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

VOL. XLVII, No. 2 JUNE 1999  WHOLE NO. 186a

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Photograph Taken Shortly Before the Founding of
The Sparks Family Association in 1953

(View photograph)


THE SPARKS QUARTERLY, published by The Sparks Family Association.
John K. Carmichael, Jr., President, 3408 N. Rosewood Ave., Muncie, Indiana (47304-2025)

Russell E. Bidlack, Secretary-Treasurer & Editor, 1709 Cherokee Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan (48104-4448)

A. Harold Sparks, Vice President, 500 1st St., N., #303, Newton, Iowa, (50208-3104)

The Sparks Family Association was founded in March, 1953, as a non-profit organization 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. Nine quinquennial  indexes have been published for the years 1953 -1957, 1958 -1962, 1963 -1967, 1968 -72, 1973 -1977, 1978-1982,1983 -1987, 1988-92, and 1993 -1997.  Each index is available for $5.00. A complete file of the back issues of the Quarterly (1953-1997), including the eight indexes, may be purchased for $310.00.  The forty-five years of the Quarterly (1953 -1997) comprise a total of 5104 pages of Sparks Family history.  The nine indexes  amount to 900 additional pages.  A table of contents is also available for $5.00.  Comprising 70 pages, this lists the articles and collections of data appearing in the Quarterly between 1953 and 1998; it is updated at the end of each year. 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.  His telephone number is 734-662-5080, but he has no E-mail address.



By Russell E. Bidlack

With the issue of THE SPARKS QUARTERLY for March 1999, your editor sent a brief memo to the members of the Association reporting the death of our President, Dr. Paul E. Sparks, on March 4, 1999. [Those of you who noted the strange date on that memo, ("October 20, 1999") were no more puzzled than was your editor himself when it was called to my attention after the mailing had been completed. I simply have no explanation for why I typed "October" when I intended to type March .]


It was in 1953 that three relatively young men, who had been corresponding regarding our shared interest in a Sparks family of Maryland and North Carolina, decided to found THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION and to publish "a small quarterly sheet devoted to family history and genealogy. " Those "three relatively young men" were Paul E. Sparks, age 43; William P. Johnson, age 35; and myself, age 33. My own interest in the Sparks family stemmed from the fact that Sparks was the maiden name of my wife, Melva Helen Sparks . We had been married while I was in the U .S. Army on June 13, 1942. (Melva died on April 19, 1993.).  Paul's interest in genealogy had grown out of his close personal relationship with his grandfather, Colby Sparks, who died on June 3, 1951, at the age of 93. Colby had loved to reminisce about his forefathers and pioneer times in Kentucky and, with his passing, Paul had begun genealogical research to add to the store of family lore that he had heard his grandfather recite. William P. Johnson, who had launched a professional career in genealogical research for other people, descended from a branch of the same Sparks line as did Paul .

It was in the first issue of THE SPARKS QUARTERLY, March 1953, mailed to prospective members, that we announced our proposal. We stated: "Since the three officers and founders of The Sparks Family Association were born between 1910 and 1920, they look forward to at least half a century of activity in the Association." Although the QUARTERLY is now in its 47th year of publication, we were too optimistic regarding our life spans. It was my sad duty in the December 1980 issue to announce the untimely death of William Perry Johnson, and now, in 1999, that of Paul.  I alone of the founders am left to fulfill our 1953 promise.

My acquaintanceship with Paul began early in 1952, through correspondence. The Rev. Bailey F. Davis of Franklin, Kentucky, had placed a query in a magazine called Genealogy and History regarding his wife's Sparks ancestry . I had written to him, and in his reply dated December 19, 1951, Mr. Davis had noted: "I was in the Filson Club [a genealogical and historical library in Louisville] recently and a man came in and took a chair at my table. Soon I heard him discussing with the librarian on the Sparks family, so I 'nosed in'." Mr. Davis went on to say that this man was interested primarily in the Sparkses of Lawrence County, Kentucky. "He had his line sketched on brown paper and I glanced at it. His name and address is Paul Sparks, 155 North Hite, Louisville 6, Ky." I wrote to Paul, and thus began a correspondence that continued for close to half a century. With our constant exchange of letters and information, it is not surprising that we added personal data regarding families and daily activities . We became close friends . I cannot recall our ever having a disagreement regarding the contents of the QUARTERLY nor the managing of the Association's business. We shared both the compliments and criticisms from the members, and I rarely received a letter from Paul that lacked a smiling face, or a frowning one on occasion. In our nearly half-century of communication with each other, we only met on two brief occasions, but with Paul's death, I feel that I have lost my best friend. He was both wise and learned, possessing a keen sense of humor and a forgiving nature; he was truly a kind and gentle man.

As members of the Association are well aware, Paul has written many of the articles appearing in our QUARTERLY over the years, and he has assisted scores of Sparks descendants in their research, especially those with a Kentucky connection . He completed his last article in February for the March 1999 issue. He was too weak to do his usual proofreading, however, after I had typed it.

