March 10, 2021
Whole Number 145
THE WILL OF JOHN SPARKS, (1755-1820)
OF WASHINGTON COUNTY, GEORGIA
by Russell E. Bidlack
In The Sparks Quarterly of September 1964 (Whole No. 47, pp. 835-39), we published an article on 36. John Sparks who was born, according to the family Bible which he and his wife owned, on February 27, 1755. (In 1966, that Bible was owned by a descendant, Andrew Sparks, a writer for the ATLANTA JOURNAL AND CONSTITUTION.) At the time of the publication of this article in 1964, we did not have a copy of John Sparks's will.
As a young man, John Sparks lived in what is now Newberry County, South Carolina, and he was closely related to (probably a son of) 27. Zachariah Sparks who lived nearby. 27. Zachariah Sparks died during the Revolutionary War, probably in 1781, in Laurens County, South Carolina; a record of his life appeared in the Quarterly of September 1961 (Whole No. 35, pp. 569-575).
On January 13, 1779, according to his family Bible, 36. John Sparks married Margaret Hampton, who had been born near Fredericksburg, Virginia, on October 14, 1757. As was noted in the 1964 article, we have a number of records from Newberry County regarding John Sparks buying and selling land there.
In January 1795, John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks sold their land in South Carolina and moved with their family by ox cart to Washington County, Georgia, settling some twelve miles from the present town of Sandersville. They were doubtless responding to Georgia's offer of substantial tracts of free land to settlers. There is a tradition that they brought with them a cotton gin which had been invented but a year or two earlier by Wade Hampton, a relative of Margaret's.
Our knowledge of John and Margaret Sparks after moving to Georgia is limited by the fact that in 1855 the courthouse of Washington County burned, thus destroying many land, court, and probate records. Those lost records would doubtless have given us considerable information regarding the family had they survived. Until recently, we assumed that the will of John Sparks had also been lost.
When the article on John Sparks was published in 1964, family members believed that he had died in 1834. We now know that he died in 1820 (see the statements relating to the recording of his will at the end of that document). Since John Sparks made no reference in his will to his wife, Margaret, we must assume that she had died before he wrote it in 1817. A tall, Victorian-style tombstone stands in what is called the Mayview Cemetery on what is known as the McConnell farm located between Warthen and Davisboro in Washington County. This farm was the property of John Sparks when he died. A photograph taken in 1966 for an article by Andrew Sparks's on old roads in Georgia shows this tombstone rising above several goats feeding in the old cemetery. A reproduction of this photograph appears below.
|A 1966 photograph of the tombstone in memory of John Sparks, his wife, his son Thomas Sparks, and his daughter-in-law.|
An inscription appears on each of the four sides of this monument. On one side is inscribed: "John Sparks. Born in N.C. March 27, 1755. Married to Margaret Hampton January 13, 1779. Moved from S.C. Settled in this place February 2, 1793.
On another side appears: "Margaret Hampton Born near Fredericksburg, Va. October 14, 1757."
A record of a son of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks appears on a third side: "Thomas Sparks Born March 24, 1799 Married to Ann McNeal Collins February 19, 1829. Died December 8, 1868. On the fourth side appears "Ann McNeal Collins Born January 18, 1811 Died July 17, 1880"
From the style of this monument, it is obvious that it was erected long after the deaths of John and Margaret Sparks, probably even after 1880, the year in which their daughter-in-law, Ann McNeal Collins Sparks, died. This probably accounts for some errors. The date of John Sparks's birth appears on the monument as March 27, 1755, while in the family Bible it is given as February 27, 1755. We believe that the record in the Family Bible is correct. Also, South Carolina records prove that it was in 1795, not 1793, that John Sparks moved his family to Georgia. Since no death dates appear for either John Sparks or Margaret (Hampton) Sparks, it is probable that those dates had been forgotten by the family when the monument was carved.
Contrary to our earlier assumption that the will of John Sparks (if he wrote one) had been lost in the Washington County Courthouse fire of 1855, a copy of his will has been preserved in a manuscript volume from Washington County now in the Georgia Department of Archives and History. The volume is entitled: WILLS BOOK B, 1852-1903. We thank Mrs. Jean Brodhagen, 46305 Victor St., Tulsa, OK 74105, who is a great-great-granddaughter of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks through their daughter, Isabella, for locating this document and providing us with a xerox copy. It is apparent that somehow this volume escaped destruction in the 1855 fire. It is also apparent that an earlier copy of John Sparks's will had, indeed, been destroyed but that a second copy had been found.
