Henry Spradley


spradleyThe college closed for Spradley’s funeral in 1897 and distributed a photographic memorial card in his honor, but there has been little official notice taken of him in the years since.   The ex-slave, Union army veteran, and long-serving  janitor was among the most popular figures on campus during the nineteenth century and a leader in the local Carlisle community, but today even his headstone is missing from his former cemetery.  Instead, his name appears on a list of other former veterans buried at Lincoln Cemetery, now known as Memorial Park, on the west side of Carlisle.  In 2021, the college renamed Cooper Residence Hall as the Spradley-Young Residence Hall, honoring both Spradley and his longtime friend and janitorial colleague, Robert C. Young.


From the 2021 renaming ceremony:

To appreciate the importance of Henry W. Spradley to the Dickinson community, all you need to know is just one simple fact. When the popular janitor died in 1897, they canceled classes and held his memorial service in Bosler Hall because Spradley’s local church was too small for the expected crowd of mourners.

Spradley was born as an enslaved man in Winchester, Virginia, in 1830. He escaped from slavery during the Civil War and settled in Carlisle. Soon after, he joined the Union army and served his country until the end of the conflict. Following the war, Spradley returned to Carlisle and he and his wife, Mina, raised a family in town. Henry had been a stonemason in Virginia, but he worked various jobs in Carlisle before becoming a janitor at Dickinson in the late 1870s.

Henry Spradley also contributed mightily to the Carlisle community. He was a leader of the West Street AME Zion Church and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, a black veteran’s organization. When there were protests in town against discrimination at local schools, Spradley and Robert Young were both there to give speeches.