- "Sprague Families in America", by Dr. Warren Vincent Sprague, page 2.
Francis Sprague came in the good ship, "Anne" which sailed from London, England, and arrived at Plymouth, July, 1623. He was one of those "passengers" who, as Morton writes, "seeing the low and poor conditions of those that were before them, were much daunted and dismayed, and according to their divers humors, were diversely affected. Some wished themselves in England again; others fell to weeping, fancying their own misery in what they saw in others; other some pitying the distress they saw their friends had long been in, and still were under. In a word, all were full of sadness; only some of their old friends rejoiced to see them, and it was no worse with them for they could not expect it should be better, and now hoped they should enjoy better days together. And truly it was no marvel they should be thus affected, for they were in a low condition, both in respect of food and clothing at that time." Governor Bradford, in allusion to the passengers who came in the Anne and the James, says: "The best dish we could present them with, is a lobster, or a piece of fish, without bread, or any thing else but a cup of fair spring water: and the long continuance of this diet, with our labors abroad, has somewhat abated the freshness of our complexion; but God gives us health."
He married in England, Lydia ______ who with their daughter came with him.
"Pilgrims Republic of 1888", Goodwin, pages 362-596.
1623, Autumn. He shared in the division of lands with those who came in the Anne.
1627, At the division of cattle he gives the names of his children as Ann and Mary.
1627, July. Signed an agreement with William Bradford and others pertaining to the carrying on of the fur trade.
1632-3, Jan. 2. Was taxed at Plymouth, being assessed for 18 shillings.
1632. About this date he settled in the N.E. part of Duxbury, near the Nook, so called.
1637, June 17. Admitted Freeman of the Colony.
1637. Licensed to sell spirituous liquors. 1640. Owned land on North River.
1644, Apr. 1. Deeded to his son-in-law William Lawrence 50 acres on South River.
1645. Was one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater, but he nor any of his family came to reside there. He was one of the original purchasers of Dartmouth.
1659, Oct 26. Deeded land to his son-in-law Ralph Earle of Rhode Island.
1666. Was an Inn Holder up to this date and owned considerable property. Mr. Sprague did not adhere strictly to the enactments of the civil code of the Puritan Fathers and was several times brought before the Court for what they considered departures from the strict line of duty. His ardent temperament and great independence of mind did not fully accord with the principles of the Puritans, but considered from the present standards of estimating the characters of men, he must have been a person of worth and great respectability. We know that he was the head of a most honorable and respected family of descendants.
1669. His son John succeeded to his business of "keeping an Ordinary" or tavern, where spirituous liquors were sold, and it is presumed that his death occurred shortly before.
1662. The Court admonished good wife Tubbs (his daughter Mercy) for "mixed dancing"; she left her husband and in 1668 the court granted him a divorce. They had a son, William Tubbs, Jr., who married in 1691, Judith, widow of Isaac Baker.
From a note from Richard Fricke, descendant of William Sprague.
Francis Sprague arrived at Plymouth in July, 1623 on the Good Ship Anne from England. The tale is recounted in the book "Pilgrims Republic, dated 1888, by Goodwin, pages 362-596.
From Eugene Aubry's "Plymouth Colony" Biographical Sketches, page 357.
Arriving in 1623 on the Anne, Francis Sprague had three shares in the 1623 land division, and he was in the 1627 cattle division with Anna Sprague and Mercy Sprague, the latter known to be his daughter, but his relationship to Anna, possibly a wife or another daughter, is not known. His son John Sprague was born in Plymouth and married Ruth Basset, daughter of William Basset. Mary Lovering Holman, The Scott Genealogy, page 241, gives him four children. In addition to a son John, Francis had Mercy Sprague, who married 9 November 1637 William Tubbs, Anna Sprague, who married before 1 April 1644 William Lawrence, and Dorcas Sprague, who married before 26 October 1659 Ralph Earle. Though William Lawrence's wife was a daughter of Francis Sprague, it is assumed that her first name was Ann, and if it should later be learned that the Anna in the 1627 division was Sprague's wife, then the first name of Lawrence's wife is unknown. One of the purchasers, Sprague was on the 1633 and 1634 tax lists and became a freeman 7 June 1637. On 2 January 1637/38, he was presented for beating William Halloway, erstwhile servant to William Bassett. In 1638, he was licensed to keep an ordinary at Duxbury; his license was suspended in 1640, but he was licensed again in 1646. In 1650, he became a constable for Duxbury. On 27 April 1661, Francis Sprague of Duxbury deeded his dwelling house and land to his son John Sprague with the provision that John would not take possession until his father died. Francis was listed in the 29 May 1670 list of freemen in Duxbury, but his name was crossed out, which would seem to indicate that he died shortly after that date. The Anthony Sprague who married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Bartlett, and the Joanna Sprague who married Caleb Church, were not of this family, but were children of William Sprague of Hingham.
