September 9, 2017

Pages 1135-1142
Whole Number 61


(Editor's Note: This copy has been made from a photostat of the original will of 7. William Sparks (died 1788) on file among the probate records of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. An attempt has been made to copy the spelling, capitalization, and punctuation exactly as they appear on the original.)

In the Name of God Amen, I William Sparks of Franklin Township Fayette County & State of Pennsylvania Being Weak in Body but of Sound Memory & mind blessed be god for the same: Do make & Publish this my Last Will & Testament in Form Following (that is to say) First I Gitve & Bequeath unto my beloved Wife Rachel Sparks During her Natural Life My Mansion house where I now live & the Use of all the Improved Land & Woodland to the Amount of One hundred And forty five Acres on that End of my Place that is Improved She is to School & Bring up my son James Sparks & Daughters Rachel Sparks Margaret Sparks Elizabeth Sparks Sarah Sparks & my son John Sparks; I will & Bequeath to my Eldest Son Isaac Sparks one hundred Acres of Land on the South Side of the Great Road joining the Lands of Joseph Barker & also one Young Bay Mare & my Sadle & Gunn & Two Cows & a bed & Beding. I will & Bequeath to my Daughter Ann Sparks one Black Mare a Saddle & Bridle also a feather Bed & Beding & Two Cows I Will & Bequeath to my Second son William Sparks one hundred Acres of Land upon North East End of my place joining the land of John Allen & Edward Parish & also a Yearling Colt of a Bay Coulor & Two Milk Cows & I will and Bequeath to my third Son James Sparks the one half of that part of my Place that Remains after the Other Two hundred Acres of is Taken ofn [sic], and I will & Bequeath to my Son John Sparks all the Residue of My lands I further I Will [sic] that each of the Above Legacies be made good as Soon as the Legatees are of Age & I further will that all the Remainder of my Personall Estate be Distributed Amongst my Little Girls as their Mother shall think Right & I further Will that Each of my sons Shall pay an Equal Share Toward their mothers Support (provided She Should Survive my Son John Sparks being of Age - - And I Do hereby Appoint my son Isaac Sparks & John Allen Esquire Executors of this my Last Will & Testament hereby Revoking former Wills by me made In Witness where of I have hereunto Set my hand & Seal this Twenty fourth Day of March in the Year our Lord [sic] One Thousand Seven hundred & Eighty Eight.

                                                 [signed], William Sparks X    (Seal)

Signed Sealed published & declared by the above named William Sparks to be his Last Will & Testament in the presence of us Who have hereunto Subscribed our names as Witness in Presence of the Testator

           [signed] John Gibson
                           Patrick Brannon 0
                   Mary Underhill  0
Fayette County Ss
The Sixth Day of May Anno Domini 1788 Before me personally came Patrick Brannon & Mary Underhill two of the Signing Witnesses to the foregoing last Will & Testament and on their Solemn Oaths being Separately Examined declare they Saw & heard the said William Sparks Sign & Acknowledge the same as his last Will and Testament & that they saw John gibson Sign the same as a Witness & that they Signed it in the presence of the Testator as Witnesses thereto also iri the Presence of each other.

                                                           Witness my Hand the same Day [signed] Alexander McClean

       Inventory Returned 22 0ct 1791

       Memorandum--That Letters Testamentary in Common Form were granted unto Isaac Sparks and John Allen Esq. same day Inventory to be exhibited the 6th day of June next And an Accurate Calculation and Reckoning on the sixth day of May 1789 thereunto Lawfully required.


by Russell E. Bidlack

Fayette County, where William Sparks was living at the time of his death in 1788, is located in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania; it borders West Virginia on the south, Green County, Pennsylvania, on the west, Washington and Westmore land Counties on the north, and Somerset County on the east. Franklin Township is in the northern portion of Fayette County; Redstone Creek separates it from Redstone Township on the south-east. The following additional townships adjoin Franklin Township: Menallen, also on the south-east; North Union on the south; Dunbar on the west; Lower Tyrone and Perry on the north, and Jefferson on the north-west. The Youghiogheny River flows between Franklin Township and Lower Tyrone Township.

Fayette County was created in 1783, being cut off that year from Westmoreland County; Westmoreland County had been created in 1773, being cut off that year from Bedford County.

