Whole Number 8
by William Perry Johnson
[Editor's Note: In future issues of The Sparks Quarterly, there will appear periodically the marriage bonds for persons named Sparks which have been preserved for various North Carolina Counties, Our HistorianGenealogist, William Perry Johnson, has prepared the following informative article as an introduction to this series.]
An important source of genealogical data in North Carolina is the marriage bonds. These bonds were originally to be found in the county courthouses, but in recent years most of them have been deposited for safekeeping in the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Marriage bonds were first required in North Carolina by the Act of April 4th, 1741. This act provided that "every clergyman of the Church of England, or for want of such, any lawful Magistrate, within this Government, shall . join together in the holy estate of matrimony, such persons who may lawfully enter into such a relation, and have complied with the directions herein after contained. . . . No Minister or Justice of the Peace . . shall celebrate the rites of matrimony . . . without license . or thrice publication of the banns as prescribed by the rubric in the book of common prayer. License must be issued by the Clerk of the County Court of the county where the feme shall have her usual residence. The prospective groom, in order to obtain this license, must make a bond with sufficient security in the sum of fifty pounds proclamation money ($250), with condition that there is no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage. This bond guaranteed that both bride and groom were free to marry, i.e., were white and of legal age, or had consent of parent or guardian in case of minority; that neither party was already legally married to a spouse, and so on.
In 1766 the Presbyterian, or dissenting, clergy were permitted to perform the ceremony, as they had been doing, apparently illegally, for quite some time. (The Quakers in North Carolina had been performing their own marriages since before 1680, by first declaring their intentions of marriage in two successive monthly meetings, then becoming man and wife in a ceremony distinctively Quaker.) In 1778 it was enacted that all regular ministers of the gospel of every denomination, "having the cure of souls, and all justices of the peace, are "authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony according to the rites of their respective churches and agreeable to the rules in this act prescribed. Provision was again made for marriage either by license or by banns published three times by any minister of the gospel. The amount of the bond required for license was raised to five hundred pounds lawful money of the State ($2500). In 1836-7 the amount of the bond was changed to $1000. In 1867 the law was changed so that no bond was required, and, from then on, just the marriage license was issued, for a small fee paid to the Clerk of Court. No prevision was ever made for the recording of the marriage bonds or marriage licenses until around 1850, when it was required by law that the Clerk of the Court keep a record of the marriage licenses.
Thus, the prospective groom and his bondsman (usually a close relative or friend of the bride or groom) would therefore travel--sometimes fifty miles or more in days when counties were large and courthouses few and far between--to the courthouse in the county where the prospective bride resided. The groom then applied to the Clerk of Court for a marriage license, which was issued after he had signed a marriage bond, with his bondsman as security. The Clerk of Court often signed the marriage bond as a witness, unless other friends and relatives had accompanied the prospective groom and his bondsman; in which case one of them usually signed as a witness.
Illiterate persons signed their name by mark; in the marriage bonds this is indicated by a small x) The Clerk of Court kept the marriage bond, to be filed in his office, and gave the groomtobe a marriage certificate, or license. Sometimes the very same day, but usually a day or even a week or so later, the prospective bride and groom would take their marriage license to the nearest minister, or if none was available-as was often the case-to the nearest magistrate, who performed the marriage ceremony. Near the middle of the last century, about the time when marriage bonds were no longer required, it was required by law that the minister or magistrate (Justice of the Peace, etc.) who performed the marriage ceremony should place on the marriage license his name and the date of the marriage, and return the paper to the Clerk of Court where it was recorded and filed. This is why many of the marriage records in the 1850's and 1660's have both the date of the marriage license and the date of the marriage. Needless to say, many ministers and magistrates failed to comply with this law, which accounts for further losses of North Carolina marriage records.
