April 18, 2021

Pages 2269-2272
Whole Number 113


by Paul E. Sparks

(Editor's Note: This article deals with one of the most common and difficult genealogical problems, namely, that of making the correct identification of persons who have the same name and who were born at about the same time and near the same place. Our readers should refer to the following issues of the Quarterly:

the December 1955, Whole No. 12;
the June 1959, Whole No. 26;
the December 1963, Whole No. 44 and
the December 1970, Whole No. 72.)

For several years, the author of this article has struggled with the problem of determining the number and names of the children of his 3rd-great-grandparents, John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks, of Wilkes County, North Carolina. At the time the first article about this family was published in the Quarterly, it was believed that John and Sarah had twelve children, ten sons and two daughters.(See page 100 of the December 1955, Whole No. 12, issue.) Since that time, however, census data have shown that they had only eleven children, eight sons and three daughters. (It should be remembered that the census records prior to 1880 did not show relationships among members of households, and prior to the census of 1850 only the head of each household was actually named, the other members being simply enumerated by age categories. It is assumed, however, in the following references to John Sparks appearance on census records that the children enumerated in his household were, indeed, his own children.)

John Sparks appeared on the North Carolina state census which was taken of Wilkes County, 1784 -1787, with his wife and their three sons and one daughter. On the federal census of 1790 of Wilkes County, another son and another daughter had been added, making a total of four sons and two daughters, all born between 1774 and 1790. When the 1800 census was taken, three additional sons and one additional daughter were enumerated, all born between 1790 and 1800. Another son was born between 1800 and 1810 and was listed on the 1810 census. From these data, it seems quite apparent that John and Sarah had eleven children.

The twelve children of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks, as listed on page 100 of the December 1955, Whole No. 12 issue of the Quarterly, were: Levi Sparks, Mary Sparks, William Sparks
(?), Joel Sparks Robert Sparks (?), Jonathan Sparks (?) (was a nephew,, not Solomon Sparks (?), married (first) Charity MNU and (second) Judah MNU. [Webmaster Note: this is a different Charity MNU than married Solomon Sparks, ca. 1811]. Sarah Sparks, John Sparks Jr., George Sparks, Reuben Sparks, and Colby Sparks.

Four of these were questionable: William, Robert, Jonathan, and Solomon. Since that time, however, it has been determined that there was no son named William Sparks; that Jonathan Sparks was a nephew, not a son; that Solomon Sparks was a son, but was incorrectly identified; and that there was one unidentified daughter. The identification of the rest as shown on page 100 appears to be correct.

Here is what we have found about the four children who were incorrectly listed:

1. William Sparks. According to a descendant, there was a tradition that John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks had a son by this name. We have found no supporting evidence.

2. Jonathan Sparks. About 1821, a fairly large group of families left the Surry-Wilkes Counties area of North Carolina and moved to Lawrence County, Kentucky. Among these were the families of: George Sparks, Levi Sparks,
Jesse Sparks,
Jonathan Sparks, and
Thomas Sparks. George Sparks and Levi Sparks were brothers, sons of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks, and the other Sparkses were cousins of varying degrees of George and Levi.

On August 21, 1826, Jonathan Sparks appeared before the Lawrence County Clerk and gave a power-of-attorney to his brother, George Sparks, to act for him (Jonathan) in Surry County, North Carolina. For obvious reasons, I have assumed through the years that the George Sparks referred to in the Power-of-Attorney document was the George Sparks who was my 2nd-great-grandfather,and thus I have spent many hours fruitlessly attempting to reconcile my thinking with the census data which we had found for John and Sarah. I am now convinced that the George Sparks who was a brother of Jonathan Sparks was not my 2nd-great-grandfather. I am further convinced that the power-of-attorney given by Jonathan Sparks was carried to Surry County and was there given to his brother, George Sparks. George Sparks then used the document in settling the estate of his parents, Solomon and Charity Sparks. (Further details of the settlement of their estate can be found on page 385 of the June 1959 issue of the Quarterly.) Jonathan Sparks, son of Solomon and Charity Sparks, was born ca. 1797 in Wilkes County. He married Elizabeth Chappel, ca. 1818. She had witnessed the will of Jonathan's father, Solomon Sparks, and had proved the will before the February 1818 term of the Wilkes County Court. When the 1820 census was taken of Wilkes County, Jonathan and Elizabeth had one child, a son.

