788. The three men took a contract of building one of the block-houses for which they received one hundred dollars.

Joshua went home to Mass. and the next spring returned with his family along with twenty other families.  In April, 1789, the Sprague family went with the association that settled Waterford, on the Muskingum River. They helped build the block-houses and Fort Frye stockade which was a defensive fortification, following the massacre at Big Bottom and the start of the Northwest Indian War. They lived in the stockade seven years, or until the Indian troubles were over.

Triangular-shaped Fort Frye

"For the losses sustained by these refugees from Nova Scotia, and for the services some of them rendered the United Colonies in the Revolutionary War, Congress passed a resolution, that 'whensoever Congress can consistently reward them by grants of land they will do so.' "

Joshua Sprague is mentioned as entitled to a land award, and on 12 July 1812, he was granted 650 acres in Franklin County, Ohio.

He always regretted that he went from Rhode Island to Canada. He said that he had a peck of silver dollars when he moved to Nova Scotia.

Joshua (age 87) died on 1 Oct 1816 in Coal Run, Ohio. His wife Abigail (age 95) died ten years later on 6 Dec 1826.


  • Sprague, Warren Vincent. Sprague Families in America. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, Printers, 1913. Page 163.  https://archive.org/stream/spraguefamiliesi00spra#page/n334/mode/1up
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Bennington
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Frye
  • http://www.sprague-database.org/genealogy/getperson.php?personID=I43110&tree=SpragueProject
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Acadians

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

52 Ancestors: Week 18: Frederick Sprague, enlisted at age 16 in the Revolutionary War

Ancestry Trivia: How can a father serve in the Revolutionary War and his son serve in the Civil War? (the wars are 85 years apart).  Like this:  Frederick Sprague was 16 when he served in 1779 and his son, Sidney was the 14th child of 16, and was 55 when he served in 1861.  Pretty cool!

This is the research work of Warren Vincent Sprague in 1913.  Here is a synopsis:

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"Frederick Sprague was born 17 Oct 1762 in Sackville, Nova Scotia, the 10th child of 16. (His family was American and they were only in Canada briefly.)

Frederick Sprague (age 16) enlisted at New Milford, CT as a private, and served from March to December 1779, under Captain Doan and Colonel Meigs, in the Connecticut line in the Revolutionary War.

He enlisted again  18 July 1781, and served 3 months, 21 days as a private under Captain Clark and Colonel Willett in the service up the Mohawk River.  He fought in two major battles:"

"The Battle of Stony Point took place on July 16, 1779. In a well planned and executed nighttime attack, a highly trained select group of (American) troops under the command of General "Mad Anthony" Wayne defeated British troops in a quick and daring assault on their outpost in Stony Point, New York. The British suffered heavy losses in a battle that served as a huge victory in terms of morale for the Continental Army. While the fort was ordered evacuated quickly after the battle by General Washington, this key crossing site was used later in the war by units of the Continental Army to cross the Hudson River on their way to victory over the British."**

"The battle at Johnstown took place 25 Oct 1781. Entering from Canada, a force made up of British regulars, loyalists, and Mohawk warriors entered the Mohawk Valley, several hundred strong.

The raiding party approached the village of Johnstown.  The Americans were outnumbered, but divided their forces and sent a small group of men around the enemy flank to attack them from the rear. There followed an intense fight.

 For unknown reasons, the militia on Col. Willett's (Americans) right flank suddenly turned and fled in a panic, and Willett tried to halt the retreat and turn his men. Col Willett was saved by the arrival of his flanking force, which arrived and attacked the British rear. The British were defeated. These were among the final material conflicts of the war in North America."*

"After the war, in about 1782, Frederick married Rebecca Nichols.  She was born 9 Jan 1766 in Newport RI . She was the daughter of Captain John and Catherine (Sabin) Nichols.  

Rebecca and her twin brother John (children #6 and #7) were baptized 20 Oct 1766 at the Congregational Church in Newport.  Their parents were married there 23 Dec 1750. John Nichols Sr was a sea captain.  He was once shipwrecked on the Hudson and was away three years; when he came home he was not recognized at once by his wife and family on account of the full beard he had grown.  Later, in Sept 1768, when he was 40 years old, John’s vessel went down at sea and he was drowned.  His family afterwards removed to Connecticut.  They were staunch Church of England people."

"Frederick and his wife Rebecca (between the ages of 17 to 44) had 16 children: 3 died in infancy, and of the remaining 13: 8 were boys and 5 were girls." Our ancestor, Sidney, was their 14th child.

Lake Simcoe, Ontario

"Frederick and his family settled in Genesee County, NY, but 'as times were very hard and Canada offered a free homestead to settlers, he with others formed a small colony, emigrated to Lake Simcoe, Ontario, and commenced building a home in that wilderness, never dreaming that there would ever again be war with England.'

Then the war of 1812 came on and the government of Canada ordered all who would not take up arms against the United States to leave the Dominion by a certain time. Frederick Sprague was too patriotic and loyal a Yankee to take up arms against the government he had fought to establish, but living as he did in such a wilderness, it seemed an easy matter for him and his sons to evade the British officers. Once he was arrested for speaking against the British government. He pleaded that he did not speak against the government; but that he only said that Capt. Arad Smalley looked like an "outhouse" (these buildings were often painted red). However he was put under bond not to speak against the British government or officials in the future.

At one time during the war, Mrs. Sprague with her daughters Catherine and Mary were on Roach's Point, picking blackberries, when they noticed on the lake some Indians rowing towards them. They soon landed and with whoops ran after them, one Indian slashing the bushes with his long knife. This was great fun for the Indians, for they merely meant to scare them. After Mrs. Sprague and her children reached home the Indians came to the house and handed Mr. Sprague their guns in token of peace. After they left they killed one of the oxen and escaped with the quarters.

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After the war was over, in 1816, Frederick sold his claims and moved to New York State. On May 6, 1818, he applied for a pension for his military service, which was granted him. In 1818, he decided to join his brothers in Ohio. Frederick and his family and others crossed Lake Chautauqua in a boat and floated down the Alleghany and Ohio rivers to Marietta, Ohio and thence up the Muskingum River to Coal Run, Ohio where they located. The voyage consumed eight weeks.

Frederick Sprague and family settled on a farm of 218 acres, which he had previously purchased from his brother Jonathan for four dollars per acre, to be paid for in eight years without interest. Frederick and his wife Rebecca were Missionary Baptists. (In 1788, he had been admitted to the Baptist Church at Cheshire, MA.)

Frederick Sprague urged his children to secure as much education as the times afforded in those pioneer settlements. (his son Sidney, our ancestor, was an attorney). He also paid the tuition of poor children that could not otherwise have obtained an education.

(The above history is largely from oral statements made by Frederick's daughter Mary Mariah Sprague (b 1808) to the compiler in 1899 and 1900)."

Frederick (age 77) died Jan 4, 1839 and is buried at Truro Ohio.  Rebecca (age 84) died Aug 27, 1850 at Jacksonville Il.

  • Sprague, Warren Vincent. Sprague Families in America. Rutland, VT: Tuttle, Printers, 1913. Page 200.
  • *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Johnstown
  • ** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Stony_Point
  • http://eastgwillimburywow.blogspot.com/2010/10/lake-simcoe-autumn-sooc.html (Lake Simcoe)
  • http://www.genealogybug.net/franklin_county/homesteads/bulletin.pdf
  • National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006