Thus, about the only source of marriage records in North Carolina before 1650 is the marriage bonds, which cover the period from 1741 to 1667. Very few marriage bonds, however, have been preserved in North Carolina for the years prior to the American Revolution, and they are often sparse for many decades after that. There are several reasons for this lack of marriage bonds in North Carolina. Perhaps the primary reason is a financial one--few families were wealthy enough to post the bond required. One cynic has remarked that only the proud or the rich flaunted their marriage bonds. Another reason is that not only were many of the county officials in colonial days extremely lax in enforcing the marriage laws, but when their small offices became crowded, they often had a "house cleaning, simply taking out and burning all old, outdated, and, to them, useless and worthless court records. Many marriage bonds perished in this way. Others were lost in courthouse fires; some of them were destroyed during the War between the States. It is estimated that less than one third of all marriages in North Carolina were performed by license, the bulk being performed by banns, which required no license and hence no bond. And perhaps less than half of the bonds are extant today. Therefore, the lack of a marriage bond is no proof that an ancestor did not marry in North Carolina.
Whole Number 4
Copied from the Originals by William Perry Johnson
[Editor's Note: Surry County, North Carolina, from which the following bonds were taken, was formed in 1770 from Rowan County. In 1777 the County of Wilkes was cut off from Surry, and in 1789 the County of Stokes was likewise cut off from Surry. In 1850 Surry was again divided, with Yadkin County being set apart. Parts of Surry County were annexed to Alleghany County in 1870 and in 1875. Dobson is the county seat of Surry County today. Since Mr. Johnson copied these bonds they have been placed in the Archives in Raleigh.]
Following is a full copy of the marriage bond, dated 1812, for Reuben Johnson (son of Charles and Susannah (Sparks) Johnson) of Surry County, North Carolina. It is inserted here as a typical example of a North Carolina marriage bond of that period.
"State of North Carolina,
"Know all men by these presents, That we Reuben Johnson and Elisha Chappel are held and firmly bound unto William Hawkins, Governor, or his Successors in office, in the full sum of Five Hundred Pounds current Money, to be paid to the said Governor, his successors or Assigns, for the which payment well and truly to be made and done, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators jointly and severally, firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals, and dated this 23d day of May A.D. 1812.
"The Condition of the above Obligation is such, that whereas the above bounden Reuben Johnson hath made application for a License for a Marriage to be celebrated between him and Mary Harvil of the County aforesaid:Now, in case it shall not appear hereafter, that there is any lawful cause or impediment to obstruct the said Marriage, then the above Obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.
Signed, Sealed and Delivered in the Presence of [s], Reuben Johnson [s] Elisha Chappel
Alexander x Smith Nancy Sparks - 22 July 1796. Bondsman: Joseph Smith.
Benjamin x Sparks Eliza. Hicks January 18, 1797. Bondsman: John Allen.
William West - Margarett Sparks - January 4, 1799. Bondsman: Joseph Smith.
Henry Bray - Sarah Sparks - 14 May 1803. Bondsman: Stephen Mankins.
Mathew x Sparks - Sarah Elmore - 20 February 1808. Bondsman: Wm. West.
Wiley x Craft - Aagatha Sparks - January 28, 1812. Bondsman: Allen x Sisk.
William x Sparks - Elizabeth Gentry - January 4, 1813. Bondsman: Wiley Craft.
Joseph Sparks - Martha Edwards - January 28, 1815. Bondsman: Richard Gentry.
William Sparks - Lethey Speer - 1 August 1816. Bondsman: Thomas x Arnold.
Jonathan x Sparks Rachel Swaim 26 November 1817. Bondsman: Wm. Sparks.
John Russell - Nancy Sparks - September 11, 1824. Bondsman: Joel H. Burch.
George Sparks, Jr. Fany Lindsey 1 December 1829. Bondsman: Charles x Johnson, Jr.
Allen Redding - Sarah Sparks - 11 November 1833. Bondsman~ Wm. Redding.
Thomas Holcomb - Susan Sparks 9 October 1835. Bondsman: Leroy Holcomb.
