It was time to tidy up my findings, and to close the book on James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica. I was preparing to enter the details in my family tree - James Sproule, his wife Charlotte, their seven children and his two reputed children. In his Will written in 1840, James had provided the names of his children:
Margaret Madden Sproule
William Taylor Sproule
Matilda Ann Sproule
Ellen Madden Sproule
Robert Samuel Sproule
Jane Nugent Sproule
Sarah Charlotte Sproule
The Children’s Names
There are some unusual names there, especially for a Sproule family. Robert, Samuel, Sarah and Charlotte are all good Sproule names. I could also understand the ‘William Taylor’. James Sproule had married Charlotte Taylor, daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor. Their son, William Taylor Sproule, had obviously been given his grandfather’s name.
However, the eldest child’s name, Margaret Madden, was very unusual. A second child had been given the name Madden too, Ellen Madden Sproule. I knew that there were no Maddens in the family of James Sproule in Ireland. In fact, both of his parents had been Sproules.
The Parents of James Sproule
Margaret Madden Sproule’s Baptism
I needed some dates to enter Margaret Madden Sproule into the family tree. I thought her baptism record might be in the Jamaican Parish Records on Familysearch. She popped up right away, and Familysearch also had the original page from the Parish Record:
25th February 1814 Baptised at Pleasant Hill Plantation six children of colour
Margaret Madden Sproule reputed daughter of James Sproule1
What? Wait, no, that can’t be right! Margaret Madden Sproule, ‘reputed daughter’? She is not a reputed daughter, she is the legitimate daughter.
Margaret Madden Sproule
She is definitely the legitimate daughter! I know her history. Margaret Madden Sproule went to Ireland when she was 21 years old and she married her first cousin, Doctor Samuel Sproule of the East India Company. Their children became the ‘Knox Sproules’, big bankers in Indianapolis. She can’t be a reputed daughter!
But there it was, and there could only be one Margaret Madden Sproule:
Making Sense of Margaret Madden Sproule
James Sproule must have had another reputed child, and this time, he had brought the child into his family. His wife Charlotte had reared this reputed child as her own!
And then it dawned, the strange name Margaret Madden Sproule! Is it possible that a woman called Margaret Madden was the real mother of this child? Had James Sproule presented his wife Charlotte with a ‘reputed’ child, complete with the name of her birth mother? Could James really have done that? Could anyone have done that? There were so many questions now!
I had to find the origin of this name. I searched for ‘Margaret Madden’ in the records of St Thomas in the East, Jamaica. Very near to Stokes Hall, I found a ‘Margaret Madden, plantation owner’! Perhaps James had an affair with this Margaret Madden, plantation owner. In that case, his daughter would be white. That would explain how the adult Margaret Madden Sproule had gone on to fit so comfortably into life in Ireland, and later into high society in the Indian Raj.
But it would not explain why his wife Charlotte would accept this child into her family.
Was the daughter white? I went back to the original entry of the child’s baptism in the Jamaican Parish Records. In my shock at seeing the words ‘reputed child’, I had missed the phrase, ‘children of colour’. James’ daughter was not white. If this child had been given her mother’s name, mother had to be a negro or mulatto ‘Margaret Madden’. There were plenty of those too! Like all plantation owners, Margaret Madden had given her own name to many of her female slaves. James Sproule could certainly have had a child by a slave named Margaret Madden.
But would wife Charlotte have accepted a slave child as her own? Surely not!
The Next Child
I was going round in circles and getting nowhere. Nothing made any sense. I decided to leave it for a while and to research the next child, William Taylor Sproule. I was on safer ground here as he had to be the child of Charlotte Taylor Sproule. I found William Taylor’s baptism record quite quickly, and with it, came the bombshell:
22nd January 1816 William Taylor Sproule son of Charlotte Taylor free quadroon by James Sproule 1
Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. She was the ‘child of colour’. It was she who was the mother of Margaret Madden Sproule.
Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. Charlotte Taylor was not who she was supposed to be.
* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story
* Episode 2 - In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules
* Episode 3 - The Sproule Children of Stokes Hall Jamaica
* NEXT Episode - Charlotte Taylor - Quadroon
* The Will of James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica
1 Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, Familysearch