Sunday, September 29, 2013

Thomas Sproul of New Castle, Delaware

The earliest beginnings of the New Castle, Delaware Sprowl family in colonial America seems to have begun with Thomas Sproul. Thomas' name is listed in the Pennsylvania Gazette dated 1 Jul 1756 as having a letter waiting at the Philadelphia post office. It also mentions Thomas residing in New Castle.

On the 1757 Delaware Militia roster of New Castle County, Delaware Thomas is listed as a private in Richard McWilliam's Company of Foot.

Thomas appears to have had a quiet, uneventful life as a carpenter until 12 Nov 1761 when he files a marriage bann announcing his intentions to marry Sarah Rea, widow. Sarah's (nee: Parker) first marriage was to Robert Rea. This marriage is recorded in the Old Swede's marriage records for 1 Apr 1748. Further research needs to be conducted on this family. It is not known the cause of Robert's death or if he had left behind any issue.

Daniel Thane, witness of the bann, was the minister of the New Castle Presbyterian Church at the time. Rev. Thane was a Scotsman who was installed at the New Castle Presbyterian Church 1757-1763.

John Thompson, yeoman, was surety for the marriage bann.

Although Thomas seems to have lived his entire adult life in the city of New Castle, a curious announcement appeared in the Delaware and Eastern Shore Advertiser newspaper, 6 May, 1795;

"Late Sheriff's Sale of lot in Middletown, St. George's HD, bounded by lands of John Belvead(?), Philip Reading, Jesse Higgins, prop of Thomas Sprawl/Late, sheriff's sale of lot bounded and adj lands of Peter Peterson and heirs of..Oswell, dec'd and lot adj land of Dr. Henry Peterson, and lot adj lands of William Walraven, prop of Doctor Sluyter Bachell."

So reading this it appears Thomas not only owned property in Middletown, some 21 miles to the southwest of New Castle town, but he also died by 6 May 1795. It's important to note that Middletown was becoming a very important and strategic town as it was the "middle town" between the Delaware coast and the Chesapeake Bay. Much commerce was exchanged through this route. The property may have been an investment opportunity, who knows, but no record of him ever living there or belonging to the Forest Presbyterian Church has surfaced.

Family Lore:

It has always been understood that this particular line of Sprowls are Scotch-Irish. What that meant to me as a child was an incredible mystery. As an adult with twenty plus years of research, it brings amazement to the durability and ingenuity of this incredible race of people. I remember growing up listening to many family sessions of story telling. Some stories substantiated, some inflated and well, lets just call the rest creative embellishment.

Thomas has been a frustration for many years. His origins are elusive but with the occasion chip at the wall and slight glimmer of hope from time to time I believe his story will come full circle. I believe instinctively that he is the Irish emigrant of our family. The documentation to prove it is tantalizingly close. I'm hoping someone out there has the wrecking ball to finally break down his brick wall so we can all appreciate his story.

  1. Pennsylvania Gazette 1 Jul 1756, Courteously Provided by Audrey Post
  2. Delaware Archives, Vol. I, French and Indian War Rolls, 1754-1763, pg. 14
  3. New Castle County, Delaware Marriages 1645-1899, FHL Film Number 0006414 to 0006422
  4. The Historical Magazine and Notes and Queries Concerning the Antiquities, History and Biographies of America, pg. 277 
  5. The Colonial Clergy of Maryland, Delaware and Georgia, F.L. Weis, pg. 85
  6. Photograph of New Castle Presbyterian Church by Joe Sprowl, June, 2013
  7. Rootsweb, [THOMPSON-L]Thompson Nexus V07N03Wi96P14 
  8. Delaware and Eastern Shore Advertiser, 6 May 1795