April 12, 2021

Pages 1699-1704
Whole Number 88


by Paul E. Sparks

(Editor's Note: Many American genealogists, are convinced that two of the largest and most common genealogical problems are: (1) "bridging the ocean" and (2) "bridging the mountains." by this they mean finding the ancestors of persons who were early emigrants from the British Isles or western Europe, and finding the ancestors of persons who left the eastern seaboard states to settle in the newly won west after the Revolutionary War. Persons named Sparks have been no exception to these problems, so it is particularly satisfying when we apparently find data which solve one of these genealogical gaps.)

the June 1973 issue of The Sparks Quarterly (Whole No. 82) was devoted to an article about Elijah Sparks of early Indiana. Part of the article was concerned with the lack of knowledge as to his place of birth and as to his parentage. Contemporaries had given conflicting testimony as to his place of birth, some saying that he was born in Queen Annes County, Virginia (there was no such county in Virginia) while others stated that he had been born in Frederick County, Virginia. None could tell who his parents were. It now appears from data recently uncovered that Elijah Sparks was born in Queen Annes County, Maryland, and that his parents were Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks. Absalom Sparks was born in the early part of the 1700's, ca. 1720, and was a son of 1.2.4 John and Cornelia (Curtis) Sparks of Queen Annes County, Maryland, and a grandson of 1.2 William and Mary Sparks who came to Maryland ca. 1670, probably from County Hampshire, England. William Sparks died in 1709 in Queen Annes County and left a will in which he named his children, including his son, John Sparks. (See the March 1971 issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 73, for a fuller account of William and Mary Sparks.)

1.2.4 John Sparks, father of Absalom, was born ca. 1680, probably in Talbot County, Maryland. Prior to 1704, he married Cornelia MNU. Her maiden name was very probably Curtis for in 1704 she and her husband, John Sparks, acted as administrators of the estate of Caleb Curtis in neighboring Kent County, Delaware. Caleb Curtis was very likely her father or her brother.

Like his father, John Sparks was a parishoner of St. Luke's Church, located at Church Hill in Queen Annes County, and it was there that many of the births and marriages of his family were recorded. (See also the March 1971 issue, Whole No. 73, of the Quarterly.)

by his father's will, John Sparks inherited a tract of land which his father had purchased from John Hamer. John's father realized that the title to the land might prove to be faulty, so he provided for an alternate inheritance if that proved to be the case. Undoubtedly, the title was not valid, for in March 1716, John Sparks and his brother, William Sparks, returned the land to Hamer. William Sparks rebought the land from Hamer at a later date.

John Sparks was involved in three more land transactions prior to his death. In 1715, he and his wife, Cornelia, were granted a tract of 100 acres from Charles Carroll, agent for Charles Calvert, Lord Baltimore, Proprietor of the Province of Maryland. The land was on the south side of Southeast Branch of the Chester River about one-half mile above Syberry's Branch. It was granted to John Sparks for his natural lifetime, or for the natural lifetime of his wife, Cornelia, or for the natural lifetime of his son, John Sparks, Jr.

The second transaction came in 1722 when John Sparks bought back 200 acres of land which his brothers, George Sparks and Joseph Sparks, had inherited from their father, but which they had sold to Augustine Thompson in 1719. The tracts of land were called "Sparks Choice" and "Sparks Enclosure."

The final land transaction was made in 1733 when John and Cornelia Sparks sold a lot in Ogles Town for 565 pounds of tobacco. Ogles Town was authorized by the Maryland Assembly in 1732 and was to be erected on the south side of the Southeast Branch at its mouth. There is no trace of the village today. We have not learned how the lot became the property of John and Cornelia Sparks.

John Sparks made his will in 1731 and after his death on April 19, 1737, the will was entered into court for probation on May 24, 1737. Here is the full text:

The Last Will of John Sparks
of Queen Annes County, Maryland

"In the name of God Amen.   I, John Sparkes, of Queen Anne's County and Province of Maryland, Planter, being sick and weak but of sound mind and perfect memory and not knowing how long it may please God to call me Doe make ordain & publish this to be my last Will & Testament in writing

"First and Principally I Bequeath my Soul to Almighty God my Creator & merciful Redeemer and my Body to the Earth to be buried in a Christian-like manner by my Executors hereafter named

"and as for the Worldly Goods it hath pleased God to-bless me with I Devise Bequeath and Dispose of in manner & form following after my just debts are duly paid.

"Item. I give and bequeath unto my five sons George, John, Millington, Absalom & Caleb my three tracts of land viz: one called "Sparkes Inclosure" containing 195 acres, "Sparkes Choice" containing 100 acres & 100 acres lying in his Lordships Mannor in Queen Anne's County on the southeast branch of Chester River the whole containing 395 acres to be equally divided between them & their heirs and assigns forever.

"My will is that my loving wife Cornelia Sparkes have the use of my dwelling Plantation and Appurtenances thereto belonging during her Widowhood & no longer, as also the use of my Negro man Will during her life and after her decease then my Will is that my said Negro Man be & remain to my son Caleb to him and his heirs and assigns forever.

