April 29, 2021

Pages 835-839
Whole Number 47

36. JOHN SPARKS (1755-1834)

In an early issue of The Sparks Quarterly, December, 1955, Whole No. 12, we published the Revolutionary War pension application and a biographical sketch of John Sparks (1753-1840) of Wilkes County, North Carolina. In that article, we pointed out (on page 99) that John Sparks of Wilkes County, North Carolina, had been confused by some genealogists with the 36. John Sparks who was born in 1755 and died in 1834 in Washington County, Georgia. In fact, some descendants of John Sparks of Washington County have used the pension application of the John Sparks of Wilkes County, North Carolina, to join the D.A.R. It is the purpose of this article to make available the information we have been able to gather on John Sparks of Washington County, Georgia, and to correct some misinformation that has been published about him elsewhere.

The date of birth of 36. John Sparks is given in his family Bible as February 27, 1755. There is no statement in the Bible regarding his place of birth, although we know that he lived as a young man in what is now Newberry County, South Carolina.

Our earliest official record of 36. John Sparks is a land grant dated February 2, 1771, (but not certified until August 2, 1773) by which he received from the Colony of South Carolina a tract of 100 acres of land. This document, with the plat which accompanies it, is reproduced on page 836 from a photostat obtained from the South Carolina Archives Department. The grant reads as follows: "South Carolina. Persuent to a precept Directed under the hand and seal of John Bremer Esqr. Debt. surv. Genl. and Baring Date the 2 of February 1771 - - I have admeasured and laid unto John Sparks a plantation or tract of land in Craven County Containing one Hundred Acres situate lying and being on the south side of Enoree River and Binding s. west by Mary Frost and s. east by Francis Wafers land and N. East by Isaac Denetant land and hath such shapes form and Marks as the above Plat Represents. Certified under my hand this 2 of August 1773. [signed] W. Gist, D.S."

At the time this grant was made to John Sparks, South Carolina was divided into four counties: Granville, Colleton, Berkley, and Craven. The exact boundaries of these four original counties were often confused, in part because South Carolina was also divided into districts for judicial purposes, and the districts had no relationship to the county organization. In 1783, these judicial districts were divided to form the present counties. This tract of land granted to John Sparks was located in what was then Craven County and in what was called "96 District"; on a modern map, this land is in the northern part of Newberry County, just south of Union County and a short distance east of the Laurens County line.

At about the same time that 36. John Sparks obtained his grant of 100 acres in Newberry County, 27. Zachariah Sparks obtained a similar grant, also on the Enoree River. Zachariah Sparks, about whom an article appeared in the September, 1961, issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 35 was a generation older than John Sparks. There can be little doubt but that they were related, and it is quite possible that Zachariah was John's father. No proof of such a relationship, however, has been found.

Our next record of John Sparks is a deed recorded in the Newberry County Courthouse dated March 24, 1778, by which he purchased 100 acres of land from Abraham Anderson. John Sparks was identified in this deed as "of [the] settlement of Enoree and Province of South Carolina, 96 District," and the tract of land was described as being "on a small branch of Enoree River called Hogg's Creek, adjoining Daniel Johnson." (Newberry Co. Deed Book B, p. 368) The witnesses to this deed were Robert Wilson, Williamson Liles (Lyles), and Thomas Johnson. Abraham Arderson and the three witnesses were all residents of Newberry County.

On January 13, 1779, 36. John Sparks married Margaret Hampton, according to the family Bible. Margaret Hampton was born October 14, 1757. It is believed that she was a daughter of Edward Hampton, but we have not succeeded in finding proof of her parentage. She was closely related to the famous Wade Hampton and is known to have had a younger brother named Wade.

On October 9, 1784, John Sparks purchased for 50 pounds a tract of 32 acres in Newberry County located "on draughts of Second Creek and Gossett's Creek." He purchased this tract from the widow Ann Johnson and Bartholomew Johnson, executors of the will of Daniel Johnson who had been granted some 400 acres in 1773. The witnesses to this deed were John Hampton, Elizabeth Johnson, and James Lindsey. (Newberry Co. Deed Book B, p. 329) (The Daniel Johnson who had owned this land had been a witness to a deed made by Zachariah Sparks in 1775.)

