THE BASSETTS, SPRAGUES AND HALL’S CORNER

If there had been a corner in 1710 where Hall’s Corner is today, it might well have been called Sprague’s Corner. At that time the Sprague family owned most of the surrounding area, probably as much as 120 acres. But, there was no Washington Street and no Bay Road, just a bend in the road. The present Chestnut and Standish streets were one road, “the 1627 Hi-Way,” leading from Plymouth to the “Nook” (Standish Shore).

William Bassett had arrived in Plymouth in 1621 aboard the Fortune and had been granted over 80 acres in the 1627 Plymouth 2nd Division. At the time his family included his wife, Elizabeth, and two children: William, Jr. and Elizabeth, Jr. He eventually had six children. He actually received the grant in 1640, but it is evident that the family had already settled on this property. William Bassett was a blacksmith and “armorer,” and must have been a successful one. He was rated one of the highest on the tax list. He was one of the original land owners of Bridgewater in 1656. He also amassed a large library, a sign of success in those days.

William deeded off property in Marshfield to two of his three sons, and left his property in Bridgewater to his son William, Jr. upon his and his wife’s death. More significantly, he deeded his 80-acre Duxbury grant to his neighbor Francis Sprague’s son John, who had married his youngest daughter Ruth.

Ruth Bassett is the key to the ownership of all of the Sprague property in this area. Originally thought to be Ruth Bassett Sprague Thomas Prince Sylvester, erroneously so, by our usually reliable historian Henry A. Fish, and regrettably by yours truly. As a result of more thorough research we found (with the help of Carolyn Ravenscroft of the Duxbury Rural and Historical Society) that Ruth married John Sprague who was killed in the King Philip’s War in March of 1676. She had seven children John, Jr., William, Ruth, Eliza, Desire, Samuel and Dorcas, all born as Spragues. The Ruth who married Prince and Sylvester was Ruth Turner.

After John Senior’s death, Ruth Sprague married a man with the surname Thomas from Marshfield. She died as Ruth Thomas probably in 1699, but, not before deeding the Bassett property to sons William and Samuel. Francis Sprague, Ruth’s first father-in-law, had already deeded his Duxbury property (just south of the Bassett grant) to Ruth’s eldest son and his grandson, John, Jr. This deed may have gone through Ruth’s husband John, Sr. and then to John, Jr. All of this led to much confusion on the part of several historians, as these three brothers were Spragues, but they were also Bassetts through their mother. The three Sprague brothers, John, Jr., William and Samuel (Ruth’s sons) owned the entire Sprague and Bassett grants by 1700.

 As a surveyor, I thought it was significant that they all ended up with about 40 acres. John, Jr. getting the entire Francis Grant of 40 acres, and Ruth having inherited 80 acres and dividing it between her two other sons. Because of this Ruth Bassett- John Sprague marriage some people had even considered the Bassett Grant to have been a Sprague Grant – not so.

Francis Sprague, John’s father, was an inn keeper and tavern owner. Not too much is known about Francis, but he probably was married twice. At the time of the 1627 Plymouth 2nd Division there were three people living in the household, Francis and two daughters, Anna and Mercy. Mercy married William Tubbs in 1655. In 1668 William Tubbs was granted a divorce from Mercy, as it seems she had not been around for some years and was living in Rhode Island. There was some question about the legality of that divorce.

Francis’ son, John Sprague, Sr. (Ruth’s husband), was born 13 to 18 years after Mercy, which is why it is believed Francis married a second time. During that period most couples tried to have a child every two years, a span greater than that often indicated the first wife’s death and a second marriage.

Both Francis Sprague and his son John Sprague, Sr. had entanglements with the law. Francis was brought before the court more than once regarding improper serving of alcohol at his tavern. John Sprague, Sr. appeared before the court with Ruth Bassett for fornication before they were married. There were other offenses attributed to John Sprague, Sr. but there was another John Sprague in Duxbury about the same time that was part of the Sprague family that lived on the southerly side of what is now Harrison Street. One of the incidents involved a horse in someone’s living room – my money is on Francis’ son.

In November of 1712 Ruth’s son William Sprague drowned when the whale boat he was on upended. Prior to his death, William, described as a weaver, deeded to Moses Soule a portion of his 40 acres, reserving a part for himself and his wife. William’s wife was Grace Wadsworth and she became the guardian of their four minor children Ruth, Zerviah, Jethroe and Terah. Grace may have been a sister to Christopher and Isaac Wadsworth, who were later to become the owners of William Sprague’s 40 acres. This is the family that Peleg Wadsworth was later a member of, he being Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s grandfather. Wadsworth Lane is on this property. More about the Wadsworths later.

As for the 40 acres of Samuel Sprague, Ruth’s other son, it was deeded to Thomas Prince and then to Christopher Wadsworth. The Wadsworth family owned a large part of these two properties for a considerable time. John Sprague, Jr. sold the southerly 40 acres (the Francis Sprague Grant) to Israel Sylvester in January of 1702 – 3. There were four Israel Sylvesters; this Israel was the second of the four, he married Ruth (Turner Prince) the widow of Thomas Prince (most likely the source of the Ruth Bassett, etc., etc. dilemma). Zachariah Sylvester was to later (1774) own the Francis Sprague farm, which passed into the Sampson and Winsor families.

Next: The Wadsworths and Halls and Hall’s Corner

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