"And as for the remainder of my Personal estate I leave to be equally divided one third to my loving wife Cornelia Sparkes and the other two thirds among my nine children viz: George, John, Millington, Absalom, Caleb, Sarah, Mary, Rachell & Cornelia to them their heirs & assigns forever.

"Item. I give and bequeath to my Granddaughter, Sarah Sparkes, daughter of my son William Deceased one featherbed two blankets & a Rug to her her heirs & assigns forever.

"And Lastly I Doe constitute Authorize and Appoint my loving wife Cornelia Sparkes my whole & sole executor of this my last Will & Testament to see this my Will performed and Doe hereby revoke annul and make void all other Wills by me heretofore made & this only to be deemed and taken for my last Will & Testament

"for witness whereof I have hereunto sett my seal this 28th day of Janry 1731.

[signed] John J S Sparkes

"Signed Sealed Pronounced & Declared
to be the last Will & Testament of
the said John Sparkes
Jacob F Kelley
Margt N Kelley
Eliza E Sparkes

"March 24, 1837. Then came Margaret Kelley Jacob Kelley & Elisabeth Sparkes all the subscribing witnesses to the within Will before me the Subscriber, Deputy Comry of Queen Anne's County who being duly & solemnly sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God did dispose & say that they saw the Testator John Sparkes sign the same Will and heard him Publish & Declare the same to be his last Will & Testament and at the time of his so doing he was to the best of their apprehensions of sound and disposing mind & memory & that they subscribed their Respective names as Witnesses to the said Will in the presence of the said Testator and at his request which Oath was taken by the said witnesses in the presence of George Sparkes son & heir at Law of the said Deceased which same George Sparkes did not object to the Probate of the said Will.

Sworn to before me         [signed] Jam Earle"

Cornelia Sparks, widow of John, qualified as his executrix on May 28, 1737, with George Elliott and John Merrideth as her bondsmen and her bond was fixed at 200 pounds. On June 3, 1737, she returned an inventory of the personal property of her deceased husband amounting to 158 pounds. The property had been appraised by John Earl and Edward Brown. Two of John Sparks's sons, John, Jr., and Millington, were witnesses to the inventory.

Cornelia Sparks did not live long enough to complete the settlement of her husband's estate; she died December 22, 1737. After her death both her date of death and that of her husband were recorded in the Register of St. Luke's Parish) her son, George Sparks, was appointed Administrator de Bonis non to finish the settlement of the estates of both of his parents. He made a final accounting of the estate of his mother on December 14, 1739. After all debts were satisfied, the estate of Cornelia Sparks amounted to 108 pounds. Representatives of Cornelia included eight of her children: George Sparks, John Sparks, Millington Sparks, Absalom Sparks, Caleb Sparks, Sarah Herbert, Mary Ruth, and Cornelia Alley.
John and Cornelia Sparks had ten children and all of them reached adulthood. This article is concerned with only one of then, Absalom Sparks, but it is our intention to prepare other articles about all of then to be presented in future issues of the Quarterly. The children of John and Cornelia Sparks were: William Sparks was born ca. 1700. He died January 15, 1730/31, as recorded in the Register of St. Luke's Parish, leaving at least one child, Sarah Sparks, who was mentioned in her grandfather's will. At the present, we have no information about her. George Sparks was born ca. 1705. He married Sarah Salisbury on December 3, 1730, and they had at least three children. John Sparks, jr., was born between 1705 and 1710. He married Sarah Tippins (?) ca. 1730 and they had about ten children. Millington Sparks was born between 1710 and 1720. He married Mabel Ruth on February 9, 1740, and they had at least four children. Sarah Sparks was born between 1710 and 1720. She married FNU Herbert prior to 1739. Nothing more has been learned of her. Mary Sparks was born between 1710 and 1720. She married FNU Ruth prior to 1739. Nothing more has been learned of her. Rachel Sparks was born between 1710 and 1720. She married Robert Hawkins. Nothing more has been learned of her. Caleb Sparks was born between 1720 and 1725. He married Hannah O'Bryan on March 19, 1745, and they apparently had ten children. Cornelia Sparks was born between 1715 and 1720. She married Peter Alley prior to 1739 and they had at least two children. Absalom Sparks was born ca. 1720 -1725. He is believed to be the father of Elijah Sparks, the subject of this article; we will tell as much about him as we have learned.

We have found only a few records pertaining to Absalom Sparks. We believe he was one of the younger children of John and Cornelia, probably the youngest. In 1744 he bought from his brothers, Caleb and Millington, the shares of "Sparks Choice" and "Sparks Enclosure" which they had inherited from their father. Absalom sold these tracts of land the following year to John Earle for 7,000 pounds of tobacco and 20 pounds in money.

There are two records pertaining to Absalom Sparks dated 1748. One of these is a record. of his service in the Provincial Militia in the Company of Captain William Hopper. The other record is that of his marriage to Elizabeth Brown on November 17, 1748, as recorded in the Register of St. Luke's Parish. Elizabeth was a daughter of Edward and Mary Brown. Edward Brown died in 1763 and named (among other children) his daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Absalom Sparks.

