April 28, 2021

Pages 70-74
Whole Number 10


[Editor's note: The following record has been compiled chiefly from data supplied by Mrs. Stella McKay Mewhinney, great-granddaughter of Colonel Sparks.]

15.1 William Crain Sparks. Little has been learned of his parentage, but it is known that his father's name was 15. Richard Sparks who, according to family tradition, was born in Scotland and settled first in Tennessee and later in Georgia. The maiden name of William's mother was Mildred Crain. William Crain Sparks was born in Tennessee on June 14, 1798. His mother was Mildred Crain.

[Webmaster Note: the Census from Texas in 1860 states that William's parents were 70.1.3 James and Nancy Ann (Crain) Sparks of Franklin County, Georgia.]

In 1834 members of the Crain and Sparks families came to Texas, most of them settling near San Augustine and Nacogdoches. Future research will doubtless reveal the relationship between the various persons named Sparks who came to Texas in 1834, but at present we can only speculate that they were close relatives.

There was a Captain Dick Sparks of San Augustine in 1840 (see The West Texas Frontier by J. Carrill McConnell, p. 206).

In 1844, William C. Sparks deeded land to a James H. Sparks of Nacogdoches.

There was also a Stephen Franklin Sparks, born April 7, 1817, in Mississippi, who emigrated to what is now San Augustine County with his parents in 1834 (see Heroes of San Jacinto by S. H, Dixon and L, W. Kemp, p, 350)

A William F. Sparks, born in Laurence County, Mississippi, on January 22, 1814, son of Richard and Elizabeth Sparks, joined his parents in 1834 and lived two miles southwest of Douglass, in Nacogdoches County (see The Handbook of Texas, 1952, Vol. 2, p. 649.) William Crain Sparks did not settle near his relatives in Nacogdoches, but he and his wife made their home near Wheelock in what; is now Robertson County. On October, 20, 1834, he received title from the Mexican government to a league of land (about 4,439 acres) in 'Robertson's Colony' situated on the south side of what is now Little River some ten or fifteen miles below the present town of Belton in Bell County. This was located in the midst of hostile Indian territory and Mr. Sparks made no attempt to survey his land until November, 1835, when he loaded an ox wagon with corn and, with his Negro man Jack and his father-in-law, Michael Reed, set out to seek a camping site on the 'Sparks League.' They chose a spot on the 'Rio San Andres' (now Little River), and constructed a pen in which to place their corn. The entire country around them was a vast but beautiful solitude with but two other pioneers (named Welsh and Taylor) within a radius of many miles. After building their corn pen, Mr. Reed crossed the river to spend the night with John Welsh, leaving Sparks and Jack at the new camping site. During the night, Welsh and Reed heard shots from across the river and knew that Indians had attacked the camping party. When morning came they crossed the river and, finding no trace of Sparks and his man, assumed that they had been carried off by the savages. Actually Sparks and Jack had been able to hide in a thicket until the Indians left and at daybreak had set out for home. Before going many miles Sparks met two men, brothers named Riley, with two wagons, their effects, wives and children, destined for the same area where Sparks had been attacked. Undaunted by the account given by Sparks, the brothers continued on their journey. A few miles further on the Rileys encountered a war party which was on the trail of Sparks and Jack; a skirmish ensued during which one of the Riley brothers was killed along with five of the Indians. The remaining savages took to their heels and did not pursue Sparks and Jack any further. (This incident in the life of William C. Sparks is related by James T. De Shields in his Border Wars of Texas published in 1912. Mr. De Shields quotes John Henry Brown.)

In 1836 Texas proclaimed its independence from Mexico and, after considerable bloodshed, the Republic of Texas came into existence. William C. Sparks helped to win the military victories which made independence possible, for on January 17, 1836, he joined the Ranger Company organized by Captain Sterling C. Robertson. He continued to serve the Republic during its infancy and by 1838 had advanced to the rank of Colonel. Mrs. Mewhinney owns a document signed by Col. Sparks on 1 July1839, by which he acknowledged payment from the Republic for his services in the Texas Militia from August 5 to August 22, 1838. As a colonel he was not only entitled to a salary himself, but was also given monetary allowances for two servants. Following is a photograph of Col. Sparks's signature on this document: ('Wm. C. Sparks'.)

Before coming to Texas, Col. Sparks had married, ca. 1823, Sarah Reed, born September 13, 1807, daughter of Michael and Martha (Burnett) Reed. Two years after moving to Texas, Mrs. Sparks died at Wheelock (1836), leaving six small children. The following year, while visiting relatives in Nacogdoches, Col. Sparks met Mrs. Jane (Alexander) Skelton, born January 28, 1807, widow of John Skelton. Col. William C. Sparks and Mrs. Jane (Alexander) Skelton were married on September 4, 1837, and lived for several years thereafter in Nacogdoches County.