From "History of the Early Settlement of Bridgewater", by Nahum Mitchell.
Francis Sprague was one of the forefathers, and arrived at Plymouth 1623 in the ship Ann. He settled in Duxbury, and was one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater, but did not, nor did any of his family, come to reside there. There is no mention of a daughter, Dorcas.
From George Davis.
Francis Sprague married ?Lydia/Anna? according to Torrey's Marriages before 1700. The Munsey-Hopkins Genealogy by D. O. S. Lowell says Anna.
From George Sawyer.
Francis sailed from London for New England in 1623, with Anna & Mercy, his wife and daughter. They reached Plymouth in the latter part of June in the ship "Ann". The same year 3 acres of land was allotted to him "to the sea eastward". In 1627, at the time of the division of cattle, Francis Sprague was in the "sixt lott", of thirteen persons. There is no mention of any other Sprague in the colony at that time except Anna & Mercy. Probably his two children John & Dorcas were born in Plymouth or in Duxbury.
In 1632, Duxbury was set off from Plymouth, and in 1637, incorporated as a town. The following year Francis was licensed as an inn holder there, and continued there at least until 1666. He is spoken of as being "a man of influence and property". He was one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater (1645), though he never resided there. In 1660, he became one of the purchasers of Dartmouth. The date of his death is unknown but if falls between 1666 & 1669.
From Sherie Sprague Winslow.
Francis Sprague arrived in Plymouth as a Purchaser in July 1623 on the ship Anne from London with wife Lydia and daughter Anna. (Various references do not agree). He was a man of influence and property for those times. In 1623, he shared in the division of lands given to those who came on the Anne. (Every person was given one private acre.)
In 1632, he settled on the NE part of Duxbury, MA. In 1637, he was admitted as Freeman of the colony. Scholars are undecided, because of the inconclusive early records, but it appears that being elected Freeman had to do with the right to vote in Plymouth Colony affairs. This right was not extended to everyone. In 1632, he was also licensed to sell liquor. It appears that this was the first liquor license granted in the colonies. His license was suspended in 1638 (for imbibing too many of the spirits he sold) and renewed in 1640. (FEF: Saints and Strangers pages 235 and 321.)
In 1645, he was one of the original purchasers of Dartmouth. In 1650, he was made Constable of Duxbury. "Mr. Sprague did not adhere strictly to the enactments of the civil code of the Puritan Fathers and was several times brought before the Court for what they considered departures from the strict line of duty. His ardent temperament and great independence of mind did not fully accord with the principles of the Puritans, but considered from the present standards of estimating the characters of men, he must have been a person of worth and great respectability. We know that he was the head of a most honorable and respected family of descendants".
"Supplemental to Sprague Families in America", 1915, by Frank H. Sprague.
His death must have occurred shortly before 1669 as that is when his son John took over the running of the tavern. (A separate source says his death was approximately 5-29-1670.) (Other reference: Planters of the Commonwealth)
"The Great Migration Begins", by Robert Charles Anderson, Volume III, 1996, page 1727
There are very few dates for this family, and many unanswered questions. The household of Francis Sprague consisted of three persons in 1623 and again in 1627 [PCR 12:5, 11], and we assume here that these three are in both cases Francis, Anna, and Mercy. Mercy was clearly the daughter who married in 1637, but opinion is divided as to whether Anna was wife or daughter of Francis.
We know that a daughter of Francis Sprague had married William Lawrence by 1644, but we have no record which gives her Christian name. But to have married by that date, and be born after the cattle division of 1727, she would be seventeen at marriage at most, an perhaps younger. The more likely solution is that the Anna of the cattle division was a second daughter, and Francis did not bring a wife with him to New England.
The other two children of Francis (John and Dorcas) were apparently born in the 1630s, and so fifteen or twenty years younger than Mercy and Anna, with no evidence of any children born in between. This alone suggests that these were children of a second marriage. We postulate, therefore, that Francis Sprague had two wives, the first of whom died in England before 1623, and the second of whom he married in New England about 1630. If our conclusion that Anna Sprague of the 1627 cattle division became wife of William Lawrence is correct, then we do not know the given name of either of the wives of Francis, nor do we have dates of birth, marriage or death for either of them.
