"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. 4||December 1999||WHOLE NO. 188a|
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[Here appears a photograph, beneath which is the following caption:]
John G. Sparks 1811-1891
|THE SPARKS QUARTERLY, published by The
Sparks Family Association.
John K. Carmichael, Jr., President,
A. Harold Sparks, Vice President,
Russell E. Bidlack, Secretary-Treasurer
The Sparks Family Association was founded
in March 1953 as a non-profit organization devoted to assembling and preserving
genealogical and historical materials pertaining to the Sparks Family in
America. It is exempt from federal tax under the provisions of the Internal
Revenue Code, Section 503(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.
Orders for individual back issues of the Quarterly and the table of contents, as well as for a complete file, should be sent to the editor, Russell E, Bidlack, 1709 Cherokee Road, Ann Grbor, MI, 48104-4498. His Telephone number is: 734-662-5080; He Has no E-mail address.
TWO SONS OF BAXTER AND ELIZABETH (GWIN) SPARKS
John Gwin Sparks (1811-1891) & William Andrew Jackson Sparks (1828-1904)
In the OUARTERLY of March 1998, Whole No. 181, we began publishing portions of the autdbiography of David Rhodes Sparks (1823-1901) and, in this same issue, provided information on his Sparks ancestry. David Rhodes Sparks was one of ten children born to Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, records of whose family had previously appeared in the QUARTERLY of March 1972, Whole No. 77.
David Rhodes Sparks gave brief biographical sketches of his nine siblings in the early pages of his autobiography, but he gave relatively little regarding: his brother, John Gwin Sparks. Noting that John had died in 1891 in Olympia, Washington,
and that he had not seen him during the last forty years of his life, he added: "I know little of his life.'' He gave somewhat more information regarding his youngest brother, William Andrew Jackson Sparks, born November 15, 1828. We also have a rather detailed sketch of William's life taken from a local history, beginning on page 5249.
We are fortunate to have photographs of both of these brothers, that for John is reproduced on the cover of this issue of the QUARTERLY, while that for William is on page 5250. These, along with biographical material on John G. Sparks, have been provided by Sylvia J. Sparks Smith, 7890 W. Thompson Rd., Kinross, Michigan, 49752. Mrs. Smith is a great-great-granddaughter of John G. Sparks and his first wife, Rebecca Casey. She has also provided copies of three letters written by John to Rebecca on his way to, and after his arrival at, California in 1852/53, which we give below. We are also able to provide information regarding the children of John G. Sparks's only son, Francis Marion Sparks, from a family Bible record now owned by Mrs. Mary Lou Hall of Decatur, Michigan. As noted above, John Gwin Sparks was born on September 11, 1811, the third child of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks.
The name Gwin was spelled "Gwynne" in some early records, and there is evidence that the Gwin family and the Sparks family were neighbors on Sandy River in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, before Baxter Sparks moved to Kentucky about 1802, settling near Louisville. By 1810, Baxter had moved to Harrison County, Indiana; on the federal census of that year, he was shown as living in Harrison Township. The name following that of Baxter on this 1810 census was "John Gwin," whose age was given as over 45. From this, as well as other records, and the naming pattern of Baxter's children, we believe that Elizabeth was a daughter of this John Gwin.
According to a family Bible record published in the QUARTERLY of March 1972, cited above, Baxter Sparks and Elizabeth Gwin were married on September 20, 1806. Elizabeth had been born on May 1, 1786; Baxter had been born on May 8, 1777. He died on September 7, 1840; Elizabeth died on March 24, 1844. Both were buried in a private burial ground on Baxter's farm located north of Staunton, Macoupin County, Illinois, where they had finally settled in or about 1837.
John Gwin Sparks was in his mid-twenties when his parents moved to Macoupin County; he did not accompany them, however; instead, he settled in Williamson County, Illinois. It was there, in Sarahville, a village that no longer exists, that he was married to Rebecca Casey on January 16, 1834. She and John seem to have spelled her name "Rebeckah," but others used the traditional spelling, Rebecca.
In his brief sketch of John G. Sparks, David Rhodes Sparks recalled that John had "first learned the hatters trade and worked at his trade for a number of years, but tired of this business and turned to the study of law, which he practiced for the remainder of his life." According to the History of Williamson County by Mile Erwin, published in 1876, John's hat shop had been in the town square of Marion, the county seat of Williarnson County.
The family record of Baxter Sparks that we published in the March 1972 issue of the QUARTERLY, [ Whole No. 101], pp.1466-68, lists the births of three children of John G. Sparks. From other records, we know that they were his and Rebecca's children, as follows:
born January 2, 1836.
Elizabeth S, Sparks, born February 18, 1838.
Francis M. Sparks, born May 21, 1840.
From the family Bible record that belonged to the son, Francis Marion Sparks, we know that both of the daughters of John G. and Rebecca (Casey) Sparks died in childhood, Elizabeth on September 14, 1843, and Mary on September 7, 1852. As noted earlier, the Bible is now owned by Mrs. Mary Lou Hall of Decatur, Michigan, who is a granddaughter of Francis Marion Sparks.
