September 17, 2017

Pages 3371-3376
Whole Number 145

WARREN POWELL SPARKS, M.D., 1856-1881

by Robert K. Sparks, Sr.



PORTRAITS OF DR. WARREN POWELL SPARKS
AND SARAH (LANG) SPARKS
Because a photograph of Dr. Sparks survives showing him in exactly the same pose as in the portrait, it is believed that, while the artist painted Sarah from real life, the painting of Dr. Sparks was done after his death and was based on the photograph.)

(Picture) (Picture)

[Editor's Note: Robert K. Sparks, Sr. , author of this article, is a grandson of Dr. Warren Powell Sparks (1856-1881). Warren Powell Sparks was a great-great-grandson of Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks, about whom an article appeared in the Quarterly of December 1960 (Vol. VIII, Whole No. 32.) 21.1.5 Henry Sparks, nicknamed "Harry," was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, on January 16, 1753. A record of his ancestry appeared in the Quarterly of June 1956 (Vol. IV, Whole No. 14) in an article entitled "The Sparks Family of Orange, Culpeper, and Madison Counties, Virginia." Henry Sparks served in the American Revolution and was a member of the Commander-in-Chief's Guard, the military unit which had been organized to pages the life of General George Washington. Henry Sparks joined this unit on May 6, 1777, as one of 47 privates; he was promoted to 3rd corporal a month later. Completing his two-year enlistment on February 2, 1778, he was discharged at Valley Forge. Returning home, he soon enlisted for six additional months, this time in a company commanded by his father-in-law, Captain James Clark. Henry Sparks and Lucy Clark, daughter of James and Mary (Marston) Clark, had been married in January 1776. In 1795, Henry moved his family to Franklin County, Kentucky; in 1800 they moved to the area of Kentucky that became Owen County in 1819, where Henry died on August 14, 1836.

[21.1.5 Henry and Lucy (Clark) Sparks were the parents of twelve children, one of whom was 21.1.5.3 Anthony Sparks, born January 7, 1781; he died in 1865 in St. Joseph, Missouri. Anthony married his first cousin, 21.1.3.6 Mary Sparks (nicknamed Polly), a daughter of 21.1.3 Humphrey and Milly (Nalle) Sparks. (Humphrey Sparks, born ca. 1749, was married about 1775 to Milly Nalle, daughter of Martin and Isabel Nalle; Humphrey was a brother of Henry Sparks; like Henry, he lived most of his adult life in Owen County, Kentucky.) An article about 21.1.3 Humphrey Sparks and his family appeared in the Quarterly of March 1981, Vol. XXIX, Whole No. 113, pp. 2273-79.

[Among the ten children of 21.1.5.3 Anthony and Mary (Sparks) Sparks was a son named 21.1.5.3.x Humphrey who was born ca. 1812 and died near Pleasureville, Henry County, Kentucky, on October 11, 1889; he married Eliza Calvert on March 26, 1836. They were the parents of four children: 21.1.5.3.x.1 Thomas Anthony, 21.1.5.3.x.2 Permelia, 21.1.5.3.x.3 Mary Isabelle, and 21.1.5.3.x.4 Martha Ann. Humphrey and Eliza (Calvert) Sparks spent their lives in Henry County, Kentucky. As will be noted in the article by Robert K. Sparks, Sr. which follows, Humphrey's and Eliza's only son, Thomas Anthony Sparks, became a physician in Morgantown, Indiana.]

Most of what is known of the life of Dr. Warren Powell Sparks is found in correspondence and newspaper clippings saved by his wife, Sallie (Lang) Sparks, and passed on to Marie (Manthei) Sparks, the wife of their only surviving child, Warren Powell Sparks, Jr.

Warren Powell Sparks, M.D., was born March 31, 1856, in Henry County, Kentucky. He died on October 8, 1881, in Morgantown, Indiana, at the age of 25 years, 6 months, and 9 days. His parents, Dr. Thomas Anthony Sparks and Caroline (Montfort) Sparks, had been married on June 9, 1855. His mother was a daughter of John C. and Mary (--?--) Montfort. Dr. Thomas Anthony Sparks (died February 10, 1877) and Caroline (Montfort) Sparks (died September 21, 1891) were buried in Lot No. 69 of the "Old M. E. Cemetery" section of the East Hill Cemetery located at the intersections of state roads 135 and 252, east of Morgantown, Indiana. Their sons, George Sparks and John Sparks, were buried in the same plot. Cemetery records indicate that the lot was "deeded to Thomas Anthony Sparks by John Kelly Coffman [owner of the Old M. E. Cemetery] for the sum of $15.00." The marker for Thomas Anthony Sparks, a 51 ft. shaft, carries the Masonic and Odd Fellows insignia.

The children of Dr. Thomas Anthony and Caroline (Montfort) Sparks were:

1. Warren Powell Sparks, born March 31, 1856. See below.

2. Mary ["Teet"] Sparks, born ca.1857, died after 1930. She married a Mr. Bass, and they had one son named Leason Bass. They lived in Franklin, Indiana.

