Eye-Witness Account of Jedediah Sprague
Proprietor of the Chepachet Meeting House
Jedediah Sprague was one of the original proprietors of the Chepachet Meeting House, owning a one-half interest in the fourth pew down on the west wall where the post is located (on the left of the left
-hand aisle). He shared this pew with Arnold Owen until Owen sold his interest to Lydia Sprague, mother of Jedediah, in April of 1823.
Jedediah Sprague on October 19, 1827, also bought a one-half interest in a pew in the Chepachet Meeting House from Amasa Sayles (an original proprietor who owned a one-half interest in this pew,
the other half being owned by Stephen Eddy). This pew was the second pew on the left as you enter the sanctuary from the back by the left-hand aisle. Sprague then sold his interest in this pew to
John Plummer about a year later on October 14, 1828. Plummer (who moved to Smithfield) sold the pew about a year later (August 17, 1829) to Job Armstrong, an original proprietor (who already owned
other pews in the Meeting House).
Jedediah Sprague is recorded as having voted in the election on the People's Constitution. He was also Dorr's chief military advisor. He was the owner of Sprague's Hotel (which he refers to as the
Chepachet Hotel in his deposition, and which today is the Stagecoach Inn). The Inn served as Dorr's headquarters during his stay in Chepachet. It was also the site of many public meetings and of
Town Meetings during this period.
Below is a deposition of Jedediah Sprague taken two years after the event, and appearing in a Report # 546 of the U.S. House of Representatives, dated June 7, 1844, entitled: Rhode
Island—Interference of the Executive in the Affairs Of, at page 341.
Alexander Eddy, mentioned in the deposition, was neither a Proprietor nor a member of the Chepachet Free Will Baptist Church, but Amasa Eddy, Jr., Stephen Eddy, and Nelson Eddy (for whom the
singer was named) were all Proprietors. These may well have been relatives of Alexander. All are recorded as having voted in the election on the People's Constitution. Richard Eddy was a Deacon in
the Baptist Church, joining in 1822.
Jesse Tourtellot, who took the deposition, was also an original Proprietor of the Meeting House, owning at first the fourth pew from the back on the right side of the aisle as you enter the sanctuary from
the left-hand door, and later the third pew down on the left of the same aisle (which he sold one month before the Dorr Rebellion to a Smith Peckham).
DEPOSITION OF JEDEDIAH SPRAGUE
I, Jedediah Sprague, of Glocester, in the county of Providence, State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, aged forty years, do depose and say: That I now am, and have, for the space of about
four and a half years past, been the innholder of the Chepachet Hotel in said town of Glocester; that I was the keeper of said hotel in June, A. D. 1842, at the time of the encampment of the suffrage
party, or a portion thereof, on Acote's hill, near said village of Chepachet.
Chepachet Main Street looking South. The last building on the right is Sprague's Hotel. The large house with
two chimneys is that of Cyrus Cooke. Courtesy of the Glocester Heritage Society.
Click on photo to enlarge.
On Thursday, June 23d, 1842, late in the afternoon, the suffrage people aforementioned commenced encamping on said hill; early Saturday morning following, (to wit, the 25th of June,) Gov. Dorr arrived
and took rooms in my house. Two or three days previous to said 23d of June, persons known to be in the interest of the charter party, (so called,) and hostile to the suffrage party, were reconnoitering
this section of the State, both in the day and night time.
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the 21st and 22d of June, 1842, expresses arrived from Providence, bringing the intelligence that armed companies were forming in Providence for the purpose of
making an attack on the village of Chepachet; in consequence of this information, a portion of the citizens of said village, together with a few persons from other towns, formed a patrol to watch and
protect the place.
On Wednesday night aforesaid, (which was the first night of the streets being generally guarded,) information was received that large numbers of persons had passed the turnpike gate, about four miles
east of this village, on the direct road to Providence, who were approaching the village at about 12 o'clock at night, which is an unusual time for travellers to be on the roads in this part of the country.
