"To forget one's ancestors
is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root."
(An old Chinese proverb.)
|VOL. XLVIII, NO.2||JUNE 2000||WHOLE NO.190a|
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[Here appears a photograph, beneath which is the following caption:]
DAVID FRANCIS SPARKS (1850-1914) & MARY LOUISA BRYAN (1869-1946)
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPH, 1884
Courtesy of Their Great-Granddaughter
Mrs. Mary Lou Finch, Overland Park, Kansas
(See page 5367)
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SPARKS QUARTERLY, published by The Sparks Family Association
John K. Carmichael, Jr., President, 3408 N. Rosewood Ave., Muncie, Indiana (47304-2025)
A. Harold Sparks, Vice President, 500 1st St., N., #303, Newton, Iowa (50208-3104)
Russell E. Bidlack, Secretary-Treasurer & Editor, 1709 Cherokee Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan (48104-4498)
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 Farnily 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. 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 of the Association and for $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 1953-57; 1958-62; 1963-67; 1968-72; 1973-77; 1978-82; 1983-87; 1988-92; and 1993-97. Each index is available for $5.00. A complete file of all back issues of the Quarterly, including the nine indexes, may be purchased for $325.00. The forty-six years of the Quarterly (1953-1999) comprise a total of 5280 pages of Sparks Family History. The nine indexes (1953-97) amount to over 900 additional pages. A table of contents is also available for $5.00. Comprising 72 pages, this lists the articles and collections of data appearing in the Quarterly between 1953 and 1999; it is updated at the end of each year. The International Standard Serial Number that has been assigned to the Quarterly is ISSN 0561-5445.
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 Arbor, MI, 48104-4498. His telephone number is 734-662-5080; he has no E-Mail address.
MATTHEW SPARKS (ca.1752-1819)
By Russell E. Bidlack
Part I: His Family Background and Youth in Maryland and North Carolina.
Matthew Sparks (born ca. 1752 in Frederick County, Maryland, died in 1819 in Surry County, North Carolina) was a member of the fifth generation in America of the branch of the Sparks family whose progenitor was the English immigrant named William Sparks who died in Queen Annes County. Maryland, in 1709. Matthew was a lad of about twelve years in 1764 when he accompanied his parents, William and Ann Sparks, in their move from Frederick County, Maryland, to the
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Forks of the Yadkin (then part of Rowan County, now Davie County) in North Carolina. It was there that his parents and his older siblings were greeted by Matthew's grandfather, William Sample Sparks, who had made the same journey a decade earlier.
An article devoted to William and Ann Sparks, parents of Matthew, appeared in the QUARTERLY of June 1991, Whole No.154, pp.3752-98. In the QUARTERLY of December 1989, Whole No. 148, pp. 3484-3501, appeared an article on William Sample Sparks. Born about 1700, William Sample Sparks is believed by this writer to have been married in the early 1720s, probably in Queen Annes County, Maryland, but we have found no record of the marriage, nor the name of his wife. By her, he appears to have two sons, William, born about 1725, and Matthew, born about 1830. We believe that his first wife died after bearing these two sons and that William Sample Sparks was the William Sparks who was married in St. Lukes Parish in Queen Annes County on August 23, 1732, to Mary Courmon (or Corman). It is probable that this second wife was the mother of William Sample Sparks's son named James Sparks. It appears that Mary (Courmon) Sparks also died as a fairly young woman and that William Sample Sparks was married a third time to a woman named Rachel who became the mother of at least two children, a son named Robert Sparks and a daughter named Rachel, born in 1757.
William Sample Sparks, grandfather of the Matthew Sparks who is the subject of the present article, had moved west with his family about 1736 from Queen Annes County to that part of Prince Georges County, Maryland, that was cut off to form Frederick County in 1748, which for a while comprised all of western Maryland. It was in the area where Big Pipe and Little Pipe Creeks join to flow into the Monocacy River that William Sample Sparks had settled, and where he had been joined by his uncle, Joseph Sparks. Joseph died there in 1749 leaving twelve children, seven sons and five daughters. (William Sample Sparks and Rachel Sparks signed by mark as next of kin the inventory of the property of Joseph Sparks.) The late Paul E. Sparks, President of the Sparks Family Association from its formation in 1953 until his death in 1999, descended from this Joseph Sparks's son Solomon, while Melva [Sparks] Bidlack, late wife of the present writer, descended from Matthew Sparks (ca.1752-1819), a grandson of William Sample Sparks, and subject of this article.
The father of William Sample Sparks was called William Sparks, Jr. Born ca.1674, he was the oldest son of the immigrant, William Sparks (died 1709). The apparent parental devotion of this first William's children and grandchildren has resulted in a confusingly large number of his descendants being named William.
Although as yet we have not published a comprehensive article on William Sparks, Jr., two articles devoted to his father, the immigrant William Sparks (died 1709), have appeared in the QUARTERLY: the issue for March 1971, Whole No.73, pp. 1381-89, and that for December 1992, Whole No. 160, pp.4025-34.
As noted above, the parents of Matthew Sparks, William and Ann, did not accompany William Sample Sparks in his move to North Carolina in 1754. He had been accompanied, however, by two of his other sons, named Matthew and James, as well as by a daughter named Rachel. Three of his cousins, sons of Joseph Sparks (died 1749), also accompanied William Sample Sparks to North Carolina in 1754; they were Solomon, Jonas, and Jonathan Sparks. (See the QUARTERLY of March 1990, Whole No. 149, pp.3554-SI, for an article devoted to Joseph Sparks and his family.)
We can only speculate on the reason the parents of Matthew Sparks (ca.1752-1819), William and Ann Sparks, did not accompany their Sparks relatives in their move to North Carolina in 1754. Perhaps it was because Ann's relatives influenced them to remain, although we have found no clue to reveal Ann's maiden name. William and Ann had been married in Frederick county about 1749, the same year that William had obtained a grant from the Colony of Maryland's land office for a tract of fifty acres on the east side of the Monocacy River near the town of Taneytown. (See p.3756 for a map of this land.) When Carroll County was created in 1837, this land be came part of the new county, as did the adjoining land that William had purchased in the years following. It had been there, also, that Matthew Sparks, second son of William and Ann, was born in or about 1752.
There were numerous relatives, therefore, to greet the family of William and Ann Sparks when they arrived at the Forks of the Yadkin in 1764 with their family.
Matthew Sparks, born about 1752, son of William and Ann Sparks, subject of the present article, must not be confused with his Uncle Matthew Sparks, born ca. 1733. This elder Matthew Sparks, who came to the Forks of the Yadkin with his father and other relatives in 1754, purchased a tract of 372 acres in 1761 located exactly where the South Yadkin River flows into the Yadkin River; this is now the southern tip of Davie County An article devoted to this elder Matthew Sparks appeared in the QUARTERLY of June 1961, Whole No.34, pp. 556-66.
