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

 June 1997
   WHOLE NO.178a

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

(Front row, seated:  John Richard Sparks (1860-1939)
Milly Ann (Joyner) Sparks (1855 -1935
                             Parents of
(Back row, standing:  John Reuben Sparks (1884-1969)
Maggie Thula Sparks (1887-1977)
Agnes Beulah Sparks (1891-1970)
Preston Marvin Sparks (1893-1972)
Emmett Elwood Sparks (1895-1985

(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 $10.00 per year;  Contributing membership dues are $15.00 per year; and Sustaining membership dues are any amount over $15.00 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 (1953-1996), including the eight indexes, may be purchased for $290.00.  The forty-four years of the Quarterly (1953 -1996) comprise a total of 4,760 pages of Sparks Family history.  The eight indexes  amount to 874 additional pages.  A table of contents is also available for $5.00.  Comprising 65 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.


In the Quarterly of June 1995, WholeNo. 170, pp.4454-4480, we published an article entitled "Millington Sparks, III (ca.1775-ca.1835), and Some of his Descendants." On page 4458 of that article, we gave information regarding a great-grandson of Millington Sparks named John Richard Sparks (son of William Sparks), who was born on October 12, 1860, in Bastrop County, Texas; he was married to Millie Ann Joyner about 1883. They were the parents of three sons and two daughters.

A granddaughter of John Richard Sparks, Mildred Maurine (Sparks) Singleton, of 2258 N. Mockingbird Lane, Abilene, Texas, 79603, has generously shared with us the photograph of this family appearing on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly, as well as those of two of their sons appearing on page 4807. Mrs. Singleton is a daughter of Emmett Elwood Sparks, the youngest son.


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

John Reuben Sparks
son of
John R. & Milly Ann Sparks

(View photograph)

Emmet Elwood Sparks


son of

John R. & Milly Ann Sparks

(View photograph)


An obituary of John Richard Sparks appeared in a local newspaper following his death near Valera in Coleman County, Texas, in September 1939. This reads as follows:

Funeral Held Saturday for John R. Sparks

Funeral services for Mr. John R. Sparks were held at the Valera Meth odist Church Saturday afternoon, Sept. 23, Rev. A. W. Ferrill officia ting. Interment in Valera Cemetery.

Mr. Sparks was born at Matchacha Springs, near Austin, in 1860. For over thirty years he has been living near Valera. He is survived by one brother, S. H. Sparks of Lometa; two sisters, Mrs. Bell Knight of Quanah and Mrs. Ida Moore of Port Arthur; three sons, Reuben and Emmitt of Valera and Preston of Brownwood, two daughters, Mrs. J. B. Sleuder and Mrs. L. E. Maracle of Valera, and a host of relatives and friends.

Friends were shocked to hear that Mr. Sparks had died of a heart attack about 11 on Friday morning. He held a place of high esteem in Valera. At one time he was a trail-driver and made several trips up the Old Chisolm Trail. He was a member of the Christian Church.

Mime Ann (Joyner) Sparks was born on April 15, 1855, and died on September 25, 1935. Both she and her husband were buried in the Valera Cemetery.

Information regarding their five children appears on pp.4458-59 of the Quarterly, although we did not then have birth and death dates for all of them. Following is supplemental information supplied by Mrs. Singleton.

 (1) John Reuben Sparks was born on July 12, 1884; he died on April 28, 1969. He did not marry. His photograph appears on page 4807.

(2) Maggie Thula Sparks was born on May 26, 1887; she died on September 11, 1977. (Her date of birth given on page 4458 of the Quarterly was in error.) She was married to James Baily Sluder in 1909.

(3) Agnes Beulah Sparks was born on March 22, 1891; she died on March 22, 1970. She was married to Luther Maricle.

(4) Preston Marvin Sparks was born on September 9, 1893; he died on March 22, 1972. He was married to Ruth Hardy.

(5) Emmett Elwood Sparks was born on April 12, 1895; he died on December 2, 1985. He was married to Jannie Estelle Garrison. His photograph appears on page 4807; he was the father of Mrs Singleton.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Tom Wagner of HC 63, Box 59, Nettie, West Virginia, 26681 (304-846-2058) has additional copies of photographs of Nancy Artha Sparks, wife of Isaac Lester; daughter of Garrett and Elizabeth (Boggs) Sparks, from Lawrence County, Ken tucky. He is interested in exchanging photographs with anyone in Nancy's family line (brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, etc.)


