THE KEY CHARACTERS

AMASA SPRAGUE WAS BORN IN April 1798. He took over the family textile business in 1824 after his father's death. Sprague was considered the most important man in Spraguesville. The 500 or more inhabitants of the village were shocked to hear of his murder on December 31, 1843. The coroner stated that Amasa suffered two massiveblows to the head and a bullet wound in the right forearm. Either of the two blows to the head could have caused his death.
JOHN GORDON was born in Ireland and came to America in June 1843. He lived in his brother Nicholas' house and worked in the dye shop of the Drybrook mill in Johnston. Gordon was arrested upon suspicion of murder of Amasa Sprague on January 1, 1844 along with his brothers Nicholas and William. He was indicted for the murder along with his brother William and stood trial. Only he was found guilty of the murder and was hanged.
WILLIAM GORDON was born in Ireland and came to America in June 1843. He lived in his brother Nicholas' house and worked as an unskilled laborer (tailor) in a Providence tailor shop. Gordon was arrested upon suspicion of murder of Amasa Sprague on January 1, 1844 along with his brothers Nicholas and John. He was indicted for the murder along with his brother John and stood trial. He was found not guilty. Gordon would return to prison in 1850 for unpaid debts.
NICHOLAS GORDON was born in Ireland and came to America in the mid-1830's. He opened a general store in Spraguesvulle just down the road from the Sprague Printworks. He was granted a license to sell bottled liquor in 1840 and then a license to keep an alehouse at the store where he could serve drinks in 1842. The successful business afforded him the opportunity to send for the rest of his family in Ireland in 1843. They arrived in June. One month later Gordon was denied renewal of his liquor license by the members of the Cranston Town Council who were influenced by Amasa Sprague. Sprague wanted to put a stop to his workers getting drunk at Gordon's shop before going to work. Gordon was arrested on January 1, 1844 along with his brothers for the murder of Sprague. He was indicted for being an accessory to the murder before the fact. His first trial ended in a hung jury. He was released on bail after the jury in the second trial was unable to agree on a verdict. He died the following year.
  WILLIAM SPRAGUE was born in November 1799. He left the family business and went into politics: elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1836, Governor in 1838, and to the U.S. Senate in 1842. Never satisfied with his political achievements, Sprague desired a return to the family business. He pressured his brother and senior partner Amasa to expand their textile empire but was unsuccessful. After learning of his brother's murder, he resigned his Senate seat and returned to Rhode Island to take charge of the murder investigation and the family business. The expansion of the Sprague Empire began in 1848.

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