May 2, 2021

Pages 1393-1401
Whole Number 74

Born January 21, 1834, in Estill County, Kentucky and Died May 9, 1906, at Lind, Washington Written

by his Grandson Albert A. Sparks

William Harrison Sparks & his wife, Mahila (Poor) Sparks
with grandaughter, Belva Ida Sparks

He was born in Estill County, Kentucky, in 1834 and died at Lind, Washington, in 1906.
Photograph taken in Loup City, Nebraska, in 1898.


I salute the founders of The Sparks Family Association and all of its members.

My grandfather, William Harrison Sparks, was born January 21, 1834, in Estill County, Kentucky. I do not know his age when he left there, but I have some ideas which I shall express later hoping they will lead to a more positive conclusion than is now the case. His marriage license, recorded by R. E. Nieman, Clerk, in Delaware County, Iowa, dated August 29, 1857, is proof that he married Mahila Poor on August 6, 1857, (Her name is recorded on the marriage record as "Hile Poor.") The Rev. David Winrich officiated, a witness was Hiram Arnold, and consent was given to this union by her father, J. Poor. This "J. Poor" was, without doubt, John Poor who, according to the County Assessor of Delaware County, Iowa, owned land in Delhi Township during the years from 1855 to 1861, evidenced by a deed in the recorder's office of Delaware County. Delhi was the county seat of Delaware County at that time. On the 1860 census of Delaware County, Iowa, John Poor is listed as 50 years old, a farmer, and a native of Ohio. His wife's name was given as Mary, aged 49, a native of Tennessee. Living with them in 1860 were children named Margarie Poor, aged 12 and born ca. 1848; Mary F. Poor, aged 9 and born ca. 1851, and Amelia Poor, aged 6 and born ca. 1854. Margarie and Mary F. Poor were listed as having been born in Illinois while Amelia was born in Iowa, so the family must have moved from Illinois to Iowa in the 1850's. Living next door was Joseph Poor, aged 25, doubtless a son, (Although the 1850 census gives John Poor's birth place as Ohio, when Mahila gave the places of birth of her parents on the 1880 census, she indicated that her father had been born in Kentucky.) From subsequent marriage records in Delaware County, we know that Mary F. Poor married Joseph A. Boleyn in 1868; Margary Ann Poor married Josiah Huggens in 1870; and Amelia Poor married Thomas A. Twiss in 1874.

Mahila Poor, daughter of John Poor, was born August 16, 1842. by her own statement, she was of Welch descent, and according to the census records she was born in the state of Illinois. Three children were born to William H. and Mahila (Poor) Sparks as recorded in their family Bible which I have in my possession: Harriet E. Sparks, a daughter, born May 1, 1858, died August 9, 1864; James Allen Sparks, a son (my father), born May 21, 1860, died January 20, 1902; and William H. Sparks, Jr., a son, born August 27, 1872, died October 28, 1876.

Thus we see that James Allen Sparks (my father) was the only child who grew to adult-hood. Four years after my grandfather, William Harrison Sparks, was married he joined the Union Army, He was mustered in at Ottawa, Illinois, with Company G, 4th Regiment of Illinois Cavalry, on September 14, 1861. I have xerox copies of his pension papers from the U.S. Archives in Washington stating that his company was stationed at Pittsburg, Tennessee, on April 30, 1862; in Collierville, Tenn., on August 31, 1863; and in Vicksburg, Mississippi, on September 30, 1863, He served as a wagoner and teamster under Captain Cook, He was present on the rolls on August 31, 1864, and was honorably discharged with his company at Springfield, Illinois, on November 3, 1864. When he made application for a pension in 1880, he described himself as 5 feet and 10½ inches tall, with a light complexion, sandy hair, and blue eyes. In 1888, when he was asked by the Bureau of Pensions to give a history of his disability resulting from his service in the Civil War, he recalled that in 1862 at Montera, Mississippi, he had caught a bad cold "while on picket in a heavy rain storm which lasted all night, it being so dark the picket could not be relayed till morning, and also about the Summer of 1863 at Pleasant Hill I contracted hernia of right side, my horse falling on me in crossing a culbert while Scouting." He also stated that he had been hospitalized "for lung fever in 1862 and also in Spring of 1863."

