April 20, 2021

Pages 50-51
Whole Number 8


Dear Folks:

I like to use this salutation for this message to you because, after all, we are all just plain "folks" of, to use an old expression, "one big happy family." When I learned a few weeks ago that I had been selected to hold the office of Vice-President of The Sparks Family Association I considered it a great honor. I assure you that I appreciate this honor and shall endeavor to fulfill the duties of the office to the best of my ability. I also assure you that I am very happy and extremely gratified to be a member of this wonderful organization.

First, you may wish to learn what my connection is with the Sparks Family. My father was John Garland Sparks, born 1851 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He lived in Johnson County, Missouri, during the years just preceding and during the War Between the States. He came to Wayne County, Iowa, ca. 1875 where he and my mother, Martha Hughes, were married in 1880. My grandfather was Joel Sparks, Jr. He was born in Surry County, North Carolina, in 1824 and married Almyra Lane in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1844. They moved to Johnson County, Missouri, with their family ca. 1855. He enlisted in the Union Army ca. August 1, 1862, and was mortally wounded in the Battle of Lone Jack in Jackson County, Missouri, on August 16th of that year. He died August 21, 1862.

My great-grandfather was Joel Sparks, Sr., who was born ca. 1774 in Surry County, North Carolina. He was a veteran of the War of 1812, having served as a private in 1814 in a regiment commanded by Colonel Atkinson of the North Carolina Militia. Joel Sparks Sr. married twice. My grandfather, Joel Jr., was one of nine children born of his first wife, whose name we have not been able to discover. His second wife was Mary Shatley whom he married in Wilkes County in 1846. Joel Sparks Sr. was living in Bates County, Missouri, in 1860. He died ca. 1861.

My great-great-grandfather (the father of Joel Sparks Sr.) was Matthew Sparks who was an extensive land-owner in Surry County, North Carolina. He died there in 1819, leaving a very interesting will, the original of which is still preserved at the courthouse in Surry County, in which he names his children and his wife, "Nicy." Matthew's father was William Sparks (my great-great-great-grandfather) who migrated from Frederick County, Maryland, to North Carolina in the 1760's. William Sparks died in Surry County in 1801, and the original of his will is likewise preserved.

Much of this valuable information concerning my early ancestral line has been furnished by our able Historian-Genealogist, Mr. William Perry Johnson, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude for his untiring efforts and able assistance to our Association. He descends from Solomon Sparks who migrated, as did William Sparks, from Frederick County, Maryland, to North Carolina ca. 1753.

And now just a word concerning myself and my family. I am 66 years of age and a Christian, a Baptist by faith, but having a Methodist wife and three Methodist children, one of whom is a Methodist minister--you can well see my predicament. But we get along fine and thank our Creator that He has made us what we are and blessed us wonderfully. I am a semi-retired farmer. My wife, who was Alice Mace of Allerton, Iowa, and I live on our farm in the house in which I was born. My father and mother were married in this house. I was their only child--and probably all they could manage.

Our daughter, Melva Sparks, the eldest of our three, is the wife of Dr. Russell E. Bidlack, our Editor, who is an instructor of Library Science at the University of Michigan. They have two children, Stanley Bidlack and Martha Bidlack. Gerald Sparks, the older of our sons, and his wife, who was Harriet Hankins of Des Moines, Iowa, live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is employed by Douglas Air Craft in that City. They have five children: Joyce Sparks, Ruth Sparks, James Sparks, Donna Sparks, and Phyllis Sparks.

Our younger son, Harold Sparks, and his wife, who was Beth Cramer of Des Moines, Iowa, are located at Lime Springs, Iowa, where he is pastor of the Methodist Church there. They have two children, David Sparks and Steven Sparks.

We take great pride in our family, of course, and, like all grand-parents, a special pride in our grand-children. I have been a farmer much of my life, but have also done considerable sales work. My hobbies are antiques and other unusual collections, such as license plates and mastheads from newspapers. Perhaps at some future time I may find opportunity to tell you more of my collections, but I feel that I have written enough-perhaps too much-for this issue, so I shall bid you adieu and hope that I may hear from each of you--that we may become still better acquainted. So good-bye and may God's blessing rest upon you all.

Oral A. Sparks,
Clio, Iowa.