June 25, 2019

Pages 1919-1924
Whole Number 99

THOMAS E. SPARKS (1819-1909)

Son of Addison and Mary (Watts) Sparks
Standing: Miranda Jane (Sparks) Greaver, Jacob Greaver
Martha C. (Sparks) Johnson, & Isabel (Sparks) Hull
With three daughters & a son-in-law

In this issue of the Quarterly appears a photograph of Thomas E. Sparks (1819 -1909), son of 46. Addison and Mary (Watts) Sparks, with three of his daughters and a son-in-law. A query pertaining to this family submitted by Mrs. Marylee Nurmi appeared in the Quarterly for December 1972 (Whole No. 80, p. 1534). Since that time, we have learned considerably more about Thomas E. Sparks, including his parentage. (Mrs. Nurmi furnished the photograph appearing on the cover.)

The parents of Thomas E. Sparks, 46. Addison Sparks and Mary (or Polly) Watts, were married in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in 1816. The bond that was provided for this marriage was dated August 19, 1816. We can assume that the marriage took place within a few days of the signing of this bond. Levi Watts served as bondsman and Mary's name is clearly recorded as Watts, although a descendant had thought her name was Watson.

Addison Sparks was born between 1790 and 1800, ca. 1795. His name appears for the first time in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, property tax records in 1817, the year following his marriage. This suggests that he married as a very young man.

An article on the Pittsylvania County Sparks family appeared in the QUARTERLIES for September 1955 (Whole No. 11, pp. 79-85) and March 1956 (Whole No. 13, pp. 109-121). This was based on an extensive search of Pittsylvania County records by William Perry Johnson. Mr. Johnson points out that three Sparks families came to Pittsylvania County in 1778 from Prince George's County, Maryland:

17.1 Thomas Sparks (born ca. 1711) with wife Elizabeth MNU, born ca. 1718;
17.2 Matthew Sparks, born ca. 1715 with wife Elinor MNU, born ca. 1731, and
17.1.2 Matthew Sparks, Jr.
, son of 17.1 Thomas Sparks, who had married Margery MNU in 1765.

It seems probable that Thomas Sparks and the elder Matthew Sparks were brothers, but we have found no proof of this. All three of these Sparks families sold their land in Prince George's County, Maryland, in 1777 and purchased land in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the following year. The land that they purchased was on the branches of Sandy River. Both Thomas and Matthew Sparks were in their 60's when they migrated from Maryland to Pittsylvania County; their reason for making such a move at that age must have been primarily to accompany their children. From the tax and land records of Pittsylvania County, it is apparent that a number of their children quickly established homes in the new land.

We believe that Addison Sparks was a grandson (possibly great-grandson) of either the original Matthew Sparks or Thomas Sparks; we have not been able to identify his father. Four other men named Sparks were taxed in Pittsylvania County in 1817:

Revd. Thomas Sparks, Matthew B. Sparks, Edmond Sparks, and
Thomas Sparks, Jr.

It may prove to be significant that in 1815 and 1816, Edmond Sparks was listed on the tax roll as having two white males over 16 in his household - - one would have been Edmond, himself, of course. In 1817, when Addison Sparks first appeared on the tax roll, Edmond Sparks was listed with only one white male over 16 (himself). From our knowledge of Edmond Sparks, however, it seems unlikely that he was old enough to have been the father of Addison Sparks. (We know that Edmond Sparks was bonded in Pittsylvania County on November 27, 1804 to Patsey Wright, married 1 or 2 days later. It may have been a second marriage. Sometime between 1820 and 1830, Edmond Sparks moved to Bedford County, Tennessee.)

In the early 1800's, "Addison" was an unusual name not only in the Sparks family but in most other southern families as well. It was, therefore, frequently misspelled. On the property tax list of 1818, Addison Sparks's name was written as "Anderson Sparks." On other occasions it was spelled "Anderson Sparks." On December 20, 1819, for example, Addison Sparks witnessed a deed (Book 23, p. 292) of George and Elizabeth Ward to Thomas Sparks - - here his name was recorded in the deed book as "Anderson Sparks."

The last record (Deed Book 26, p. 87) pertaining to Addison Sparks found in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, is dated May 10, 1823. This is a record of a sheriff's sale of 50 acres of land owned by "Anderson Sparks" to pay a debt of $106.79 which Sparks owed to Benjamin Watkins. The sheriff, whose name was Robert Walters, sold the land to Lemuel Norton. Lemuel Norton had married Elinor Sparks, daughter of 17.1 Thomas and Elizabeth Sparks, in 1820 (marriage bond dated January 18, 1820). We have found no deed that reveals how Addison Sparks came into possession of this 50 acre tract of land which was sold in 1823. Perhaps he had inherited it.