In answer to a query from the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Pensions in1888, William Harrison Sparks stated that after his discharge from the Army, he had lived near Hudson in McLean County, Illinois, until March 5, 1878, and that he then moved to Buffalo County, Nebraska. On January 4, 1883, he paid his final recording fee for his land and the U.S. patent was signed by President Chester A. Arthur on October 1, 1883 (information from Sam Spahr, Register of Deeds, Buffalo County, Nebraska). He sold this land in February, 1892, to Mr. Perry Frame. It has changed hands several times and Is now owned by a Mr. William Carman.

It was in Buffalo County, Nebraska, that my father, James Allen Sparks, met and married Levina Jane Bowers, who was born April 14, 1856, a daughter of Amos and Elizabeth Jane (Spry) Bowers of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. My father was the only living child of Grandpa William Harrison Sparks and Mahila (Poor) Sparks. He and my mother were married on April 10, 1880, in Nebraska. Father and Mother obtained land in Buffalo County, Nebraska, only a few miles from where Grandpa and Grandma farmed, and the two families were in close contact for the rest of their lives.

After Grandpa and Grandma sold their farm as stated above, they moved to Litchfield, Nebraska, In Sherman County, where they kept a hotel. From there they moved to another farm about three miles west of Litchfield, which they had purchased and a few years later sold. They then bought a home in Mason City where they lived until they moved in July 9, 1902 to Lind, Washington, to be close to their son's family. James Allen Sparks had passed away on January 20, 1902, and had been laid to rest in a pioneer graveyard of sage brush and bunch grass about nine miles north and a little west of Kahiotus, Washington, called by some the Sandhill and other the Delight Cemetery. Delight being a post office a few miles northeast. A stone Is placed at the head of his grave.

James Allen Sparks left his wife, Levina Jane (Bowers) Sparks and nine children to mourn their loss and mourn we did. He had developed a nice diversified farm of cattle, horses (draft and race), and grain in Buffalo County, Nebraska. It was there that he established a good veterinary business which was badly needed in almost all states. In his veterinary practice, he invented an instrument which saved many a horse from suffering, even death. This instrument, improved, is still being used according to my grandson who studied animal husbandry in college at San Louis Obispo, California. My father was a member of the school board, a justice of the peace, road commissioner, and he had developed a way to get the farmers milk to the processing plant at Pieasanton which he mostly took care of. Somewhere in his young lIfe, he had learned the candy making trade. As different organizations found this out, he was called upon many times to make candy for them to sell. Because of this, he became known throughout the country very quickly, whIch worked to his advantage. I was only a small boy, but I well remember the sweat pouring off his face as he worked swiftly with those long ropes of candy. When he moved to Washington, he sold all of his farm equIpment and the cattle, about sixty head, but he kept enough horses to fill two box cars. Another box car was filled with household goods. He arrived at Washtucna a day after Thanksgiving in 1901. Three months later he died, but he left his famIly in good financial condition. The nine children of James Allen and Levina Jane (Bowers) Sparks were all born in Nebraska, They were: Elta May Sparks, born September 23, 1881, died February 12, 1941 Leroy Arthur Sparks, born November 18, 1882, died October 10, 1904 Belva Ida Sparks (called Bell), born September 18, 1884, still living Ethel Ora Sparks, born February 18, 1886, died July 19, 1963 William Amos Sparks, born August 31, 1887, died May 3, 1961 Walter Ross Sparks, born January 2, 1890, died April 29, 1955 Albert Alfonso Sparks, born March 14, 1892 Ray Evert Sparks, born February 18, 1895, died November 5, 1969 Vernie James Sparks, born December 21, 1898, died June 7, 1970

Of the above family of nine, only two of us are still living, by sister Belva (called Bell) who married John H. Eubanks; they live in Sunnyside, Washington; and myself (Albert Alfonso Sparks). We still hope to enjoy a few more happy years with our mates, who are still living, and to accomplish a few more things we had hoped to get done long since. (My wife is the former Jessie H. Heaton.)