According to the 1905 Historical Souvenir of Williamson County by J. F. Wilcox, John G. Sparks began to study law in 1841, doubtless by "reading law" in the office and library of a local lawyer, and after three years of study, he opened a law office in Jonesboro, the county seat of Union County, Illinois. (The SW corner of Williamson County and the NE corner of Union County adjoin for a short distance.) Three years later, however, he moved his law office to Murphysboro, the county seat of Jackson County, llinois. (Jackson County adjoins both Union and Williamson Counties, so his moves were not very far.) It was in Murphysboro that John G. Sparks appeared on the 1850 census with his wife, Rebecca, his daughter, Mary (age 14), and his son, Francis M. (age 10).
It was in the late winter or early spring in 1852 that John G. Sparks set out for California by way of the Isthmus of Panama. It was in Panama City, on the Pacific side of the Isthmus, that John wrote to Rebecca on March 6, 1852. This is the first of several letters in the possession of Mrs. Hall. Of these, three have been copied by Sylvia Smith and are transcribed following the present article.
The great Gold Rush to California had begun in 1849, and the "gold fever" continued to lure thousands to the "New Eldorado" each year during the early 1850s, even though most of these immigrants failed to find the riches of which they dreamed. Two of John's brothers, David Rhodes Sparks and Edmond 8. Sparks, had gone overland to California in 1850. Edmond had died there on October 5, 1850, not long after his arrival in the "Gold Fields," and by the spring of 1851 David concluded that he would not find in California the wealth he had dreamed of and returned home with a total of $300. We assume that John knew of Edrnond's death and David's failure to "strike it rich" before starting on his own venture west in 1852.
As noted, it was in the old city of Panama, which John G. Sparks spelled "Panamy," that he wrote to his wife on March 6, 1852, while waiting for a sailing craft in which to continue to San Francisco. From the contents of this letter, we know that John had written to Rebecca earlier in his journey. His other two letters shared with us by Mrs. Smith were written in the spring and summer of 1853 from Columbia on the Stanislaus River of northern California.
It is at this point in our tracing the life of John Gwin Sparks that we encounter a mystery. While his letters clearly indicate that he planned to return home to Illinois after finding enough gold to pay various debts that he owed, as well as support his family, we know that he never did actually come back to Rebecca and his surviving son, Francis M. Sparks. When the 1860 census was taken, he was shown as a lawyer living in The Dalles, Wasco County, Oregon.
When the 1860 census was taken of Williamson County, Illinois, Rebecca Sparks was shown as living within the Marion School District; she had no real estate and only $150 worth of personal property. No occupation was shown for her. Living with her was her 20-year-old son, Francis M. Sparks; no occupation was recorded for him. When the 1870 census was taken, Rebecca was living in Carbondale in Jackson County, Illinois. She now owned real estate valued at $1,500 and personal property worth $200. Her occupation was given as "Hotel Keeping," and the names of nine adults, with a variety of surnames, follow as members of her "household," all being guests in her hotel.
According to the family Bible record that once belonged to Rebecca's son, Francis M. Sparks, Rebecca died on November 2, 1878. Sylvia Sparks Smith, John and Rebecca' s great-granddaughter , has written the following regarding John G. Sparks in California, Oregon, and Washington:
In a letter dated January 9, 1853, John told that his mine had been claimed by another company, but that after going to court for four or five weeks, the Miners Committee ruled in his favor, and he got his mine back. On June 29, 1854, he wrote that he had sold the mine
for $900. President Lincoln appointed him Assessor of Internal Revenue in 1861 at Olyrnpia, Washington. He held this position until Lincoln's assassination. According to a weekly newspaper called the Marion Intelligencer, Rebecca applied there for a divorce from John G. Sparks on July 20, 1860. When John learned of this, he appealed to the Washington Territorial Legislature grant him a divorce, thus sparing Rebecca from disgrace, which could not have been done through the courts. From the letters that I have, it seems that he intended to return to Illinois. He married a lady named Margaret, and they had two daughers, Millie and Sarah. Millie was born on June 23, 1863; Sarah was two years younger than Millie, but I do not have a date for her birth. Margaret had been born on September 18, 1837; she died on May 4, 1867; John G. Sparks then married Margaret Scott Paimatier on June 7, 1868. They remained together until his death in 1891.When the 1870 census was taken in Olympia, Thurston County, Washington, John G. Sparks was shown as 58 years old; his third wife, Margaret, was shown as 49; she was a native of Georgia. Margaret's daughter by a previous marriage, Evelyne Brewer, was 14 years old, born in Oregon. John's two daughters by his second wife, whose name had also been Margaret, were shown as Millie, age 7, and Sarah, age 5; both had been born in Washington Territory. Also living in his household in 1870 was Benjamin Riley, age 9, who had also been born in Washington Territory.
We have not been able to identify this lad. A letter written some fifty years ago to the editor by a Mrs. Nina W. Clark, living in Berkeley, California, contains the information that the third wife of John G. Sparks had had the maiden name of Margaret Isabella Scott, born in 1820 in Abbeville, South Carolina. She had been married, first, to William A. Brewer and, second, to Henry L. Palimiter, before her marriage to John G. Sparks in 1868.
When John Gwin Sparks died in November 1891, his obituary appeared in a newspaper, the Morning Olympian of November 15, 1891, under the heading: "ANOTHER OLD CITIZEN GONE, The Aged Judge Sparks Passes From Earth." We give the text below, but must note that the date given there for his going to California is in error.
