6 Jul 2005
Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside County, IL
Originally published 1885 Chapman Bros., Chicago, IL
Transcribed by: Becky Jones
Orlando Sprague, surveyor and retired farmer, residing at Fulton, was a pioneer of Illinois, of June, 1836, and of Whiteside County, of June, 1842. He is a native of the State of New York, and was born in Broome County Jan. 4, 1815, the son of Charles and Luanna (Bennett) Sprague, and was reared in his native county, receiving a liberal education and learning the gunsmith’s trade.
In June, 1836, he emigrated to Illinois and located at Chicago, where he spent two years working at his trade. In 1838 he removed to Ottawa, and from there to Fulton in June, 1842. Soon after reaching this place he formed a partnership with Daniel Lamberton, who had been his companion on coming to the city, and under the firm name of Sprague & Lamberton they entered upon the manufacture of furniture. At that early day their machinery was not very perfect, and their lathes were turned by horse power. However, they turned out all sorts of useful and substantial furniture, and were the first in their line of business in the place. Thus they continued till 1847, when they closed, and Mr. Sprague engaged in the manufacture of cut shingles, using horse power and a machine of his own invention. His machine turned out 6,000 shingles per hour, of fine quality.
He continued the shingle-making business up to the fall of 1849, when, having caught the California gold fever, he began preparations for a trip to that region. On the 8th of April, 1850, he started overland for California, in company with a party of his fellow townsmen, and arrived at Hangtown, Cal., the 8th of August following. Instead of undertaking placer-mining, he engaged in hunting, in company with the well-known hunter, W.Y. Ives; and they did a fine business, killing antelope, which they sold at 25 cents per pound. They frequently killed from 20 to 25 antelope a day. Learning of a good opening at Shasta, in Northern California, for a gunsmith, Mr. Sprague proceeded to that point and opened a gunsmith shop. Business prospered with him beyond his expectations, but his health failed him and he was obliged to suspend operations and return to the States, which he did via the Panama and New Orleans route. He then purchased a large tract of land lying in Fulton Township, amounting to 840 acres, situated on sections 26, 35 and 27. He then engaged in farming, while still residing in the city.
Mr. Sprague was married at Fulton, Ill., Nov. 17, 1845, to Miss Mary J. Hamilton, a daughter of Wm. Hamilton; she was born in Indiana. Two children were born of this marriage. The elder, Cora E., is the wife of Mr. Winchester, of Chicago; and Helen, the younger, died in childhood, from burns received in falling into a fire in the street! A separation occurred between Mr. Sprague and his wife in 1872, and she now resides with her daughter in Chicago.
He married again Sept. 26, 1872, at Rock Island. His present wife was Mrs. Martha J. Bradway, widow of William Bradway, and daughter of Edson and Sophronia (Marsh) Smith. Mrs. Sprague was born in Connecticut and came West to reside in 1865. She had one child by her former marriage, a daughter, named Stella M., and born Sept 27, 1867. Mr. Sprague sold his farming lands, and for the past ten years has devoted his attention to surveying, the lending of his capital and the care of his extensive village property. He had made a study of surveying in his younger days; and, having a natural love of mathematics, he soon became an expert in his business and authority on the subject of land boundaries in this region.
In politics he is an earnest Republican and has voted with that party since its organization. He still resides in the comfortable house he erected in Fulton in 1846.