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 Mellmount and Charlotte Taylor - The Beginning of the BIG Story


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.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Family of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan and Rebecca MacKay (c.1760 - c.1845)

Andrew Sproule was born about 1760 in Tullymoan, Urney, County Tyrone, Ireland. Andrew was one of the five sons of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan and Martha Sproule of Coolnacruniagh. He married REBECCA MACKY from Lismontigley, Raphoe, County Donegal. Rebecca was born in 1774 and she died in 1858.

Andrew and Rebecca had eight children:

  1. ANDREW SPROULE Died November 1826 in Jamaica at the home of James Sproule of Rosemount in Jamaica. (No issue)
  2. SAMUEL SPROULE Died 1827.  Samuel was training to be a surgeon and was either  in his Uncle Samuel's home in Cheltenham England or on route to Bombay when he died. (No issue)
  3. JANE SPROULE 1802-1864 Jane married Andrew Sproule of Glenfin and lived in Broomfield, Co Donegal. They had five children - Andrew Sproule and Samuel Sproule died in St Louis, also had Elizabeth, Rebecca and Charlotte
  4. CATHERINE SPROULE 1803 -1833 died unmarried at her father's home in Tullymoan
  5. MARGARET SPROULE d. 1835 died unmarried at her father's home in Tullymoan
  6. MATILDA SPROULE d. 1838 youngest daughter died unmarried at Tullymoan
  7. WILLIAM JOHN SPROULE MD. went to Glasgow University and qualified in 1834. Worked as a Doctor in the dispensary in Dunfanaghy. Married Ellen Ramsey of Lisennan House, Letterkenny in September 1836. They had two children Andrew Sproule of Fernhill 1835-1908, and Robert born 1838. William John died on 8th January 1839 in the home of his father-in-law in Letterkenny. 
  8. JAMES SPROULE of TULLYMOAN was born 1816 in Tullymoan, married MARY MCGLINCHY in 1869 when he was 53 years old. Mary was from Laghtmorris, Termonamongan, County Tyrone and was born in 1838. For details of their family see: The Family of James Sproule of Tullymoan (1816-1897)
For more information on this family see:
  1. The full family tree of the  - Sproules of Tullymoan
  2. The Mystery of the Children - A Sign of the Times?
  3. The Lost Sproule Boys

Monday, 14 April 2014

The End of the BIG Story

I will end this story where it began. Charlotte is in her drawing room in Mellmount, Strabane, County Tyrone. She learns of the tragic death of James Sproule, the man who everyone believes is her husband. The Will is read. I had imagined Charlotte being shocked to find that James Sproule had two ‘reputed’ children. Now I know that this was far from strange to Charlotte Taylor, and indeed she was a ‘reputed child’ herself.

Like many retired folk, James and Charlotte had hoped to live out their lives in peace and comfort in Ireland, but it was not to be.

From Jamaica to Ireland

The move from Jamaica was essential for the future of their large family. Although slavery was abolished in 1834, the negative attitudes to mixed race people were deeply embedded, and it would be a long time before they were treated as equals. In all likelihood, Charlotte’s children looked like any other white people, but they were recorded as 'mestees' on their legal documents and in Jamaica, they would not have the same rights or opportunities as their white neighbours.

In 1835, the time was now right for James and Charlotte to make their move to Ireland. Following emancipation, there were many white people who were selling up and moving back to their homelands. James would receive a large amount of compensation for his slaves from the government, and he had begun to sell off his assets. The family packed up, made the long sea journey to Ireland,  and settled in their leased mansion at Mellmount.

Charlotte in Mellmount

The transition for Charlotte must have been huge, though I am sure she appreciated at least one great benefit of living in County Tyrone. Charlotte had lived as 'Charlotte Taylor free quadroon' up to this point in her life. Now, at last, she could call herself Charlotte Sproule, wife of James Sproule of Mellmount.

Today we might recognise Charlotte’s appearance  as  that of a mixed race person, as did Lady Nugent when she met Charlotte in Golden Grove.  Anyone who had been to Jamaica at that time would certainly do so, and James was taking a huge risk in taking her to live in Ireland. However, the local people in Tyrone may well have believed that this was simply what people in Jamaica looked like, and it is quite possible that they did not question her appearance at all!

The Wedding of Margaret and Samuel Sproule

In January 1836 James and Charlotte celebrated the wedding of their eldest daughter, Margaret Madden Sproule. Margaret was marrying her first cousin, Samuel Sproule, the son of James’ late brother William. It was a good marriage for her, as Samuel had already qualified as a doctor, and he had great prospects in the East India Company.  He was just applying for the position of Surgeon in Bombay, but he was being sponsored by the powerful Sir James Rivett-Carnac, Governor of Bombay and old friend of Samuel’s uncle. His future looked certain.

