April 24, 2021

Pages 1891-1894
Whole Number 97


In 1891, a publication, The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, was begun to honor and to provide biographical data on the leaders of the United States of America. The publication stated that it would (1) be truly national, (2) be representative of every section of the country, and (3) embrace every period of American history. Persons whose biographies would appear would include all high governmental officials; the leaders in the fields of education, religion, law, literature, music, art, engineering, medicine, commerce, and industry; officials of national clubs, social institutions and learned societies; and recipients of notable medals and awards.

In the eighty-five years since the formation of this publication, seven persons named SPARKS have been honored. The biographies of these men appearing in the Cyclopedia have been abstracted and appear below.

Volume V, 1894. Page 393. WILLIAM HENRY SPARKS, poet. He was born January 16, 1800, in Greene County, Georgia. He studied law at Litchfield, Conn., but returned to Greene County where he practiced law several years at Greensboro and was a member of the Georgia legislature. In 1830, he became a sugar planter near Natchez, Miss., and for ten years prior to the Civil War he was a law partner of J. P. Benjamin in New Orleans, La. He had no political ambition and declined a nomination to the United States Senate. He wrote for southern magazines and in 1870 he published Memories of Fifty Years which reached a fourth edition in 1882. Among the best-known of his lyrics are "Somebody's Darling" and "The Dying Years." He died at Marietta, Ga., on January 13, 1882, leaving much unprinted manuscript material.

(Editor's note: For further details of the family of William Henry Sparks, see the December 1962 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 40. His parents were Thomas and Achsah (Love) Sparks and his grandparents were 9.1.2 Charles and Gracilla Sparks. We have been collecting material on William H. Sparks for many years, but have not succeeded in locating a living descendant. If any members have data regarding him, your editor hopes you will share it. We have been able to identify very few of his poems and would appreciate having copies of any that readers might know about.)

Volume V, 1824. Page 433. JARED SPARKS, biographer. He was born at Willington, Tolland Co., Conn., on May 16, 1789. His youth was spent at the plough and the carpenter's bench and he was twenty before he entered Phillips Academy at Exeter, N.H. Here, as at Harvard, he depended partly on scholarships and in part upon his own exertions. While teaching at Havre de Grace, Maryland, he was engaged with the militia in an effort to repel the British. Graduating in 1815 from Harvard University, he taught for a time at Lancaster, Mass., and while taking the divinity course at Harvard in 1817 -1819, he was tutor in mathematics and natural philosophy.

Sparks became a Unitarian pastor in Baltimore in 1819 and it is there that he wrote his first books which were concerned with theological thought. He resigned his charge in 1823 and returned to Boston where he became the owner of the North American Review which he directed until 1831. It was during this time that he found the chief work of his life which was to produce a collection of the writings of George Washington. From 1834 to 1837, he published the Writings of George Washington with a biography, consisting of 12 volumes. He also edited The Works of Benjamin Franklin (10 vols., 1836 -1840) and The Library of American Biography (10 vols., 1834 -1838, and 15 vols., 1844 -1848). He died at Cambridge, Mass., on March 14, 1866, leaving much other matter in manuscript form.

(Editor's note: For further details of the family of Jared Sparks, see the March 1961 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 33.)

Volume XX, 1929. Page 350. 87.x.2.2.1 Edwin Erle Sparks, educator. He was born in Licking Co., Ohio, on July 16, 1859, and was a son of 87.x.2.2 Erastus Felton and Sarah Erle (Dodd) Sparks. He attended Ohio Wesleyan University and Ohio State University, graduating from the latter in 1884. He was principal of the Portsmouth (Ohio) High School from 1888 to 1890. In 1890, he went to Pennsylvania State College as a history professor and in 1895 he joined the faculty of the University of Chicago as professor of American history. He earned the Ph.D. degree in 1900 and was called to the presidency of Pennsylvania State College in 1908, a position he held until 1920.

