"To forget one's ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root."
(An old Chinese proverb.)

VOL. XLIV, No. 4 December 1996 WHOLE NO. 176a

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[Here appear two photographs of grave markers, next to which are the following captions:]


BORN       NOV. 9.


DIED         MAY 11



BORN           APRIL 7


DIED            JAN 11.


Lawson-Sparks Cemetery near Ibex, Elliott County, Kentucky

View photograph
View photograph


THE SPARKS QUARTERLY, published by The Sparks Family Association.
Paul E. Sparks, President, 155 North Hite Avenue, Louisville, Kentucky (40206-2311)
Russell E. Bidlack, Secretary-Treasurer & Editor, 1709 Cherokee Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan (48104-4448)
The Sparks Family Association was founded in March, 1953, as a non-profit organi- zation devoted to the assembling and preserving of genealogical and historical materials pertaining to the Sparks Family in America.  It is exempt from federal income tax under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 501(c)(7). Membership in the Association is open to all persons connected with the Sparks family, whether by blood, marriage, or adoption, and to persons interested in genealogical research. Membership falls into three classes: Active, Contributing, and Sustaining.  Active membership dues are $7.00 per year;  Contributing membership dues are $10.00 per year; and Sustaining membership dues are any amount over $10.00 that the member wishes to contribute for the support of the Association. All members receive The Sparks Quarterly as it is published in March, June, September, and December.  Back issues are kept in print and are available for $3.00 each to members and $4.00 each to non-members. The first issue of the Quarterly was published in March, 1953. Eight quinquennial  indexes have been published for the years 1953 -1957, 1958 -1962, 1963 -1967, 1968 -72, 1973 -1977, 1978-1982,1983 -1987; and 1988-92.  Each index is available for $5.00. A complete file of the back issues of the Quarterly (1953-1994), including the eight indexes, may be purchased for $280.00.  The forty-three years of the Quarterly (1953 -1995) comprise a total of 4,590 pages of Sparks Family history.  The eight indexes  amount to 874 additional pages.  A table of contents is also available for $5.00.  Comprising 63 pages, this lists the contents of each issue beginning with that for March 1953; it is updated at the end of each year with a listing for the year just completed and is mailed to each member without charge.  The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) that has been assigned to the Quarterly is ISSN 0561-5445.

Orders for individual back issues of the Quarterly, the table of contents, as well as for a complete, file should be sent to the editor, Russell E. Bidlack, 1709 Cherokee Road, Ann Arbor, MI, 48104-4498.

GEORGE G. SPARKS (1796-1879)



By Paul E. Sparks

[Editor's Note: John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks of early Wilkes County, North Carolina, had eleven children, eight sons and three daughters. (See pp. 94- 104 of the December 1955 issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 12, and pp. 2269-2272 of the March 1981 issue, Whole No. 113, for additional information about their family.) An article about their oldest son, Levi Sparks, was pub lished in the June 1996 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 174. We now present an article devoted to another son, George Sparks, and his descendants to about 1900. This record has been compiled by the Association's president, Paul E. Sparks. Dr. Sparks Is a great-great-grandson of George Sparks. Articles about other children of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks will be published as space permits in future issues of the Quarterly.]


According to Information furnished by descendants, George Sparks was married about 1815 to a woman named Mainer (or Maynard); however no record has been found of this marriage. There is a record of the marriage of George Sparks to Elizabeth Armstrong In Wilkes County on October 24, 1814. We have not found the parents of this George Sparks, and there Is a possibility that he was the George G. Sparks, son of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks, who Is the subject of this article. The Sparkses settled generally on the headwaters of Big Blaine Creek and on the Little Fork of the Little Sandy River. They constituted a sizeable group. There was Thomas Sparks and his nine sons from Surry County. A brother of Thomas Sparks, James Sparks, joined the group, probably in Lee County, Vir ginia, along with the family of his son, Jesse Sparks. Wesley Sparks and William Sparks, sons of Robert Sparks, were in the company, along with their uncles, Levi Sparks, George 0. Sparks, Reuben Sparks, and Colby Sparks. And finally there was a cousin, Jonathan Sparks, son of Solomon Sparks of Surry County.

They did not all stay in Kentucky. Jonathan Sparks went back to Surry County while Reuben and Colby returned to Wilkes County where they married and reared large families. When the federal census was taken of Lawrence in 1830, there were nine heads of households named SPARKS, constituting the largest surname group of all the families listed on that census. (See p. 421 of the Sep tember 1959 issue of the Quarterly1 Whole No. 27, for this census record.)