Volume 3 of the Horn Papers compiled by W. F. Horn and published in 1945, consists of detailed maps of the original farms in Fayette, Greene, and Washington Counties. These maps were drawn by Mr. Horn on the basis of the original warrantees and patentees. William Sparks's farm, which he described in his will, is clearly shown on Horn's map of Franklin Township. (A portion of this map showing William Sparks's farm and the farms around him has been copied and appears on the following page.)

A number of the farms in the area where William Sparks lived were given names by their owners. William Sparks called his tract of land 'Choice.' The custom of giving names to tracts of land was common in Maryland and those settlers in Pennsylvania who followed this custom were often from Maryland. For this and other reasons, it seems highly probable that William Sparks was originally from Maryland.

The farm which William Sparks describes in his will comprised 345 and 3/4 acres; the warrant far this land was dated April 8, 1785, and it was surveyed on October 21, 1785. Horn added that it was patented to Hugh Shotwell et al on March 16, 1806. (Perhaps Hugh Shotwell had married one of Sparks's daughters.)

William Sparks' s farm was located on the far southwest side of Franklin Township; Redstone Creek flowed through the farm of Joseph Barker which adjoined Sparks's farm on the southwest. Farms owned by the following individuals adjoined the farm owned by William Sparks:
       On the south, Henry Grier.
       On the southwest, Joseph Barker (by 1829 this was owned by Edward Jordun)
       On the west, Elijah Barkley (by 1810 this was owned by Jonathan Sharpless)
       Also on the west, James McCormick (by 1791 this was owned by William Ross)
       On the north, John Wilkin.
       On the north-east, John Allen.
       Also on the north-east, Sparks's farm barely touched the land of Job Russell.
       On the east, Theophilus Phillips (by 1799 this was owned by John Gibson)
       On the south-east, James Rittenhouse.

Other close neighbors of William Sparks were: Robert Tate, Isaac Hill, James Dunlap, Thomas Grier, John M. Austin, Matthew McCoy, Thomas Muir, Jonathan Addis, Daniel Wetzel, George Wetzel, Isaac Quick, John Lowrey, and John Shotwell.

Little is known regarding the farm on which William Sparks lived other than its location and the fact that William Sparks received the warrant for it in 1785. In all probability, however, be had lived on this land for a number of years prior to his receiving the warrant. The section of Pennsylvania in which William Sparks lived was claimed by both Pennsylvania and Virginia prior to the American Revolution, and it was only after the war with Great Britain was ended that Congress ruled that the area belonged to Pennsylvania. It was only then that Warrants were finally issued to settlers by the state of Pennsylvania.

Few records have been found pertaining to the ownership of William Sparks's farm following his death in 1788. On August 30, 1796, William's son, 7.3 James Sparks, sold the 80 acres which he bad inherited as his portion of his father's farm to Joe Hill for 200 pounds. James Sparks was identified in this deed (recorded in Fayette County Deed Book E, page 121) as 'of Mason County, Kentucky'; James's wife is called Anna Sparks (also Annie Sparks) in this deed, and the 80 acres are described as being 'on Redstone Creek' and adjoining Richard Phillips, Joseph Barker, Elizabeth Barkley, and James's brother, 7.8 John Sparks. The witnesses were Hugh Shotwell, Richard Phillips, and Edward Jordan.

Two other references have been found among the official records of Fayette County which pertain to children of William Sparks. When William's daughter, 7.4 Rachel Sparks, was fourteen years old, she requested the court to appoint Edward Hall as her guardian. (Hall's farm was located on Redstone Creek, a few farms below that of William Sparks.) There is the possibility that Rachel Sparks, William's widow, had married Edward Hall.

On March 25, 1799, John Allen petitioned the Orphan' s Court of Fayette County to have a guardian appointed for John Sparks, whom he described in his petition as a minor who 'hath a Certain Tract of Land Left to him by his Father William Sparks Deceased, which Land is very much Abused &c & said lad having been Exceedingly hurt by a Wound he Received the Beginning of this last Winter.' Allen suggested that either David Arnold or James byers be chosen as guardian, but no-record has been found to reveal what action was taken.