The Death of James Sproule

It would appear that it was necessary for James Sproule to make one more journey to tidy up his affairs in Jamaica. James wrote his will in April 1840 as he was planning this last trip.  In a tragic twist of fate, James Sproule died on August 1st 1840 as his ship was pulling in to port! The ship, the New Grove, went down on the rocks at Morant Keys, just off Port Morant, and James Sproule was no more.1

In Ireland Without James

Charlotte was now alone in Ireland, and it must have felt very strange. Her eldest daughter was in India, and I believe that shortly after the death of James,  both of their sons, William Taylor and Robert Samuel,  sailed for America.  However, she had her four younger daughters there to comfort her.

One of these, Matilda Ann, married the local bank manager in Strabane, William Smyth of Bowling Green, in 1842. Charlotte soon had little Smyth grandchildren visiting her home in Mellmount. Her three youngest daughters, Ellen Madden, Jane Nugent and Sarah Charlotte, lived at home with her until her death.

On the 17th of April 1849, Charlotte died at Mellmount, she was 54 years old. For most of her life, she had been Charlotte Taylor, prohibited from the benefit of legal marriage.  But in death, she had acquired the status that she deserved:

“Mrs Sproule, relict of the late James Sproule, Esq., of Mellmount.” 

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story
* Episode 6 - Finding Charlotte Taylor


1 Death Notices The Londonderry Sentinel 
2Samuel Sproule, brother of James of Mellmount, see Samuel Sproule, President of the Medical Board of Bombay

Friday, 11 April 2014

Light on the Last Mysteries

I was nearing the end of the amazing story of James Sproule and his lady Charlotte Taylor, but there were a few more puzzles yet to be solved. One was the mystery of the children’s names – why did James Sproule call their first child Margaret Madden Sproule? And of course there was the big question - how did Charlotte Taylor make the extraordinary move from slave in Jamaica, to lady of the Mellmount Mansion in Ireland? How was this possible?

I found two very precious pieces of information that helped shed some light on both of these remaining puzzles. 

Charlotte Taylor’s Appearance

The diary of Lady Maria Nugent held the first key to the  life of this remarkable woman, Charlotte Taylor. Lady Maria Nugent was the wife of the Governer of Jamaica, and she visited Golden Grove, one of Simon Taylor's homes, in 1803. She recorded vivid descriptions of the visit in her journal, and she related one incident  that is very relevant to our story.1

Lady Maria was early for dinner one day and she passed the time by walking round the Golden Grove house.  The housekeeper sent a child, who Lady Maria identifies as a ‘mulatto child’,  into the living room  to amuse her.  Simon Taylor arrived and was anxious that she dismiss this child. Lady Maria discovered later from the housekeeper that this mulatto child was, in fact, Simon Taylor’s daughter. Taylor's other children lived in Trelawny, his main home. The little mulatto daughter on Golden Grove was almost certainly an 8 year old Charlotte Taylor! Lady Maria actually gives us a brief description of her:

“She was a sickly, delicate child, with straight light-brown hair, and very black eyes.”

Mixing with the Ladies

This little snippet also gives an important insight into the status of Charlotte on Golden Grove. Lady Maria Nugent was the most distinguished lady in the whole of Jamaica at that time and yet it was obviously quite normal for the housekeeper to send Charlotte in alone to amuse her.  Even as a slave child, Charlotte was apparently mixing with the best.

Another thought struck me on reading this little story. Much later, Charlotte and James Sproule gave their children some unusual names, and one of these was that of their daughter, Jane Nugent Sproule. Could Jane Nugent have been named for Lady Maria Nugent? Possibly, but I think it much more likely that she is named in memory of ‘the housekeeper’ in this incident. According to Lady Maria, she was called Nelly Nugent! I strongly suspect that Nelly Nugent, the ‘housekeeper’ of Simon Taylor,  had been proudly displaying her own daughter to the distinguished visitor!

Charlotte after Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor died in 1813, and he left Charlotte as a slave on Golden Grove at that time. I knew that she had her first child by James Sproule in 1814, the daughter named Margaret Madden Sproule. In 1816, they had their first boy and Charlotte was recorded there as being a free person. So James Sproule must have arranged his lady’s freedom some time in 1815.

And that was it, I had no more information on Charlotte Taylor  – or so I thought until I was writing up this story! There was one little fact that I had overlooked, Charlotte had owned a slave! She had been bequeathed a slave in the will of her father, the Honourable Simon Taylor.  Would her name appear  in the Slave Registers as a slave owner?