46. Addison Sparks was not listed as the head of a household on the 1820 census of Pittsylvania County, although he must have been living there at the time. He may have been overlooked by the census taker or he and his wife may have been living with a relative. The only other Sparks household with a. family enumeration that could have included Addison's family was that of Edmond Sparks (see page 114 of the March 1956 Quarterly).

Sometime prior to 1829, Addison Sparks moved to Parke County, Indiana. Whether this was a direct move from Pittsylvania County, Virginia, is not known. Unfortunately, a fire in the Parke County courthouse in 1832 destroyed the early land records there. A "Relief Book" was opened after the fire to permit residents again to register their deeds and one of the deeds recorded was that of "Adison Sparks" and his wife, Mary, dated September 28, 1829 (Relief Book p. 206). In this deed, Addison and Mary Sparks sold land located in Adams Township, Parke County, to John Gray. In the same Relief Book (p. 433) a deed appears by which Addison and Mary Sparks sold land located in Florida Township, Parke County to Robert Catlin on December 9, 1831. In this deed, his name is spelled "Aderson."

Addison Sparks was listed as head of a household in Parke County, Indiana, when the 1830 census was taken (see page 329 of the September 1958 Quarterly for this enumeration). He was still in Parke County when the 1840 census was taken (see page 1887 of the March 1977 issue of the Quarterly for this enumeration). From these two census listings and family records, it would appear that Addison and Mary (Watts) Sparks had at least eight children:

46.1 Daughter, born ca. 1817.
46.2 Thomas E. Sparks, born July 4, 1819.
46.3 Daughter, born ca. 1822.
46.4 Son, born ca. 1825.
46.5 Daughter, born ca. 1827.
46.6 Daughter, born ca. 1830.
46.7 Son, born ca. 1832.
46.8 Son, born ca. 1834.

At this time, we can be positive in the identification of only the eldest son, 46.2 Thomas E. Sparks. We have a list of the Sparks marriage records preserved in Parke County (see page 1924 of this issue of the Quarterly). It seems probable that some of these were children of Addison and Mary (Watts) Sparks.

Living very near 46. Addison Sparks when the 1830 and the 1840 censuses were taken of Parke County, Indiana, was Wesley Sparks whom we believe to have been closely related to Addison Sparks. Wesley Sparks, who was born ca. 1790, served in the War of 1812 from Harrison County, Indiana, and, in 1851 and 1855, he applied for bounty land on the basis of that service. An abstract of his application appeared in the September 1964 Quarterly (Whole No. 47, pp. 846-847). From this we know that he volunteered for service in Corydon, Harrison County, Indiana, on October 20, 1812, and served from October 20 to November 18, 1812, under the command of Captain Jacob Zenor of the 5th Indiana Regiment. He also served from March 12 to April 16, 1813, under Captain Hughes in the same regiment. When he made application for bounty land in 1851, as a resident of Parke County, Indiana, Wesley Sparks stated that he was 61 years old; when he applied for additional land in 1855, he gave his age as 65. He was still a resident of Parke County in 1860 at which time he was living with Daniel & Mary Overpeck; Mary may have been his daughter.

We know that there was a close relationship between this Wesley Sparks and 49. Baxter Sparks and Tillotson Sparks. A lengthy article on Baxter Sparks appeared in the Quarterly of March 1972 (Whole No. 77, pp. 1466 -1474). Baxter Sparks was born in Pittsylvania County on May 8, 1777, and married Elizabeth Gwin there on September 20, 1806. In the Quarterly of June 1976 (Whole No. 94, p. 1828) we reported that a descendant of Baxter Sparks has a letter written many years ago by another descendant of Barer stating that Baxter's father had been one Thomas Sparks of Virginia and that the wife of this Thomas Sparks had the maiden name of Sanders. Her first name, however, is not mentioned.

At about the time of his marriage, Baxter Sparks moved west to Harrison County, Indiana, where he remained until 1836 when he moved to Macoupin County, Illinois, and died there on September 7, 1840. He had ten children:

49.1 Mary L. Sparks,
49.2 Thomas P. Sparks,
49.3 John G. Sparks,
49.4 Mathew N. Sparks,
49.5 Wesley H. Sparks,
49.6 George T. Sparks,
49.7 Edmond Baxter Sparks,
49.8 David R. Sparks,
49.9 Harvey A. Sparks, and
49.10 William Andrew Sparks

Tillotson Sparks (also spelled Tillison, etc.), who was taxed in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, as early as 1812, appears to have followed Baxter Sparks to Indiana in 1813 or 1814. He was a member of a grand jury in Harrison County in November 1815. Tillotson Sparks sold land in Harrison County and Floyd County, Indiana, to John Wesley Nance on March 6, 1821. (Harrison County Deed Book C, p. 441 and Floyd County Deed Book called "Clark Grants" p. 528.) Tillotson Sparks died in 1828 and Baxter Sparks was appointed to administer his estate in Floyd County on July 2, 1828 (Floyd County, Indiana, Will Book A), with David Gunn and Richard Watson as sureties for Baxter Sparks's bond of 500. (A David Gunn married Eleanor Sparks in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in 1800--marriage bond dated December 22, 1800.)

