Francis Sprague, the father of Dorcas who married Ralph Earle, came over in the Ann in 1623 with his wife and one child. It was of this ship's company that Morton tells us that the new comers "Seeing the low and poor condition of those that were before them, were much daunted and discouraged." Governor Bradford says "the best dish we could present them with is a lobster or a piece of fish without bread or anything 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."
There are very few dates for the Sprague family, and many unanswered questions. The household of Francis Sprague consisted of three persons in 1623 and again in 1627, 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.
Francis Sprague may have initially been daunted and discouraged by the living conditions, yet none the less he took hold of the problem of self support in good earnest, and in 1633 was taxed eighteen shillings, a considerable tax. In the division of the cattle in 1627 Francis Sprague shared in the sixth lot. "to this lot fell the lesser of the black cowes came at first in the Anne which they much keep the biggest of the two steers. Also this lot has two shee goats." it is to be hoped that the little Dorcas obtained at least her father's thirteenth share of the milk of the lesser cowe and the two shee goats.
removed to Duxbury prior to 1637. He lived by the shore between Captains Hill and Bluefish
River. It is said of him that he was an "ardent temperament and great independence of
mind." That he was a "grave and sober" person is clearly indicated since he
was permitted to sell spirituous liquors, since it was to "grave and sober"
persons only that this priviege was granted. None the less, in 1641 he was before the
Court for selling wine contrary to the orders of the Court.
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 1627, she would be seventeen at marriage at most, and 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.
He was living in Duxbury in 1666, and died probably a few years thereafter when his son took up his business of keeping an ordinary."
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