It had been apparent in recent weeks that Paul was "slowing down." He had mentioned in a January letter his concern about renewing his driver's license at age 89, and he complained that his memory was not as keen as it once had been. Since his death I have learned from his oldest grandson, Robert L. Sparks, that he had been experiencing a shortness of breath that concerned his doctor. His beloved wife of 65 years, Mary Sue (Miller) Sparks, had fallen a number of times in recent years, and she had become confined to a wheelchair .


 Paul's gentle care for Sue, as he always called her, enabled them to remain in their home with the help of their son. In late February, however, Paul fell, breaking a shoulder and, because of his heart condition, he entered a local hospital . Shortly thereafter, Sue fell from her wheelchair, and, in a coma, was taken to the same hospital. In my last brief telephone conversation with Paul in his hospital room, his only words were, "Oh Russell, we nearly lost Sue last night." Paul died on March 4th and Sue followed him in death on the following day. Their wish that they might "go together" was fulfilled.

In reporting Paul and Sue's deaths, Philip Glamann of the Louisville Courier- Journal noted that:

. . . both started their careers at Louisville elementary schools and retired in 1973, two years before the merger of the Louisville and Jefferson County school systems. Paul Sparks left as chairman of business affairs for the city school system, and Mary Sparks retired as a teacher at Breckinridge Elementary School . Both served local schools nearly 40 years.

"They loved working with kids," said their son, Robert Sparks. "It seems like I was always in school, whether I was there or not. They were always talking about school."

. . . Paul Sparks, a native of Yatesville, had been director of pupil personnel for the city school system and principal of three elementary schools. He was an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II and a member of the alumni associations of Morehead State University, Northwestern University and Indiana University [from which he received his doctorate in education] . They were both members of St. Marks Episcopal Church. Besides their son, they are survived by five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. In addition, Paul Sparks is survived by two sisters, Dorothy Murphy and Eva Fields .

A letter pertaining to Paul's death addressed to the members of the Sparks Family Association from member Ruth Sparks Byrne appears on page 5173.

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



Included in our memo mailed with the March 1999 issue of the QUARTERLY, we noted that Vice President John K. Carmichael, Jr. was willing to assume the presidency of the Association with the death of Paul E. Sparks. We invited our members to offer support for Jack, as he is known, or to offer an alternative. Although we have by no means heard from all of our members, a substantial number have responded with a unanimous endorsement of Jack's "elevation.."  Your editor, who will continue, also, as secretary-treasurer, is delighted to have him as a partner in our continued endeavor to publish the QUARTERLY. For many years Jack has been a superb proofreader for us.

John K. Carmichael, Jr. is an active member of the patriotic society known as The Sons of the American Revolution. He descends from James Sparks (ca.1752 - 1834) a soldier of the Revolution from Pennsylvania, a record of whose life was published in the QUARTERLY of September 1994, Whole No. 167. In the September 1999 issue, we will provide a more detailed biographical sketch and a photograph of our new President.





A Review by Russell E. Bidlack

The followIng review of previously published material on the family of Richard Sparks in THE SPARKS QUARTERLY is provided here as an introduction to the article that follows devoted to Richard's son, Benjamin Sparks, who was born about 1754 in New Jersey and who died in 1801 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Each of Benjamin's four brothers, James, Walter, Richard, Jr., and Daniel, as well as their father, has been the subject of a separate article published in a past issue of the QUARTERLY .

In the QUARTERLY of December 1971, Whole No. 76, pp. 1440-46, we presented the information we had gathered relating to Richard Sparks, father of Benjamin and his four brothers named above. In that article, we called the father simply Richard Sparks. Although he had a son also named Richard, in no document of his time have we found him, the father, called "Sr." Here we also omit "Sr." in our references to him, but we will refer to as "the elder Richard" or "the senior Richard" on occasion to distinguish him from his son of the same name.

Since 1971, we have found a number of additional facts and clues regarding Richard Sparks that we will incorporate In this review of his life. There are also some corrections resulting from further research . Although in 1971, we believed that he had been born about 1725 and died about 1792, we now believe that he may have been born as early as 1720 and that we can say wIth certainty that he died in 1792.

No proof has been found regarding where Richard Sparks had been living prior to his appearance as a witness to a will in Middlesex County, New Jersey, in the autumn of 1750. He was an adult by then, and he was probably a married man. This writer continues to believe that he was probably from the Salem County, New Jersey, Sparks family that had been living there for three generations, and in which the name "Richard" was commonly used as a forename .

It was on September 3, 1750, that Richard Sparks signed his name as a witness to the will of William Story who was Identified in the will as a resident of New Brunswick in Middlesex County, New Jersey . There were two other witnesses to William Story's will: Stephen Warne and Walter Wall . Because persons who witnessed legal documents in those days were nearly always neighbors and friends of the individual creating the document, we can assume that Walter Wall, Stephen Warne, and Richard Sparks lived near William Story, and that they were well acquainted with each other . As will be seen later, both Stephen Warne and Walter Wall would become close neighbors of Richard Sparks in Pennsylvania in years to come. There may even have been family ties among them.