As was the custom in Maryland, William Sparks, as the initial owner of his 50-acre farm on the Monocacy chose a name for it which was recorded in his patent - - he called it "Sparks Delight." In the year following his relatives' departure for North Carolina, William was able to add an adjoining 72-acre tract to "Sparks Delight" for which he paid 3 pounds and 11 shillings on August 13, 1755, to an extensive landowner named James Brooke. Seven years later, on April 3, 1762, he purchased additional land from Brooke. For a tract of 104 acres on the west side of the Monocacy River, he paid Brooke 25 pounds, but for 40 acres on the south side of "Sparks Delight," he paid Brooke only "Five shillings sterling." In his deed to Sparks, Brooke explained this token price: "for the good will which he (Brooke] beareth unto the said William Sparks and for divers other good causes and considerations." We may wonder whether Ann, wife of William Sparks, might have had some family connection to James Brooke. She was not a daughter, however, according to his will.
Even as late as 1762, there were small patches of "vacant land" along the Monocacy River, i.e., land that no one had yet purchased from Maryland's Lord Proprietor. There was such a tract comprising 18 acres on the east side of the river between the two tracts Sparks had just purchased from Brooke. William obtained a warrant from the Commissioner of Maryland's Land Office, and, after a survey was conducted, a patent dated June 9, 1762 was issued to him. He was to pay the Lord Proprietor a yearly quit-rent of "Nine Pence Sterling in Silver or Gold." Because he was the first owner of this small tract, he had the privilege of choosing a name for it. He registered it as "William and Ann," a name that it would retain even when it was sold to another party. (An explanation of Maryland's peculiar system of land ownership in the Colonial period, with its naming customs, its quit-rents and "alienation fines" when land was sold, is contained in the QUARTERLY article of June 1991 cited earlier; on p.3761 is a map showing the total land holdings of William Sparks.)
In the spring of 1764, on Aprll 26, William and Ann Sparks made their customary marks (he always made a small "0" until late in life) on a deed by which they sold their 283 acres on the Monocacy River to Christian Newswanger for 400 pounds. Soon thereafter, with their first five children, including Matthew, they left to join their relatives in the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina. We can only speculate on their reasons for making this dramatic change in their lives. One reason may have been the growing political unrest in western Maryland resulting form the Stamp Act, a protestation that would lead to the American Revolution. As he would demonstrate later, William Sparks was loyal to the British Crown; he believed in his King's right to tax his colonial subjects. Perhaps he wanted to go where his loyalty to England would be more accepted, which future events would
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prove to be true initially. Also, 400 pounds was a sizeable amount of money and fertile land in North Carolina was known to be both plentiful and cheap. James W. Wall in his History of Davie County in the Forks of the Yadkin (Spartanburg, SC, 1985, p.7) has noted:
The journey must have been a great adventure for young Matthew Sparks and his older brother who, like so many others, bore the name of William Sparks. William was thirteen or fourteen years old in 1764. Also making the journey, we believe, were William and Ann's children named Rachel, Nancy, George, and James. Four more children would be born in North Carolina: Margaret, Thomas, Benjamin, and Jeremiah.
Because Matthew Sparks, son of William and Ann, as well as his parents and siblings, would experience both advantages and severe problems in their obtaining valid titles to land in North Carolina throughout much of their lives, it may be useful here to repeat information given in the QUARTERLY of June 1991 regarding how individuals could become landowners.
To reward eight noblemen who had assisted King Charles II to regain the English throne, the King, in 1663, had granted to them the colony of Carolina. Thus Carolina was to be a proprietary colony, as was Maryland, with the Crown to receive only a small portion of the profits therefrom. Whereas in Maryland there was only one proprietor, however, in Carolina there were eight, and they had problems from the start. These were too numerous to discuss here, except to note that in 1711 the portion of Carolina that became South Carolina was restored to the Crown. Then in 1728, Parliament authorized King George II to purchase the proprietors's shares, now in the hands of descendants, and to make North Carolina a royal colony. The descendants of seven of the proprietors readily accepted the 2,500 pounds offered to the heirs of each of the original eight (along with a share of 5,000 additional pounds for the uncollected quit-rents), but one, the heir of Sir George Carteret, refused to. sell his share. This was the Right Honourable John Earl Granville (1690-1763) who, with the death of his mother in 1744, became the second Earl Granville. He was then given one-eighth share of the colony, from the Virginia border on the north to the parallel line on the south, which was the lower level of Rowan County. While Lord Granville was given no role in governing his part of North Carolina, he alone had the authority to sell his land and to collect quit-rents that the purchaser was required to pay annually thereafter. Lord Granville, himself, never visited his vast domain; agents acted for him in the land sales.
At the time of the arrival of the Sparkses in the Forks of the Yadkin in 1754, a hundred acres of Granville land could be purchased for only three shillings, plus three shillings silver (or four shillings "proclamation money") each year there after as quit-rent. According to his deed, the elder Matthew Sparks paid only ten shillings in silver for his 372 acres in 1761, although there was probably an additional "fee" charged by Granville's agent. One can easily imagine opportunity for corruption with agents acting on behalf of Lord Granville. These so-called fees charged by the agents and other county officials were a cause of growing resentment among the settlers.
It had become the custom for prospective buyers of Granville lands to "squat" on a desirable tract with the plan to purchase it later--a custom usually respected by other "squatters,"although there were bitterly contested exceptions. The agents of Lord Granville were remarkably tolerant of this practice, although we may wonder whether bribes may have been paid and collected in some instances. In 1763, however, the year before the arrival of William and Ann Sparks at the Forks of the Yadkin, word had been received that Lord Granville had died, and his agents were directed to close their land offices. There was the assumption that Granville' s heirs would open those offices again in due course, but the unrest that would culminate in the approaching American Revolution prevented this from happening. Thus, after 1763 there was no way for a settler to obtain a valid title to land not previously purchased from Lord Granville, incuding land on which one had squatted, until North Carolina became a state. The elder Matthew Sparks's title of 1761 was secure, of course, but William and Ann could not obtain title to "vacant land" as they had doubtless planned upon doing.
It seems apparent that on their arrival at the Forks of the Yadkin, William and Ann were taken in with their children either by William's father or his brother, the elder Matthew. No record has been found to indicate that William Sample Sparks ever obtained a title to land in North Carolina. We know from Lord Granville's land records, however, that he had "squatted" on a tract on the South Yadkin within three miles of the residence of his son, Matthew.