RACHEL (SPARKS) BICKNELL (1757-ca.1851/55)



By Russell E. Bidlack

For many years we have pondered over the parentage of a George Sparks who made his will in Newberry County, South Carolina, on October 20, 1795. Be cause his will was entered for probate on March 2, 1796, we can be certain that George Sparks died either late in 1795 or early in 1796. From its wording, we can also deduce that he was a relatively young man when he died.

Our primary clue in tracing George Sparks's origin has been the provision in his will for his young son, Reuben Sparks, to be reared by his sister, Rachel Bicknell, who lived in North Carolina. The fact that George Sparks also referred to my affairs in the North State," leaves no doubt that he and his sister were members of the branch of the Sparks family that had migrated prior to the Ameri can Revolution from Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin, then included within the boundaries of Rowan County, but now within Davie County, North Carolina. Following is the full text of the will of George Sparks:

State of South Carolina, Newberry County.
Be it remembered that on the Twentieth of October in the Year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and Ninety Five that I GEORGE SPARKS being Sick and Weak in Body, I thought it Proper after my body is laid in the Grave that my Worldly Affairs Should be Honestly Settled, for Which I leave my friend George Powell to do this in State aforesaid and After Settling my Affairs aforesaid According to law he to make a true Return of all to my sister Rachel Bicknel in North Carolina and she to receive it and use it as her own till my Son REUBEN SPARKS is Come to the Age of Twenty One Years, as this I assirt my Last Will.
Witnesseth:                                                                  [signed] George  X  Sparks
     Volentinee Braswell                                                                        Mark
     Redson Davis

This will was recorded in Newberry County Will Book A, page 355, and was marked as 1'Proved March 2nd 1796" by Fred. Nance, County Clerk.

When it was that George Sparks went from North Carolina to Newberry County, South Carolina, is not known, except that he was there at the time the 1790 census was taken

On the 1790 census, as would be true of each federal census taken prior to 1850, only the head of each household was actually named. Free white males in 1790 in each household, including the head, were then enumerated in two categories following the name: those 16 and over, and those under 16. White females were also counted and recorded, but with no division by age.


George Sparks was shown in Newberry County, South Carolina, still considered part of the "Ninety-Six District," in 1790, as over age 16. In his household was a male under 16, who was doubtless his small son, Reuben Sparks, and one female who was surely his wife, of whom we have no knowledge. Two other men named Sparks were also shown as heading households in Newberry County in 1790, John Sparkes and Stephen Sparks, but we are certain that they were unre lated to George Sparks.

The only record that we have found in Newberry County, South Carolina, pertain mg to George Sparks, other than his will, is his purchase of fifty acres of land there on April 6, 1795. He paid fifty pounds sterling to Herman Davis, Sr., who was called "Planter, ~' also a resident of Newberry County. (See Newberry County Deed Book C, page 814.) According to this deed, George Sparks's fifty acres were part of a grant of 200 acres that had been made earlier to Davis, located in the fork between the Enoree and Saluda Rivers. The witnesses to George Sparks' purchase of his fifty acres were William Finney, Andrew Spence, and Josiah Elliot. This deed was not proven and recorded in Newberry County until July 28, 1796, by which time George Sparks had died, his will having been entered for probate on March 2, 1796.

It seems apparent that George Sparks's wife had died before he wrote his will, in which he left all of his property to his sister, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, with which to rear his son, Reuben. We have found no record pertaining to this Reu ben Sparks other than his mention in his father's will.

It is the will of George Sparks that enables us to fit his sister, Rachel, into the branch of the Sparks fan~ily that came to the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina in 1754.

A rather detailed account of the migration of members of the Sparks family of Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina, was included in an article on the life of William Sample Sparks published in the Quarterly of December 1989, Whole No. 148, pp. 3484-3501. This writer and Dr. Paul E. Sparks, the Association's president, have become convinced, partly through a process of elimination, that William Sample Sparks was the father of George Sparks and of Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, the subjects of this article.