On March 13, 1750/51, Richard Sparks served as witness to another will, that of James Wall, also a resident of Middlesex County, New Jersey. Again, Stephen Warne was a witness; a man named John Bazley was the third witness. (The double dating here resulted from the fact that England, until the autumn of 1752, continued to use the old Julian calendar under which the New Year began on March 25, rather than the Gregorian calendar adopted by Catholic countries in Europe in 1582.)

On February 2, 1752, Benjamin Applegate, a resident of Nottinghm Township in Burlington County, New Jersey, made his will, in which he designated Richard Sparks and Walter Ward as his executors in the settlement of his estate . BenjamIn Applegate's wife, whose first name was Elizabeth, had died earlier. Applegate family historians have wondered whether Elizabeth might have been a sister of Richard Sparks .


Although we have found no evidence to support this speculation, there can be no question but that the Applegates and the Sparkses, as well as members of the Wall family, were closely associated over at least three generations . There has been a tradition among several descendants of Richard Sparks that his wife had the maiden name Applegate. Knowing that Richard Sparks was one of the executors chosen by Benjamin Applegate to administer his estate, it has been suggested that Richard could have been a son-in-law of Benjamin Applegate, but in Benjamin's identification of three daughters in his will, none was called by other than her forename; the names of married daughters usually included their married names in documents of this nature at that time . It is interesting to note, however, that, while Benjamin Applegate left little more than a token inheritance to each of his four oldest sons (Thomas, Benjamin, Jr., William, and Richard), he was more generous to his youngest son, Daniel, not yet of age, as well as to his two daughters who, likewise, were under age . As the following extract from his will indicates, his eldest daughter received only a featherbed.

. . . I give to My Daughter Johannah a feather bed in full of her portion and all the Rest of my Estate both Rale [i.e., real] and personall to be Kept att Intrestt by my Executors and theay to put my son Danel to a trade and one third of said Estate I give to son Daniel when he shall arnve att the age of twenty one years and the second third of sd. Estate I give to my daughter Alse [nickname for Alice] att the age of Eighteen years and all the Rest of my Estate I give to my Daughter Jomine [nickname for Jamima] and if any of these three Children should die before age that money to be Devided Equil Betwen the other two last named. . .
The daughters Alice and Jamima were obviously under age (18 for females), so only Johannah, whose share of the estate was a featherbed, could have been married at the time her father made his will . That Johannah could have been the wife of Richard Sparks has been discounted by some Applegate researchers in the belief that she was married to a man named John Feavel. Others, however, main tain that Johannah (Applegate) Feavel was a daughter of Benjamin Applegate's son, Richard Applegate, and was thus a granddaughter of Benjamin.

It is generally accepted among Applegate researchers that Benjamin Applegate's daughter, Alice (whom he called "Alse" in his will), was married later to Walter Wall, and that Jamima (whom he called "Jomine)," was later married to Isaac Morris.

Because Benjamin Apple gate signed his name by mark, we know that he dictated his will to someone who wrote it for him . It was the custom for a person doing the writing to serve, also, as a witness . It was James I . Redford who signed first as a witness, followed by Elizabeth Readford [sic] who signed by mark, and the third witness was William Miller who was the writer (and rather poor speller, as the above extract illustrates) . Descendants of Walter Wall, who was closely associated with the Applegate and Sparks families, are convinced that Miller misunderstood Benjamin Applegate in his dictation of his will, and that it was Walter Wall, not a man named "Walter Ward," who was the second executor for Benjamin's estate settlement. Although Walter Wall's marriage to Benjamin's daughter, Alice, had not yet occurred when her father dictated his will, perhaps there was the understanding he would become Benjamin's son-in-law in due course.

No proof has been found that the wife of Richard Sparks was Johannah Applegate, to whom Benjamin left a featherbed, and there is even another possible Applegate female who could have been his wife.


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

Map of New Jersey reproduced from Fanning's Illustrated Gazetteer of the United States (New York, Ensign, Fanning, 1855) showing location of Cranberry (now called Cranbury Center) in Middlesex County . The following information is given regarding Cranberry on p.95: "Cranberry, post-office, Middlesex Co., N.J., 22 miles N.E. of Trenton; from Washington 188 miles. Watered by Cranberry brook"

(View map)


A century ago, there was a man named J. Sutton Wall who held the post of Chief Draughtsman in the Department of Internal Affairs of Pennsylvania, and who was a descendant of Richard Sparks through Richard Sparks, Jr. Mr. Wall became in terested in his family history in 1884, according to one of his extant letters, and by 1907 he had "collected a large amount of interesting and valuable data which I hope to commence putting in intelligible shape during the coming winter." (Letter to 0. G. Wall, Friday Harbor, WA, dated September 9, 1907.) Unfortunately, all of his papers and research were lost in a fire before he could complete his project. Because he wrote numerous letters to persons whom he thought might have records that would be of interest to him, and because a number of those letters were saved by the recipients and their descendants and have been shared with the present writer, we know something of his research . In a letter that he wrote on February 14, 1906, to a Mrs. McGeehan in Parkville, Maine, who descended from both the Wall and Applegate families, he stated: "I have lately learned that my great-grandfather, Col. Richard Sparks's mother, was CHARITY APPLEGATE." Unfortunately, J. Sutton Wall did not include his source for making this assertion . (Col . Richard Sparks was Richard, Jr., son of Richard Sparks, subject of this sketch.)