Judge John G. Sparks died Saturday morning at 12:30 o'clock, at the advanced age of 80 years. The health of the judge had been failing for some time, and his system was not able to withstand the attack of pneumonia from which he suffered during a few days preceding his death. He leaves three children, Frank of Marion, Ills., and Mrs. Charles Peterson and Mrs. J. S. Brewer. The funeral services will be held at 1:30 o'clock this afternoon at the Methodist church, and will be conducted by Rev. F. E. Drake. The Masonic burial service will be read at the grave, the deceased having been a member of the Olympia Masonic lodge for many years. The lodge held a meeting last evening to make arrangements for the funeral. The county bar association held a meeting yesterday and appointed Judges Root, Allen and Porter a committee on resolutions of respect. The following attorneys were selected to act as honorary pall-bearers: B. F. Dennison, N. S. Porter, M. A. Root, J. R. Mitchell, O. C. Lacey, and T. N. Allen. Judge Sparks was born in Indiana in 1811. He removed to Illinois in 1832, and was admitted to the bar in that state. He came to the Pacific coast in 1844 [error, see above] locating in California and practicing his profession there until 1857 when he removed to The Dalles, OR, and later located at Walla Walla. He was appointed while a resident of the latter city collector of internal revenue, by President
Lincoln, and soon thereafter moved to Olympia in 1862. He held office until 1865.
He succeeded John Miller Murphy as territorial auditor in 1870. For many years he served as justice of the peace in this city. He was a dan of high character and honorable life. For more than a score of years he was a faithful member of the Methodist church. In politics he was a stalwart Republican, though a brother of Andrew Jackson Sparks, the land commissioner of the Cleveland administration.
Gravestone of John Gwin Sparks (1811-1891)
The grave of John Gwin Sparks, with those of his second and third wives, is in the cemetery at Tumwater, Washington. The above photograph was taken by Daniel R. Crane, a great-great-grandson of John. Besides the inscription for John on his monument, that for his second wife reads:
On the third side of the stone is an inscription for John's third wife, whose maiden name had been Margaret Isabella Scott.
The Frank Sparks mentioned in John's obituary was Francis M. Sparks, his son by his first wife, Rebecca, while the two daughters were Millie and Sarah, the children of his second wife, Margaret (-----) Sparks.
We have noted above that the family record of Francis M. Sparks has been preserved by Mary Lou Hall. The following information is from this record:
Francis M. Sparks was married twice. His first wife was Frances Ann Sikman; they were married February 17, 1863, in Marion, Williamson County, Illinois She had been born in Marion on April 14, 1842; she died on May 22, 1881. Francis was married, second, to Mary Jane Pease "at the Residence of the Bride's Parents" on December 24, 1882. She had been born at Crab Orchard, Williamson County, on May 31, 1863. The date of her death is not included in this family record. Following the entry for the birth of Francis M. Sparks on April 21, 1840, written in a different hand, is: "Died Feb. 26, 1926, Buried Lakeside Cemetery, Decatur, Michigan."
By his first wife, Frances Ann, Francis M. Sparks was the father of nine children :
1. Infant daughter, born November 24, 1863; died on the same day.
2. Edger Sparks, born June 20, 1865; died May 3, 1918.
3. Charles A. Sparks, born July 27, 1867; died January 10, 1950.
4. John Gee Sparks, born October 2, 1869; died on February :6, 1892.
5. Mary Elizabeth Sparks, born July 12, 1871; died on September 27, 1943.
6. Henrietta R. Sparks, born March 20, 1874; died on August 15, 1963.
7. Robert L. Sparks, born March 18, 1876; died on Decem5er 29, 1961.
8. Infant son, born August 7, 1879; died on the same day.
9. Frances Ann Sparks, born May 11, 1881; died on January 22, 1962.
By his second wife, Mary J. Pease, Francis M. Sparks was the father of five
10. Benjamin Franklin Sparks, born January 4, 1884; he died on February, 20, 1956.
11. Francis Bert Sparks, born September 16, 1886.
12. Jessie Lanore Sparks, born September 11, 1889; died on October 12, 1892.
13. Guinn McCoy Sparks, born May 18, 1892.
14. Harry Clement Sparks, born September 24, 1894.
Following are the three letters written by John Gwin Sparks to his first wife, Rebecca (Casey) Sparks, that have been photocopied for us by Sylvia Sparks Smith from the originals owned by Mary Lou Hall.
In the first, dated March 6, 1852, note that he spelled Rebecca's name as, apparently, it was spelled in the family. He indicates that he had written to her earlier. We can assume that he had probably travelled by boat down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, then by a larger ship to Chagras on the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama. He would have crossed the Isthmus by means of transportation provided by the natives, twenty miles by mule path and the remainder by boat on the Chagras River to Panama City on the Pacific side. The Mary and Francis about whose schooling he wrote were, of course, his two living children, while "Nelson" was his younger brother, Nelson Matthew Sparks, born March 21, 1814, who was shown on the 1850 census as living in Jackson County, Illinois, with his wife, Sarah A. Sparks. His occupation was that of school teacher.