William Sample Sparks had been born about 1700 in Queen Annes County, Mary land; he was a grandson of the William Sparks who died there in 1709. His father, we are certain, was William Sparks, Jr. (ca.1674-ca.1735), who was the eldest son of the William who died in 1709. An article about this early immi grant from Hampshire County, England, to Maryland with his brother, John Sparks (died 1700), appeared in the Quarterly of March 1971, Whole No. 73, pp. 1371-1389; a more detailed account, based on later research, appeared in the issue for December 1992, Whole No. 160, pp. 4025-4034.

We have no knowledge of the first wife of William Sample Sparks, but it appears that she was the mother of his first two sons, William, born about 1725, and Matthew, born about 1730. We believe that the first wife of William Sample Sparks died and that he was the "William Sparks" who was married in St. Luke's Parish in Queen Annes County on August 24, 1732, to Mary Courmon (or Cor man). It is probable that the son of William Sample Sparks named James was a son of Mary, if we are correct regarding his father's second marriage.

In or about 1736, William Sample Sparks left Queen Annes County with his family and migrated to an area of western Maryland that is drained by the Monocacy River and its tributaries; this area was called "Monocacy" by the Indians long before the appearance of the white man. (See the map showing the Big.and Little Pipe Creeks, where Sparks settled, along with other streams flowing into the Monocacy River, on page 3488 of the December 1989 Quarterly.) This area was included in Prince Georges County when William Sample Sparks moved there, but it became part of Frederick County when Frederick was created in 1748.


A few years after William Sample Sparks settled in Monocacy, he was joined by an uncle, Joseph Sparks, and Joseph's large family. Joseph Sparks died in 1749, at which time William Sample Sparks and Rachel Sparks both signed as '1next of kinn" when the inventory of Joseph's personal property was prepared. (See the article On Joseph Sparks who died in 1749 in the Quarterly of March 1990, Whole No. 149, pp. 3554-3561.)

When a property owner died, Maryland law then required that two close relatives of the deceased. with the two chief creditors of the estate, sign the inventory of Ms personal property as part of the probating procedure. There can be little doubt that this Rachel Sparks was, in 1749, the wife of William Saipple Sparks. Apparently Ashe was his third wife, by whom, we believe, he had the son named George and the daughter named Rachel, who are the subjects of the present article.

When Joseph Sparks died in 1749, he left a wife named Mary and children named Solomon, Joseph [Jr.1, Charles, Jonas, Jonathan, William, George, Merum, Mary, Ann, Rebecca, and Sarah. Because Joseph Sparks had been the youngest son of the William Sparks who died in 1709, while William Sample Sparks's father, William Sparks, Jr., had been his oldest son, Joseph's older sons were considera bly younger than their first cousin, William Sample Sparks.

It was in the spring of 1754, we believe, that William Sample Sparks, with mem bers of his own family, and accompanied by three of the sons of Joseph Sparks (Solomon, about 27 years of age; Jonas, about 20; and Jonathan, about 18) left Frederick County, Maryland, for the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina. The eldest son of William Sample Sparks, named William, born about 1725, remained in Frederick County, but he would join his father and other family members in North Carolina a decade later. As can be seen from the frequent repetition of the same given names for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the immigrant, Wil liam Sparks (died 1709), one can become easily confused in trying to identify the parentage of each one. We believe that William Sample Sparks, himself, chose "Sample" as a middle name simply to identify himself from his father and from his cousins named William, for which his descendants can be grateful.

The Sparkses who went to the Forks of the Yadkin were part of a rather large migration from Maryland to North Carolina beginning in the 1750s. These pioneers were in the search of fertile, but inexpensive, land in a mild climate. This they found in what was known as "Lord Granville's Domain." (See pages 3492-93 of the December 1989 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 148, for a detailed explanation of how Lord Granville acquired his "domain," and how his agents sold portions to settlers prior to the American Revolution.)

