May 5, 2020

Pages 2548-2553
Whole Number 123


by Flossie M. Welsch

(Editor's Note: A number of years ago, Mrs. Flossie M. Welsch of Florence, Colorado, wrote a history of her branch of the Sparks family, a copy of which was sent to the Association by her brother, H. Erwyn Sparks. It is a lengthy document, filled with interesting detail. We have not felt that we could publish it in full in the Quarterly, but we do want to share a portion of it with our readers. We plan to present a portion of the manuscript in installments over more than one issue. Mrs. Welsch's personal style, along with her memories of most of the individuals about whom she has written, will be retained. We shall not attempt to number the generations as we usually do for the Quarterly - - we shall simply let Mrs. Welsch tell her story in her own words.

It should be pointed out that Frederick Bryant Sparks (born 1833, died 1919) was a son of David Sparks who was born ca. 1807 in Rowan County, North Carolina. David Sparks married Mary B. MNU and is known to have had six children; he was a son of William Sparks and a grandson of Jonas Sparks. An article on Jonas Sparks and many of his descendants appeared in the Quarterly of March 1964, Whole No. 45, pages 790-807. The will of William Sparks, father of David Sparks, appears there (pages 797-99) along with other biographical data. Our knowledge of David Sparks (born ca. 1807), father of Frederick Bryant Sparks, remains limited. On page 801 of the Quarterly, we presented the limited information that we have regarding David, including a reference to his son, Frederick Bryant Sparks. Now, thanks to Mrs. Welsch, we are able to provide much more regarding this one son, but we still know little regarding his brothers and sisters. We know that they were all born in Oldham County, Kentucky. Frederick's oldest brother, William C. Sparks, was born February 1, 1829, and died September 2, 1852--we do not believe he ever married. Another brother was named John F. Sparks (he may have been called "Frank") and he was born ca. 1843--we do not know what became of him. Still another brother was A. M. Sparks, born ca. 1846; he appears to have been called "Mitchell Sparks," and he married Maggie Ragsdale in Oldham County, Kentucky, on December 24, 1868. Frederick Bryant Sparks also had two sisters, Lucy Sparks who was born ca. 1834 and Elizabeth Sparks who was born ca. 1838. Should any reader have knowledge of any of these children of David and Mary B. Sparks, we would be delighted to have and to publish such information.)

with his wife
(Picture) Frederick Bryant Sparks was born February 4, 1833, in Oldham County, Kentucky; he was a son of David C. and Mary B. Sparks. He married Mary Elizabeth (Speer) Ashby on August 16, 1855, in Oldham County, Kentucky. She had been born on May 20, 1834, and was a daughter of Dr. John Grove Speer, M.D. Her birthplace was Decatur, Illinois. Frederick Bryant and Mary Elizabeth Sparks lived in Oldham County for awhile following their marriage, then moved to Daviess County and lived on the farm with Mary Elizabeth's father for a year or more. They then moved to Masonville, then back to Oldham County, Kentucky, where Frederick took charge of his Uncle Hampton Sparks's farm. Sometime after this, he went to Baxter Springs, Missouri, but not liking it there, the family moved to Moultrie County, Illinois, then to Kansas. He was a good farmer, worked faithfully, and knew how to carry on that business.

The names and birthdates of the children of Frederick B. and Mary E. (Speer) Sparks were as follows: Ida B. Sparks, born February 25, 1857, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Eugene L. Sparks, born August 26, 1859, in Daviess County, Kentucky. David Grove Sparks, born August 2, 1861, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Lucilla M. Sparks, born August 26, 1862, in Oldham County, Kentucky. William Hampton Sparks, born March 26, 1864, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Alberta C. Sparks, born March 26, 1866, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Henry M. Sparks, born August 18, 1868, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Bettie Ann Sparks, born April 5, 1870, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Rose Belle Sparks, born March 4, 1872, in Oldham County, Kentucky. Leonie F. Sparks, born November 26, 1875, in Moultrie County, Illinois.