Right now, our major effort, and one of the reasons we joined the Sparks Family Association, is to find our paternal grandparents family, their ancestors, and from whence they came. After the two families, as mentioned above, came in close contact with each other, the movements of each are well known and appreciated by the other. The relationship was such that as each one of us children came into being, and aged enough, each learned to love and appreciate their generosity, kindliness, and mature advice when asked for. The older we grew, the closer the tie. Just a little over two years after Grandpa William Harrison Sparks and Grandma came to the state of Washington to live the rest of their days close to their son's family, their oldest grandson, who had taken the place of his father as head of the family, passed away, leaving the responsibility of operating the farm which he had purchased and gotten into good working condition to the younger boys of the family. It was then that the family needed mature judgment and someone to lean on and to offer encouragement, with kind words of praise. Grandpa never failed us. Even though he was then 70 years old, and his hands and legs were drawn out of shape by arthritis, he built (with my help) a much needed building. And he took time, and had the patience, to teach me the fundamentals of the carpenter trade as we went along. Little did I think that someday the knowledge gained from him would mean a livelihood for my family and, more than that, in later years would mean very much to me in my business of contracting. In May, 1906, Grandpa took pneumonia, and Grandma a day after.

Grandpa lived but four days after becoming ill; he died on May 9, 1906, at Lind, Washington. Word of his sickness had been brought to us (we lived 17 miles southeast from them) and we had rushed Belva (Bell), his granddaughter who had stayed with them for some time while the two families lived in Nebraska, to take care of them until one of us boys could get there. It was I who was chosen to go. Grandpa was laid to rest in the old pioneer cemetery at Delight, beside his son and his oldest grandson.

It was the wish of Grandpa and Grandma that they would pass away together - - neither wanted to live after the other was gone. I mention this because it sheds some light on what their lives together meant to them. Grandma was unable to tend her beloved husband's funeral and just 56 days later, on July 4, 1906, she also passed away. We mourned the loss, but were glad they had had their wish, She was laid to rest beside her husband. Her passing was very unusual and touching. She had been unable to see or speak for nearly two weeks. Between 12:00 and 1:00 A.M, my two sisters and I, and some close friends, were sitting by her bed, when suddenly she raised up and looked all around the room until her eyes focused on Bell, the granddaughter who had stayed with them for a time in Nebraska. Not moving her eyes any further, she started to talk. Bell put her arms around her and kissed her, and at once she scanned the room again until her eyes focused on her other granddaughter, Ethel, who also put her arms around her and kissed her. She had spent all of her energy trying to say something. Her head fell back on the pillow and she was gone. Her voice still rings in our ears, and many times we have wished we could have understood what she was trying to tell us.

I have tried to paint a picture of a family in as few words as possible and still make it clear enough so that if anyone reads this who is connected with the family he may recognize it. Anyone who can help, through this description of William Harrison Sparks's movements, to trace his ancestors, and will contact me, will help to fulfill a desire that is two-fold. First is my own desire to know more about my ancestry, and second, because of my love for my grandparents, I feel that I have a long-time debt to repay for their kindness, patience, and mature advice. He never ceased trying to connect up with his family as long as he lived. After the Civil War was over, he went back to the state of Kentucky expecting to find his family. Instead, he found that the old house was gone, and although he was from a large family, he was never able to be certain that any of the Sparkeses who came into the territory where he lived was related in any way to him or his family. He never failed to contact them and he worked with them trying, ever trying, to piece together in some way the family relationship. They always ran into the same ending which I have - - uncertainty.