We have known for many years that two sons of William Sample Sparks accompanied their father in his 1754 migration to the Forks of the Yadkin. Matthew Sparks, then about 34 years of age, was married and had several children, while James Sparks was about 20 years of age and, we believe, unmarried. As noted above, the son named William, born about 1725, did not join his father and siblings until 1764. We have assumed, however, that there were probably daughters and, per haps, other sons, of William Sample Sparks of whom we had no record. We have now concluded, in part through a "process of elimination," that George and Rachel Sparks, subjects of this article, were surely, also, children of William Sample Sparks, and that their mother was surely the Rachel Sparks who co-signed with her husband the inventory of Joseph Sparks's personal property in 1749. It was a common practice to name a daughter for her mother.

Very few records survive in Rowan County, North Carolina, from this early period. Until recently, we had found no record of William Sample Sparks in Rowan County's land records, although there are county court records pertaining to his receiving alicense in 1762 and in 1764 to keep an "ordinary," the name then used for an inn or tavern serving travellers, There is also a record of his serving on a jury in 1764. With the publication in 1995 of Vol. 5 of Margaret M. Hofmann's The Granville District of  North Carolina,1748-1763, we know now where he lived in the Forks of the Yadkin.


Immigrants to Lord Granville's District, which included the Forks of the Yadkin, regularly squatted" on vacant land that appealed to them until such time as they were able, or found it convenient, actually to purchase the tract from Lord Gran ville's agent. In some instances, years passed before actual ownership was gained or the "squatter" moved to a different site. There was always the danger, how ever, that someone else would purchase the "squatter's claim," in which case the original settler might lose whatever "improvements" he had made. William Sample Sparks's son, Matthew Sparks, as well as his young cousin, Solomon, made their initial purchases in 1761. Matthew bought 372 acres while Solomon bought 250 acres. In 1762, Solomon bought 290 additional acres that adjoined his first pur chase, although he later sold a portion to his brother, Jonas. (See the map on page 3495 of the December 1989 issue of the Quarterly.)

William Sample Sparks, however, never acquired a legal title to land in the Forks of the Yadkin, although from Vol. 5 of Ms. Hofmann's abstracts of Lord Gran- ville's land records (p.272), we now know that he had "squatted" on a tract very near that of his son, Matthew. On May 30, 1761, however, a settler named James Andrews purchased a tract of 700 acres that included the "improvements" that had been made there by William Sample Sparks. The warrant authorizing a survey to be made of Andrews' purchase described the tract as "700 acres in Rowan County on the South Side of the South Yadkin, joining the Mouth of Second Creek, in cluding the improvements where William Sample Sparks formerly Lived." The exact location of this tract can be identified on the map appearing on page 3495 of the Quarterly, cited above. Perhaps Sparks moved to a portion of the nearby tract purchased by his son, Matthew, and established his ordinary there. It is even possible that Andrews had purchased from William Sample Sparks the "improve ments" Sparks had made on his "squatter's" site.

Unfortunately, William Sample Sparks did not leave a will, nor have we found any record of the settlement of his estate. Since no Rowan County record bearing his name after 1764 has been found, we believe that he died soon after 1764.

In her pension application made many years later that will be quoted later in this article, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell indicated that she had been born on December 12, 1757. This means that she was born in North Carolina about three years after her parents' arrival there. Because it was .to his sister, Rachel, that George Sparks left the care of his young son with whatever property he had, rather than to one of his half-brothers, it is logical to speculate that George was of an age similar to that of Rachel Bicknell, who was then a widow with six children of her own.

In our earlier efforts to identify the parents of Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell and her brother, George Sparks, we were confused by the fact that Jonas Sparks, son of the Joseph Sparks who had died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749, had a son named George and a daughter named Rachel. The Rachel Sparks who was a daughter of Jonas Sparks was married, however, to a man named Minus Griggs, and they subsequently moved to Kentucky. (A record of the family of Minus and Rachel [Sparks] Griggs also appears in the present issue of the Quarterly, beginning on page 4829.) The George Sparks who appeared on a tax list of Rowan County believed to date from 1775, was a son of Jonas Sparks ; he was not the George Sparks who died in Newberry County, South Carolina, in 1795/1796.  In his will dated May 11, 1805, Jonas Sparks made no mention of his son, George Sparks, which suggests that he either died young or had moved to a different part of the country.