In transcribing this record, we have retained its original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
State of Georgia
I John Sparks of the County and State aforesaid, being at this time weak in body but of perfect mind and memory calling to mind that I must one day die, do make this my last Will and testament, hereby revoking all others but as couching such things as I have been through Providence blessed with in this world, do dispose in the following manner.
Imprimis My desire that all my just debts be paid out of my Estate.
Second--I give and bequeath to my son Thomas the whole of my land which I now possess and my negroes Pompey Nance Eliza Epherum and Jessy
Third--I give and bequeath to my Daughter, Sarah Ann Pinkston one Dollar
Fourth--I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mary May one Dollar
Fifth, I give and bequeath to my Daughter, Rachel Gray one Dollar
Sixth I give and bequeath to my Daughter Isabella Wiggins, One Dollar
Seventh I give and bequeath to my son Benjamin one dollar.
Eighth, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Margarett Renfro One Dollar.
Ninth, I give and bequeath to my Daughter Elizabeth a good feather bed and furniture three Cows and three Ewes and a breeding sow and a good Horse, saddle and bridle, a pot Dutch oven, frying pan one pail and piggin one fire shovel and tongs
Tenth I give and bequeath to My son Thomas togeather [sic] with the above mentioned legacy the remaining part of my stock of every kind, having parceled out a large distribution of my Estate to my son Thomas, I desire and hereby enjoin on him or any other who May become an heir to his part of this my estate when my Grandson Stephen Sparks Wiggins shall arrive to the age of twenty-one years that he give him one Horse of common value.
Lastly I do hereby appoint Archibald McMillin Executor of this My last Will and testament, I do also appoint Nathaniel Wickes Executor to this My last Will and testament, and my son, Thomas to be let into authority as Executor when he arrives at the age of twenty-one years
Signed published and pronounced in the presence of us this 20th day of October 1817.
Eli Fenn John Sparks
Ransom R. Lee (His Mark)
I Francis T. Tennille Clerk of the Court of Ordinary Certify the preceading [sic] to be a true Copy of the Will of John Sparks decd taken from the original filed in office for recording
22 Decr 1820 Frances T Tennille C Cl
Georgia In person appeared Frances T. Tennille before Washington County me who being duly sworn deposeth and says that he believes this to be a true Copy of the last Will and Testament of John Sparks given by him the said Tennille while Clerk of the Court of Ordinary the Original of which was filed in office at the time for record, and that the Seal of the Court is not thereto attached for the reason that at that time there was no Seal.
Sandersville March 17th 1839 Frances T. Tennille
Sworn to and subscribed
Alexander Smith J. P.
Georgia Washington County
Personally appeared before me, Thomas Sparks who being sworn deposeth and says that he was duly appointed Executor of the last Will & Testament, and that he was duly qualified as such, and further that said last Will and Testament has been destroyd and that the Copy thereto attached is a just and true one and was furnished to him by Frances T. Tennille on the 22d day of December 1820 then being Clerk of the Court of Ordinary of this County
Sworn to and subscribed before Thomas Sparks
me this 4th [blank] 1839.
Jas H. Gilmore J. S. C.
From the above attachments to John Sparks's will, it is apparent that the original was lost or destroyed after it had been submitted for record with the Washington County Court. At the time it was submitted, however, Thomas Sparks had obtained a true copy from Francis T. Tennille, clerk of the Court, on December 22, 1820. Then in 1839, after it was discovered that the original had been destroyed, Thomas Sparks brought forth the true copy which he had obtained in 1820. Francis T. Tennille then swore before a justice of the peace, Alexander Smith, that he believed that this was the true copy which he had made for Thomas Sparks in 1820. With that endorsement, Thomas Sparks then presented it to James H. Gilmore, a justice of the Superior Court, swearing that he had been properly appointed executor of his father's estate and that his copy of the will was "a just and true one" and had been furnished to him on December 22, 1820, by Francis T. Tennille. James H. Gilmore signed his name as having administered the oath but apparently forgot to include the name of the month in 1839 when he signed. This true copy, with all of the attachments, was then recorded in the Wills Book B, pages 125 -27, and it is this recorded copy that is presented above. It is possible, of course, that it was the clerk who copied this record in Wills Book B who failed to include the name of the month above James H. Gilmore's signature.