About 1 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the 23d June aforesaid, Messrs. Shelley, Keep, Harris, and Peckham were apprehended, all armed with pistols; about which time, several carriages,
apparently approaching from towards Providence, hastily turned off from the main or turnpike road, some eighty or one hundred rods below. The persons taken by the patrol aforesaid were supposed to
be an advance guard of the company, which, from the intelligence received, it was expected would attack the village; and it was supposed that the discharge of cannon which took place in the village
immediately after the arrest of said persons deterred others from entering the village.
It being believed that the village of Chepachet would not be strong enough to hold out against any considerable number of armed men or strong force, the persons apprehended were marched, with said
company of patrol, to Woonsocket, where said Shelley, Keep, Harris, and Peckham were discharged. On Thursday, the 23d aforesaid, said patrol returned, accompanied by a part of two military
companies from Woonsocket, and commenced the encampment on Acote's hill, as before stated. Said Acote's hill was in possession of the suffrage party, as aforesaid, until the afternoon of Monday, June 27th.
Warrant calling for a Town Meeting at Sprague's Inn, for April 21, 1841. The purpose of this meeting was, among
other things, to elect representatives from Glocester to The Rhode Island General Assembly. Samuel Y. Atwell would have been elected to The Assembly at this Town Meeting.
Click on photo to enlarge.
During the occupancy of said hill and the village, the suffrage people were quiet, orderly, and peaceable, and the personal rights of the citizens were respected. On Saturday morning, the 25th of June,
the bar of my house, where liquors were sold, was by me, at the request of Gov. Dorr, closed, and remained so until Tuesday morning, the 28th.
On the afternoon of Monday, the 27th, the military on Acote's hill disbanded, and nearly all of them quietly retired from the village. An express started from my house on Monday afternoon, bearing a
communication from Gov. Dorr to Walter S. Burges, esq., of Providence, acquainting said Burges with the fact that the forces on Acote's hill were to be disbanded, and requesting said communication to
be published in the Express, the organ of the suffrage party, published in Providence.
About 7 o'clock, (according to the best of my recollection,) on the morning of Tuesday, June 28th, the advance guard of Col. Brown's regiment arrived at my house in carriages, under the command, as I
understood at the time, of Lieut. John T. Pitman, (clerk of the United States court for the district of Rhode Island,) who was well known to me at that time, and for several years previous.
There were in my house at the time said advance guard arrived, only eight male persons, besides my own family and domestics, three of whom were gentlemen from Boston, who had arrived that
morning; one gentleman from Long Island, and three persons with him, who had stopped with me over night as travellers, and who had not, to my knowledge, had anything to do with the matters at that
time agitating the State; and a Mr. Lyman Cooley, who had left the village the night before, and had returned that morning to my house, through fear, as he stated, that he could not make his escape.
Said Cooley was from New York City; was taken prisoner in my house that morning; imprisoned in the county jail and State's prison in Providence in a state of insanity, and soon after died an inmate of
the asylum for the poor in said Providence. Mr. Cooley was formerly a Providence man. I considered him to be in a state of insanity from his appearance and conversation on the morning of the 28th,
before he was taken prisoner.
None of the persons in my house, at the time of the arrival of the advance guard as aforesaid, were, to my knowledge, in any way armed; there was no such instrument as a musket, gun, pistol, sword,
or the like, to be seen in said house. As said advance guard drove up in front of my house in carriages, the citizens of the village soon collected in the front piazza, and about the doors, to the number of
ten or a dozen, which number gradually increased for a few minutes; none of whom were, to my knowledge, armed.
I was standing on the piazza in front of the entry door leading to the bar-room; the persons comprising said advance guard having alighted from their carriages, came along scatteringly, and advancing
towards me. I observed one shaking hands with Mr. Alexander Eddy, a citizen of this place; heard them in conversation while approaching the spot where I was standing.
1841 Administrator's bond bearing the signature of Alexander Eddy, mentioned in the affidavit of Jedediah
Sprague. This affidavit also bears the signature of Clovis Bowen, Town Clerk and Meeting House proprietor.
Click on photo to enlarge.
As they came on to the piazza, I, turning partly around, invited them to walk in; they not heeding my invitation, I repeated it. At this juncture they all stood apparently hesitating what course to take. I
stepped over the threshold of the door, and again invited them to walk in. At the last invitation, one of the advance guard placed his musket across the door afore alluded to, in the act of guarding it.
