May 30, 2019

Pages 960-968
Whole Number 53 JOHN SPARKS
BORN 1755, DIED 1831

by Russell E. Bidlack

In the June, 1961, issue of the Quarterly, pp. 556-566 we published a detailed record of the life of Matthew Sparks, who died in 1793. We promised that, as we succeeded in gathering data on his children, we would publish a sketch of each one with a record of his descendants. Although our record is far from complete, we here present what has been learned about the eldest son of Matthew and Sarah Sparks. John Sparks, son of Matthew and Sarah Sparks, was born in 1755 and died in February, 1831. (These dates are found on his tombstone in the Sparks Family Cemetery several miles west of Russeliville, Franklin County, Alabama.) He was a child of about four or five years when his parents moved from Maryland to Rowan County, North Carolina.

The earliest official document which we have found containing John Sparks's name is the 1775 tax list of Surry County, North Carolina. His father had moved from Rowan County to an area called New River in Surry County, North Carolina, shortly before the tax list for 1775 was drawn up. This area was included in Benjamin Cleveland's District for tax purposes, and opposite the name of "Matthew Sparks, Sr." on this 1775 list are given three "taxable polls": the father himself, and his two eldest sons, " John Sparks" and Matthew Sparks, Jr."

In 1777, a new county called Wilkes was created from a portion of Surry County and the District of Washington. The area in which Matthew Sparks's family had settled, called New River, was now included in the new Wilkes County. (In 1799, Wilkes County was divided and this section was included in the new Ashe County. It is still a part of Ashe County today and is near the present site of the town of Jefferson.)

John Sparks had just come of age when the American Revolution began. Thus far, we have found no official document to prove that he served, but in the application for a pension made by his brother, William Sparks, there is a reference to such service. William Sparks, who was six years younger than John, swore on September 14, 1846, that ca. 1778 he, William Sparks, "was organized into a company of mounted minute men under Andrew Baker, as Captain, and my Brother John Sparks as Lieutenant." (See the March and June, 1954, Whole Nos. 5 & 6, issues of the Quarterly for a transcription of William Sparks's pension application.)

Our next record of John Sparks is his marriage bond recorded in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and dated August 14, 1781. His bondsman was James Bunyard and the girl whom his bond authorized him to marry was Mary Parmely. They were probably married a day or two after the bond was issued. (See the Quarterly of Dec, 1954, Whole No. 8, pp. 54-55, for an explanation of North Carolina marriage bonds.) Mary Parmely, who was often called by her nickname, "Mollie," was a daughter of Giles Parmely. According to the inscription on her tomestone, she was born in 1763. Her father, Giles Parmely, was born July 1, 1731, in Killingworth, Middlesex County, Connecticut, but he was living in Essex County, New Jersey, when Mary was born. He was in Wilkes County, North Carolina, as early as 1777.

The 1782 tax list of Wilkes County survives and, while John Sparks owned no land in 1782 according to this record, he was taxed on two horses and five cattle. He was probably working for his father at this time. Matthew Sparks, Sr., was taxed in the same district that year on 650 acres.

In 1786 the state of North Carolina ordered that a census be taken of all inhabitants. Fortunately, Wilkes County was one of the eighteen counties which complied in 1787) and the family of John Sparks was listed near that of his father-in-law, Giles Parmely. Living with John Sparks were "3 males aged under 21 and over 60, and 2 females of every age." In all probability, these three males were his children - - the reason for the census taker giving them in this age category was that males between 21 and 60 were required to pay the poll tax. One of the females would have been Mollie, John's wife, while the other was probably a daughter. Living in the same district was John's brother, William Sparks, who had married by 1787. There was also another John Sparks, who was a son of Solomon Sparks. It is believed that these two John Sparkses were first cousins.

Matthew Sparks, Sr., and most of his family moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina, to what is now Clarke County, Georgia, early in the 1780's. Only John and William were still in North Carolina in 1786, and by 1790 William also had left to join his father. John Sparks was listed on the 1790 census of Wilkes County; besides himself his household in 1790 consisted of four males under sixteen years and a total of three females (one of whom was his wife). His cousin, the other John Sparks, had exactly the same size family. (For a record of this other John Sparks, who was born in 1753, see the Quarterly for Dec, 1955, Whole No. 12, pp. 94-106.)

by the fall of 1791, John Sparks and his family had followed his father and brothers to Georgia. It was in Georgia that John's son, Enoch Sparks, was born in September, 1791. by 1794, however, John had moved to Greenville District, South Carolina (later called Greenville County), where on February 17, 1794, he purchased from John Stiles of Oglethorpe County, Georgia, two tracts of land, one of 380 acres and the other of 240 acres, on "Beaverdam Creek, a branch of Tygar River." (Deed Book C, pp. 432-33.) He paid a total of 210 pounds for this land.