Another record pertaining to the name of the wife of Richard Sparks must be noted here because of its being "in print," although it is in error. Over forty years ago, this writer corresponded with a Mrs. Sara Sparks (Lynch) Douglas of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, a great-grandchild of Benjamin Sparks, subject of the article beginning on page 5174. Mrs. Douglas, who had joined the Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution on the basis of Benjamin Sparks's service in the Revolution, was most generous in sharing her research, but she had made an unfortunate error in her DAR application that has been perpetuated in the Society's archives. Mrs. Douglas had copied two unrelated items from Vol. I of the Collections of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society that she interchanged in her note taking. Both of these records had been reproduced in the above volume from the "Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of the City of New York: Marriages from 11 December, 1639, to 26 August, 1801." Following is an accurate transcription of these two items:

(page 14) 1646, August15.. Lovis Hulet to Helena Applegate.
(page 259) 1785, Oct. 6. Richard Sparks to Elizabeth Peaceable.
In her DAR application, Mrs. Douglas stated:
"The said Benjamin Sparks was the child of Richard Sparks, born [blank], died in 1815, and his wife Helena Applegate."
It was Richard Sparks, Jr., brother of Benjamin Sparks, who died in 1815. The Helena Applegate for whom Mrs. Douglas found the 1646 marriage record not only lived a century earlier than Richard Sparks, father of Benjamin, but she was married to Lovis Hulet, while the marriage of a Richard Sparks to Elizabeth Peaceable in 1785 occurred about 35 years after Benjamin's birth. We have found no further record of the Richard Sparks who was married in New York City to Elizabeth Peaceable in 1785, but he was certainly not the Richard Sparks who is the subject of the present sketch .

It would appear that Richard Sparks of New Jersey was a member of the Presbyterian Church in the village of Cranbury (sometimes spelled "Cranberry") in the township of Cranbury in Middlesex County. (See map on page 5151.) It is interesting to note that the Sparkses of Salem County, New Jersey, were also Presbyterians. An article entitled "Records of the First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury" by Edward J. Raser appeared in The Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, Vol. XXVII, July/October 1952. Mr. Kaser stated:

The First Presbyterian Church of Cranbury was organized about 1734 to serve the area bounded by the churches at New Brunswick, Princeton, Freehold (Old Tennent), and Allentown (Upper Freehold). No place of worship was built until 1740, and until 1744 when Rev. Charles McKnight was Installed as the first pastor the congregation was dependent on supplies from other churches to perform ministerial duties . . . .
Rev . McKnight served the congregations both at Cranbury and Alle town, but after considerable conflict between the two groups, he was dismissed to the latter place in 1758. The ministry remained vacant until 1762 when Thomas Smith was installed. Rev. Smith was constantly afflicted wIth an infirmity which robbed him of much of his energy, resulting in his exercising "the opposite point of exactness" in preserving records of his service . The vacancy resulting from his sudden death In 1789 was filled by Gilbert Tennent Snowden in 1790.

Among papers in possession of the church is a brief history written by Mr. Snowden prior to his decease in 1797. In the opening paragraph he laments the "great carelessness in preserving the Records of the Church," making an accurate account of the early work of the church virtually impossible . . . .

Had marriage and baptismal records survived in the Cranbury Church, some of the mysteries regarding Richard Sparks and his family might have been solved, since a record does survive showing that on February 6, 1758, he contributed to a fund for building a parsonage for the pastor to occupy at Cranbury .

No later record pertaining to Richard Sparks has been found in New Jersey, and our earliest record of his being in western Pennsylvania is dated 1770. It appears that he owned no land in either Middlesex or Burlington County--perhaps his occupation was that of a tradesman rather than that of a farmer.

There is some reason to believe that Richard Sparks could have moved his family in the early 1760s to what was then the western frontier. We know that Richard's third son, who was also named Richard, was stolen by the Shawnee Indians when he was a small child, perhaps four or five years old. Such an occurrence could scarcely have taken place in New Jersey at that point in time . Our knowledge of little Richard's abduction is dependent upon the story having been preserved In records left by people who had known Richard, Jr . and had heard his own account of the experience .

As a U.S. Army officer in the years following the American Revolution, Richard Sparks, Jr . had advanced to the rank of colonel in the Second Division . Suffering from a severe stroke in 1814, he had been forced to resign his commission and died soon thereafter, on July 2, 1815.

A fellow officer, Col. G. W. Sevier, who was also a brother of Sparks's second wife, was interviewed years later by the historian, Lyman C . Draper, who made rather detailed notes regarding Sevier's memories of Col. Sparks. Col. Sevier, however, could not recall Sparks telling him where It was that he had been taken by the Shawnees, other than that he had been playing near his parents' home . Draper added the followIng note to his transcription of this interview: "Col . Geo . Wilson thinks Col . Sparks was captured near Pittsburgh when 4 or 5 years old - - kept till 17 or 18."  Others believed that Sparks had been 15 or 16 when he was released. In any case, we know that Richard Sparks, Jr. had been released by the Shawnees in February 1775; he must have been stolen by them between about 1763 and 1765. (Draper's manuscripts are preserved in the library of the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison; the notes taken during his interview with Col. Sevier are filed In a section labeled "30-S.")


