Fletcher Johnson Spratling (1857–1934)

Seventh Ward Councilman: 1908, 1909; Seventh Ward Alderman: 1911, 1912, 1913

Fletcher Johnson (sometimes Johnston) Spratling was born in Chambers County, Alabama in 1857, the oldest son of James Redding and Antoinette (Bailey) Spratling. His father died when he was an infant and his mother remarried soon after. The 1860 U.S. federal census located him in his maternal grandfather’s house in rural Chambers County, and the 1870 U.S. federal census placed him in his step-father’s house in nearby Loachapoka.

Fletcher was in Atlanta by 1878 when a city directory listed him as a bookkeeper for the Constitution living at 402 Decatur Street. He married Anna Maria “Annie” Hook, daughter of Judge James Schley Hook, in October 1879 at the First Christian Church in Augusta, Georgia. According to the Constitution, the wedding

created an unprecedented stir in fashionable circles. The church was packed to its utmost, hundreds having been turned away from the doors. The decorations were superb, an enormous wedding bell being a notable feature of the floral dressings. It was the universal remark that a handsomer couple never went up the aisle of the church. Mr. Spratling is a man of striking appearance, and Miss Hook has long been a reigning belle.

Notably, James S. Lamar (whose son was U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Lamar) performed the ceremony and Henry Cabaniss Peeples (Atlanta lawyer and scholar) served as a groomsman.

Fletcher J. Spratling. The Constitution, May 28, 1934.

The 1880 U.S. federal census found Fletcher and Annie boarding at 62 Ellis Street in the household of Clark Howell, Jr., Annie’s relative. They moved to Augusta, Georgia soon after, where Fletcher owned a wholesale fruit and produce firm with his brother and half-brother called “Spratling & Bros.” Fletcher and Annie were in that city for the birth of their three children, but returned to Atlanta and located in the West End by 1900 when the federal census enumerated the family at 161 Lee Street (approximately located in G5 on this map, now near the 500-block of Lee Street SW).

Fletcher first ran for city office in July 1907, when the Constitution described him as “the head of a manufacturers’ agency in the city” and “wide-awake, progressive and full of that energy which is required of an up-to-date Atlantan.” He won election and served as a councilman for the Seventh Ward in 1908 and 1909.

He next served as Seventh Ward Alderman in 1911, 1912, and 1913. During Fletcher’s tenure a fellow alderman, John E. McClelland, accused Fletcher of borrowing “large sums of money from near beer dealers.” A committee investigated the charges and found that Spratling had indeed borrowed money from several beer and “near beer” dealers, including $800 from Albert Steiner of Atlanta Brewing & Ice Company, $500 from James Lynch, and $550 from T. O. Poole of Poole & McCullough. But each witness assured the investigatory committee that the loans were made “through friendship” and denied that they were promised protection from the police in exchange. The committee recommended Fletcher’s vindication.

Fletcher and Annie Spratling. The Constitution, Oct. 2, 1929.

Fletcher did not run for reelection after his 1913 term ended. He served as deputy clerk of the Fulton County Superior Court under Arnold Broyles and Thomas C. Miller for 15 years, where he “frequently went out of his way to encourage and aid young attorneys just starting out.” He was also actively involved with the Christian Church-affiliated Southern Christian Home. His wife, Annie, was a 1925 charter member of Peachtree Christian Church.

He died in May 1934 at his home in the Massellton Apartments at 198 Ponce de Leon Avenue which still stand. He is buried next to Annie in Westview Cemetery. They were the parents of three children: James Hook Spratling (1880–1973), a prominent optician in Augusta and a founder of the Georgia State Optical Association; Fletcher Guy Spratling (1882–1966), a district manager for Coca-Cola; and Mildred Spratling (1888–1970), wife of Roy Collier, Sr.

Interestingly, Fletcher was related to two other famous residents of Atlanta. His cousin, Dr. E. J. Spratling, was a prominent physician and military officer during WWI. In 1916 Dr. Spratling was killed at Camp Harris by Mrs. Mattie Stokes Adams, a patient he treated, several weeks after “he forced her to submit to his advances.” In a statement made to the Constitution, Mrs. Adams said, “Captain Spratling was our family physician and a smooth man. . . . He took advantage of me. I cannot tell all, but women will understand.” A jury acquitted her in 1917. Another of Fletcher’s cousins was William Spratling, a silver designer and architect who lived in Mexico for many years.

Select Bibliography

Atlanta Constitution. “A Brilliant Wedding.” October 5, 1879.

———. “His Election is Predicted.” July 19, 1907.

———. “Committee Will Clear Aldermen of Graft Charge.” May 1, 1913.

———. “Killing Justified, Says Husband.” August 26, 1916.

———. “Mrs. Mattie Adams Spratling’s Slayer is Given Freedom.” May 10, 1917.

———. “Prominent Atlantans Will Celebrate Golden Wedding Anniversary Today.” October 2, 1929.

———. “F. J. Spratling, 76, Dies at Residence.” May 28, 1934.

———. “Mrs. Spratling, Church Leader, Succumbs at 84.” October 1, 1944

Augusta City Directory. Volume IX. Augusta, GA: R. L. Polk & Co., 1889.

Cooper, Walter G. Official History of Fulton County. Atlanta, GA: Walter W. Brown Pub. Co., 1934.

Garrett, Franklin M. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1880s–1930s. Vol. 2 of Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Athens, GA: Univ. of Georgia Press, 1969.

Hook, James William. James Hook and Virginia Eller: A Family History and Genealogy. New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., 1925.

Sholes’ Directory of the City of Atlanta for 1878. A. E. Sholes, 1878.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s