Audrey Mae SpencerSpencer Historical CemeteryHenry Straight / William Spencer Family Cemetery
Vaughn Historical CemeterySpencers of East Greenwich, RI
12 June 2002

Daughter Crystal’s Home

Glimpses of the Past: Morning Conversations with Audrey Mae

Phone Conversations every Wednesday at 8:30 AM (EST)

June 12, 2002 through February 19, 2003
(daughter Crystal’s home, West Warwick, Rhode Island)

Author’s note:  The origin of this note-taking was a daughter just writing down the casual phone conversations between her mother and herself It was only after months of jotting down these tidbits of subject matter that I realized the gold mine of knowledge that I had amassed. I, then, decided to put these conversations together as my mother’s memoirs.  Enjoy! Keep reading to learn about a woman whose 95 year life span connected colonial Rhode Island farm life to modern day, from the horse and buggy age to space travel to the moon.  As Audrey’s niece Jean commented “Aunt Audrey was so ‘enthusiastic’ about life. She taught me so much…” or as her granddaughter Belinda commented “she was such a unique and special woman. I know I have a lot of her spirit in me.”

12 June 2002

Heather: What are some of the poems that you love?

Audrey: Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott. I could recite that poem for seven minutes. “The stag at eve had drunk his fill, Where danced the moon on Monan’s rill,…” Also, I love Robert Burns’ Tam 0′ Shanter “When chapman billies leave the street, And drouthy neebors neebors meet,…”. I love Keats’ poems also. Sappho was a great poet who lived on an island and used a canoe to get around. Sappho could say more with fewer words than anyone else! I think Emily Dickinson came next.

19 June 2002

Heather: What were you told about your grandfather, John Johnson Spencer, who was a prisoner of war?

John Johnson Spencer

Audrey: John Johnson Spencer was a union soldier. He was captured and was at Libby Prison* where he had to eat raw pork and he had an upset stomach for the rest of his life.

*Libby Prison was in Richmond, Virginia. John Johnson was a prisoner taken in action at Middlebury, Virginia and held at Libby Prison in Richmond and also at Belle Isle Civil War Prison west of Richmond.
Before the prisoner exchange program ended between the North and the South,  Abraham Lincoln’s parole program released John Johnson Spencer from the Confederate prison.
19 June 2002

Heather: How did you know so much about your ancestors?

Richard Anthony (“Deacon”) Spencer


Audrey: Aunt Mandy, Deacon Richard Anthony’s daughter, told and wrote down much of the Spencer family history. She put a date on every paper. I remember my grandfather, John Johnson Spencer living in our household when I was a child.

The house on Spencer’s Corner (the corner of Division Street and Crompton Road in East Greenwich, Rhode Island) descended to Deacon Richard (Richard Anthony “Deacon”) and then to his descendants. This house on Spencer’s Corner was where John Johnson and Anna Maria* Spencer’s three sons – William J.B.** Spencer, Alfred Ernest Spencer and Richard Augustus Spencer- were born.

William J.B. Spencer (Audrey’s father) was sent as a young boy to live and work the farm with his great-uncle Gus (William Augustus Spencer) at the Spencer Homestead on Middle Road. Uncle Gus had no sons, so William J.B. Spencer was to inherit that homestead on Uncle Gus’s death. Uncle Gus died when Aunt Edith (Edith Anna Spencer, Audrey’s older sister) was two years old. Uncle Gus was a mean man; Violet’s grandmother hated him so. Violet’s mother married John Jason Jolly who was William J.B. Spencer’s favorite great-uncle; John Jolly (Jason) Spencer was a perfect man.

*Anna Maria was Audrey Mae’s paternal grandmother.  The name Maria was pronounced Mar-eye-ah at that time in history. Audrey would spell her grandmother’s name as Anna Mirah (aka Myriah) because that was how it was pronounced and actually written in some legal documents.  Audrey was surprised to find out later in life that her grandmother’s name was actually Anna Maria.
**The initials J.B. in William J.B. Spencer stands for Joseph Briggs, the second husband of William J.B.’s maternal grandmother, Ann Almy (née Tarbox) Spencer.  Joseph Briggs gave $50.00 to his stepdaughter Anna Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) to name her son after him.
26 June 2002

Heather: How are you doing, Mother?

Audrey: Isn’t much fun. Watching animals on TV. Have you heard of the Ocilot cat from India? He has tiger or red markings. I watch the animal channel on TV. That is the channel I like. I sit here and exist. I have no ambition to do anything. I go on the ride to the malls, which I like. Every Monday, I write a letter to Margie, Stella and to Julie. I’m wanting to see the fireworks at Rocky Point; we will try to get there early. I’ve also gone to the fireworks at the fairgrounds and at Narraganset Pier in the past. Don’t feel like doing anything. I’m lazy. Stella’s two daughters they are with her all the time at Alpine. They are there at Alpine every day. Margie is there; she has Stukey, Mona and Jeannie.

Cousin Frank from California was here with his house on wheels and he has a boat*.

* [Audrey’s nephew (her sister Edith’s older son) Frank traveled across America in his RV which Audrey described as a house on wheels.  Frank could not believe how Rhode Island towns do not have street signs on all corners as California does.  He said “How am I supposed to find my way with no street signs?  (This was before GPS.  I explained that street signs are only at the beginning and end of a street in many of old Rhode Island towns.)

Audrey said “He also has a boat.”  All east coast and west coast Spencers have always lived by the Altantic or Pacific Ocean since the 1600s. However, now in the twenty-first century, some Spencer descendents are moving inland to Nevada, Arizona, Ohio…]

26 June 2002

Heather: What books do you like to read?

Audrey: Old fashioned books like Huckleberry Finn and, of course, I like Charles Dickens’s novels and Emily Dickinson’s poems.

26 June 2002

Heather: Mother, when Chuck and I went to Nashville to visit his daughter, Marie, we went to a National Historic Gravesite where 6,000 union soldiers are buried. The Southerners came and got the bodies of their dead, but the Northerners couldn’t go down south and get their relatives dead bodies.

Audrey: I think Southerners are buried up here also!

4 July 2002

Heather: What have you been doing, Mother?

Audrey: Anna sat in my house; we had a lovely visit. Luanne has told her all the tales. Crystal really enjoys it. Everything is going along fine!

4 July 2002

Heather: Your life span has been full of change. What was it like?

Audrey Mae Spencer

Audrey Mae MacDonald

Audrey: I lived through everything that happened in the 20th Century—from horse and buggy to the moon. I was born 1912, living through an era of change.

4 July 2002

Heather: Tell me again about my great-grandmother, Anna Maria [Anna Maria Spencer] and my great-grandfather, John Johnson Spencer.

Anna Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) Spencer


Audrey: Richard Spencer, (Audrey’s paternal great,great-grandfather) and Roby (née Tarbox) had seven children. Their youngest child was Esther Amanda (née Spencer) Briggs (aka Aunt Mandy) and their oldest child was Richard Anthony*.  Richard Anthony died at age 27 when his child, Anna Maria (pronounced Mar-eye-ah) was only a year old.  The Spencers raised Anna Maria so she grew up with Esther Amanda as they were only eight years apart. They grew up like sisters.
*There are two Richard Anthony Spencers so the father was always referred to as Deacon Richard and his son was always called Richard Anthony.  This website distinguishes between the two by Richard Anthony (“Deacon”) Spencer  as the father and Richard Anthony Spencer as the son.