Under Dr. Sparks's leadership, Pennsylvania State College advanced to an important position among American institutions of learning. The college grew from 900 students and 84 professors to 4300 students and 284 professors. Ten new buildings were erected and the campus was more than doubled in size. He organized the school of liberal arts and started new courses in agriculture, milling and mining engineering, and health services. He was regent-general of the honorary scholastic fraternity, Phi Kappa Phi, and organized more than thirty new chapters across the country. He also found time to write several books, the best-known being The Men Who Made Our Nation (1900) and The Story of the United States (1902. On January l, 1890, Dr. Sparks married Katherine Cotton, daughter of Dr. David B. Cotton, of Portsmouth, Ohio. They had one daughter, Ethel, who married Carvel E. Sparks, of Pedricktown, New Jersey. Dr. Sparks died at State College, PA, on June 15, 1924.

(Editor's note: As yet we have not published material on the branch of the Sparks family to which Edwin Erle Sparks belonged. In a letter dated March 19, 1923, to a person interested in Sparks genealogy, Dr. Sparks stated that his grandfather had been 87.x.2 William Sparks and had been brought as a boy to Ohio by his father, 87.x Stephen Sparks, "from the eastern shore of Maryland." Stephen Sparks, whose father is belived to have been named 87. Richard Sparks, had lived in Caroline County, Maryland, prior to settling on Wankotonaka Creek in Fallsburg Township, Licking County, Ohio, early in the 1800's. Stephen's wife's maiden name had been Anna Carman. William Sparks, grandfather of Dr. Edwin Erle Sparks, had been born in Maryland in 1806; he died in Ohio in December 1879. William Sparks married, in Guernsey County, Ohio, Anna Cunningham who had been born in Ireland. Your editor will be pleased to correspond with members of this branch of the Sparks family.

Volume XXVI, 1937. Page 326. John Sparks, governor of Nevada. He was born in Mississippi on August 30, 1843, and was a son of Samuel and Sarah (Deal) Sparks, and a grandson of Millington Sparks, III, a Maryland planter. His father moved the family to Lampasas, Texas, in 1857 when that country was infested with hostile Indians and as an Indian scout and member of the Texas Rangers, young John developed a tenacious courage. combined with a cheerful optimism, which characterized his whole career. He served in Walker's Texas Greyhounds which was a part of Hood's Texas Brigade, Confederate States Army during the Civil War and moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1868, and from there to Reno, Nevada, in 1880. There, he built up a very large cattle business, owning 70,000 head. He introduced the first pure-blooded Hereford cattle to Nevada and established valuable herds of both Herefords and Durhams. The town of Sparks, Nevada, was named for him.

Sparks became interested in politics and served as a county commissioner and in both houses of the Nevada legislature. In 1902, he was elected governor of Nevada and he was reelected in 1906. His high-minded integrity and loyalty to duty won for him the nickname "Honest John" Sparks. During his administrations, the legislature enacted an irrigation law; established an eight-hour day for miners; created a state railroad commission; and enacted law embodying the principle of employer's liability. A spectacular feature of his administration was a strike in the Goldfield mine territory which involved the federal government. The International Workers of the World Union called the strike and local authorities appeared unable or unwilling to stop the trouble, so Sparks requested President Theodore Roosevelt to send federal troops to Goldfield to restore order.

Governor Sparks was a Baptist. His warm and friendly nature, plus his high standard of personal honor, brought him a host of friends, both personal and political. He was a member of the Masons, Elks, Eagles and Odd Fellows. He was married twice: (first) in June 1872 to Rachel Knight, daughter of Dr. David Forkner Knight, by whom he had a daughter, Maud Sparks, married A. J. McKinzie, and

(second) to Nancy Ellenora Knight, half-sister of his first wife. by the second marriage, he had three children: Benton Hackney Sparks, Charles Sparks, and Leland Sparks.

He died near Reno, Nevada, on May 22, 1908.

