March 23, 2021

Pages 51-53
Whole Number 8


by Paul E. Sparks

[Editor's Note: The origin of place-names has occupied the attention of European scholars for many years, but it is only within comparatively recent times that this subject has become of interest to American antiquarians; consequently, knowledge concerning the origin of many American place-names has become forever lost. This article was written by our President, Paul E. Sparks, with the hope that at least part of the record of place-names relating to the Sparks family in America may be preserved. We are indebted to several persons, organizations, and publications for the data which Mr. Sparks has brought together in this article. It is by no means exhaustive, and our readers are urged to send in names of other towns, as well as mountains, valleys, streams, etc., named for the Sparks family.]

Place-names are stories-stories of the lives of bygone spirits. As our ancestors meandered across the vast wilderness of America, they gave names to the streams, mountains, paths, and settlements. Unfortunately, as far as history is concerned, these names did not begin as well-painted signboards or name-plates, nor did they originate under the direction of the trained geographer; rather, they began as a word or a story which was colloquial and which was passed on by word-of-mouth. As these stories were re-told, they were touched up to fit the occasion, or the storyteller's mood, until the true origin of the name has often been obliterated by the passing of time. Some stories were sad, some were happy, some were amusing, and some were amazing.

Were we to call a roll of these place-names, it would sound like calling a Roll of Honor of our pioneer forefathers, for truly the men for whom many of these places were named were in the vanguard of our westward expansion. And yet, without some way to point out who these people were, such a roll-call would be nothing but meaningless sounds.

Listed below are the names of sixteen hamlets, villages, and towns--also one lake--commemorating the name Sparks:

Sparks, Colorado, population 15, is located in the northwest corner of the state on the Green River in Moffat County. Postoffice: Rock Springs. Nothing has been learned of its origin.

Sparks, Georgia, population 887, is located in Cook County, about thirty-five miles north of the Georgia-Florida state line. It was incorporated in 1888, the same year that the Georgia, Southern, and Florida Railroad (now the Southern Railway) was built between Macon, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. At that time the president of the railroad was W. B. Sparks, of Macon, Georgia, and this village was named for him.

Sparks Hill, Illinois, population 21, is located in Hardin County in the southern tip of the state. Nothing has been learned of its origin.

Sparksville, Indiana, population 130, is located on the northern bluff overlooking the East Fork of White River, in Jackson County in the south-central part of the state. Here, ca. 1808, came 32.1.1 Stephen Sparks, then about thirty-three years of age, son of 32.1 James Sparks (see Whole No. 7, September 1954 of The Sparks Quarterly.) On 7 April 1816, the Washington County, Indiana, Probate Court granted a license to Stephen Sparks to operate a ferry across the White River. The license read as follows: "Ordered that Stephen Sparks be Licensed to Keep a Ferry over White River at Northwest Corner of Fraction [sic] No. 203, In Township 24, Perth of Range No. 3, East, and that he be Authorized to Receive For Each Waggon and Four Horses, Fifty Cents; for each Waggon and Two Horses, Thirty-Seven and One Half Cents; For Two-Wheel Carriages, Twenty Five Cents; For Man and Horse, Twelve and One-Half Cents; For Single Pan and Horse, Six and One-Quarter Cents; for Grown Cattle or Four Hogs, Four Cents; For Sheep, Two Cents." Thus this location became known as "Sparks Ferry," and undoubtedly it was a key to the settlement of other Indiana counties further north. Stephen Sparks died August 9, 1851. In 1857, Charles J. Rosenbaum platted the present village of Sparksville.

Sparks, Kansas, population 177, is located in the northeast corner of the state in Doniphan County. It was named for a Sparks family while settled there (date unknown). (Named for 44.3.8 John Green Sparks)

Sparks Quarry, Kentucky, population 200, is booted in Rockcastle County, in the edge of the eastern Kentucky Mountains. Here, ca. 1895, a quarry was established by William James Sparks, son of Absalom Sparks, and grandson of James Sparks. The latter was born in Virginia ca. 1803.

Sparksville, Kentucky, population 100, is located in Adair County in the southcentral part of the state. Sparkses were here before 1800 (probably from Pittsylvania County, Virginia) and here William Walter Sparks was born ca. 1820. He had a son, Charles Weedon Sparks (commonly known as TIRED) born ca. 1844. Weed Sparks served in the Union Army and after the war moved to Texas. He returned to Adair County and settled at a place which he named Sparksville. Again he went to Texas, but returned to Adair County for the second time to settle in a. different part of the county, at a place which he named for himself-WEED, Kentucky.

Sparks, Louisiana, population 15, is located in lberville Parish which is near the state capitol, Baton Rouge. It is on the Texas and Pacific Railroad. Quite possibly it was named for a descendant of William Henry Sparks, who came to this section from Macon, Georgia. William Henry Sparks had a son, Col. Thomas Garten Sparks, who owned "Belmont Plantation" near here.

Sparks, Maryland, population 300, is located in Baltimore County, about fifteen miles north of the city of Baltimore. Unfortunately, data concerning the naming of this place has not been uncovered, although it is known that persons named Sparks were living in this county as early as 1760.

Sparks, Nebraska, population 11, is located in Cherry County in the north-central part of the state near the Nebraska-South Dakota state line. It was named for a Sparks family that migrated to that section from Berrien County, Michigan, when that part of Nebraska was open to settlement ca. 1880.

Sparks, Nevada, population 8,203, is located in Washoe County about three miles east of Reno. It was established in 1905 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which moved houses from another locality where it had been carrying on construction. It was named for John Sparks, then Governor of Nevada. Governor Sparks was born in Mississippi on August 30, 1843. When he was fourteen years of age, his family moved to Lampasas, Texas. From Texas, Sparks went to Wyoming where he became a prominent cattleman. Of him it is said, "His cattle ranged from Nebraska to Nevada. He rose with the flood tide of the cattle industry and later attained the governorship of Nevada." He was a Confederate soldier. He was elected governor of Nevada in 1903, forty-five years after he went to that state. He died in Reno on May 22, 1908.

Sparks, North Carolina, population 5, is located in Mitchell County in the northwestern part of the state. It is on the Clinchfield Railroad. Postoffice: Minpro. Nothing has been learned of its origin.

Sparks, Oklahoma, population 233, is located in Lincoln County in the central part of the state. It was established in 1903 when the Santa Fe Railroad and the Pt. Smith and Western Railroad were joined at that point. Officials of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad believe the town was named for George T. Sparks, of Ft. Smith, Arkansas, who was prominently interested in right-of-way matters of the Ft. Smith and Western Railroad, and who was a director of that company.

Sparks, Oregon, population unknown, is a railroad station on the Union Pacific Railroad in Umatilla County in the north-eastern part of the state, eight miles south of the town of Pendleton. It was named for John and Carrie Sparks, a pioneer family in that section, who owned a farm on Birch Creek as early as 1877.

Sparks, Texas, population 60, is located in Bell County in the central part of the state, near the town of Temple. It is on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas ("Katy") Railroad. Nothing has been learned of its origin.

Sparks, West Virginia, population 11, is located near Rattle Run of the Gauley River in Nicholas County, was known originally as the Copenhaver Settlement, but its present name came from Joseph Sparks who kept a store where the first postoffice was housed.

There is a lake in Deschutes County, Oregon, called Sparks Lake. It is a long kidney-shaped lake, in the central part of the state, just east of the Cascade Range, and was named for Elijah ["Lige"] Sparks, a pioneer stockman of central Oregon.