March 9, 2021

Pages 550-554
Whole Number 34


by Fadjo Cravens, Jr.

Early in the nineteenth century, according to a record made by George T. Sparks in 1903, there were born to 34. Thomas and Elizabeth (McGary) Sparks in Elfin, County Roscommon, Ireland, nine children:

34.1 Mitchell Sparks, born 4 February 1811, died 16 November 1864.
34.2 William Sparks
34.3 George Sparks
34.4 Thomas Sparks, born ca. 1817.
34.5 Paul Sparks
34.6 Robert Sparks
34.7 James Henry Sparks, born 1830.
34.8 Susan Sparks
34.9 Jane Sparks

Of these nine children, four are believed to have emigrated to the United States;

34.1 Mitchell Sparks, 34.3 George Sparks, and 34.4 Thomas Sparks came in 1836, while
34.7 James Henry Sparks came in 1849.

According to family legend, George Sparks disappeared without a trace en route from New Orleans to Fort Smith.

A work published in Chicago in 1889 by the Goodspeed Company known as The History of Northwest Arkansas, contains a sketch of the life of David B. Sparks, son of Mitchell. The information for this sketch was probably furnished by David B. Sparks himself. According to this sketch, Mitchell Sparks was a native of Dublin, Ireland, and was educated in Trinity College, Dublin Institute. "He graduated in medicine, but never practiced his profession. He emigrated to America when a young man, locating at Fort Smith, where he engaged in merchandizing up and down the river, and entered business with a man by the name of Miller, who was one of the leading merchants of Fort Smith for many years." (page 1365)

Fort Smith, in the latter 1830's and all through the 1840's, 1850's, and 1860's, was a mercantile center boasting a fort and almost unlimited trade with the five civilized tribes of Indians occupying what was then known as the Indian Territory, and now known as the State of Oklahoma. In this setting, Mitchell and Thomas Sparks entered into a lively mercantile business under the firm name of M. & T. Sparks. James H. Sparks, who arrived in 1849, engaged in the same line of business, but went bankrupt ca. 1852; he subsequently engaged in the newspaper profession, in which he became quite well known, editing and publishing, as well as founding, with John F. Wheeler, the Fort Smith Herald.

34.1 Mitchell Sparks, oldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth (McGary) Sparks, was born 4 February 1811, and died in Fort Smith on 16 November 1864. (His portrait has been reproduced on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly.) In 1847, Mitchell Sparks married Hannah Bennett, a native of Massachusetts, who was born January 22, 1822, and died 12 December 1909. According to the sketch In the History of Northwest Arkansas, this marriagetook place in New York. Children:

34.1.1 George Taylor Sparks;
34.1.2 David Bennett Sparks;
34.1.3 Elizabeth Sparks;
34.1.4 Joseph M. Sparks;
34.1.5 James M. Sparks; and
34.1.6 Charlie Sparks.

34.1.1 George Taylor Sparks was born 22 June 1848, and died 12 July 1907. As was his younger brother, David Bennett Sparks, George Taylor Sparks was educated in Massachusetts.

Upon his return to Fort Smith, he immediately assumed a prominent place in the social and business activities of that town. He was elected a director of the First National Bank in 1875. He became the Bank's president in 1886 and served until his death in 1907. He married at Fort Smith on March 11, 1879, Ann Eliza Dibrell, born January 1, 1852, daughter of Dr. James Anthony and Ann Elizabeth (Pryor) Dibrell. Children: Mitchell Bennett Sparks, born 16 February 1881. He died ca. 1914. He remarried but had no children. James Dibrel Sparks, born June 1, 1883. He died ca. 1955. He married Mabel MNU and had the following children: James Sparks born ca. 1928; died ca. 1957. Ann Eliza Sparks. A daughter, name not known, but called "Cookie". George Thomas (Jake) Sparks, born 27 December 1886; died when be was 19 years old. Unmarried. Medora Duval Sparks, born 20 September 1889. She married Henry O. Morrison of St. Louis, her first cousin. No children.

34.1.2 David Bennett Sparks was born 8 June 1850, and died 22 December 1932. In 1877 he married Lily Pryor, daughter of Cornelius David and Sarah Ann (Kate) (Bailing) Pryor.

He was educated in Massachusetts and afterward returned to Fort Smith where he was connected for some time with the Elporaso Stage Company. He engaged in the saddler's business for two years, then took up the wholesale boot and shoe business. He was later City Clerk. Children: George Pryor Sparks, born 1878, died 1952(?); he never married. He was a very successful interior decorator. Jere Kannady Sparks, born ca. 1880; he married Ada Edwards. No children. Kate Pryor Sparks, born December 23, 1881, died 5 November 1956. She was married in December, 1902, to Charles F. Pittman. Children of Kate Pryor Sparks and Charles F. Pittman: Lily Carr Pittman, born November 13, 1903, in Prescott, Ark. She married Thomas McRae Bemis on January 11, 1926. Children: Kate Sparks Bemis, born February 19, 1930; married William Fadjo Cravens, Jr., 22 December 1950. Children: Charles Fadjo Cravens, born December 21, 1951. Thomas Rutherford Cravens, born 14 April 1953. William Bennett Cravens, born 5 November 1956. David Anthony Cravens, born 31 October 1959. John Bemis Cravens, born 19 September 1960. Ethel McRae Bemis, born nJanuary 23, 1932. She married John Hale in September, 1957. Children: Katherine McRae Hale, born March 26, 1959. John Marshall Pittman, born October 25, 1909, in Prescott, Ark. He married Pauline Nutt in 193-(?). He died May 30, 1955. David Bennett Sparks, Jr., born 188-(?). He never married. Neil Sparks, born in the late 1880's or early 1890's; married twice, but no children. Now living in Mona, Arkansas; sign painter. Hynes Sparks, born 1894(?). He married, but his wife is no longer living and he has no children. He is retired Chairman of the Board of the Symington Steel Company in New York City. He now lives in London, Eng. Martha Barling Sparks, born August 21(?), 1902; she married William Allan Johnston, II, ca. 1929 or 1930. Children: William Allan Johnston, III, born 1930; married Betty Britton in June 1957. He has a son, William Allan Johnston, IV, born in March, 1958. David Sparks Johnston, born May, 1931. He died in May, 1958; unmarried.