I looked this up on Ancestry, and I was quite stunned at what I found.  In 1817, Charlotte Taylor, former slave, was now a slave owner. As I looked at the names of her two slaves, and at the long declaration that followed this tiny entry in the Slave Registers, it suddenly dawned! Charlotte Taylor had written the entry herself! 

Charlotte’s Writing

Charlotte had written a long declaration in the most beautiful handwriting. I checked later entries to ensure that this was definitely her writing, and every entry is consistent. Charlotte Taylor, a slave in Jamaica in the early 1800s, could read and write beautifully! 

How could this be? Was Simon Taylor having his slave children educated? From my reading  of Simon Taylor, he was not the type of man who would have done this.  But strangely, when I checked back  through his history I saw that his other daughter, Sarah Taylor, could also read and write. Charlotte had received some level of education at Golden Grove, and she was much better prepared to become a lady in Mellmount than I had imagined.

The Last Mystery

It was Charlotte’s last entry in the Slave Register that provided the answer to the question that had niggled me from the beginning. In Charlotte’s entry of 1832, a  name leaps straight off the page - Margaret Madden! Charlotte had acquired 3 slaves who had been formerly owned by plantation owner Margaret Madden, and now they had been ‘bequeathed’ to Charlotte. Margaret Madden, Charlotte Taylor and James Sproule had all lived in the same area, and had obviously become close friends.

Margaret Madden, the name of the couple’s first child, was the name that had opened the door to this mystery, and now this same name had helped to close it.

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story


1 Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years Ago… Lady Maria Nugent, Frank Cundall, Published by the Institute of Jamaica by Adam & Charles Black, London , 1907
2 Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 Ancestry.com Class: T71; Piece: 145

Friday, 4 April 2014

Simon Taylor and the Golden Grove Child

Charlotte Taylor was born on the Golden Grove plantation, where the rich and powerful Simon Taylor had one of his many homes. The Honourable Simon Taylor (1739-1813) had no legitimate children in Jamaica, but he actually had a policy of producing as many mixed race children as possible!

Golden Grove Estate, lithograph by Adolphus Duperly,  c.1830

Simon Taylor and Golden Grove

Taylor owned at least six big sugar cane plantations in Jamaica, but he made most of his vast wealth from acting as an agent for absentee landlords.  It was one of these clients, Chaloner Arcedeckne (1763-1809), who actually owned the Golden Grove plantation where Charlotte Taylor was born. Arcedecne was an MP in England who had inherited Golden Grove from his father but he had no interest at all in going to Jamaica. Simon Taylor was his agent, he ran the Golden Grove estate and Taylor also maintained a home there.

Over the years, Simon Taylor wrote many letters to Arcedecne and to other clients,  and these letters are the reason that Taylor is so famous to this day. They are studied by historians, sociologists and political scientists:

"Simon Taylor's letters from Jamaica form the richest correspondence I know of bearing on politics and society, black and white, in the British Atlantic world of the late eighteenth century. His observations on slave life in Jamaica, especially when one considers the limits of his perspective, are often keen.” (Prof. Alexander Byrd) 

Simon Taylor's Philosophies

Ardently pro-slavery, Simon Taylor led a powerful group of planters in the Jamaican Assembly to prevent any moves towards emancipation. He also advocated a rather novel method of adjusting the racial imbalance in Jamaica.

There were more than 250,000 people of African origin to a mere 40,000 whites, and all efforts to encourage more white people to come to Jamaica had failed. Taylor had a solution to this which he termed, 'Whitewashing the Blackamoors’! The idea was that if a man had a child with a negro woman, and then this child in turn had a child by a white man, in 4 generations the last child born would then be legally white.

"When I returned from England in the year 1760 there were only three quadroon women in the Town of Kingston. There are now three hundred, and more of the decent class of them never will have any commerce with their own colour, but only with White People. Their progeny is growing whiter and whiter every remove - from thence a White Generation will come." (Simon Taylor, 1804)

Children of Simon Taylor

Simon Taylor practiced what he preached! Lady Maria Nugent, wife of the Governor of Jamaica, visited him on the Golden Grove estate, and she said Taylor was ‘… an old bachelor, and detests the society of women’. But Lady Maria also learnt from his housekeeper that Mr Taylor had ‘numerous family, some on almost every estate’. 3

Taylor did not acknowledge any of these children publicly, his name did not appear on a baptism record nor were there children named in his letters. His Will, on the other hand, does make reference to two mixed race children, who are both assumed to be his daughters. The first was Sarah Taylor, a free quadroon who was the daughter of his long-term housekeeper, Sarah Blacktree Hunter. Sarah Blacktree Hunter had lived with Taylor on one of his estates and he had made her a free person. He left a great deal of money for her, for her daughter and for her granddaughter Sarah Taylor Cathcart.

