Friday, July 15, 2016
Same Life, Different Towns
There are some times when I more sorely miss the 1890 census, and searching for what became of two of Caleb Spragg's sons is one of those times. Caleb, as we saw yesterday, was a descendant of the well-known Spragg family of Greene County, Pennsylvania—but also a descendant, on his maternal side, of the same William Gordon who was the forebear of my mother-in-law.
Sometime between that 1880 census and the tragedy which struck the family in 1894, Caleb's sons Francis and David chose to move from the place their family had called home for generations. This was not a small move, but one which took them, their wives and children halfway across the continent.
While it might seem reasonable for a farmer such as David Spragg to choose to move for the opportunity to acquire better land, the move didn't make as much sense for his brother Francis. Seven years David's senior, Francis Spragg had chosen a different path for earning his living. Though not much can be found on Francis Spragg—or F. M. Spragg as he sometimes represented himself—there have been a few mentions of him in the capacity of editor. In that era of the late 1800s through the early part of the 1900s, that position of editor—at least for small town newspapers—often included the role of proprietor, as well.
Before leaving Pennsylvania, Francis Spragg apparently was, indeed, just that: editor and proprietor of The Democrat, a small town newspaper in Pennsylvania. Judging from the timeline inferred from his 1900 census entry at his new home in Harrison County, he and his wife Jane had likely arrived in Missouri sometime after the birth of his second son, Lloyd, in 1887, but before the arrival of his only daughter, Frances, in 1890.
It is unclear whether his younger brother had traveled west with him, followed soon afterward—or perhaps had ventured out on his own before Francis ever thought to do so, himself. David Spragg was still in Pennsylvania in 1887, at least according to his marriage license, for that was when he took as his bride the twenty two year old Orpha B. Rush.
By the arrival of their firstborn, Ina Lee, in July 1888, David Spragg and his family were already in Harrison County, Missouri. David and Orpha settled on a farm just outside the small town of Ridgeway, a town of scarcely three hundred people founded only eight years prior and named for an official of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad—perhaps in hopes of currying favor.
Whether David's brother Francis had originally come to Harrison County with the intention of staying in the newspaper business, by the time of the 1900 census, he was listed as a merchant operating a dry goods store in Ridgeway. However, a later account in the History of Harrison County, Missouri, revealed that he and one of his sons—perhaps attorney Earle Gordon Spragg—did eventually purchase the Ridgeway Journal in October of 1909, retaining ownership for the next four years.
While it is not clear how close the two families remained, over the years since their move from Pennsylvania—David outside city limits, working his farm while brother Francis attended to business at his shop—with one irrevocable act in 1894, it became evident that something had befallen Francis' younger brother so quickly that help could not even be gotten for him in time.