William Sparks was a militia officer at the time of the American Revolution. by January 2, 1778, he was Captain of the First Company of the Fourth Battalion of the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Militia. (Note that until 1783, the area that became Fayette County was included in Westmoreland County.) According to the Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Vol. 2, p. 306, William Sparks was elected and commissioned captain on January 2, 1778. The colonel in command was named Davis. In the book called Frontier Defense in the Upper Ohio, 1777-1778, Vol. III, Draper Series, by Reuben Gold Thwaites and Louise P. Kellogg, published by the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1912, page 305, there is a muster roll 'of Wèstmoreland Militia ordered out on an expedition to Indian Country by Brigadier General Edward Hand commanded by Col. Alex Barr from 10 February to 10 March 1778'; here, also, Captain William Sparks and Company are listed in the 4th Battalion. Another reference appears on page 335 of the Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Vol. 2; this is a payroll of the Westmoreland County Militia for a mission which had lasted for 10 days, from October 16, 1781, to October 25, 1781; here also William Sparks is listed as a Captain.

There are a number of references in the years following the American Revolution to Sparks Fort in some instances it was called Sparks Blockhouse. According to The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania by C. Hale Sipe, published in 1931, Sparks Blockhouse 'was erected about the beginning of the Revolutionary War in Perry Township, Fayette County.' In the Report of the Commission to Locate the Sites of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, published in 1896 by the State Printing Office, Vol. 2, pages 396-397, Sparks Fort is identified as 'on the south side of the Youghiogheny' and is mentioned 'as one of the places where the people of one of the districts into which Westmoreland County was divided for the election of a representative in the convention of 1776 to form a Constitution met and held their election.' The authors go on to state that Sparks Fort 'was near Burn's Ford in what is now Perry Township.' Among the Draper Papers in the Wisconsin State Historical Library is an interview which Draper had with John Crawford who recalled that he had settled in the 'Red Stone country in 1772;' by this he meant he had settled along Redstone Creek which flowed through the farm adjoining that of William Sparks. Crawford stated that the Indians did a great deal of mischief in 1777 and that his family had lived during that time 'In Sparks's Fort.' (Crawford explained that the reason the creek was named Redstone was that the Indians had got the red paint from there which they used for war paint.)

It would seem very probable that Sparks Fort was named for Captain William Sparks, although it was located, apparently, in Perry Township while we know that William Sparks's farm was located in Franklin Township. These two townships do adjoin, however.

The tax list of 1783 for Franklin Township, Westmoreland County (now in Fayette County) has been preserved and has been published in the Pennsylvania Archives, Series, Vol. 22. On page 388, William Sparks is listed as taxed on 300 acres of land, 2 horses, 3 cattle, and 7 sheep. It is also stated that there were 9 white inhabitants in his household. On this same tax list there is an Isaac Sparks listed as taxed on 100 acres, 1 horse, 3 cattle, and 6 sheep. In Isaac's household there were 7 white inhabitants. It seems highly unlikely that this Isaac Sparks could have been William' son, since Isaac was only fifteen years old in 1783. Only William Sparks appeared on the 1785 tax list (page 548) and on the 1786 tax list (page 601). Perhaps the name Isaac Sparks was incorrectly copied from the 1783 tax list and was intended for someone else.

Although conclusive documentary evidence has not been found, there is strong circumstantial evidence, and the writer of these notes is convinced that Captain William Sparks (died 1788) of Franklin Township, Fayette County, is the same William Sparks who was living on Coxes Creek near the present site of Somerset in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, in 1771. (Somerset County adjoins Fayette County on the east; in 1771 both were included in Bedford County.) Our limited information regarding William Sparks on Coxes Creek is found in the published extracts of a diary kept by Herman Husband, a rather famous Quaker from North Carolina, who settled on Coxes Creek in 1771. Unfortunately, the diary was lost in a fire many years ago, so we must rely only on portions of it that had been published earlier. In 1906, before the diary was burned, extracts were published in a History of Somerset County by Welfley. According to this account, Husband greatly opposed slavery, and the governor of North Carolina (Tryon) became so angry with his agitation against slavery that he called for his arrest. Husband fled North Carolina, and he eventually appeared on Coxes Creek in what is now Somerset County, Pennsylvania. This creek had been named for Isaac Cox, a native of Cecil County, Maryland, and Cox and Husband had once been friends. According to the Husband diary, he arrived at this creek on June 6, 1771.

