September 26, 2017

Pages 242-243
Whole Number 19

JOHN SPARKS (1717-1802)
OF GLOUCESTER COUNTY, NEW JERSEY

by Russell B. Bidlack



During the eighteenth century, a rather large number of Sparkses were concentrated in New Jersey. Apparently they were all related. Relatively little research, however, has been conducted by the Association on this branch of the Sparks family, although it is probable that the ancestors of many of our members were of the New Jersey group. It is hoped that this sketch and the New Jersey data which follow will serve as the starting point for further investigation.

According to the Genealogical and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey compiled by Francis Bazley Lee (New York: Lewis Hisorical Pub. Co., 1910), Vol. II, pp. 625-627, three Sparks brothers, named John, Robert, and Jared, migrated to America between 1735 and 1740. Genealogists frequently encounter the legend of ""three brothers" coming to America and are always suspicious of such accounts. Groups of brothers seldom came together unless with their parents. Mr. Lee seems to have had definite knowledge of John Sparks, and his account of his life is probably fairly accurate.

Mr. Lee stated that; 19.1.1 John Sparks was born in 1777 in the north of Ireland and was of Scotch extraction. His ancestors, according to Mr. Lee, had found temporary refuge in Ireland from the persecutions visited upon them in Scotland because of their religious convictions. He also stated that John Sparks settled in Gloucester County, New Jersey, one mile from the town of Woodhury, close to the Delaware River. "His farm comprised two hundred acres of land and was considered one of the best in Gloucester County."

According to Mr. Lee, "John Sparks founded the Presbyterian burial ground at Woodbury and was buried there, He was an elder in the joint session of the churches of Woodbury and Timber Creek (now Blackwood). The date of his election and ordination are not known, but he sat as elder in the session of the synod in Philadelphia in 1768, at the meetings of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, November 3, 1773;; April 9, 1791; October 18, 1796; October 7, 1797; and October 20, 1801." On July 18, 1774, John Sparks was chosen as a member of the Committee of Correspondence from Gloucester County. On December 17, 1774, he was chosen as one of a committee of six to meet with the committees of other New Jersey counties and to choose delegates to serve in the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, (See Dunlap's Pennsylvania Packet, No. 167, January 2, 1775) John Sparks was thus one of the leaders in New Jersey in the movement toward Independence. He was also a member of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey at Trenton, in May, June, and August, 1775, and at the meeting of the same body at Burlington in June, 1776.

Published records of New Jersey indicate that there was a 19.2 Henry Sparks living in Gloucester County as early as 1731. Henry Sparks died in 1756, having made his will on July 27, 1748. In his will he mentioned a son 19.2.1 John who, with son 19.2.3 Simon, were to be executors of his estate. Other records indicate that 19.2.2 John Sparks, son of Henry, married Margaret Gerrard, daughter of Robert Gerrard, prior to 1748. It appears that John and Margaret Sparks later lived in Salem County. Henry Sparks also mentioned in his will the children of his daughter 19.2.1 Mary Sparks, wife of 19.1.1 John Sparks. It is thus apparent that there were two John Sparkses in Gloucester County in 1748, both of whom were married. The John Sparks of this sketch, born in 1717, must have been the one who married 19.2.3 Mary Sparks, daughter of 19.2. Henry Sparks. They were probably cousins.

Mr. Lee stated that John Sparks, born 1717, married twice; that his first wife was named Annie and his second wife was named Mary. He appears to have been in error on these names, for Mary appears to have been the name of his first wife, while his second wife was Ruth, daughter of Alexander Randall.

John Sparks died, according to Mr. Lee, on February 18, 1802. His will, which was dated February 8, 1802, was proved February 24, 1802. In his will, John Sparks referred to his wife as Ruth. The will of Alexander Randall of Greenwich Township, Gloucester County, dated November 11, 1780, referred to a daughter named Ruth and to a son-in-law, John Sparks. The second son of John Sparks was named 19.1.1.2 Alexander Randall Sparks, although he was commonly called Randall. It seems obvious that he was named for his mother's father, Alexander Randall. John Sparks's eldest son, 19.1.1.1 Henry, was probably the son of John's first wife, Mary Sparks, and was named for Mary's father, 19.2. Henry Sparks.

