September 25, 2017

Pages 1466-1474
Whole Number 77

FAMILY RECORD OF 49. BAXTER SPARKS (1777-1840)
AND HIS WIFE
ELIZABETH (GWIN) SPARKS (1786-1844)



Valuable family records are frequently destroyed by uninterested people into whose hands they happen to fall. We know that this has been the fate of many Sparks family records, but once in awhile good luck prevails, and not only is a set of Sparks family records saved from destruction, but they are even made available for us to preserve permanently in The Sparks Quarterly. Such is the case of the following records.

A few months ago, a sixteen-year-old boy named Klem P. Chandler of 842 No. Second St., Ponca City, Oklahoma, purchased a box of old papers and letters. Klem is a collector of all sorts of things and his interest in this box of papers was simply that they were old. Klem's mother, Emma Chandler, who is interested in genealogy, noted that one packet of material related to a branch of the Sparks family. Through a genealogical publication, she learned of your editor's interest in the Sparks family and very kindly arranged to xerox these records for us.

These records were contained in an envelope on which is written: "Sparks Family Record." There are eleven pages of tablet paper tied together with ribbon. From the manner in which they were written, there can be little doubt that they were copied from a family Bible which probably belonged to one of the children of Baxter and Elizabeth Sparks, whose births appear at the top of the first page. The last entry is dated July 28, 1873. Following is an exact transcription:

Name Date
Births
[Second Page]
Baxter Sparks May 8th 1777
Elizabeth Sparks May 1th 1786 i.e. May 1st
Mary L. Sparks March 13th 1808
Thomas P. Sparks October 24th 1809
John G. Sparks September 22th 1811
Mathew N. Sparks March 21th 1814 
Wesley H. Sparks May 23th 1816
George T. Sparks Sept 18th 1818
Edmond B. Sparks August 22th 1820
David R. Sparks October 15th 1823
Harvey A. Sparks January 19th 1826
Wm A. J. Sparks November 15 1828
[Third Page]
Thomas'es Family  
George W. Sparks January 30th 1832
Marion Sparks  January 22th 1834
Mary E. Sparks  October 4th 1836
Nansy I. Sparks September 19th 1839
Maria Sparks  [Note: Although the name of Maria Sparks appears on the bottom of the 3rd page, she was probably connected with the family listed on the fourth page]
[Fourth page]
James H. Ferris May 17th 1821
Mary Ann Ferris February 21th 1828
Orsey Ann Lovejoy June 26th 1856
John Aldrich West April 20th 1840 
Annie Pearl West January 17th 1873
[Fifth page]  
John G. Sparks [children of]  
Mary Sparks January 2nd 1836 
Elisabeth S. Sparks February 18th 1838
Francis N. Sparks May 21th 1840
Wesley Sparks [children of]  
Elisabeth E. Sparks October 26th 1838
Vanburen Sparks April 20th 1840
[Sixth page]
N. N. Sparks [children of]  
Maria J. Sparks February 24th 1841
Mary E. Sparks February 24th 1843
   
Edmunds Family    
John B. Sparks January 13th 1844
Elizabeth Malinda Sparks March 21st 1846
Melinda E. Sparks June 5 1847
[Seventh page]
Marriages
Baxter Sparks September 20th 1806
John G. Sparks January 16th 1834
Thomas P. Sparks December 31th 1829
Wesley H. Sparks December 1st 1838
Mary S. Sparks August 28th 1830
N. N. Sparks March 1st 1840
[Eighth page]
Marriages  
Edmund B. Sparks October 28th 1841
Melinda E. Sparks December 31st 1865
Mary Ann Ferris January 3rd 1847
John A. West to Orsey Ann LoveJoy December 17th 1871
[Ninth page]
Deaths
George T. Sparks October 18th 1822
Baxter Sparks September 7th 1840
Elizabeth Sparks March 24th A.D. 1844
Harvey A. Sparks September 1st 1845
Wesley H. Sparks August 7th 1852
Marion F. Sparks October 1st 1849
[Tenth page]
Deaths
Elizabeth N. Sparks April 11th 1846
John B. Sparks  April 29th 1848
Edmund Calvin Sparks July 25th 1851
Edmund Baxter Sparks died in California on October 5th 1850
Alva C. Chapman April 12th 1861 5 years 5 months 28 days old
[Eleventh page]
Deaths
Orsey Ann West January 23rd 1873
Anna Pearl West Monday July 28th 1873

