April 27, 2021

Pages 512-517
Whole Number 32

21.1.5 HENRY SPARKS (1753-1836)

(Editor's note: Much of the information contained in this sketch has been supplied by Mrs. Henry J. Miller, 350 Euclid Avenue, Oakland 10, California. Mrs. Miller is a great-granddaughter of Henry Sparks.)

In the June, 1956, issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 14 appeared an article entitled 'The Sparks Family of Orange, Culpeper and Madison Counties, Virginia' which included material on the ancestry of Henry Sparks (1753-1836) of Owen County, Kentucky. In the June, 1957, issue, Whole No. 18 we published Henry Sparks's application for a Revolutionary War pension. Here we propose to give a more detailed sketch of Henry Sparks's interesting life and, in later issues, a record of his descendants.

21.1.5 Henry Sparks was born June 16, 1753, in that part of Culpeper County, Virginia, which had been a part of Orange County. He was the son of 21.1 Thomas and Mary (Towles) Sparks and was reared on his father's farm located in the northeast section of what is now Madison County, about two and one-half miles from the town of Slate Mills. His father, 21.1 Thomas Sparks, who had been born ca. 1720, was a son of 21. John and Mary (Taylor) Sparks and his mother, who was born November 19, 1723, was the daughter of Stokley and Ann Towles. Stokley Towles, born ca. 1690 in Accomac, lived in Middlesex County, Virginia, until 1737 when he moved to a plantation on the east side of Robinson River, at the foot of Thoroughfare Mountain, in what is now Madison County. Without doubt, the Sparkses were Towles's neighbors in Middlesex County and moved to what is now Madison County at about the same time. Stokeley Towles's wife, Ann Towles, died between 1742 and.1747, and on February 28, 1748, he made settlement of the estate of Thomas Wharton, whose widow, Jane, he had married. 21.4 Jane Sparks Wharton was the daughter of 21. John Sparks and a sister of 21.1 Thomas Sparks, thus an aunt of Henry Sparks.

21.1 Thomas Sparks made his will on December 10, 1784, and died in 1786. This will was printed in the June, 1956, issue of the Quarterly, pp. 134-35, Whole No. 14. 21.1.5 Henry Sparks received a part of the land on which his father was then living. Also mentioned in Thomas Sparks's will, were Henry's brothers and sisters:

21.1.1 John Sparks married ca. 1767 Phoebe Smith;
21.1.2 Ann Sparks married Jacob Aylor;
21.1.3 Humphrey Sparks married Milly Nalle;
21.1.4 Lucy Sparks married James Kilby;
21.1.5 Henry Sparks married Lucy Clark
21.1.6 Thomas Sparks;
21.1.7 Mary Sparks (married first, Russell Vawter, second, James Smith) and
21.1.8 Frankey Sparks.

Henry Sparks was twenty-two years old when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775--just the right age to aid the American cause--and on February 2, 1776, he enlisted for two years as a private in Capt. Oliver Towles's Company of the 6th Virginia Regiment. Oliver Towles, an eminent lawyer, eventually rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel during the Revolution, and it may have been through his influence that Henry Sparks, his nephew, was transferred at Morristown, New Jersey, on May 6, 1777, to the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, commanded by Capt. Caleb Gibbs.

The Commander-in-Chief's Guard was a unit whose purpose it was to guard the person, baggage, and papers of George Washington. It was composed of 'the flower and pick of the American Army.' (See Carlos E. Godfrey, The Commander- in-Chief 's guard, Revolutionary War, Washington, Stevenson-Smith Co., 1904.) It was organized on March 12, 1776 pursuant to a general order issued by Washington the previous day. Washington ordered that the unit be composed of men who could be recommended 'for their sobriety, honesty and good behavior,' adding that he wished them 'to be from five feet eight inches to five feet ten inches, handsomely and well made, and, as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable than cleanliness in a soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made in the choice of such men as are clean and spruce.' (Quoted from Godfrey, pp. 19-20.)