As was noted earlier, it was in 1764 that the son of William Sample Sparks named William, who had been born about 1725, made the journey with his family from Frederick County, Maryland, to join his Sparks relatives in the Forks of the Yadkin. (See the Quarterly of June 1991, Whole No. 154, pp. 3752-3898, for an article about William Sparks [ca.1725-1801/02.]) On April 10, 1765, William Sparks purchased from his brother, Matthew Sparks, 200 of the 372 acres that Matthew had acquired from Lord Granville in 1761.

As has been noted in other articles in the Quarterly devoted to the Sparkses of the Forks of the Yadkin, members of the older generation at the time of the American Revolution tended to be Tories (i.e., men who maintained their allegiance to the English crown.) As the fever of rebellion against King George III intensi fied in the Colonies, pressure mounted to force the Tories either to declare their allegiance to the rebellion or risk having their lands confiscated. It was in 1778 that Captain Johnston prepared a list of the names of some 152 men in his dis trict who had either failed or refused to pledge allegiance to the state of North Carolina. The two Sparkses appearing on this list were William and George, sons of Jonas. Solomon Sparks, with the sons of William Sample Sparks named William and Matthew, would probably have appeared, also, on Johnston's list had they still been residents of Rowan County.

Early in 1773, William Sparks and his brother, Matthew Sparks, sons of William Sample Sparks, sold their land in the Rorks of the Yadkin and moved their fam ilies to Surry County, North Carolina. Surry County had been cut off from Rowan County in 1770. Matthew settled in that part of Surry that eventually be came Ashe County, while William chose a spot in what is now Yadkin County, near the Wilkes County line. This was near where William's cousin, Solomon

__ Sparks (son of Joseph), had moved two years earlier. William's oldest son, also named William, had either accompanied or followed Solomon--both were shown on the oldest extant tax list for Surry County, that for 1771. The land on which these Sparkses settled was also part of Lord Granville's vast domain, but his land office had been closed following his death in 1764, and his family had not re opened it because of the unrest leading up to the Revolution. Settlers simply Usquafled?' on vacant Granville land that pleased them, marking their proposed boundaries with an axe mark on corner trees. This was called a "tomahawk survey." Their hope was, of course, to purchase the land when the Granville land office opened again. It did not open again, of course, and the state of North Carolina, while respecting earlier Granville sales, took over land-granting authority at the end of the Revolution.

We believe that Rachel Sparks, daughter of William Sample Sparks, accompanied her half-brother, William Sparks, in his 1773 move to Surry County, and we think it likely that her brother, George Sparks, did likewise. The 1774 poll tax list for Surry County survives, and on the portion prepared by Benjamin Cleve land appears the name of William Sparks and that of his son, Matthew (named, obviously, for William's brother). White males between 16 and 60 were considered to be "taxables" in Surry County in 1774, proving that William's son, Matthew, was at least 16. Solomon Sparks was also shown as a taxable on this same list, with his sons, named John and Joseph. William Sparks's older son, William, Jr., was included, as was James Sparks, the younger brother (or half-brother, in all probability) of William, Sr.

Although George Sparks did not appear as a taxable in Surry County in 1774, we believe that he was there, but he probably had not yet reached the age of 16. We know that his sister, Rachel, was there because on October 22, 1774, she was married to Thomas flicknell in Surry County according to her own sworn statement. She made this deposition on December 3, 1845, shortly before her 88th birthday, when she applied for a widow's pension based on her husband's service in the Revolutionary War. She stated that her marriage had been per formed by a justice of the peace  named Squire Riggs, following the "publication" of their marriage banns "in Church as the custom was in those  days." This type of marriage procedure was more common in early North Carolina than that through the  "marriage bond," but it was only a marriage bond that became an official county record. Rachel was 16 years of  age at her marriage, or, as she stated, she was in her seventeenth year. Her seventeenth birthday would fall on  December 12, 1774.


Thomas Bicknell's surname was spelled variously in the 1700s and early iSOOs, often as Bicknel, Becknel, or Becknell, other times as Beicknell, and even as Bucknell or Begnell. In this article, except in direct quotations, we will use the spelling that Thomas used when he signed his will in 1780 in his own hand, Bicknell.