A biography of 49.10 William A. J. Sparks, youngest son of 49. Baxter Sparks, appears in a volume called Portrait and Biographical Record of Clinton, Washington, Marion and Jefferson Counties published in Chicago by the Chapman Pub. Co. in 1892. In this sketch (page 440) his parents are identified as Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, and it is stated that both parents were "natives of the Old Dominion," i.e., the state of Virginia, their ancestors having been "of English descent, and were among the very earliest settlers of Virginia."  It is also stated that the father, Baxter Sparks, " ca. 1805-06 ... came west, settling upon and improving a farm in Harrison County, Ind., about nine miles west of the present city of New Albany."   It is also stated in this sketch that Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks were the parents of ten children, which is the number named in the above Family Record.

From the record of births, marriages, and deaths appearing on the three previous pages, we know that Baxter Sparks was born in 1777 and was thus about 28 years old when he settled in Indiana. There is strong reason to believe that Baxter Sparks was a member of the branch of the Sparks family that moved from Frederick County, Maryland, to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in the 1760's. The Gwin family also lived in Pittsylvania County, and it was probably there that Baxter Sparks and Elizabeth Gwin were married on September 20, 1806, perhaps moving to Indiana shortly after their marriage. (See William Perry Johnson's article on the Sparks family of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, which appeared in the Quarterly of September 1955, Whole No. 11, pp. 79-85, and Whole No. 13, pp. 109-121. Baxter Sparks was probably related to the Matthew Brooks Sparks who served in the War of 1812 from Pittsylvania County; see the Quarterly of March 1962, Whole No. 37, pp. 636-37.)

The earliest official record that we have found thus far of 49. Baxter Sparks in Indiana Territory is his signature on a petition by a group of citizens who were identified as being from Clark County. (Clark County at that time adjoined Harrison County and some of the signers were probably living over the line in Harrison County.) This petition was dated 1809, without a month or day. It was a request to Congress and the President to remove William Henry Harrison as governor of the Territory because of his having sanctioned a law permitting the introduction of slavery into the Territory. (See Territorial Papers of the United States, Vol. VIII, Indiana Territory, Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1939, pp. 705-07.)

On March 5, 1812, Baxter Sparks was appointed an ensign in the 4th Regiment of Indiana Militia. (See "Executive Journal of Indiana Territory, 1800-1816" in Indiana Historical Society Publications, Vol. 3, Indianapolis, 1900, p. 180.) According to his son's biographical sketch cited earlier, Baxter Sparks served in the War of 1812, but we have not confirmed this service in official records. On October 23, 1824, and again on November 9, 1829, Baxter Sparks was commissioned a justice of the peace for Harrison County ("Executive Proceedings of the State of Indiana, 1816-1836," in Vol. XXIX of the Indiana Historical Collections, Indianapolis, Indiana Historical Bureau, 1947, pp. 1456-57.) As justice of the peace, he performed the marriage of John Sparks and Anna Owen there on April 20, 1825. (How this John Sparks was related to Baxter Sparks is not known.)

Various deeds are on file in Harrison County recording the purchase and sale of land by Baxter Sparks and his wife. Her name was always given as "Betsy" in these records. They sold land to Thomas Carr on February 16, 1822 (Book D, p. 79) and to John Given on April 22, 1828 (Book E, p. 357). The last record of such a sale was dated December 12, 1837, by which Baxter Sparks and Betsy his wife sold land to Jeremiah Pritchett. Their residence in this deed was given as Macoupin County, Illinois. (Book L, p. 60)

Baxter Sparks also owned land in Floyd County which was created in 1819 from portions of Harrison and Clark Counties. (Harrison and Floyd Counties adjoin and are separated from the Kentucky counties of Jefferson, Hardin, and Meade by the Kentucky River.) Baxter Sparks purchased land from Preston F. Tuley on October 16, 1827 (Book B, p. 321) and sold land to Thomas Smith on January 12, 1817 (Book A, p. 125), to John Thomas on April 17, 1829 (Book D, p. 210), and to James Mitchell on January 1, 1836 (Book H, p. 14) in Floyd County.