3. George T. Sparks, born 1860, died 1926. He never married. He was postmaster of Morgantown, Indiana, in 1885 and was living in Eureka, California, in 1893, but he returned to Indiana and was buried in the cemetery plot of his parents.

4. John Sparks, born 1863. He died at the age of "17 years, 4 months" and was buried in the cemetery plot of his parents.

5. Joseph Sparks, born 1867. He moved to California and married a woman believed to have been named Stella. He died in California on February 15, 1931, and was buried there.

Dr. Warren Powell Sparks and an unnamed "infant son" (died April 17, 1879) were also buried (Lot No. 107) in the "Old M. E." section of the East Hill Cemetery, a short distance from the plot holding his mother, father, and two brothers. The marker for Dr. Warren Powell Sparks is similar to that of his father, and it also carries the Masonic insignia. He was a member of Morgantown Lodge, No. 358.

As a teen-ager, Warren Powell Sparks worked in a Morgantown drug store. He studied medicine at the Louisville [Kentucky] Medical College, which was affiliated with the University of Louisville. According to the Minutes of the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville (dated February 25, 1878, page 246), he was awarded an M.D. degree with the class of 1878.

Warren Powell Sparks married Sarah ["Sallie"] F. Lang in June 1878.


Sarah Lang was born August 11, 1859, but nothing is known of her parents or place of birth, except that she was living in Shelby County, Indiana, at the time of her correspondence with Warren Powell Sparks. In 1877, he advertised in a "Personal" column of a newspaper for a female correspondent, or perhaps a "marriageable lady." He advertised under the name A. J. Ray, and she replied under the name "Grace." The following letter from Warren Powell Sparks to "Grace," which was preserved by Sarah, constitutes a short autobiography. It is written in a pleasing manner.

                                                                                                       At office
                                                                                                                   M.c.h 25 '77
                                                                                                       Compliments of
                                                                                                                   W. P. Sparks
               Miss "Grace"

I am compelled, in this opening of Correspondence with you, to offer an apology, by asking you to please excuse me for not answering your truly welcomed letter bearing date of M'c'h 5, much sooner as I have been away from home and did not receive your letter untill last Friday morning.

As to my occupation, I will say that I have not done 2 months out door work in my life.

In November 1869, although only 13 years of age and so small that I could not look over the show cases, I rec'd a position as Drug Clerk in the Principal Drug Store of our town, which position I retained untill August 1875 at which time I came to the conclussion [sic] that I would make Medicine & Sugery my Proffesion [sic].

At that time my Father (who died February 10 77) a Physician and Surgeon and I am very proud to say that he had a most excellent Reputation, insisted that I should study medicine and accordingly I took a recreation untill January 1st '76 and at that time I supplied myself with a set of 1st class medical works & I applied myself very diligently untill (October '76) I went to attend lectures at the University Of Louisville, Louisville, Ky. and I never missed a lecture untill February 7 on which day I rec'd. a Dispatch calling me to my fathers Bedside.

Although I have received many Proffesional [sic] Callers since I have been home I have given notice that I will not practice my professiuon [sic] untill I graduate which will be Mch 78.

Therefore I shall do nothing this summer but Study and also answer with great pleasure all letters that I may receive from you.

My habits, of which I came very near forgetting to speak of, I will say that I do not use tobacco in any form and I very seldome drink anything except occasionally a glass of Lager beer.

As to other Bad habits that many young men are often guilty off [sic] I will only say that you must ask me no quiestions [sic].

Although I do as a rule attend Sunday School, I am not a "Sunday School Boy" in the strict sense of the word, but I am a "Turn on Wheels" to a moral certainty.

As to your writing I must say it is by far the Best of any that I rec'd in Reply to my "Personal" and you write a splended [sic] hand & your letter was well gotten up.

On Friday morning when I came home I was very agreeably surprised when I rec'd 17 Letters bearing my "Nomme de Plume", and I assure you that I enjoyed myself exceedingly well while looking over the Letters of the "Fair Sex" that were wishing to Correspond. One of the letters I reed was from a Lady living in Shelby Co. this state which is not 50 Miles from here and others from Ladys living in W. Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana. Miss Grace, I have examined all the letters Recd, and I assure you that I am so well pleased with yours that I shall answer no other.

In your commencement you say that you "admit it looks rather fast" in answering my "Personal" and you also say that, you do most sincerely hope that I will not consider you fast for writing to me.
Allow me to assure you, that I do not think you fast, and that I do think that you have enacted the part of a Lady and hope that I may retain you as a Correspondent. I have given you my true name - W. P. Sparks instead of the assumed A. J. Ray and I do not think that you will have any occasion to regret Correspondence with me.

Knowing that you would like to know as much of me as is possible, I shall try to describe myself and explain who I am.

