Whole Number 102
by Russell E. Bidlack
Our knowledge of Samuel Sparks, whom we believe to have been the father of 17.2.X.1 Richard Sparks and 17.2.X.9 Absalom, on whom sketches appear in this issue of the Quarterly, is limited. Our earliest positive record of him is that of his purchase of 100 acres of land in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on June 3, 1786, from Thomas Roberson (or Robertson) and his wife Catherine. His parents were probably 17.2 Matthew and Elinor Sparks. In 1778, two Sparks families had moved from Maryland to Pittsylvania County, 17.1 Thomas Sparks with wife Elizabeth and 17.2 Matthew Sparks with wife Elinor; we know that Thomas and Elizabeth had a son named 17.1.Y Samuel who was born in St. Anne's Parish, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on July 29, 1749; we do not believe that Samuel came to Virginia nor do we believe that the Samuel Sparks who is the subject of this sketch was born quite as early as 1749. For these reasons, we believe that he was a son of Matthew and Elinor Sparks. (See the issues of the Quarterly for Sep 1955 and March 1956, Vol. III, No. 3, and Vol. IV, No. 1, Whole Numbers 11. and 13, pages 79-85 and 109-121, for a compilation of Sparks records from Pittsylvania County, Virginia.)
Samuel Sparks paid taxes on his 100 acres in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, from 1786 through 1788. He paid property taxes as a "white male over 21" in 1786 (2 horses and 4 cattle), 1788, and 1789. On Oct 30, 1788, he sold his 100 acres "on Reeds Spring Branch" to Thomas Norton; 17.2.X Samuel signed the deed by mark with his wife, Rachel Sparks. The witnesses were Samuel Harvey, Leonard Sparks, Matthew Sparks, and John Baggerly. (Book 8, p. 40l).
The last record of Samuel Sparks in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, found thus far, is a court record dated August 1789 when he was the defendant in a suit brought by John Jones for a debt of two pounds and eleven pence. (Book 6, p. 302)
It appears that 17.2.X Samuel Sparks, with his wife Rachel and their children, moved to Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in 1789 They were listed there on the 1790 census along with three other Sparks families, all probably closely related. The name next to that of Samuel was Matthew Sparks--they were probably living on adjoining farms. We believe that this Matthew Sparks was either a brother or cousin of Samuel; the elder 17.2 Matthew Sparks, whom we believe to have been Samuel's father, appears to have died in Pittsylvania County in 1786-87 because on the property tax list of 1787 Elinor Sparks is listed as head of her family. The two other heads of families named Sparks on the 1790 census of Spartanburg County were Josiah Sparks and Truelove Sparks.
Samuel Sparks's name appeared on the tax rolls of Goshen Creek, Spartanburg County, South Carolina, that are extant between 1794 and 1803. According to Leah Townsend's South Carolina Baptists, 1670-1805 (published in Florence, South Carolina, in 1935), page 130, Matthew Sparks and Samuel Sparks were sent as "messengers" from the Goucher Creek Church (earlier called Goshen) to the Association in 1800. In 1798, Matthew Sparks had been sent as a "messenger." This church is described as located "about 29 miles north-east of Fairforest" which was one of the oldest Baptist Churches of the area.
From the deeds describing the land owned by Samuel Sparks, as well as the location of his property in the tax lists, it is apparent that he lived barely over the line into Spartanburg County from Union County. In fact, he was probably the same Samuel Sparks who served on a jury in the Court of General Sessions for Union District in March 1801 when one Aaron Starnes was tried for assault of William Bishop and was fined one dollar.
It was also in 1800 that 17.2.X Samuel Sparks obtained two tracts of land as grants from the state of South Carolina. One tract was for 1,000 acres and the other for 558; the tracts adjoined each other and were located very near the point where the Spartanburg County line separates both Union County and what is now Cherokee County. Two roads passed through his land, one that was called the "Road to Smith's Ford" across Broad River flowing between Union County and York County (now a portion of Cherokee County). The other road was identified in the grant as "Road to Grindon's Shoals." This was actually "Grindal Shoals" on Pacolet River in Union County where a grist mill was located. The land was described as on "the head branches of Gilkey's Creek, People's Creek of Broad River & Skelton's Creek of Thickety." Gilkey's Creek and Thickety Creek flow from Spartanburg County through Union County, joining about a mile before flowing into Broad River. Owners of land adjoining Samuel Sparks's land were Jonathan Gilkey, Wright, Lampkin, Hickman, and Lipscomb.
Four deeds have been found among the records of Spartanburg County pertaining to Samuel Sparks. Two of these, both dated June 14, 1808 (Book L, pp. 114-16) pertain to his selling a portion of the land that had been granted to him by the state in 1800. He sold 600 acres for $500 to Isaac Hill and 417 acres for $300 to Thomas Hill. On neither of these deeds is Samuel Sparks's wife mentioned. The two Hills each served as a witness for the other; the other witness for both deeds was Lenah Sparks who signed by mark. This may have been intended for Leonard Sparks. (This Leonard Sparks was mentioned on page 1841 of the Quarterly in the article by Gerald H. Sparks entitled "Leonard Sparks (born ca. 1822, died 1865) of Union County, South Carolina, and Gwinnett County, Georgia" which appeared in the Sep 1976 Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, Whole No. 95.) Samuel Sparks signed both of these deeds by mark. How he disposed of the remainder of this land (541 acres) is not known.