Bell and I have some recollection of Grandpa saying that he stayed with an aunt for some time before he was married. I reason that, since it was not unusual for the parents to assign a son for a period of years to some man who would give him food, lodging, and teach him a trade, especially on a large family such as Grandpa's. He always said there were more boys than girls in the family, all told, eleven or twelve Possibly his uncle was a carpenter and taught him the trade. In my life-time I have seen many a carpenter wrestling with the square, but I have seen very few who used the square to do their figuring as he did. He used it as readily as most college students use the slide-rule. He was a very unusual man. When he joined the army at the age of 27, he could neither read nor write. After having one of his army friends do his writing to his wife and read her letters to him, he was so humiliated that he decided to do his own writing. Grandma always laughed a little when she told us of getting his first letter. She said it took her almost a day to decipher it; nevertheless, she always showed a spark of pride. From then on, he did his own reading and writing of her letters. When he died, he was credited by his neighbors as being one of the best read men around. He read, he pondered, he reasoned with every different subject he could get hold of. Grandma had some formal education and did a lot of reading. but her power of analyzing did not equal his. Her ability and pride were reflected in her housekeeping and her preparation of meals. Such were my grandparents: ideals, morals, and perspectives.

I remember one 4th of July when there was a great gathering of Civil War veterans in Litchfield, Nebraska. When it came time for their part of the program, they marched in, two abreast, about forty or fifty of them, up the street with Grandpa and Grandma in the lead being escorted to the speaker's stand by an officer on either side, She carried a flag. Grandpa delivered the speech of the day. It impressed me so much that now, after 72 years. it seems only yesterday. They belonged to the Methodist Church, but they didn't buy everything they handed out. For the human race, they did not believe on the law of the survival of the fittest. They believed the strong should help the weak, both body and mind. Grandpa could never stand by and allow a bully to harm anyone in any manner. In evidence of this fact, each day as Grandpa walked over to the store he always dropped in at his son-in-law's blacksmith shop to pass the time of day and for a little chat. One day while I was there, he came in white and shaking. Tom Muir, his grandson-in-law, recognizing at once that there was something wrong with him, took him by the arm and inquired about his health. He reluctantly said that, as he had come across the lot he had seen the Chinaman who ran a very respectable cafe (and who was liked by everyone. including Grandpa) with a twelve-year-old boy out back of his cafe. The boy was screaming and scared beause the Chinaman was tantalizing him as he waved his butcher knife, making believe he was going to cut off his ears. Grandpa had used his cane on him and was still mad. He was 71, and Tom and I had many good laughs about that.

In the Quarterly of June, 1970, Whole No. 70, (p. 1324) appears the 1830 census of Estill County, Kentucky. Note that this is a correction of what had appeared on page 1420 of the September 1959 issue.  In 1830, Thomas Sparks's family was listed as follows:

1 male, aged 20 to 30 (himself)
1 female, aged 20 to 30 (his wife)
2 males under 5 years
2 females under 5 years

There can be little doubt, based on subsequent census records, that this is the Thomas Sparks who married Patsy Powell in Estill County, Kentucky, in 1825 (marriage bond dated April 20, 1825). (See the Quarterly for June 1963, Whole No. 42, page 746.)

On the 1840 census of Estill County, Kentucky, the family of Thomas Sparks appears as follows (See the Quarterly of December 1966, Whole No. 56, p. 1027.)

1 male aged 30 to 40 (himself)
1 female, aged 30 to 40 (his wife)
2 males aged 10 to 15
1 male aged 5 to 10
1 male aged under 5
2 females aged 10 to 15
1 female aged 5 to 10
1 female aged under 5

I think that the Thomas Sparks listed in 1830 and in 1840 is the same man; note that the ages of' the children listed on the 1830 census match those listed on the 1840 census who were born before 1830. When the 1850 census was taken, each member of the family was listed by name. Thomas and Patsy Sparks were listed with their family in Estill County, Kentucky, as follows: (See the Quarterly of June 1957, Whole No. 18, p. 219.)

Sparks Thomas 45    Kentucky  Farmer
" Patsy 41   "  
" Sally 22   "  
" John 20   "  
" Polly 18   "  
" William 16   "  
" Fanny J. 12   "  
" Thomas C. 10   "  
" Elisha P (Elihue) 6   "  
" F.M. (male) 4   "  
" Taylor 2   "  

The William Sparks listed as 16 years of age in the family of Thomas Sparks in 1850 could very well be my grandfather, William Harrison Sparks. The reason I believe this is, first, having been born in 1834, he would have been 16 years old in 1850. as the above WilIiam Sparks's age was given. My grandfather was born in Estill County and came from a large family in which there were more boys than girls... We remember his making this latter statement when he was trying to find some trace of his family.