John Sparks probably moved to South Carolina with his brother, Matthew Sparks, Jr., (Matthew and his wife, Margaret, witnessed the deeds by which John purchased his land in Greenville District.) In his pension application, Matthew Sparks, Jr., stated that after his father was killed in Georgia in 1793, he "removed to Greenville District in the State of South Carolina, where he resided seven or eight years..." (See the Quarterly of Dec, 1956, Whole No. 16, p. 179.) About the year 1800, Matthew Sparks, Jr., moved from South Carolina to Jackson County, Georgia, but John Sparks remained in South Carolina.

A number of deeds for land purchased and sold by John Sparks are on record in Greenville District (now County), South Carolina, the last being dated 1828. He was listed on the census records of the county from 1800 through 1830; in 1830 he was listed as "John Sparks, Esqr." aged between 70 and 80.

Shortly after the 1830 census was taken, John Sparks and his wife, Mary (or Mollie), moved from South Carolina to Franklin County, Alabama, to live with their son, William Sparks, who had gone to Franklin County in 1820. Shortly after moving to Alabama, John Sparks died, in February, 1831. His wife lived until September, 1853. Both are buried in the Sparks Family Cemetery, located several miles west of Russellville. One tombstone marks their graves: on one side the inscription reads "John Sparks Sr. Born A.D. 1755, Died February 1831;" on the other side the inscription reads "Mollie, wife of John Sparks Sr. Born A.D. 1763, Died September . 1853." (See the following page for photographs of these inscriptions.) (See also the Quarterly of Dec, 1959, Vol. VII, no. 4, Whole No. 28, p. 433 (erroneously numbered 333) for a list of the Sparkses buried in that cemetery.)

According to a record of the family of John and Mary (or Mollie) Sparks, prepared by their great-grandson, Christopher C. Sparks (1846-1923), they were the parents of the following children: William Sparks Robert Sparks, Samuel Sparks, Enoch Sparks, Rebecca Sparks, and Elizabeth Sparks.

The fact that John was called "Sr." on his tombstone may indicate he had a son named John, but this may have been to distinguish him from his grandson, John Sparks, who was born in 1811 and died in 1847.

Descendants of John and Mary (Parmely) Sparks: William Sparks, son of John and Mary (Parmely) Sparks, was born May 1, 1782, in Wilkes County, North Carolina; he died on December 25, 1857, in Franklin County, Alabama. He was one of the pioneers of Franklin County, arriving in Russeliville on December 20, 1820. Before moving to Alabama, he seems to have lived in Spartanburg County, South Carolina. He married Eunice Woodruff, who was born August 25, 1786, and died September 25, 1842. (on September 13, 1810, Joseph Woodruff, Sr., sold two tracts of land in Spartanburg County to William Sparks for $100; one tract of 50 acres and one of 40 acres. Joseph Woodruff may have been Eunice's father.) Robert Leslie James, who wrote the book called Distinguished Men, Women and Families of Franklin Co., Alabama, stated that William Sparks "lived west of Russellville toward Frankfort." He described him as a "planter and workman" and mentioned that his parents had "a cook table which is said to have been made by him [William Sparks]." He added: "He is said to have possessed a passionate temper, but so far as we know, he was a good, law-abiding citizen."

During the War of 1812, William Sparks served five months and twenty days as a private in a company commanded by Manly Ford in Col. Hugh Means's Regiment. In 1850, William Sparks applied for bounty land on the basis of this service and recalled then that he "had been drafted at Spartanburg District in South Carolina." (For an abstract of these bounty land papers, see the Quarterly of June, 1965, Vol. XIII, No 2, Whole No. 50, pp.910-911.)