James x Morrison - Sally Sparks - 13 November 1836. Bondsman: Henry x Waldridge.
Athanasious Sparks Sally Brinegar 12 April 1837. Bondsman: Moses Austill. [he signs as Athe Sparks. WPJ]
Thomas x Sparks - Catherine Swaim - 28 February c?3 1837. Bondsman: William Z. x Sparks.
Francis Wood Nancy Sparks - January 4, 1838. Bondsman: Minchin Goss.
Wm Sparks - Mary Benge - September 5, 1844. Bondsman: George Sparks.
Joel Pardew Janetty Sparks - 30 October 1845. Bondsman: Wm. Holcomb.
James Sparks - Lethee Ann Bryan - 29 October 1846. Bondsman: Francis Wood.
Daniel Richardson - Jane Sparks - 3 August 1862. Bondsman: Isaac Lundy.
Copied by William Perry Johnson
[Editors Note: Wilkes County was formed in 1777 from Surry and the District of Washington. A large number of changes in the boundaries of Wilkes County have been made through the years, many of which it is unnecessary to mention here. It is of interest that this section was considered a part of Tennessee prior to the Revolutionary War, and actually called "Tennessee. The major changes in the boundaries of Wilkes County include the formation of Ashe County from Wilkes in 1799 and the formation of Caldwell County from part of Wilkes in 1841. For a complete record of these changes see The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 16631943, by David Leroy Corbitt, Raleigh, State Department of Archives and History, 1950. The county seat of Wilkes County today is Wilkesboro.]
John Sparks - Mary Parmely 14 August 1781. Bondsman: James Bunyard.
John Johnson - Peggey Sparks - January 17, 1782. Bondsman: Adoniram Allen.
Vim x Gibson - Margaret Sparks 29 April 1782. Bondsman: William Wilcockson.
Jacob Davis - Lizzey Sparks - 21 May 1782. Bondsman: Benjamin Allen.
Charles x Johnson - Susana Sparks - 2 March 1784. Bondsman: John x Bolin.
James x Denney - Hannah Sparks - 23 November 1784. Bondsman: George x Denney.
Matthew Durham - Mary Sparkes - 28 December 1801. Bondsman: Cahles (sic.) Sparkes.
Francis Kirby, Jr. - Mary Sparks - 30 August 1813.
Joel Sparks - Nancy Blackborn - 27 July 1814. Bondsman: Claborn Waddill.
Samuel x Sparks - Mary Alvey 22 October 1814. Bondsman: Wiseman x Alvey.
George Sparks - Elizabeth Armstrong - 24 October 1814. Bondsman: Westley x Armstrong.
Hardy Sparks - Susannah Brown - January 5, 1815. Bondsman: James Sparks.
Emaniel x Baugess - Amelia Sparkes - 26 September 1817. Bondsman: Joseph x Spicer.
Jonas Sparks - Mary Brown 27 September 1817. Bondsman: John x Brown.
William x Allexander - Sary Sparkes - 18 March 1820. Bondsman: James Johnson.
William R. Sparks - Salley Wilcockson - 13 March 1321. Bondsman: Reuben Sparks.
Joseph x Sparks - Sabry Demnit - February 4, 1822. Bondsman: Joseph x Brown.
Colbea Sparks Sarah, dau. of John Pruitt - 28 December 1822. Bondsman: Claborn x Wadle.
Wiley Gentry - Matilda Sparks 12 October 1825. Bondsman: William R. Sparks.
Benjamin Hall - Sarah Sparks - January 16, 1828. Bondsman: Daniel Brown.
William x Sparks - Salley Jinnings - 13 September 1828. Bondsman: William R. Sparks.
Reubin Sparks - Phoeby Blackburn - 10 October 1828. Bondsman: Eli Blackburn.
William Frasier - Temperance Sparks - February 4, 1832. Bondsman: P(eter) Dowell.
George Chambers - Bilenda Sparks - 6 June 1833. Bondsman: Henry Chambers.
