Sunday, January 22, 2017

Edward Spalding of Virginia and Massachusetts Bay

The Spalding name is just about as old an English name as can be had. It means “the tribe that lived at the shoulder of marsh land” based on the ancient Saxon town of Spalding, Lincolnshire. This area was inhabited by early Spalding tribes. The Spalding name was found in a royal charter as early as 716 AD. In William the Conqueror’s Doomsday book Spalding Manor is recorded. By the time Edward Spalding set sail for the Colonies, this name could be traced back over 600 years in England.

Edward of Virginia

In 1619, at age 23 Edward, and his brother Edmund set sail from London to the Virginia Colony. They were accompanied by Sir George Yeardley, the first appointed Colonial Governor of the Colony. Yeardley was not new to sailing to Virginia - 10 years previously he was in the shipwreck of the Sea Venture in Bermuda which was blown off course while heading to Jamestown with supplies for the starving colonists.

When they arrived, Edward went to James City as Jamestown was called and Edmund to Elizabeth City. The new arrivals found that only 1 in 20 settlers were alive. The colonists had suffered with disease, weather conditions, Indian attacks and starvation. The cash crop, tobacco, was growing strong. It was able to keep the colony financially stable. However, life was full of disease and Indian attacks. Powhatan, a friend to the settlers died. By 1622, his brother took over the confederacy and decided all Englishmen should be exterminated.

Since the brothers were under contract as indentured servants for their passage fee, they had to spend the required 7 years repaying or working off the debt. But in 1627, the contract had ended and they were free to move on. Since the conditions in the Virginia Colony were undesirable, having heard much about the better conditions in other colonies, they headed north. Again they separated: Edward appeared on the public records in Massachusetts Bay by 1630. Edmund went to Maryland under Lord Baltimore becoming the head of the “Maryland branch” of the Spalding family.

An unsubstantiated theory says that perhaps Edward went north because he lost two families by this time. If this is true he would have been married 4 times – 2 marriages in Virginia and 2 in Massachusetts. This might have some truth to it. The Virginia Colony records show Edward, his wife and 2 children in James Citie Feb 16, 1623. 

By the time he decided to move on he had been in Virginia for approximately 11 years, certainly enough time to have been married and started a family possibly twice.

Edward of Massachusetts Bay

The Mill Stream in Chelmsford by Richardson
When Edward appears in Braintree it seems he is single. If John born in 1633 was his first child from the marriage to Margaret Elliot, it is most probable that he and Margaret married after his arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John was the first Spalding born in the colonies to survive to adulthood and raise children. Margaret Elliot Spalding died in 1640 but not before giving birth to 3 children – Edward, Grace and John. After her death, Edward married again to Rachel Needham. He and Rachel had Benjamin, Joseph, Dinah and Andrew and possibly several more children.

In October of 1645, Edward, along with 19 other settlers were granted 10,000 acres to establish the town of Chelmsford. He served the town as selectman and surveyor various times throughout his life. He died 26 February 1670 and is buried in Chelmsford. His sons John, Joseph, Benjamin, Andrew and Edward and grandson John Jr, went on to establish a portion of what is now Lowell.


Edward Spalding - 1596-1670
Lt. John Spalding - 1633-1721
John Spalding - 1659-1721
Samuel Spalding - 1686-1749
Jedediah Spalding -1709-1776
Ezekiel Spaulding -1734-1813
Zelinda Spaulding -1761-1839
John Oliver Rattleff - 1801-1869
John Nelson Rattleff -1837-1927
Ida Aerial Rattleff Gerrish - 1876-1957



  1. I am also a direct descendant of Edward Spalding, through the line of his son Andrew (Deacon Andrew Spaulding), also buried in Chelmsford. Edward's great great grandson, Daniel, moved over the border to New Hampshire. His son, Jonathan (born in 1771), was the first to move to Maine, and my line continues in Maine from there. Many of my ancestors are buried in Harrison, Maine.

  2. I am a descendent of John Jr.'s son Loren (or Lorin) Newman Spalding. My great grandfather was Roderick Spa(u)lding.

  3. Descended from John’s son Timothy Spa(u)lding Sr.,
    In turn…all Spaulding
    Timothy Jr.,
    Leonard Sr., (Lt. in American Revolution)
    Leonard Jr.,
    Levi (Omak, WA),
    Wanda (Davis/Hemingway) of Eugene, OR

    Greetings to all