William and Eunice (Woodruff) Sparks were the parents of fourteen children: John Sparks, son of William and Eunice (Woodruff) Sparks, was born ca. 1811 in Alabama and died in 1847 in Franklin County, Alabama. His burial place is not known, but may be in a grave with an unlettered stone in the Sparks Family Cemetery near Russellville. John Sparks married Sarah Bowlen, who was born in Georgia in 1815 and died in Lawrence County,Arkansas, in 1887. Not long after the death of John Sparks in 1847, his widow and children moved to Hardin County, Tennessee. In 1860, Sarah and several of her children moved to Arkansas by ox cart. They settled first at Smithville in Lawrence County on Coopers Creek, where they lived during the Civil War. John and Sarah (Bowlen) Sparks are believed to have had eight children, although the names of only five are known, all sons. The other three were probably daughters; it is known that one daughter married and remained in Hardin County, Tennessee, The five known sons were: John T. Sparks was born in Franklin County, Alabama, on February 8, 1843. He moved with his mother and brothers to Hardin County, Tenn., then to Lawrence County, Ark., and finally to Sharp County, Ark. He was a farmer and was still living in 1899 when the Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Northeast Arkansas was published by Goodspeed. He was married in 1869 to Susan Webb, who was born in Polk County, Missouri, in 1845; she died in 1871. In 1872, John T. Sparks married (second) Alvira Hill, who was born in Lawrence County, Ark., in 1850, daughter of Daniel and Delia Hill. John T. Sparks served in the Confederate Army from 1862 to 1865 under a Captain Huddleson in a cavalry unit. It is said that he was in every battle west of the Mississippi River. by his first wife, Susan (Webb) Sparks, John T. Sparks had: Mary J. Sparks, born 1868, who married James Wheeler William N. Sparks, born ca. 1870.

by his second wife, Alvira (Hill) Sparks: Josephine Sparks, born ca. 1872, who apparently died in youth; Ellen O. Sparks, born ca. 1875; Causette Sparks; Edward B. Sparks; and one other child who died in youth. James L. Sparks was born ca. 1847. He married Malinda MNU who was born in Arkansas ca. 1856. They were living in Sharp County, Arkansas, in 1880, and according to the census of that year, they had two children: Susan F. Sparks; C. Thomas Sparks, born ca. 1878. Robert Sparks served with the Confederate Army and was killed at Shiloh. Joseph Sparks served in the Confederate Army and was shot in the shoulder at Murfreesboro, Tenn. He returned to his mother's home at Smithville, Ark., where he died from gangrene. Isaac Newton ["Newt"] Sparks, son of John and Sarah (Bowlen) Sparks, was born June 17, 1848, near Florence, Alabama. His father died a few months before he was born. He moved with his mother and brothers to Tennessee, then to Arkansas and spent his adult life near Poughkeepsie in Sharp County. Isaac N. Sparks married (first) Mary Street, who died at the birth of their only child, a daughter named Mary Sparks. He married (second) Charity Victoria Goff, who Is said to have been one-quarter Indian. She was born September 10, 1859, and died January 30, 1927. Isaac N. Sparks died on June 21, 1920.

by his first wife, Mary (Street) Sparks, Isaac N. Sparks had one child: Mary Sparks, who married (first) John Justice and (second) W. G. Lewsaw.

by his second wife, Charity Victoria (Goff) Sparks, Isaac N. Sparks had the following children: Joseph Columbus Sparks, born February 16, 1880, and died August 26, 1956. He married Etta Louella Miller, who was born July 4, 1879, and died in 1945. He was a blacksmith. They were the parents of three children: Claude E. Sparks, Sr., Lois Sparks, Lela Sparks. Paralee Sparks, married Alonzo Stanfill. Emma Sparks, married Robert Croom, Sr. Ella Sparks, born May 17, 1886, and died December 31, 1958; she married Lewis Bilbrey. Myrtle L. Sparks, born January 12, 1897, and died December 27, 1928; she married Luther Jackson Webb. Lou Sparks, married Robert Crooxn, Jr. Grover Cleveland Sparks
, born November 24, 1892; died September 29, 1900. Polly Sparks (probably nickname for Mary), daughter of William and Eunice (Woodruff) Sparks, No further record. Riley Sparks, son of William and Eunice (Woodruff) Sparks, was born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, on October 22, 1811, and died near Frankfort, Alabama, on December 29, 1892. He married (first) Nancy Benson on December 20, 1832. She was born in White County, Tennessee, on January 15, 1815, and was a daughter of John and Rhoda (Tollerson) Benson. (John Benson was born in Bledsoe County, Tenn., and was a son of Thomas Benson.) Nancy (Benson) Sparks died on January 12, 1857, and Riley Sparks married (second) Nancy Malone (note: incorrect dates were removed and an approximate date added), who was born in the early 1830's. There were no children by the second marriage. (Nancy Malone had a son prior to her marriage to Riley Sparks and he became known as B. T. Sparks, although his father was a Malone. He never married.)