Neither of the above mentioned deeds was recorded until August 20, 1808, on which same day a deed dated June 11, 1808, was recorded (Book L, pp. 16-17) by which Isaac Hill and his wife Betsy of Spartanburg County sold for $300 to Samuel Sparks a tract of 250 acres "being on the Waters of Pacolet River ... originally granted to John Hammet, Senr. The witnesses were Thomas Hill and Jno. H. Jones.
The only other deed found in Spartanburg County thus far pertaining to Samuel Sparks is dated December 30, 1809 (Book R, p, 141-142). In this deed, Rachel Sparks is identified as Samuel's wife and they sold for $200 to John Hammett the same 250 acres that Samuel Sparks had bought the year before from Isaac and Betsy Hill. Both Samuel and Rachel Sparks signed by mark. The witnesses were Bartholomew Stovall, Nehemiah Norton, and Benjamin Hammett.
When the 1790 census was taken of Spartanburg County, Samuel Sparks's family was enumerated as three males (probably sons) under 16 years of age, one male over 16 who was, of course, Samuel himself, and three females. Of the three females, we may assume that one was Samuel's wife, Rachel, while the other two were probably daughters.
According to the 1800 census of Spartanburg County, Samuel and his wife were both over 45 years of age, thus born before 1755. Two males were also enumerated who were probably Samuel's sons, one between 16 and 26 years of age and the other under 10; the latter had been born after the 1790 census was taken, or possibly in 1790. There were five females in the family besides Samuel's wife, one between 16 and 26, two between 10 and 16, and two under the age of 10.
Assuming that on both the 1790 and the 1800 census, those people living with Samuel and his wife were their children, it would seem that by 1800 Samuel and Rachel Sparks had four sons and five daughters. Three sons and three daughters were born before 1790, while one son and two daughters were born after 1790. We believe that one of the oldest sons was 17.2.X.1 Richard Sparks, subject of the sketch which follows. Whether the youngest in 1800 was Absalom Sparks (whom we know to have been a younger brother of Richard) or whether Absalom was born after 1800, we cannot be sure. It appears from the 1820 census that there was a son born after 1800. Since Rachel, wife of Samuel, was enumerated as being over 45 in 1800 and thus near the end of child-bearing age, this last son must have been born soon after 1800. From later census records, it would appear that 17.2.X.9 Absalom Sparks was born ca. 1801. We are not able, from research to date, to identify any of the other children of Samuel and Rachel Sparks.
Samuel Sparks does not appear on the 1810 census of Spartanburg County. The record of his sale of the 250 acres on December 30, 1809, that he had purchased the year before (he lost $100 in the deal), along with a church record that has been found, suggest that Samuel Sparks moved from Spartanburg County just before the 1810 census was taken. The earliest surviving records of the Goucher Creek Church are dated 1810. On Saturday, June 16, 1810, the following record was made: "In Conference, Samuel Sparks Rec'd his church letter of dismission." This kind of record was made when a church member was about to move away. Unfortunately, no mention was made in this entry regarding the church to which he was transferring--perhaps he did not know himself.
Where Samuel Sparks was in 1810 when the census was taken we do not know. Richard Sparks, whom we believe to have been his son, was in Rutherford County, North Carolina, in 1810. Rutherford County, North Carolina, and Spartanburg County, South Carolina, adjoin, so this was not a very long move. Richard had apparently married soon after 1800--he had three sons and one daughter by 1810, all under 10 years of age.
When the 1820 census was taken of Rutherford County, North Carolina, Samuel Sparks and Richard Sparks were listed one after the other, indicating that they lived very near each other. Like the 1810 census, that for 1820 gave no age enumeration beyond "over 45"; both Samuel and his wife were so enumerated. Living with them were two males (probably sons), one aged 16 to 26 (thus born between 1794 and 1804) and the other aged 16 to 18 (thus born 1802-1804). The instructions to the census takers in 1820 was to list the males aged 16 to 18 and who were able-bodied in this 16-18 category, but not to repeat them in the 16 to 26 category. Many census takers were confused regarding this, however, and sometimes enumerated the same individual twice. We believe that Absalom, born ca. 1801, was living with his parents in 1820. There was also one female enumerated, probably a daughter, aged 26 to 45 (thus born between 1775 and 1794) living with Samuel in 1820. His wife, Rachel, had apparently died by 1820. Samuel Sparks owned five slaves in 1820; Richard Sparks owned seven.
It is our assumption that Samuel Sparks died sometime between 1820 and 1830--he was at least 65 years old by 1820. We have found no record of his owning land in Rutherford County, nor has any record of the settlement of his estate been discovered.