An army officer named James Magoffin, who had once acted as Col. Sparks's secretary, stated in a letter dated November 5, 1852, that Sparks had told him that he had been captured "by the savages, when a child, near Wheeling, on the Ohio." Wheeling is some fifty miles southwest from Pittsburgh; we may wonder if Magoffin might have confused the place where he had been abducted with that where he was later released . This release was at Point Pleasant, located near the mouth of the Kanawha River, where it flows into the Ohio River.

The release of Richard Sparks, Jr. had come in February 1775 following the Battle of Point Pleasant fought in the previous October during the colonial war known as Lord Dunmore' s War . (Lord Dunmore was then the Royal Governor of Virginia and his troops were Virginians.) After their severe defeat in this battle, the Shawnees agreed to give up all of their white captives they had taken over many years. Word went out that this release would take place in the following February at Point Pleasant, and families, including parents of lost youngsters, journeyed there from afar hoping to find their lost ones . Having forgotten his parents, Sparks recalled in later years that when his mother recognized him and began to cry, he thought he was going to be burned at the stake - - the only occasion in the past when he had seen an Indian woman cry had been on such an occasion. Taking him home to what is now Forward Township in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, his parents and siblings set about "civilizing" him . What an interesting account must have been related by those parents in later years, of their arduous journey to Point Pleasant in that winter of 1775 to seek their lost boy, and with what joy they brought him home! (The Magoffin letter to Henry R. Schoolcraft appears in the latter's Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Part IV, Philadelphia, 1854, pp. 629-632.

It was noted earlier in this sketch that the elder Richard Sparks was closely associated with the Wall and Applegate families in Middlesex and Burlington Counties in New Jersey in the 1750s. This close association continued after members of all three families lived in what became, and is today, Forward Township in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The Wall family traces its history to a 17th century immigrant named Walter Wall . A record of the Wall family appears in a history of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, edited by Thomas Cushing and published in Chicago by A. Warner & Co. in 1889. The following is taken from p.439.

The Wall Family. The history of this family in America dates from an early period in the history of the country . In 1640 Lady Deborah Moody, the widow of a Wiltshire baronet, organized an association of some fifty persons who came to America and among them was Walter. This association first established at Lynn, Mass., remaining there until 1643, when they removed to Gravesend on Long Island. In the latter part of 1657 Walter Wall and others emigrated to New Jersey with their families, where they made a purchase embracing the present county of Middlesex and part of Monmouth.... Walter Wall found himself the possessor of valuable land. Here his son Garret became a man of some prominence in public affairs, his name being mentioned in Middletown town-book as receiver of taxes, and his son, Jarat, or Jarrett, was among the leading citizens. . .

James Wall, son of Humphrey Wall, and grandson of Jarrett Wall, above mentioned, together with his brother Walter, moved from their Jersey homes in 1766 to find greater freedom and change of scene in then "western wilds" west of the mountains. Arriving at the forks of the "Yough," as it was then called (which included that portion of the counties of Allegheny and Westmoreland now lying between the Youghiogheny and Monoagahela rivers, comprising the townships of Lincoln, Elizabeth, and Forward in Allegheny, and Rostraver township in Westmoreland, they built cabins, cleared the land and commenced the cultivation of the frontier land, surrounded by Indians and the wild animals of the forest. In the spring of 1769 they revisited New Jersey, and in the fall of the same year returned to their new homes with their families. Several other New Jersey families came with them, among them the Applegates, Pierces, Ketchams, Johnsons, Imlays, Smiths, and others. . . .


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

Portion of " Stream Map of  Pennsylvania" issuead by Sanitary Water Board Water and Power Resources Board, Harrisburg, showing location of Forward Township, Allegheny County, within the "Forks of the Yough."  The claim for land made by Richard Sparks was located near the letter "F" of Forward Township on this map .

(View map)


The family of Richard Sparks is not mentioned among those who accompanied the Walls back to the "forks of the Yough," yet from the location of Richard's land there, we believe there can be no doubt that he was with the Walls and Applegates from the time of their initial settlement . Considering the likely place and date of the abduction of Richard, Jr. by the Shawnee Indians, we can wonder whether it was the Richard Sparks family who may have been the first from New Jersey to the "forks of the Yough." (See map on page 5155 for this location.)

Recalling that Stephen Warne had been a witness with Richard Sparks for two wills in Middlesex County in 1750 and 1751, it is interesting to note that the Warne family also migrated to the the forks of the Yough".  The following quotation regarding the Warne family is taken from A Genealogy of the Warne Family in America by the Rev. George Warne Labaw, published in New York in 1911, p. 82.

