February 13, 2019

Pages 151 -154
Whole Number 15

OBITUARY OF ERNEST RICHARD SPARKS



On May 16, 1956, death came to one of the Association's most active and enthusiastic members, Ernest Richard Sparks of San Augustine, Texas. It is with deep personal sadness that your Editor writes this obituary for he had been corresponding with Mr. Sparks and was gathering material for an article on his ancestry for an early issue of the Quarterly. Ernest R. Sparks had provided funds for extensive research in South Carolina and Texas records which added a large amount of Sparks history to the Association's files. This material is making it possible for a number of other members to trace their ancestry. Mr. Sparks had also contributed generously to the Association and had arranged for all seven of his children to become members. A recent letter from his widow, Audra Eva (Ford) Sparks, contains the following statement: "My husband was so proud of belonging to The Sparks Family Association and was so interested in tracing his family."

71.4.1.1.1.5 Ernest Richard Sparks was born December 13, 1890, at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, the fifth child of 71.4.1.1.1 Samuel Lawrence and Frances E. (Freeland) Sparks. When he was about six years old the family moved to a farm in Texas. When he was eighteen, he began writing life insurance and also taught singing [in] schools throughout East Texas and Louisiana.

As the years passed he became increasingly successful in the insurance field and for several years was State Representative of National Life Insurance Company, being one of their top salesmen.

In 1935 Mr. Sparks established his own insurance firm, calling it the Home Life Association. Located in San Augustine, this company gradually grew in size and importance until by 1955 it had become the largest Local Mutual Aid in the State of Texas. At the end of 1955 the Home Life Association was able to report a total of 24,000 satisfied members, with a surplus fund of over $375,000.00. Over $4,000,000.00 worth of new insurance was written by the firm in 1954 and 1955.

Ernest R. Sparks was a kind, friendly man who never boasted of his success; he was hard-working and humble. His widow has described him as a man who made friends wherever he went. "He always looked for the good instead of the bad, and to the richest and to the poorest he always had a kind word and a smile."

Mr. Sparks contributed freely of his time to many worthy causes. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the San Augustine Salvation Army Chapter for many years and was still a member of the Board when he died. He served as Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the San Augustine Independent School District for a number of years and was active in that work during the building of the present elementary building and the gymnasium in San Augustine. He was active in the promotion of sports and had much influence in establishing the school's athletic program and band.

Mr. Sparks was active in the Methodist Church and for a number of years served on the Board of Stewards. He was an active member in the Redland Lodge No. 3 A. F. & A. M. In the Blue Lodge he had served as Worshipful Master, District Deputy Grand Master, and Secretary. In the Chapter he had served as Excellent High Priest and Grand Visitor. In the Council he had served as Thrice Illustrious Master and Grand Visitor. In the Commandry he had served as Secretary and Treasurer. That he was a faithful mason is an understatement.

On July 25, 1914, when he was twenty-three, Ernest R. Sparks married Audra Eva Ford who was born February 5, 1894, in Bronson, Texas, the daughter of Robert Lee and Pinkie (Baldree) Ford, Seven children were born to this union, all in San Augustine, as follows:

71.4.1.1.1.5.1 Beeman R. Sparks, born November 29, 1915, married Gertha Williams October 5, 1940; sho was born in San Augustine County, Texas, April 19, 1921. They have two children, Cornelia Ann Sparks born in San Augustine April 24, 1941, and John Richard Sparks born in San Augustine January 10, 1943.

71.4.1.1.1.5.2 Dixie Marie Sparks, born May 2, 1917, married Wyman W. Roberts August 2, 1939; he was born in Coffeville, Alabama, May 25, 1916, and passed away September 15, 1950. They had no children. Marie is now married to Charles Pasco Lawrence who was born July 15, 1925; they were married March 13, 1952, and have no children.

71.4.1.1.1.5.3 Frances Kathleen Sparks, born March 5, 1919, married Paul Bryan Weaver September 30, 1939; he was born in Garrison, Texas, January 27, 1908. They have one child, Ernestine Paula, born in Nacogdoches, Texas, January 11, 1944.

71.4.1.1.1.5.4 Hugh Bernice Sparks, born August 27, 1920, married Anna Inez King December 7, 1946; she was born in Hemphill, Texas, January 30, 1926. They have two children, Deborah Ann Sparks born April 7, 1952, in Nacogdoches, Texas, and Hugh Bernice Sparks, Jr., born March 27, 1955, in Minden, Louisiana.