Slave Child of Golden Grove

The other child named in his Will is not treated quite so well. She appears in a codicil dated 1811, and she is described as a quadroon slave, the property of the Golden Grove estate. In the Will, Taylor states that he is not going to free this slave as he feels he has a better way of making provision for her. He asks his executors to take £700 and to buy ‘a negro or other slave’  to be placed on Golden Grove in her stead. She is to remain a slave, but now she will have a slave to do her work. The interest on the remainder of the £700 is to be used for her clothes and maintenance during her natural life.  

Simon Taylor names this quadroon slave of Golden Grove, and, of course, this is our Charlotte Taylor.

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story
* Episode 5 - Finding Charlotte Taylor
* NEXT Episode - Light on the Last Mysteries


1 Professor Alexander Byrd in Plantation Life in the Carribean Part 1: Jamaica c.1765-1848: The Taylor and Vanneck-Arcedekne Papers from Cambridge University Library and the Institue of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
2  Simon Taylor in a letter to George Hibbert, 14 January 1804, MS Simon Taylor Papers, London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICS), Letter book F, no. 42
3 Lady Nugent’s Journal: Jamaica One Hundred Years Ago… Lady Maria Nugent, Frank Cundall, Published by the Institute of Jamaica by Adam & Charles Black, London , 1907
4 National Archives of England, Simon Taylor’s Will, PROB 10/7400/7, fols 2-4, folio 59.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Finding Charlotte Taylor

I began the hunt for Charlotte Taylor in the Slave Registers of Jamaica on Ancestry. There were two and a half pages of Charlotte Taylors! They were in all different parishes, all over the island. It was a very popular name for a slave and I wondered if the Honourable Simon Taylor had anything to do with this!1

The Slave Registers

Stokes Hall Today
Finding my Charlotte Taylor, the lady of James Sproule of Mellmount, looked at first as if it was going to be a daunting task. She did not appear on the Slave Registers of Stokes Hall, where James Sproule had worked, nor was she on his home plantation of Rosemount. As I was double checking these, I realised I was on the wrong track altogether.  

The Slave Registers of Jamaica in Ancestry begin with the year 1817. Charlotte was not a slave at this time. She had been a ‘free quadroon’ on the baptism record of her second child, William Taylor Sproule, in 1816. So none of these Charlotte Taylors were my Charlotte Taylor! Equally, it was also possible that Charlotte’s mother had been a free mulatto, in which case Charlotte would have been free when she was born – she may never have been a slave at any time.

In Familysearch

That left me with the Jamaican Parish Records on Familysearch. Again, there was a long list of Charlotte Taylors here, and I had so little to go on. I knew that Charlotte was a quadroon and that she had her first child in 1814. So I guessed that her age at that time would be anything from 14 to about 24. On a quick scan down the ‘Charlotte Taylors’ in Familysearch, there were surprisingly only two that were in the right age range.2 

One of these had been born in 1794, but her mother was a negro woman. My Charlotte’s mother would have been mulatto.  However, the other Charlotte Taylor fit perfectly!  She was one of 48 slaves baptised on the 17th March 1798. Charlotte was in a smaller group of four slaves that had been marked with the term ‘Quadroon’.

Charlotte Taylor Born 1795

This had to be her. I couldn’t believe that I had found her so easily!  Charlotte Taylor, the lady of James Sproule of Mellmount, had definitely been born as a slave in Jamaica. Her birth year was given as 1795, so Charlotte Taylor had been 19 at the birth of her first child, Margaret Madden Sproule. But it was when I saw where she was born that I got those prickly tingles you get when you know that a story is coming together.

Charlotte Taylor was born on Golden Grove, and Golden Grove was one of the homes of the Honourable Simon Taylor. 

But much more than this, Simon Taylor himself mentions this Charlotte Taylor, quadroon child of Golden Grove, in a document dated 1813. And I might even have a description of her!

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story


1 Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834 Ancestry.com Class: T71; Piece: 145
2 Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, Familysearch

Friday, 28 March 2014

Charlotte Taylor - Quadroon

In 1835, Charlotte Sproule was living with her family in Ireland and she was the grand lady of the Mellmount mansion in County Tyrone. However, Charlotte had been born in Jamaica as Charlotte Taylor, and Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon.  At this point in my research, I knew full well the implications of that term.