On May 30, 1761, a settler named James Andrews who had already purchased other land in Rowan County from a Granville agent, applied for and was granted the tract on which William Sample Sparks had squatted. The warrant authorizing a survey to be made of Andrew's purchase described it as "700 acres in Rowan County on the South Side of the South Yadkin, joining the Mouth of Second Creek including the improvements where William Sample Sparks formerly lived." It is quite possible that this was a friendly "take over" and Andrews may well have paid William Sample Sparks for the "improvements" he had made. On the side of this land bordering the South Yadkin there is a shallow place in the river where a road to Salisbury crossed; later it was called "Andrews Ford," and it may have been there that William Sample Sparks had operated an "ordinary." This was a name then commonly used for an inn or tavern where a traveller could expect to obtain lodging, food, and drink not only for himself and family, but for his horses as well. From later records it seems probable that such a facility comprised the "improvements" that Sparks had made on this land.
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County licenses were required for one to operate an ordinary and the prices were set by the county court that a proprietor might charge his customers. Wives often played the role of cook and housekeeper. We suspect that Sparks, however, had conducted his ordinary on what became the Andrews property without a license, but during a meeting of the Rowan County Court in January 1762, he made application and it was "ordered that Mr. William Sample Sparks have License to keep Ordinary." The title "Mr." was one of distinction in those days, stiggesting that he then had status in the community.
Because the Andrews grant the previous year referred to where Sparks had "formerly lived," we wonder whether William Sample Sparks may now have reestablished his ordinary on the land belonging to his son, Matthew. His license was renewed by the Court on October 23, 1764, authorizing him "to Keep Ord- [sic] at his Own Dwelling House." This was the year in which William Sample Sparks's son and daughter-in- law, William and Ann, arrived with their family at the Forks--perhaps they were given lodging in the ordinary.
William Sample Sparks also served on a Rowan County jury in 1764, but these were the last occasions in which his name appeared in the Rowan County records. We believe that he died soon after his son and family arrived at the Forks of the Yadkin. He did not leave a will.
It was remarkably soon after the arrival of William and Ann Sparks at the Forks, that on July 14, 1764, William and his brother, Matthew, were appointed by the County Court, along with ten other men, to lay out a road from nearby John Howard's Ferry to "the forks in Boone's Road." Three months later the Court ordered that "William Sparks Bee & is hereby Apptd Overseer of the Road Laid out... and that all the inhabatence [sic] within that District Worke under him." Perhaps the justices gave William this responsibility because they knew that his brother was about to sell to him the lower 200 acres of Matthew's 372-acre tract described earlier. As can be seen on the map on page 5338 following, this new road was to be located very near what would become William's farm. It was on April 10, 1765, that the sale was made official, William giving his brother fifty pounds in "proclamation money." It is interesting to note that this division resulted in the northeast corner of William's tract being opposite Matthew's "Fish Dam" on the Yadkin River, the bounty from which was doubtless shared by the two families.
These 200 acres thus became the farm on which William and Ann Sparks's family lived until 1773, and it was there that their son Matthew grew to manhood.
On September 17, 1767, the elder Matthew Sparks, with the consent of his wife, Sarah, sold the remainlng 172 acres of his land to a neighbor named William Haden. Whether the elder Matthew may have continued farming this land, perhaps renting it from Haden, or whether he may then have "squatted" on vacant land in the Forks of the Yadkin, we do not know. His name did not appear in Rowan County records after 1767.
A large portion of Rowan County embracing the entire northwest area 35 by 90 miles, was cut off in 1770 to form Surry County. Bordering Virginia not only did Surry County initially include the county that still bears its name today, but also the present counties of Alleghany, Ashe, Wilkes, Yadkin, Forsyth, and Stokes, along with parts of today's Avery, Watauga, Alexander, and Caldwell Counties. It was to what would become Ashe County in 1799 that the elder Matthew Sparks moved his family in the early 1770s. When a son of the elder Matthew, whose name was also Matthew, applied for a Revolutionary War pension in 1832, he stated that he had been born in Rowan County on January 20, 1759, and that he had been "between fourteen and sixteen years old, when he moved with the other members of the family, to New River..." From later records, we know that the elder Matthew Sparks family went to what is now Ashe County and "squatted" on 400 acres of land located "on the North side of New River beginning on Little Naked Creek." After the war ended, the family moved to Georgia.
Like his brother, William Sparks decided to move to a new frontier. On Janury 27, 1773, William and Ann sold their 200-acre farm to William Frohock, a land speculator and politician, for 150 pounds proclamation money, three times the amount William had paid his brother for it in 1765. In this deed (Book 8, p.104), William was called "Planter of Rowan County."
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[Here appears a map, beneath which is the following caption:
The Area in the Forks of the Yadkin That Was the Boyhood Home of
Matthew Sparks (ca.1752-1819), Son of William & Ann Sparks
Map drawn by writer's son, Christopher J. Bidlack, President, Bidlack Creative Services, Ann Arbor, MI
Again, we can only speculate on why William and Ann Sparks decided, as had William's brother, to move to unsettled land on a new frontier. They must have been born with an adventurous spirit, although their wish may have been to escape the growing unrest in the Forks of the Yadkin as war with the Mother Country seemed increasingly certain.
William and Ann's choice of a spot on which to settle in the vast new county of Surry was doubtless influenced by an earlier decision made by their eldest son, William Sparks, Jr., who had accompanied their cousin, Solomon Sparks, to what would become later the dividing line between Wilkes and Yadkin Counties. Solomon Sparks, son of Joseph Sparks who had died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749, had come to the Forks of the Yadkin in 1754 with William Sample Sparks and had purchased Granville land some nine miles north of the elder Matthew's
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tract near where
Muddy Creek flows into the Yadkin River, over the line in Forsyth County.
Solomon, with his family and William Sparks, Jr., made the journey in time to be included on the earliest extant tax list for Surry County, 1771, on which Solomon was shown with three polls (himself and sons John and Joseph) and William, Jr. with one poll, himself. (A poll at that time was a white male between 16 and 60.) William Sparks, Jr. had been born in or about 1750. William and Ann's second son, Matthew, probably reached his majority in 1773, the year in which he accompanied his parents and younger siblings to their new home in Surry County.
Surry County in 1773, including the several counties that would later be formed from it, was still part of Lord Granville's Domain so that there was no way in which vacant land, although existing in vast amounts, could be acquired legally. Like his cousin Solomon and his son William, Jr., William Sparks could only "squat" in 1773 on a spot that was pleasing to him and to Ann, with the hope of purchasing it later with a proper title. They chose a tract later judged to comprise 200 acres located on North Hunting Creek (sometimes called the North Branch of Hunting Creek), a mile from what would become in time the tiny village of Cycle in today's Yadkin County. Highway 421 now passes very near where, with the help of his son, Matthew Sparks, William made his "improvements." This was three miles southwest of where William, Jr. had chosen to "squat."
A poll tax list for Surry County for the year 1774 survives showing that there were then 1,528 males between 16 and 60 in all of what would become six counties and parts of four others. Matthew Sparks, subject of the present article, appears by name as a poll in his father's household in Captain Cleveland's District. This is our earliest official record of Matthew as well as that of his younger brother, James Sparks, who was listed separately. Solomon, with sons John and Joseph, and William, Jr. were also named as polls in Captain Cleveland's District. John Rose, husband of William and Ann's daughter, Rachel, was shown just above the entry for William and Matthew.
