May 9, 2021
Whole Number 46
JOHN W. SPARKS OF OREGON
(Editor's Note: The following biographical sketch of John W. Sparks was published in 1912 in Vol. II of The Centennial History of Oregon, the S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, page 195. We have no further information on this family and would be much interested in learning where in Ohio his parents, William and Rachel Sparks, lived originally. Does anyone have information on this family?)
John W. Sparks, one of the best known growers of wheat and alfalfa in the state of Oregon, owns a farm of two thousand acres, located ten miles south of Pendleton on Birch Creek, one of the most productive wheat belts of the state. He was born in Ohio, July 22, 1837, a son of William and Rachel Sparks, both of whom wore natives of Ohio. The family removed to Illinois in 1838, locating first in Adams County. They later removed to Peoria, Illinois, and remained in that locality until they crossed the plains to California, settling in Eldorado County, where the father engaged in mining operations. To this family six children were born, of whom the subject of this review is now  the only surviving member. William Sparks passed away in 1852 and his wife lived until 1898.
John W. Sparks was reared in his father's home and educated in the public schools. At the age of seventeen he entered upon his career and in March, 1855, set out for California by way of the Isthmus of Panama. Arrived in the gold fields, be engaged in mining from Sacramento and Folsom to Virginia City and the neighboring regions, being thus engaged until 1864. He also owned trains of pack mules for carrying supplies to the mines, at one time having as many as one hundred and six animals thus engaged. He participated in numerous engagements with bands of Indian marauders, whose attacks upon the pack trains often resulted in sharp fighting on both sides. In 1864 he came to Oregon, settling in Umatilla County, where he filed upon a homestead upon which he lived for some time, after which he purchased the farm upon which he now resides. To his original purchase he has steadily added until he now owns a two thousand acre tract devoted to agricultural purposes. He has continued to improve his property during the years of his ownership and has specialized upon the raising of wheat and alfalfa until his is considered to be one of the very best wheat and alfalfa farms in this portion. He has also engaged extensively in the breeding of horses. His place is equipped with the essential buildings and modern farm machinery of every class and description required upon a property of such large proportions.
On May 10, 1872, Mr. Sparks was united in marriage to Miss Carrie Gienger, a daughter of George and Elizabeth Gienger. Mrs. Sparks is a native of Missouri, but her parents moved to Oregon in 1862 and located in the western portion of the state, whence they later moved to Morrow County, where they continued to live until their deaths, which occurred several years ago. To Mr. and Mrs. Sparks five children have been born: Jessie, now the wife of J. D. Muir, of Umatilla County; Orlando L. and Ora, both of whom also reside in Umatilla County; Joy, who is at home with his parents; and Ida, deceased. [Note this was written in 1912.]
Mr. Sparks is in every respect a progressive, representative citizen of the great state of Oregon. During his long term of residence be has proven not only to himself but to the people of his county and state that the soils and climate of Oregon are capable of producing the very highest grades of wheat and alfalfa, and in the demonstration of these facts Mr. Sparks has rendered a very valuable service. In his political views he adheres to the policies of the Republican Party. In addition to attaining success as a farmer Mr. Sparks has been an active participant in matters relating to the development of the social and educational features of his county and state and in every relation of life commands the respect and confidence of his fellowmen in a high degree.