Mr. Alexander Eddy at that moment attempted to pass in at the door, and the guard dropped the muzzle of his gun to prevent him from passing in; the guard then turned his left eye over his left shoulder
to the street, and whilst he was looking to the street, Eddy raised the muzzle of said guard's musket, and passed into the entry.
When said person who was guarding the door as aforesaid turned his face fronting the house, and saw Eddy in the entry, he brought his musket to bear upon him, (said Eddy,) and, calling him a G-d d--
--d rascal, told him to come out, or he would shoot him down. At this time there was a general cry amongst the persons of the advance guard—"G-d d--n 'em, shoot 'em down," and simultaneously a
rush for the doorway. I was standing near the person who first brought his piece to bear upon Eddy, and raised the muzzle above the head of any one in the entry, by putting my hand under his gun.
There was a general rush at this time of the armed soldiers and unarmed citizens and spectators for the doorway, and the entry was immediately filled with both classes—the armed soldiers attempting
to shoot the unarmed, and continually keeping up the cry of "G-d d--n 'em, shoot 'em down."
I was in the midst of the scene, and was continually raising and brushing off the muskets, pistols, carbines, & c., with which they were armed; commanding them not to shoot; telling them they were not
resisted by any armed force; stating to them that they produced the whole confusion and disorder, and that if they would be quiet, order would be restored; that I could and would maintain order in my house.
I should think that, during this confusion, I brushed from my own person, and other unarmed persons, muskets, guns, pistols, and the like, as much as a dozen times. During the squabble
aforementioned, I was pushed some seven or eight feet from the doorway into the entry, into about the midst of the crowd.
In the mean time the door was pushed to, and locked by an unarmed man, and held by unarmed persons; the armed persons on the outside attempted to break said door down. Knowing that the
unarmed persons in the entry could at that time protect themselves against those that were armed, I passed through the bar-room from said entry, and went on to the piazza outside of the house,
through one of the bar room windows, thinking I might be serviceable in preventing mischief on the outside.
As I passed the first bar-room window from the entry, in my attempt to get outside, some one of the soldiers thrust a pistol through a pane of glass in said window, directed or aimed at me; I passed to
the next window, raised it, and went out. Being outside, and on the piazza aforesaid, the first thing that attracted my attention was said John T. Pitman with the muzzle of his musket or carbine at the
key-hole of said entry door, and attempting to get it off.
I was within about fifteen feet of said Pitman when I alighted from the window, and immediately approached him, and ordered him not to fire; my language was, "For God's sake, don't you fire in there."
This expression I think I made directly as I alighted from the window as aforesaid. I intended, if I could, to prevent said Pitman from firing in, and approached him for that purpose; but his piece was
discharged when I was within about three feet of him.
I recollect said Pitman's language at the time of firing was—"I don't care a G-d d--n; I mean to kill somebody." After said Pitman had discharged his piece as aforesaid, he rushed a few steps to the
north, on the piazza, and then back towards the door, rapidly, appearing perfectly frantic, infuriated, and fiendish.
About this time the main body of Colonel Brown's regiment were in sight, and such, as had arrived proceeded to surround the house. I entered the front door, which is about twenty feet north of the one
aforementioned, passed through one of the front rooms into the aforementioned entry, and unlocked the door through which said Pitman had discharged his piece.
The ball which was fired through the key hole as aforesaid, passed through the thigh of Mr. George H. N. Bardine, making a deep and severe flesh wound. Said Bardine was at the time in said entry, and
near the door. Up to this time I heard no other discharge of fire-arms near or about my house, and am very positive there had been none; had there been any, I must have heard and known.
In a very few minutes my house was completely filled with armed men, and was entirely in their possession--every door guarded by soldiers. Soon after, or about the time the matters just spoken of were
transpiring, I retired into the back part of the house, and discovered a soldier standing at one of the back doors with his musket cocked and bayonet fixed, and aimed into the house, and ordering the
males and females to march into the back yard, one at a time.
This, however, was abandoned by my assuring them that the ladies were unarmed, and would most certainly do no harm to any of them. The soldiers who took possession of my house were abusive
and rough in their language and behavior, from the time they entered as aforesaid, during my continuance on the premises, which was up to 4 o'clock, p. m., of Wednesday the 29th.