71.4.1.1.1.5.5 Ernest LeRoy Sparks, born March 26, 1922, married Agnes Marie Williams January 30, 1946; she was born in San Augustine County, Texas, January 14, 1928. They have one child, Stephen Randal Sparks, born February 4, 1949, in Lufkin, Texas.

71.4.1.1.1.5.6 Betty Jean Sparks, born January 4, 1928, married Baxter Polk Cartwright, Jr., February 9, 1946. Baxter Polk was born in San Augustine Dee. 20, 1924. They have two children, Ford Sparks Cartwright born August 26, 1947, in Center, Texas, and Kalitah Bernice Cartwright born in Center, Texas, August 3, 1950.

71.4.1.1.1.5.7 Claudine Sparks, born July 10, 1931, married James Robert Selden February 4, 1949; he was born in Palestine, Texas, April 13, 1926. They have one child, Robert Zachary Selden born March 28, 1950, in Center, Texas.

The parents of Ernest F. Sparks were 71.4.1.1.1 Samuel Lawrence and Frances E. (Freeland) Sparks. (See Quarterly Article 132-A for ancesters of Samuel Lawrence Sparks.) They were married January 2, 1881, at Pleasant Hill, Louisiana, Frances being the daughter of James A. and Amanda (Salter) Freeland. She was born December 27, 1860, in De Sota Parish, Louisiana, and died July 24, 1930, in San Augustine. Samuel Lawrence Sparks was born March 31, 1856, in Henderson County, Tennessee, and died January 10, 1929, in East Hamilton, Texas. Samuel Lawrence and Frances born (Freeland) Sparks were the parents of the following children: (All except Webster and Syble were born at Pleasant Hill, La.; Webster and Syble were born at East Hamilton, Texas.

71.4.1.1.1.1 Louis Ollie Sparks, born December 3, 1881, died September 16, 1952. He married Grace Cox.
71.4.1.1.1.2 Alva Reeves Sparks, born June 28, 1884. He married Mattie Taylor October 1, 1908.
71.4.1.1.1.3 Eula Reeves Sparks, born September 12, 1886. She married Tom Giles.
71.4.1.1.1.4 Ever Sparks, born September 30, 1888.
71.4.1.1.1.5 Ernest Richard Sparks, born December 13, 1890, died May 16, 1956.
71.4.1.1.1.6 Henry H. Sparks, born March 28, 1894. He married Effie Fussell.
71.4.1.1.1.7 Webster F. Sparks, born June 13, 1899. He married Marjorie Wilburn.
71.4.1.1.1.8 Syble Lee Sparks, born November 29, 1904. She married James Garner.

The grandparents of Ernest R. Sparks were 71.4.1.1 Lawrence Ivan and Elizabeth (Prince) Sparks. Mr. Sparks did not have a very complete record of his grandfather and was anxious to obtain more information on his life and ancestors. Research into various records has revealed that Lawrence Ivan Sparks (he was known by his contemporaries as "Ivey") was born in Georgia, but by 1840 was living with his parents, Lloyd and Rebecca Sparks, in Union County, South Carolina.

The exact date of birth of Lawrence Ivan Sparks has not been determined--his age was given on the 1850 census as 17, which, if correct, would indicate that he was born ca. 1833. Other records indicate that he may have been born a few years earlier. Soon after 1850, Lawrence Ivan Sparks married Elizabeth Prince, daughter of Joseph Franklin and Millie (Barnet) Prince. Elizabeth was considerably older than Lawrence Ivan for she was born in 1820. Joseph F. Prince, Elizabeth's father, died April 11, 1842, as a result of falling out of a boat in the Tyger River in Union County, S.C. Elizabeth's mother, Milley Barnet, was the daughter of Isaac and Elizabeth Barnet. Milley married, as her first husband, Abel Putman and it was after his death that she married Joseph F. Prince. The 1850 census indicates that the Lloyd Sparks family and Milley Prince's family lived on adjoining farms in Union County. Milley Prince died in 1864. On December 22, 1854, Lawrence and Elizabeth (Prince) Sparks sold to Elizabeth's brother, Gist Prince, Elizabeth's share of her father's estate. Gist Prince paid $100 for Elizabeth's share. This land was described as lying on Tyger River bounded by lands belonging to John Cain, Elisha Easters, the Rev. Thomas Ray and John Prince.