[Correction Note: We have not found the date of this second marriage, but it occurred before the 1860 census of Franklin County, Alabama, was taken - - the family of Riley Sparks was visited by the census taker on June 14, 1860. His second wife, Nancy (Malone) Sparks, was listed as 29 years old, thus born ca. 1831. When the 1870 census was taken, her age was given as 36, which, if correct, would indicate she was born ca. 1834. From these two census records, we may assume that she was born in the early 1830s.]

[Addition Note: A descendant of this branch of the family, R. L. James, stated many years ago that Nancy Malone was a daughter of James and Polly (Cook) Malone. Prior to her marriage to Riley Sparks (as his second wife), she had had a son (the father was a Malone also, and was a first cousin to Nancy). This child, who became known as Benjamin T. Sparks, is buried in the Sparks Cemetery several miles west of Russellville, Ala.; according to his tombstone, he was born August 20, 1849, and died May 10, 1909. He did not marry. Riley Sparks had no children by his second wife. In his Distingushed Men, Women & Families of Franklin County, Alabama, R. L. James stated in 1927 that both wives are buried in the Sparks Cemetery between Duncan and Tollison's Creeks. ]

by his first wife, Nancy (Benson) Sparks, Riley Sparks had the following children: William Benson Sparks was born September 30, 1833, and died March 24, 1902. He married Mary Odom, who was born in Tennessee on December 30, 1846, and died April 14, 1923. They are known to have had at least three children: Nannie M. Sparks, born March 13, 1860, and died December 17, 1930, married A. J. James; Bettie J.Sparks born January 8, 1865, died December 30, 1922, married J. W. Hester; J. H. Sparks, married Arrie Malone who was a daughter of Sandy & (Hester) Malone; she was born September 19, 1877, and died July 7, 1926.

(Note: Mrs. Dorothy H. Turner of Marietta, Georgia, has sent us information that this J. H. Sparks was James H. Sparks and was born August 17, 1870; he died on January 25, 1940. His wife, Arrie (Malone) Sparks, was born September 19, 1877, and died July 7, 1926. She was a daughter of Sandy Malone, born 1859, died 1921.) Mary Jane Sparks, daughter of Riley and Nancy (Benson) Sparks, married Thomas Malone. Daniel Ramy Sparks was born January 7, 1838, and died March 7, 1862. John Adams Sparks was born July 7, 1840, and died March 23, 1862. James Madison Sparks was born December 6, 1842, and died March 21, 1860. Martha Ann Sparks was born January 2, 1845, and died December 15, 1886. She married Carrol J. McRight, who was born July 26, 1842, and died February 7, 1904. Christopher Columbus Sparks was born December 30, 1846, and died April 14, 1923. He married (first) on January 2, 1868, Adaline Elizabeth Cook, who was born July 3, 1850, and died January 10, 1881; she was a daughter of John and Mary (Patterson) Cook. Christopher Columbus Sparks married (second) Sara Elizabeth Ezzell on August 4, 1881; she was born August 29, 1858, and died April 28, 1917; she was a daughter of Robert Ezzell. Christopher Columbus Sparks and his first wife, Adaline Elizabeth Cook, were the parents of six children, as follows: James William Sparks, born November 27, 1868. Mattie Elizabeth Sparks, born August 3, 1870. John Lemuel Sparks, born September 7, 1872. Oscar Mahan Sparks, born February 21, 1875. Mary Rebecca Sparks, born May 12, 1878. Benjamin Franklin Sparks, born December 4, 1880.