[Editor's Note: In transcribing these letters, we have retained John G. Sparks's spelling such as "guit" for get, "onley" for only, and "sipose" for suppose. John Sparks was careless in his use of punctuation and capitalization, and where needed for ease of reading, we have added a minimum amount of punctuation and capitalization to mark the beginning of a new sentence. These letters were written before the use of envelopes had become common and before postage stamps had been introduced outside large cities. As was customary, these letters were folded and secured with wax seals, with a blank portion of the fold used for the address. Postage was paid in those days by the recipient, with the cost based on distance. The March 6, 1852, letter below was addressed to: "Mrs. Rebeckah Sparks, Murphrysboro, Ills."]
Panamy South America March 6th 1852
I take the last opportunity I shall have until I arrive at the mining Region of writing to you, you perhaps have received a letter I wrote on my arrival at this place in which I informed you that I had not got with Dr. Johnson. Since the writing of which, he has arrived here and we are now together and have both taken passage to San Francisco on the Sail Ship Bark Emorey [?] and the probability is we will guit there in about 6 or 8 weeks at which time I will write if I am spared to guit there. Dr. Johnson sends you his best wishes and requests you to let his wife know where he is and that his health is good. He has also wrote to Mary this day if she receives it. My health has been good ever since I have been here and hope it may continue, if so you will hear from me, though donot be uneasy for letters are very uncertain. Do the best you can, and be aassured as soon as posable I will assist you and if I have good luck will send Mary money to pay for sending her off to school. In your letter to me let me know whether her and Francis are going to school or not and whether there is any at Murphysboro, and all other information you can. Tell Nelson not to be uneasy, that he shall not suffer, that I will make up any loss he may sustain by my not paying him his money and that I will send it as soon as I can make it. The prospects in the mines are very flatering. We have met a great many persons from there and they all seem to have plenty of the gold dust and say any man can do well if they will save it. I was so hurried I did not write to neither of the Schwartzes. If they come to see you tell them not to foreclose their Mortgagis, that I will send the interest due as soon as I can. I will also send Brush his money as soon as I can guit it and for them not to be uneasy. I will send money to pay all my debts as quick as posable, we will be off from here today. Donot fail to write once in every 2 weeks whether you receive mine or not.Rebeckah SparksWith the greatest Respect
I Remain your Effectionate husband
John G. Sparks
N.B. Dr. Johnson says he will guit me in business for his brother
if he can. So I have some hopes of that, if not I shall go on to the mines.
If you receive this before court, tell Joshua Allen that there is
a case in Pulaski County against a man by the name of Longwood for Bigamy,
and the inditement doz not show hwo [who] his first wife was. I wish him to attend
to it for me. He has paid me for it.
J. G. Sparks
[Editor's Note: The second letter of John G. Sparks shared with us by Sylvia Sparks Smith is dated July 10, 1853. In this, John mourns the death of his and Rebecca's daughter, Mary, in a way to suggest that he had learned of her passing but a short time before. She had actually died ten months earlier, on September 7, 1852. She had been born on January 2, 1836, so had been sixteen years old when her father had left for California. (Mary's sister, mentioned by John, had been his and Rebecca's other daughter, Elizabeth, who had died September 14, 1843, at the age of five years. Their only remaining child now was their son, Francis.)
It will be noted that John also mentioned in this letter that he had received a letter from his brother, Nelson Sparks, telling of the death of their brother, Wesley. This was Wesley H. Sparks, born May 23, 1816, who had died on August 7, 1852. We cannot identify the Willis Allen whose letter John mentioned having received, nor the Joshua Allen whom he mentioned in his letter of March 6, 1852. We wonder if there may have been a family relationship between Rebecca and these Allens.
[The village of Columbia from which John dated his two 1853 letters remains a village today, with a population of about 500, on the Stanislaus River, a short distance from Sonora, the county seat of Tuolumne County.]
Columbia July 10th 1853
Dear Wife & Sone
I again have a leasure day to write to you, and have onley this
sorce of happiness and the hope of meeting you once more in this world
to console me at this dreadfull hour. I am farr from all that is dear to
me and of that litle all, one is gone for ever in this world. Yet she is
in my dreams in the watch hours of the night, and noon day her image
and beautiful form stands before me, Oh how litle did I think when I
took that litle hand that was to write to me every two weeks, that it
would be stoped in death, and those beautiful eyes should meet mine no
more forever. But she is gone to a happier home and is far from the
troubles of this world and is now around the throne of God shouting and
singing praises to the Lord with her dear Sister that went before. My
Dear Wife we can onley strive to meet them there, and to rais the re-
maining Babe in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And with that we
have the promise "us and our house hold" be faithfull to the end. And
with the blessing of God I will take new curage and strive to serve him
more and more unto the perfect day.
I received a letter from Nelson las week which informed me you
were both well and also of the Death of Wesley, Also I received one
from Willis Allen, wrote while he was there at court in which I was in-
formed you wer going home with him, but could not tell whether you
disigned making that your home untill my return or not, and I am at a
loss to know where to direct my letters, though I shall continue as
heretofore untill you instruct me otherwise. I am willing for you to use your
pleasure in regard to whare you will live untill my return, Onley requesting
that Francis is continued at School all the time if posibel. I have no news
that I think would interest you more than the Mining interest which is tolera-
ble good. As to my own claim I can say but litle since I rote to you last. It
is not paying us very well - - in my next I will continue the amounts taken out
and leave you to see how uncertain Mining is. The prospects are indeed
florishing and I sipose I could now receive one thousand dollars for my right,
or at any rate one of my partners told me last week he was offered nine hun-
dred seventy five dollars for his. Yet it may turn out not to be worth that
You will see by the paper I send you that we had a celebration on the 4th
and of course I was with the Masons. I forwarded you one hundred dollars
two weeks since which I hope you have received. I am in good health.