The earliest record that we have found of Thomas Bicknell in North Carolina is his name on the 1772 "List of Taxables of Surry County." Shown, also, on the same list is that of his brother, Samuel Bicknell. Samuel, but not Thomas, had also appeared on the 1771 tax list of Surry County, it being the oldest such list known to exist. Research into the Bicknell family by a number of descendants points to Samuel and Thomas being sons of a William Bicknell, born ca.1714115, who died in 1780 or 1781, in Amherst County, Virginia. His wife's name was Hannah. According to William Bicknell's will, he had sons named Samuel, William, Thomas, John, and Micajah, and daughters named Ruth, Anna, and Mary Ann. At an earlier time, the family had lived in Albemarle County, Virginia.

The tax list for Surry County for 1774 shows how the county had been divided into militia districts, which also served as tax districts. Benjamin Cleveland was captain of the district that later became Yadkin County in 1850; also included in his district was a portion of what became Wilkes County when it had been cut off from Surry in 1777. Included in Captain Cleveland's 1774 list were Thomas and Samuel Bicknell (spelled "Becknall"), as well as William Sparks (with his son., Matthew), and Solomon Sparks (with his sons, John and Joseph); also James Sparks, half-brother of William, and William Sparks, Jr.

There can be litfie doubt that Rachel Sparks and Thomas Bicknell became acquaint ed after both moved to Surry County, he from Virginia and she from the Forks of the Yadkin. Because Rachel recalled many years later that their marriage banns had been announced "in Church," she doubtless meant the Mulberry Fields Meet ing House that had been organized by a group of Baptists and was located in what later became the town of Wilkesboro. General William Lenoir, who became one of Wilkes County's most distinguished leaders, recalled this church in an 1824 letter quoted on page 3782 of the June 1991 Quarterly.

It was in November 1777 that the North Carolina General Assembly proclaimed, with its passage of the "Confiscation Act," the state's ownership of all Granville land. Grants previously made by Granville's agents were to be honored, how ever. It was now possible for settlers who had formerly been "squatters" in Surry County to gain a legal title to "their" land, if someone else did not produce a better claim. It was also in 1777 that Wilkes County was created from part of Surry County.

A detailed account of the manner in which "squatters" went about acquiring their legal Titles from the state begins on page 3784 of the June 1991 Quarterly. On April 22, 1778, Thomas Bicknell "entered" a tract of 247 acres of land in Wilkes County, described as located on "both sides of Swan Creek, joining Thos Parks at the lower and John Bowerland [Bourland] at the upper end, cornering on the main road." (Entry 63 in Land Entry Book,Wilkes County, North Carolina,1778-1781, edited by Mrs. W. 0. Absher, 1971.)


On March 4, 1778, Samuel Bicknell's entry #12 had been for 320 acres "on Yadkin River at Benjamin Herndon's lower corner [and] claim(s] of Thomas Becknel & Thomas Parks [and] Alexander Gordon." On January 4, 1779, Thomas Bicknell entered 50 additional acres that adjoined his other tract and one belonging to Benjamin Herndon (Entry 749). On September 24, 1779, he received conflrmation of his first "entry" in the form of a grant (a deed) from the state, although it was found to contain 240 acres, not the 247 acres that had been estimated in his entry. In the deed, this tract was described again as lying on both sides of Swan Creek, adjoining land belonging to Benjamin Herndon and John Bourland. (Wilkes County Deed Book A-i, p.72.) We have found no record, however, confirming Thomas Bicknell's 50-acre entry--perhaps he sold his claim to this before it was confirmed by a grant.

Thomas Bicknell's land was not far from where Swan's Creek empties into the Yad- kin River. Today this tract, as well as that of his brother, Samuel Bicknell, would be found in New Castle Township of Wilkes County, one and one-quarter miles west of the line dividing Wilkes County from Yadkin County.

During the second day of the initial meeting of the Wilkes County Court, on March 3, 1778, "Thomas Bicknal" and three others were appointed constables for the new county, and on September 11, 1778, Thomas was appointed "Collector for Captain Herndon's District." A year after his appointment as constable, on March 3, 1779, however, Thomas Bicknell resigned from the latter post, probably because of his involvement with military affairs. These 4ppointments indicate that he had soon become recqgnized as a youthful leader in his community.

