General Simon Spalding was a Revolutionary War hero and a pioneer white settler of Sheshequin. He was also the progenitor of many members of the Sheshequin Universalist Society. At least 50 members during the Society’s first hundred years were his descendants or spouses of his descendants.
Simon Spalding was born in Plainfield, Connecticut, in 1742. He was part of the wave of Connecticut settlers who migrated to the Wilkes-Barre area in the 1760’s and 1770’s. He arrived in the Wyoming Valley in 1771 with his wife and three children. Four more children were born there. In 1779 he participated in General Sullivan’s retaliatory expedition against the Native Americans in the Susquehanna Valley, which cleared the way for white settlers to move in. Impressed with the beauty and fertility of Bradford county, General Spalding led the first party of permanent white settlers to Sheshequin in 1783.
Besides his immediate family, that group of early settlers included his son-in-law, Joseph Kinney, who had married his oldest daughter Sarah in 1781. You may remember that Kinney, along with the Baptist minister Moses Park, was famously converted to Universalism by the Rev. Noah Murray in 1793. Many Kinney children and grandchildren were Universalists, including the poet Julia Kinney Scott.
Sheshequin Universalists were also descended from General Spalding’s other daughters:
- Rebecca Spalding. She married a distant relative, William Witter Spalding, in 1789. Their son Robert, and his daughter Rebecca and her husband Silas P. Gore, were Universalists.
- Mary Spalding. She married Moses Park, the soon-to-be-Universalist minister, in 1792. Their daughter Amanda married Jabez Fish. The Fish family was active in the Sheshequin Universalist Society for many years. One of their descendants, who now lives in California, attended a worship service at our church last summer.
- Anna Spalding. In 1797, she married the redoubtable Joseph Kingsbury, about whom I spoke at a worship service last summer. Most of their children eventually moved to Towanda, but their youngest son, Lemuel, remained on the family farm. Lemuel’s three daughters were members of the Society in the late 1800’s. One of them, Myra Kingsbury, became a Universalist minister and served the Sheshequin congregation as well as congregations in New England.
General Simon Spalding died in 1814, six years after the Sheshequin Universalist Society was organized, but long before the first membership list was recorded in 1833. Was he not only an ancestor of Universalists, but also one himself? I have found only one source that identifies him as such: the Rev. David Craft, in his History of Bradford County, wrote that Moses Park “married a daughter of Gen. Simon Spalding, a leading Universalist…” We know that many of the prominent Yankee settlers of the valley were followers of Noah Murray and Moses Park. Given that his close associates and three of his sons-in-law were Universalists, the General was almost certainly a Universalist, too.