It seems apparent that William and Ann Sparks chose the site that they did for their new home because it offered an ideal spot on which to build a water-powered grist mill. Essential for any community of the time, and thus representing a certain source of revenue for the builder, a grist mill was still an expensive edifice to build. With his land sales profits from the Forks of the Yadkin, William Sparks had brought with him the needed capital for his enterprise. We can only wish that a record had survived telling of how he and his son Matthew acquired the materials and manpower for the mill's construction, particularly the huge millstones. For many years there after, references are found in Surry and Yadkin County records to the "Sparks Mill Tract." Young Matthew's occupation became that of "Miller."
Mention was made earlier that William Sparks, like his cousin, Solomon, was a Loyalist during the American Revolution. Both would refuse to sign oaths of loyalty to the "state" of North Carolina. There was a generational gap in their families, however - - their sons favored Independence from England.
In the article entitled "William Sparks (ca.1725-1801/02)" appearing in the QUARTERLY of June 1991, Whole No. 154, we related in considerable detail how William's reputation as a Loyalist during the time of the American Revolution nearly deprived him of his land and mill after the Granville lands were confiscated by the new state of North Carolina and offered for sale. The "squatters" from earlier years now had opportunity to purchase the land on which they had lived and made "improvements," which, in the case of Wiillam Sparks, included his mill. New settlers, who had not "squatted," could also purchase vacant land from the state.
An Act of the General Assembly of North Carolina on November 15, 1777, authorized the justices of the peace in each county (who, together, constituted each County Court), to elect an "Entry Taker" who would record individuals' land claims and,
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assisted by the county surveyor, determine where there were overlapping claims as well as prior claims. A man named Joseph Winston became Surry County's Entry Taker and his "Entry Book" for the period 1778 to 1781 is extant; it was edited for publication in 1987 by Agnes M. Wells, and it is from Ms. Wells's publication, along with Surry County deeds, that we are able to relate how it was that the land on which William and Ann Sparks had "squatted" in 1773 now became the property of their son, Matthew.
The Act of the General Assembly had required that a person claiming a tract of land from the new state had to be an "industrious person." This was interpreted to mean, also, he be willing to sign a loyalty oath, which William Sparks refused to do. There were several active Patriots in Surry County who were ready to identify their Loyalist neighbors and to make claim to their land along with their improvements thereon. An especially aggressive Patriot who was an officer in the Surry County Militia as well as a "bounty hunter" for army deserters, was William Terrell Lewis, well known to the Sparks family. Lewis immediately identified a number of his "disloyal" neighbors, including William Sparks. On September 7, 1778, Lewis entered a Surry County Claim (#680) for 200 acres "on the waters of Hunting Creek including William Sparks' mill and plantation." Five days later, on learning of the action taken against him by William Terrell Lewis, William Sparks transferred the land on which he had been squatting, along with the mill, to his son Matthew through a "Bill of Sale." Recorded in Surry County Will Book 1, p.121, this document is as follows:
BILL OF SALE
Know all men by these presents that I William Sparks of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina for and in Consideration of the Sum of one Hundred Pounds to me in hand paid by Matthew Sparks of the County and State aforesaid have Bargained and sold the Said Matthew Sparks One Grist Mill and Improvement of Land lying and being in Surry County on the North fork of hunting Creek Which Mill and Improvement I do warrant unto the said Matthew Sparks from any person or persons Laying any Just Claim thereon Except the Lord of the Soil.
On the Monday following the signing of this bill of sale, Matthew Sparks appeared before Joseph Winston, the official charged with registering land claims, and, with his father's document in hand, challenged the claim that had been made by Lewis. The matter then went to the Surry County Court on November 11, 1778, where it was ruled that William Sparks's bill of sale was equivalent to a deed to his son. We may wonder whether the God-fearing members of the Court were impressed by William's appeal to "the Lord of the Soil."
With this Court ruling, Matthew Sparks then entered a claim in his own name for these 200 acres on September 14, 1778. We may wonder whether the "one Hundred Pounds" that the bill of sale credited Matthew as having paid his father may have been actually a private loan or gift from his father. Winston assigned #173 to
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Matthew Sparks'sclaim, with the following description provided by Matthew:
Matthew Sparks enters 200 acres of Hunting Creek adjoiningMatthew's claim was approved. As explained on page 3788 of the June 1991 issue of the QUARTERLY, on March 8, 1779, Matthew Sparks succeeded in making another claim (#1466) for "200 acres of land in Surry County on the top of Brushy Mountain" adjoining the land of his brother, William Sparks, Jr., and a year later, on March 9, 1780, Matthew transferred this tract to his father. It was there that William and Ann spent the remainder of their lives. On December 21, 1801, at the age of about 75, William made his last will, a copy of which survives and was photo copied on page 3791 of the QUARTERLY cited above. He provided for "my Loving Wife Ann Sparks" and designated an equal share for each of his children, but he did not name them. He appointed three of his sons, however, to serve as executors of his estate, William, Jr., Thomas, and George, along with a son-in-law, William Wilcox. His son Jeremiah was a witness. The will was entered for probate during the May 1802 session of the Surry County Court, so it would appear that William Sparks died either late in 1801 or early in 1802. We have no further record of Ann, his widow.
William Miller including the above place for quantity. September 14, 1778.
From a number of records pertaining to the family of William and Ann Sparks, we believe that the following is a complete list of their children, the first six of whom were born in Frederick County, Maryland, as may possibly have been the seventh, Margaret; the rest were born at the Forks of the Yadkin.
9. Benjamin Sparks, born about 1769/70. He was married to Elizabeth Hicks in 1797 inSurry County, North Carolina; he moved to that part of Burke County, North Carolina, that helped to form Caldwell County in 1822 where he died in 1749/50.
Part II: The life of Matthew Sparks as a Miller and Plantation Owner in Surry County, North Carolina.
As was noted earlier, Matthew Sparks was shown on a 1774 tax list that survives. He was living with his parents in that part of Surry County, North Carolina, called Capt. Benjamin Cleveland's District. Like other militia captains in North Carolina, Cleveland also served as tax collector for the area in which his militiamen lived. His district included what is not only Surry County today, but also Wilkes County and Ashe County. Because squatters had no title to the land on which they lived, they were taxed then only as polls--white men between 16 and 60.
Matthew Sparks reached the age of 21 in or about 1773, the year that he moved to Surry County with his parents and several siblings. Sometime during the next three or four years, he was married to a young woman whose first name was Eunice. Despite many years of searching, we have failed to find a clue to reveal her parentage or even her maiden name. Her nickname was "Nicy," sometimes "Eunicy". It was in or about 1777 that her and Matthew's first child was born, a daughter named Nancy. Another daughter named Margaret, often called "Peggy," was born about 1779, and still another daughter was born about 1781 named Sarah, usually called "Sally." It was not until in or about 1784 that their first son was born, named Joel Sparks. This was the first use of the name Joel in this branch of the Sparks family--perhaps it may someday provide a clue regarding his mother.