On July 2, 1828, Baxter Sparks was appointed administrator of the estate of Tillotson Sparks in Floyd County (see Floyd Co. Will Book A). Tillotson Sparks, whose name is spelled many different ways in the records (Tillitson, Tilliston, etc.), is also listed as having served in the War of 1812 from the Territory of Indiana. He was doubtless the Tilleston Sparks who was listed as a taxable on the 1812 land tax list of Pittsylvania County, Virginia. He was also listed as a witness (with David Gunn, Mathew Sparks, and Henry Beggerly) to a Pittsylvania County deed dated October 24, 1810, between David Beggarly and Thomas Sparks. The land was described in that deed as adjoining "Thomas Sparks's old plat" as well as land belonging to John Gwin. (Note that Baxter's wife's maiden name was Gwin.) On this deed, Tillotson Sparks's name was written as "Tilliston Sparks." (Pittsylvania Co., Va., Deed Book 17, p. 245.)

Tillotson Sparks, who was probably closely related to Baxter Sparks, probably followed Baxter to Indiana in 1812 or 1813. He sold land in Floyd and Harrison Counties to John Wesley Nance on March 6, 1821 (Harrison Co. Deed Book C, p. 441, and Floyd Co. Deed Book called "Clark Grants", p. 528.) He was married and had five children at the time of his death in 1828. As mentioned earlier, Baxter Sparks was appointed administrator of his estate. It seems highly likely that Baxter Sparks and Tillotson Sparks were brothers. (David Gunn and Richard Watson signed as sureties for Baxter Sparks 's bond of $500 to administer the estate.)

A court record dated October 15, 1833, in Floyd County reveals the names of the children of Tillotson Sparks. This resulted from a suit against the estate of Tillotson Sparks by Charles Evans. The children were identifed as: "David Sparks, Elizabeth Sparks, James Sparks, Oswell Sparks, and William Sparks", children and heirs of Tillotson Sparks, late of this county, deceased.. ." (Book F, p. 395) Another record, dated April 27, 1835, identifies Shallam Thomas as the "guardian of the infant heirs of Tillotson Sparks, deceased." (Book J, p. 157)

In 1836, according to the biographical sketch of W. A. J. Sparks, Baxter Sparks moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, where he and his family settled on a farm. A volume of election returns for Illinois indicates that Baxter Sparks was a candidate for county commissioner in Macoupin County in August 1838. He died there at the age of 63 on September 7, 1840. His wife, Elizabeth, died on March 24, 1844.

Following is a record of what we have been able to learn about the ten children of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks:

49.1 Mary L. Sparks, only daughter of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, was born March 13, 1808. In the Family Record quoted quoted at the beginning of this article, under marriages, her name is written as Mary S. Sparks, with the date of her marriage as August 28, 1830. In the marriage bonds of Harrison County, Ind., is the bond of Mary Sparks and Luke Coon, dated August 27, 1830. Thus, they were married one day after the bond was obtained. No further information.

49.2 Thomas Paine Sparks, oldest son of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, was born October 24, 1809. His marriage is recorded in the Family Record as occurring on December 31, 1829; recorded in Harrison County, Ind., is the marriage bond of Thomas Sparks and Nancy Chapman dated December 31, 1829. According to the Family Record they had the following children:

49.2.1 George W. Sparks, born January 30, 1832
49.2.2 Marion Sparks, born January 22, 1834
49.2.3 Mary E. Sparks, born October 4, 1836
49.2.4 Nancy I. Sparks, born September 19, 1839

Thomas Sparks was listed on the 1830 census of Harrison County, Ind., but his whereabouts thereafter are uncertain.