I will for ever remain yours in Love and Effection
John G. Sparks
Rebeckah and )
Francis Sparks )
N.B. I have this day wrote to William Allen that if you should be at his
house he may inform you of the draft I sent to you at Murphrysborough.
I have enclosed a gold dollar to each of you. I wish Francis to learn
how to take care of his money. Oh that blessed Boy, if Pap could see him.
J. G. S,
And I hope he will not
neglect to write at least
every two weeks if he
can onley write how
you are guitting along. That is of infinate importence to Father.
My Boy writes like a man of business.
[Editor's Note: John G. Sparks wrote to his wife and son again from Columbia, California, on August 27, 1853. we cannot identify the "Brother Bird" whom he mentioned in this letter. Perhaps he was referring to a Masonic "brother."]
Columbia August 27, '53
Dear Companion and Sone,
I imbrace this leasure moment to write you a few lines, and can say
through the blessing of God I am in good health at this time, though I
have been quite unwell for a bout two weeks with Dyse [dysentery] and
Piles so as to be unable to do much work but am now entirely over it.
There are scarcely any news here, what little there is you will see
by the papers I send you. I promised in my last letter I would send you
the amounts I have taken out of my claim since my purchase. I will now
give it to you jest as it was taken so you may see how uncertain mining is.
The statement will [show] after all expenses paid as a company,
|June the 10th||Dividen for 3 days||$57.00|
|July 28th||Dividen||11.-- [?]|
|August 13th||Dividen||68.2- [?]|
|August 20th||Dividen||21.8 [?]|
|August 27th||Dividen||37.8- [?]|
Making in all in 10 & one half weeks $448.7- [?]
The above statement will shew you about what I am doing. I thinkBord and other private expenses not less than $100.00The entire gain $348.7- [?]
from the appearance of the claim, I think the prospects more favorable and
I hope to do better. I wrote to you before I had bought a claim in the
River. The water has kept up so we have not been able to work it any
as yet and cannot tell you any thing about that yet, but will let you know
in due time.
I have again to complain about you not writing. I was much dis-
apointed and mortified by not receiving a letter last mail, and hope
you will not neglect to write again. I have wrote several letters to
Brother Bird by his request and have received no answer. It has
made me think somethings was wrong. Write to me if you know what
I enclose a few peices of specimens of gold to Francis to shew
him what Pap is taking out of the ground.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
William Andrew Jackson Sparks (1828-1904)
[Editor's Note: The following sketch of the career of William Andrew Jackson Sparks, written while he was still living, appears in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Clinton, Washington, Marion, and Jefferson Counties, Illinois, pp.440-43, published in Chicago by the Chapman Publishing Company in 1892.]
Hen. W. A. J. Sparks, one of the eminent men of Illinois and an honored citizen of Carlyle, was born near New Albany, Ind., November 19, 1828, and is a descendant of good old Revolutionary stock. His ancestors, both paternal and maternal, were of English descent, and were among the very earliest settlers of Virginia. His parents, Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, were both natives of the Old Dominion. During the War of 1812 the father was in the military service defending the pioneer settlers of the frontier against the hostile Indian tribes. About 1805-06 he came west, settling upon and improving a farm in Harrison County, Ind., about nine miles west of the present city of New Albany. There he continued to live (except a short time in New Albany) until 1836, when he again removed westward and settled on a farm in Macoupin County, Ill. There his life career was closed in 1840, three and a-half years afterward the mother passed away.
[Here appears a photograph, beneath which is the following caption:]
William Andrew Jackson Sparks (1828-1904)
In a family of ten children, the subject of this sketch was the youngest, and his boyhood years were mainly passed amid the primeval scenes of Illinois, his education being gained in the log "temple of learning" near the home of his father. At the death of his mother he was thrown upon his own resources, and securing employment upon a farm, was thus engaged for several years. He then began to teach school, and continued in that occupation until he had saved enough money to pay his tuition in college. In 1847 he entered McKendree College in Lebanon,Ill., and there prosecuted his literary researches with diligence, graduating in 1850 with the degree of B.S.
His schooling finished, Mr. Sparks came to Carlyle, where after having taught school for three months he began the study of law with Chief Justice Breese, afterward his neighbor and life-long friend. He continued his studies under the tutelage of Judge Breese until 1851, when he was admitted to the Bar, and at once began the practice of his profession in Carlyle. Two years later President Pierce conferred upon him the appointment of "Receiver of the United States land office" at Edwardsville, Ill., which position he held until all the lands were sold and the office closed.
TWO SONS OF BAXTER AND ELIZABETH (GWIN) SPARKS, continued:
duties as Receiver terminated, Mr. Sparks returned to Carlyle and resumed
his professional duties, continuing thus engaged until his retirement from
the Bar about 1874. In 1856 he was chosen an elector on the Buchanan-Breckinridge
ticket as a representative of the Eighth Congressional District, and at
the same election he was chosen a member of the House of Representatives
of the Illinois Legislature in the Twentieth General Assembly, representing
the counties of
and Clinton. In 1863 he was elected to the State Senate to represent
in the Twenty-third General Assembly the Fourth Senatorial District, composed
of the counties of Clinton, Bend
Bond, Fayette, Perry, Washington and Marion. He was a prominent
member of both branches, and took part in the principal debates, serving
with credit to himself as well as to the satisfaction of his constituents.