In early records such as the above, middle names were seldom used. Of course, most. people did not have middle names. While my grandfather's full name was William Harrison Sparks, there were many William Sparkses in Kentucky. If census takers had given middle names, or even initials, tracing out forefathers would be much easier.

My great desire is this, to establish without doubt, or at least beyond a reasonable doubt., whether or not this Thomas and Patsy (Powefl) Sparks were the parents of my grandfather, William Harrison Sparks. Also, I should like to know when he left his parents. homes, how he learned a trade, when he went on to Illinois and to Iowa, and something about the family of his wife, Mahila Poor, the daughter of John Poor. I would also like to know where Mahila Sparks stayed while Grandpa was in the army.

It seems at the moment that my hopes lie on the fact, or possible fact, that from this large. family of Thomas Sparks of Estill County, Kentucky, some of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren are still living who can provide records of the family that will prove that William Harrison Sparks was indeed a son of Thomas Sparks. I greatly hope that anyone with such information will get in touch with me. We have ten families of Sparkses listed in our phone book here in Salem, Oregon. As soon as I get a little stronger (I am recovering from major surgery) I expect to get them together for the purpose of exchanging information pertaining to our ancestors. Then, too, I intend to get them to join The Sparks Family Association so that we can draw from them information to publish in the Quarterly. Also I notice in the Seattle phone book many Sparkses listed. Some of them are relatives of mine, two sons with families, three nieces with families, three nephews and families, and one grandson with his wife, I shall be glad to search in these two states (Oregon and Washington) for the missing link of any family. I am not a professional genealogist, but as most folks my age have had some experience searching records, I will make an honest effort. Thanks to any of you who makes an effort on my account to find the information in which I am interested. Please write to Albert Alfonso Sparks, 1144 WaIler S.E., Apt. 3, Wallerwood Apts., Salem, Oregon (97302).

(Editor's notes: The editor agrees with Mr. Sparks that there is strong reason to believe that his grandfather, William Harrison Sparks, was a son of Thomas and Patsy (Powell) Sparks. When the 1860 census was taken of Estill County, Thomas Sparks was listed as 55 years of age, His wife s name was given as Martha, aged 53, In all probability, "Martha" was his wife's real name while "Patsy" was her nIckname, (George WashIngton always called his wife Patsy rather than Martha.) Living with them in 1860 were their three youngest sons, Lihu, aged 18, Francis, aged 16, and Taylor, aged 14. "Lihu" was a nickname for Elihue. (On the 1850 census his name was given as Elisha, but this seems to have been an error.) The son named Francis had been given as F. N. Sparks in 1850, (Francis Marion was a very popular name, so one wonders whether his full name might have been Francis Marion Sparks. The ages of these three sons were given as two years older than should have been the case if their ages had been given correctly in 1850, but errors of this nature are frequent. in census records. The sons John and Thomas, who had been listed with the family in 1850, had apparently moved from the county, as had William Harrison Sparks.

(When the 1870 census of Estill County was taken, Thomas and Patsy (or Martha) were not listed. However, a Thomas Sparks, aged 65, was listed as a resident of Crooked Creek Township with the town of Irvine as his post office. Thomas Sparks's oocupation was given as "chairmaker," but living with him was Calista Sparks, aged 44.  This could have been a daughter or a daughter-in-law, but more probably she was a second wife. If this was the same Thomas Sparks, we can be sure that. his wife Patsy had died between 1860 and 1870. Living with them were two 14 year-old boys named Hinton and John Taylor, Perhaps they were sons of Calista by her first husband. by 1870, the son named Elihu, who was 25 years old when the 1870 census was taken had marrIed Josephine and was living near Irvine; under occupation the census taker wrote "works in coaling." His wife Josephine was also 25 in 1870, and the had two choidren, Patsey, aged 3 (named obviously for Elihue's mother) and William T, Sparks, aged one year.