George Sparks left Wilkes County owing a neighbor $5.00 which his father paid. A preserved document reads as follows:

Mr. John Sparks, Please to pay John Brooks Five Dollars that your son, George, promised to fetch to me at Court. In so doing you will oblige your friend, &c. This is the first of November 1821, and this shall be your receipt in full. (signed] John Johnson.
Whether George ever repaid his father, we shall probably never know.

George met, courted, and was married to his second wife, Nancy Short, soon after he arrived in Kentucky. They were married on August 7, 1822, in Law rence County by the Rev. Stephen Wheeler, a Baptist minister. (The license was issued on July 31, 1822.) Nancy had been born on April 7, 1800, in Kana wha County, Virginia, now West Virginia, and was a daughter of Aaron and Elizabeth (Chaffin) Short, both natives of Virginia.

In 1825, George was involved in a land transaction of short duration. He bought fifty acres of land on the Left Fork of the Keaton Fork of Blame Creek from his father for 100 pounds. We have not found how John Sparks had acquired the land, but a story has been handed down that it had been given to him for his Revolutionary War service. John's signature was witnessed by two of his friends in Wflkes County named John Johnson and Jesse Johnson, and the deed was re corded in Lawrence County on October 28, 1825. On the same day, George 0. Sparks resold the land to John Lyon for $150.

About 1826, George Sparks returned to North Carolina with the intention of bringing his daughter, Lucinda (now ten years old), to Kentucky to live with him. He was unsuccessful in persuading her to return with him; in fact, she did not even recognize him. She was so comfortable and contented living with her grand parents and her Uncle Reuben Sparks, who also lived with them, that she re mained in Wilkes County where she was married to James Hanks in 1838.

On February 26, 1827, George Sparks bought 100 acres of land on the Little Fork of the Little Sandy River. Here, he and Nancy settled down with their growing family consisting of John, born in 1823, and Nancy, born in 1825. It was here that their third chfld, Cynthia, was born a few months later, and by the time that the 1830 census was taken, a fourth child, Hugh, had been added.

The section of the Little Fork of Little Sandy River where George and Nancy Sparks lived is best identified as the general area where present-day Lawrence, Carter, and Elliott Counties join. Carter County was formed from Lawrence County in 1838, and Elliott County was formed in 1869 from portions of both Lawrence and Carter Counties. Thus, records of George Sparks can be found in all three counties. He and his household were enumerated on the 1850 census of Lawrence County, and on the 1860 census of Carter County.


George and Nancy Sparks sold their 100-acre farm on Little Fork to Alfred Sparks and Nelson White on February 9, 1854, for $550, and shortly afterwards, they bought 400 acres of land on Lick Branch near the mouth of Big Gimlet Creek. It was here that they lost their youngest son, Colby Sparks, in 1858. The 16-year- old lad cut himself severely while sharpening an axe, and the wound became in fected. He died on February 27, 1858, in a Cincinnati, Ohio, hospital.

On March 27, 1866, George and Nancy sold 100 acres of their land to their newly married daughter, Mary Lawson, for $250. They may have broken up housekeeping at that time for,. when the 1870 census was taken, Nancy was living by herself in Carter County.

Nancy died on January 11, 1879, in Elliott County. George died there four months later, on May 11, 1879. They were buried in the Lawson-Sparks Cemetery in Elliott about one mile north of the old post office of rbex. Photographs of their tombstones appear on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly.

George G. Sparks had nine children, one by his first marriage and eight by his second. They were:

A. Lucinda Sparks, daughter of George G. and (Mainer?) Sparks, was born on March 21, 1816, In Georgia. Apparently her mother died shortly after her birth, and she was carried by her Uncle Reuben Sparks as an infant to the home of her grandparents in Wilkes County, North Carolina. There she re mained until her marriage on January 13, 1838, to James C. Hanks. A story handed down to her descendants relates that when her father came to take her to Kentucky when she was ten years old, she did not recognize him and refused to go with him.

James C. Hanks had been born on July 4, 1813, in Wilkes County and was a son of WIlliam and (Lyon) Hanks. He died sometime between 1870 and 1880. Lucinda died on March 2, 1907. She and James had nine children.

(View photograph)


a. Rebecca Jane Elizabeth ["Bett"] McCann was born on February 22, 1869/1870. She was married to John Harrison Taylor Harman on August 1, 1884. She died on October 1, 1961, at Falls Church, Virginia. She and John had twelve children, but we have learned none of their names.
4. Jemima Jane Ranks, daughter of James and Lucinda (Sparks) Hanks, was born on Ap~ 16, 1848. She was never married.