Volume G, 1946. Page 314. Chauncey Sparks, governor of Alabama. He was born in Barbour Co., Alabama, on October 8, 1884, and was a son of George Washington and Sarah Elmira (Castellow ) Sparks. His father was a farmer and moved the family to Quitman Co., Georgia, in 1887 and it was there that young Chauncey attended public schools. He was graduated from Mercer University law school in 1910 and began the practice of law at Eufaula, Barbour Co., Ala., that same year. He took an interest in politics and served several terms in the Alabama House of Representatives. In 1942, he was elected governor of Alabama. During his administration, a state markets board was created and regional markets for farm products were established. Other accomplishments during his term of office were: the inauguration of a retirement plan for state employees; the creation of a state department of veteran affairs; and increased appropriations for education, public welfare and public health services. Governor Sparks served as a 2nd Lieut. in the 2nd Regt. Alabama Infantry, National Guard, from 1912 to 1915. He was a member of the Baptist Church, Phi Beta Kappa, and the Kiwanis Club. He never married. He died on November 6, 1968, at Eufaula, Alabama.

[Editor's note: For further details of the life of Chauncey Sparks, see the June 1954, issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 6 66.]

Volume XL, 1955. Page 419. William Morris Sparks, judge. He was born at Charlottesville, Ind., on April 28, 1872, and was a son of 95.5.4 James Bascomb and Harriet Jane (Johnson) Sparks, and a grandson of 95.5 Jerome Bonaparte and Sarah Dillon (Wilmore) Sparks. He was graduated from DePauw University in 1896 and then studied law at Indiana University. In 1901, he was elected to the Indiana legislature and served two terms. In 1904, he was elected judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit of Indiana, thus beginning an interest in the bench which endured until his retirement in 1949. He was elected first judge of the Rush Circuit Court in 1914 and was reelected in 1920 and 1926. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover appointed him to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, a position he held until his retirement.

Judge Sparks was a Methodist, a Mason, and a Rotarian. He was a member of Phi Delta Theta, the Columbia Club of Indianapolis, and the Union League Club of Chicago. He was married on November 23, 1897, to Della Young, daughter of George Washington Young, an attorney of Rushville. They had two children: Dorothy Young Sparks, who married Horace Foster, Jr., and William George Sparks.

Judge Sparks died in Rushville on January 7, 1950.

[Editor's Note: For further details on the family of Will Morris Sparks, see the March 1969 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 65.]

Volume LII, 1970. Page 419. GEORGE McINTOSH SPARKS, college president. He was born in Quitman, Ga., on November 19, and was a son of 36.10.9 Andrew Jackson and Julia Catherine (McIntosh) Sparks and a grandson of Thomas and Anne McNeal (Collins) Sparks. After graduating in 1909 from Mercer University, he served as a reporter with the Macon (Ga.) Daily Telegraph until 1924. While working as a journalist, he became interested in education and served as an instructor of journalism at Mercer University. In 1924, he joined Georgia Institute of Technology as a professor of journalism and ultimately he became director of the evening school. He continued in these two posts until 1935 when he was appointed director of the Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia.

He held this position until the division was separated from the University of Georgia in 1955 and he became president of the new institution which was renamed Georgia State College. He held this position until his retirement in 1957.

Dr. Sparks held membership in many organizations among which were the Masons, Odd Fellows, and Kiwanis Club. He served as chairman of the board of deacons of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta. Politically, he was a Democrat. He was fond of sports and found time for recreation in golf and swimming. He was married on September 16, 1922, to Mary Morgan, daughter of Theo David Booth of Atlanta. They had four children: George McIntosh Sparks; Junelle Sparks; Charlene Persons Sparks, who married William Theo Eison; and Robert McIntosh Sparks.

Dr. Sparks died at Tryon, North Carolina, on October 29, 1958.

[Editor's note: For further details of the family of George McIntosh Sparks, See the December 1955 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 12, and the September 1964 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 47.]