The subject of our discussion today is Samuel Sprigg of Prince George’s County, Governor of Maryland from 1819 to 1822. Samuel Sprigg has been rather an elusive personality; he was a relative unknown when he was selected for the Governorship, and there is still virtually no biographical information about him in print. I have enjoyed searching out facts about his life and accomplishments, and in the process have found a some very interesting and unusual things. I am pleased to present him to you today as the 1991 inductee into the Prince George’s County Hall of Fame.
I will give you first a brief chronological overview of what we know about his life, and then dwell a little longer on the events of 1824, just after he had retired from the Governor’s office. These events relate particularly to the portrait painted of him in that year by Charles Willson Peale, the portrait which we have had reproduced in oil to hang with the other paintings of previous Hall of Fame inductees.
Samuel Sprigg was born in 1781, probably in Washington County which had just been created out of Frederick County in the westernmost part of Maryland. His father was Joseph Sprigg, brother of prominent Prince George’s County patriot, Osborn Sprigg II; these two brothers represented the fourth generation of the Sprigg family at Northampton in central Prince George’s County. Joseph Sprigg had served in several judicial posts in Prince George’s County, until 1774 when he removed to Frederick County. Joseph Sprigg had nine children by his first wife, Hannah Lee; after her death, he married at least one more time, and Samuel Sprigg was the only issue of one of these later marriages. Samuel spent all of his young life on the western frontiers of Maryland. At approximately the age of 10, around 1792, a portrait was painted of him by an unknown painter. It shows a handsome boy in green jacket and yellow waistcoat with his hand on the head of his Chesapeake Bay retriever. This painting was passed down through the family of Samuel Sprigg’s son, and now hangs in the museum of the Maryland Historical Society.
Samuel’s father, Joseph Sprigg, died in October 1800, and Samuel (at that time still a minor) apparently remained in Washington County under the guardianship of his much older half-brother, Thomas. Soon afterwards, however, he was adopted by his uncle Osborn Sprigg II of Northampton, brother of Samuel’s deceased father Joseph. It was Osborn Sprigg who administered the estate of Joseph Sprigg, and went through the process of settling all of his debts. During this process, interestingly enough, Osborn Sprigg had to settle a suit brought against the estate of Joseph Sprigg by Cornelia Lansdale, widow of Major Thomas Lancaster Lansdale of Prince George’s County; it was the daughter of Thomas and Cornelia Lansdale whom Samuel Sprigg was to marry a few years later, and one wonders whether it was during the settlement of this suit that young Samuel, upon first coming to Northampton to live with his uncle, became acquainted with his future bride. In any case, Samuel Sprigg was well settled in Prince George’s County and trained in the law by 1808, when he qualified to be admitted to the County Bar.
On the first of January 1811, Samuel Sprigg married Violetta Lansdale as we have already mentioned. It is interesting to think of Sprigg visiting