The family Bible of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks contains the record of the births of their eleven children. These are given below, with notes regarding each one in brackets.
36.1 Sara Ann Sparks, born December 5, 1779. [Family records indicate that she married Basil Pinkston, but we have no further information.]
36.2 Mary Sparks, born December 7, 1782. Family records indicate that she married Jethro May, but we have no further information.
36.3 Rachel Sparks, born July 9, 1784. She married Enoch Gray on September 21, 1809, in Washington County. He was born May 4, 1784. She died prior to 1843 for on February 5, 1843, Enoch Gray married (second) Nancy MNU We have no information regarding children of Rachel (Sparks) Gray.
36.4 Benjamin Sparks, born January 19, 1786. [From the fact that John Sparks left his son Benjamin only $1.00 in his will dated October 20, 1817, it seems probable that he had given property to him earlier, perhaps at the time of his marriage to Sarah May, which occurred sometime prior to 1812. Because of the loss of the Washington County Courthouse records in 1855, we have only scattered official references to him. We know, for example, that he was a private in the 2 d Company of First Class Militia of the 13th Regiment of Georgia Militia commanded by Capt. Edmund Hopson when a list was made on July 30, 1814. A descendant stated many years ago that he helped to move the capitol of Georgia from Louisville to Milledgeville in 1820. His name also appears among the winners of two tracts of land in the Georgia Land Lottery drawn in 1820. It appears that he also died in 1820, leaving a widow with at least three children under 10 years of age--according to the 1820 census. Enoch Gray, husband of Benjamin's sister, Rachel, became administrator of his estate, and, as such, in 1826 and 1827 advertised the sale of land formerly owned by Benjamin Sparks in Habersham and Early Counties. (See THE SOUTHERN RECORDER, a newspaper published in Milledgeville, Georgia.) When a land lottery was held in Georgia in 1827, the "orphans of Benjamin Sparks" drew a lot in that part of Lee County that became Sumter County in 1831. In THE SOUTHERN RECORDER of March 12, 1834, appeared an advertisement by William D. Harrison "Guardian for Morgan Sparks" to sell land in Habersham and Baker Counties "belonging to the heirs of Benjamin Sparks, deed." (See "A Further Note on the Children of Benjamin and Sarah (May) Sparks" on page 3386 of this article.) ]
36.5 Isabel (or Isabella) Sparks, born November 13, 1787. [Mrs. Brodhagen has sent us a copy of the records found in the family Bible of her great-great-grandmother, Isabel, which indicate she married John C. Wiggins on March 7, 1805. She died on August 16, 1864, at the age of 77. He had been born on September 15, 1782. They were the parents of eleven children:
36.5.1 Stephen Sparks Wiggins, born June 26, 1806. He was the only grandchild mentioned by John Sparks in his will, perhaps because he was named for John's son, Stephen Sparks, who died in childhood.
36.5.2 Sarah T. Wiggins, born February 18, 1808.
36.5.3 Margaret Wiggins, born December 27, 1809.
36.5.4 Necy Ann Wiggins, born January 5, 1812.
36.5.5 Mary C. Wiggins, born March 13, 1813.
36.5.6 George F. Wiggins, born May 31, 1815.
36.5.7 John T. Wiggins, born May 2, 1817.
36.5.8 Joshua L. Wiggins, born May 25, 1819.
36.5.9 William W. Wiggins, born November 25, 1821.
36.5.10 Teletha F. Wiggins, born June 23, 1824.
36.5.11 Christopher C. Wiggins, born February 27, 1827.
36.6 Stephen Sparks, born May 23, 1789. [According to family tradition, he died as a child.]
36.7 Margaret Sparks, born January 13, 1791. [She married, according to family records, Archibald Renfro; we have no further information.]
36.8 George H. Sparks, born September 6, 1793. [According to family tradition, he died as a child.]
36.9 John Sparks, born May 17, 1797. His father made no mention of him when he wrote his will in 1817; we assume he died young, prior to 1817.
36.10 Thomas Sparks, born March 24, 1799. He married Ann McNeal Collins in Washington County, Georgia, on February 19, 1829. He died on December 8, 1868; Ann was born January 18, 1811, and died on July 17, 1880. Their names appear on the same monument in the Mayview Cemetery as do Thomas' parents. A record of their children appeared in the Quarterly of September 1964, Whole No. 47, page 839.
