May 8, 2014

Pages 1694-1698
Whole Number 88

FRANCIS MARION SPARKS (1843-1930)

by Kenneth Edgar Sparks



Francis Marion Sparks was born April 20, 1843, in Rush County, Indiana, the eighth child of Stephen and Esseneth (Greene) Woolverton Sparks. Francis left Indiana with his parents in the spring of 1845 and emigrated to Marshall Township, Platte County, Missouri. The family stayed there nine years and then moved to Kansas in Oct, 1854. They settled on Walnut Creek, three miles south of Easton, Leavenworth County, Kansas. Kansas was then the center of a national dispute over slavery in the territories. Francis' father, Stephen Sparks, was very active in the Free-State Party and, because of this, his life and those of his family were threatened numerous times. One such incident occurred in January of 1856 when riders came to the Sparks home searching for Stephen. Part of this incident centered on Francis, as told in his mother's words before a Congressional investigating committee: "Dunn then left him, and turned to my little son, about twelve years old, and put the pistol to his breast, and asked him where his father's Sharpe's rifle was, and my son told him he had none. Dunn asked him where those guns were, pointing to the racks, and told hini if he did not tell the truth, he would kill him; and my son told him the men-folks generally took care of the guns." The men left without harming anyone.

Francis Sparks's mother, Esseneth, died between 1856 and 1859. Sometime between those years, probably soon after his mother's death, Francis left Kansas and returned to Fayette County, Indiana. When the 1860 census was taken on June 22, he was living in the home of his uncle, Hiram Sparks, and wife, Elizabeth (Stoops) Sparks. Also living there were Albert Sparks, aged 12, and William Sparks, age 88, father of Hiram and grandfather of Francis.

As the Civil War approached, Francis tried to join the Union Army, but he was turned down because he was only 17. He finally did enlist on August 28, 1861, at Richmond, Indiana, in Captain Gilbert Truslers Company H of the 36th Regiment of Indiana Volun teer Infantry for a period of three years. He was recorded as being 5 feet 11½ inches tall, of light complexion, grey eyes, and black hair, and by occupation a farmer. They were mustered into service on Sep 16, 1861, went immediately to the front, and shared the fortunes of the Army of the Ohio until April, 1862, when a forward movement led to their presence on the battlefield of Shiloh. His company was nearly all killed three different times during the war, but Francis managed to survive, although he was wounded several times, once critically, resulting in a medical discharge. He told of one soldier who had been wounded in the hip. Upon returning to the company, he was again wounded in the same hip. When he returned the second time, he decided he would hang a cast iron skillet from his belt, covering that hip before going into battle. After the battle was over, there was indeed a bullet mark on the skillet. In later life, Francis never talked of shooting anyone during the war, although he was an excellent shot and was in several important battles.

He told of an incident during the war in which several Union soldiers, including himself, were sitting on a hill resting and drinking coffee. Across a nearby canyon, on the opposite hillside, they saw something which they thought was a coyote sitting under a tree. It was too far away to see it clearly. Because Francis was the best shot, the other soldiers tried to get him to shoot at the "coyote." He refused to shoot, telling them that he never shot at anything he didn't intend to kill and since they weren't sure that it was a coyote, and it might be a man, he wouldn't shoot. The other men continued trying to talk him into shooting, but he refused again. Finally one of the men decided that he would try to shoot the "coyote". He shot, missing by a few feet. Immediately a man jumped up from under the tree where he had been sitting and ran into the nearby woods.

Francis had learned to shoot very well as a boy in Kansas and Indiana. He used to talk about shooting squirrels while a boy. Lead for bullets was quite expensive so he would wait until the squirrel was in front of a limb; then he would shoot, killing the squirrel, and the lead would lodge in the tree. After collecting the squirrel, he climbed the tree and dug out the lead, which was remelted and made into a new bullet. His son, Steve, said that he could not remember his father ever missing anything he shot at.