As stated above, ca. 1821 Jonathan moved to Lawrence County, Kentucky, where he bought land on Big Blaine Creek in August 1822 and again in 1826. He sold this land on August 15, 1828, and returned to Wilkes County. There, on May 6, 1829, he and his brother, Joseph Sparks, acted as security for their brother, Samuel Sparks, who was administering the estate of their parents.

Jonathan Sparks did not appear on the 1830 census of Wilkes County, nor have we found him on any other 1830 census record. by 1836, according to a descendant, he had moved to Tazewell County, Virginia, where he died in 1846. He left five children, three sons and two daughters.

( Jonathan Sparks, son of Solomon and Charity Sparks, should not be confused with his cousin, Jonathan Sparks, who was probably a son of Joseph Sparks.) Joseph Sparks was a son of Solomon John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks who had moved from Frederick County, Maryland, ca. 1755-1760 and who had finally settled in Surry County, North Carolina. Jonathan Sparks, son of Joseph, was born ca. 1792 in Surry County and it was there that he married Rachel Swaim on November 26, 1817. When the 1820 census was taken of that county, they had three children, two sons and one daughter.

Jonathan Sparks, probable son of Joseph, paid taxes on 220 acres of land on Beaverdam Creek in Surry County from 1815 to 1822, but by 1830 he was in Jackson County, Alabama. Four more children had now been born to Jonathan and Rachel, two sons and two daughters. Sometime between 1830 and 1840, Jonathan moved to Franklin County, Tennessee, where he appeared on the 1840 and 1850 censuses. From census records, it appears that he and Rachel had twelve children, six sons and six daughters. For further details about this family, see pages 1355-360 of the December 1970, Whole No. 72, issue of the Quarterly.) Solomon Sparks. A brief account of the first Solomon Sparks who was in this area of North Carolina was given on pages 97-98 of the December 1955 issue of the Quarterly and will not be repeated here. Suffice it for me to state that Solomon Sparks (born ca. 1720 and died ca. 1790) had five sons as proven by a power-of-attorney in 1801, and there may have been others, including a son named James Sparks. Each of these sons named a son "Solomon,"and we have found records of five Solomon Sparkses who were born between 1788 and 1792 in this area of North Carolina.

The preceding paragraph was written to point up the problem which must be faced when we try to give the correct identification to one of these Solomon Sparkses. In spite of this difficulty, however, I am now convinced that the Solomon Sparks who was a son of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks was the one who appeared on pages 780 -781 of the December 1963 issue of the Quarterly. He was born ca. 1790 (he was 60 years old on the 1850 census) and he was probably married ca. 1811. When the 1820 census was taken of Wilkes County, he was listed with his wife and five children, all born between 1810 and 1820. by 1850, he was in Cherokee County, North Carolina (age 60) with wife, Julia or Judah (age 44) and son, Joel (age 22). Living nearby was Samuel P. Sparks (age 29) and family.

Sometime between 1850 and 1860, Solomon Sparks moved to Carter County, Kentucky, probably to be near his numerous relatives in that area, including his brothers, George and Levi. He stayed there about three years, but returned to his former home near Warne, North Carolina. He apparently died sometime near 1860, and his widow, Judah, went to live with her son, Joel Sparks, who had married ca. 1853. Joel moved to Ohio ca. 1865 and when the 1870 census was taken, he and his family were living near Goshen in Clermont County. With him was his mother, Juda A. Sparks, now aged 66. by 1880, Joel was in Elliott County, Kentucky, and with him was his mother,now aged 76. Joel and Mary Jane (Grow) Sparks did not remain long in Elliott County, and shortly after the 1880 census was taken they returned to Cherokee County, North Carolina. Perhaps the strongest reason for their leaving Elliott County was the murder of their son, Solomon Sparks, in 1879. Solomon was a young man about 24 years old at the time. As described by a member of the Sparks Family Association, here is how the tragic incident occurred:

"The killing of Solomon Sparks took place ca. 1879. Joel Sparks, who married Mary Jane Grow, had a son, Solomon, born ca. 1855. He was stabbed and killed at a dance on the Little Fork of the Little Sandy River by one of the Porter boys. The two Porters had chosen their man to kill. One was to kill Sol Sparks; the other was to kill Elliott Sparks, son of William Sparks. All lights were suddenly extinguished; Sol Sparks was killed instantly, and Elliott Sparks was injured so badly that he lived only a short time afterwards. After the murder, Joel Sparks moved his family back to Cherokee County, North Carolina."

Elliott Sparks, mentioned in this account, was James Milton Elliott Sparks, son of William and Mary "Polly" (Lyon) Sparks, and grandson of Robert and Margaret (Pigg) Sparks. He was born ca. 1851 in Lawrence County, Kentucky. He married twice. His first marriage was to Mary Margaret Johnson on April 29, 1871, in Elliott County, Kentucky. They had one child, a son, William Franklin Sparks. Elliott (as he was called) married (second) Nancy Ison, ca. 1879. She was born August 14, 1850, and was a daughter of Martin and Nancy (Sparks) Ison, thus she and Elliott were first cousins.

After receiving the knife wound, Elliott Sparks lingered until the spring of 1881 before he died. When he died, his wife, Nancy, was pregnant with their first child. The child was born September 25, 1881, and was named Doctor Martin Sparks. (See page 101 of the December 1955 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 12.)

4. An unidentified daughter of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks was born between 1790 and 1794.

The late William Perry Johnson, who was the Historian-Genealogist for the Sparks Family Association for 27 years, and I exchanged several notes about the size of the family of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks. We were in agreement that, according to census records, this couple had eleven children. We could identify all of these except the one daughter. Here are these children. Further details may be found regarding them in the December 1955 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 12. Levi Sparks, born October 2, 1778, died October 12, 1851; married (first) FNU Walsh; married (second) Sarah Lyon; appeared on the following censuses: 1810 and 1820 of Wilkes County, North Carolina; 1830, 1840, and 1850 of Lawrence County, Kentucky. Robert Sparks, born ca. 1782, died ca. 1815; married Margaret Pigg ca. 1804. Mary Sparks, probably born ca. 1782, probably died ca. 1855; married Robert Bauguess, ca. 1801. Joel Sparks, probably born ca. 1784; died December 1849; married Nancy Blackburn on July 27, 1814; appeared on the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. John Sparks, Jr., probably born ca. 1785, probably died ca. 1865; married Mary Fields, ca. 1815; appeared on the 1820,1830, 1840, and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Daughter Sparks of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks was born ca. 1787. Solomon Sparks, born ca. 1790; probably died ca. 1860; married (first) Unknown or Charity, ca. 1811; married (second) Judah or Julia A. MNU ca. 1824. Appeared on the 1820 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, and the 1850 census of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Sarah Sparks, born ca. 1792; died after 1860; married William Alexander on March 18, 1820; appeared on the 1850 and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County,North Carolina. George Sparks, born November 9, 1796, died May 11, 1879; married (first) FNU Mainer or Maynard, ca. 1815; married (second) Nancy Short on August 6, 1822; appeared on the 1830 and 1850 censuses of Lawrence County, Kentucky, and on the 1860 census of Carter County, Kentucky. Reuben Sparks, born September 26, 1799, died March 9, 1878; married Phoebe Blackburn on October 10, 1828; appeared on the 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860,and 1870 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Colby Sparks, born ca. 1801, died 1869; married Sarah Pruitt on December 28, 1822; appeared on the 1830, 184o, 1850, and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina.