William J.B.(b.4-11-1878–d.1-12-1969) and Mary Jane (née Vaughn) (b.1-14-1877–d.2-11-1955) Spencer.
William J. B. is the middle son of Anna Maria (pronounced Anna Mar-eye-ah) and John Johnson Spencer. Mary Jane is the daughter of Lydia Edith and Charles Augustus Vaughn. Mary Jane Vaughn’s family homestead is also in East Greenwich, on the west side of South Country Trail (No.2) and south of Division Road. Their Vaughn family historical cemetery is the East Greenwich historical cemetery No. 7. With the marriage of Mary Jane, the Vaughn ancestry came into the Spencer line. (Click Vaughn Historical Cemetery above for more information on the Vaughn family and cemetery.) William J.B. and Mary Jane (aka “Mae”) are the parents of Edith Anna, John Edward and Audrey Mae. The younger daughter, Audrey Mae, is the historian who carried on the Spencer and Vaughn oral tradition. Audrey Mae inherited many of “Aunt Mandy’s” (aka E.A.B.’s and Esther Amanda [née Spencer] Briggs’) historical papers and writings. Without “Aunt Mandy” and Audrey Mae, much of the Spencer history would have been lost. Whereas, Audrey Mae stayed in the East Greenwich area of Rhode Island, her sister, Edith Anna moved to California and her brother, John Edward, moved to Connecticut.
John Johnson and Anna Maria’s middle son, William J.B. Spencer, at age twelve, no longer lived with his parents and brothers in this Spencer house on Spencer’s Corner. He was sent to live with the family of his great-uncle William Augustus (“Gus”) Spencer on Middle Road in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. He would work the farm with his great-uncle and thereby inherit the land. His great-uncle “Gus”, the sixth child of Richard Anthony (“Deacon”) and Roby (née Tarbox) Spencer, had no male heirs. (Author’s note: Needless to say, there was no love lost between the older uncle and his young nephew and given the situation, one can understand why. There was fifty years difference in ages between older great-uncle and young nephew. Besides, inheriting land would not mean much to a twelve year old boy in 1890. To inherit the land, he had to leave his parents, brothers, his own family farm and home life as he had known it for the first twelve years of his life. I doubt William J.B., the middle son of John Johnson and Anna Maria (Mar-eye-ah), was given a choice. Web site author regrets not questioning her grandfather about this.)
Naming a child after one’s relatives was the custom, especially at that time in history. William’s full name is William Joseph Briggs Spencer. However, William Joseph Briggs Spencer and Joseph Briggs are not blood related. Joseph Briggs was the second husband of Ann Almy, the mother of Anna Maria (pronounce Mar-eye-ah). Anna Maria’s stepfather, Joseph Briggs, wanted one of her son to be named after him. He told Anna Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) that if she named her son after him, he would give her fifty dollars ($50.00); in 1878 fifty dollars was a lot of money. She named William after him and she received the money.
William J.B.’s parents are buried in the Spencer historical cemetery and Mary Jane’s parents are buried in the Vaughn historical cemetery. However, William J.B. and Mary Jane are not buried in their families’ historical cemeteries (E.G.No.7 & E.G.No. 9). Fearful of vandalism in the historical cemeteries, Mary Jane wanted to be buried in a cemetery with perpetual care near their home in Coventry, R.I. She was the first of a number of Spencer and Vaughn descendants to be buried in Lot 29 and Lot 50 of the Rathbun cemetery, corner of Washington Street and Knotty Oak Road, Coventry, R.I. She died in 1955.
William J.B. and Mary Jane (née Vaughn) Spencer
News article under above photo: “Although he does play chess, “cards are more my game.” William J.B. Spencer, of 742 Washington St. Anthony, celebrated his 90th birthday Sunday at the home of his daughter Mrs. Milton MacDonald of 420 East Greenwich Ave., West Warwick. Before moving to the Anthony section of Coventry 46 years ago, Mr. Spencer was the last to live in the Spencer Homestead on Middle Road in East Greenwich. He is a direct descendent of the first John Spencer who settled in East Greenwich in 1644. Mr. Spencer was Coventry tax assessor for 30 years, he was a member of the Anthony Grange for 43 years and is now an honorary member and he was active in the Sons of Civil War Veterans and was state commander in 1941, Besides Mrs. MacDonald he has another daughter Mrs. Frank Evarone of Hawthorne, Calif. , one son J. Edward Spencer of Canterbury, Conn., 12 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.” Times Photo by John G. Sambain.
William J.B. and Mary Jane (née Vaughn) Spencer, the last Spencers on the farm, sold the farm and moved to an upscale neighborhood on the trolley line in Coventry, Rhode Island. Their younger daughter, Audrey Mae, born 1912, was the last Spencer baby born on the Spencer homestead, as the descendants referred to the farm, even as late as 2006. William (aka Will) and Mary Jane’s (aka Mae) older daughter, Edith Anna, in the 1920s moved to California with her husband and was the first Spencer since the 1600s to raise her children outside of Rhode Island. To the family’s great and lasting sorrow, they left their first son as an infant and their first daughter as a two-year-old in the Spencer family cemetery before leaving for California with their second daughter, Gloria. Audrey’s and Edith’s brother, John Edward, was the last male Spencer in this line to carry forth this Spencer surname, but the Spencer name lives on today with male descendants, from California to Rhode Island, carrying on the name Spencer as a first or middle name.
Recollections of Audrey Mae’s oldest daughter about her grandfather, William J.B.Spencer: “I lived with Grampa Spencer my first two years of college. I had Aunt Rachel’s old bedroom. Grampa made my breakfast, packed my lunch and had dinner ready when I come home from college. What a grandfather! No wonder I love him with such remembrances. Over sixty years ago. and Gramma. We were lucky to have them in our youth. Everyone loved them. They never complained. God’s people. Do you remember he called us his little chickens?
“When we went to Uncle Ed’s there was an ice cream parlor on the way home. Crystal would say, ‘Boy, I like ice cream’. Gramp would say nothing and then he would turn into parlor to get the four of us ice cream. He was like a perfect Grandfather. At my wedding Grampa told Julio, “Take good care of that girl.”
“And in his final years at Mother’s and Dad’s house, he would tell me remembrances that I had never before heard. He talked about his childhood on the farm when he was a boy. He told me the name of every animal. I can’t remember the names but I had heard Mom talk about a certain dog that he remembered. I think it was Polly. Could be wrong. At Grampa’s funeral I heard people say ‘Goodby Will’ as they passed his casket. He was well respected. Honest like Abe.”
“Spencer descendants, if you have any additional information on William J.B. and Mary Jane (née Vaughn) Spencer, please add a comment to this web site and the web site editor will add this to the site. Thanks!”