Historians have noted that most of the settlers in the Forks of the Yadkin in the 1750s and 1760s became Loyalists during the American Revolution, as was true of several members of the Sparks family. There developed a "generation gap" with- in many of these families, as the immigrants' sons tended to join with the rebels, demanding the Colonies' freedom from English rule. As was noted in the article in the June 1991 Issue of the Quarterly, devoted to William Sparks (son of William Sample Sparks) mentioned earlier, both William and his cousin, Solomon Sparks, would suffer later because of their loyalty to King George III. Although neither of them actually joined Tory military forces, their known sympathies for British rule would result in their being denied titles to the land in Surry County on which they had "squatted." Thomas Bicknell, however, was a rebel from the start of the Revolution. In fact, he would give his fife for the American cause.

Our only record of Thomas Bicknell's service in the Revolution is found in Rachel's own account when, many years later, on December 3, 1845, just nine days prior to her 88th birthday, she made application for a pension based on that service. Not only did she, as a war widow, have to prove that she had been married to a soldier, but, also, to provide information regarding her husband's service. Documents proving Revolutionary War service were often lacking for a widow's pension application, but Rachel was further handicapped because of her long separation from friends and neighbors who had known her in North Carolina; she was living with a daughter in Pickens County, South Carolina, when she made her pension application. (Rachel Bicknell's pension file at the National Archives has the number R-12399; it is filed under "Biecknell.") The judge writing the declaration that Rachel signed by mark, spelled her name three different ways. The full text of her application follows; punctuation has been added for clarity.



In order to obtain the benefit of the third section of the Act of Congress of the 4th July 1836 entittled [sic] An Act granting half pay and Pensions to Certain widows:

State of South Carolina )
District of Pickens        )  SS

On this third day of December 1845 personally appeared before William D. Steele, Judge of the Court of Ordinary for the District & State aforesaid, Mrs Rachel Biecknell of the District & State aforesaid, aged eighty eight years the 12th Instant (and who the said Ordinary certifies is unable by body in firmity to attend in Open Court) who being first duly sworn accord ing to law, doth on her oath make the following Declaration in order to obtain... [a pension]

That she is the widow of Thomas Biecknell who was a private and Lieutenant in the War of the Revolution, that she was married to the said Thomas Biecknell when in her seventeenth year; and she thinks [it was] when she had three children [that] her said hus band entered the service under Capt Richard Allen, who was after wards, Colonel; that they then resided in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and her said husband there entered the service the first time, and was not much at home until the close of the War; that he was at one time a Volunteer & at other times drafted, and was a considerable portion of the time a Lieutenant; that she is sure he was a Lieutenant under Capt Allen at the siege of Charleston early in 1780, that he marched much through North & South Caro lina, and served at various times under Col. Lanore, Col. Cleve land, & Col. Hearne, but it is impossible for her to state the par ticulars of his service, at her advanced age.

That her husband the said Thomas Biecknell was wounded with an ounce ball in his hip in the Battle at King's Mountain, with which wound he died; he was carried to Burke County near Morgantown [Morganton], to the house of Mr. Bowman, whence declarant went and waited upon him with his wound Eleven weeks, at the end of which time he died. She does not know of any documentary evi dence, or any evidence of any kind, that she can certainly get to prove his service, but thinks an indent may have been issued to her for his service, as she recollect [ s], to have tryed to get something, & thinks, she did get a small sum, but does not know how [much].

That she was married to the said Thomas Bicknell in Wilkes County N.C. by Squire Riggs, as she believes on the 22d October, as she thinks the year 1774, as she had but three children when her hus band entered the service, and when his service closed entirely she had five children and four months and fifteen days after his death her sixth child Mary was born; her said Daughter, Mary, married David Roper, and she now lives with her, and on their charity. She has no record of her marriage, nor of the births of her child ren, they [the banns] were published in Church as the custom was in those days to be married. That her husband, the aforesaid Thomas Becknell, died on the thirty first day of December 1780, and that she has remained a widow ever since that period, as will more fully appear by reference to the proof herewith forwarded.