I am 5 ft. 7 in. in height, weigh 165# down weight, very robust (50 # more than you), my hair is not Black but nearly so, I have exceedingly good health. I (light complection) have very small eyes of a cold grey color, and I think that I can outlook a Bengal Tiger, and as to my age I will be 21 on the 31 day of this month. [end]

As noted above, "Miss Grace" proved to be Sarah Lang and they were married in June 1878, after Warren Powell Sparks had been awarded his M.D. degree. A son was born the following year, but died as an infant (unnamed) on April 17, 1879. Two and one-half years later, prior to the birth of his only child to survive infancy, Dr. Sparks died. He evidently anticipated the date of his own death, as shown in the following newspaper clipping preserved by his widow.

Today, Dr. W. P. Sparks died of consumption. He was a young and very promising physician. But the mortal enemy of his family laid its heavy hand upon him and he withered beneath its touch. He exhibited a great deal of confidence of recovery until this morning when he called Dr. Butler to his residence and gave some directions with regard to his worldly effects, at this time expressing the opinion that he could not live until night, after which he sank rapidly and died at 2 p.m., thus showing by hope he retained the life that was so quickly ended when the hope was over. He will be buried tomorrow at the M. E. Cemetery with the honors of the Masonic Lodge.

Another clipping preserved by his widow was Dr. Sparks's obituary:

Dr. Warren Powell Sparks died at his residence in Morgantown, Saturday, October 8th of consumption. Dr. Sparks was born in Henry County, Ky. , March 31st, 1856 and removed to Indiana the following summer. He was a graduate of the Louisville Medical College and commenced the practice of medicine with his father before he was twenty-one years old. He was an un-commonly bright young man, and was universally esteemed and respected. He was married three years ago to Miss Sallie Lang, who survives him. He was buried Sunday afternoon by the Masonic fraternity, of which he was a member. The ceremonies were conducted by P.M., J. M. Neely. The funeral occurred from the M. E. Church. Services by Elder J. W. Ragsdale, assisted by Rev. N. V. Moore. The funeral was very largely attended.

Morgantown Lodge No. 358 of F. and A. M. had published an "In Memoriam" resolution that is quite lengthy and which resolved among other gratitudes to "remember him as a brother, cherish his memory as a physician and citizen and ... point with pride to that indomitable will power ... recognised by the members of the Fraternity electing him to the most important positions in the Lodge ..."

Dr. W. P. Sparks's death preceded by less than a month the birth of his and Sallie (Lang) Sparks's only child (except the unnamed infant buried with Dr. Sparks) Warren Powell Sparks, Jr., on November 4, 1881.

Sallie (Lang) Sparks married John Thomas Paskins approximately one year following the death of Dr. W. P. Sparks. Warren Powell Sparks, Jr. was raised in and around Samaria and Trafalgar, Indiana, with his half-brothers and halfsister, John Carlos Paskins, Alice Paskins, Robert Paskins, and Charles Paskins, the children of John T. and Sallie (Lang) Sparks Paskins. Letters on hand to Sallie from Warren Powell, Jr.'s grandmother (Caroline) and uncles (George T. and Joseph Sparks) reflect how much they missed the child of their lost son and brother and were always looking forward to Sallie's and John's next visit to Morgantown.

Warren Powell Sparks, Jr. was graduated from Trafalgar High School, Trafalgar, Indiana, in 1899 in a class of three, two males and one female. J. T. Paskins moved his family to Indianapolis shortly thereafter and, with Warren, Jr., opened a small stationery store (Paskins & Sparks) on Union Station Square. Warren Sparks, Jr. later completed an International Correspondence course in mechanical engineering and became a tool and die maker. One of the more well known firms with which he was employed in Indianapolis was the old Stutz Motor Car Company on North Capitol Avenue.

Warren Powell Sparks, Jr. married Marie Augusta Manthei, daughter of Charles Augustus and Hermina (Schlender) Manthei, on June 6, 1906, in Indianapolis. Marie (Manthei) Sparks was born March 17, 1885, in Indianapolis. Her father, Charles A. Manthei, owned and operated a blacksmith shop in the area of Fall Creek Blvd. and 30th Street.

Warren Powell Sparks, Jr. died on August 10, 1942. Marie (Manthei) Sparks died on October 5, 1972. Both were buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the same plot with John Thomas Paskins (died 1920) and Sallie (Lang) Sparks Paskins. Sallie died on July 31, 1924.

Warren Powell, Jr. and Marie (Manthei) Sparks were the parents of three children:

1. Warren Gaylord Sparks, born May 2, 1908, died June 24, 1984, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

2. Robert Kennard Sparks, Sr. , born January 16, 1917, in Indianapolis, now residing in Teaticket, Massachusetts. [Robert K. Sparks, Sr. is the author of this article.]

3. Alice Marie Sparks, born October 10, 1920, died January 10, 1982, in Indianapolis. She did not marry.

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