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"Educator, botanist, C.S.A. chaplain, county official, & Presbyterian minister. His grave is 4 mi. West." James Menzies Sprunt was born into a large family in Perth, Scotland, in 1818. Educated in Edinburgh, Sprunt traveled to the West Indies in 1835 to work as an accountant for his brother’s mercantile firm. After the firm went bankrupt and closed in 1839, Sprunt planned to travel to New York to find a teaching position. However, his ship was damaged in a storm and was forced into port at Wilmington where Sprunt saw an advertisement for a teacher in nearby Duplin County. Sprunt accepted the teaching position in Hallsville for five years and later taught in several other schools, including Grove Academy in Kenansville. Sprunt left the Grove Academy in 1860 when he was chosen to serve as principal of the Kenansville Female Institute.
At about the same time that he moved to Kenansville in 1845, Sprunt decided to also serve the community as a minister and was licensed by the Fayetteville Presbytery in 1849. Two years later he became pastor of Grove Church in Kenansville. Sprunt was appointed pastor for the 20th North Carolina Regiment during the Civil War and traveled with the regiment until July, 1863 when he resigned due to dysentery. After the war, Sprunt remained active at Grove and other local churches as a pastor, and also served as clerk of the Wilmington Presbytery, supplementing his ministerial income through government jobs. His positions included included service as Duplin County’s Register of Deeds and County Clerk for many years. Additionally, Sprunt was an avid gardener and sold his plants to various collectors, including the national botanical gardens in Washington, D.C.
Sprunt died at his home in Kenansville and was buried in Hallsville, survived by six children. His legacy has survived due to the fact that the James Sprunt Institute, founded in 1897, was named in his honor for his lasting contributions to the county. The Institute closed around 1923 and the James Sprunt Technical Institute, now a community college, was formed in 1960, again, named in his honor. Additionally, his home and greenhouse later became the property of Grove Church, serving as the home for its ministers as a lasting memorial to his dedication to the ministry.
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 417-418—sketch by Pearl Canady McGowan
Rev. Jack Dail, “Paper on Dr. James Menzies Sprunt,” unpublished manuscript, Research Branch, Office of Archives and History
Jennifer Martin, Along the Banks of the Old Northeast: The Historical and Architectural Development of Duplin County, North Carolina (1999)
Faison McGowan, ed., Flashes of Duplin’s History and Government (1971)
Claude Moore, “Old James Sprunt Institute,” undated article in Mount Olive Tribune, online at:
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.