[signed]   X  Rachel K Bicknell

Radhel Bicknell's declaration was "sworn to and subscribed" before William D. Steele, Judge of the Court of Ordinary for Pickins District.

While Rachel Bicknell could not recall the date on which her husband had "enter ed the service," it is seen that she remembered that he had done so "under Capt. Richard Allen, who was afterwards Colonel." It happens that many years earlier, in 1832, this same Richard Allen had applied for a pension (file 5-6490 at the National Archives), and in his application, he had given a detailed record of his own service, which he recalled had begun in either October or November 1775 in "Captain Jesse Walton's company of minute men...." By 1777, Allen had become an ensign in Captain Benjamin Cleveland's company of Wilkes County Militia, and when Cleveland was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1778, Richard Allen had succeeded him as captain of the company.

It may not have been until 1779 that Thomas Bicknell joined Captain Allen's com pany, but he was surely a member at the time of the events that Allen recalled taking place in 1779, as follows:

In the latter part of the year 1779, a call was made for troops to march in the defense of Charleston. A draft was made from the militia in Wilkes [County) for one company, and a draft also made from the captains of companles for a captain to command that com pany--the lot fell upon the deponent [i.e. on Allen, himself], and he accordingly repaired with his company to Hambliris old store where they rendeyvoused [sic] on the 15th of January 1780--as soon as they could organize and make the necessary preparations they marched direct to Charleston, S.C., where they joined the third regiment of North Carolina Militia commanded by Col. Andrew Hampton.

Capt. Allen's company helped prevent the Tories from burning the city of Charles ton, after which they returned to their homes in Wilkes County in April 1780, "having been gone between three and four months," in the words of Allen.

Rachel Bicknell stated in her pension application that she was was sure that her husband had been "a Lieutenant under Capt. Allen at the siege of Charleston, that he marched much through North and South Carolina, and served at various times." Her memory of her husband's activities during this period is in keeping vtith Capt. Allen's account, as follows:

From the month of April to September 1780 this deponent [i.e., Allen], with small detachments of the men under his command, served three short terms... one of which was against a body of Tories assembled near the head of the Catawba River, another against Cob. Bryan, a Tory Cob. who had embodied a band of Tories in the Southern part of the State, and the other against some Tories on the North West side of the Blue Ridge.

In the month of September 1780 intormation was received by Cob. Cleveland that Major Ferguson of the British army was advancing from South Carolina with a large body of British and Tories--upon which Cob. ~eveland immediately issued orders for all the troops within the County of Wilkes to reneyezvous [sic] at the Court House. This depo nent, with what men he could collect, repaired thither immediately, and after the troops were organized they all set out on their march to meet Majr Ferguson. Upon the way they were joined by Col. Campbell with a body of troops from Virginia, as also by Cols. Sevier, Shelby and McDowell with troops from North Carolina. After a junction of the troops was formed, as most of them had horses, it was proposed that all those who had horses or could procure them should advance im mediately upon Ferguson.


Captain Allen was placed in command of those troops who did not have horses, and though they "continued their March with all possible speed in the direction of Kings Mountain," the battle had been won by the Americans before Allen and his footmen reached their destination.

Because Thomas Bicknell had been on horseback, he had become a member of Colonel Sevier's command and was in the thick of the battle.

A low mountain or ridge, King's Mountain is located near the border line of North and South Carolina, just over the line in York County, South Carolina, from Cleveland County, North Carolina. When the battle was fought, York County was still part of Camden District in South Carolina, and Cleveland County in North Carolina was part of Rutherford County, which had been cut off from Burke County in 1779. For the Americans, the Battle of Kings Mountain re sulted in one of their most brilliant victories of the Revolution and played an important role in breaking British power in the South. Col. Sevier, under whom Bicknell was serving at the time, became a hero of the Revolution as a result of this American Victory.

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

A portion of a map entitled "The Revolutionary War in the South" drawn by Hugh T. Lefler for the Atlas of American History, published in 1943, page 74. Shows the location of Charleston, where Thomas Bicknell participated in the Siege of that city, and of Kings Mountain, where he was mortally wounded.

(View map)

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Scanned and Edited by Harold E. Sparks