He was Chairman of the Committee on Internal Improvements, and also took
a prominent part in furthering the present school law, which was enacted
during his term of service in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Sparks has been an active and leading member of the State Conventions since 1851, and was a delegate to the National Democratic convention held at New York in 1868, and the convention at Chicago in 1884, in both of which he took an active part. He also served in Congress, representing the Sixteenth District of Illinois, which embraced the counties of Bond, Clinton, Fayette, Clay, Marion, Montgomery and Washington, and served his constituents with such faithfulness and efficiency that he was elected to succeed himself for three additional terms, making his entire period of service eight years, or from 1875 to 1883. He served as a member of the Committee on Appropriations, and was Chairman of the Committees on Military Affairs, Expenditures of the Interior Department, Indian Affairs and the Revision of the Laws. His service was marked by close attention to all matters of business before the House, and he was noted as a hard-working, able and influential Congressmen.
During his entire life Mr. Sparks has been an active member of the Democratic party, and has taken a lively interest in all the compaigns, being regarded as one of the ablest stump speakers in the state. Doubtless no one in Illinois is better known as a public Political speaker than he. Under the administration of President Cleveland he was appointed in 1885 "Commissioner of the general land office," at a time when that office was perhaps the most responsible as well as the most difficult to manage in the United States, for the public mind was filled with the idea that the Government lands were being absorbed by railroad companies, large corporations and syndicate combinations, as well as by numerous speculating schemes, land grabbing rings, and individual land speculators, in contravention of the laws.
Mr. Sparks made active war against these rings and combined corporate interests, in order that the public lands might be preserved, as had been contemplated, for their appropriation by honest settlers for homesteads. By his efforts he saved many millions of acres for the public good, and was regarded as one of the most faithful and able commissioners the general land office ever had. Many of the great leaders in the country, such as Judge Davis, E. B. Washburne, et. al., and the metropolitan press generally, heartily endorsed his acts while he was fighting these rings.... [Omitted here are several quotations from letters written by prominent public officials of the day praising Sparks's accomplishments.)
For over forty-three years General Sparks has substantially been a resident of his present home, Carlyle, and is one of the oldest settlers of the place. He is now  retired from all active duties and is spending his declining years in his pleasant home, which is one of the finest residences of the town. As in former years, he is deeply interested in political and public affairs. His name has frequently been mentioned as candidate of his party for Governor, and doubtless he could have secured the nomination had he put forth the energy and ability that he possesses; but as he himself says, he is well satisfied to fill the position of a private citizen.
General Sparks has been happily wedded for thirty-nine years, his marriage to Miss Julia Parker, of Edwardsville, Ill., having occurred April 16, 1855. They have had no children of their own, but have reared and educated a nephew and several nieces,
TWO SONS OF BAXTER AND ELIZABETH (GWIN) SPARKS, continued:
one of whom, Miss Sadie Norton, now resides with them. Mrs. M. J. Alexander, widow of the late Col. G. C. Alexander, a sister of Mrs. Sparks, has made her home with them for nearly a score of years. General Sparks is not a member of the church, but his wife and other members of his family are devout members of the Catholic Church.
[Editor's Note: The unidentified author of the above sketch of the life of William A. J. Sparks was mistaken in stating that his Sparks ancestors had been among the "very earliest settlers of Virginia." While it is true that his grandfather, Thomas Sparks, had lived in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, he had come there in or about 1777 from Prince Georges County, Maryland. See pages 4938-44 of the QUARTERLY for March 1998, Whole No. 181, for a discussion of the ancestry of Baxter Sparks, father of William A. J. Sparks and his nine siblings.]
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DEATH TAKES CROSBY SPARKS
We regret to report the passing of a loyal member of our Association, Crosby Sparks, a resident of Winchester, Kentucky. His son, Robert C. Sparks, has sent us a copy of his father's obituary that appeared in the Winchester Sun on October 19th.
Crosby Sparks, like our late President, Paul E. Sparks, was a descendant of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Crosby's descent was through John and Sarah's son, Levi Sparks (1778-1851) while Paul's great- great-grandfather, George G. Sparks (1796-1879), was a brother of Levi. (See the article devoted to Levi and his family in the QUARTERLY of June 1996, Whole No. 174, pp.4638-66. A reference to Parish Sparks, father of Crosby, appears on page 4655.)
Crosby Sparks, a native of Lawrence County, Kentucky, was 86 years old at the time of his death on October 18, 1999. He was a retired employee of the Lexing ton-Bluegrass Army Depot and an active member of the local Amateur Radio Association. He was a graduate of Kentucky Wesleyan College and a civilian employee of the Signal Corps during World War II. He was a member of the First Baptist Church, East Lexington Avenue, in Winchester.
In addition to his wife, Myrtle R. Sparks, Crosby is survived by two sons, Robert C. Sparks of Clarkston, Michigan, and Stephen D. Sparks of Milford, Ohio; a stepdaughter, Linda R. Woosley of Winchester; four grandchildren, one step-grandchild, and a sister, Nina Sparks of Winchester. We extend our sympathy to Crosby's family.
