According to Audrey Mae’s map diagram, John Spencer’s gravestone is Gravestone Number Two in her family’s historical cemetery. His wife, Huldah (née Johnson) Spencer’s gravestone is Gravestone Number One. Audrey Mae always referred to this John as “Revolutionary War John Spencer” to distinguish him from the many other John Spencers both before and after him. According to Esther Amanda (née Spencer) Briggs, the Spencer historian, this John was called “red headed John” to distinguish him from other John Spencers. At that time in history it was traditional to name the first son after his father. There are many John Spencers in Audrey Mae’s ancestry, and, consequently, ancestors needed to find distinctive adjectives to use with the name to distinguish which John was being mentioned. This John Spencer, a young man at the time of the American Revolution, was Audrey Mae’s, Edith Anna’s, and John Edward’s great, great, great, (3 times) grandfather.
Bruce MacGunnigle – 14
Using her Smith-Corona typewriter in the 1980s, Audrey Mae typed the following mini-biography of John Spencer, a fifth-generation Spencer in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
Audrey Mae’s above mini-biography of John Spencer has his day of death as September 29th. However, his gravestone inscription has John’s day of death as September 27th. Also, Bruce MacGunnigle’s book has the day of death as September 27th. Audrey Mae was an artist. She only typed to get the work done. Audrey Mae typed the number 2 to the left of John’s name above to denote his gravestone number according to Audrey Mae’s gravestone numbering system in her Spencer family cemetery. John is a fifth-generation Spencer in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Therefore, Audrey Mae hand wrote the number 5 above John’s name to denotes a fifth generation Spencer.
The first, second, third and fourth generation Spencers in East Greenwich are not buried in the Spencer Family Cemetery on Middle Road, west of Partridge Road, in East Greenwich, R.I. (First Generation) John (d.o.b.1638) and Susannah (née Griffin) Spencer, (Second Generation) John (d.o.b.1666) and Audrey (née Green) Spencer, (Third Generation) William (d.o.b.1695) and Elizabeth (née Rice) Spencer and (Fourth Generation) William and Mary (née Manchester) Spencer are not buried in this Spencer Family Cemetery (See spencersofeastgreenwichri.org and straightspencerhistoricalcemetery.org).
According the Vital Record of Rhode Island 1636-1850, John Spencer and Huldah Johnson, both of Coventry, were married by Eld. Nathan Hill on March 8, 1784. The marriage was in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Huldah and John had seven children, Mary (b.7-23-1785), Capt. John (b.6-1-1787), William (b.1-25-1790), Hezekiah (b.1-27-1792), Elizabeth (b.8-11-1794), Richard Anthony(“Deacon”,5-11-1798) and Oliver Cromwell (b.9-14-1800). (Author’s note: The fact that their last child was named Oliver Cromwell Spencer lets the Spencer and/or Johnson descendants know something of the political persuasion of their ancestors who left England in the 1600s. Descendents in America today do not share this same sentiment, especially since Princess Diana, the people’s princess, was a Spencer! and Audrey Mae thought Princess Diana (née Spencer) resembles her youngest daughter). 🙂
All gravestones faced west with inscription on the front side facing west. See below photo of the back of Huldah and John’s gravestones. Military emblem and flag are placed in back of gravestone No. 2. Photographs taken in 2012 of the front (see above photo) and the back (see below photo) of the gravestone show the dates and the lettering on the stone are hardly visible. This is owing to the fact that these stones has been standing in the rugged outdoor New England weather for over one-hundred and sixty-some years.
Audrey Mae wrote a connecting “M” to the left of Huldah and John’s mini-biography to show that both husband and wife are buried in the Spencer Family Historical Cemetery. See below:
John Spencer (b. 2-7-1760 d. 9-29-1846) was a Minuteman in the American Revolution. According to oral tradition as told by Audrey Mae (née Spencer) MacDonald, John’s father William and John’s older brother Richard stayed home to tend the farm while John, the second son, went to fight in the American Revolution. In October of 1777, John’s father, William, and older brother, Richard, died of smallpox. John’s mother, Mary (née Manchester), buried her husband and son on the west end of the Henry Straight family cemetery that was located on the Spencer land at that time. (With these Spencer burials, the cemetery name changed from a single family name, the Straight cemetery, to a multiple family name, the StraightSpencer cemetery.)
Mary (nee Manchester) Spencer, John’s mother, then wrote to George Washington asking for her son to come home to tend the farm, as she was left alone on the farm with her daughters. Washington refused to release John from his obligation, saying he was needed in the War. Realizing she could not tend the farm alone, she sold twenty acres of land to pay for a substitute to take her son’s place for six months in the American Revolution. Samuel Davis, John’s substitute, went off to war in John’s place. However, Samuel Davis was never heard from again, and it was presumed that Samuel was killed in one of the first, if not the first battle he fought in. Because of this confusion, John, along with one of the Vaughn brothers, stayed in the area of Carr’s Pond until the mix-up was cleared up. By then, John was ill from his ordeal, but, nonetheless, he lived until he was 89 years old.
Oral tradition has it that John had “red hair and black eyes and no one dared to stand up to him.” (Author’s note: Spencer descendants are not sure whether John had red hair or whether Aunt Mandy’s prose was an expression to say John face turned red (or he got hot blooded) when he was angered. The truth is not important but it is humorous to realize how oral tradition carried down through history can easily be misinterpreted.) Following is the comment from Aunt Mandy’s notebook that has been passed down to one of the Spencer descendants. Aunt Mandy was the granddaughter of this John (Gravestone No.2) and Huldah (Gravestone No.1) Spencer. Aunt Mandy descends from John’s and Huldah’s fourth son, Richard Anthony (“Deacon”) and his wife Roby. Aunt Mandy’s full name is Esther Amanda (née Spencer) Briggs. She often just used her initials E.A.B. in her genealogical writing. She was married to a Job Briggs. “Aunt Mandy’s” writing about her grandpa:
Newspaper article re John Spencer, Private in the American Revolutionary War. Date of newspaper and name of newspaper cut off from article. Esther Amanda (née Spencer) Briggs, who gave information for the article, died in 1929:
John Spencer’s Military Service and Federal Pension Records retrieved from the National Archives
Many years later, John’s son, Richard Anthony (“Deacon”) Spencer, increased the acreage of the Spencer farm. This increase included the land that was sold for his father’s substitute in the American Revolution. According to J.R. Cole’s Biographical Sketches of East Greenwich the land had been “reduced in its dimensions by the sale of twenty acres with which a substitute was secured for revolutionary service”.
When Middle Road came through, John Spencer was responsible for beginning the new cemetery, the Spencer Family Cemetery, down by Middle Road. John and Huldah and their children and their descendants would now be buried in this new cemetery down by the road. With the beginning use of this new cemetery, the Spencers discontinued the use of the the “over back” (aka StraightSpencer) Cemetery. However, John passed on to his children who passed on to their children the admonitions not to forget the cemetery over back where his parents and older brother and sister are buried (Author’s note: For more information see StraightSpencerhistoricalcemetery.org).
Two photos of John’s gravestone taken around 2002, ten years before the above photos. All gravestones faced west. The western most row of gravestones were only a couple feet or less from the west wall that they faced. Today (2013) there are driveways and homes to the west of this west wall.
“Spencer descendants, if you have any additional information on John Spencer of the Revolutionary War period, please add a comment to this web site and the web site editor will add this to the site. Thanks.”