The farming history of southern New England is well known. Early settlers established homes, farms, and businesses near coastal ports, but moved quickly inland as families grew and more land was needed. Thus some Providence families moved on to Glocester during the early 1600s; the town was incorporated in 1649, and in Chepachet a sizeable church was established by 1713. The ancestors of Col. Anthony Sprague (1774-1818) were among those early migrants.
New England's soil is rocky and of poor quality, and considerable labor was required to translate a wooded property into a working farm. Eventually, many discouraged farmers moved on to more attractive western areas, but Col. Anthony's son and heir, Anthony (1805-1897), remained in Glocester. Sadly, at the time of his death he was insolvent and in debt.
Following Anthony's death his daughter, Sarah, managed the estate, and, following a series of property transfers within and outside the family, Sprague Farm passed gradually in sections to Anthony's grandson, Walter L. Sprague (1877-1948). His son (Anthony E.) and grandson (Anthony E. Jr.) inherited the property in 1982 and eight years later transferred it to the Glocester Land Trust.
It is difficult to document the specifics of the farming activities engaged in by these Sprague’s. The farm may have been a thriving business in its early days, but given the condition of Anthony's estate, it apparently was not doing well at the end of 19th century. Walter L., to whom the property was transferred, was a letter carrier, still remembered by some Chepachet residents who recall his house across Pine Orchard Rd, but not a farm. According to 20th century tax records, both farm taxes and building taxes were assessed up to 1936; later tax records classify one of the lots as "vacant land" and another as having a single family residence. In 1990 there was no assessment for buildings on the property.
Sprague Farm is a fine place to walk, and the trip tempts us to speculate about the use of the property 100 or more years ago. For example, the many well-constructed stone walls crisscrossing the land indicate its separation into pastures and the presence of cattle and/or sheep. In a few places, old barbed wire and wire fencing used to separate pasture or property lines is still visible, though deeply embedded in tree trunks. The trail map shows the old roads, now used as wide walking trails, and these pass over well-constructed stone bridges. There are also three groups of stone foundations. Of these some supported houses as they are quite large and contain chimney bases. Others may have been barns and, perhaps, housing for workers. The Sprague family cemetery, located near Joe Sweet Rd., contains the gravesite of Col. Anthony Sprague and his descendents.
The property provides clues to help date the demise of farming activity. It is now forest, much of it populated by moderately sized oaks, maples, white pines and birches. This young forest arose from land cleared in the mid-20th century for lumber. If you look closely the tracks of logging vehicles can be seen in the woods. Along the trail to the cemetery there is a grove of large hemlocks, and elsewhere a white cedar swamp. These slower-growing trees have been present for a longer period of time. It is evident that many years have passed since the property was a working farm. However, thanks to current preservation efforts, Sprague Farm now has renewed value as a wildlife refuge and as a reminder of our Rhode Island heritage.
Note: Most of this information is based on records stored in Glocester Town Hall and from Patricia Blough, Lorraine Frazier, Edna Kent (Glocester Town Historian), and Robert Hawksley.
In December of 1990 the Glocester Land Trust acquired 247 acres of land fronting Pine Orchard Road in Chepachet, known as Sprague Farm. This was the third property acquired by the Land Trust, and the largest acquisition to date. The property was purchased from Anthony E. Sprague with funds from the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management Open Space Grant program and Town of Glocester Open Space bonds. Since the initial 247 acre purchase, many adjacent parcels have been acquired with funds from The Nature Conservancy and Champlin Foundations. The larger parcels are known as Woodlands and generally named after their previous owner. Among these are the 186 acre Coleman Woodland, 162 acre Huckins Woodland, 133 acre Kilmartin Woodland, and 164 acre Desnoyers Woodland. Currently the Sprague Farm area encompasses over 985 acres.
There are marked and maintained trails on this property for recreation. Please be aware that archery and primitive black powder hunting is permitted on the Spargue Farm Complex.
Please follow the rules and regulations of the Glocester Land Trust while visiting this property. Horses are permitted on the Sprauge Farm property.
Directions: Head west on Route 44 and continue approximately 2 miles from northern junction of Routes 44 and 102 in Chepachet; left onto Pine Orchard Road; use Haystack Trail on right at Pole #33. Please follow the rules posted above when visiting this property.