(On the 1880 census of Estill County, no Thomas Sparks was listed - - it is probable that he had died between 1870 and 1880, The son named Elihu, aged 36 in 1880, was lIsted as a blacksmith. He and his wife still had only two children, Patsy and a ten year old boy named Thomas.  Perhaps he was the same child who had been called William T. Sparks in 1870 - - if the "T" was the initial for Thomas. Also listed in 1880; was a Taylor Sparks, aged 29, who may have been the youngest son of Thomas and Patsy, although he had not appeared on the 1870 census. His wife's name was given as Angeline, aged 45, On the 1880 census, the relationship of each member of a household with the head of that household was given. Two sons and one daughter are lIsted for Taylor Sparks, but none of these are named Sparks so perhaps they were really step-children. They were Dillar Neal aged 19; James Neal aged 15; and Mattie Blackwell aged 14. All were born in Kentucky.

(Since we are reasonably sure that Thomas Sparks was the father of William Harrison Sparks, one is then inclined to speculate on the parentage of Thomas Sparks, We know from census records that he was born ca. 1805 in Kentucky. He was in Estill County. Kentucky, in 1825 when he married Patsy Powell (bond dated April 20, 1825), When the 1810 census of Estill County was taken, five Sparks families were listed, those of

Elijah Sparks,
George Sparks,
44. Isaac Sparks, Sr.,
44.6 Isaac Sparks, Jr.,
John Sparks, and
William Sparks.

Of these, Elijah and Isaac Sr. were over 45 years of age. George, John, and William were between 26 and 45, while Isaac Jr. was between 16 and 26. All except Isaac Sr. were listed with male children under 5 years, so any one of them could have been the father of Thomas Sparks, born ca. 1805. (For these census records, see the Quarterly of December 1954, March 1955, Whole No. 8 9, p. 65).

When the 1820 census of Estill County was taken, the families of the following Sparkses were listed:

Isaac Sparks,
William Sparks,
George Sparks,
Ruth Sparks,
William Sparks,Jr., and
Caty Sparks.

(See the Quarterly of March 1965, Whole No. 49, p, 891) Dr. Paul Sparks has searched both the probate records and the land records of Estill County, but has found very little to help to identify the early Sparkses of the county. It is his belief, however, that they came to the area as part of the migration following Daniel Boone. This would mean that they probably came from North Carolina.

(We very much hope that Albert A. Sparks's article on his grandfather will come to the attention of someone wIth an interest in the Estill County branch of the family.)

In connection with the above article, it may be appropriate to quote from a letter received by your editor in 1951 from the Rev. Bailey F. Davis, at that time pastor of the First. Baptist Church of Franklin, Kentucky. Mr. Davis never joined the Association and we have not heard from him since 1951. At that time he wrote: "My wife's Sparks line can be traced back to Estill County, Kentucky....I can trace definitely to William Sparks of Estill County who married Hanna Skinner. I found the original bond and her father's consent has the signature of Couthen Skinner, but it was probably Courtland, for I find that name also in the records. This marriage took place on August 11, 1829. They had the following children (this from various letters to aged aunts and cousins): Levi Sparks, Jerry Sparks, Isaac Sparks, Riley Sparks, Eli Sparks, and daughters named Annis and Polly Ann. Annie was my wife's great-grandmother and she married John Blanton. William Sparks lost his first wife and later married, but I don't know her name. He moved to Arkansas, but I have never found out where. He just fades out of the picture.... The generation back of William Sparks is an assumed one for I've no wills or deeds to establish it. On September 18, 1810, in Estill County, 44.6 Isaac Sparks married Annis McGuire. Since William named one son Isaac and a daughter Annis, I feel that I'm probably on the right track in assuming that Isaac was his father. Annis Sparks, my wife's great-grandmother, married John Blanton on January 26,1854, at the home of Levi Sparks." Another descendant of this family, Helen Quinn of Danville, Ind., has reported that Levi Sparks, son of William above, was born in 1832 and married Dynthia Flynn; he died in Estill County in November 1919.

[Webmaster Note: In the Quarterly of March 1974, Whole No. 85, it is determined that the father of William Harrison Sparks was actually 44.2.1 John Sparks, born ca. 1806, who married Nancy Eastis.]