Mary Elizabeth Speer Ashby Sparks, wife of Frederick Bryant Sparks, was a daughter of Dr. John Grove Speer, M.D., and Sarah Eddings Snyder Speer. Dr. Speer wrote a book published in 1900 by the Blue Grass Printing Company entitled The Speer Book which contains information on his daughter, Mary Elizabeth.

Mary Elizabeth Speer was married first to Richard L. Ashby who was born December 14, 1831, and died July 6, 1854. One daughter was born to them on July 4, 1853, named Sarah Jane. On December 22, 1875, this Sarah Jane Ashby married Jessie Daniel Oglesby who was born January 11, 1855, and was a son of John A. and Lucy A. Oglesby. According to my records, Sarah Jane lived to be past 85 years of age and died in 1938 or 1939. Her husband had died earlier. Both are buried in Ballardsville, Kentucky.

Mary Elizabeth (Speer) Sparks died December 16, 1904, at Coffeyville, Kansas. Frederick Bryant Sparks died February 26, 1919, at the home of his daughter, Ida White, in Kansas City, Missouri. Both were buried in Fairview Cemetery, Coffeyville, Kansas. Ida B. Sparks, oldest daughter of Frederick B. and Mary E. Sparks, was born on February 25, 1857, in Oldham County, Kentucky. She married Lewis A. B. White, who was born April 7, 1858, in Lovington, Illinois, on February 10, 1878. Soon thereafter they moved to Edwards County, Kansas, where he located a homestead. They accumulated considerable property and built a nice home. He had been born in Illinois. He was a farmer and stock trader and was an active man. From the farm, they moved to Kinsley, Kansas, the county seat, in order to give their children a better education. From there they moved to Butler County where they lived for several years.

I do not remember Uncle Lou, as we all called him; if I ever saw him at all, I must have been very young. But I do remember Aunt Ida. She was slender built, and I know she kept house for her son, Earl, when he was farming down at Elkart, Kansas. Aunt Ida lived to be 99 years and 6 months of age. She died at her home in Kansas City, Missouri, in August 1956. She was buried in Mt. Washington Cemetery, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The children of Lewis A. B. and Ida B. (Sparks) White were: Mary Edna White, born December 18, 1878, in Edwards County, Kansas, died December 25, 1942. She married Thomas Edward Maxwell on December 24, 1902, in Eldorado, Kansas. He was born January 9, 1882, in Audrain County Missouri, and died December 18, 1958. They had two children, Lucile Violet Maxwell and Daisy Darlene Maxwell. Dollie White, born August 17, 1880, and died May 21, 1881. Clara Pearl White, born April 10, 1882. She married Robert Nuess; they had no children. She died in 1935 Jesse Vivian White, born November 8, 1884, died 1923 from burns suffered when gasoline ignited while she was cleaning clothes. She married Jasper Fiske and they lived near Trousdale, Kansas. They had three children: a boy who died in infancy; Elvaree Fiske; and Lorraine Fiske. Lewis Raymond White, born January 24, 1888, died April 26, 1888. Everett Earl White (he was called Earl), born October 2, 1890, died September 3, 1969, He married Myrtle B. Ford on May 25, 1932. Eugene L. Sparks was born on August 26, 1859, in Oldham County, Kentucky. He was married once to a woman named Kate -----, I never knew her maiden name. They had one or two children - - I do not know their names, nor their birth dates. I heard once that they were living somewhere in Nebraska. Eugene L. Sparks lived several years at Coldwater, Kansas, then moved to Hopewell, Kansas, where he made his home with his sister, Rose Anderson, for awhile, then with his brother, David Grove Sparks and his family. I always believed he was a bachelor at heart, because he always liked to live alone, and the time came when he was alone. He died in Kinsley, Kansas, between 1947 and 1950. He is buried in the Hillside Cemetery at Kinsley. David Grove Sparks was born August 2, 1861, in Oldham County, Kentucky; he died in 1951. On October 13, 1898, he was married in Kinsley, Kansas, to Rosa Adell (Minton) Mathes, who was born September 18, 1873, in Russell County, Kansas. She was a daughter of Mahlon Homer and Climena Jennet (Tripp) Minton. To this union were born seven children: Elizabeth Sparks, born February 23, 1900, died the same day. Nina Leona Sparks, born September 12, 1901. Maudie Elizabeth Sparks, born August 12, 1902, died October 30, 1904. Frederick Mahlon Sparks, born January 4, 1904. Flossie Marie Sparks, born August 23, 1905, author of this article. Lola Lorena Sparks, born August 26, 1908. Henry Erwyn Sparks, born May 9, 1911.

