Thought I would share this with other Sproat researchers. The below article I found in my grandmother (Mildred Elizabeth Sproat Murphy's files) I believe she obtained this in 1978 on a trip to Illinois, when she visited with Hazel Dial. It's very long and sometimes confusing but well worth the reading and study. It's difficult to read as it is a copy and hopefully I will make few mistakes transcribing it exactly as is.
History and Reminiscenses of the Sproat Family
Written by Will J. Sproat and Read at a reunion held at the Residence of Eugene A. Daugherty, Dorr, Allegan County, Mich., Monday, June 26, 1905.
Brother and Sisters, Nieces and Nephews, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins, Their Relatives and our Friends and Acquaintances:- The scene that is presented here today ought to inspire and orator to say something that would be of interest to all of you, but I am not an orator. I am not capable of expressing the sentiments that I know we all feel, and therefore do no expect to entertain you with eloquence. I can write better than I can talk and suppose it is for that reason that I have been selected to attend to a matter that is too often neglected on such occasions - the preparation of a record or family history. As no such record is known to have been made heretofore in our family, I have been unable to trace our genealogy more than three generations, and the records of those must be incomplete.
Ten years ago last Thursday, when we met here, as we have today, I told you that our name was of Scotch origin. Since then I have traveled a little and learned from other branches of the family that the ancestors of the Sproats who have been known in Scotland for centuries, came from Holland. Tradition has it that the first of them came over with William the Conqueror in 1050, more than 600 years ago.
Two years ago I met families of Sproats in Taunton, Mass., Hartford, Comm., and in Troy, N. Y., and heard of others in Paterson, N.J.
Andrew Sproat of Hartford, Conn., came from Scotland only a few years ago. He left many relatives in the south of Scotland, among them his oldest brother, William, who has charge of Castle Douglas, in Laurieton, Dumfrieshire. The position of keeper of the castle and grounds seems to be a sort of legacy to the William Sproat. For six generations at least men of that name have filled the position.
James G. and Frank Sproat live in Troy, N.Y., and two of their brothers, David and William, live in Paterson, N.J. Their great-grandfather came from Ireland, and from the similarity of their given names are supposed to be distant cousins of ours. They are all married and have happy families.
Clinton Sproat is a cigar manufacturer in Taunton, Mass. I spent but a few minutes with him. He has a brother and a sister, but all three of them are over fifty years old and single. He expressed fear that his family was "running out" and was glad to hear that the Michigan branch of the family is more thrifty.
Since starting preparations for this event, Clark has heard from two other Sproats, William of Rotterdam, N.Y., and James of West Albany. I will read some of their letters.
Clark has also heard that there are several families of Sproats in Canada, up near Georgian Bay.
Our family, the Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and other Ohio Sproats are descendants of three brothers - Alexander, David, and William - who came from County Galway, Ireland, shortly before the American revolution. They landed at Boston, and David remained in New England, while his brothers went into what was then the wilds of Pennsylvania. Alexander was our great-grandfather.
Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, one of the pioneers of Marietta, the oldest town in Ohio, must have been a son of David Sproat, who settled in New England, at least he came from New England to the old town on the Ohio river at the mouth of the Muskingum. He was a famous man, was the first sheriff of Washington County, and had great influence over the Indians, who called Colonel Sproat "Buckeye". He was a giant in strength and stature and his eyes resembled those of the deer.
Our paternal great grandmother's maiden name was Gourlay, but whether they were married before coming to American we do not know. Her name indicates her nationality. They had four sons - David, William, John, and James. The third son, John, died just before reaching his majority. William was our grandfather. David was a rough and ready soldier in the war of 1812. He was with the garrison of Detroit when it was surrendered to the British by General Hull. He hated to hear the name of the traitorous general, declaring that it should be forgotten; but when induced to talk of the surrender, could give an impressive description of its effect on the soldiers, some of whom grabbed their guns and proposed to shoot their commander, some cursed him and others wept. After the war he went west to Indiana, and then to Illinois. There is a family of Sproats in Bloomington now, presumably his great-grandchildren. Of the other son, James, we have no history.
These four brothers had four sisters. Of three of them we have no history, except that one of them married a Pennsylvania Crawford, a member of the family that emigrated to Indiana and founded the town of Crawfordsville. The fourth, Aunt Katie, died here in 1862 and lies in the graveyard yonder, with our father and mother.
William Sproat, our grandfather, emigrated from Pennsylvania to Richland County, Ohio, early in the present century, and married Jennie Johnson, who was of Irish parentage. They had three sons - Alexander, Robert, and David. Grandmother Sproat died when our father (Robert) was three years old and David, her youngest son, was a baby. Grandfather Sproat married again, became the father of one daughter, who, when last we heard from her, was living in northwestern Ohio.
Uncle Alexander Sproat was accidentally drowned in Vermillion Lake, Ashland County, Ohio, in 1856. He left a widow, four sons and three daughters. The sons are all dead. Two of the daughter live in Mansfield, Ohio, and the other is the wife of a civil engineer of Knoxville, Tenn.
Uncle David Sproat married in Ohio, emigrated to Elkhart County, Indiana, where he lived until 1872 or 1873, and then went to Pottawatomie County, Kansas. Later he moved to Oklahoma. He has a son and a daughter, who would like to be with us today, but were unable to come because they are in the middle of their harvest. Uncle David, who is now 83 years old, lives with his son Sanford.
Grandfather Sproat was well known to most of the old settlers of this township. He came here in 1855 and bought the eighty acres of land on which the late Robert Emery lived. After building a log house on it and clearing a few acres he sold out to Asa Weaver. After that he changed about, living awhile here, then with his son David in Indiana, and then with his relatives in Ohio. He died at the home of his daughter in Wood County, Ohio, in 1862, aged 80 years.
