Was born in Newville, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, March 4, 1766. His parents were of Irish birth, from county Downe, in Ireland, and immigrated to America in the year 1764. When Thomas Sprott was a small boy his parents moved to the region now known as Allegheny County, and settled on the banks of the Youghiogeny River, where they remained a short time. Owing to the sparseness of the settlers and the hazards of Indian invasion, they deemed it best to change their location. The father of Thomas selected a new home, twelve miles west of Pittsburgh, and four south of the Ohio River, which at that point runs nearly west. Here he erected a strong log cabin after the manner of the pioneers, and commenced to prepare a farm for culture. The Wyandot and Delaware Indians made frequent incursions among the border settlers, capturing the children of the pioneers, killing and scalping whole families, and conveying away horses and other property. These expeditions were so frequently repeated that the Government deemed it best to establish forts within the Indian Territory. Accordingly, General McIntosh was ordered to construct a fort near the junction of the Beaver with the Ohio River, in the spring of 1778. It was build of strong stockades, furnished with bastions, and mounted one six-pound cannon. The fort was called McIntosh, after the general. A strong garrison was placed within the fort to protect the settlements. The ferocity of the northwestern Indians continuing, and many incursions being made by them into the border settlements, General McIntosh was ordered to conduct and expedition, consisting of one thousand men, to Upper Sandusky to punish the warriors. Prior to setting out, he erected Fort Laurens, on the Tuscarawas, and proceeded on his expedition, the result of which is narrated in the history of the times.
The pioneers of the border were generally rough, rugged and fearless men. They taught their sons the art of border defense, and it was not unusual to find boys at the age of twelve or fifteen years fine woodsmen and unerring marksmen. The sons of Mr. Sprott, like the Wetzels, the Shepard's, the Zanes, and others, were early taught the use of the rifle, that they might aid in repelling the savage red-skins in their attempts at capturing or murdering the settlers. At the age of seventeen Thomas Sprott was sufficiently skilful to become an effective scout and spy, and was induced by Brady, to enter the service.
In 1779 General Broadhead was ordered to Fort Pitt with his regiment, and Samuel Brady. Who had been at the siege of Boston, and was a lieutenant at the massacre of the Paoli, accompanied the regiment. A short time prior to this, his father and brother had fallen by the hands of Indians, and Brady had sworn to avenge their murder; and was full of relentless hate. He was selected by General Broadhead, upon the suggestion of General Washington, as a suitable officer to proceed to Upper Sandusky to ascertain the number of British and Indians in that region. He was appointed captain of the spies, and furnished a rude map of the country in which the Indians were supposed to be located. He was accompanied by four Chickasaws, and some eight or ten select woodsmen and Indian hunters, as spies. They were all dressed and painted in true Indian style, and looked so much like Indians that it was really difficult to distinguish them from the genuine article. Brady was versed in the wiles of Indian strategy, and was well acquainted with their languages and mode of warfare. He led his band in safety through the deep, dark forests, across streams and over marshes and bogs to the Sandusky. On the way, his Chickasaws, deserted him, and suspecting treachery, he was doubly on his guard. On his arrival at Sandusky, he concealed his men, and stealthily approached the Indian town in company with a select spy, where from his concealment he saw about three thousand Indians engaged in the amusement of the race-ground. They had just returned from Virginia and Kentucky with some fine-blooded horses. After watching the Indians some hours, he and his companion returned to the place where he had concealed his spies and they turned their faces homeward.
On the homeward trip to Fort McIntosh, Brady and his men had several startling adventures. He returned to Fort Pitt and made due report to General Broadhead, and was saluted as a hero.