In 1775, a portion of Capt. Cleveland's District was assigned to John Hudspeth for tax purposes, and on his surviving list Matthew Sparks was identified as "Juner" [i.e., Junior] to distinguish him from his uncle of the same name. His father was identified as "William Sparks, Sener" and his older brother as "William Sparks, Juner." Living near them was Joseph Sparks, son of Solomon Sparks.
As was noted earlier, through a bill of sale Matthew's father had succeeded in transferring to Matthew the tract of land on which he had squatted in 1773 and on which he had built his gristmill. William T. Lewis had thus been prevented in making his claim for this tract based on William Sparks having been a Loyalist. Matthew had then entered a claim to this land. Fees were collected when a claim was approved: 16 shillings paid to the Entry Taker; 30 shillings to the surveyor if the tract was under 300 acres; 5 shillings for making out and recording the patent (deed); 3 shillings to the secretary of the Governor for the use of the Great Seal of the state on the patent; and 50 shillings to the State Treasury for each 100 acres.
As noted earlier in this article, on March 8, 1779, Matthew Sparks entered a claim (#3788) for 200 acres of land on the top of Brushy Mountain in Surry County. This was vacant land and Matthew's claim was approved promptly, with his payment of the usual fees. This land adjoined land obtained by William Sparks, Jr. On March 9, 1780, Matthew transferred the title to the tract to his father, and it was there that William and Ann Sparks lived out their years.
It was not until April 3, 1780, that the Great Seal was finally placed on the official grant to Matthew Sparks for his 200 acres. He promptly arranged for it to be
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recorded by Surry County's Register of Deeds (Book B, pp.67-68). Because this is the record of Matthew's first land ownership, we quote below the document in full. Because other land that Matthew purchased and sold later will also be noted, perhaps a word regarding land measurement at that time would be in order.
As in all descriptions of land at that time, tracts were surveyed by the "Metes and Bounds" system. The key measuring device was the "Chain" consisting of 100 "Links," each link measuring 7.92 inches long. Thus the surveyor's chain was 66 feet in length. A "Pole," like the rod, was 16.5 feet long. The term "Chain Carrier" was given to the boy or young man who assisted the surveyor. The survey under the Metes and Bounds system began at a known landmark, with the surveyor following a line according to his compass-needle (or magnetic bearing) to the next landmark, although as seen in the survey of Matthew's 200 acres, this could be a tree or a mere sapling, or the course of a stream or ancient path or Indian trail.
The "Rectangular System of describing and dividing land was based on Astronomical Observation. It was officially adopted by the U.S. Congress on May 7, 1785, to describe all new lands awarded to settlers by the U.S. Government. Under this system, all distances and bearings are measured from two lines which are at right angles to each other, they being the Principal Meridians running north and south, and the Base Lines which run east and west.
The patent received by Matthew Sparks for the 200 acres of land on which his father had squatted and erected his gristmill was recorded in a Surry County deed book as follows:
State of North Carolina. To all to whom these Presents shall come, Greeting. Know ye that we for and in consideration of the sum of' fifty Shillings for every hundred acres hereby granted paid into our Treasury by Matthew Sparks, have given and granted and by these Presents do give and grant to the said Matthew Sparks a Tract of Land containing Two Hundred acres lying and being in our County of Surry, on the Waters of Hunting Creek beginning at Thomas Yates N . W. corner Black Oak, runnmg thence North Thirty seven Chains to a Pine, thence East fifty four Chains to a Pine, thence South Thirty seven Chains to a Stake in Yates' Line, thence to the Beginning as By the Plat hereunto annexed doth appear; together with all Woods, Waters, Mines, Minerals, Hereditaments and Appurtenances to the said Land belonging or appertaining; To hold to the said Matthew Sparks, his heirs and Assigns forever. Yielding and paying to us such sums of Money yearly, or otherwise, as our General Assembly from time to Time may direct. Provided always that the said Matthew Sparks shall cause this Grant to be registered in the Register's Office of our sd. County of Surry within Twelve Months from the Date hereof, otherwise the same shall be void and of no Affect. In Testimony whereof we have caused our Great Seal to be hereunto affixed. Witness Richard Caswell, Esquire, our Governor, Captain General and Commander in Chief at Kingston the third Day of April in the fourth Year of our Independence, and in the Year of our Lord one Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighty. Recorded in the Secretary's office.
... . on both sides of the North fork of Hunting Creek.. .beginning at a Pine, turning thence north crossing the said Creek thirty-three chains to a black oak, thence East sixty chains and seventy links to a black oak, thence East sixty chains and seventy links to a Stake, thence South crossing the said Creek thirty-three chains to a stake, thence to the first beginning."What is striking about this description of Yates's 200 acres is that the North Fork of Hunting Creek both entered his land on the west and left it on the east, with no part of it passing through Matthew's tract. Recalling that his gristmill was on North Hunting Creek, the survey had determined that the Sparks Mill was actually on Yates land. This problem was solved five years later, on October 19, 1785, when Matthew Sparks purchased the Yates land for "one hundred and fifty pounds current money of this state." (Surry County Deed Book L, p.179.) It was actually from William Yates of Rowan County, apparently a son of Thomas Yates, that Matthew bought these 200 additional acres.)
For the year 1782, the General Assembly of North Carolina ordered that the tax list for each county not only give the name of all property owners, but also their location within each tax district with the number of acres owned, and the number of their horses and cattle. Because no political divisions had been drawn other than designated militia districts, "location" in Surry County meant the principal river or stream drained by the land in question. Matthew's land was described as 400 acres in Capt. Wright's District although it was John E. Elsberry who prepared Wright's list. Matthew's location was given as on "the Waters of Hunting Creek," and he was credited with 3 horses and 6 cattle. It appears that he already was considered to be owner of the Yates tract, although the deed had not actually been drawn up. (This 1782 tax list was copied and published in 1974 by Beulah Scates and others.)
It was on February 15, 1778, that an act passed earlier by the North Carolina General Assembly became effective, creating a new county cut off from Surry to be called Wilkes. Not only did it include most of today's Wilkes County, but also today's Ashe County and parts of Caldwell, Alexander, Watauga, and Alleghany Counties. The size of Surry County was thus greatly reduced by this act, and the line between Wilkes and Surry now became the line forming the western border of Matthew Sparks's property, including that of Thomas Yates, within Surry County. In 1792, however, the General Assembly ordered that the line between Surry and Wilkes Counties be re-drawn, resulting in many acres of Wilkes land being returned to Surry For the Sparks and Yates property this meant moving the line six chains west, with some 42 acres now in "limbo."