"The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers"
This name does not occur in the Leyden Archives, and in addition to this it is of great rarity in England. Early settlers of the name emigrated from Dorset to New England but no other occurrence of it is known. It appears as Spragg and sometimes as Sprake, and such few instances of its occurrence are found in the counties of Devon and Somerset. As none of the passengers have been traced to the West Country it is probable that this emigrant was a transient resident in London whence most of this company came. As two daughters shared with him in the 1627 division and he had a son-in-law in 1644 it it probable that he was married and past middle life when he emigrated.
The occurrence of the name of Spragg at Knutsford, County Chester, whence some other emigrants to New England, indicates a possible connection between him and Tatliffe and Hilton who preceded him in the Fortune (q.v.).
From A. J. Sprague, correspondent.
Francis came to America on the Anne as stated. All the lists of the passengers on the ship list Francis as coming with two (apparently) females. Anna and Mercy. There is no Lydia on the list anywhere. I have been searching for several years now. I can find no historical evidence of any kind as to the existence of a Lydia. The only reference to a Lydia was where a Lydia Sprague made her mark on a document selling the land in Duxbury. It was sold by Francis' grandson, John. John had a wife named Lydia. The laws of the time said that wives had to sign off on property that was to be sold. The only logical assumption was that this Lydia was John's wife. If she was Francis' wife she would have to be quite old and there is still the problem of where did John's wife sign. Some believe that Francis married a second time, his first wife having died in England. If so, this marriage would have to have been before 1633 or after 1640 as his marriage is not listed in the Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, Vol. 1. I cannot find vol. 2 but his second marriage is not listed in the index of that vol. Volumes 3 and 4 do not seem to list marriages although I have not had a chance to search them yet. All the volumes are available in the Plymouth County offices in Plymouth. The Mayflower Society in Plymouth also has a set although one volume seems to be missing, or at least it has not been there the last three times I went there over a span of about four years.
From Sue Bates, correspondent.
No records seem to exist presenting the reasons or circumstances which might have prompted Francis Sprague and his family to leave England and embark upon what was to be a new and often perilous life in the colonies. It can however be surmised that those reasons were not purely religious, as were those of many of the others who had chosen to become part of the colonial endeavor in New England. This is made evident by a number of subsequent factors. One indication is the fact that Francis Sprague, rather than having been designated as one of the Saints or true Puritans by George F. Wilson in his book SAINTS AND STRANGERS, published 1945 by Reynal and Hitchcock of New York, was instead designated as having been among the so-called "Strangers". These "Strangers" were those who were part of the colony but who did not strictly adhere to the Puritan religious principles. For even though he had immigrated and settled with the Puritan or Pilgrim company at Plymouth Colony, Soule's descriptive narrative of him in Sprague Memorial makes the following descriptive notation regarding him:
"It appears that grave and sober though he was, he did not wholly escape the displeasure of the scrupulous magistrates of those days. The Court records disclose the fact that he was several times brought before them for what they considered departures from the strict line of duty. A fair interpretation, however, of the evidence, drawn from the Old Colony Records, warrants the conclusion that Francis (Sprague) was a person of ardent temperament and of great independence of mind; in short, that his sympathies with the principles of the Puritan Fathers did not go to the length of Passive acquiescence in all the enactments of their civil code. We know that he was the head of a most honorable and respected family of descendants."
Regardless of their reasons for having done so, Francis Sprague, his wife and daughter left England in early 1623 and arrived at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts on or about 10 July of that same year, and all three were later designated as having been among the 189 settlers who were to be acknowledged as the "Founding Fathers of America".
In the fall of 1623, Francis Sprague and his family participated in a harvest feast that also turned into a celebration of the marriage of Governor William Bradford to Alice Southworth. This feast, which was attended by the local Indian chief Massasoit and 120 of his people, was the occasion that has since become noted as the first Thanksgiving.
Shortly after arriving at Plymouth Colony, Francis Sprague took part in a division of land among the passengers of the ship ANNE in which he was granted a plot of land that may have been about 100 acres or more.