In June, 1776, several members of the Guard were suspected of having been engaged by the British to assassinate Washington and one, a private named Thomas Hickey, a deserter from the British army, was hanged for attempting to poison the General. Many members of the Guard were discharged during the winter of 1776-77, and in the Spring of 1777 Washington ordered that his guard be reorganized. He sent circular letters to the colonels of various Virginia regiments of infantry requesting that they each choose four men from their respective commands to form a new guard. He appears to have preferred Virginia soldiers for this important service, and besides asking that they be of a uniform height, he also insisted that only native-born soldiers 'who have family connections in the country' be sent him. 'You will therefore send me none but natives, and men of some property, if you have them.' (Quoted from Godfrey, p. 42.)

Between May 1 and 6, 1777, the new infantry guard was organized, consisting of four sergeants, four corporals, one fifer, and forty-seven privates, under the command of Capt. Caleb Gibbs. It was on May 6 that Henry Sparks joined the Guard as one of the forty-seven privates. On June 4, 1777, he was promoted to 3rd Corporal.

Henry Sparks, as a member of the Guard, accompanied Washington and participated in several important engagements during the summer and fall of 1777, including the Battle of Brandywine on September 11 and the Battle of Germantown on October 4. Late in November, Washington decided to winter his army at Valley Forge about twenty-one miles from Philadelphia. The Guard was quartered immediately to the east of the stone-house of Isaac Potts which was occupied by Washington. They lived in tents while they were building their log huts.

On February 2, 1778, Henry Sparks's two-year enlistment came to an end, and he was discharged at Valley Forge. The story of that terrible winter at Valley Forge has been told many times, and there are numerous accounts of the suffering and privations which the American soldiers were forded to undergo. Unfortunately, Henry Sparks did not leave a written account of his experiences during this enlistment, and his children and grandchildren who doubtless heard him tell of how he guarded General Washington have long since died. No one remembers the stories today. One thing has survived, however, and that is the tall hat which was a part of Henry Sparks's uniform 'while he was a member of Washington's Guard. It is now preserved in the museum at Frankford, Kentucky. Below is a picture taken a number of years ago of George Madison Sparks, great-grandson of Henry, wearing the famous hat.

Following his discharge, Henry Sparks returned to his home in Virginia--to the wife whom he had married a few days before his enlistment and to his daughter, Elizabeth Sparks, now four months old, whom he had never seen. When spring came, however, he enlisted again, this time for six months as a private in his father-in-law, Captain James Clark's Company in Colonel James Barbour's Regiment of Virginia Militia. His company joined a brigade under General Edward Stevens and marched into North Carolina near Cheraw Hills where they remained for the period of their enlistment. In his pension application prepared in 1833, Henry Sparks recalled that one half of the soldiers from Madison County died of disease during those six months.

At the close of his second enlistment, Henry Sparks returned home where he again took up farming. On December 11, 1779, his second child, James Sparks, was born. In March, 1780, Henry Sparks re-enlisted for another tour of duty, this time in Captain Edward Terrill's Company, Colonel James Barbour's Regiment of Virginia Militia. The regiment marched toward Chesapeake Bay to engage a British unit which had been reported landing there, but before reaching their destination they received word that the British had reembarked and left the coast. The unit returned to Madison County where they were kept in readiness to march, but were not again called out.

Sometime in January 1776, Henry Sparks had married Lucy Clark, daughter of Captain James and Mary (Marsden) Clark, of Culpeper County, Virginia. When Lucy (Clark) Sparks applied for a pension in 1839, she stated that she had been born in 1760 or 1761, but that she had no record of her birth. In support of her claim for a pension, Lucy's brother, John Clark, stated that after Lucy and Henry were married, Lucy returned to her parents' home and remained there until Henry returned from the Army. Lucy's father, Capt. James Clark, born ca. 1737, died in 1789; he was the son of William Clark, Sr., who died in 1787, and Ann (James) Clark. Mary Marsden, Lucy's mother, was a daughter of Hugh and Elizabeth (Towles) Marsden. The latter was born December 7, 1716, and was a daughter of Stokeley and Ann Towles. Thus, Henry and Lucy were first cousins, once removed, both being descendants of Stokeley and Ann Towles.