The first census for the United States was taken in 1790. At that time, presentday Yadkin County was still part of Surry (it would remain so until 1850), as was part of Alleghany County. Only the person heading each household was actually listed by name on the 1790 census; all household members, including the head, were then enumerated in the following categories: the number of free white males under 16; the number of free white males 16 and over; the number of free white females of all ages; the number of other free persons; and the number of slaves.
According to the 1790 census of North Carolina, Matthew Sparks was one of 971 heads of households in Surry County, with 7,191 individuals in all. These 7,191 individuals were recorded in these five categories as follows:
Matthew Sparks, himself, was shown as the only male over 16 in his household in 1790; there were 3 males 16 and under, and 4 females, including his wife. He owned no slaves. From other records, we can surmise that the three males 16 and under were sons Joel, George, and Matthew, Jr. The sons named William D. and John were born after the 1790 census was taken. The three women in his household besides his wife, Eunice, were doubtless his daughters, Nancy, Margaret, and Sarah. Assuming that the census taker recorded households in the order that he visited them, it would appear that in 1790 Matthew's near neighbors in Surry County were: Zachariah Spurling, Isaac Stubbs, Joseph Scofield, Mary Hudspeth, James Chappel, Moses Swaim, James Shaw, John Stephens, George Grace, and Jacob Dibold. On the Wilkes County side of his land, Matthew's brother-in-law, William Willcockson (also spelled Wilcox, Wilcock, etc.), owned many acres of land, also on the North Hunting Creek adjoining Matthew.Free white males under 16: 1531
Free white males 16 and over: 1762
Free white females of all ages: 3183
All other free persons 17
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Matthew Sparks's father, William Sparks, Sr., was shown on the 1790 census with one male over 16 (himself, of course), also one male 16 and younger, and two females. The male in the "16 and younger" category may have been Matthew's youngest brother, Jeremiah, although we have assumed that Jeremiah would have been more nearly 18 in 1790 than 16. Matthew's brothers, William, Jr., George, and Thomas, were heads of their own households in 1790 near their father.
Without family letters or other personal papers with which to tell the story of Matthew Sparks's life, we must rely on public records, such as recorded deeds, probate records, and county court documents. In North Carolina's court system, that at the county level was called the "Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions." A leading authority on local history in the state, Jo White Linn, has explained the function of this Court as follows:
Matthew Sparks was one of the 19 men ordered to serve on this "road jury.
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The minutes of the Court meeting on August 10, 1791, contain the following:
The jury app't to view a road report as follows, to wit, beginning at William Wilcoxons on the Wilkes Line and so passes by Airs Hudspeths and so into the Iron Work Road near where Phil Holcomb formerly lived then along said road opposit to Capt Bruces then across at his ford on the north of Deep Creek and into the Critchifeld Road at Grays Old Field then down the same by Benjamin Hudspeath's and so on across Forbis Creek to said Lashe's Ferry.Upon acceptance of this report by the justices, its construction was divided into six sections, each section to be supervised by a man living near it. The first was assigned to Matthew Sparks as follows:
Matthew Sparks is app't overseer of the new road already laid out from Wilcoxon's Shop to Lashes' Ferry, [Sparks] to begin at the said shop [and go as far as] to Woolridges Old Place, the hands convenient [to] work thereon.Another action taken by the Surry County Court during its August 1791 session pertaining to Matthew Sparks was his being sworn as one of the county's citizens to be available to serve on a jury in the following term to hear cases brought before the Court. There was still another Court decision made during the August 1791 term affecting Matthew which is difficult to interpret. In the Court's minutes it reads simply: "Matthew Sparks is released from the payment of a poll tax for the future." After 1778, men over 60 years of age were no longer taxed as polls, but Matthew could not have been more than 40 in 1791. (In 1801, however, the age limit was reduced to age 50 and in 1817 to 45.) On all Surry County tax lists during the remainder of his life, Matthew Sparks was shown as not having to pay the poll tax. A possible explanation for its taking effect in 1791 could be that, somehow, he had become disabled and had requested to be excused from this tax. Further credence may be added to the possibility, that some physical misfortune had befallen Matthew, is the fact that it was not until the May 1801 meeting of the Surry County Court that any additional service had been asked of him for a decade. On May 14, 1801, however, he was named as one of 30 men in the county who were to make themselves available for jury duty at the August Court session of 1801, and, indeed, he did so serve.
On January 27, 1795, Matthew Sparks entered a claim for 350 acres of vacant land adjoining his own 400 acres on the North Fork of Hunting Creek. It seems odd that such a tract was still unclaimed from the state in 1795, but there were also other tracts in the county still being claimed then. While there is no record of anyone disputing Matthew's claim, it was not until December 3, 1800, that a patent was issued to him bearing the state's Great Seal. A possible complicating factor causing a delay in his patent being granted was that his claim included the strip of land, six chains wide and 70 chains long between his own land and the Wilkes County line. As noted earlier, the 1778 revision of the boundary line between Wilkes and Surry Counties had left this strip unclaimed. Because of the peculiar shape of this 1800 grant in relationship to Matthew's other land, a description of his entire plantation at this time appears on the following page.
Matthew must have been quite confident in 1797 that he would receive the patent for this 350-acre tract because in May 1797, he sold for 20 pounds the southeast corner of it (100 acres) to his son-in-law, Alexander Smith. (Deed Book G, pp. 81-82) Matthew and Eunice's eldest daughter, Nancy Sparks, had been married to Alexander Smith in Surry County in 1796--their marriage bond was dated July 22, 1796, with Joseph Smith as their bondsman. There is evidence that Joseph Smith was a brother of Alexander.
MATTHEW SPARKS (1752-1819), continued:
A sketch of the land (750 acres) once owned by Matthew Sparks in Surry County, North Carolina (now within Buck Shoals Township in Yadkin County) is shown below. The description of his 350-acre grant in 1800 (Surry County Deed Book 1, p.437) was as follows: "...lying and being.. on the North fork of Huriting Creek, beginning at a black Jack the Northwest corner of said Sparks' former survey, runs South seventy chains to a Stake, thence East sixty chains to a pine on Smith's line, South on the same forty six chains to a pine on Henry Speers' line, West on the same sixty six chains to a stake in the Wilkes County line, North on the same one hundred and sixteen chains to a stake, thence East to the beginning."