On 5 November 1623, Francis Sprague took part in what may well have been one of the first "volunteer" fire fighting efforts to have taken place in New England. On that evening a fire broke out in one of the settlement houses that soon spread to and destroyed two or three other houses and threatened to engulf the storehouse where the settlement's winter food supply was being kept. Governor Bradford organized the fire fighting effort and the food stores were saved. It was later discovered that the fire had resulted from a deliberate act of arson.
Sometime around May or June of 1627 Francis Sprague obtained a number of head of cattle in a division of livestock among the colonists. In July of that same year, he entered into an agreement with Governor Bradford regarding the fur trade and was thus well on his way to becoming one of the more well to do and respected citizens of Plymouth Colony.
On 2 January 1632 he was taxed 18 shillings on his land and holdings at Plymouth. Shortly after this, apparently seeking larger and more fertile fields, he and his family moved to the northeast area of what was then known as the "Duxburrow Side" of the bay north of Plymouth Colony. This area has since become the city of Duxbury, Massachusetts.
At Duxburrow they settled on a large grant of land adjoining that of Elder William Brewster, not far from the town meeting house. This land, near what was known as the "Nook", lay along a bay with good meadows, salt marshes and a creek that is still known as Sprague's Creek.
On 17 June 1637 Francis Sprague was admitted as a Freeman of the Massachusetts Colony. Such status, given only to male members of the colony, required the passing of a rigorous examination of the individual's religious views and moral character. There is some indication that may have required formal membership in the church. And finally, it required that the applicant own property valued at no less than £20, though this later requirement was not strictly enforced. That same year he was granted a license to sell liquor in New England and on 1 October 1637 he established what has since been recognized as having been one of the first taverns and inns to be operated in New England.
At least four other such establishments are known to have existed in the region about this same time, some perhaps before that of Francis Sprague. James Cole operated a tavern just above Plymouth, and others in the area were either owned or operated by Constant Southworth, Assistant Governor of the colony William Collier and by Isaac Robinson.
All of these establishments faced the same problems, problems which appear to have been purposely directed toward them by the religious minded, colonial authorities. There were officials appointed for the sole purpose of following patrons into such taverns and then monitoring their intake of liquor, individuals who had the authority to force the tavern operator to stop serving any individual or group of persons if, in that official's mind, such persons were beyond what they felt to be the "legal" limits of intoxication. The officials have often been noted as having made extreme nuisances of themselves. In addition, no tobacco could be used in the taverns, no card playing was tolerated nor was dice gaming.
Beyond that, official approval and permission to operate a tavern that served liquor was usually granted only to the most respectable persons, and such approval was seldom given to anyone known to drink to intoxication. Tavern owners were also held responsible for the sobriety of their patrons and could be brought to account equally for the actions of any of their patrons who, when intoxicated, caused some problem.
That Francis Sprague was of such independence of mind as to balk at such official interference with the process of free trade is indicated by the fact that within next year his liquor license was suspended for his "...drinking overmuch and tolerating too much jollity" and was admonished for purposely and knowing serving guests beyond the legal limit. That suspension was lifted though by the end of 1638.
Sometime around this same period of time Francis Sprague became a member of the Duxbury Militia under the leadership of Captain Myles Standish.
In 1640 he obtained more land near Duxbury, along the North River. On 1 April 1644 he deeded a 50 acre tract of land along the South River to William Lawrence, husband of his daughter Mary. This may well have been a wedding present.
In 1645 Francis Sprague became one of the original proprietors of Bridgewater, Massachusetts and also co-purchased, with the Earle family, a large amount of land at the present site of Dartmouth, in what is presently Rhode Island, apparently as the first stage toward the establishment of a settlement at that location. The site was subsequently settled in 1650 and became incorporated as the town of Dartmouth in 1664.
In 1648 and again in 1657 he served as Surveyor of Highways for the area and in 1649 he served as Constable of Duxbury.
On 26 October 1659 he deeded land to his son-in-law Ralph Earle of Rhode Island. This land, given on the occasion of the marriage of Ralph Earle to Dorcas Sprague, daughter of Francis Sprague and Anne _____(?), was apparently a wedding present and may have been some of the land purchased at Dartmouth, considering that the newlyweds almost immediately settled at Dartmouth, Rhode Island after their marriage. Several months after this, in 1660, Francis Sprague's wife Anne _____(?) died in Duxbury.
On 5 June 1666 Francis Sprague's liquor license was again suspended because of a brawling incident in his tavern. This suspension was also temporary, being lifted a short time later.
