Business and Labor

Flashback Photo: Miles Morgan, Springfield Pioneer

Miles Morgan. Courtesy Library of Congress

Miles Morgan

Miles Morgan, a constable and selectman of Springfield, Mass.., was honored in 1882 by the erection of a statue in Court Square by Jonathan Scott Hartley. The photo above was taken in 1908.

He was an early settler of the town before it even became Springfield in 1640. (The town was named Agawam Plantation.)

He had sailed from Bristol, England, to Boston in March 1636. On board ship he met Miss Prudence Gilbert and took quite a liking to her. She settled in nearby Beverly, Mass., with her family.

Morgan walked 90 miles west from Boston to join a group of settlers headed by William Pynchon at Agawam Plantation. According to an old story, Miles Morgan wooed Prudence Gilbert by letter — or ‘by proxy’:

He proposed to her to become his wife and the sharer of his dubious fortunes in the wilderness. To his frank proposal she, with equal frankness (for coquetry was not then in fashion), wrote him an explicit answer; and informed him of her willingness to comply with his wishes.

Miles Morgan, along with two neighbors and an Indian, made the journey back to Beverly in 1643.  He took an old horse to carry his bride’s furniture and the muskets ‘to fight the armies of the aliens who might molest them.’

Once married, the happy couple walked back to Springfield with their old horse and made a home. Morgan, according to one account, never learned to write (not unusual for the time) and seems to have prospered as a farmer and butcher. In addition to serving as constable and selectman, he was chosen as highway surveyor.

So why such a noble statue of an early selectman and highway surveyor? Perhaps it was because he was a hero of King Phillip’s War. In 1675, Indians attacked Springfield and destroyed a considerable part of the town. Some of the villagers took refuge in Morgan’s house and returned fire with ‘spirit and success.’

More likely the reason for the statue was one of Miles Morgan’s descendants:  J.P. Morgan.

Ed Note: We updated this story to try to clarify confusion about whether Miles Morgan could write. A reader asked how he could write Prudence letters if he couldn’t write? According to old accounts, Miles Morgan wooed Prudence ‘by proxy’ or ‘by letter.’ According to another account, he didn’t learn to write. It’s possible someone else wrote and read letters for him. 


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