by his second wife, Sara Elizabeth Ezzell, Christopher Columbus Sparks had five children, as follows: Thomas Jefferson Sparks, born June 23, 1882. Viola Sparks, born June 23, 1882. Joseph Madison Sparks, born June 23, 1882. George Washington Sparks, born October 6, 1885. Arthur Orlando Sparks, born January 27, 1888. Riley Franklin Sparks, son of Riley and Nancy (Benson) Sparks, was born September 23, 1849, and died October 5, 1890. Benjamin T. Sparks, son of Riley and Nancy (Benson) Sparks, was born in 1849 (apparently a twin of Riley Franklin). Lemuel Nelson Sparks, son of Riley and Nancy (Benson) Sparks, was born December 15, 1852, and died in 1944 at Red Bay, Alabama. He married Nancy Elizabeth Vinson on December 4, 1879. She was born January 9, 1862, and died April 24, 1944) she was a daughter of Edwin and Mary (James) Vinson. To this union were born eleven children: William Christopher Sparks. Mary Ida Sparks. Della Ann Sparks. Riley Edwin Sparks. Nancy Elizabeth Sparks. KatIe Virginia Sparks. Johnny Nelson Sparks. Rather Cleere Sparks. Robert Lee Sparks. Beulah Josephene Sparks. Ella Bradley Sparks. Nancy Virginia Sparks, daughter of Riley and Nancy (Benson) Sparks, was born November 26, 1855, and died September 23, 1913. Rebecca Sparks, daughter of William and Eunice (Woodruff) Sparks, married Lemuel Nelson. Artamesa Sparks was born January 15, 1816, and died August 6, 1886; she married Andrew J. Willis, who was born May 7, 1815, and died November 26, 1880. Willis Sparks was born ca. 1815; he married Martha MNU and by 1850 had a son named Marion Sparks. Anna Sparks. No further information. Saleta Sparks was born February 13, 1818, and died August, 1895; she married Merrille J. McRight, born November 3, 1813, and died April 22, 1884. Jerry Sparks. No further information. Elisha Sparks. Twin of Elijah; no further information. Elijah Sparks. Twin of Elisha; no further information. Elivra Sparks. She died ca. 1895, She married Henderson Bolton and had children named

Frank Bolton, Jeff Bolton, Monroe Bolton, Wash Bolton, Daniel Bolton, Adeline Bolton, and Mollie Bolton. Permelia Sparks. No further information, William Sparks; he was born ca. 1830. Robert Sparks. He was born ca. 1785. No further record. Samuel Sparks. He was born ca. 1785-90. No further record. Enoch Sparks was born in September, 1791. He served in the War of 1812 from Greenville County, South Carolina, and received bounty land for this service in 1850 and again in 1855. (See the Quarterly of September, 1960, Vol. VIII, No. 3, pp. 502-03 for abstracts of these bounty land papers.) He was listed on the 1830 census of Greenville County, South Carolina, as living next to his father, John Sparks. Enoch's age was given as between 30 and 40; his wife was listed in the same age bracket and living with them were three males (probably sons); one male was under 5 years; one was aged 5 to 10; and the third was between 10 and 15. There were also four females (probably daughters). One was under 5 years; one was between 5 and 10; one was between 10 and 15; and one was between 15 and 20. According to the 1850 census, Enoch's wife was named Nancy and was born ca. 1792 in South Carolina. She had died by 1860, but Enoch was still living according to the 1860 census of Franklin County. From census records and other scattered sources, we have been able to learn the names of only four of Enoch Sparks's children. These were as follows: Samuel Magnus Sparks, born ca. 1818; John P. Sparks, born ca. 1829; Malinda Sparks, born ca. 1831; Mary Sparks, born ca. 1833. (The latter's name may have been Matilda.) Samuel Magnus Sparks, son of Enoch Sparks, was born ca. 1818. According to a biographical sketch of one of his sons, he married Lucinda Ramsey. However, on the 1850 census of Franklin County, Alabama, his wife's name was given as Nancy S. Sparks. From various sources, we have found the names of the following children of Samuel Magnus Sparks. There were probably others. James (or Jimmie) Roe Sparks, born in 1843. He was described by Robert Leslie James in his book on Franklin County, Alabama, as "one of the oldest and best loved men in Franklin County." James stated that he had been born on a farm on Cedar Creek four miles from Frankfort, but was living in Red Bay in 1927; he stated that he had lived at one time in Arkansas and also in Mississippi. He married twice. His first wife was a Miss Reid and several children were born to that union. His second wife, not named by Mr. James, had one daughter by James Sparks. Mr. James described James Roe Sparks as "a Democrat and a Baptist." Enoch Magnus Sparks, born 1847, died April 30, 1934, in Hamilton, Texas. He married Ophelia Adeline Kee, who was born February 9, 1943, and died July 10, 1911. They had children named: Michael Jonce Sparks, born 1871; Joe Chepas Sparks, born 1869; Berta Sparks; Eimna Sparks, and Elnora Sparks. Rebecca Sparks. No further record. Elizabeth Sparks. No further record.

When the 1850 census was taken of Franklin County, Alabama, Mary (Parmely) Sparks, widow of John, was an old lady eighty-seven years of age. She was listed as living with the family of Liberton and Elizabeth Sweet. Perhaps Liberton Sweet, who was born ca. 1810, was a grandson of John and Mary (Parmely) Sparks, and perhaps either Rebecca or Elizabeth had married a Sweet.