49.3 John Gwin Sparks was born September 22, 1811. According to the Family Record, he was married on January 16, 1834, but the name of his wife is not given. His children, as listed in the Family Record, were:

49.3.1 Mary Sparks, born January 2, 1836
49.3.2 Elizabeth S. Sparks, born February 18, 1838, probably the Elizabeth Sparks who died March 24, 1844.
49.3.3 Francis N. Sparks, born May 21, 1840.

This family was living in Jackson County, Illinois, when the 1850 census was taken, John G. Sparks's profession was given as Lawyer. His wife's name was given as Rebecca, aged 32 (therefore born ca. 1818) in the state of Illinois. Living with John G. and Rebecca Sparks in 1850 were their daughter Mary S. Sparks, aged 14, and their son Francis N. Sparks, aged 10. Since their daughter Elizabeth was not listed, it is probable that she was the Elizabeth Sparks who, according to the Family Record, died on March 24, 1844.

We have not searched the Jackson County census records after 1850. A John G. Sparks is recorded in Illinois records as having been an original incorporator and trustee of Marion Academy located near Marion in Williamson County, IL., in 1841, but whether he was the same John G. Sparks with whom we are concerned here is not known.

49.4 Mathew N. Sparks was born March 21, 1814. According to the Family Record, he was married on March 1, 1840, but the name of his wife is not given. From the listing on page 6 of the Family Record, it appears that Mathew Sparks was called "N. M. Sparks" and that he was the father of:

49.4.1 Maria J. Sparks, born February 24, 1841
49.4.2 Mary E. Sparks, born May 12, 1843

We have a record of an N. M. Sparks listed on the 1850 census of Jackson Co., IL. (in the same district as John G. Sparks). His age was given as 34, born in Indiana, and a School Teacher by occupation. His wife's name was given as Sarah A. Sparks, aged 23, born in Kentucky. No children were listed on this census record for N. M. Sparks, so we may doubt that he is the same person.

49.5 Wesley H. Sparks was born May 23, 1816. According to the Family Record, he was married on December 1, 1838, but his wife's name is not given. His name appears on the 1840 census of Macoupin Co., IL., near that of his father. According to the Family Record, he died on August 7, 1852. His children were, according to the Family Record:

49.5.1 Elizabeth E. Sparks, born October 26, 1838
49.5.2 Vanburen Sparks, born April 20, 1840

49.6 George T. Sparks was born September 18, 1818, and died on October 18, 1822.

49.7 Edmond Baxter Sparks was born August 22, 1820. According to the Family Record, he was married on October 28, 1841, but his wife 's name was not recorded. He died in California on October 5, 1850, according to the Family Record. He was doubtless a victim of the California Gold Rush which began in 1849. His brother, David R. Sparks, went to California in 1850. According to the Family Record, he had the following children:

49.7.1 John B. Sparks, born January 13, 1844, died April 29, 1848.
49.7.2 Elizabeth Malinda Sparks, born March 21, 1846, died April 11, 1846.
49.7.3 Melinda E. Sparks, born June 5, 1847. She was probably the Melinda E. Sparks who, according to the Family Record, was married on December 31, 1865.

49.8 David R. Sparks was born October 15,1823. He married Anna Davenport Chapman in 1849. He was living in Madison County, IL., when the 1870 and 1880 censuses were taken, and from these records we know that he had the following children:

49.8.1 Mary Sparks, born ca. 1850; she married Frank Richmond Milnor in 1874.
49.8.2 Wesley Sparks, born ca. 1854; he married Emma
49.8.3 Hosey B. Sparks, born ca. 1857.
49.8.4 Charles T. Sparks, born ca. 1861.
49.8.5 William Lincoln Sparks, born ca. 1867.
49.8.6 Annie Sparks, born ca. September 1869.
49.8.7 E. W. Sparks, born ca. 1870.
49.8.8 Fletcher Sparks (?)     