During the Civil War, Francis was badly wounded in the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee at Pittsburg Landing on April 6, 1862. There were 25,000 casualties on that day and the one following. He was shot through the lungs and bled profusely. Like many of the other wounded, he managed to get to a small pond in the area. There were so many wounded and dead men and animals lying around and in the pond that it was red with blood. Because of this, it was named Bloody Pond, a name it still carries. A southern boy who was also wounded shared his blanket with Francis and they comforted each other. They spent a frightening and thoroughly miserable night, neither expecting to survive his ordeal. It rained very hard nearly all night and the Union gunboats on the Tennessee River kept up their cannon fire. The next day after the battle ended, the Union troops came to collect the wounded and the dead. They picked up Francis and the Southern boy's blanket. There was a field hospital set up nearby and it is likely that Francis was first taken there. He eventually was sent to the hospital in St. Louis. As far as he was ever able to learn, the Southern boy died at Bloody Pond. Francis developed pneumonia and because of it, and because of the severity of his wounds, one lung was removed. In later life, he had considerable trouble with lung ailments. Many years later, he revisited the Shiloh battlefield with some of his family. He was surprised at the level lay of the land. He had come up the river bank during the battle and did not get an accurate view of the area. He remarked that the way to "see" a battlefield is to lie down on the ground and crawl.

According to War Department records, Francis Sparks was back with his company from July, 1862, to February 28, 1863. On March 3, 1863, Lieutenant Robert B. Carr, Company Commander, filed a Certificate of Disability for Discharge for Corporal Francis M. Sparks at the camp near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The certificate states: "During the last two months said soldier has been unfit for duty 59 days. I know nothing of the origin of his disease, but know that he has been unable to perform real service for three months." On the same certificate, the Assistant Surgeon for the Regiment stated that he found Francis "incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of [illegible], of thirteen months standing - which has been treated with all the means at our command without benefit..." The discharge was granted on March 8, 1863, at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. It was signed by Lieutenant Colonel 0. H. P. Carey.

From Tennessee, Francis Sparks returned to Connersville, Fayette County, Indiana, where on December 1, 1863, he married Sarah Frances "Fannie" Warne. They were married by Frank's (as he was called then) uncle, William Sparks, a prominent Baptist minister. Sarah Frances Warne was born Oct 1, 1843, in Franklin County, Indiana, the daughter of John H. and Eliza Jane (Martin) Warne. They bought three acres of land from Frank's uncle, Hiram Sparks. Frank and Fannie stayed in Fayette
County, Indiana, until the end of the Civil War. Their first son, John Warne Sparks, was born there on Sep 6, 1864. In Indiana, Frank found people very violent in their opinions - - talking a bloody war, safely by their firesides. This bothered him a great deal and also aroused his Sparks temper, so he and his small family headed west on Nov 4, 1865. They settled in Leavenworth County, Kansas, near his father and step-mother, Stephen and Elizabeth Sparks. Also nearby were his brothers, Moses, William, and Greene. On the 1870 and 1880 censuses of Leavenworth County they are listed as living in Alexandria Township, with their post office at Spring Dale, a Quaker community south of Easton.

In Kansas, Frank and Fannie's other nine children were born. Following is a list of their children's names and birthdates, with the death dates of those who died in infancy.

1. John Warne Sparks, born Sep 6, 1864, in Indiana.
2. Annie Laurie Sparks, born Nov 1, 1866, in Kansas; died February 28, 1867.


3. Martha Frances Sparks, born June 25, 1868.
4. Twin sister to Martha Frances who died on the same day; unnamed.
5. Wilson Pence Sparks, born June 30, 1871.
6. Daisy Belle Sparks, born Sep 19, 1873.
7. Lewis Edward Sparks, born December 13, 1875.
8. Stephen Martin Sparks, born May 15, 1878.
9. Nellie Edith Sparks, born Oct 29, 1880.
10. Lee Sparks, born Nov 4, 1884, died Nov 6, 1884.

Shortly after the birth and death of their last child, Lee Sparks, Frank began to suffer from tuberculosis. It became very difficult for him to breathe and he was quite weak. His condition was complicated because he had only one lung. He went to several doctors in Kansas but none could help him. All finally gave him up to death from consumption, as tuberculosis was called then. On 29 January 1889, Frank transferred their 80 acres of land to Fannie, evidently to avoid any estate problems in case he should die. Someone, possibly Charlie Sparks, son of Frank's brother, Greene Sparks, took him in a buckboard to central Oklahoma Territory in the summer
of 1889. The climate in Kansas was very humid, and it was hoped that the drier climate and higher altitude of Oklahoma would improve his condition. After three or four months there he was much improved. When he was no longer confined to bed and could do light work, he sent for his family, who had stayed on the farm in Kansas. They came in Nov, 1889. They sold their land in Kansas to John S. Sparks, youngest son of Frank's deceased brother, John, on August 20., 1891. The family first settled on school land southeast of Fort Reno. Charlie Sparks spent the winter with them and then returned to Kansas.