From November 14, 1842, to January 16, 1843, Col. Sparks was a member of the House of Representatives from Nacogdoches County in the Seventh Congress of the Texas Republic. by June, 1848, Col. Sparks had moved to Brazos County and in 1852 he settled near the present village of Sparks where he became a prominent farmer and stock raiser. This village was named after Col. Sparks and is located on land which he once owned. It is on the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad in the south central part of Bell County and was a post office in 1904. The office was later replaced by rural delivery from Holland. In 1949 the population was reported as sixty-one.

Col. William C. Sparks died October 10, 1857, and his wife Jane died November 26, 1869. Both are buried in the Volo Cemetery, five miles north of Holland in Bell County. Four days prior to his death, Col. Sparks made his will which reads as follows:

I, William C. Sparks, being of sound mind and memory do briefly make the following words and figures my last will and testament, and it is my wish and desire that Jane Sparks, my present wife, and Hiram Hanover of Robertson County and State of Texas, act as Executrix and Executor of this will.

Item first--I hereby give and bequeath to Martha Ann Spence, formerly Martha Ann Sparks (my daughter), Harriet Spencer, formerly Harriet Sparks (my daughter), Elizabeth Bryant, formerly Elizabeth Sparks (my daughter), and to the children of Sarah Hanover, decsd, formerly Sarah Sparks, my daughter, and also to Martha Ann Spencer, the daughter of Nancy Spencer, formerly Nancy Sparks, my daughter, the following described property, to wit: Three thousand acres (more or less) of land in Brazos County and State of Texas, and one thousand of land in Vanzandt County and State of Texas. The above mentioned tracts of land to be divided as follows to wit: Into five different or separate parcels of equal value. One parcel for my daughter, Martha Ann Spence, one parcel for my daughter, Harriet Spencer, one parcel for my daughter, Elizabeth Bryant, one parcel for the surviving children of my daughter (decsd) Sarah Hanover, and one parcel for the daughter of my decsd daughter, Nancy Spencer (viz) Martha Ann Spencer.

Item second--I also give and bequeath to the above mentioned Martha Ann Spencer, the following described property to wit: Three hundred acres of land out of a tract of twenty-eight hundred acres owned by me in Henderson County and State of Texas, and also a good horse, saddle and bridle and five cows and calves.

Item third--In regard to the balance of my property of every description, I hereby dispose of it as follows, subject to the provisions and conditions hereinafter mentioned. My league of land on which I now live, two labors of land on the waters of the Salado and Lampasas in Bell County, Texas, and one third of a league of land on the Brazos (supposed to be in Johnson County) Texas. My negroes, Liz and child, Evaline and Child, Manda, Emaline, Til, Alick, Joe and Jack, my stock of horses, cattle, hogs and cc., I give and bequeath to my children by my present wife, viz,, Clara Jane Cavitt, formerly Clara Jane Sparks, John A. Sparks, Elijah Sparks, William Sparks, Minerva Sparks, and Samuel Sparks, share and share alike or in other words, to be divided equally among them,

Item fourth--I hereby give and bequeath to my last mentioned children, the children of my present wife, the balance of the twenty-eight hundred acres of land (say 2500) in Henderson County and State of Texas, share and share alike, or in other words to be equally divided among them.

Item fifth--I hereby give and bequeath to my wife, Jane Sparks, for the term of her natural life, two hundred acres to include the dwelling house, farm and other improvements out of my league of land in Bell County on which I now reside.

[Witnesses] Isaac Casey [signed] Wm. C. Sparks

Frank Pendleton [dated] October 6th, 1857.

In January 1858, an inventory was taken of Col. Sparks's estate. From the list of his possessions it is obvious that he died a wealthy man:

Item Value
4000 acres of H. R. land in Bell County $12,000
2 labors of land in Bell County 2,124
1/3 league of land supposed to be in Johnson Co. 2,952
3000 acres of land H. R. League, Brazos Co. 6,000
1000 acres of land, Vanzandt Co. 2,000
2800 acres of land, Henderson Co. 2,800
Liz and child, Negroes 1,200
Evaline, negro 900
Manda, negro 600
Emaline, negro 500
Til, blind and worth nothing -
Alick 1,000
Joe, negro 600
Jack, negro 450
Sam Houston, horse 200
Romilus, horse 200
Thirty head horses, $65 1,950
525 head of cattle 3,150
50 head of hogs 20
6 yoke of oxen 240
Farming utensils 70
Household and Kitchen Furniture 250
Crop of cotton, 12 bales, No. 35 420
Corn and fodder 210
One carriage 75

by his first wife, Sarah (Reed) Sparks, Col. Sparks had six children. The exact order of their birth is not known and little has been learned of their descendants. The only data which we have is as follows: Stephen Sparks, born 1824, died, unmarried, in Bell County in 1857. Martha Ann Sparks, married Isaac Spence. Nancy Sparks, died before 1857; married Alex Spencer. She left a daughter named: Martha Ann Spencer, who was mentioned in Col. Sparks's will. Harriet Sparks, married Alex Spencer. Sarah Sparks, born 1833, died in Bell County in 1857; married Hiram Hanover. Elizabeth Sparks, born 1836; married (first) LaFayette Bryant, by whom she had children: Jesse Bryant, LaFayette Bryant, and John Bryant.

She married (second) Joe Reveal, by whom she had: Minnie Reveal, Betty Reveal, Frank Reveal.

by his second wife, Jane (Alexander) Skelton Sparks, Col. Sparks had six more children, as follows: Clara Jane Sparks, born 1837, died 1920 in Wheelock, Texas. She married Volney Cavitt, son of Andrew and Ann Cavitt, born 1824 in Bolivar, Tenn., died 1903 in Wheelock. John Alexander Sparks, born 1839, died 1863, buried at Vole, Texas. He married Martha Reed, daughter of William and Emeline (Cobb) Reed, born 1844 in Bell County, died at Cameron, Texas, in 1933. They had one daughter: Emma Sparks who was born ca. 1860 and died ca. 1878 at Cameron, Texas. Elijah Sparks, born 1840 (his photograph appears on the cover of this issue) He was a Confederate soldier and died of brain fever at Camp Nelson near Little Rock, Arkansas, on November 23, 1862. He married in Bell County in 1861, Sarah Atlas Reed, daughter of William and Emeline (Cobb) Reed, born in Bell County in 1847, died near Holland, Texas, in 1907. They had one child, a daughter: Jane Sparks who was born in Bell County in 1863 and died near Holland, Texas, in 1907. Jane Sparks married in Bell County in 1852 (1882?), Albert Johnston McKay, son of Daniel and Jane (Bryant) McKay, born in Bell County in 1862 and died in Holland, Texas in 1920. Albert and Jane (Sparks) McKay had four children: Stella McKay, born 1883, married Sam Mewhinney; Sparks McKay, born 1885; Seth Shepard McKay, born 1888 Albert McKay, Jr., born 1890, died 1952. Minerva Sparks, born in 1842, died near Holland, Texas, in 1918. She married Michael Reed, son of John B. and Elizabeth (Treevitt) Reed, born 1837. He was killed in the Civil War in 1865. William Crain Sparks, Jr., born 1844, died 1921. He married (first) Frances Daniel, born 1848 and died in Bell County in 1888. He married (second) Lou Harmon Dallas. by his first wife, Frances (Daniel) Sparks, William Crain Sparks, Jr., had seven children, as follows: Clarence Sparks, born in Bell County in 1873, died in Alpine, Texas in 1919. He married (first) Fern Sumrall who died in Cameron, Texas in 1894. He married (second) Mamie Carter. Clarence and Mamie's children: William S. Sparks, born December 21, 1900, in Bartlett, Texas, now lives in New York City and is Vice President of R.C.A. He married in 1922, Sarah Hadis. Jeannette Sparks, born December 27, 1902, in Bartlett, Texas, now lives in Washington, D.C. John Sparks, born June 23, 1904, in Waco, Texas, married in 1933, H. Elizabeth Fritts, who was born in White Post, Virginia, in 1911. They have one daughter, Sydney Elizabeth Sparks, born in Washington, D.C., on July 17, 1937. Nannie Sparks, born in Bell County in 1875 is living in Santa Anna, Texas. She married Roscoe Mailer who died several years ago. Jennie Sparks, twin of Nannie, born in Bell County in 1875, is living in Santa Anna, Texas. She married John Whetstone. Wade Hampton Elijah Sparks, born in Bell County April 6, 1878, died at Rogers, Texas, August 3, 1933. He married in Bell County on July 14, 1901, Minnie Pearl Clark who was born March 26, 1885. They had four children: John William Sparks, born April 2, 1902, married Maybelle Rae; they live in Rogers, Texas, and have two sons, J. W. Sparks, Jr. and Sergeant Wayne Clark Sparks, Dora Sparks, born August 9, 1904, married Melvin R. Cobb in 1928; they live in Cayuga, Texas. Barney Clark Sparks, born December 9, 1909, married Mary LaWanda Weaver in 1944; they live in Rogers, Texas, and have a daughter, Carolyn Sue Sparks, and William Barney Sparks; Clyde James Sparks, born November 29, 1913, married Vena Clinard James in 1947; they live in Rogers, Texas, and have 2 children: C. J. Sparks, and Dora Jean Sparks Dora Sparks, fifth child of William Crain Sparks, Jr., was born in Bell County in 1882 and is living in Houston, Texas. She married Edward Stone in 1903 in Bell County; he died several years ago. Clara Sparks was born in Bell County in1884 and is living in Houston, Texas. She married Morey Beringer who died at Houston in 1946. Fred Sparks was born in Bell County in 1886, died at Lampason, Texas, in 1909. He married Gertie Daniels.