My father, DAVID GROVE SPARKS, was a house-mover by trade. He built his own trucks that he used, also the wheels to move the houses on long timbers that were placed on the trucks for the houses to rest on, so they could be moved from town to town. Sometimes he would be away from home several days at a time. They used horses in those days to pull the trucks. Sometimes it would be pretty slow work, but my father always finished what he started, and he was very particular in all of his dealings. He was never one to slight his work. He loved to play his violin every night before he went to bed. I remember very well one piece that he played--it was called "Bonaparte's Retreat," he could play both parts on his violin by himself. He played such pieces as "Turkey in the Straw," "The Devil's Dream," "My Darling Clemintine," "Under the Double Eagle," "Comin' Thru the Rye," "Old Black Joe," and "Home Sweet Home." He also played for dances in his younger days, and the old fashioned square dances. He played by ear, and he seemed to know every song by heart. I can almost see him in my mind's eye, sitting in his rocking chair, playing his violin, the songs he knew so well. He still had his violin when he died in 1951.

David G. Sparks also raised horses - - he had a mare that we called Daisy, and she raised some very fine colts. There was one called Babe, others were called Dixie, Bettie, Jack, and others that I do not remember. There was an incident that I will never forget. We were living at my Grandfather Minton's house (my mother's father, whose name was Mahlon Homer Minton). I believe the year was between 1914 and 1918. My Grandfather Minton's place was located at Kinsley, Kansas, where the old swimming pool is now, in the north end of town across from the railroad tracks. In 1916 it was a pasture, where we pastured our horses, and at the north-west corner there stood a red barn where my father sometimes kept his horses. One day when we older children were in school, the fire whistle blew. Naturally, we left our desks to look out of the window and we could see the fire from the school house window. When school was out, I ran all the way home. Sure enough, the red barn was on fire, and in that barn were two of our horses tied to the mangers. My mother went into that burning barn and untied those horses and led them out to safety while all around outside the neighbors kept telling her she would be burned alive. My mother was a brave woman--she loved horses. She always said she liked to ride fast horses - - the faster the better.

My Grandfather Minton's house had two stories - - there were three bedrooms upstairs where we all slept and downstairs there was another bedroom, a sitting room and a large kitchen; there were also two front rooms. There was a porch that ran from the east side of the kitchen door, clear around to the west side of the house. There was also a porch upstairs, about the same distance as the one downstairs, but it had a banister around it so we could not fall off. The house was painted a light yellow, and the barn was painted gray--the one that was destroyed by fire was painted red.

The large kitchen had three doors leading outside, one was in the east, one in the north, and one in the south. It was in the kitchen that we ate our meals - - the same kitchen in which my grandmother had served meals to her boarders. It had a large Majestic coal range stove that my mother cooked all of our meals on. There was a large cabinet and a smaller cabinet that held our supplies, dishes, etc. It had a sink cabinet that had a pump when we had to pump our water. We had to heat our water to wash dishes and wash our clothes. In other words, the house was not modern. But I loved that old house, to me it was home. I wish to insert here that I have a picture of the old home place before the kitchen was built on. There was a cellar under the house with the stairs leading down to it from the kitchen; it was located in the southwest corner of the kitchen, and that was where my mother stored all of her fruits and vegetables that she canned for the winter months ahead, and she used to do a lot of canning in those days. In the sand-hills there were a lot of wild plums that a lot of people would gather and can, also to make wild plum jelly and plum butter. When it was time to go pick plums in the late summer, the expression used was "we are going plumming," and "a plumming" we would go.