Upon his arrival on Coxes Creek, Herman Husband found a small cabin roofed with bark and grass; since a storm was coming up, he entered the cabin and spent the night. He wrote the following in his diary the next day: 'I passed the night very comfortably, and awoke about dawn. The rain had subsided, but the atmosphere was dense with fog and twilight lingered around my couch. I lay for some time watching the increase of day as the light forced its way through each crevice in the hut, until I could at length distinguish objects and the interior arrangements of my sleeping room. The first and most agreeable sight was a half-dozen of venison hams that were suspended from the ridge pole of the roof. This at once removed my apprehensions of suffering for want of food, even if the hunter did not soon return. In another place was a heavy rifle, hung on wooden hooks fastened to the sides of the cabin. In one corner stood a hoe and an axe, and above them hung a pair of steel traps. A bundle of skins rolled up in another place made up the principal amount of stock on hand at this time.'

Husband later noted in his diary that the owner of the cabin appeared the following noon and that the owner' s name was WILLIAM SPARKS. Sparks told Husband that Isaac Cox lived about three miles to the northwest, but that Cox had just left for a week of hunting. In his diary, Husband referred to Sparks and Cox as hunters, and the implication is that Sparks had come from Maryland as had Cox. Other individuals mentioned in the diary as being neighbors of Sparks and Cox were three brothers named Wright, Quilla White, John Penrod, Sr. & Jr., John Vansel, Peter Bucher, Wilson, Wills, Purzley, and Rhoads. Since Husband was running away from arrest, he asked Sparks not to reveal his name, suggested that he introduce him as 'Tuscape Death,' but Sparks called him the 'Old Quaker' instead.

We learn through Husband's diary that William Sparks, Isaac Cox, and the other settlers on Coxes Creek were interested primarily in trapping beaver. He did note that Sparks had a good patch of potatoes, however. He also noted that in the fall of 1771, Sparks and Cox made a journey to Bedford Village (which is now the seat of justice of Bedford County) and there learned that their settlement would be part of the new County of Bedford, and that other settlers would soon be coming in. Cox then sold his camp to Husband, and William Sparks made plans to move further west. Husband quoted Sparks as saying: 'It is just as Cox said, as soon as settlers come the beaver will leave, and I don't care to follow them any further.'

In the Spring of 1772, according to Husband's diary, William Sparks, the two Penrods (father and son), and John Vansel, loaded up their stock of beaver and deer skins and left 'for his annual visit to the settlements.' When Sparks came back, Husband noted that he brought with him a mare which he had bought and some cattle that he had purchased from a man named Stoner who lived on the Juniata River in what is now Huntingdon County. Then in the fall of 1772, Mrs. Husband joined her husband and William Sparks went to fetch his wife. Mrs. Husband and Mrs. Sparks were the only women in the settlement that winter. Mrs. Husband had five children by that time, but no mention is made of any Sparks children nor is the first name of Mrs. Sparks ever mentioned in the portion of Husband's diary that was published before it was lost.

According to Husband's diary, during the winter of 1773 one of the parents of Mrs. Sparks died, leaving family matters in such shape that it was decided that William Sparks and his wife should move to the homestead in the Juniata country. Husband then purchased his improvements and Sparks is mentioned no more in the diary.

It is the belief of the present writer (R.E.B.) that sometime after 1773, William Sparks moved from his father-in-law's homestead 'in the Juniata country' to what became Franklin Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, a distance of about 70 miles. There is also reason to believe that the maiden name of Mrs. Sparks was Stoner. Husband stated in his diary that Sparks had purchased his cattle from a man named Stoner. We have also found a deed recorded in Bedford County (Book C, p. 133) dated June 26, 1770, by which William Sparks sold to Fillip Stoner, late of Cannegojigg (?) Settlement, Tanner, for five shillings 'my right to application dated February 6, 1767 for 100 acres on South side Juniata, including my improvement, in Cumberland County.'