James Clark, Henry Sparks's father-in-law, made his will on June 2, 1789, and died the same year. He left his daughter, Lucy, 'a negro Girl named Rachael.' When Henry' a father, Thomas Sparks, died in 1787 he left Henry 'a parcell of Land.'

In 1795, Henry Sparks and his growing family moved from Madison County, Virginia, to Franklin County, Kentucky, where they remained five years. In 1800, the family moved to that area which became Owen County, Kertucky, in 1819. There Henry Sparks became an extensive land owner, operated a distillery, made brandy, and ran a horse mill. According to H. L. Sparks of North Pleasureville, Kentucky, who was named after his great uncle, Henry Sparks, Henry was known always under the nickname 'Harry' and, because of his mill, was often called 'Horse Mill Harry.' Mr. Sparks recalls that older members of the family referred to him as a 'great Methodist.' Mr. Sparks recently visited the ruins of the old horse mill and found the original mill stones which Henry had used.

Henry Sparks's land in Owen County was called 'Sparks Bottom' and was located along the Kentucky River near the town of Monterey. According to family tradition, Henry Sparks was granted this tract of land, consisting of one thousand acres, in payment for his services in the Commander-in-Chief's Guard.

Henry Sparks died on August 14, 1836. Nine years earlier he had made his will which reads as follows (a photostat of the original document has been obtained from Owen County; punctuation and capitalization have been modernized in the following transcription):

       In the name of God, Amen. I, Henry Sparks of County of Owen and State of Kentucky, being weak in body but of sound mind and disposeing memory (for which I thank God) and calling unto mind the uncertainity of human life and being desirious of disposing of what worldly goods it hath pleased God to bless me with do ordain and establish this as my last will and testament in manner and form following, towit:
               First, I give and beqeath to my beloved wife Lucy Sparks the whole of my estate, real, personal, and mixed, to have, hold and enjoy for and during her natural life.
               2nd, I have heretofore given to my son Anthony Sparks the tract of land on which he now resides and have conveyed the same to him which is to be the full of his portion of my estate.
               3rd, I have heretofore given to my son Reuben Sparks one hundred acres of land where Samuel Horton formerly resided, said Horton having conveyed the same to him heretofore which is to be in full of his portion of my estate.
               4th, I have heretofore given my son Madison Sparks one hundred acres of land where Samuel Horton formerly resided, said Horton having conveyed the same to him, which is to be in full of his portion of my estate.
               5th, I give to my son Henry Sparks and my grandson Elijah Sparks (son of Thomas Sparks, deced.) five hundred acres of land in the county of Pendleton to be equally divided between them and their heirs forever.
               6th, I give to my son John Sparks seventy 5 acres of land which I have lately purchased from William Marston and he is to have twenty five acres more adjoining the before mentioned 75 acres to be laid out of my present tract whereon I now reside.
               7th, I give in addition to the former donation herein made to my son Reuben Sparks fifty acres of my farm whereon I now reside to include the field in the river bottom which is enclosed with a stone fence and up land so as to make his fifty acres and if he should die without issue or never return (being at this time absent from the state) then and in that case the same is to be sold and eaqually divided between my three daughters.
               8th, I give the residue of my farm be the same more or less, with appurtenances thereunto belonging, to my son Alexander Iverson Sparks.
               9th, I give to my three daughters, Betsey, Folly, and Rhoda, the whole of my personal estate be the same more or less, out of which George Hill is first to account for the sum of fifty eight dollars which he has already received from me, after paying of which he is then to be eaqual with the residue with the following exception, that is to say my daughter Folly is to have fifty dollars more than either Betsey or Rhoda.
               10th, I give my son Henry Sparks my horse mill with the appurtenances thereto belonging, including one half acre of ground, to him and his heirs forever.
               11th, I give my granddaughter Kitty Sparks one cow and calf, one feather bed and furniture which is to be taken out of my personal estate, the grant to my three daughters notwithstanding.
               12th and lastly, I do hereby constitute and appoint my son Anthony Sparks my sole executor of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all and every will by me heretofore made. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 23d day of August 1827.
               Atteste:                                                                                                [signed] Henry Sparks Sr. (Seal)
                       Cyrus Wingate.