In those days of colonial Jamaica, race was important. Each Jamaican child was labelled very clearly at baptism, using terms that identified the racial mix. Charlotte Taylor was a quadroon. This meant that she had been born of a mulatto mother and a white father. Her father had been white, and her grandfather was also white.

Race Culture in Jamaica

There were strange attitudes to race in the white culture of Jamaica at that time. Men, both married and single, felt free to have sexual relations with slaves of all colours. However, many white men went on to form a long-term relationship with a mulatto or a quadroon lady. The man would then live quite openly with this woman and her children.

"Every unmarried white man has his black or his brown mistress, with whom
he lives openly; and of so little consequence is this thought, that his white female
friends and relations think it no breach of decorum to visit his house, partake of
his hospitality, fondle his children, and converse with his housekeeper..." (James Stewart, 1813)1

But at the same time, white was white, and other colours were socially unacceptable. A quadroon lady might be recognised as his woman, but she was not accepted into society, and neither were her children. She lived in his house, but she was not its mistress, she was known as the ‘housekeeper’.

Marriage was out of the question. It was not illegal in Jamaica to marry a mulatto or a quadroon woman, but it was totally unacceptable:

“It would be considered an indeniable stain in the character of a white
man to enter into a matrimonial bondage with one of them (a woman of color); he would be despised in the community and excluded from all society on that account.” (J. B. Moreton, 1790)

 What, then, of Charlotte Taylor?

Daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor?

Simon Taylor
According to my information, Charlotte was supposed to have been the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor.  As a quadroon, she was certainly not his legitimate child. 

When I looked up the Honourable Simon Taylor, the Google machine lit up! Simon Taylor was a very famous man. He was born in Jamaica in 1739, was a plantation owner and a member of the Jamaican Assembly. Simon Taylor was fabulously rich and when he died in 1813,  he was one of the wealthiest men in the whole of the British Empire. 

The Honourable Simon Taylor was also unmarried, and he had no legitimate children!

The Source

How did I get the idea that Charlotte Taylor was this man’s daughter? Where did this information come from? On checking my records, I found it had come from the 'horses mouth' - well almost. It came from Jack Elder.

From 1880 to 1920, Jack Elder had gathered vast quantities of information on the Sproule families of Tyrone. He left us superb hand drawn family trees of different branches of the Sproule clans. On one of these trees is the information that James Sproule, son of Andrew Sproule of Tullymoan, had married Charlotte Taylor, the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor.

Jack Elder was a relative of this Sproule family and he lived in the same neighbourhood in Tyrone where James Sproule had settled with Charlotte in 1835. Elder was collecting information directly from friends and family who had known James and Charlotte of Mellmount.  It had to have been James Sproule himself who had told these folk that Charlotte Taylor was the daughter of the Honourable Simon Taylor. 

James Sproule and Charlotte Taylor

I wondered if James had also told friends and family in Tyrone that Charlotte was his wife, or did they just assume that? For from my reading of the situation, James and his lady Charlotte Taylor could not have been married in Jamaica.

The evidence was there in the children’s Jamaican baptism records. The first child of James Sproule was identified as his ‘reputed child’, but it is the baptism of child number 5 that actually confirms the marital status of his parents. Robert Samuel Sproule was baptised in Jamaica on September 18th 1826. His parents were given as James Sproule, not married, and Charlotte Taylor, not married.3

Breaking Cultural Chains

When James Sproule brought his lady to live as his ‘wife’ in Ireland in 1835, he was breaking the social and cultural rules of both countries. Men did not take their mulatto or quadroon ladies out of Jamaica, perish the thought! Women who had been slaves could definitely not be presented to the family in England, Scotland or Ireland.

James Sproule of Mellmount and Jamaica was different. He had worked within the system of those times, and he had been successful. But when it came to his family, he would not allow the system to destroy what he had built. James Sproule had chosen his own path and his path was to be with his lady, Charlotte Taylor.  I was getting to know James Sproule, and he was man that I admired.

It was time, now, to get to know his lady, Charlotte Taylor.

* Episode 1 of this story - The Beginning of the BIG Story

* Episode 2  - In Jamaica - James and Other Sproules

* NEXT Episode - Finding Charlotte Taylor


1 James Stewart, A View of the Past and Present State of the Island of Jamaica (Edinburgh, 1823), 173-74.
2  J. B. Moreton, Manners and Customs in the West India Islands (London, 1790), 125.
Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880, Familysearch.org

Painting 1 - Harbour Street, Kingston. From A Picturesque Tour of the Island of Jamaica  (1825)  by James Hakewill
Painting 2 – Simon Taylor from the Group Portrait of Sir John Taylor and his family, by Daniel Gardner 1785