34.1.3 Elizabeth Sparks, daughter of Mitchell and Hannah (Bennett) Sparks, married Henry Morrison of Saint Louis on March 6,1878. Children: Henry Morrison, Jr., married Medora Sparks, daughter of George Taylor Sparks. No children. Elizabeth Morrison; never married. She may still be living in St. Louis.

34.1.4 Joseph M. Sparks born 16 June 1852. He died at the age of six weeks.

34.1.5 James Mitchell Sparks born January 1, 1857; died 14 December 1921. He married Nina Johnston in 1885. Children: James Mitchell Sparks, Jr.; married Myra Payne of Fort Smith, Arkansas. He died in 1921. No children.

34.1.6 Charlie Sparks was born 19 June 1860; he died at the age of one year, five months, and 20 days.

34.4 Thomas Sparks, the fourth son of Thomas and Elizabeth (McGary) Sparks, was born ca. 1817. As stated earlier, he came to Fort Smith, Arkansas, with his brother, Mitchell Sparks, in 1836. In 1849, Thomas Sparks joined the California Gold Rush and died on the journey. He was unmarried. There are different traditions regarding the circumstances of his death. One story tells of his driving a herd of cattle across the plains and his dying near Salt Lake City where he was buried in an unmarked grave. According to another account, he took the sea route and died in Nicaragua. On the back of the daguerreotype reproduced below is inscribed: "Daguerreotype of Thomas Sparks age 32. Died at Sea. Acapulco, Mexico. Presented to D. Sparks by W. J. Weaver."

Born in Ireland ca. 1817
Died in the California Gold Rush of 1849

34.7 James Henry Sparks, who was born in 1830, was the youngest son of Thomas and Elizabeth (McGary) Sparks. He came to Fort Smith, Arkansas, from Ireland in 1849. On September 27, 1857, he was married in Van Buren, Arkansas, to Miss Abbie Butler, daughter of Elizur Butler, the famous missionary to the Cherokees in Georgia and in the Indian Territory. James H. Sparks enlisted in the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the Civil War in the First Company of the Fort Smith Rifles. He was wounded at the Battle of Oak Hill. Subsequently, he and his family moved to Texas where he was placed in command of the post at Waco and given the rank of Major. He was editor of a newspaper in Memphis, Tennessee, for a while before returning to Fort Smith. He died in Fort Smith on January 29, 1879. James Henry and Abbie (Butler) Sparks were the parents of two children:

34.7.1 Thomas Sparks, born in 1849, died in 1866.
34.7.2 Lucy Sparks, born 13 February 1865, died 22 November 1945. She married James Aull Yantis on June 23, 1885. Children: Sydney Yantis (daughter), born August 25, 1887. She married Harry P. Warner on June 25, 1913. Children: Lucy Yantie Warner, born March 20, 1915. She married David Smith Waddy on December 28, 1938 (later divorced). No children. Charles Edwin Warner, born 11 November 1917. He married Elizabeth Hester Porter on November 12, 1943. They have four children. Edward Montgomery Yantis, born 5 June 1890. He married, first, Ivy Hadkinson in April, 1920. They had one child: James Aull Yantis, II. He married Lydia MNU in April, 1920. No children.

Edward Montgomery Yantis married, second, Evelyn Whittall in 1926. They had: Evelyn Yantis, born in 1927. She married Franz Pederson (now divorced). Children: Dirk Pederson, born August 22, 1949. Kristine Pederson, born March 10, 1952. James H. Sparks Yantis, born 30 November 1892; died 13 November 1936, in Dallas, Texas. He married Ruby Easterling in 1928. No children. Marshall Lapsley Yantis, born 18 July 1893; he married Eva Vick in Fort Smith, Ark., on February 25, 1916. Children, all of Fort Smith: John Marshall Yantis, born August 1, 1918. He married Julia Ann Welch. They have three children. Sydney Vick Yantis, born 7 May 1922, died 23 June 1924. James Sparks Yantis, born 17 July 1927; unmarried. Lucy Vick Yantis, born August 1, 1931; she married Roscoe Thompson on 16 September 1949. Children: Sydney Vick Thompson (son), born August 25, 1950. Ricky Thompson, born 14 April 1953. Phillip Markham Thompson, born 5 August 1958.