Following Henry Sparks's death, his son Anthony took an inventory of his father's personal estate, with William Smither, Robert Smither, and Spencer Thomas acting as appraisers. This list of property reads as follows:

Cash on hand $00.00 1 10 gallon kettle 2.50
1 note on James Medly for 24.00 1 salt kettle 5.00
1 "   on George P. Hill 54.34 1 conk shel .50
1 bay horse 30.00 1 plow& gear 2.00
1 desk 18.00 1 large clevis 1.00
2 circle tables 6.00 1 fire shovel 0.50
1 corner cupboard 5.00 1 shovel & tongs 1.25
1 mantle clock 25.00 1 ox cart 17.00
1 hone 1.00 1 pr. large hand irons 2.00
1 doz. split bottom chairs 7.50 1 wheat fan 10.00
1 family Bible & notes on   20 head of sheep 30.00
New Testament 3.00 31 head of hogs 155.00
1 dictionary of the Holy Bible 3.00 1 pided cow 18.00
Books  4.75 1 red heifer 12.00
1 bed and furniture 25.00 1 white face red cow 12.00
1 bed and furniture 18.00 1 white face pided [cow] 20.00
1          " 20.00 1 bedstead 0.75
1 "        and furniture 20.00 1 pr. stillards 1.00
1 trunk 2.00 1 yoke of steears 45.00
1 large dish 1.00 1 post & railing auger 2.00
1 lot of cupboard ware 2.00 1 18 gallon kettle 3.50

I do certify that the foregoing inventory contains all the personal estate of Henry Sparks and which hath come to my hands Octo. 21st 1836.

[signed] Anthony Sparks, Exect.

21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks were the parents of twelve children, whose names are given below. A more detailed record of these children and their descendants will be given in a later issue of the Quarterly: Elizabeth Sparks, born September 23, 1777, died January 31, 1862. She married Leonard Smither. James B. Sparks, born February 5, 1779, died sometime prior to 1826. He married Rachel Petty. Anthony Sparks, born January 7, 1781, died in 1865. He married Mary Sparks. William Sparks, born February 5, 1785. He married Kitty O. Peel. Thomas Sparks, born August 11, 1787, died prior to 1827. Mary Sparks, born December 14, 1790, died July 30, 1855. She married Joshua Wilhoit. Reuben Sparks, born September 30, 1792. Madison Sparks, born August 10, 1795, died August 13, 1873. He married (first) 21.x.3.3 Fanny Sparks; (second) Mrs. Winifred (Thomas) Stafford. Rhoda Sparks, born ca. 1800, died ca. 1867. She married George P. Hill. John Sparks, born June 13, 1803, died September 18, 1871. Unmarried. Alexander Iverson Sparks, born January 8, 1807, died June 28, 1879. He married (first) Mary A. Calvert; (second) Sallie A. Fades. Henry Sparks, Jr., born ca. 1810 June 28, 1810. He married Sarah Smither. He never married.


Helen Smither has called our attention to an error appearing above. We listed there the names of the 12 children of 21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks, the last of whom was named Henry. Miss Smither tells us that her uncle, T. C. Sparks, who did considerable research on the family, agreed that the 12th child of 21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks was indeed named Henry, but he never married.

The Henry Sparks who married Sarah Smither (as stated in error on page 517), was the third son of Anthony and Mary Sparks. He was born June 28, 1810, in Monterey, Owen County, Kentucky, and was a grandson of 21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks. He married Sarah (Sallie) Smither in Monterey, Kentucky, on December 22, 1831. He died on December 31,1884, in Barry County, Missouri. Anthony Sparks, son of 21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks, was born January 7, 1781; he died in 1865 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He married Mary Sparks, a daughter of 21.1.3 Humphrey and Milley (Nalle) Sparks.

We plan to publish a more detailed record of the descendants of Anthony Sparks at a later date.