Sunday, May 26, 2013

Thieves! Indentured Servants! Tobacco! Oh my: William Spurgeon and Mary Styles

My g8 grandfather, William Spurgeon, was born on May 7, 1704 in Mile End Town, a former hamlet in Stepney in the county of Middlesex, which is East and North of London, England. His parents were John Spurgeon (1662-1708) and Elizabeth Mary Ostler (1669-?). John was a Tobbaconist.

William's Christening

Mary Styles was born a few months later on 16 November, 1704 in the same county to Thomas Styles (1652-?) and mother Mary (dates unknown). Thomas was a weaver and died shortly after Mary was born.

St. Dunstan, the church where William was baptized in Stepney
Growing up in one of the roughests parts of London in the 18th century, I imagine both William and Mary had difficult childhoods. According to other researchers, it looks like William's father may have died when William was 4 years old. I am not sure when his mother died. The same goes for Mary. It is entirely possible she was an orphan from an early age.

In any case, in February of 1718, William Spurgeon stole several garments which were drying in a woman's garden. Mary Styles bought the garments from him, and the garments were found in her possession. Both were convicted. William was sentenced to transportation. It is unclear what Mary's sentence was. Shortly after that, William's older brother, James, broke into a widow's house and stole clothes. He was found in possession of stolen property and was also sentenced to transportation to America.

Account of their crimes and trial
William was only 14 when he was sentenced to transportation; his old brother was about 19 or 20.

It may be possible that their parents had died when they were young, forcing them to a life of crime. It may also be that James and William planned their crimes in order to be transported together.

Upon researching their particular neighborhood of London in the 18th century, I found that Stepney was the source of the plague in 1665. This is the same neighborhood where Jack the Ripper would kill in 1888. Think prostitutes, fish mongers, sewage and deep poverty. It's non surprise to me that young men and women would do anything to get out and start new, even if it meant being an indentured servant.

As indentured servants, William and James set sail aboard the ship Margaret in May 1719, bound for America. They arrived at the port of Oxford in Talbot County, Maryland in June of 1719. William was bought in August and James was bought in September 1719 by Richard Snowden, "The Iron Master" of Anne Arundel County, Maryland.

An Ann Spurgeon is also on that ship, but it does not say that she committed any crime. She is sold to Rosanna Lees in Maryland in September 1719. If she is their sibling, it may be that since her parents were dead and her brothers were being transported, she may have volunteered to be indentured as well.

It is unknown how long William and James were indentured to Snowden, (one researcher says 14 years,) but in any case, James and William worked Snowden's land near Baltimore (another place I lived for 2 years.)

Meanwhile, Mary Styles commits some sort of crime in London. She is jailed for the first six months of 1728 and in June she is transported on the ship Elizabeth. She arrives in Potomac, Maryland in August, 1729 at age 24.  Also on that ship with her is a John Spurgeon, also from Middlesex county. I have a feeling this may be a brother of William and James.

Mary and William haven't seen each other in ten years, but they marry two years later in Maryland, which means William was a free man. According to Dickey, the brothers William and James must have "proved themselves industrious to Snowden and he invited them to move to the open land he was heading for." This land was Prince George's county, near Monocacy. James and Williams eventually bought land and began farming tobacco. Ironic, as their father, John, was a Tobbaconist.

In 1738, the brothers bought land on the banks of the Potomac River, right across from one another, James on the Maryland side, William on the Virginia side. Below is a photo taken by researcher Dr. Dickey:

William and Mary had at least 7 sons and 1 daughter. Their immediate family line is as follows:

In 1729, their first child, John, was born. He would become my 7th great grandfather. Like his parents, John would grow up to be a documented Loyalist. He fought for England in the French and Indian War. He married Maryland-born Margaret Elizabeth Pennington. Together they had at least 3 children: 2 boys, William and John, and a girl Margaret, who would be a 6th great-grandmother to me. John died in 1779 at age 50 in Camden, South Carolina.

Their second son was born in 1734. They named him William. He first married Mary Jane Sellers (not sure yet if she's kin to my Sellers). They had at least 11 children: William, John, Josiah, Jesse, Margret, Mary, Agnes, Janet, Isaiah, Elizabeth, and Joseph.  A Loyalist like his parents and brothers, he would become a Colonel in the British Army. He joined the march with Lord Cornwallis and was named a dispatch-rider. After the war was over and lost, William felt his life was in grave danger, and actually hid for several years. His wife and children were ardent patriots. Hearing that land was being given to Loyalists in Canada, Col. William Spurgeon left his family and moved north. He eventually married a new woman in Canada, Ann Redick Bedsaul. He had four more children with her: Aaron, Samuel, Ann, and Sarah. He died in 1806. His American son, Joseph, became a North Carolina state Senator.

George was born in 1736. He died in 1827 but nothing was found about his life.

Next, a daughter, Agnes in 1738. She apparently lived until 1847, but no records of her or who she may have married can be found.

Also in 1738 (either twins or wrong dates), Samuel was born. At the age of 26, he married Sarah "Sally" Ledford. They had 5 sons and 1 daughter: William, Samuel, John, Eli, Sarah, and Zacheriah.

James was the next son, born in 1740. When he was 21, he married Eleanor Peterson. They had at least 7 children: Eleanor, Nancy Ann, John, Ezekial, Ellender, Mary Ann, and James. Eleanor would only live to be 6 years old. James lived a nice long life, dying at age 80 in Ohio.

Jesse was borth the next year, in 1741. Little his known about his life.

David is their last child, born in '42. Little is known about his life.

William and Mary's demise:

According to another researcher's notes on Rootsweb, William was killed in 1755 on the Indian Trail west of Frederick County, Virginia at the start of the French and Indian War.

The year William died, Mary moved to Rowan County, North Carolina with her sons. She lived there until her death at the age of 79 in 1783.

Researching this set of grandparents was particularly fascinating. I imagine them as early day Charles Dickens characters who committed their crimes out of necessity rather than malice. In fact, that one would even be transported for stealing a few garments is a testament to the severity of the crown many of the would-be Americans were so desperate to escape.

However, it isn't as simple as all that. What is possibly the most fascinating fact about these two is that William and Mary both remained loyal to the crown. One would think they would hold some malice toward those that enslaved them for their small crimes, yet they remained steadfastly loyal. William even gave his life for England's cause during the French and Indian War. If anything, researching these two has made me realize how complicated the origins of this country was. The history books want us to believe that everyone who came to this country wanted to be independent, but that wasn't always the case.

In addition, what more than anything that has been missing in many of these stories is romance. How romantic that these two, who must have fallen in love when they were barely pubescent, waited for each other nearly a decade with an ocean between them before they could marry. Granted, both were either incarcerated or slaves for many of those years, but that's a small matter in the scheme of things.

Works Cited

Coldham, Peter Wilson. The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage
    1614-1775. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.: Baltimore 1988. Print.

Dickey, Gary Alan. Spurgeon Family History.  
    1993. Web.


  1. Maxie, are these grandparents from the Goins side of family? Karen