William Crain Sparks, Jr., had two children by his second wife, Lou Harmon (Dallas) Sparks: Vera Sparks, born in Bell County in 1894, is living at Waco, Texas. She married Joe E. Warhol, Robert Sparks, born in Bell County in 1897, is living in the southern part of Texas. Samuel Alexander Sparks, was born in 1846; died in Bell County, Texas, in 1897, He married in 1865, Mary Fisher, daughter of King and Mary Fisher. He served four successive terms as Sheriff of Bell County, retired for one term and was elected to a fifth, being sheriff when he died. Samuel Alexander and Mary (Fisher) Sparks had nine children, as follows: Elijah Sparks, born in Bell County in 1868, died in Eastland, Texas, in 1897 1951, He married Betty Levy who died in 1947. George Sparks, a doctor of medicine, was born in Bell County ca. 1870. He died many years ago, Mary (Mollie) Sparks, was born in Bell County ca. 1872. She married Ed Graves and is living at Temple, Texas. Sam Sparks, born in Bell County on February 5, 1873, died in Austin, Texas, on July 6, 1933. He married in Corsicana, Texas, on November 15, 1906, Mrs. Bertha (Jones) Mulkey. Sam Sparks attended Benton Male Academy, Wedemeyer School at Salado, and Belton Business College. He was City Secretary at Belton from 1894 to 1897 and Sheriff of Bell County from 1897 to 1903, when he was elected president of the Texas Sheriff's Assooiation. During the time Sam Sparks was Texas State Treasurer (1906-1912), he established residence in Austin where he later was organizer and president of the Texas Trust Company. He led drives for funds for building the stadium of the University of Texas and the University Methodist Church. Bess Sparks was born in Bell County and is living at Belton. She married Sam McElroy who died recently. Fannie Sparks was born in Bell County in 1877, died at Belton, Texas, in 1942, She married Newt Bigham. Crocket Sparks, died many years ago at Belton, He never married. Clara Sparks, born ca.1884, died years ago. Annie Sparks is living at San Antonio. She married Herbert Morgan.

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Darryl M. Reed, President of the Michael Reed Family Association, would like to hear from descendants of William Crain Sparks and his first wife, Sarah Reed. An article on a daughter of this union, Martha Ann Sparks, who married Isaac Carter Spence, appeared in the December 1980 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 112, pp. 2250-55.

We believe that William C. Sparks was a son of 70.1.3 James and Nancy Ann Sparks of Franklin County, Georgia. He was born June 14, 1798. Subsequently, he lived in Tennessee (Hardeman County) and later in Texas, in Wheelock, now Robertson County, and later Nacogdoches County. by 1848 he was living in Brazos County where the village of Sparks was named for him. He died on October 10, 1857. William C. and Sarah (Reed) Sparks had one son and five daughters: Stephen Sparks, who died without issue; Martha Ann Sparks who married Isaac Spence; Nancy Sparks who married Alex Spencer, but whether she was his first or second wife is not known; Harriet Sparks who also married Alex Spencer, but whether she was his first or second wife is not known; Sarah Sparks who married Hiram Hanover; and Elizabeth Sparks who married (first) Lafayette Bryant and (second) Joe Reveal.

Michael Reed, father of Sarah who married William C. Sparks, came with his family to Texas in the early 1830's as part of Robertson's Colony.

Descendants of any off these daughters of William Crain Sparks (who had additional children by a second marriage) should write to Darryl M. Reed, President, The Michael Reed Family association, 316 N. 8th, Temple, TX 76501.