William Sparks died sometime between March 24, 1788, the day on which he made his will, and May 6, 1788, the day on which the will was filed for probate. He was probably very ill when he decided he should make his will. Two years later, when the 1790 census was taken, William Sparks's widow, Rachel Sparks, was listed as 'Widow Sparks'; her household was enumerated as consisting of 1 male over 16 years of age; 2 males under 16, and 5 females. She herself would have been one of the females, leaving 4 daughters. Since William Sparks named 5 daughters in his will, we may assume that one had probably married by 1790. The male over 16 would have been the son, 7.2 William Jr., and the 2 males under 16 were 7.3 James and 7.8 John. The oldest son, 7.1 Isaac Sparks, had married by 1790 and was living in his own home near his mother. Isaac's household was enumerated as consisting of one male over 16 (himself) and one female (probably his wife).

We have searched the 1800, the 1810, and 1820 census records of Fayette County and in none of these are there persons named Sparks in Franklin Township. There were Sparkses in Washington Township, but that family came from New Jersey and was in no way connected with the family of William Sparks in Franklin Twp. Rachel Sparks, widow of William, may have re-married prior to 1800, or perhaps she had died. Since only the heads of households were named in census reports prior to 1850, she might have been living with a married daughter in 1800. (See the Quarterly of Dec, 1964, Vol. XII, No. 4, Whole No. 48, pages 865-872, for material on the Washington Township Sparks family.)

It would seem that none of the sons of William Sparks remained permanently in Franklin Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

From William Sparks's will, we know that he had four sons (7.1 Isaac Sparks, 7.2 William Sparks, 7.3 James Sparks, and 7.8 John Sparks) and five daughters (7.4 Rachel Sparks, 7.5 Margaret Sparks, 7.6 Elizabeth Sparks, 7.7 Sarah Sparks, and 7.9 Ann Sparks).

7.1 Isaac Sparks was born, according to the inscription on his tombstone, on November 24, 1768, and he died in or near Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 21, 1834. The will of Isaac Sparks was printed in the Quarterly of June 1962 (Vol. X, No. 2, Whole No. 38, p. 657) and additional notes appeared in the Quarterly of September 1966 (Vol. XIV, No. 3, Whole No. 55, pp. 1009-1010). A descendant of Isaac Sparks, Buell McCash of Columbia, Missouri, descends from Isaac's eldest daughter, Elizabeth (born 1793, died 1825) who married James McCash (1788-1871). Mr. McCash owns the Bible which Isaac Sparks purchased, according to a notation made at the time, in Cincinnati in the year 1819. Isaac had settled in springfield Township, Hamilton County, Ohio, by the spring of 1818. He was a justice of the peace there from 1818 to 1820. Isaac Sparks married Sarah Hankins (or Hawkins) who died on December 17, 1825; she was called Sally. Isaac later married as his second wife Sarah who died on March 14, 1839, aged 31 years and 5 months.

We have no references to 7.2 William Sparks, second son of William Sparks other than the reference to him in 1788 in his father's will.

7.3 James Sparks, third son of William and Rachel Sparks, had married Anna and was living in Mason County, Kentucky, in 1796 when he sold a portion of his father's farm. There are references to James Sparks among the land records of Mason County as late as 1807, but we have not been able to locate him in subsequent records.

The fourth son of William and Rachel Sparks was named 7.8 John. As noted earlier, a neighbor named John Allen petitioned the Orphans' Court of Fayette County on March 25, 1799, to have a guardian appointed for John, still a minor at that time, and he referred to the fact that John had been injured in some way the previous winter. We have no further record of John Sparks in Franklin Township, but when the 1810 census of German Township, Fayette County, was taken, a John Sparks was listed as aged between 16 and 26 (born 1784-1794). In his household was a female aged 16 to 26 (born 1784-1794) and two females under 10 years (born 1800-1810). German Township borders Redstone and Menallen Townships on southwest and is only about ten miles from Franklin Township. What became of John Sparks after 1810 is not known.

Nothing is known of the five daughters of William Sparks, although a query appeared in the Hartford Times (C9850-3) a number of years ago asking for the parentage of Nancy Sparks who had been born in 1772 and had married George Beal (born 1767) who died in Guernsey County, Ohio. In this query it was stated that 'Nancy has been called daughter of William and Rachel Sparks, also of John Sparks, Jr.' In his will, of course, William Sparks did not name a daughter as Nancy, but his daughter Ann could have been called Nancy.

Although additional information on William Sparks (died. 1788) will probably be found, it has been thought wise to publish these notes at this time in the hope that someone may obtain clues from then to enable us to provide a more complete record at a later date.