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

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.
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"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


  1. Jonathan sounds like a rather intense personality to put it tactfully. It's interesting that estate property in those times nearly always consisted of a variety of livestock to be passed to the next generation.


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