An abstract of the will of John Sparks appears in the Archives of the State of New Jersey, 1st Series, Vol. 39, p. 418. It reads as follows: (Note there is no mention of a son Joseph, although Mr. Lee stated that John Sparks had sons named Isaac, Randall, Joseph, and John.)

1802, February 8. Sparks, John, of Deptford Twsp., Gloucester Co.; will of. Wife, Ruth, 50 yearly; also necessary furniture for her use, one cow and my negro boy Tom until he is 25 years, when he is to be manumitted and set free. Son, Henry, one dollar besides what I have already given him. Son, Randell, home plantation that I bought of Joseph Reeves; he paying his mother 50 yearly; also a bed, 2 cows, 2 horses, 2 plows, 1 harrow, wagon, pigs, 6 sheep and my negro men, Friday, Mark and Juda, until they are 25 years, when they are to be manumitted and set free. Granddaughter, Sarah Locke, 50. Rest of estate to be sold and residue divided between my sons, John Sparks, Isaac Sparks, Elwell Sparks, Elizabeth Williamson, and Mary Miller.Witnesses: Thomas Low, Maria Fitzpatrick, Thomas Kinsey. Proved February 24, 1802. (Lib. 39, p. 503) Inventory, $5,081.89, made February 25, 1802, by Amos Cooper and Job Brown. (File 2405 H)

Mr. Lee gave the following biographical sketch of Randall Sparks:

19.1.1.2 Randall Sparks, second son of John, continued to live on the old farm for many years, and his children were born there. In 1815 he went to Woodbury and kept tavern there, at the place once called Rachor's, at Court House, but in 1817 he removed to the Buck Tavern, at The Buck (now Westville). In 1819 he went to Philadelphia to secure employment with his cousin, Thomas Sparks, shot manufacturer, living in John Street (now Carpernter) next to Shot Tower. Failing to find work with his cousin, Mr. Sparks in the following year removed with his family to Camden to keep ferry for Joseph L. Turner, on the north side of Market Street, and he remained there from 1820 to 1824. Here he became prosperous and acquired large tracts of land. He owned twelve thousand acres in one tract at the Dutch Mills, New Jersey, below Williamson, which was heavily wooded and for which he paid twelve and one-half cents per acre. This he deeded to Samuel Downs and Benjamin Ward. He also owned eight hundred and fifty acres near what is now Wenonah, and out of which several fine farms have been made, the Clark farm, the William C. Sparks farm, the Stephenson farm, and others. Randall Sparks was buried at Bethel. Although known as Randall, his correct name was Alexander Randall Sparks. His will was written by Joseph Saunders. He married twice and had six children. His first wife died March 18 or 19, 1811, aged twenty-five years. His children, born of his first marriage:

19.1.12.1 Ruth Sparks, born 1805;
19.1.12.2 William Sparks, born 1805; died young;
19.1.12.3 John C. Sparks, born 1807;
19.1.12.4 Mary Sparks, born 1808;
19.1.12.5 William C. Sparks was born at Woodbury, New Jersey, 1809; died September 16, 1872. He was a farmer, member of the Methodist Church, and in politics a Republican. He married Mary P. Steen and by her had four children:

19.1.12.5.1 William Francis Sparks was born at Dilk's Mill (now Wenonah), New Jersey, May 4, 1842; died May 27, 1875. During the earlier years of his business life he was a farmer and school teacher and afterwards a railroad baggage master. He was a soldier of the War of 1861-65 and enlisted as William C. Sparks, private, Company I, Ninth New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. In religious preference he was a Methodist and in politics a Republican. He married November 23, 1865, Elizabeth Evans, daughter of Richard Evans, a native of Llanidloes, Wales, and who by wife, Elizabeth (Humphries) Evans, had a son, Richard, and daughters, Aima and Elizabeth Evans. William Francis and Elizabeth (Evans) Sparks had only one child,

19.1.12.5.1.1 John W. Sparks.

19.1.12.5.2 John Wesley Sparks was born at Cross Keys, Gloucester County, New Jersey, September 22, 1866 Mr. Sparks is (1910) a business man living in Philadelphia. . . . He married, at Turnersville, New Jersey, June 7, 1894, Charlesanna Sickler, who was born at Chew's Landing, New Jersey, October 11, 1866, daughter and only child of Benjamin Franklin and Mary Elizabeth Sickler.

19.1.12.5.3 George W. Sparks;
19.1.12.5.4 Sarah Sparks.

19.1.12.6 Annie Sparks, born 1810.

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