Hampton x Hollaway - Mary Sparkes - February 1, 1834. Bondsman: Wm M. Forester.
Solomon Sparks, Jr. - Malindann Caudill - 1 April 1835. Bondsman: Hampton x Holdaway.
James Hankes - Lewsinda Sparkes - January 13, 1838. Bondsman: Meredith Lyon.
Solomon Sparkes -Marey Day - January 30, 1838. Bondsman: C(h)apman Lewis.
Silas x Perdue - Malinday Sparkes - 23 February 1838. Bondsman: James Sale.
Merideth Lion - Melindia Sparks - 23 August 1838. Bondsman: Jacob Lyon.
Vim R(usal) Sparkes 12 April 1839. Bondsman: Sam'l x Sparkes.
Joseph Sparkes - Marey Gray - 20 September 1842. Bondsman: George Chambers.
Daniel Sparkes - Mary L. Walker - 16 February 1843. Bondsman: W(illia)m Vannoy.
James E. Crysel Elizabeth Sparkes - 5 June 1843. Bondsman: John Land.
Joel Sparks - Miry Lane - September 5, 1844. Bondsman: S(aml) K. Hartin.
Robert Sparks 1845. Bondsman: Joel x Sparks.
Roubin Sparkes Belinda Gray January 5, 1846. Bondsman: Joseph x Sparkes.
Jacob Lyon - 18.104.22.168.2.4.3 Malindy Sparkes - 6 June 1846. Bondsman: James Durham.
Joel Sparkes - Charloty Durham - 21 June 1846. Bondsman: James Durham.
James Durham - Mity Sparks - 15 August 1846. Bondsman: Merideth Lyon.
Jesse P. Adams - Jincey Sparkes - 29 October 1846. Bondsman: Reuben Spearkes.
Joel Sparks - Mary Shatley - 23 November 1846. Bondsman: John x Shatley.
Williford Privett, Jr. - Huldah Sparkes - 22 November 1848. Bondsman: Thomas L. Kelly.
Alexander x Sparkes - Mary M. Bryan - 12 June 1849. Bondsman: Francis Wood.
James Sparkes - Carlotte Dickerson - January 14, 1850. Bondsman: Isiah Field.
John Durham - Sally Sparks - 20 November 1851. Bondsman: James Durham. Married 21 December 1851 by James McAnn, J.P.
Noah Sparkes - Rachiel M. McBride - 4 December 1851. Married - 1851 by D. Swaim.
Joseph N. Goforth - Mary Sparks - 21 October 1852. Bondsman: Samuel S. Goforth.
Samiel x Sparkes - Salley Ellis - 26 October 1852. Bondsman: William x Redding.
George W. Sparks - Elizabeth E. Johnson - 17 October 1855. Bondsman: Lcander Johnson.
B. C. Hutchinson - Jane Sparks - 10 April 1858. Bondsman: E. M. Hutchinson.
Amos x Ladd - Sary Sparkes - September 8, 1859. Bondsman: Aaron Ladd. Married September 9, 1859 by John Brown, J.P.
James H. Billings Arrena R. Sparks - 5 August 1350. Married 5 August 1850 by John Gentry.
Ruben x Sparks Elizabeth J. Billings - 12 April 1862. Bondsman: Daniel Billings.
Whole Number 12
(Editor's note: For a discussion of North Carolina marriage bonds, see Mr. Johnson's article on pages 54 and 55 of the Dec, 1954, issue of The Sparks Quarterly. [Whole No. 8])
Henry Bryan & Elizabeth Sparks, 11 February 1786. Bondsman: Thos. Enochs.
Jonas x Sparks Mary Eakle, September 5, 1786. Bondsman: Peter Little.
Jesse Caton & Ester Sparks, January 20, 1787. Bondsman: Charles Caton.
Jonas x Sparks & Anney Katon, 15 October 1796. Bondsman: John Hill.
Christian Stipe & Esther Sparks,19 December 1806. Bondsman: C(harles) F. Bagge.
Joseph Sparks & Febey Hinkle, January 28, 1811. Bondsman: Jesse Walker.
Ephram Sparks & Sarah Douthit, 10 August 1811. Bondsman: James E. Brown,
Benjamin Dulin & Elizabeth Sparks, 9 December 1815, Bondsman: David x Call.
Daniel x Fults & Jamima Sparks, September 2, 1816. Bondsman: James x Orreil.
Whole Number 15
In the Dec, 1955, issue of the Quarterly, nine marriage bonds from Rowan County, North Carolina, were listed, as copied by William Perry Johnson. The following three bonds should also have been included--these three were found by Joy Sparks, one of our charter members.
Cornelious Sparks - Susannah Stephens - 14 December 1812. Bondsman: Abraham March.
Joseph Sparks - Polley Cole - 14 December 1814. Bondsman: Jesse Walker.
Joseph Sparks - Polley Call - 28 August 1823. Bondsman: Fielding Slater.
Whole Number 19
August 14, 1817. Hartwell Blalook & Cassey Sparks. Bondsman: Abraham Crabtree.
22 May 1838. William Dollar & Jane Sparks... Bondsmen: W, McCauley, George Browning.
12 September 1839. Christopher Lynn & Candis Sparks. Bondsmen: Thomas Christian, A. Cheek.
26 November 1849. Burrell Robarts & Mary Ann Sparks. Bondsman: Christopher Lynn.
Whole Number 178
Hanner Becknell and Shadrick Standley, 7---- 1800; Bondsman, Samuel Anderson; Witness, Wm. B. Lenoir.
Benj. Becknal and Rebecca Lewis, 10 September 1813; Bondsman, J. Waugh; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Nancy Bechnail and James Lunsford, 5 December 1815; Bondsman, William Brown; Witness, R. Martin, CIk.
Lewis Bechnell and Jane Felts, 12 July 1819; Bondsman, Henry Cook; Witness, Mary Martin.
Pleasent Becknal and Mary Campble, 27 February 1821; Bondsman, Reuben Standley; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Seneth Becknal and Noah Brown, 18 April 18, 1823; Bondsman, John W. Fergerson; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Meriday Becknall and Rebeccah Stanley, 18 December 1823; Bondsman, William Nance; Witness, R. Martin, Clk.
Ruth Bicknall and Thos. Marlow, February 1, 1825; Bondsman, Shadrack Stan ley; Witness, R. Martin, CIk.
Elizabeth Bicknall and Zadock Bell, February 6, 1827; Bondsman, William Bell; [No witness]
Merril Becknail and Sarah Lewis, 11 August 1829; Bondsman, Reuben Standley; Witness: R. Martin, Clk.
Dolly Becknold and Shepherd Lunsford, 15 August 1834; Bondsman: Daniel Rash; Witness, Wm. Mastin, C.C.C.
Larkin J. Bicknell and Marinda Hammons, 29 December 1834; Bondsman, J. S. Bryan; Witness, Wm. Mastin, C.C.C.
Hily Becknel and George Tiliman, 16 February 1838; Bondsman, Andrew J Southur; Witness, D. Gray.
Mary Bicknell and Joel Brown, 30 August 1852; Bondsman, Wesley Felts; Witness, John Brown.
Benjamin E. Becknell and Sarah Hardin, January 14, 1853; Witness, W. Martin, Married January 18, 1853 by R. W. Wooton, J.P.
Manda M. Becknell and William E. Mastin, 15 March 1856; Witness, John Brown, Dpty.
[Editor's Note: Readers are reminded that a marriage bond was usually obtained several days prior to the marriage; there are even instances where the marriage never took place. In copying these marriage bonds, William Perry Johnson carefully transcribed each name as it was spelled on the bond. These bonds illustrate the variety of ways the name Bicknell could be spelled.]