B. John Wesley Sparks, son of George G. and Nancy (Short) Sparks, was born on November 5, 1823, in Lawrence County, Kentucky; he was undoubtedly named for his paternal grandfather. He grew to manhood In Lawrence County, and It was there that he was married to Almeda Green on Decem ber 21, 1845, by Rufus Humphrey, an elder in the Baptist Church. Almeda had been born on March 13, 1826, in Virginia, and was a daughter of James and Dulcena (Stallard) Green, natives of Virginia.

John Sparks was said to have been a strong man with a short temper. The story has been handed down that he subdued a cantankerous horse by striking it between the eyes with his fist and knocking it to the ground. He was about six feet tall and weighed about 170 pounds. He had blue eyes, dark hair, and a dark complexion. He was a member of the Baptist Church and a member of the Masonic Order.

John and Almeda lived on Big Sinking Creek, a stream that flows from west to east in north-central Elliott County. He was a collier and worked at providing charcoal to make iron in one of several blast furnaces in Carter County. He and Almeda had seven children when the Civil War broke out in the fall of 1861.

In October 1861, John and his brother, Hugh Sparks, rode to Prestons burg, Kentucky, where they enlisted in the 5th Regiment Kentucky Infan try, Confederate States Army, under the command of General Humphrey Marshall. John was mustered into Company C on October 28, 1861, proba bly as a lieutenant.

The Civil War activities of John W. Sparks are reflected in the ill fortunes of the Confederate forces in eastern Kentucky. Probably the largest en gagement between Union and Confederate forces in that section of Kentucky was at Middle Creek near Prestonsburg on July 10, 1862, which resulted in no decisive victory for either side; however, the Confederates, under Gen eral Humphrey Marshall, withdrew to Abington, Virginia. The Union gen eral, James A. Garfield, followed them to Pikeville, Kentucky, and then stopped.

John Sparks was a part of the withdrawal to Virginia and received the pay of a first lieutenant ($90.00 per month) from January to July 1862. He was with his unit when it re-entered Kentucky in August 1862 as part of a major attempt to strike through to central Kentucky and join the army of General Bragg in the Bluegrass. The unplanned Battle of Perryville on October 8, 1862, doomed this attempt, and again General Marshall withdrew his troops to Virginia.

Although the military records of John W. Sparks are scant and offer no direct proof, he apparently did not accompany his unit back to Virginia. This may have been because of the expiration of his term of enlistment or, what is more likely, he was offered a post in a new" military organization to be known as "Partisan Rangers." The objective of this unit was to harass the Federal troops by "procuring horses and supplies from them and then scattering in all directions to confuse the foe. The new unit was Fields Partisan Rangers and was under the command of Captain William J. Fields. It was also designated the 10th Regiment Kentucky Infantry,

This method of "procuring" horses was made a matter of record by a Grand Jury of the Carter [CountyKentucky] Circuit Court, as follows:

The men were never brought to trial, of course.

John Sparks was in command of a small cavalry force of "Rangers" near Grayson in Carter County on May 9, 1863, when it collided with a squad of Union cavalry. The Confederate unit was badly trounced. Sparks's role in this skirmish is not known, but shortly afterwards he wrote the following letter:

Captain Fields forwarded Sparks's letter of resignation with the following endorsement:
The resignation of John W. Sparks was accepted on June 6, 1863, by Brig. General W. Preston, at Headquarters, Preston's Brigade, Abington, Virginia, and Sparks returned to Kentucky. There, on October 16, 1863, he was captured in Magoffin County by Union troops. He was sent as a prisoner-of- war to Camp Chase, Ohio, where he was imprisoned until November 14, 1863, when he was sent to Johnson's Island,Ohio. He remained a prisoner until May 16, 1865, when he was released after taking
the Oath of Amnesty.

A military record, written at Johnson's Island on April 24, 1865, is quite revealing, not only as to the personal feelings of John W. Sparks, but also it shows the feelings of these war-torn times. Here it is in its entirety:

JOHN W. Sparks, 1st Lt. 10th Regt. Ky. Cav., appears on a Roll of Prisoners of War at Johnson's Island, hio, Applicants for the Oath of Amnesty. Roll dated: Office Supt. Pris. Rolls & Corresp. Johnson's Island, Ohio, April 24, 1865. Captured

[Here appears a certificate, beneath which is the following caption:]

A Certificate Worth 25 Cents, Issued by Washington County,

Virginia, on June 18, 1862, but never redeemed.

Handed down to a Descendant of John W. Sparks

(View Certificate)

John Wesley Sparks returned to his family in Carter County, Kentucky. (Elliott County was not formed until 1869, a political move to separate the strong Democratic faction In southern Carter County from the equally strong Republican faction in northern Carter County.) He and Almeda had two more children. For the rest of his life, he was called "Capt." John Sparks. He died on November 17, 1895, and Almeda died on May 1, 1900. They were buried in the Lawson-Sparks Cemetery. They had nine children:

7. Rachel Sparks, daughter of John W. and Almeda (Green) Sparks, was born on September 1, 1861, and died when she was quite young.

