Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Mellmount Girls

There were five daughters and two sons in the family of James Sproule of Mellmount and his lady Charlotte Taylor. They had such an unusual start in life that I was quite curious to know how the children had fared.  Margaret Madden Sproule, the eldest daughter of James and Charlotte,  had the most remarkable life of all the children. She traveled thousands of miles, produced seven babies and left a trail of sadness behind her right across the world!

Margaret and Samuel

In 1835 Margaret’s future looked bright. She was already a seasoned traveller, having sailed over 6,000 miles from her birthplace in Jamaica to England, and then on to Strabane, County Tryone. In January 1836, at 22 years old, she set off with her new husband, first cousin Samuel Sproule, to make the long journey to Bombay. They left from Portsmouth on May 15th sailing via the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived in Bombay on September 11th, a journey time of 4 months!1

Samuel Sproule was taking up a position as a Surgeon in the East India Company in Bombay. He had two illustrious sponsors, his late uncle Samuel Sproule of Tullymoan, who had been President of the Medical Board in Bombay, and Sir James Rivett-Carnac, who was Governor of Bombay at that time. Despite all of this support, it seems that Samuel had some financial problems. I found a little entry in the Bombay Times of 1837 which said that Samuel Sproule MD was found to be bankrupt and he was actually thrown in gaol!

Margaret and the Children

Margaret, meanwhile, was producing children. Her first daughter, Charlotte Anne, was born in India in November  1836, another child arrived in 1837, and William Knox Sproule was born on June 3rd 1838. William Knox was named after Samuel’s parents who were William Sproule of Tullymoan and Ann Knox of Glentimon.

Margaret Madden then decided she wanted to nip home and visit her mother! In October 1838, when William Knox Sproule was just five months old,  Margaret and the three children set sail for a visit to Ireland. The round trip would have taken the best part of a year.

Margaret returned to Bombay, and continued to have children. Over the next four years, she had three more daughters and a son, James Edward Sproule. Three of her seven babies died very young, the last of these being Ellen Matilda who died in 1844 at 10 months old. Following this bereavement, Margaret obviously needed to go home again. She set sail for Ireland in 1845 with her four remaining children including six month old infant, James Edward Sproule.

Tradgedy At Mellmount

Poor Margaret never left Ireland again, and over the next three years there was a litany of tragedies in this family:

-       July 3rd, Margaret Madden Sproule’s four year old daughter, Ann Jane, died at Mellmount.

-       Just six weeks later, on August 18th Margaret Madden Sproule herself died at Mellmount, she was only 32 years old.

-       On June 20th Samuel Sproule set sail from Bombay to Aden undoubtedly to collect his three remaining children.  They were still at Mellmount with their grandmother, Charlotte Taylor, and her daughters.

-       August  26th Samuel Sproule died at Marseilles, France aged 34 years. I believe he had travelled in a steam packet  through the Middle East and was then sailing through the Mediterranean.

-       April  17th Charlotte Taylor, Margaret Madden’s mother, died at Mellmount, aged 54

-       Six weeks later on May  6th Ellen Madden Sproule, another daughter of Charlotte Taylor, died at Mellmount aged 27 years.

The Remaining Family 

The children of Samuel and Margaret Madden Sproule were now orphans - Charlotte Ann Sproule aged 13, William Knox Sproule aged 11, and James Edward Sproule aged 4. I believe that the two unmarried daughters of James of Mellmount, Sarah Charlotte and Jane Nugent, reared the three orphans at Mellmount until they reached adulthood. 

As soon as they were old enough, Margaret Madden's two boys set off for America. When he was only 20 years of age, William Knox Sproule was living in Marion, Indiana, where his Uncle Robert Sproule had set up home. William began working life in the retail liquor business and he seems to have done well for himself.

James Edward, his brother, also lived in Indiana, and they obviously stayed close. The brothers married two sisters from the Fahnestock family in Indiana, who I believe were quite an affluent family. James E. married the interestingly named Missouri Fahnestock and William K. married her sister Caroline.

The Mellmount Girls

The three remaining daughters of Charlotte Taylor and James Sproule of Mellmount lived out their lives in Ireland. Matilda Ann had married William Smyth, a bank manager in Strabane, in 1842 and she eventually produced six children at her home in Bowling Green, Strabane. 

Sarah Charlotte Sproule, the youngest daughter of James of Mellmount, was just sixteen years old when her mother died. At 25, she married a man named Andrew Nichol Reid in Strabane, and she had her own family there.

Jane Nugent Sproule did not marry, and she ended up living in Kilkeel, County Down where she died at aged 88. She was the last remaining child of James Sproule of Mellmount and his lady, Charlotte Taylor.

The sons of James and Charlotte were trickier to find, and without the help of my colleague, Jack Elder, they would have stayed lost forever!


For More Information:
* The story of James of Jamaica and Charlotte Taylor - The Beginning of the BIG Story

The FAMILY TREE of  James Sproule of Jamaica and Charlotte Taylor
The FAMILY TREE of James' father, that of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan and Rebecca MacKay


1 Entry from Arrivals from Bombay Calendar 1832 – 1836; Families in British India Society (FIBIS)
Thanks to FIBIS for all records relating to this family in India.

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