[Here appears a photograph, beneath which
is the following caption:]
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It was also in May 1797 that Joseph Smith sold to Alexander Smith, son-in-law of Matthew and Eunice Sparks, a portion (130 acres) of the land that he owned on the east side of the 100 acres that Matthew had sold to Alexander. (Deed Book G, pp.116 -17)
The U.S. Constitution
requires that there be a national census taken every ten years, so in 1800
the nation's second census was taken. The age categories for the members
of each household in 1800 were extended to provide five categories for
while males and females, with slaves simply counted. These categories were:
Under 10; 10 & under 16; 16 & under 26; 26 & under 45; and 45 & upwards. Matthew and Eunice were enumerated in the "45 & upwards" category, of course. Only one other female was enumerated, as "16 & under 26," whom we can be certain was the daughter Sarah, whose marriage to Henry Bray would occur in May 1803. We cannot be certain of the identity of the six young males in the Sparks household, however; three were under 10 years while the other three were within the 10 to 16 category. Matthew and Eunice's sons named William D. Sparks and John Sparks were probably among the males under 10, but only their son Matthew Sparks, Jr. would seem to fit in the 10 to 16 group. They may have been sons who died young of whom we have no record, or they may have been orphaned relatives or neighbors whom Matthew and Eunice had taken as apprentices to learn the miller's trade. Matthew was also shown as owning one slave in 1800.
The second daughter of Matthew and Eunice, Margaret ("Peggy"), had been married to William West in 1799--their marriage bond was dated January 4, 1799, with Joseph Smith serving as bondsman. On November 3, 1806, Matthew Sparks purchased from his son-in-law, William West, for 200 pounds, "good and lawful money of the state," a 200-acre tract of land described as "beginning at a white oak corner on Hicks old line..." (Book L, p.240) This land adjoined on the east the 200-acre tract that Matthew had been granted in 1780. It was probably as a personal favor to his son-in-law that Matthew bought this tract, for on July 6, 1810, he sold 170 acres of it back to West for $204. (Book N, p.80) William West's financial problems continued, however, and following a lawsuit involving a debt that he owed in November 1815, the Surry County Sheriff John Wright was directed by the Court to seize West's 170 acres to be sold at public auction to pay this debt. According to Surry County Deed Book N, pp.322-33, Matthew Sparks was the highest bidder at the auction, and for $95.31 he again became the owner of this tract of land. This was a remarkably small price; we may wonder whether other bidders curbed their bids to permit Matthew to buy it for no more than the amount of West's debt. Matthew did not return it to his son-in-law, however; on May 7, 1817, he sold it to a neighbor named Philip Holcomb for $1,000. (Book 7, p.93) West's financial problems appear to have continued through apparent mismanagement as will be noted in the wording of Matthew's will in 1819.
On January 12, 1807, Matthew Sparks purchased a remarkably small plot of land comprising only five acres, for which he paid ten dollars. (Deed Book L, pp. 297-98) The deed traces this plot's ownership history from the time it had been granted to David Allen by the state on September 20, 1779; then it was described as located near "a certain iron mine pit near Thomas Yates' house." What use had been made of it through the years is not revealed. On January 23, 1811, Matthew sold it to his son, Matthew Sparks, Jr., for five pounds. (Book 0, p.375)
The 1810 census again provides us with a glimpse of Matthew Sparks's household. Again, only the head of each household was named on this census; its members were then enumerated in the same form as in 1800. Matthew and Eunice were, as in 1800, the male and female shown as over the age of 45. The two males living with them who were between 16 and 26 were probably their sons, William D. and John. Matthew Sparks, Jr. had been married to Sarah Elmore in 1808 and
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was shown on the 1810 census, as head of his own household, which included his wife and two small sons.
As noted above, on the 1810 census Matthew Sparks was shown as then owning one slave. From a bill of sale dated June 14, 1800, and recorded in Surry County's Will Book 2, p.50+, we know that this was the "Negro girl, Tamer, aged five years" whom Matthew had purchased for $100 from Aaron Moore. The bill of sale was witnessed by Oby Martin and James Sparks, brother of Matthew. It was unusual for a record of the purchase of slaves to be recorded in Surry County, but for some reason a number of such sales were copied in 1810. We may wonder why little Tamer's purchase was recorded as well as what Matthew's reason may have been for acquiring a female slave only five years old. Aaron Moore lived in Stokes County, North Carolina; he owned one slave when the 1800 census was taken there.
On the Surry County tax list of 1815, Matthew was required to pay a poll tax for two slaves, and in 1816 for three. Under a North Carolina law then in effect, all slaves, male and female, between the ages of 12 and 50, were taxed as "Black Polls." As will be noted in Matthew's will and the settlement of his estate, his total number of slaves was six in 1819.
It was on March 26, 1819, that Matthew Sparks made his will. He must have known that death was fast approaching because two days earlier, on March 24, he signed deeds giving tracts of land to each of his five sons, "in consideration of the natural love and affection that a parent hath towards a child," a phrase repeated in each deed. Throughout the descriptions of the land in these deeds, he referred to the North Branch of Hunting Creek simply as Hunting Creek.
To his son William D. Sparks (he called him simply William in the deed) he gave 70 acres that constituted the upper northwest corner of his plantation, which was part of the tract on which his father had "squatted" in 1773. To his son Joel Sparks he gave 60 acres, being the middle part of this original tract. Matthew Sparks, Jr. received 90 acres that was largely part of Matthew's patent of 1800. To his son George Sparks, Matthew gave 100 acres which was essentially the west half of the 200-acre tract that he had purchased from Thomas Yates in 1780, including the grist- mill. To his youngest son, John Sparks, Matthew gave 50 acres constituting the northeast corner of his plantation adjoining the 60-acre tract given to Joel Sparks. According to Matthew's calculations, these gifts to his sons left 352 acres that in his will were to be held and used by his wife, Eunice Sparks, throughout her lifetime.
We know that the four oldest sons of Matthew and Eunice were present when these deeds were drawn up by Thomas Wright, long a friend as well as the sheriff of Surry County. These four sons took turns witnessing each other's deeds. John Sparks, the youngest son, was probably also present, but being then under the age of 21, he was too young to serve as a witness to a legal document.
Matthew Sparks died sometime between March 24, 1819, and the May 1819 meeting of the Surry County Court in May 1819 when his will was entered for probate.
The will of Matthew Sparks was duly recorded in Surry County's Will Book 3, pp. 140-41, but the original, bearing Matthew's actual signature, has also been pre served at the North Carolina State Archives. Many years ago, William Perry John son obtained a photostat copy of this original. Matthew's signature on his will is reproduced below from this negative photostat; the text of his will follows on page.
[Scanning editor's note: A positive image of the above signature is see below:]
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Matthew Sparks's Last Will and Testament, March 26, 1819.
In the Name of God, Amen. I Matthew Sparks of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina being weak in Body but of sound mind and Memory Blessed be God, do this 26th day of March in the year of Our Lord 1819 make and publish this my last will & testament in manner following, that is to say --
First I lend unto my beloved Wife Nice Sparks, the whole of my tract of land & plantation, together with my Household furniture & plantation Tools, the whole of my stock of Every description & two stills, also three Negros to wit, Cate, Stephen & Joan during her natural life -- after her decease the said Estate above mentioned to be sold and equally divided among my Children herein named, that is to say, Joel, George, Matthew, William, John, Nancy Smith [and] Sally Bray -- At the same time authorising my said wife in her lifetime, if she sees cause to give unto my Daughter Peggy West, of the above property put in her possession such sum or sums not Exceeding one Hundred dollars at her discretion. My will and desir [sic] is that the Ballance of my negro property not already named shall after my decease be sold and the proceeds of such sale to be Equally divided among my Children Above named, to wit, Joel, George, Matthew, William, John, Nancy & Sally.