A court order dated October 15, 1833, in Floyd County, Indiana, identifies the children of Tillotson Sparks as David Sparks, Elizabeth Sparks, James Sparks, Oswell Sparks, and William Sparks (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)

Addison Sparks, Baxter Sparks, Wesley Sparks, and Tillotson Sparks were all born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, between 1777 and 1795. All four went west from Virginia to Indiana. They were probably closely related; perhaps they were brothers.

The only child of 46. Addison and Mary (Watts) Sparks that we have identified positively is 46.2 Thomas E. Sparks, who was born in Augusta County, Virginia, on July 4, 1819; he died August 8, 1909, in Custer, Oklahoma. He was married in Parke County, Indiana, on July 18, 1839, to Catherine Melton. She was born July 20, 1821, in Kentucky and died on January 13, 1892, in Smith County, Kansas. She was a daughter of Joseph Melton. It is known that her mother's maiden name was Walters. Thomas E. and Catherine (Melton) Sparks moved a number of times - - in 1860 they were living in Clark County, Illinois. When the 1880 census was taken, they were in Houston Township, Smith County, Kansas. Both Thomas E. Sparks and his wife, Catherine, are buried in Crystal Plains Cemetery in Smith County, Kansas (his body was brought there for burial although he had died in Oklahoma).

46.2 Thomas E. and Catherine (Melton) Sparks were the parents of eight children. Through family records, correspondence, and census records, Mrs. Nurmi, who has provided the photograph of Thomas E. Sparks appearing on the cover, has identified these eight children as follows:

46.2.1 Miranda Jane Sparks, daughter of Thomas E. and Catherine (Melton) Sparks, was born in Parke County, Indiana, on November 19, 1841, and died on February 8, 1913. She was married on May 1, 1859, to Jacob Greaver (or Griever). He was born May 23, 1836, near Canton, Scott County, Virginia, and died on October 16, 1920, in Smith County, Kansas. Their children were: Edwin (or Edward) Riley Greaver, born February 10, 1860, in either Edgar or Clark County, IL., died May 30, 1952; he married Mary Angeline Lerew on January 6, 1885. Mary Ellen Greaver, born March 18, 1863, died November 19, 1905, in Lenora, Dewey County, Oklahoma.; she married Joseph Marshall McCasland in Gaylord, Smith County, Kansas. Thomas Greaver married Mrs. Bell Lohmiller in 1908. Elmer Greaver. Emory Greaver, married Lou Weeks. Alveda Greaver, never married.

46.2.2 Mary K. Sparks was born in 1845 in Indiana. She married Isaac Johnson in 1865 or 1866 and died before 1944. When the 1880 census of Smith County, Kansas, was taken, they were listed with children named Dovie Johnson, age 13, born 1867; Katie Johnson, age 9, born 1871; Ipha Johnson, age 8, born 1872; and Jordan E. Johnson, age 3, born 1877.

46.2.3 Elizabeth E. Sparks was born in 1847 in Indiana; she married Robert W. Howard on May 8, 1870. She died before 1944. 

46.2.4 William Francis Sparks was born September 1849 in Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana. He died on September 1, 1901. He married Arvilla Roxiean Fuller on September 1, 1872. When the 1880 census of Smith County, Kansas, was taken, they had a daughter named Alice Sparks, age 3 - born 1877, and a son named Levi Sparks, age 1 year, born 1879.

46.2.5 George W. Sparks was born in 1852 in Indiana and died prior to 1944.

46.2.6 Martha C. Sparks was born January 10, 1855, in Clark County, IL., and died on January 16, 1944. She married Jordon Johnson.

46.2.7 Isabel Sparks was born in 1857 in Clark County, IL. She married William Hull and died between 1920 and 1944.

46.2.8 Lucinda Sparks was born October 25, 1859, in Clark County, IL., and died in 1938. She married Charles Henry Hart on July 4, 1879. Both are buried in Topeka, Kansas. Three of their children were: Ethel Clair Hart, born June 5, 1884; Elsie Gertrude Hart, born August 29, 1881, died August 23, 1951; and Thella May Hart, born ca. 1886, died 1917.