On the maternal side I have been unable to trace ancestry further than our grandparents. Mother's mother was a Pennsylvania Dutch girl named Wagner. When she first saw Grandfather Millar he was an auburn haired Irish lad of 18 years, marching away with a company of soldiers known as the Pennsylvania Bucktails in the war of 1812. They wore bucktails as plumes on their hats and were the first American soldiers armed with rifles instead of smooth-bore muskets.
Grandfather Millar fought at the battle of North Point, in defense of Baltimore, and the company, owing to their rifles, coolness and good markmanship, are said to have turned the tide of battle in favor of the Americans. On the eve of battle General Ross, the British commander, swore that he would eat his "next dinner in Baltimore or in hell." He was killed at noon the next day.
After the close of the war of 1812, Thomas Millar and Rachal Wagner were married at York, Pa., and a few years later moved to Ashland County, Ohio. They reared nine children, four sons and five daughters (three others dies in infancy). They were Margaret, Mary, Thomas, Jane, Sophia, John, George, Adaline and Denton. Of the daughters all except Jane, our mother, were living and with us ten years ago. Since then Mary and Sophia have passed away. Two of the boys - Thomas and George - live in Ashland County, Ohio. The other two lost their lived in the army during General Grant's seige of Vicksburg. While on the picket duty Uncle Denton was shot through the head by a confederate sharpshooter. Uncle John dug his grave and buried him with his own hands. Then John passed through an attack of the typhoid fever, was then attacked with smallpox and died from exposure and lack of care.
Aunt Margaret, who was with us and gave us an earnest, sensible, heart-to-heart talk ten years ago, is not able to be here today, but she has requested Aunt Adaline and Uncle George to assure us that she is with us in spirit, and though two hundred miles away, she is probably thinking of us and wishing well for us at this moment. Uncle Thomas is not here, but he is represented by a son, Pierce Millar; a daughter, Rachel Gast; grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Robert Sproat, born April 3, 1821 and Sarah Jane Millar, born on New Year's Day, 1827, were married at the village of Orange, in Ashland County, Ohio, April 18, 1847. They had twelve children, of whom ten are living. Then names and the dates of birth are as follows:
William Johnson, January 4, 1848
Thomas Millar, August 20, 1849
John Jefferson, May 1, 1851
George Washington, July 9, 1853
Rachel Ellen, May 31, 1855
Sarah Jane, May 7, 1857
Denton Otis, May 2, 1859
Josephus Clark, March 24, 1862
Margaret Adaline, June 25, 1864
Mary Sopia, November 18, 1866
Robert Newton, February 8, 1868
David Alexander, April 10, 1871
David was born in Vernon County, Missouri, and died when he was six weeks old.
John also died in Missouri, on Rachel's birthday, in 1872. He was attacked with typhoid fever on his twenty-first birthday, May 1, and died on the last day of the month. He was at work in a sawmill on the Osage River, thirty miles from home and was buried at Rockville, a village on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad. In connection with his death I may mention a peculiar fact. No man of our family bearing his name has been known to live as long as he did. Through four generations the boys that were named John Sproat have died before reaching the age of 21 years. Uncle David Sproat gave two of his boys the name of John, and both died before reaching the age of 21.
In the fall of 1851 father and mother, with their oldest sons, emigrated from Ohio to Michigan. They arrived here early in October, and for the first winter lived in a little log house, which stood just back of that now occupied by Mr. Jones - yonder. Durning the next summer they built a log house on the farm now owned by Cousin John Short and family, and lived there eighteen years, or until 1878, when they sold out and went to southwestern Missouri.
I could write a volume of their life as pioneers here - of the hardships, privation and even what they endured while clearing up the farm and caring for their children - but to attempt it here would make this article too long. I must say, however, that, as they have often said, their pioneer days in Michigan were the happiest of their lives. They managed to live as well as their neighbors and gave their children all the advantages that their surroundings afforded.
The family started for Missouri on the first day of September, 1870. I left them at Uncle David Sproat's, near Goshen, Ind., went down to Ohio and returned here. On Sunday, the fourth day of September, 1870, was the last time that the unbroken family were together. Up to that time death had not invaded our ranks and we had never been seperated for any great length of time. I followed the family to Missouri, reaching them two weeks before John's death. They had been happy, were in a beautiful and had no thought of returning to Michigan until John was taken away. But for John's death this gathering would never have taken place here. If held at all it would have been elsewhere, and other people would have joined us instead of the Daugherties, Pullens, Moores, Milligans, Aldriches, Peltons, Lanes, Grays, and our newest sister - an Aylesworth.
The broken family returned to Michigan in the fall of 1872 and lived in the old house that stood where that one stands, until they traded the Missouri land for a farm near Wayland. They lived on the Wayland farm six years, until mother died - April 28, 1889.
Since we met here ten years ago father has passed away. He died August 6, 1902, aged 81 years. Aunt Mary Shriner, Aunt Sophia McConnell and Cousin Eli Driskell, who were with us ten years ago, have also passed away, as have Philetus S. Pullen and Edward Moore, who were so nearly related to us by marriage as to seem like members of our family. Let us believe that if not with us in person, their spirits look down upon us and are pleased with what is taking place here today.
After the family returned from the west weddings were of frequent occurrence. Ten years ago I mentioned all of them with names and dates, and also dates and names of the "results," but it would take too much time to do that today. Dinner would be late and we might have to postpone the ball game, so will quit by stating that Clark has been taking the census, and if he has counted right the living descendants of Robert and Sarah Jane Sproat now number six sons and four daughters, all married; forty-eight grandchildren, including their wived or husbands, and fourteen great-grandchildren.
Dorr, June 26, 1905
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