Friday, April 14, 2017

Holbrook line: Francis Sprague, Immigrant of 1623

Goodness!  It's hard to imagine what the Saints, and even the Sinners, thought when Francis Sprague arrived at Plymouth Colony in 1623.  He and at least two of his family arrived on the ship Anne.  Francis was still a young man, having been born sometime in the 1590's, and he was evidently a free spirit.  Nevertheless, he probably had to sign something that said he would abide by the rules of the Colony, even though he was not of their (or, probably, any) religious persuasion.  Let's just say he was likely one of those people who thought the laws didn't apply to him  That makes him a fun ancestor to write about. 

We don't know much about his family, although his parents are frequently given as Edward Sprague and Christiana or Margaret Holland.  This couple was from Dorset, England but I am not aware of any documentation that shows Francis as a son of theirs.  Still, it may be true.

There is also considerable confusion about his first wife, and whether or not she accompanied him to New England.  Her name is now believed to be Lydia, possibly Archer, and she may have been an interesting person herself.  If she encouraged Francis to come to America, perhaps she lived to regret that encouragement, or perhaps life for the Spragues in England was so difficult that living on the frontier was not harder, just different.  Certainly the family had cause to wonder whether they had done the right thing when the left the ship "Anne" in 1623 and saw the condition of the settlers who had been at Plymouth Colony for two or three years.  However, they didn't return to the ship but stayed to make their new home in the New World.

Because Francis was here in 1623, he received land in the division of 1623 and was part of the next  division of land and cattle in 1627, receiving 15 acres of land plus cattle, sheep, and goats.  About this time he also made an agreement with William Bradford to become a recognized fur trader.  This job would not have been easy, as it meant going into lands occupied by the natives and taking pelts and animals that the natives had relied on for years.  It was what we would consider a high risk occupation. 

By 1637, a few years after his second marriage, Francis was ready to settle down a little more, and he was approved by the courts to become an innkeeper.  Innkeeper is really a misnomer, for the main attraction of his establishment seems to have been liquor, although "hard" liquor was not officially permitted. This was in Duxbury, a newer settlement of the Colony, .He joined the militia under Captain Myles Standish (another Holbrook ancestor) in 1638.  He was cited by the courts several times through the years for various infractions regarding dispensing of liquor, and appears to have had his license suspended for as long as 6 years, from 1640-1646. He was also made a freeman in 1637, and later was a constable for the town.

The tavern business was good to him for he was able to make other real estate investments, and was regarded as rather wealthy and somewhat respectable when he died in 1676.  By then, he had deeded much of his land to his son John.  Considering the hardships he faced and lived through, he had quite a long life.  He's an interesting addition to the family. 

The line of descent is:

Francis Sprague-Lydia
Mercy Sprague-William Tubbs
Samuel Tubbs-Mary Willey
Mercy Tubbs-John Crocker
Rachel Crocker-Kingland Comstock
Rachel Comstock-John Eames
John Eames-Elizabeth Longbottom
Hannah Eames-James Lamphire
Susan Lamphire-Joseph Eddy
Susan Eddy-Hiram Stanard
Louis Stanard-Mary Alice Hetrick
Etta Stanard-Loren Holbrook
Gladys Holbrook-Richard Allen
Their descendants