Joseph Warne, died before 1790, quite an old man, married Dorcas Miller. Born, reared, and married in New Jersey. He and his wife, with others from New Jersey, among them the Millers, the Allens, the Parkinsons, etc., in 1768-1770, went to Western Pennsylvania and formed in the S.E. part of what is now Allegheny Co., in Forward Township, but then Westmoreland Co., and Elizabeth Township, a settlement that was at that time, and has ever since been known as "The Jersey Settlement "

The route taken from Carlisle was southwest down the valley into Maryland a few miles over the border, then west over the mountains, and north into Pennsylvania again, through what is now Bedford County to the county seat of the same name, and beyond it some distance, when the course was west and southwest to the point of destination, a matter of perhaps 175 miles, through the wilderness from Carlisle. Mr. and Mrs. Warne located on 300, or as another authority says 2784, acres of land near the present village of Sunnyside. This land was surveyed to him March 21, 1786... bounded by lands of Andrew Pearce on the north, Jonathan and Stephen Pearce on the east, Joseph Beckett, Esq. on the south, and Peter Johnston on the west. . . .

The Richard Sparks family probably followed the same route fron New Jersey to the "forks of the Yough" as did the Warne family . Stephen Warne, witness with Richard Sparks in Middlesex County, New Jersey in 1750 and 1751, is believed to have been a brother of Joseph Warne. Joseph Warne's oldest son was also named Stephen.

The boundary line between Pennsylvania and Virginia (since the Civil War that part of Virginia has been West Virginia) was in dispute as early as 1749. The matter came to a head with the beginning of the French and Indian War when both colonies feared that the French, with their Indian allies, would invade their western borders. The governors of the two colonies recognized the need for an American fort at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, but it was Virginia's Governor Dinwiddie who set out to build such a fort in the summer of 1754. He also announced that he would recruit a military force of sufficient strength to defend the area, and that such recruits would be rewarded with land grants east of the Ohio River . While agreeing on the need for such a fort, Governor Hamilton of Pennsylvania notified Governor Dinwiddie that under his own colony's Royal Charter, the proposed Virginia fort was in Pennsylvania and that the land that Dinwiddie was offering to volunteer soldiers was Pennsylvania land. Dinwiddie, however, proceeded with his plan.


We here quote from a lengthy account of the Pennsylvania and Virginia Controversy that was prepared by Major Robert H . Foster as an introduction to a record of the "Virginia Entries" published in the Pennsylvania Archives, Series 3, Vol. 3:


(In the QUARTERLY of December 1990, we published an article entitled "Charles Sparks (ca.1730-ca.1771) of Maryland & Pennsylvania" pertaining to a Sparks family unrelated to Richard Sparks, that settled on land included in the part of the Pennsylvania and Virginia disputed territory that became Washington County in Pennsylvania . This Charles Sparks and hIs brothers, George and William, sons of Joseph Sparks who died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749, believed that their "Tomahawk Claims" were in Virginia. See also an earlier issue of the QUARTERLY, that of June 1963, Whole No. 42, pp. 728-35, for an article on the brothers of Charles Sparks, George and William.)

Although we will probably never know exactly when and how the boundary lines between the Jersey Settlement "squatters" were agreed upon, it was the old "metes and bounds" system that was used, often resulting In very odd shapes. The typical such claim was for 300 acres, although when actual surveys were made, the acreage was seldom exactly 300. As seen on the land map shown on page 5163 Richard Sparks's 300-acre tract, which actually turned out to be 308, was bordered by those of old New Jersey friends (perhaps relatives), named Applegate: Samuel, Benjamin, William, and Daniel, as well as James Wall. Close by were the claims of other former New Jersey neighbors: John Imbly, Andrew Pearce, Daniel Thompson, Joseph Warne, and John McClure.

William Penn and his heirs were the initial owners of all the land comprising the colony of Pennsylvania, selling or granting it to individuals and groups through the years. Called the colony's "Proprietaries," the Penns remained loyal to Eng land from the commencement of the American Revolution . John N . Boucher in his History of Weatmoreland County, Pennsylvania (New York: Lewis Pub. Co., 1906) explalned the following course of events in this regard.

Our state government by its representatives which followed the Declaration of Independence, rightly reasoned that a power siding with a foreign nation at war with us should not hold such dominion over any considerable part of a free commonwealth. Therefore, on June 28, 1779, they passed the "Divesting Act," which took from the Penns most of their territory, leaving them only private reservations, and vested it in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Although the new Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began granting patents to land not previously granted by the Penns, it did not attempt to do so in the vast area claimed also by Virginia.   The immigrants in the "Jersey Settlement" thus had to wait until 1785, when the U.S. Congress settled the Pennsylvania/Virginia dispute, to apply for warrants for the purchase of the tracts on which they had been living as squatters.

When immigrants first began squatting on land that would come to be called the "Jersey Settlement," it was in Rostraver Township in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. In 1771, Bedford County was created from Cumberland, and the "Jersey Settlement" became a part of the new county, still in Rostraver Township . A tax list survives for Bedford County in 1773 on which appears the name of Richard Sparks; his tax was four shillings. Later that same year, however, because of the growing population, the county of Westmoreland was cut off from Bedford County, with Rostraver now a township in that new county . Then, in 1788, the "Jersey Settlement" was contained in still another new county, that of Allegheny.  During the next 62 years,all or parts of eleven other Pennsylvania counties were created from Allegheny,  but the "Jersey Settlement" remained within Allegheny County (its southern end), comprising the township of Elizabeth . In 1869, Forward Township, containing what had once been Richard Sparks's land, was cut off from Elizabeth Township.


