George Sproule

There is some debate as to George Sproule's exact origins: Robert Fellows (note 1) suggests that Sproule was born in Athlone (Republic of Ireland), whereas Guthorn (note 2) states the he was born on Long Island about 1741. Either way George Sproule joined the British army in 1762 as an ensign in the 121st Foot and trained as a surveyor and engineer. He was seconded to the survey team of Samuel Holland in 1765, probably in Louisburg, Nova Scotia where he was posted as part of the 59th Foot regiment. From 1765 he works as part of Holland's 45 man surveys team until 1774 when he was appointed as Surveyor General of New Hampshire.

During this time Sproule proved himself to be a very able surveyor and draughtsman and was indeed described by Holland himself as 'very fit in Knowledge and Constitution for this Business'. He contributed to a number of surveys of the shores and islands, including the island of Cape Breton, at the shores of the lower St Lawrence. Anticosti Island, a stretch of the Labrador coast Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia for the General Survey of North America. He was frequently paired with Charles Blaskowitz, Thomas Wheeler and James Grant in the making of the surveys. He continued to work as part of that survey team, down the coast of Maine and New Hampshire until 1774. The team, under Samuel Holland produced a detailed and exact survey of the boundaries of New Hampshire, no doubt at the behest of the very supportive Governor John Wentworth, and in 1772 Sproule took on the role as the Surveyor General of that colony

With the outbreak of all-out hostilities in 1766 Sproule rejoined the Army, at Boston, with the rank of Lieutenant in the 16th Foot, having lost his lands and possessions to the Americans.

Sproule's activities during the war are less well documented, although he was clearly working as surveyor/engineer and draughtsman, producing maps and plans, including; a survey he worked-on in Brooklyn in 1776 - later reproduced by him in 1781 (see Note 3). A further survey of the siege of Charleston, reproduced by Des Barres in the Atlantic Neptune, in 1780 (see note 4); A survey of the defile and that part of York Island adjacent to Fort Knyphausen (see note 5). That two of them form part of Sir Henry Clinton's collection, now held at the Clements library, indicate that he was probably on the staff of a senior officer.

At the end of the war Sproule found he had lost pretty much all he had possessed, before the war, in terms of position and property and had only the prospect of a reduction in salary to half pay with which to look after his large family. In memorials to the loyalist claims commission he estimated that his total losses as a result of the revolution exceeded £2,300. By way of compensation, and as a reward for his military service and his surveying work, he was appointed Surveyor General of the recently established colony of New Brunswick in 1784 which he took-up the following year. He quickly established himself as a prominent figure in the region and he continued to organise surveys, as a part of the organisation of land grants and population settlement, including some 12,000 loyalist settlers. By the time of his death on the 30th November 1817 Sproule had done as much as anyone to establish the Province

He died 30the November 1817 at his home in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He had two sons, both of whom joined the Army, and three daughters who all married military men.

George Sproule’s long, distinguished career as a surveyor, soldier, and administrator deserves recognition. To New Brunswick he brought valuable experience and a capacity for leadership that greatly helped the young province during its early stages of development. He served as surveyor general for 33 years; the office was to change hands nine times in the three decades after his death in 1817.


Notes
Note 1. Robert Fellows, “SPROULE, GEORGE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 24, 2021, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sproule_george_5E.html.

Note 2. Peter J. Guthorn "George Sproule' in British Maps of the American Revolution, Philip Freneau Press, Monmouth Beach, NJ 1972.

Note 3. “A plan of the environs of Brooklyn showing the position of the rebel lines and defences on the 27th of August 1776..” https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wcl1ic/x-8657/wcl008728. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

Note 4. Sproule, Geo. F. A sketch of the environs of Charlestown in South Carolina. [N.P, 1780] Map. https://www.loc.gov/item/gm71000637/.

Note 5. “A survey of the defile and that part of York Island adjacent to Fort Knyphausen / surveyed and drawn by Lieut. George Sproule of the 16th Regt. of Foot assist. engineer..” https://quod.lib.umich.edu/w/wcl1ic/x-8383/wcl008454. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed: September 26, 2021.