This I do not mean to apply to all of them; but it was the fact with very many. They took possession of every room in the house, and of all my effects, and ransacked from garret to cellar. There were
neither arms nor munitions of war in the house, to my knowledge, at the time, except a small bird gun or fowling piece, which was taken and carried off.
Soon after the main body of Colonel Brown's regiment arrived, about half a dozen pieces of cannon were planted on the south and west sides of my house, and aimed towards it. They (that is, the
soldiers) swore they would "blow us all to hell."
They were prevailed upon not to fire into the house, by the interposition of two of the citizens of the village, who informed them that they were for "law and order," but disapproved of their firing into the
house. The guns were afterwards wheeled about, and fired a number of times, to the great destruction of windows in my house, and of other houses in the immediate vicinity.
There are side lights to the door, (through the keyhole of which said Pitman discharged his piece,) with glass 9 by 12, through which he might easily see everything which was going on in the entry
aforesaid, there being four lights on each side of said door, of the aforementioned size; and the aforementioned front door, about 20 feet further north on said piazza, was open during the aforementioned
squabble in the entry. Nothing prevented any one, if he chose, from passing through said last mentioned door.
About sunrise on the morning of Tuesday, the 28th, I directed my domestics to set the table the whole length of the dining room, (one range of tables in said room will accommodate about sixty persons
at a time,) and to put upon it all the victuals it would hold, and to be prepared to supply it as soon as need might require it; all of which was accordingly done.
Immediately after the arrival of the troops, as aforesaid, the table aforesaid was filled, and continued to be filled from the time of their arrival in the morning, until between 4 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon;
as fast as one got up, another would supply the vacant place. In addition to those seated at the table eating, others were standing and eating victuals, which they took and
had reached to them from the table.
Warrant calling for a Town Meeting at the Inn of Cyrus Cooke, a Meeting House proprietor, April, 1826.
Click on photo to enlarge.
There were also persons in the kitchen when the cooking was going on, who were taking victuals as the same were cooked, and others helping themselves from the closets and cellar. The table was
also set for them again that evening, and a great many were victualed as aforesaid on the two succeeding days.
In taking possession of my barns, stables, and granary, they took possession of about twenty tons of hay, between eight hundred and one thousand bushels of oats, and from fifty to seventy-five
bushels of corn, and between one and two tons of rye straw; all of which was used and destroyed, with the exception of something less than one ton of hay.
They also took possession of six horses at that time in the stable, five or six carriages, and as many harnesses, buffalo robes, and whips; five of the horses were used, and I believe the other one, by
the charter party (so called;) two of said harnesses have never been returned; four of the buffalo robes, and some half dozen or more of whips which were taken, have not, as yet, been recovered.
During the Tuesday and Wednesday aforementioned, up to the time of my departure from the village, my house, barns, & c., were constantly guarded, and I was denied access to my barns and stables,
and to many of the rooms in my house.
The troops of the charter party (so called) also had full possession of my liquor bar and cellar, and helped themselves to cigars, wines, and ardent spirits, according to their pleasure; several hundred
dollars worth of property was consumed or destroyed in liquors and cigars.
I was generally a spectator to the scenes before described, after they had taken possession of my house; but was occasionally ordered about, at the muzzle of a presented musket or pistol, to perform
some service about the house or bar. One man in two instances ordered me, in an authoritative tone, with a pistol presented at me, "to feed his horses," previous to this, all of the white males in my
employ had been taken prisoners, and put under guard.
On Wednesday morning, the 29th, my wife and the females in the kitchen were put under guard, and set to work cooking; said guard was armed. Immediately after this, I was taken prisoner, but was
released on parole with my promise to be in Providence at 6 o'clock, p.m., of that day.
I was arrested by Colonel W. W. Brown aforementioned, soon after which he left the village with between one and two hundred prisoners who had been taken at Chepachet and the country round about.