In 1789 a line of spies and scouts was formed to patrol the borders from Fort Henry, now Wheeling, to Fort Le Boeuff on Lake Erie, of which Samuel Brady was captain. Thomas Sprott, Samuel Sprott, Alexander McConnel, Lewis Wetzel, George Foulks, Adam Poe, Andrew Poe, and some eight or ten other active border hunters were members of the company, which was regularly organized. About this time Captain Brady concluded to enter the Ohio wilderness and proceed in the direction of upper Sandusky, in the hope of discovering an encampment of the Indians, who were constantly harassing the border settlers. In company with George Foulks, Thomas Sprott, Samuel Sprott, McConnel, a young man by the name of Grant, and five or six others, whose headquarters were at Fort McIntosh, Captain Brady ascended Big Beaver to the mouth of the Mahoning and encamped over night. During the ascent of Beaver, one of the company shot a very fat young bear, a part of which they roasted and cooked for supper. They all eat heartily of the meat, and during the night young Grant was taken suddenly very sick; in the morning he was unable to proceed. After consultation, it was agreed that he should return to Fort McIntosh. He was unable to go alone. Lots were drawn to determine who should accompany him. The task fell upon a young man who was very anxious to continue with the expedition, and he refused to go back. The lot then fell upon Thomas Sprott, very much to his regret, because he was desirous of advancing. He and Grant descended the Beaver in a canoe, and landed safety at the Fort. Captain Brady and his men continued up the Mahoning to about the present site of Youngstown, where they left the stream and traveled through the forest in a southwest direction, until they reached sugar creek, some twelve miles below the present site of Wooster, where they found a camp of Indians, one of which they shot, while another fled into the forest. The escaping Indian appeared to be a chief, and fled across the creek with the fleetness of a deer, and disappeared. From this point they traveled a westerly course until they reached a stream now known as Apple creek, where they found a camp with one man, a woman, and a boy, they shot the man and woman, and the boy being some distance from the camp, and hearing the guns, cautiously approached, dodging from tree to tree; and when he had come within speaking distance, one of Brady's men told him to come in, as his father and mother were safe. The boy became alarmed and attempted to escape; but one of the sharp shooters shot him through the bowels as he ran, and so disabled him that he was easily caught. On examination it was found the wound would be fatal. It was then determined to dispatch him. The poor little fellow understood what was to be his fate, and clung to the legs of one of the scouts, begging him to save his life, and take him along. A blow from a tomahawk soon silenced his cries and his body was left as food for wild beasts. From 1781 to 1791 during the Indian hostilities, Fort McIntosh was the principal headquarters of Brady and his men. Here the Sprouts, McConnells, Weitzels, Poes and Dickinson's often met for consultation. From 1783, the close of the Revolutionary war, until the defeat of Harmar and St. Clair, the border settlements were comparatively secure from Indian invasion. Brady and his men often passed up the Beaver to the Mahoning, and once or twice to the Cuyahoga where, on one occasion, Brady made a celebrated leap to escape from his pursuers. His trips with the spies frequently extended to Fort Laurens on the Tuscarawas.
In 1793 - 4 Thomas Sprott was employed by the Government to carry the mail from Fort Legionville, the winter quarters of General Wayne, to Fort Franklin on the Allegheny. His route was along an old Indian trail, without bridges or means of crossing streams, which he was compelled to wade, many times when flooded with ice. The trip was beset by many dangers, yet he delivered his precious packages promptly. In 1795, after the treaty of Greenville, Thomas Sprott crossed the Ohio and located a tract of land near the present site of the village of Darlington, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. About this time he married Mary Woodburn, of Allegheny County, and moved upon his farm, which consisted of four hundred acres. The disastrous defeat of the combined tribes, at Fallen Timbers, by General Wayne, and the large cession of territory made the United States by the tribes at the treaty of Greenville, completely humbled the warlike leaders, and a peace of fifteen years between the Indians and pioneers of Ohio prevailed.
The transition from Indian scout to the peaceful occupation of agriculturist was easy and agreeable to Thomas Sprott. He soon became noted as a quiet and careful farmer. To the day of his death he took great pleasure in narrating the adventures and hairbreadth escapes of Brady and his men, and proudly contended that the great State of Ohio was indebted to such leaders and men for expulsion of the merciless savage, who had so often desolated the borders of Pennsylvania and Virginia. Mr. Sprott remained on his farm in Beaver County until 1821, when his excellent wife deceased. In 1823 he purchased a farm in Clearcreek township, Richland, now Ashland, county, and with his family, consisting of four sons and four daughters, located thereon, James, his oldest son, remaining in Beaver county.
When Mr. Sprott arrived in Clearcreek it was but sparsely settled. The Delawares and a few of the Wyandots returned annually to make sugar and hunt. They were then harmless and annoyed no one. Mr. Sprott had but little intercourse with them, and was never disturbed. He had seen enough of the red-skins on the eastern border of the State; and the sight of a tomahawk and an Indian hunter brought unpleasant memories of the past.
In 1839 Mr. Sprott deceased, and according to a desire expressed sometime before his death, was buried on a favorite Indian mound a few hundred yards northeast of his residence, where his son William was also buried in 1845. The location of the mound is very striking. It was built upon an upheaval of drift deposited during the glacial period, something over ninety-feet high, with a circular base some three hundred yards in diameter. This natural upheaval or deposit of drift was slightly flattened on the top, where the Indians erected two mounds, each of which possessed a diameter, at the base, of about twenty-five feet, and a height of about five feet. From the top of this mound a grand view is presented. The observer can take in a landscape of five or six miles, exhibiting as fine a valley of land as can be seen on the globe. Here, Thomas Sprott, the brave old scout and pioneer, rests from his toils, with a reputation unsullied, and a consciousness of having done his duty as a citizen, a soldier, and a Christian.
Mr. Sprott raised an excellent family of sons and daughters, who are much scattered; Thomas, jr., aged seventy-two, resides on the old homestead; Samuel, aged seventy-one, resides in Auburn, Indiana; John, aged sixty-seven, resides at Bryan, Ohio; Jane married Colonel Samuel Russell, and resides in Seattle, King county, Washington Territory; Martha resides in Savannah, Ashland county, Ohio; Mary married Samuel Sprott, a cousin, and resides in Leseur City, Minnesota.