C. Nancy Sparks, daughter of George and Nancy (Short) Sparks, was born about 1825, in Lawrence County, Kentucky. It was there that she was married to John N. Hutchison on March 21, 1847. He was a son of Peter Hutchison. Nancy and John lived for a time at Elk Fork, Kentucky, and relatives have vague memories that they went to North Carolina. They apparently had only five children. No further information has been found of them.

D. Cynthia Sparks, daughter of George and Nancy (Short) Sparks, was born on July 16, 1827, in Lawrence County. She was never married and lived with her parents until their deaths; she then made her home with her brother, Levi Sparks, until her death, which occurred on September 9, 1889. She was buried in the Lawson-Sparks Cemetery near her parents.


E. Hugh S. Sparks, son of George G. and Nancy (Short) Sparks, was born on May 21, 1829, in Lawrence County, Kentucky. Some descendants say that the initial "S" stood for Stokes, but no record has been found to confirm this statement. A relative also said that he went to Mississippi when he was a teen-age lad and spent a few years there, returning to Kentucky about 1850.

Most of the information that we have of Hugh Sparks has come from his son, Colby Sparks, by word of mouth. Colby was almost eight years old when his father left home to return to his unit in February 1865, just a short time before the end of the Civil War. Colby remembered that he was a handsome man with black hair and mustache, a fair complexion, and a ready smile.

Hugh Sparks was married to Nancy Curnutte on April 10, 1852, in Carter County, Kentucky, by Daniel Carroll, a Baptist minister. She had been born on October 7, 1834, and was a daughter of William and Polly (Berry) Curnutte. Hugh and Nancy began housekeeping near the village of Mount Savage in Carter County where he worked in the iron industry as a collier.  When the 1860 census was taken, they had four children.

Hugh acquired a Bible, printed in 1857 by the American Bible Society, in which he recorded the births and deaths of members of the family. The last entry he made in the Bible was the birth of his son, Hugh Sparks, Jr. in 1862. The Bible is now in the possession of a great-great-grandson, Colby Sparks.

The first child of Hugh and Nancy was born in 1853. The birth left Nancy feeling poorly, and a younger sister, Elizabeth Curnutte, came to help with the baby and take care of the house. She was a fifteen-year-old girl and promptly fell in love with her brother-in-law and became pregnant. She gave birth to a son in 1855, an event that Hugh recorded in the Bible. She and her son were living in the Sparks household when the 1860 census was taken. (See Item E, 7, below.)

The activities of Hugh Sparks during the Civil War have been told in an earlier issue of The Sparks Quarterly and will not be retold here. Evidence points strongly to his death in the spring of 1865 as a guerilla in eastern Kentucky, probably in Lawrence County. After his sons were grown, they made a trip to West Virginia to try to find him, but they found nothing. (See the December 1991 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 156.)

Nancy (Curnutte) Sparks made some effort to keep her family together after the war ended and her husband did not return. When the 1870 census was taken of Lawrence County, she was shown as head of her house hold in the 1st Precinct. She was 35 years old and was described as "housekeeper." With her were her children: Elizabeth Sparks, 17; James Sparks, 14; Colby Sparks, 12; George Sparks, 10; and Hugh Sparks, 8.

Shortly after the 1870 census was taken of Lawrence County, Nancy (Curnutte) Sparks gave birth on September 7, 1870, to her seventh child, a son whom she named William.

Billy Sparks, as he was called, grew to maturity In Lawrence County and was married there to Elizabeth ["Lizzle"] Sammons in 1888. She had been born on March 11, 1868, and was a daughter of Joel and Anna (Copley) Sammons, Billy and Lizzie lived on Yellow Creek in southeastern Lawrence County where Billy was a farmer and a Baptist preacher. They had twelve children: Nora, Gertrude, Effie, Joel, George, Rosa Bell, Charlie, Lindsey, Bennett, Blanche, Maud, and Ella. Billy died on April 7, 1947, and Lizzie died on November 6, 1963.


Nancy (Curnutte) Sparks was married to Bobby Stewart about 1877, and they moved to Iowa where they stayed about three years. Bobby became Ill and Nancy brought him back to Kentucky. They apparently separated shortly after their return, and Nancy then made her living by housekeeping for others. She also stayed one time or another with one of her children. She was taking care of an elderly couple on Morgans Creek in Lawrence County when she died on June 19, 1913. She was buried in the Colby Sparks Cemetery. The children of Hugh S. and Nancy (Curnutte) Sparks were:

Scanned and Edited by Harold E. Sparks