On 29 October 1669 Francis Sprague's son John entered into co-proprietorship of the family tavern. This may have taken place because of the advancing age of the founder of this family line in America. Following both their deaths in 1676, this inn was owned and operated by John Sprague's son William, who later passed it on to his son Jethro. Its fate after that time is presently unknown.
Francis Sprague is reported to have died in 1676, sometime after March of that year and after the death of his son John. He is reported as having been one of the 10 wealthiest men in New England at the time of his death.
NOTE: from Richard E. (Dick) Weber relative to the claim of Francis Sprague's participation in the first Thanksgiving celebration (above):
The first Thanksgiving isn't as precise as we might like. Here's what the
World Book Encyclopedia has to say:
"In the United States and Canada, a day is set aside each year as Thanksgiving Day. On this day, people give thanks with feasting and prayer for the blessings they may have received during the year. The first Thanksgiving Days were harvest festivals, or days for thanking God for plentiful crops. For this reason the holiday still takes place late in the fall after the crops have been gathered. For thousands of years people in many lands have held harvest festivals. The American Thanksgiving Day probably grew out of the harvest-home celebrations of England.
In the United States, Thanksgiving is usually a family day, celebrated with big dinners and joyous reunions. The very mention of Thanksgiving often calls up memories of kitchens and pantries crowded with good things to eat. Thanksgiving is also a time for serious religious thinking, church services, and prayer.
One of the first Thanksgiving observances in America was entirely religious
and did not involve feasting. On Dec. 4, 1619, 39 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Plantation, on the James River near what is now Charles City, VA. The group's charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God.
The first New England Thanksgiving was celebrated less than a year after the
Plymouth colonists had settled in the new land. The first dreadful winter in Massachusetts had killed nearly half of the members of the colony. But new hope grew up in the summer of 1621. The corn harvest brought rejoicing. Governor William Bradford decreed that a three-day feast be held. A Thanksgiving Day set aside for the special purpose of prayer as well as celebration was decreed by Governor Bradford for July 30, 1623.
The women of the colony spent many days preparing for the feat. The children helped by turning roasts on spits in front of open fires. Indians brought wild turkeys and venison (deer Meat.) The men of the colony brought geese, ducks, and fish. The women served the meat and fish with journey cake, corn meal bread with nuts, and succotash. Everyone ate outdoors at big tables."
From Russell Sprague, correspondent:
Here is something you might find interesting. Start at:
Click on 'volume 2', then 'I agree (copyright)' then '1600s', then 'Anne and Little James'.
This is the passenger list and a bit of description of the ships that Francis Sprague and others came over on in 1623.
"The EnglishAncestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers", by Charles Edward Banks, page 162
THIS name does not occur in the Leyden Archives, and in addition to this it is of great rarity in England. Early settlers of the name emigrated from Dorset to New England but no other occurrence of it is known. It appears as Spragg and sometimes as Sprake, and such few instances of its occurrence are found in the counties of Devon and Somerset. As none of the passengers have been traced to the West Country it is probable that this emigrant was a transient resident in London whence most of this company came. As two daughters shared with him in the 1627 division and he had a sonin- law in 1644 it is probable that he was married and past middle life when he emigrated.
The occurrence of the name of Spragg at Knutsford, co. Chester, whence came other emigrants to New England, indicates a possible connection between him and Ratliffe and Hilton who preceded him in the Fortune.
From Suzi Miller, correspondent, note of July 12, 2010
From the book, "The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers who came to Plymouth on the 'Mayflower' in 1620; the 'Fortune in 1621; and the 'Anne' and the 'Little James' in 1623":
"THE ANNE. Bradford gives the following particulars of the company of emigrants who came in this ship: 'About 14 days after, (i.e. July 10, 1623, came in this ship caled the Anne, whereof Mr. William Pierce was Master. . .They brought 60 persons for the generall, some of them being very usefull persons, and became good members to the body, and some were wives and children of shuch as were hear already. And some were so bad, as they were faine to be at charge to send them home againe the next year. . .' Robert Cushman had written to Bradford early that year: 'Our friends at Leyden. . .will come to you as many as can this time,' and by the ship Anne he sent another letter, advising Bradford that 'Some few of your old friends are come, as &c. So they come droping to you. . .And because people press so hard upon us to goe, and often shuch as are none of the fitest, I pray you write earnestly to the Treasurer and direct what persons should be sente. It greeveth me to see so weake a company sent you. . ."