I remember one particular Sunday. My mother packed a picnic lunch, my father hitched up the team of horses to the wagon, and my older brother, my younger brother and sister, and myself all piled into the wagon, along with the baskets and buckets that we would put the plums in. I thought the older children had brought the lunch along, and I thought my mother had it; anyway, none of us thought about it, we all were too excited. We got to the sand-hills and we picked quite a few plums. About noon, we all brought our buckets to the wagon to empty the plums into the baskets, so we decided to eat lunch and pick some more plums, but to and behold, there was no lunch - - no one had thought to bring it. Well, we picked our plums anyway and filled our baskets, then headed home. On reaching home, the first thing we saw on the table was our lunch--so we ate our lunch at home. I never forgot that Sunday - - I was about 12 years old at that time. My older sister had stayed home, she did not care to pick plums.

It was in the sitting room that we all gathered in the evening after supper. It was not a large room, I would guess it was about 10 by 12 feet, or something like that. In the north-east corner stood a dresser with a mirror; in the north-west corner stood an organ where my older sister would play a chord while my father would play his violin. In the south-east corner of the room stood a china cabinet where my mother kept her best china and in the southwest corner stood a small stove that we used in the winter time. My mother's sewing machine stood between the dresser and the organ, and you can be very sure that we children were not allowed to play around my mother's machine. My mother bought her sewing machine in 1911 and she made all of our clothes with it. It was a Singer and was still like new when she died October 8, 1946.

On the west side of the sitting room was another door leading to the upstairs bedrooms; beyond this door, downstairs, was a back bedroom where one night my cousin, Clarence Sparks, who was visiting us, was sleeping. During the night, while we were all asleep, someone stole into the kitchen and helped himself to our coffee, bacon, bread, eggs, tobacco, and several other things. The next morning, when we got up, several things were lying on the floor--the thief had not bothered to put them back. Clarence never heard a noise that night, and the thief got away. We did not have any coffee for breakfast that morning, either.

There were pear trees and a hedge of currant and gooseberries. We made currant jelly and canned the gooseberries to make pies in the winter time. I remember, too, that there was a cave where we stored out potatoes, etc. It was also used for a storm cellar when any bad storm headed our way, and we had plenty.

I remember another incident that happened while we lived in my Grandfather Minton's house. One of my school-mates (her name was Sarah) came over to play one day, and she said she would like to ride our mare, Daisy. Well, we thought it would be all right, but there was one thing we did not consider, and that was Daisy's colt which was in the far corner of the pasture. But Sarah got on Daisy and was riding along pretty peaceful when all at once the colt gave out a scream of terror. Daisy heard her cold and whirled around and galloped off at full speed to the rescue of her colt, with Sarah still on her back, hanging on for dear life. She was bouncing up and down, with her pig-tails flying. The neighbor's stallion had gotten into the pasture and was trying to kill the colt. Daisy got there in time, ran the stallion off, and saved her colt. Sarah never forgot that wild ride, nor did I. The stallion was a very mean horse and was responsible for the death of the neighbor's young brother. I think the horse was destroyed afterwards.

Having mentioned my half-brother, Oscar E. Mathes, I wish to say something about him. His father was Elbert W. Mathes and was my mother's first husband. Oscar was born March 13, 1896, in Haviland, Kiowa County, Kansas; he died on October 12, 1933, in Kinsley, Kansas, when he was 37 years old. Oscar made his home part of the time with his mother and part of the time with Grandfather Minton. When a young man, he worked at the Electric Light Plant in Kinsley during the day, and at night he would work as chief operator at the local theater. He worked many hours with little rest. In his spare time, he worked on motorcycles in his shop, sometimes with the door closed. In time the fumes affected his lungs, and he developed T.B. of the bones as well as the lungs. He was paralyzed in the last three years of his life. My mother took care of him, and so did I. He died at my mother's home on October 12, 1933. He never complained about anything, and always had a smile for everyone. He never married. He was buried at the foot of the grave of Grandfather Minton in Hillside Cemetery in Kinsley, Kansas.

(Editor's Note: this account of the family of Frederick Bryant and Mary E. (Speer) Sparks by Flossie M. Welsch will be continued in a future issue of the Quarterly.)