On a separate slip of paper in the Family Record appears the following:
"David R. Sparks, Alton, Illinois., Father of Wesley, Hosey, Fletcher, Mary Sparks."
The name Fletcher does not appear among the children on either the 1870 or 1880 census listings. Following is a sketch of David R. Sparks that was published in a history of Litchfield, Illinois (Montgomery County) by Walter R. Sanders in 1953, p. 59:

"David R. Sparks joined the United States Army in 1847 and went to fight in the war with Mexico, serving in the New Mexico area until the end of the war. In 1850, Sparks, Best and others joined the California "Gold Rush" and made the journey from Staunton to California with a covered wagon and three yoke of oxen. They ferried across the Mississippi at Alton in April and finally reached Placerville, California, in August of that year. The mining operation was unsuccessful and Sparks, Best and others returned via San Francisco in a sailing vessel. At Panama they crossed the Isthmus on foot and came home via Havana, Cuba, New Orleans and the Mississippi River.

"In 1852 they made the trip by steamboat and wagon to the Colorado gold mines, near the present town of Central City, where they established the first stamping mill in that locality. In the Civil War, at the first call for three-year troops, Sparks organized a troop of cavalry of which he was captain, with recruits mostly from around Litchfield. They furnished their own horses and served in many campaigns, including the seige of Vicksburg.

"On his return in 1863 from two and one -half years' service in the Union Army as Captain, Company "L," 3rd Illinois Cavalry, David Sparks moved his family from Staunton, Illinois, to Litchfield. With his partner, Mr. Wesley Best, they purchased property near what is now the northeast corner of the crossing of the Big Four and Wabash Railroads. In that year the construction of a stone and brick flour mill was begun. The installation of machinery and equipment was completed and the mill started in the summer of 1864 with a daily capacity of 350 barrels of flour. At that time the mill was believed to have been the largest mill in Illinois. Captain Sparks and family continued to reside in Litchfield until 1869, at which time the partnership purchased a mill in Alton, Illinois. Sparks moved his family to Alton and became the manager of the mill there. Wesley Best continued to operate the Litchfield mill until it was destroyed by fire in 1879. In the meantime, Best and Sparks had purchased what was known as "The Old Gage Mill" in Litchfield, which they operated until it, too, was destroyed by fire.

"Captain Sparks continued in the milling business at Alton until his death in 1907. In 1877 he and other flour millers formed the Millers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Illinois with principal office at Alton. He served as President of the company from 1877 until his death in 1907. Sparks married Anna Davenport Chapman in 1849. They had nine children, one of whom, Mary Ann Sparks, the oldest, became the wife of Frank R. Milnor in 1874. One of the children, William Lincoln Sparks, was born in Litchfield in 1867.

"Captain Sparks was a Unitarian and a Mason. A staunch Republican, he was a representative in the 36th Illinois General Assembly and a Senator in the 40th Illinois General Assembly." He died November 10, 1907.

49.9 Harvey A. Sparks, son of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, was born January 9, 1826, and died Sep1, 1845.

49.10 William Andrew Jackson Sparks, son of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, was born November 15, 1828. He married Julia Parker of Edwardsvill, IL., on April 16, 1855. They had no children. W.A.J. Sparks was a prominent political figure in his day and much has been written about his colorful career. The following are excerpts from a sketch which appeared in 1892 in the Portrait and Biographical Record of Clinton, Washington, Marion, and Jefferson Counties, Illinois, published by the Chapman Pub. Co. of Chicago, pp. 440-43: "Hon. W.A.J. Sparks, one of the eminent men of Illinois and an honored citizen of Carlyle, was born near New Albany, Lid., November 19, 1828, and is a descendant of good old Revolutionary stock. His ancestors, both paternal and maternal, were of English descent, and were among the very earliest settlers of Virginia. His parents, Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks, were both natives of the Old Dominion. During the War of 1812 the father was in the military service defending the pioneer settlers of the frontier against the hostile Indian tribes. About 1805-06 he came west, settling upon and improving a farm in Harrison County, Ind., about nine miles west of the present city of New Albany. There he continued to live (except a short time in New Albany) until 1836, when he again removed westward and settled on a farm in Macoupin County, IL. There his life career was closed in 1840. Three and a-half years afterward the mother passed away.