On December 15, 1785, and on December 16, 1785, John Sparks purchased tracts of land in Newberry County, "on the waters of the Enoree," from John Hampton. One tract comprised 39 acres and the other 65 acres, and he paid 100 pounds for each. Joyce Hampton, John's wife, signed these deeds with her husband and the witnesses were John Malone, John Macoy (McCoy), and James Lindsey. (Newberry Deed Book B, pp. 362 and 365) There can be little doubt but that John Hampton was closely related to Margaret, wife of John Sparks. In her application for a Revolutionary War pension in 1832, Joyce Hampton stated that her husband, John Hampton, had been born in Frederick County, Virginia, on December 22, 1761, and that they had been married on September 18, 1782; she stated that her maiden name had been Joyce Malone and that she had been born June 24, 1766. She was a resident of Jackson County, Georgia, when she made her application in 1832.

In January 1795, 36. John and Margaret Sparks sold their land in Newberry County preparatory to moving to Georgia. On January 20, 1795, they sold the 100 acres that John had been granted in 1773 to William Calmes. (Newberry Co. Deed Book C, p. 178) John and Margaret Sparks both signed the deed, and the witnesses were Levi Johnson, John Wadlington, and James Vardiman. A week later, on January 27, 1795, they sold the remainder of their land to Lewis Hogg for 75 pounds. (Newberry Co. Deed Book C, p. 825) Both John and Margaret Sparks signed this deed also, and George Johnston, W. Malone, Jr., and Richard Darby signed as witnesses.

John Sparks is believed by his descendants to have served in the American Revolution, and it is probable that this is true, although no official record has been found to support the tradition. Newberry County figured importantly in General Nathaniel Greene's Southern Campaign of 1781, and nearly every able-bodied resident of the county who was not a Tory gave service. There is no record in the National Archives of John Sparks applying f or a Revolutionary War pension. The statement has been made that John Sparks received a large tract of land in Georgia (1150 acres) for his service in the war. No record of this grant has been found, however. The fact that the Washington County Courthouse and all the records it contained was burned by General Sherman during his march through Georgia seriously hampers our research on John Sparks and his family.

There can be little doubt but that John Sparks moved from South Carolina to Georgia because of the cheap land available in Georgia. Beginning in 1780, Georgia began attracting immigrants from other states by offering "head-right" grants to prospective settlers. Alex M. Hitz, writing in the Georgia Historical Quarterly of December, 1954, stated that "Revolutionary soldiers were not given any favor or consideration over any other prospective settler" in these grants, so the fact that John Sparks obtained land in Georgia cannot be considered proof of his service in the Revolution. Any head of a household could obtain a grant of 200 acres, plus additional acres depending upon the size of his family, provided that after the land was surveyed he immediately cleared and began cultivating at least three out of each 100 acres granted. In 1797, John Sparks obtained a grant of 390 acres in Washington County. (A Samuel Sparks obtained a grant of 370 acres in the same county and in the same year.)

According to a family record of John Sparks published in Vol. IV of Historical Collections of the Georgia Chapters Daughters of the American Revolution (p. 303), John with his family moved from South Carolina to Georgia in 1793, arriving at their destination in Washington County, Georgia, on February 2, 1793. From the deeds quoted above, however, it appears that it was in January 1795, rather than 1793, that John Sparks sold his land in South Carolina, at which time (1795) he was still described as being a resident of Newberry County. There is a tradition in the family that John Sparks took a cotton gin with him to Georgia. Whitney patented his gin in 1794, although he had perfected it in 1793. It is known that Wade Hampton, hero of the Revolution and probably a close relative of Margaret (Hampton) Sparks, was very much interested in the cotton gin. (Margaret had a younger brother named Wade who accompanied the Sparkses to Georgia, died there, and is buried in the Sparks burying ground.)

