February 14, 2021

Pages 1904-1905
Whole Number 98


Many references to John Sparks, Innkeeper of Ipswich, Massachusetts, are found in Thomas Franklin Waters' two-volume Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony published by the Ipswich Historical Society, 1905 -17. He appears initially in 1655 in the Ipswich court records as an apprentice to Obadiah Wood, a "biskett baker." In the 1660's he was a partner with Thomas Bishop who kept an "ordinary." In February, 1671-2, he bought a house with two acres of land with a bake house and obtained a license to keep his own inn. In September 1671 he obtained a license to sell "beere at a penny a quart, provided he entertain no Town inhabitants in the night, nor suffer to bring wine or liquor to be drunk in his house."

On November 26, 1661, John Sparks was married in Boston to Mary Sinnet (born November 19, 1640) daughter of Walter and Mary Sinnet of Boston. The marriage was performed by Governor John Endecott.

According to historian Waters, the Sparks hostelry came to be known far and wide. Here the Quarter Sessions Court held its sittings, the Worshipful Major Nathaniel Saltonstall held Court at Sparks's Inn in March 1685-6, and the famous Judge Samuel Sewell entered in his diary on.March 13, 1687-8: "I lodge at Sparks, Mr. Stoughton and Capt. Appleton came to see me." In 1692, during the famous "witch burnings" in Salem, an accused witch named Rachell Clentons was tried in a court held "at the house of Mr. John Sparks in Ipswich." The accused witch was finally acquited.

John Sparks "kept his famous hostelry for twenty years," according to historian Waters. "Judge Sewall on his circuits tasted its good cheer, and many a man of renown tarried about its wellspread board. Officers and soldiers were quartered here in time of danger from Indian raids." (Vol. 1. p. 345)

In 1686, John Sparks's license to keep an inn was broadened to give him liberty to "sell drink without doors". The rules under which an innkeeper operated in Puritan New England were strict. Waters quotes those to which Sparks agreed in 1686 when his license was renewed:

He shall not suffer any unlawful play or names, in said house, garden, orchard or elsewhere, especially by men servants or apprentices, comon laborers, Idle persons, or shall suffer any Town Inhabitants to be in said house drinking or tipling on the satterday night after the sunsett or on the Sabbath day, nor wittingly or willingly admit or receive... any person notoriously defamed of for theft, Incontinency or drunkenness... nor keep or lodge there any stranger person above the Space of one day and one night together, without notice thereof, first given to such Justice or Selectman as above said.

On May 1, 1691, John Sparks sold to Col. John Wainwright 1½ acres of his two acre tract, including the inn, the bake-house, and a barn. He retained half an acre and a small house in which to live during his retirement years. The Ipswich Court, records of March, 1693, contain the entry: "John Sparks, the Tavern keeper in Ipswich, having laid down his license and the house being come, as is said into the hands of Mr. John Wainwright, license is granted for keeping of a tavern there to any sober man whom Mr. Wainwright may secure."

How long after retiring as innkeeper John Sparks lived is not known, but on March 12, 1704-5, John Roper sold to Col. John Wainwright "a dwelling house... formerly in possession of Mr. John Sparks, now in possession of Mary, widow of John." Thus we know that John Sparks was dead by March 1701--5.

As noted in the preceding article, we know that John and Mary (Sinnet) Sparks had:

35.1 Elizabeth Sparks was born ca. 1666 and married Jacob Perkins in 1684.
35.2 John Sparks who apparently married Mary Roper, who was baptized August 22, 1641 and was a daughter of Walter Roper who moved from Hampton, New Hampshire to Ipswich before 1647. John Sparks died before 1712.
35.3 Mary Sparks was born ca. 1669 and married John Harris in 1687.
35.4 Margaret Sparks was born August 20, 1670.
35.5 Rose Sparks, born April 18, 1673, married Thomas Newman on June 1, 1692.
35.6 Sarah Sparks, born February 17, 1675-6, married John Newman on January 31, 1705-6.