"In a family of ten children, the subject of this sketch was the youngest, and his boyhood years were mainly passed amid the primeval scenes of Illinois, his education being gained in the log "temple of learning" near the home of his father. At the death of his mother he was thrown upon his own resources, and securing employment upon a farm, was thus engaged for several years. He then began to teach school, and continued in that occupation until he had saved enough money to pay his tuition in college. In 1847 he entered McKendree College, at Lebanon, IL., and there prosecuted his literary researches with diligence, graduating in 1850 with the degree of B.S.

"His schooling finished, Mr. Sparks came to Carlyle, where after having taught school for three months he began the study of law with Chief Justice Breese, afterward his neighbor and life-long friend. He continued his studies under the tutelage of Judge Breese until 1851, when he was admitted to the Bar, and at once began the practice of his profession in Carlyle. Two years later President Pierce conferred upon him the appointment of "Receiver of the United States land office" at Edwardsville, IL., which position he held until all the lands were sold and the office closed.

"His duties as Receiver terminated, Mr. Sparks returned to Carlyle and resumed his professional duties, continuing thus engaged until his retirement from the Bar ca. 1874. In 1856 he was chosen an elector on the Buchanan-Breckinridge ticket as a representative of the Eighth Congressional District, and at the same election he was chosen a member of the House of Representatives of the Illinois Legislature in the Twentieth General Assembly, representing the counties of Bond and Clinton. In 1863 he was elected to the State Senate to represent in the Twenty-third General Assembly the Fourth Senatorial District, composed of the counties of Clinton, Bond, Fayette, Perry, Washington, and Marion. He was a prominent member of both branches, and took part in the principal debates, serving with credit to himself as well as to the satisfaction of his constituents. He was Chairman of the Committee on Internal Improvements, and also took a prominent part in furthering the present school law, which was enacted during his term of service in the House of Representatives.

"Mr. Sparks has been an active and leading member of the State Conventions since 1851, and was a delegate to the National Democratic convention held at New York in 1868, and the convention at Chicago in 1884, in both of which he took an active part. He also served in Congress, representing the Sixteenth District of Illinois ... and served his constituents with such faithfulness and efficiency that he was elected to succeed himself for three additional terms, making his entire period of service eight years, or from 1875 to 1883. He served as a member of the Committee on Appropriations, and was Chairman of the Committees on Military Affairs, Expenditures of the Interior Department, Indian Affairs and the Revision of the Laws. His service was marked by close attention to all matters of business before the House, and he was noted as a hard-working, able and influential Congressman.

"During his entire life Mr. Sparks has been an active member of the Democratic party, and has taken a lively interest in all the campaigns, being regarded as one of the ablest stump speakers in the state. . .

"For over forty-three years General Sparks has substantially been a resident of his present home, Carlyle, and is one of the oldest settlers of the place. He is now [written in 1892] retired from all active duties and is spending his declining years in his pleasant home, which is one of the finest residences of the town. As in former years, he is deeply interested in political and public affairs. His name has frequently been mentioned as candidate of his party for Governor, and doubtless he could have secured the nomination had he put forth the energy and ability that he possesses; but as he himself says, he is well satisfied to fill the position of a private citizen.

"General Sparks has been happily wedded for thirty-nine years, his marriage to Miss Julia Parker, of Edwardsville, IL., having occurred April 16, 1855. They have had no children of their own, but have reared and educated a nephew and several nieces, one of whom, Miss Sadie Norton, now resides with them. Mrs. N.J. Alexander, widow of the late Col. G.C. Alexander, a sister of Mrs. Sparks, has made her home with them for nearly a score of years. General Sparks is not a member of the church, but his wife and other members of his family are devout members of the Catholic Church." William A. J. Sparks died May 7, 1904.

Your editor would be pleased to hear from descendants of Baxter and Elizabeth (Gwin) Sparks who could add further information regarding this branch of the Sparks family.

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