- Written by Monty Healy
- Published: 05 February 2014
In 1710, if the Spragues owned most of the land around what was to be Hall’s Corner. The Wadsworths did them one better during the mid to late 18th century.
Christopher Wadsworth, the progenitor of the Wadsworths in Duxbury, arrived in Plymouth in 1632. Some historians believe he arrived aboard the Lyon, although that has never been proven. Of the 123 passengers aboard the ship, the names of only 30 are known and Christopher’s name was not one of them. As far as I know, he’s not listed on any other ship’s passenger list either. He was a successful, respected and well-known man in Duxbury. He purchased almost two hundred acres of property for himself and his family. He purchased the Jonathan Brewster Grant from Doctor John Starr, the second of two “Doctor Johns” who owned that property (the area of Indian Trail and Wadsworth Road. See Duxbury Clipper article entitled “Duxbury’s Early Settlers: Brewster,” dated June 2, 2010). He also purchased land from Job Cole (Bayridge Lane. See Duxbury Clipper article entitled “Duxbury’s Early Settlers: Job Cole,” dated April 4, 2010).
Christopher deeded both of these parcels to his son Deacon John I (John I had a son John, also a deacon, so he’ll be John II). In 1637 Christopher received a confirmation of his grant of two lots of 40 acres, one of which was just east of his Job Cole Grant. This was a strangely worded document in which east seemed to be west, and west seemed to be east. Christopher’s sons Joseph and Samuel were given land near “Bay Farm.” Samuel later moved to Milton and became successful. A large portion of the Bassett Grant was acquired by members of the family. Ruth (Bassett) Sprague acquired the entire grant of her father William Bassett. She divided the 80 acres between her two sons William and Samuel.
William Sprague drowned in a boating accident and his wife Grace (Wadsworth) Sprague (Deacon John I’s daughter) inherited the northerly 40 acres. The southerly 40 acres went from Samuel to Thomas Prince and then to Christopher Wadsworth, Deacon John I’s son in 1713. Before his untimely death, William Sprague and his wife, Grace, had mortgaged their 40acre farm to Moses Soule. Two of Grace’s brothers John II and Isaac bought parts of this 40acre parcel, quite possibly reducing Grace’s debt to Moses Soule. She held on to the northwesterly end of the property between the 1637 “Hi-Way” and the Meeting House road. Seneca and Dewsbury (Soule) Wadsworth owned much of the Standish Grant on Standish Shore, while other members of the family owned parts of the Brewster Grant and property on the Crescent Street side of the Nook. All in all, the Wadsworths owned more land collectively than any other family in south Duxbury during this period.
Deacon John Wadsworth II had a son John who became a self-educated doctor. Dr. John Wadsworth built a house in 1763 for his daughter Mercy, who married Joshua Cushman. That house exists today, still in the same configuration as in 1763, and is the Stewart Family Trust House on Bayridge Lane.
Deacon John II’s grandson Peleg (II or Jr.) was a brigadier general who served honorably in the Revolutionary War. He was captured by the British in 1781 and imprisoned in Castine, Maine. On June 18, 1871 he escaped from the prison and returned to his home in Duxbury. After the war he settled in Portland, Maine and was the maternal grandfather of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “America’s Poet,” who was quite proud of his Duxbury roots.
Another fascinating Wadsworth story was that of Captain Alexander Wadsworth, who in 1853 in the ship Seth Sprague was bound for Calcutta, India. Captain Alexander’s wife, Louise, and nine-year-old son were aboard. His wife was near the end of her pregnancy. Unfortunately they hit a calm area and were without wind for six weeks in the Bay of Bengal. Louise gave birth to a son and after a difficult delivery she lived only 10 more days.
The captain, wishing to bury his wife in Duxbury, had the ship’s carpenter build a watertight casket. To protect his wife’s body from the tropical heat, she was put in the casket, and it was filled with French brandy. Captain Wadsworth called upon the ship’s “handyman” to nourish the newborn baby. He used a pulverized hardtack and twisted it in a wet cloth. The baby survived and when they finally reached Calcutta they engaged a wetnurse and brought a half dozen goats aboard for the return trip. The Captain’s wife was buried in Mayflower Cemetery. The baby, Alexander Seaborn Wadsworth (always known as Seaborn) lived a long and fruitful life and became a captain in the U.S. Revenue Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard.