March 15, 2020

Pages 1-3
Whole Number 1

Founding of the Sparks Family Assoc

This is how the founding of THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION came about. William Perry Johnson began in 1934 (at the age of 16) to become interested in genealogy and family history. He began tracing all branches of his ancestry--two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, etc.--and soon learned that his great-great-great-great-grandfather, Charles Johnson, was married in 1784 in Wilkes Co., North Carolina, to Susannah Sparks, and settled by 1790 in the Brushy Mountain section of Surry (now Yadkin) Co., N.C. One of their sons, Reuben Johnson, removed in 1831 to Randolph Co., Indiana; his son, Daniel Ellis Johnson, was the father of Reuben Oliver Johnson, who removed to Grant Co., Indiana; Daniel Buchanan Johnson, son of Reuben Oliver, had Carter Guy Johnson, father of William Perry Johnson.

In an effort to trace the parentage of Susannah (Sparks) Johnson, he contacted many persons interested in the genealogy of the Sparks family. In 1944 he contacted Russell E.Bidlack, who had recently married Melva H. Sparks of Clio, Iowa, and had become interested in tracing her ancestry. It was later learned that she, too, descended from the Sparks family of the Brushy Mountain section of Surry (now Yadkin) and Wilkes Counties, N.C. Her father was O. A. Sparks; grandfather, John Garland Sparks; great-grandfather, Joel Sparks, Jr..; great-great-grandfather, Joel Sparks, Sr., a native of Surry (now Yadkin) Co., N.C., who settled in Missouri, son of Matthew Sparks, and grandson of William Sparks, early settlers of Surry Co., N.C. (This William Sparks was probably an uncle of the above-mentioned Susannah (Sparks) Johnson.)

In 1951 contact was made with Paul E. Sparks, who had become actively interested in the family since the death that year of his grandfather, Colby Sparks, aged 93. He was quite close to his grandfather, and in the latter's last years gleaned considerable family history and genealogy from him, since he loved to reminisce about his forefathers and the pioneer days. James Sparks, father of Paul, was a son of Colby, and Colby was son of Hugh Sparks, all of Kentucky. Hugh was the son of George Sparks who was a native of Wilkes Co., N.C. John Sparks, father of George, was a Revolutionary War soldier, and at that time a resident of the Brushy Mountain section of Surry (now Yadkin) Co., N.C. (John was a brother of Susannah Sparks Johnson and probably a nephew of William.)

These three searchers have amassed considerable data pertaining to the Sparks family in America, especially during the past two years. They discovered that the Sparks family of Western North Carolina descended from the Sparks family of Maryland, which was there by the 1670s or earlier; and that branches of the Maryland family went to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and elsewhere, so that today representatives of the Sparks family are found from coast to coast. Other Sparks families settled in other sections of America, and it is the aim of THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION to collect and preserve data for these families as well as for the Maryland family, and to share these data, through The Sparks Quarterly, with all who are interested.

Since the three officers and founders of THE SPARKS FAMILY ASSOCIATION were born between 1910 and 1920, they look forward to at least half a century of activity in the Association. To further acquaint you with them, there follows a brief biographical sketch of each.

Paul E. Sparks was born January 17, 1910 on a farm in Lawrence Co., KY. After graduating from Morehead (KY) State College, he married a classmate, Mary Sue Miller, in 1933, and came to Louisville as a public school teacher. In 1938, after getting his M.A. degree from Northwestern University, he was appointed public school principal, a position he held until 1942 when he entered the Army. In 1946, upon release from the service, he resumed his school principalship. He and Mrs. Sparks have one son, Robert Sparks, age 8.

Russell E. Bidlack was born May 25, 1920 on a farm near Manilla, Iowa. At the end of his Junior year at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa, (1941) he entered the Army and served until January 1946. After finishing his undergraduate work at Simpson following the war, he entered the University of Michigan to study Library Science, and he is now a pre-doctoral instructor there. His interest in the Sparks family springs from the fact that his wife was a Sparks, her maiden name being Melva Helen Sparks, daughter of O. A. Sparks, Clio, Iowa. The Bidlacks have two children, Stanley, age 7, and Martha, age 4.

William Perry Johnson was born May 16, 1918 on a farm near Fairmount, Grant Co., Indiana. In 1936 he went to North Carolina where he lived intermittently until 1942 when he entered the Army, having spent most of this time gathering genealogical data on various lines of his ancestry, especially the Hiatt family. He continued his genealogical pursuits even while in the service, and after he was released in 1943 he settled the following year in Los Angeles, where his research culminated in the publication of his HIATT-HYATT GENEALOGY. This book, published in 1951, contains 20,000 names, covers 11 generations over a period of 250 years and contains 1013 pages of genealogy and history. While residing in California., he attended Los Angeles City College and was graduated in 1950. He later finished a year at Los Angeles State College. In 1943 he married D. Florence Hinshaw, and they have one daughter, Rosemary, age 8. Last summer Johnson settled in Raleigh, N.C., where he is engaged in doing research as a professional genealogist.