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QUERY -- John Ed (Edward ?) Sparks of Waco, Texas
Pappa of 7313 Bosky Springs St., Las Vegas, NV 89131, seeks information
regarding John Ed (Edward ?) Sparks who was married on November 29, 1900,
to Bessie Wiggins in Waco, Texas. Their children included Erik's
grandmother, Saba Francis Sparks, who was born in Waco on May 14, 1908
(or 1909 or 1911). Other children were named Alene (spelling ?),
Lucille, and Harkum (spelling ?). Anyone having information that might
help Erik Pappa is urged to write to him at his address given above, or
to contact him through e-mail at pappa@vegas. infi,net. His telephone number
is (702) 395-7917.
AVAILABILITY OF THE SPARKS COAT OF ARMS
Over the years, your editor has had numerous inquiries from SFA members regarding how they might obtain an authentic reproduction in color of the coat of arms used since medireview times by members of the Sparks family in Great Britain. We published a black and white drawing on the cover of the June 1960 issue of the QUARTERLY, with a description and explanation in the same issue, Whole No. 30, beginning on page 470.
One of our members, James J. Sparks of San Carlos, California, wrote recently of his having obtained an authentic and particularly beautiful hand-embroidered reproduction of the Sparks coat of arms from a specialist in heraldic art located in Inverness, Scotland. He has provided the editor with a photograph in full color of his copy, and it is handsome, indeed. Unfortunately, we cannot reproduce it in color in the QUARTERLY, but, as Jim mentions in his letter below, members with access to the Internet can see the coat of arms in color on his website home page.
At your editor's suggestion, Jim has agreed to assist SFA members in obtaining their own copy; his letter regarding this follows:
James J. Sparks
27 Trillium Lane
San Carlos, California
December 6, 1999
RE: Sparks Coat of Arms
As I mentioned in my October letter to you, my wife's cousin in Inverness, Scotland, personally visited the makers of our family Coat of Arms, Heraldic Art and Design, in Inverness. As a result, I received a letter from Hugh T. Grant, the managing director, a copy of which I enclose along with a copy of the Coat of Arms and a copy of a brochure which Mr. Grant forwarded.
At the present rate of exchange (£1 = $1.61) the price for a single Coat of Arms at £90 would be about $145 plus £8 or $13.00 shipping. An order of 20 - 50 would result in a single cost of £75 or $121 plus shipping and over 50 would cost £65 or $105 each plus shipping. Not inexpensive in any event. I assume that shipping costs would not change regardless of the number purchased. (I could have them shipped to one place in bulk but they would still have to be reshipped to the buyer.)
sending you a life-size copy of the Coat of Arms. It is hand-embroidered
in gold and silver thread to a black material; the shield on the
Coat of Arms is about 3/16 of an inch thick. Members with access to the
Internet can see the Coat of Arms in color on my website home page at the
that the character before jjsparks is a tilde, not a dash.)
http://www.sparksfamilytree.net I had my Coat of Arms framed locally with two matte boards surrounding it which raise the glass face to accommodate its thickness. I had the back of the entire frame covered with brown paper to seal the
AVAILABILITY OF THE SPARKS COAT OF ARMS, continued:
interior from dust. The dimensions of the actual Coat of Arms itself are 5 1/4 inches wide by 6 1/2 inches high. My frame is 10 inches wide by 13 1/2 inches high. I can only say that the workmanship on the Coat of Arms is exquisite in every regard and it is a beautiful object and historically accurate. In spite of the cost, I am very proud to own it. I should also point out that it took about 8 weeks to get delivery. Incidentally, 'Dum Spiro Spero" means "While I have breath I hope."
you could include an item in the Quarterly that interested persons should
contact me at my mailing address, by email, or by fax (all provided in
my letterhead) within thirty days. If 20 or more members indicate
an interest within that time, I would contact the interested people and
request that they forward their check for the purchase price plus shipping
charges to me by a certain date. I would then contact Mr. Grant and
place the order providing him my credit card number and the names and addresses
of the buyers. If less than 20 people contacted me, I would advise
them that the price is £90 and that they should contact Heraldic
Art and Design directly. I hope this meets with your approval Russell.
James J. Sparks
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QUERY -- LOCATION OF GRAVE OF QUARTUS STRONG SPARKS
Who Died on August 5, 1891, in San Bernardino, California
In the QUARTERLY of September 1995, Whole No. 171, pp.4499-4512, we published an article on Quartus Strong Sparks and his family. There we noted that, accord ing to a newspaper account published in San Bernardino, California, Sparks died there on August 5, 1891. We do not have information, however, on where he was buried.
It is at the request of Ms. B. Lynn Jeppson, P.O. Box 128593, San Diego, California, 92112, that we publish this query regarding the burial place of Quartus Strong Sparks. She writes that her aunt, Ms. Norma Rigby, would like to place an honorary plaque on his tombstone "because of the work he did in California." Can anyone assist her? We assume that Sparks was buried in the San Bernardino area. Ms. Jeppson would welcome a letter or a collect telephone call from anyone having this information (801-254-3163 or 619-236-1746).