A few months after his marriage, Absalom Sparks bought a tract of land called "Tullys Delight" which was located near Back Creek, a tributary of Southeast Branch of Chester River. In 1752, along with certain of the other heirs of John and Cornelia Sparks, Absalom Sparks and his wife, Elizabeth, sold their interest in "Sparks Choice," but since there was no consideration in the transaction, this could have been just a confirmation of an earlier sale. In 1758, Absalom bought a quantity of household goods from his sister, Cornelia, and her husband, Peter Alley.

Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks, wife of Absalom, apparently died ca. 1765 -1770, and Absalom married (second) Ruth MNU. Then, in the latter part of 1771, Absalom Sparks died. He left no will and his widow, Ruth Sparks, was appointed the administratrix of his estate. On January 21, 1772, she brought into court an inventory of his property which had been appraised by Benj. Chaires and James Finley. Witnesses to the appraisal were Absalom's brothers: John Sparks, C. Sparks, and Millington Sparks. (The "C. Sparks" was Caleb Sparks.) Absalom's nephew, Levi Sparks, was also a witness. The inventory amounted to over 209 pounds and included in the list of articles were three small Bibles appraised at eight shillings.

In 1774, Ruth Sparks, widow of Absalom, married William Tippins and together they presented to the court the record of the final Balances, and also the record of the final Account of the estate of Absalom Sparks on August 11, 1774. The Balances record showed that after all of Absalom's debts and other obligations had been settled, the estate amounted to 130 pounds. One-third of the estate was given to his widow, Ruth Tippins, while the residue was equally divided among his seven children. Named in the final account as representatives of the deceased (in addition to his widow, Ruth Tippins) were his seven children:

Eliza, of age and wife of Henry Thompson; Robert Sparks; Brown Sparks; Mary Sparks; Absalom Sparks, Jr.; Elijah Sparks; and Atheliah Sparks.

All except Eliza were identified as "under age."

If we may assume that Eliza, wife of Henry Thompson, had just reached the age of 21 in 1774, and that the son Robert was very nearly 21 years old, and, further, that the children were named in this document dated August 11, 1774, in the order of their birth, we can then fairly well arrange the probable dates of birth of the children of Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks. It should be kept in mind that they were married in 1748 and that Elizabeth died in the late 1760's. Eliza Sparks was born ca. 1750; she had married Henry Thompson prior to August 11, 1774. Robert Sparks was born. ca. 1753 -1754. Brown Sparks, was born ca. 1756. Mary Sparks was born ca. 1758 -1759. Absalom Sparks, Jr., was born ca. 1762. Elijah Sparks was born ca. 1765. Athaliah Sparks was born ca. 1767.

Robert Sparks, oldest son of Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks, apparently took charge of handling the business of the family, and by 1776 he had bought and sold property. It is this particular activity on his part that provided us the clue which led us to believe that the Elijah Sparks of early Indiana was quite probably the same Elijah Sparks who was a son of Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks. Our readers will recall that Elijah Sparks (of early Indiana) had complained mildly in a letter written to President James Madison in 1813 that "It was my misfortune... to be deprived of Parents in very early life and from the Law of primogenitr & other misfortunes, I was thrown on the world, helpless & unlearned." This reference to the Law of Primogeniture indicates that he had an older brother who had been favored in some way in the settling of their parents' estates.

There are other clues which help to confirm our belief that Elijah Sparks, son of Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks, was the Elijah Sparks of early Indiana.

1. Elijah Sparks, son of Absalom, was born ca. 1765, thus he fits agewise the Elijah Sparks of early Indiana who was born, according to contemporaries, ca. 1770.

2. Both parents of Elijah Sparks, son of Absalom, died when he was quite young; thus he would fit the situation which Elijah Sparks of early Indiana related to President Madison: "It was my misfortune... to be deprived of Parents in very early life..."

3. Elijah Sparks, son of Absalom and Elizabeth (Brown) Sparks, had an other (older?) brother named Robert Sparks as did Elijah Sparks of early Indiana. Elijah Sparks of early Indiana was on his way to visit his brother, Robert Sparks, a Methodist minister living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, when he died in 1815.

4. Finally, both Elijah Sparks of early Indiana (who died in 1815) and his brother, Robert Sparks, became Methodist ministers quite early in their lives. (In Frederic Emory's Queen Annes County, Maryland, published in Baltimore by the Maryland Historical Society, in 1950, p. 223, it is stated that the Centreville Circuit of the Methodist Church was served in 1805 by Robert Sparks and William Fox and in 1806 by Robert Sparks and John Ruth. Did the three small Bibles left by Absalom Sparks when he died in 1771 have an influence on the decision of two of his sons to become ministers?

Descendants of Elijah Sparks of early Indiana are invited to respond to this article. In the meantime, we believe that we have bridged another genealogical gap.