Just as Pennsylvania had organized the disputed territory within its system of county government, so also had Virginia. Virginia included it initially within its county of Augusta; but in 1775, however, Virginia formed the District of West Augusta to govern the area.  Then on January 6, 1777, this "District" was divided into three distinct counties: Monongahela, Ohio, and Yohogania. The "Jersey Settlement" was now within Virginia's Yohogania County.

Early in the 20th Century, an historian named Boyd Crumrine discovered that the minutes of the court for Yohogania County, between December 23, 1776, and August 1780, had been preserved by the Washington County, Pennsylvania, Historical Society, while similar records for Ohio County were in the County Court in Wheeling, West Virginia. Crumrine also located land and probate records during the brief period that the District of West Augusta existed . He transcribed and published these records over the years 1902 to 1905 in an obscure publication called the Annals of the Carnegie Museum . This work has since been republished by the Genealogical Pub . Co. of Baltimore.

Fortunately, through this Virginia source, we have found the references to Richard Sparks, given below. (The page numbers are from Vol. II of the Annals..., all pertaining to Yohogania County.)

At a Court Continued and held for Yohogania County, August 24, 1778...
Samuel Ketchum had died intestate, and at the same meeting of this county court Elizabeth Ketchum, his widow, and William Ketchum, his brother, had been appointed to administer this estate. When the court met again on October 26, 1778, the follow ing entry was made in the Yohogania County Minute Book (p.268). The widow of Samuel Ketchum named Elizabeth, was Elizabeth Sparks. Without doubt she was a daughter of the elder Richard Sparks. She was married, second, to Moses Kuykendell, a widower. See page 5173 for further information about her.

Typical of settlers on a new frontier, those of the "Jersey Settlement" soon gave attention to their need for roads, the building and maintenance of which being the responsibility of the owners of land in their vicinity . When a petition was presented to the justices of a county court regarding the need for a road in a given place, it was customary for the court to appoint men in the immediate area to "view" whether, indeed, a road was needed and, if so, where. At the Yohogania County Court meeting on April 27, 1779, the following action was taken (p.334).

The next minute pertaining to this proposed road was made during a meeting of the justices May 24. 1779. (p. 344)


Another Yohogania County Court minute pertaining to Richard Sparks is dated October 27, 1779, and it also pertains to his involvement with a road. (p. 395)

In the colonial period, county courts, comprised of the justices of the peace within the county, regulated the amount individuals could charge the publlc for certain specified services, such as proprietors of ordinaries (inns and taverns), millers, and ferry boat operators . Itappears that in 1779 a man named James Gray, who frequently was charged as a transgressor in one form or another in Yohoganla County, had charged for providing a ferry boat service across the Monongahela River without obtaining a license. One of the persons so served was Richard Sparks. The court minute (p. 342) is as follows, dated April 1779: It is interesting to note that at the next meeting of this court, on May 24, 1779, it was The inhabitants of the "Jersey Settlement" must have found it awkward to be subject to two rival county courts, one in Pennsylvania and the other in Virginia, but the problem was finally solved by the Revolutionary War . The Penn family and the Royal Governor of Virginia were no longer factors in this long dispute, and it was now in the interest of both states to cooperate in helping to gain in dependence from England . Commissioners representing the two states met in Baltimore, and on August 31, 1779, they agreed "To extend Mason and Dixon's line due west five degrees of longitude, to be computed from the river Delaware, for the southern boundary of Pennsylvania, and that a meridian drawn from the western extremity thereof to the northern limit of the said State be the western boundary of Pennsylvania forever." Both states ratified this agreement in 1780, but there were delays and the surveys required were not completed until 1785. These boundary lines were promptly approved by the Continental Congress, and the" Jersey Settlement" was now officially a part of Pennsylvania.

A Congressional Act of April 1, 1784, now became effective for the state of Pennsylvania to sell "unappropriated lands" enabling squatters, including Richard Sparks, in the Forks of the Yough to begin the procedure to acquire legal possession of their "tomahawk claims."


The first step that a squatter in the Forks of the Yough was required to take to claim "vacant land," (i.e. land not previously claimed) was to request that a warrant be issued to him. A warrant was not a title in itself, but when granted it was an order from the state's Land Office to the Surveyor General of Pennsylvania to have the tract located and surveyed. It was the Surveyor General who, in person or by a deputy, then determined whether there had been an earlier claimant and, if not, he conducted the survey and reported his findings back to the Land Office. A warrant was then issued to the claimant with which the individual could then request a patent, which was equivalent to a deed, at the same time making the required payment (ten pounds per 100 acres) .