When John Sparks and his family moved to Georgia, they traveled by ox cart. They settled twelve miles from what is now the town of Sandersville in Washington County, where they built a house of walnut logs. (This house burned in 1826.) According to the 1820 census of Washington County, John Sparks owned five slaves, three males and two females. The record kept in the family Bible by John Sparks has been preserved and reads as follows:

36.1 Sara Ann Sparks, born December 5, 1779.
36.2 Mary Sparks, born December 7, 1782.
36.3 Rachel Sparks, born July 9, 1784. She married Enoch Gray.
36.4 Benjamin Sparks, born January 19, 1786. He married Sarah May.
36.5 Isabel Sparks, born November 13, 1787.
36.6 Stephen Sparks, born May 23, 1789. He died in youth.
36.7 Margaret Sparks, born January 13, 1791. She married FNU Renfro.
36.8 George H. Sparks, born September 6, 1793. He died in youth.
36.9 John Sparks, born May 17, 1797.
36.10 Thomas Sparks, born March 24, 1799. He married Ann McNeal Collins.
36.11 Elizabeth Sparks, born August 23, 1801. She married David Curry.

Of three daughters, Sarah Ann Sparks, Mary Sparks, and Isabel Sparks, two married Jethro May, son of Edmund and Temperance May. Which daughter he married first has not been learned, but following the death of his first wife, he married another daughter of John Sparks.

36.4 Benjamin Sparks, son of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks, married Sarah May. Almost nothing is known of him. In the Georgia land lottery authorized by legislative acts of 1818 and 1819, and drawn in 1820, Benjamin Sparks was twice a winner, drawing a lot in Early County and another in Habersham County. In 1820, or possibly late in 1819, however, Benjamin Sparks died. His widow, Sarah, was listed on the census of Washington County in 1820 with one male and two females, all under 10 years of age. They were doubtless her children. Since the courthouse records of Washington County have been destroyed, we have no means of checking the probate records on Benjamin Sparks that we can be sure once existed. However, a Milledgeville, Georgia, newspaper, The Southern Recorder, carried a notice in 1826 in which Enoch Gray, "Administrator of the estate of Benjamin Sparks, deceased, of Washington County, Georgia," advertised for sale the land that he had owned in Habersham and Early Counties. (Enoch Gray was Benjamin Sparks's brother-in-law.)

36.10 Thomas Sparks, son of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks, married Ann McNeal Collins on February 19, 1829. Thomas was born March 24, 1799, and died December 8, 1868. Ann McNeal (Collins) Sparks was born January 18, 1811, and died July 17, 1880. Thomas Sparks was a wealthy planter and spent his life on the land settled by his father in Washington County. He held the title of major in the state militia. Following is a list of the children of Thomas and Ann McNeal (Collins) Sparks as given in the family Bible:

36.10.1 Mary Elizabeth Sparks, born December 27, 1829. She married Reuben May.
36.10.2 John J. Sparks, born June 29, 1831. He served in the Confederate Army; never married.
36.10.3 William A. Sparks, born March 30, 1833. He was a captain in the Confederate Army; died of illness in Virginia.
36.10.4 Sarah A. Sparks, born December 20, 1834. She married Malcolm Mathis.
36.10.5 George W. Sparks, born November 5, 1836. He was a captain in the Confederate Army; became a Baptist minister; never married.
36.10.6 Martha Ann Sparks, born January 4, 1839. She married Buford Mathis.
36.10.7 Stephen S. Sparks, born September 8, 1841. He served in the Confederate Army and was killed at Gettysburg.
36.10.8 Thomas Harris Sparks, born November 18, 1843. He served in the Confederate Army; was imprisoned at Elmira, New York; married Patricia Mathis. He died December 19, 1920.
36.10.9 Andrew Jackson Sparks, born November 1, 1845. He joined the Confederate Army when he was 16 years old and was wounded in the last battle of the war; he married Julia McIntosh; he died in 1918.
36.10.10 Gracy Ann Sparks, born July 18,1848. She married J. W. Smith.
36.10.11 Aylesberry S. Sparks, born September 15, 1850. He married Mary Marsh Warthen.
36.10.12 Isabel Jane Sparks, born January 2, 1855. She married Joseph Daniel.