36.11 Elizabeth Sparks, born August 23, 1801. She married David Curry sometime after her father wrote his will in 1817. There is a tombstone for her in the Mayview Cemetery which gives her date of death as October 21, 1883. We have no information regarding her children.
A Further Note on the Children of
Benjamin and Sarah (May) Sparks
As was noted on pages 3384-85, Benjamin Sparks, son of John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks, was born January 19, 1786. As a lad of nine, he accompanied his parents in their move from South Carolina to Washington County, Georgia, in 1795. There he grew to manhood, and sometime prior to 1812, he married Sarah May. She was doubtless related to Jethro May (perhaps his sister) who married Benjamin's older sister, Mary Sparks.
Benjamin was his parents' oldest son, yet in his father's will he was bequeathed only one dollar, while his youngest brother, Thomas Sparks, born in 1799 and not yet of age in 1817 when John Sparks wrote his will, was bequeathed nearly all of John's property, including his land, his five slaves, and almost all of his livestock. We can only speculate why John Sparks thus favored his youngest son at a time when the oldest son in a family usually received the largest portion of his father's estate. There may have been ill-feeling between Benjamin and his father, but more probably John Sparks had provided for Benjamin earlier, perhaps at the time of his marriage. (Note that the other three sons of John and Margaret Sparks had died before John wrote his will.) Because of the loss of the Washington County, Georgia, records in the courthouse fire of 1855, we have no way of knowing whether John Sparks had deeded land to Benjamin prior to 1817.
It appears that Benjamin Sparks died sometime in 1820, the same year in which his father died. When, in the summer of 1820, the federal census was taken of Washington County, John Sparks was still living and was listed as head of his household, but Benjamin was not--instead his widow, Sarah, was shown as head of her family. Her age was given as between 26 and 45, and included in her household were three children, one male and two females, all under 10 years of age. There was also a male enumerated as between 26 and 45. We can only guess that this may have been a hired man who was managing Benjamin's land for Sarah.
From the record noted earlier which identified William D. Harrison as the guardian of Morgan Sparks, we know that Morgan M. Sparks was the son of Benjamin and Sarah shown as the male under 10 with Sarah on the 1820 census. There is a Washington County, Georgia, record of Morgan's marriage to Emily Collins there on October 19, 1845. Morgan M. and Emily G. Sparks appear on the 1850 census of Washington County, aged 33 and 23 respectively. They apparently had no children at that time; the only other member of their household in 1850 was a mulatto girl, aged 10, named Tiny Collins. (If the census record of the age of Morgan Sparks is correct, then he was born ca. 1817.)
Another child of Benjamin and Sarah (May) Sparks whom we have been able to identify through correspondence with a descendant, was Margaret Hampton Sparks, born August 11, 1812. Obviously named for her grandmother, she was reared in Washington County and was married there on December 23, 1830, to William Duggan Harrison. A son of Joseph H. and Pharaby (Duggan) Harrison, he was born March 19, 1808, and died on April 5, 1877. Margaret, his wife, died on October 30, 1855. Apparently it was this William D. Harrison who served as guardian for Morgan Sparks. Tombstones are found for both Margaret and William in a Harrison family cemetery located in Washington County. The persons who transcribed the information on their stones identified this cemetery's location as follows: "Go 4 miles north of Warthen, then turn right and go to the end of the road, turn left to the residence of Mrs. Henry F. Walker; the cemetery is beyond on the left." (See WASHINGTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, TOMBSTONE INSCRIPTIONS, compiled by Elizabeth Newsom, 1967, page 131.)
William D. and Margaret H. (Sparks) Harrison are known to have had a daughter named for her mother who was born July 16, 1836. This Margaret Hampton Harrison married David Daniel Duggan. There were probably other children of William D. and Margaret H. (Sparks) Harrison, but our information is limited to that provided to us by the Rev. W. J. Harrison, 1600 Mississippi St., Baytown, Texas (77520) in 1975.
The other daughter shown on the 1820 census for Benjamin and Sarah (May) Sparks was believed by the Rev. Mr. Harrison to have been Temperance Sparks, who was married in Washington County, Georgia, to Washington Welch on December 20, 1836. There is a possibility that there was still another daughter, perhaps born posthumously after the 1820 census was taken, named Lela Sparks.