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Allisonian Firsts: Josiah Wood & Howard Sprague

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Josiah Wood & Howard Sprague

First Mount Allison University graduates, 1863

Portrait of Howard Sprague and Josiah Wood sitting together.

Howard Sprague & Josiah Wood, 1863

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture collection, 2007.07/1186. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Josiah Wood

Josiah Wood was born on 18 April 1843 in Sackville, New Brunswick. He was the son of Mariner Ayer Wood (1806-1875) and Louisa Cynthia (Trueman) Wood (1817-1859). He attended public school in Sackville and matriculated from the Mount Allison Academy. He continued his studies at the University and became a member of the first graduating class of Mount Allison University in 1863.

An 1889 article published in the Saint John newspaper The Progress tells an interesting story about this first class of graduates. In the mid-nineteenth century, when you left a place of higher learning, you had two main career choices: you could become either a clergyman or a lawyer.

As the story goes, Wood and Sprague could not decide which career path to follow, so “they resolved to leave the decision to chance. As it was considered wicked to pitch cents (flip a coin?), Mr. Wood found a nice flat wood chip, which Mr, Sprague spat upon. 'Wet or dry?' inquired Mr. Wood, twirling the chip in the air. 'Dry,' said Mr. Sprague. Dry it was. And so Howard Sprague devoted the rest of his life to pious purposes and Josiah Wood took the law." [1]

Josiah Wood continued his involvement with Mount Allison, and was awarded his Master of Arts in 1866, the year he was admitted to the bar in New Brunswick. In 1891 the University conferred on him an honorary degree (Doctor of Civil Law).

He was actively involved with the family business, Mariner Wood & Sons. He was also an active member of the Conservative Party. In 1882, he was first elected to the House of Commons and remained there until his appointment as a Senator in 1895. He also served as the first mayor of the newly incorporated Town of Sackville between 1903 and 1908. He resigned from the Senate in March of 1912 when he was appointed the 13th Lieutenant Governor of the Province of New Brunswick. He held that position until 1917.

He was married to Laura Sophia Trueman (1856-1935) on 14 January 1874. The couple had the following children: Eleanor Louisa (1875-1956), Herbert Mariner (1877-1966), Annie Laura (1879-1879), Dora Beatrice (1881-1958), William Trueman (1884-1938), and Hester Victoria (1887-1945). He died on 13 May 1927 and is buried in the Sackville Rural Cemetery in Sackville, New Brunswick.


Related materials

You can find more information about the Wood family and peruse the contents of their fonds on our Descriptions Database. Related materials include the Josiah Wood fonds (accession no. 7843), the Laura (Trueman) Wood fonds (accession no. 2005.09), the Wood family fonds (accession nos. 7757, 8914, 9703, & 2007.35), the Black-Wood family fonds (accession no. 7930), and the Trueman, Wood, and Black families fonds (accession nos. 2009.30 & 2018.32). You can access these records by planning a visit to the archives.

Howard Sprague

Howard Sprague was born in Newfoundland on 25 December 1843. He was the son of Rev. Samuel Sprague (1814-1893) and Jean Manson (Currie) (1818-1893). He entered the Mount Allison Academy around the age of sixteen and was admitted into the Methodist Church as a student minister in 1862. He subsequently completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and was a member of the first graduating class of Mount Allison University in 1863. He became ordained in 1866, the same year he earned a Master of Arts from Mount Allison. For the next forty years, he served numerous Maritime congregations, including Sackville twice, St. John three times, and Fredericton, St. Stephen, Charlottetown, and Queen Square and Portland (St. John).

He was a member of the Mount Allison Board of Regents for a number of years. In 1882, the University conferred on him an honorary degree (Doctor of Divinity). He was appointed to the theological faculty at Mount Allison in 1908, and later became the Dean of Theology.

He married Emma Burrows (Heard) (1846-1930) in 1867 and the couple had ten children: Henry Martyn ([1870?]-1890), Frederick (1872-?), Jean (1873-?), Alice (1877-?), Howard Randall (1878-1878), Allen ([1879?]-1879), Leah, Lillian (1881-?), Allen Wilmot (1883-1922), and Edith Marion (1888-1893).

He died on 29 October 1916. He is buried in the Hampton Rural Cemetery in Hampton, New Brunswick.


[1] Quoted from Al Smith, "The Class of 1863," The White Fence, issue 31 (February 2006),