The family lived on this land until 1891 when they participated in the run for the land west of Fort Reno. Frank and his sons, John and Wilson, who were old enough to claim land, went together. Each claimed 160 acres, 16 miles west of Fort Reno. Wilson's land lay north and across the county road from his father's. John's joined Frank's on the south. The oldest daughter, Mattie, also made a claim several miles away.

FRANCIS MARION AND SARAH FRANCES (WARNE) SPARKS

TAKEN AT THEIR HOME IN CANADIAN COUNTY, OKLAHOMA, PRIOR TO 1915

(Picture)

The first home that Frank Sparks built was a partial dugout. Later it became the chicken house. When he first moved onto the land, he bought water rights to a small stream for one year from an Indian in exchange for a hog, They planned to use that water until they could dig their own well, However, shortly the water was shut off. Frank want up to see the Indian and he was told that the hog was gone, so the water was gone too, After considerable discussion, the Indian was convinced to let the water flow. This land was officially deeded to him on Nov 25,1902. He acquired the 160 acres south when his oldest son, John Sparks, was murdered in 1907. Frank and his sons farmed, planting mainly corn, maise, wheat, and watermelons. Frank always had a large pile of watermellons under a tree that he would give to anyone that asked for some, but he had no sympathy with those who tried to steal his melons.

When the family first moved to the Oklahoma farm, they had some trouble with neighboring Caddo Indians to the south of the nearby South Canadian River. Occassionally the Indians would steal a horse or cow. On at least one occasion, the Caddos triad to burn them out. Frank saw an Indian riding on horseback along the fence line. Puffs of smoke were coming up from behind him in the grass every few feet. He was probably lighting matches and dropping them in the grass. Frank knew a local Indian and told him about the incident, adding that he would have his gun ready and shoot if it happened again. It didn't. On other occasions, the family had to actually fight fire with buckets of water and blankets. However, the relations with the local Indians, Caddo and Kiowa, were usually very good. Francis had an acute sense of justice and fairplay toward the Indians. He was a staunch man of the Bible, a preacher, although not ordained, and the Indians felt that they could trust him. They called him "Old-Man-Who-Think-Straight" because they could bring their grievances to him and he treated them fairly. Francis was highly respected and perhaps a little feared by the white community, and often when the whites were in the wrong he talked them into making restitution to the Indians. In fact, relations with the Kiowas were so good that Francis' son, Lew, was adopted into their tribe as a brother. Another son, John, spent considerable time among them.

Frank Sparks, with his friends Albin and Arnold Brandley (Albin was the father of Frank's son-in-law, Charley Brandley), did quite a bit of gold prospecting in the Wichita Mountains. Frank also had a gold mine in the canyon on his farm. He often mailed in samples to the assay office. There was considerable gold, but not enough to make it worth mining. The mine has since been lost.

Frank and Fannie Sparks lived on their farm in Canadian County, Oklahoma, in relative peace and contentment, until their deaths; Fannie died on April 19, 1915, and Frank died on December 9, 1930. Actually, Frank lived the last six months of his life in El Reno with his youngest daughter, Nell Schmoyer, and her family. They are both buried at El Reno, Oklahoma. After Fannie's death in 1915, several of the children lived with Frank for awhile and helped him farm his land. Also for awhile, he lived at the old soldiers home, in Leavenworth, Kansas, and also stayed with his nephew, Charles S. Sparks, and family about 1919 or 1920 in McLouth, Kansas.

Beginning in 1914, Frank received a monthly pension from the U.S. Government because of his service in the Civil War. After his death, Frank's five living children decided to sell the farm. Charley Brandley, husband of Frank's deceased daughter, Mattie, bought it for his son, Frank A. "Buck" Brandley. The farm is now owned by Frank's great-great-grandson, Roger Chiles.

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