I make and Ordain my Sons Joel Sparks and Matthew Sparks Executors of this my last Will and testament, and I do hereby Revoke all other wills by me made and Acknowledge this only to be my last will and Testament. In testimony whereof I have hereunto sit [sic] my hand and seal the day and date above written -- Signed, Sealed and Acknowledged in presence of --
[signed] T. Wright Jurat [Signed] Mathew Sparks SealThe following statement was added at the end of the recorded copy of this Surry County's Will Book 3, pp.140-41:
" J. B. Hampton
State of North Carolina Surry County May Session 1819
Thomas Wright one of the subscribing Witnesses to the forgoing Last will and testiment of Matthew Sparks Decd Made Oath in Open Court that he saw Matthew Sparks Sign Publish and Declare the same to be his last will and Testament that he was of sound disposing mind and memory. That he did it freely and without compulsion and that he saw John B. Hampton at the same time, sign the same as subscribing witness thereto whereupon it was ordered to be recorded. Recorded accordingly.
In the minutes of the Surry County "P's & Q's" Court, the following entry appears for the session of the Court for May 12, 1819:
The last will & testament ot Matthew Sparks dec'd was duly proven in open court by the oath of Thomas B. Wright & ordered to be recorded. Joel Sparks one of the executors therein named qualifyed agreeable to law. Matthew Sparks the other executor refuses to qualify and it is ordered to be recorded.
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Why Matthew Sparks, Jr. refused to be an executor with his brother in the probat ing of their father's estate is not known. The Court did not appoint a replacement for him, and Joel acted as the sole executor. In accordance with the law, Joel proceeded to prepare an inventory of his father's estate, all of which his father's will had directed to be retained in his widow's possession for her natural lifetime. (As seen, Matthew had called Eunice by her nickname, "Nice," in his will)
Joel Sparks completed the inventory in time for it to be presented to the County Court when it met for its August 1819 session. During its meeting on August 11, 1819, the following entry was made in its minutes: "An inventory of the estate & account of sales of Matthew Sparks dec'd was returned & ordered to be recorded." This document, in Joel Sparks's own handwriting, has been preserved. A copy was made by William Perry Johnson (one of the founders of the Sparks Family Association) with the following notation: "Transcribed at Dobson, Surry Co., N.C., August, 1952, Office of Clerk of Court."
No better word-picture of Matthew and Eunice Sparks's living style could be found than this inventory of their possessions at the time of Matthew's death in 1819. It is apparent from this that he was no longer in the milling business then. He was "well off" by the standards of the time, and Eunice could be assured of a comfortable living during her widowhood. Matthew owed no debts when he died. Four of his sons owed him money for which he held their notes. Three of his slaves were on loan, also, to sons Joel, William, and George; and in accordance with his will, they were now to be sold and the proceeds divided among his children (except his daughter (Peggy). Two neighbors owed him money: Daniel Wilcockson $41.00 for a desk and Joshua' Hendrick for a "yoke of steers" worth $25.56.
As has been noted, Matthew had made deeds of gift to each of his five sons before making his will. As calculated by Joel Sparks in preparing the inventory, "the land now remaining" comprised 300 acres, to be managed by Eunice Sparks during her life time. From his will and the inventory, we know not only the number of slaves that Matthew owned when he died (six), but their names as well: Cate, Stephen, and Joan to be held by Eunice during her lifetime, and Caty, Fanny, and Judy on loan to sons. (Caty was also called "Cit," and Fanny was called "Fann."
In presenting Joel Sparks's inventory of his father's possessions here, some punctuatio~ has been added for the sake of clarity, but spelling has not been corrected.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Inventory of Matthew Sparks's Estate
One neagro woman named Cate
One neagro boy named Steve
One neagro girll named Jin
Two Stills & 15 Stands & 2 barrels &
3 Caggs [kegs]
Four head of horses
17 head of Cattle
27 head of hogs
11 head of Sheep
1 Book Case & Desk
1 Crunk [trunk]
1 trumpetet [sic]
1 Candle stick
1 looking glass
15 pounds of taller
1 par of Stellards
3 iron pots & hooks
2 iron ovens and leads [lids]
3 Iron Skillets
1 Spice morter & pesel
1 tea kittle & lead [lid]
2 Smothing irons
2 tin buckets
6 tin Cups & 1 tin quart & 1 tin funnel
6 Earthen Crocks
3 Earthen Jugs
1 man Saddle & Saddle bags & one woman Saddle
2 flax wheales
1 cotton wheal
l3 par of Cardes
1 Check real
6 Chears [chairs]
1 meal Sifter
1 par of Spoon moles
1 iron Shovel
Some spun thread
2 Small sides of Tand leather
I raw hide
1 headed hoghead
1 Cors-Cut Saw
2 hands Saws
1 foot adds & iron Squar
3 Skraw Augurs
1 Iron potrack
1 par of Sheap Shears
1 larg hous bible
1 Small bible
1 hime Book
1 Book by the name of Wesleys
1 Shygar canester
2 water vesels in the hous
1 Sithe & Cradle
2 Sithe blades
1 Cutting box & nife
3 Chopping axes
1 Sprowting hough
2 plouglis & 2 Cuters & 2 irond
2 Firer locks & one Shot bag
3 Beds & stids & firniture
2 tables1 loom & 9 Slays [?]&
two par of harnis
16 puter plates
5 puter plates
8 puter basons
1 par of Candle moles
2 iren wedges
1 par of iron Stretchers & one
2 par of iron gears
1 iron frow
2 drawing nives
1 par of Comperseses 
1 long jointer & coopers adds
1 broad chizzel
4 reap hooks.
1 bar or iron
1 Ox carte
10 barrels of corn
7 bushels of wheat
200 pounds of bacon
1 Small Coberd
3 Small cobberd
3 Small tubes [tubs]
Som ry in a small tube
3 small firkins with som fat in
all of them
20 pounds of Coton
16 pounds of wool
4 bee hives
1 half bushel
20 gallons of vineger
a small parcel of roted flax
1 note of hand on George Sparks for $42.94
1 note on Joel Sparks for $50
1 note on Joel Sparks for $20
1 Note on Matthew Sparks [Jr.]
1 note on Wm. D. Sparkes for $24
Joel Sparks, one neagro girl
named Caty $350
William Sparks, one neagro girl
named Fanny $351
George Sparks, one neagro girl
named Judy $280
last three named neagro
Wllcockson to one Desk $41
Scanned and edited by Harold E. Sparks