Beginnings

Bill Jr:

The Spoffords in America are descended from John Spofford of Rowley, Mass., who had emigrated from England in 1638 at the age twenty-six. The Spofford name appears in the “Doomsday Book”, the record of the lands of England as parceled out after the Norman conquest. It derives from “Spa”…a spring of mineral water and “Ford”…to cross by wading, and the family ‘myth’ was that probably the first one of that name ran a tavern by a stream where travelers and locals with a thirst could meet, drink and swap lies.

So, too, there was a family motto: “RATHER DEATH THAN FALSE OF FAYTH.” A record from Pilgrim days describes tough times in the colony:  The governors in Salem weren’t distributing the grain to one and all. So John went down to Salem as head of a delegation to protest and, then, he was arrested for swearing and being blasphemous. At the trial, he won his case by pleading that he had not been blasphemous but, rather, was swearing religiously and simply quoting Proverbs 11:26:

The people curse those who hold back the grain
but a blessing is on the head of those who sell it.
It seems an apt tale for many Spoffords we have known and, surely, fitting for W.B.S. Sr.
It was Benjamin, fifth generation descendant of John, who moved from Boxford, Mass., to Danville, N.H. and started the New Hampshire clan. Then, of course, it must have been the frontier and probably for that Benjamin the ‘suburbs’ of Salem and Boston were getting too crowded and staid.

Three generations of Spoffords at Lake Sunapee: Benjamin {1821), Charles (1863), WBS (1892), Charles Byron (1896)

 

 

Dad refers to his father as uneducated. Technically, he was but I remember him as an avid reader, an explorer of cemeteries and epitaphs, both strange and grand in his Masonic apron and white gloves, and his drug store in Claremont was ever a joy to visit, replete with strange bottles and aromatic with exotic smells. Where he became competent in the ‘chemist’s’ field is unknown to me…probably through apprenticeship. At any rate, he and Grandma Marcia were given a full page spread in the Claremont paper on the occasion of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She was from Newport, N.H., closer to Lake Sunapee where the family had a summer home on Star Island, a short row from Mr. Morgan’s dock at Burkehaven.

Also, I am not confident that Dad’s account of life at Trinity was without intellectual power. The fact that he was the lyricist and comedian in many shows, as well as cheer-leader at many games, indicates that he did have fun. A verse in a poem written for the 50th anniversary of the Class of 1914 in June 1967 goes:

Then Spofford with his curly hair
Who led the cheering, in the air
He’d leap, and lead us with a grin,
I hear him now, ‘TRIN-TRIN-TRIN-TRIN!’


Also, on the basis of his writings, it is obvious that he learned much at both college and seminary. He always moved well in the company of academic circles and many distinguished university and seminary professors worked with or around him during his vocational years. Among them were Fredrick Grant, Reinhold Niebuhr, Vida Scudder, Massey Shepherd, Joseph F. Fletcher and Charles A. Martin, long time head of St. Alban’s School on the grounds of the National Cathedral.

My memories are rich with being on the campuses of Wellesley, Sewanee, Kenyon and Hood colleges during summer months as Dad, together with other distinguished faculty, were presenting their ideas to gathered conference goers. There was a period when these Chautauqua-like conferences were very popular, as were the varied Church Congresses, and many Episcopalians were enriched by these experiences, as well, I am sure, many movements towards ordained ministries stimulated. I must admit that, now, I remember mostly some white owls on the Gambier campus; stalling our Model-A Ford on the road up to the University of the South and Dad running desperately after us as Mom, behind the wheel, threw it into neutral and we started to flow ever more quickly backwards and, of course, the always pleasurable baseball games. As a youngster, it was at such gatherings that I learned both to respect and not be awed by bishops..It is rather hard to knock them when they played hard, made what I viewed as pitiful errors trying to turn a double-play and, besides, they didn’t seem to mind the kids taking their turns at bat.