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QUERY -- BROOKS SPARKS (Born ca. 1809 in South Carolina)
Sparks Sheldon, 130 Roswell Farms Court, Roswell, Georgia, 30075, asks:
Does anyone know of Brooks Sparks who was married to Lydia Brown in 1829 in Newton County, Georgia? The next record of Brooks Sparks is in Coweta County, Georgia, in the 1850s and then in Cherokee County, Alabama, in the 1860s. The children of Brooks Sparks and Lydia (Brown) Sparks were: Missouri, Mercia, Malcolm, William, Shelton, Martha, Gasaway, Nehemiah, Nancy, Washington, Susannah, and Texas. There was possibly a daughter named Ruthenia, also.
THE FAMILY OF WALTER DAVIDSON SPARKS (1870-1949)
A Revision, With a Review of his Sparks Ancestors
Inthe QUARTERLY of March 1962, Whole No. 37, we published an article entitled "Amos Sparks (1785-1867) and His Descendants," pp.618-21. By occupation, Amos Sparks was a shoemaker, according to census records, but as a young man he was ordained as a Methodist clergyman and became a circuit rider from 1829 to 1834. In the QUARTERLY of September 1969, Whole No. 67, pp.1248-55, we published an article on Amos Sparks's brother, Jesse R. Sparks (ca.1780-1865) and his descendants. Amos and Jesse were natives of Maryland, and both settled in Ohio as young men, later moving to Indiana. Both Amos and Jesse had sons named Jeremiah, born only one day apart, in 1808. The second of these QUARTERLY articles (September 1969) made a clear distinction regarding the parentage of each Jeremiah, which had been a matter of confusion in the article in March 1962
Amos Sparks (1785-1867) was married to Nancy Borough on June 2, 1805, according to his family Bible. She had been born on December 1, 1789.
THE FAMILY OF WALTER DAVIDSON SPARKS (1870-1949), continued:
Children of Robert Davis and Margaret N. (Davidson) Sparks:
1. Walter Davidson Sparks, born August 30, 1870.
2.Lester Sparks, born May 29, 1872.
3. Maude Esten Sparks, born September 17, 1875.
4. Nettie Sparks, born June 21, 1877.
5. Emmaline Gertrude Sparks, born December 29, 1880.
In recording information on the family of Walter Davidson Sparks, son of Robert Davis and Margaret N. (Davidson) Sparks, Mrs. Tarman made a number of errors. Rather than attempt to make individual corrections for pages 622-23, we provide here the following revised record of their children. This information has been provided by Mrs. Willis E. Slaughter, P.O. Box 116, Hudson, Illinois, 61748, and Larry Eugene Sparks, 4105 S.W. Ninth St., Blue Springs, Missouri, 64015. We urge Association members and libraries holding files of the QUARTERLY that include the issue for March 1962, Whole No. 37, to note on page 622 that this revision has been published here.
1. Walter Davidson Sparks, son of Robert Davis and Margaret N. (Davidson) Sparks, was born on August 30, 1870, in Woodford County, Illinois, and died on November 7, 1949. He was married on December 24, 1902, to Lillah Maude Thomas, who had been born on April 22, 1887, in Blue Rapids, Kansas. She died on August 17, 1974. They were buried in Secor Cemetery, Secor, Illinois. Their children were:
FAMILY OF WALTER DAVIDSON SPARKS (1870-1949), continued:
THE FAMILY OF WALTER DAVIDSON SPARKS (1870-1949), continued:
THE FAMILY OF WALTER DAVIDSON SPARKS (1870-1949), continued:
(G) William Hamilton Sparks, son of Walter and Lillah Maude (Thomas) Sparks, was born on September 28, 1923. He was married to Sammie Joyce Bryan, and they reside in Salado, Texas. They have two children:
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QUERY -- CHILDREN OF LEONARD AND PATSEY (BEARD) SPARKS
Sparks and Patsey Beard were married in Jefferson County, Tennessee, ca.
1806. Census records indicate that both were born in South Carolina.
They lived in Jefferson County, Tennessee, about 1806-1812 (see the QUARTERLY,
December 1961, Whole No. 36). It is known from census records that
Patsey (Beard) Sparks resided in Cherokee County, Alabama, in the 1880s
in the household of son, Elihu Sparks (her age listed as 101). I
am looking for a list of the children (or any additional information) of
Leonard and Patsey (Beard) Sparks. Please respond to:
Shelley S. Sheldon, 130 Roswell Farms Court, Roswell, GA 30075.
Page 5109. Under e. Ella Leota Sparks was born on April 6, 1879, not on June 24, 1900.Under a. Mary Ethel Sparks should be Mary Ellen Sparks.
Page 5110. In 2nd line from the top of the page, Lissette Potter's maiden name was Tuphorn, not Tupham.Under (b), 5th line, Nellie Burr Oppenborn should be Nella Burr Oppenborn. Also, Marily Oppenborn should be Marilyn Oppenborn; she and Forrest E. Steber had been divorced for a number of years prior to his death in 1985.
Under (c), the third child of George S., Jr. and Mary Margaret (Potter) Hiller, should be Mary Ellen Hiller.
Your editor regrets these errors appearing in the March 1999 QUARTERLY. When Paul's son sent this article to be copied for publication, he noted that, because his father had fallen and broken his shoulder, he had tried to assist him in completing it. It was later that I learned that Paul's illness involved much more than the shoulder injury. He died shortly thereafter.
[Scanning editor's note: Corrections made.]
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