If you’ve ever written a short story, published a book, created a blog, or even captured your memoirs, could you imagine your work being referenced 150 years later? This is exactly the case of the research by Dr. Samuel J. Spalding of Newburyport, Massachusetts in a book called The Spalding Memorial published in 1872.
This year (2022) marks the 150th anniversary of Dr. Spalding’s monumental work. The Spalding Memorial is the earliest genealogical work of the Spalding/Spaulding family. The book is a 270-year genealogical history of Edward Spalding (1601-1679) of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and his descendants up to the book’s publication in 1872. Samuel J. Spaulding was the 5th great-grandson of Edward Spalding. I am the 9th great-grandson of Edward Spalding. Samuel and I both descend from Edward and Rachel Spalding’s son Andrew Spalding.
So what motivated Samuel J. Spalding to research and write The Spalding Memorial? What was it about his life that compelled him to undertake this colossal effort?
Samuel J. Spalding was born in Lyndeborough, New Hampshire in 1820. He was a 1842 graduate of Dartmouth College and completed his theological studies at Andover Seminary in 1845. Dr. Spalding pastored a church in Salmon Falls, New Hampshire from 1846 to 1851. He then served as senior minster of Whitefield Congregational Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts for over thirty years from 1851 until 1884.
Dr. Spalding’s passion for genealogical history is evidenced by his years of leadership in the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (member from 1861 to 1892). He was also a permanent member of the Board of Directors of the Newburyport Public Library.
Dr. Spalding read George Washington’s Farewell Address at a town celebration of the centennial anniversary of Washington’s birth on February 22, 1832. And, after President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, Reverend Spalding gave a special address at a memorial service in Newburyport.
The Civil War
Perhaps Samuel J. Spalding’s experience in the Civil War motivated him to begin his ancestral research. Dr. Spalding personally observed the devastation of war and precious lives lost. The ancestral lines of many brave young men ended as they gave their last full measure of devotion to their country. Perhaps Dr. Spalding wanted to preserve their legacy and tell their stories for generations to come.
Samuel J. Spalding served as a Chaplain during the Civil War. He took a leave of absence as senior minister of Whitefield Congregational Church and was commissioned Chaplain in the Union Army on December 27, 1842 at age 42. Two days later, he mustered into the 48th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. Chaplain Spalding’s regiment was assigned to the 1st Division of the Army of the Gulf under the command of Major General Christopher C. Auger. Chaplain Spalding served with his regiment at the battle of Plains Store at East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana in May 1863. He participated in the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana from May to July 1863. This siege was the Union Army’s final campaign to recapture the Mississippi River. Chaplain Spalding’s unit fought bravely at the second battle of Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish, Louisiana in June 1863.
On September 3, 1863, Chaplain Samuel J. Spalding was mustered out of the Union Army at Camp Lander in Wenham, Massachusetts. He then returned home to Newburyport to reassume duties as senior minister of the Whitefield Congregational Church. Following the Civil War, Dr. Spalding joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Post 49 in Newburyport. He served as Chaplain for the post.
I can’t begin to imagine the time and energy required to undertake such an enormous task of collecting genealogical data for a 270-year period of history. No internet, no Ancestry.com and no National Archives. Imagine the enormity of his vision for The Spalding Memorial. Dr. Spalding wasn’t just tracing his personal family line, but the lines of every descendant of family progenitor Edward Spalding – a lineage going back over 250 years.
So how did he accomplish this insurmountable task?
It was sheer will and determination that drove Samuel J. Spalding to complete this work. He was an innovator who could clearly see the end product of his book as he labored. His focus must have been uncanny. The Spalding Memorial was a major part of Dr. Spalding’s legacy. How did he collect the data? The answer is good old-fashioned letter writing to Spalding and Spaulding families across the country. By the time he completed The Spalding Memorial in 1872, Samuel Jones Spalding had identified nearly 10,000 descendants of Edward Spalding.
Here’s an excerpt from The Spalding Memorial that provides insight into the heart of Samuel J. Spalding.
“My correspondence has brought to me many pleasant acquaintances whom it has never been my privilege to see. Their kindness and encouragement are among the cherished memories of the present life, and I trust our mutual sympathy in this work will form the basis of a higher and nobler friendship in the future.”Samuel J. Spaulding (1872)
In May 2022, I published Fortitude: Preserving 400 years of an American family’s faith, patriotism, grit and determination. I was encouraged, challenged, motivated and blessed by the 1872 work of Samuel J. Spalding. The Spalding Memorial was a “go-to” reference in the research of my early ancestral line. I have been inspired by the life and work of Samuel J. Spalding. Could it be that I’m sensing a new book forming in my heart and mind to capture Dr. Spalding’s remarkable legacy? We’ll see if someday this idea comes to fruition.
So, as you read this post, take a moment to remember those who came long before you to document your family history. Think of men like Samuel J. Spalding that invested countless hours to document family ancestral lines. Treasure their unwavering efforts, safeguard their work, continue their work in your generation, and pass on the documented lineage to your descendants.
- The Spalding Memorial by Samuel J. Spalding can be viewed online at: https://archive.org/details/spaldingmemorialcad00spal
- Fortitude by Dale R. Spaulding is available at: https://dalespaulding.com