Lawrence Ivan Sparks and his wife moved from Union County, S.C., to Henderson County, Tenn., ca. 1856. Several other members of his family, including his parents, had moved to Henderson County earlier. From Tennessee, Lawrence Ivan Sparks moved to Shelby County, Texas, where on March 25, 1863, he enlisted in the Confederate Army (Company A, 28th Texas Cavalry). Discharged at the close of the war, Lawrence Ivan Sparks traded his home and about 300 acres of land near Buena Vista Post Office in Shelby County for a team of horses and a wagon and took his family to Louisiana. He settled near the tovm of Pleasant Hill in De Sota County. He appeared on the 1880 census of' De Sota County giving his age as 54; he stated that his parents had been born in South Carolina while he had been born in Georgia. About 1896 he returned to Shelby County, Texas, where he settled near the town of East Hamilton. There he died in April, 1910, His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1899 in Patroon, Texas.

Lawrence Ivan and Elizabeth (Prince) Sparks had two children besides Samuel Lawrence (father of Ernest Richard Sparks). They were: Ellen Sparks, born ca. 1852, who married a Smith, and Lugenia Sparks, born ca. 1854, who married an Adams. Both of these daughters were born in South Carolina before the family moved to Tennessee.

Lloyd Sparks, great-grandfather of Ernest R. Sparks and father of Lawrence Ivan Sparks, was born ca. 1796. by occupation he was a farmer, or "planter" as he was described in the 1850 census. Both Lloyd and his wife, Rebecca, were born in South Carolina, probably in Union County, but after their marriage they apparently moved to Georgia where their children were born. by 1840, however, they were living in Union County, S.C. On the 1850 census, Lloyd Sparks's age was given as 53 and Rebecca's as 51; on the 1860 census, Lloyd's age was siven as 64 and Rebecca's as 63.

The only record of Lloyd Sparks purchasing land in Union County, S.C., is a deed dated June 5, 1850, by which he purchased 216 acres for $1404 from J. R. Starnes. The deed was witnessed by John Gibbs and T. B. Thomson. The land is described as being located on "Sparks Creek" and "bounded by lands of Hiram Wilbourn, the heirs of Joseph Prince, Marshall Barnette, James Johnson and the said Starnes."

Lloyd and Rebecca Sparks were members of the Padgett's Creek Baptist Church in Union County. A member of The Sparks Family Association, Mr. Claude E. Sparks of Union, S.C., is Church Historian of this Church and has very kindly searched the records for references to the Sparks family. He found that Rebecca Sparks was received "by letter" into the Church in April 14, 1849. Between September 29, 1849, and October 11, 1849, Lloyd Sparks "was received into the fellowship of the Church by experience and baptism," along with his sons, Thomas Sparks and James C. Sparks. (Census records indicate that these two sons of Lloyd were aged 22 and 21, respectively, in 1850, while Lloyd's other four sons were under 21 and hence ineligible for membership in the Baptist Church at that time.) On October 18, 1851, Letters of Dismission were granted by the Padgett's Creek Baptist Church to "Brother Loyd Sparks and his wife, Rebecca Sparks, also to his two scns, Thomas Sparks and James C. Sparks."

The reason for the issuance of this "Letter of Dismission" was obviously to enable Lloyd Sparks and his family to become members of a church in another community; we may assume, therefore, that it was in 1851 that the family moved from Union County. In 1860 Lloyd Sparks and three of his sons were living in Henderson County, Tenn., the place to which they had probably moved in 1851. Unfortunately, the court house in Henderson County burned a number of years ago making it virtually impossible to learn whether Lloyd Sparks bought or sold land there or whether his estate was probated in that county. He was not listed in the 1870 census of Henderson County.

Besides his son Lawrence Ivan Sparks, Lloyd Sparks seems to have had five other sons, but no daughters; (this conclusion is based upon census records). The 1840 census, which listed only the head of the family by name, indicated that two sons were born between 1825 and 1830, three sons between 1830 and 1835, and one son between 1835 and 1340. The 1850 census gave the ages of the six sons as fellows: (1) Thomas, 22; (2) James Callaway, 21; (3) Elijah, 19; (4) Lawrence Ivan, 17; (5) B. Marion, 15; (6) Washington Berry, 13. Anyone having further knowledge of this family is requested to write to the Editor.

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