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Spruance family of Delaware genealogy

Creation: 1933-1953
Accession: 1233


The Spruance family was a well-known family in Delaware. The family includes Senator Presley Spruance (1785-1863), Judge William C. Spruance (1831-1913), William Spruance (1873-1935), among many others. The collection includes material related to the genealogy of the Spruance family of Delaware, particularly correspondence from and to members of the Spruance family regarding their genealogy and the book compiled by William Spruance, The Spruance family in Delaware, 1733-1933.


  • Creation: 1933-1953



274 item(s)

Biographical Note

The Spruance family was a well-known family in Delaware.

Presley Spruance (1785-1863) was a merchant and politician from Smyrna, Delaware. He was a member of the Federalist and later the Whig Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly and as a U.S. Senator from Delaware.

He was born September 11, 1785 near Smyrna to Presley Spruance and Mary Jones. His grandfather, John Spruance, moved to Kent County, Delaware about 1730.

In 1805, the father and son went into business as P. Spruance & Son, a year later the firm was succeeded by P & E Spruance. The company continued for more than forty years, conducting an extensive business as merchants, shippers, and landowners, and maintaining a high reputation of enterprise, integrity, and liberality.

In 1822, Spruance was elected to the Delaware House of Representatives; three years later to the state Senate where he continued to be a member until 1831, when he was made a member of the Convention wheich framed the State Constitution. He was again elected to the Senate in 1834, and to the House of Representatives in 1838. In 1840, he was elected again to the State Senate until 1847. During his twenty-one years of service in the state legislature, Spruance was Speaker of the Senate for about ten years. In 1847, he was elected to a U.S. Senate seat.

In 1830, Spruance married Sarah Corbit (1795-1860), daughter of William. The couple had four children: Mary J., Horace, William C., and Sarah. He died February 13, 1863 in Smyrna, Delaware.

William C. Spruance (1831-1913) was a lawyer and prominent judge in Delaware. He was born April 2, 1831 in Smyrna, Delaware to Presley Spruance and Sarah Corbit. He graduated from Princeton College in 1852, followed by study at Harvard Law School. In 1855, he was admitted to the bar in New Castle, Delaware, where he continued to practice until 1881.

Spruance was regarded by his practitioners and the laity in general throughout the state as one of the foremost lawyers in Delaware. His judgement and force of character, along with his eloquence as a speaker, made him a leader in the Republican Party.

He was appointed Deputy Attorney General of the State for three years and City Solicitor of Wilmington for two years. In 1876, Spruance was made United States District Attorney, but resigned after four years. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1897, and chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary. In June 1897, Spruance was conferred as senior Associate Justice of Delaware.

In 1858, Spruance amrried Maria Louisa Spottswood (1834-1901), daughter of Rev. John B. Spottswood. The couple had eight children: Presley, Mary, John, Corbit, Louisa, Arthur, William, and Edith.

William Spruance (1873-1935) was an electrical engineer and corporate officer in the DuPont Company. He was born September 26, 1873 to William Corbit Spruance and Marie Louisa Spotswood , and was educated at Princeton University. On May 4, 1907, he married Alice Moore Lea Spruance (1876-1967), the daughter of Delaware governor Preston Lea (1841-1916) and his first wife Adelaide Moore (1846-1888).

He was for a time, a shop student at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Spruance then became assistant engineer for the Wilmington City Electric Company, manager of the Cellulose Products Company, and a construction engineer of Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1903, Spruance joined E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company and worked in the Explosives Department. He was assistant to Harry G. Haskell (1870-1951), director of the High Explosives Operating Department, and afterwards director of that department.

In 1918, he resigned from DuPont to enter the Ordnance Reserve Corps, where he was eventually promoted to colonel. He was made a special assistant to the chief of ordnance in charge of chemicals, propellants, and explosives; and later was chief of the explosives and loading division. Upon his honorable discharge in 1919, Spruance was awarded the distiguished service medal.

Following the war, Spruance returned to the DuPont Company as special assistant to Irenee du Pont (1876-1963). In the few years after, Spruance was elected a director of the company and a member of the executive committee, vice president in charge of the production dpeartment, director of the DuPont Fiber-silk Company (later changed to DuPont Rayon Company), and name chairman of the board for the Fiber-silk Company.

Spruance died January 9, 1935 in Wilmington.

Scope and Contents

Material related to the genealogy of the Spruance family of Delaware. It includes correspondence from and to members of the Spruance family regarding their genealogy and the book compiled by William C. Spruance (1873-1935), The Spruance family in Delaware, 1733-1933. The book was published in Wilmington, Delaware.

Most of the correspondence is carbon copies of out letters (from Spruance family) but there are some originals. Also included is some information on the Willing family of Pennsylvania and the Spotswood family of Virginia.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Related Materials

Spruance family miscellany (Accession 1021), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Alice Lea Spruance personal and business papers (Accession 1168), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

William C. Spruance miscellany (Accession 2589), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

W.C. Spruance lantern slide collection (Accession 1984.217), Audiovisual and Digitial Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials


Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Spruance family of Delaware genealogy
John Beverley Riggs
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Revision Statements

  • 2021: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA