05 Feb 2024


Lost Capitol Hill: Mrs. Sprigg’s Children

Sarah Seaton, Malcolm’s mother

Last week I promised to look at Ann Sprigg’s offspring. While she had a number of children, several died young and only four outlived her: two sons, William B and John C, and two daughters, Jane Elizabeth, and Virginia.

The youngest of these, Virginia (also known as Jennie) was born ca 1831. She does not seem to have had an easy time of it – and left precious few traces in the historical record. She apparently lived with her mother until her mother died, and is simply listed as being ‘at home’ in the census records. After her mother’s death, things went downhill for her, and the 1880 census finds her living at the Washington Asylum Work House and Alms House, out on 19th Street. She would die in 1885, and be buried in Congressional Cemetery.

Her two brothers led more mysterious lives. William B. Sprigg (his middle initial is sometimes given as D as well) seems to have spent his whole career in the army. While he does live in D.C. at times with his mother, he mainly appears in the rolls of the military, though never getting past the rank of a private.

At least William seems to have fought for his country, in contrast to his brother John. John married Susan E. Hutchinson, from Loudoun Virginia, in early 1856. (This may well have been John’s second marriage, as he seems to have had a three-year-old son – also named John – at the time) John and Susan had a number of children, and lived in Washington until the Civil War. At this point, the trail becomes murky. An intriguing article published October 24, 1862, in the Evening Star states that one “John C. Sprigg” was captured near Centreville and was sent to the Old Capitol Prison for “aiding the enemy, attempting to raise guerilla [sic] bands, &c.” Nothing further is written of his fate, so there is no way to tell if this is our John Sprigg.

The article from the Evening Star (LOC)

What we do know is that he and Susan were living in Virginia after the war, and he died some time in the 1870s.

And then there’s Jane Elizabeth, who married Malcolm Seaton, the son of William Winston Seaton, who, together with his brother-in-law Joseph Gales, published the National Intelligencer. They had also both been mayors of D.C. in the past. Malcolm had, after graduating from military school, worked for the coast survey, and then taken on the job of drawing the line between the United States and Mexico under the terms of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. He was working at the Coast Survey again at the time of the wedding in 1857, but a few years later moved first to the census bureau and then later to the patent office, as his health had suffered due to his time on the border. He would go on to have a stellar career at the patent office, rising through the ranks to the post of Principal Examiner.

Sadly, Jane Seaton would not witness this, as she died in 1879, and was buried in Congressional Cemetery. They had no children. Malcolm would remarry in about 15 years later, and would die in 1904. He, too, is buried in Congressional.

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