Monadnock Moments No. 48: Peleg Sprague, Congressman
Peleg Sprague was the first of several Keene residents to serve as a United States Congressman and the eighth New Hampshire resident elected to the U.S. Congress.
Sprague was born in Rochester, Massachusetts 1756. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1783, studied law in Charlestown, New Hampshire, and was admitted to the bar in 1785. Sprague moved to Keene two years later to practice law. In 1797 he was elected to Congress and soon traveled to Philadelphia, the seat of government at that time.
Six letters from Congressman Sprague in Philadelphia to his wife Rosalinda in Keene have survived. These letters give us a glimpse of a way of life much different than ours today. Transportation, for example, was quite different. When Sprague arrived in Philadelphia, he wrote that, “The stages from Walpole to Springfield were so slow that I never got to Hartford til Thursday night,… Don’t you think it pretty quick traveling to go 230 miles in… 48 hours? I never slept but 6 hours in 3 nights, and when I got to this city I was weary and very dirty…”
Sprague also described fashions in the city. The latest fashion was for the ladies, young and old, to shave their heads and wear colored wigs. He stated that red wigs were the most fashionable, but that blue ones were nearly as popular.
Most of all, however, Sprague told Rosalinda how much he missed her and that he longed to be with her and their children. On February 4, 1799 he wrote, “This is the last letter I expect to write to you from this city during this session of Congress – Thank God it will (close) next Saturday, and then I shall set my face homeward with joy.”
Sprague returned to Keene and was reelected to Congress for a second term in 1799. He refused to serve, however, due to ill health. Peleg Sprague passed away in the spring of the following year at the age of 43.