I saw said prisoners tied together in front of my house, with ropes, previous to their departure for Providence. An hour or two after my arrest, and after the departure of Colonel Brown with the prisoners,
ex governor Wm. C. Gibbs sent for me to come to his room, which was in my house, when he gave me an examination as to my participation in the Rhode Island affairs; and the following is a true copy
of an instrument thereupon given to me, which was in my presence written by the Reverend Francis Vinton, of Newport, and in my presence signed by said Gibbs; which instrument is now in my
possession, and at this time before me, and is exactly in the following letters, words, and figures:
"Jedediah Sprague (after due examination) is hereby released from arrest.
"WM. C. GIBBS,
"General of Staff.
"June 29, 1842."
Having pledged myself to Colonel Brown to be in Providence at 6 o'clock in the afternoon, I, notwithstanding the release from Governor Gibbs, went into Providence to report myself according to promise,
having with me said discharge from Governor Gibbs. I understood, after I arrived at Providence, that there was talk of having me again arrested. On inquiry by me, "Who is going to have me arrested?" the
reply was, "Henry L. Bowen."
I exhibited my discharge or release to Governor Samuel Ward King, stating to him that I was threatened with another arrest. His reply was, in regard to the release which I had exhibited to him," I don't
know but what it is sufficient—don't know about it—don't know." I then went to the office of Henry L. Bowen, esq., a justice of the peace in and for the city of Providence. I went voluntarily, not having
been arrested or apprehended, saving by Colonel Brown, as aforestated. I understood that said Bowen was acting as a commissioner under martial law.
He asked me a number of questions, which I answered; no witnesses were examined. Mr. Bowen finally ordered a constable in attendance to take me to prison; which was accordingly done. Said
Bowen stated to me, at the time, upon my inquiring what the charge was against me, that "it was treason," and "that the evidence was, that I had entertained at my house Thomas W. Dorr, and the
persons associated with him."
I remained in prison twenty-two days, and suffered much from indisposition; I was in feeble health when committed —was just recovering from a long period of illness. After I had been in prison about two
weeks, I was taken before a court of commissioners. as it was styled, and examined by interrogatories directed to me only. I was not confronted by witnesses, nor were any examined on the occasion,
to my knowledge. After the examination as aforesaid, I was remanded to prison.
I further depose and say, that at the January session of the General Assembly of said State, A.D. 1844, at Providence aforesaid, at the suggestion of some of the members of said body, who are of the
self-styled law and order portion, and also at the suggestion of other members of said party, I presented a bill against the State, for provisions eaten, liquors drank, hay corn, oats, meal, and rye straw,
fed out and carried away, or wasted; also for cigars taken, use of house and beds, spoliations of property, and damage done, all particularized —amounting to the sum of $2,546.89. Said bill was
referred to a select committee, and was supported by numerous affidavits of persons best acquainted with the facts and circumstances.
The committee to whom the matter was referred could not agree as to the amount due on said bill, as appears from the report of the proceedings and debates of the House on the subject, in the
Providence Daily Journal of Thursday, February 15, 1844. The House of Representatives finally voted not to allow me one cent of my claim, by a vote of 35 to 17.
The ground of opposition to said claim, taken by some of the members, as they are reported as aforesaid, was, that I was an insurgent, had been let out of prison on sufferance, and ought to be thankful
of being let off so easily; that there was not in my house, on the arrival of the charter forces, provision enough to bait a rat-trap; that what provision, if any, there was on hand, fell into the hands of the
charter forces on the capture of the house, and was forfeited to the State, on the principle that "to the victor belong the spoils."
I further say, that it appears to me that I have been selected by a portion of the charter party as a victim for plunder, inasmuch as large bills or demands against the State have, in many, if not all,
instances been allowed of a like nature; as the proceedings of the legislature of the State, and the reports of the general treasurer for the last two years, will abundantly show.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND AND PROVIDENCE PLANTATIONS,
Glocester, May 16, 1844.
Then personally appeared before me the above-named Jedediah Sprague, and declared the aforegoing statements, which were by me in his presence reduced to writing, and by him subscribed in my
presence, to be true in all their parts; and also declared his willingness and readiness to make oath to the same. But there being some doubts of the authority of a magistrate in this State to administer
an oath in like cases, I have taken his declaration, as afore appears; and I certify that said Jedediah Sprague, who is well known to me, is a credible person, and that his statements are entitled to full
credit and belief.
JESSE S. TOURTELLOT,
Justice of the Peace.