It was on July 10, 1786, at which time the "Jersey Settlement" was still within Rostraver Township in Westmoreland County, that the Land Office requested John Lukens, the Surveyor General, to make the survey of Richard Sparks's claim. The official copy of this 1786 document survives at the Bureau of Archives and History of the Division of Land Records in Harrisburg and is reproduced on page 5162. The most interesting date on this document is that following the words "Interest to commence from the..."  The meaning of these words was "the earliest date of habitation by law ," i.e. , the year in which the individual claimed to have made improvements and had begun living on his tract of land. While the final digit of the year written on Richard Sparks's warrant is blurred, other records prove that it was intended for the "first of March 1770."

As noted earlier, descendants of the Wall family have long stated that James and Walter Wall had gone to the Forks of the Yough in 1766 and had returned for their families in 1768. Yet the "Interest to commence" date on each of their warrants was given as the "first day of March 1769." There is good reason to assume, we believe, that Richard Sparks had marked off his claim at least as early as the Wall brothers had marked off theirs.

As will be seen from the portion of the township land map reproduced on page 5163, the tract (308 acres) for which Richard Sparks obtained a warrant dated July 10, 1786, was bordered by land claimed by the following: Samuel Applegate, James Wall, Benjamin Applegate, James Dean, Andrew Pearce, Daniel Applegate, and Daniel Thompson. While we do not have copies of the warrants for all seven of these individuals, it is interesting to note that James Wall claimed to have settled on his tract of land (300 acres that, when surveyed, comprised over 322 acres) on March 1, 1769, as did also Walter Wall, whose tract adjoined that of James Wall. Thomas Applegate's tract adjoining that of James Dean was also dated from April 1, 1769. Daniel Applegate, however, dated his claim as of March 1, 1775. Benjamin Applegate's tract was described in its warrant as "Four hundred Acres of Land including an Improvement adjoining land of Walter Wall, James Wall, Richard Sparks, and William Applegate in Rostraver Township." When surveyed, however, Benjamin Applegate's tract was found to comprise only 397 and a quarter acres. Richard Sparks's warrant described his tract as "Three hundred Acres of Land including an Improvement on the waters of Applegate Run adjoining land of Benjamin Applegate and others in Rostraver Township."

As shown on the warrant of Richard Sparks, he believed that his claim contained 300 acres. When it was surveyed, however, it was found to comprise a total of 308 acres. The survey was conducted on May 15, 1787.


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

The elder Richard's warrant for his land claim.

(View photograph)


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

A small portion of a map showing land grants in what was then Rostraver Township,Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, now within Forward Township in Allegheny County. Located within a bend of the Monongahela River, across from Washington County, the elder Richard Sparks's claim (for 300 acres) was found to contain 308 acres when surveyed. His warrant was dated July 10, 1786; it was surveyed on May 15, 1787. His warrant from the State of Pennsylvania is reproduced on page 5162.

(View photograph)


On May 1, 1786. even before receiving his warrant. Richard Sparks signed an "agreement" that was recorded many years later in Allegheny County Deed Book 35, p. 310. This document reads as follows:

Know all men by these presents that I Richard Sparks of Rostraver Township and County of Westmoreland and State of Pennsylvania am holden and firmly bound unto Benjamin Sparks, of the same place, his heirs, executors, administrators & assigns in the Just sum of Four hundred pounds of good and lawful money of Pennsylvania unto the which payment well and truly to be made and dune. I do hereby bind myself my heirs, executors, and administrators firmly by these presents, sealed with our Seals, dated the First day of May one Thousand seven hundred and eighty six. The Condition of the above obligation is such that the above bounded Richard Sparks, his heirs, executors & administrators, do well and truly make over and convey unto the above named Benjamin Sparks, his heirs, Executors or administrators & assigns, a certain tract or plantation whereon the said Benjamin Sparks now lives Containing, One hundred and forty eight Acres, at or upon the First day of October next then his present obligation to be void and of no effect, or else to be and remain in full force and virtue .
Signed sealed & delivered in the presence  of                  his
                    Benjamin  X Applegate and
      [Signed] Richard Sparks

Thomas Pears


Twenty-three years after this document was signed by Richard Sparks, a justice of the peace named Joseph Beckett added the followIng statement to it.

Allegheny County S.S.

Before me, Joseph Beckett, one of the justices of the Peace for the County aforesaid personally came Thomas Pears one of the subscribing Witnesses to the obligation annexed to this piece of paper whereon these presents is wrote, and being sworn as Law directs, deposeth and saith that he was personnally present heard and saw Richard Sparks therein named, sign, Seal and deliver the same as for his act and deed, and the name Benjamin Applegate was acknowledged by the said Benjamin by putting his mark there, to which he subscribed as a witness thereto of such selling and delivering and that the named Thomas Pears is of the proper Handwriting of this afformant, which he subscribed as witness of such sealing and delivery.
[signed] Thomas Pears
Sworn and subscribed gefore me the sixth day of November
A. Domini 1809
[signed] Joseph Beckett
Recorded 5 May, 1829, 
book 38, p. 310(

The significance of the fact that this "agreement" was never converted into a deed, and the delayed date of Joseph Beckett's affirmation, after which a decade passed before it was recorded in the deed book cited above, will be explained later in this article. 

The Family Of Richard Sparks, (ca. 1720/25-1792 ),  is continued on the next page (wn186b)
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Scanned and Edited by Harold E. Sparks