April 24, 2021

Pages 3438-3445
Whole Number 147

70.2 EDWARD SPARKS (Died 1785/86)
From Maryland to Pittsylvania & Fluvanna Counties, Virginia

by Russell E. Bidlack

In the December 1960 issue of The Sparks Quarterly (Whole No. 32, pages 518 through 525), we published a record of the life and family of 70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks, born ca. 1765, died in 1840. This Jeremiah Sparks was called "Sr." in that article because there was a younger Jeremiah Sparks who was closely associated with him in Rockingham County, North Carolina, and later in Franklin County, Georgia. They were not, however, father and son. Instead, we believe that they were first cousins, 70.2.x Jeremiah, Jr. being a son of 70.2 Edward and Elizabeth Sparks while 70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks, Sr. was a son of 70.1 Thomas and Margaret Sparks. 70.1.3 James and Nancy (Crain) Sparks. We believe that Edward and Thomas, fathers of the two Jeremiahs, were brothers, each naming a son Jeremiah.

Here we set forth the information which we have gathered over the years regarding 70.2 Edward Sparks and his three children, including 70.2.x Jeremiah Sparks, Jr., followed by a record of some of the latter's descendants. Because Jeremiah Sparks, Jr. appears to have had a large family, we believe that there are many of his descendants living today. We hope that, with the publication of the following records, some of those descendants will recognize Jeremiah Sparks, Jr. as one of their forefathers and send us additional records pertaining to his family. We hope, also, that someone may recognize 70.2.x James Sparks, another son of 70.2 Edward Sparks, as their ancestor, as well as Edward's daughter, 70.2.2 Nancy (Sparks) Dickson.

The branch of the Sparks family to which 70.2 Edward Sparks and 70.1 Thomas Sparks belonged was originally from Maryland. Members of this family moved to Pittsylvania County, Virginia, in or ca. 1778, while others settled about the same time in Rockingham County, North Carolina. It is important to note that, although they settled in two different states, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and Rockingham County, North Carolina, actually adjoin each other, so the Sparkses who settled in those two counties were actually quite near one another in their new homes. There was probably communication among them.

There is considerable circumstantial evidence to support this writer's theory, as expressed above, that 70.2 Edward Sparks, who was born prior to 1750, and 70.1 Thomas Sparks, who was probably somewhat older than Edward, were brothers. Thomas Sparks, who must be called "Sr." on occasion to distinguish him from a son whom he named Thomas, was in Rockingham County, North Carolina, at the time it was cut off from Guilford County in 1785 to form a separate county. Earlier, on March 1, 1780, Thomas Sparks had obtained a grant of 452 acres of land on the waters of Lick Fork of Hogans Creek in what became Rockingham County in 1785. Five years later, on May 13, 1785, 70.1 Thomas and Margaret Sparks sold part of this tract to their son, Jeremiah Sparks [Sr.]. [See Guilford County Deed Book C-3, p. 207.] The following year, in 1786, they sold the remainder to Joseph McClain. [See Rockingham County Deed Book A, p. 154. Also see the Quarterly of September 1956, Whole No. 15, pp. 162-4, for abstracts of these and other early Sparks deeds in Rockingham County.]

After selling their land in Rockingham County, Thomas and Margaret Sparks moved south to Franklin County, Georgia.

We believe that 70.1 Thomas and Margaret Sparks were the parents of four sons:

70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks. When Thomas and Margaret Sparks moved to Franklin County, Georgia, in 1786 or 1787, the younger members of their family doubtless moved with them.70.1.1 Jeremiah, however, remained in North Carolina a bit longer, although he soon joined his parents in Georgia. Jeremiah sold part of his land in Rockingham County on November 10, 1787, to William Bethell, and then on December 12, 1788, he sold the remainder also to Bethell. When he and his wife, Mary, signed the latter deed, Jeremiah was described as already being a resident of Franklin County, Georgia.

70.1.2 Thomas Sparks, Jr., mentioned above, who was born ca. 1770; he married, first, Elizabeth MNU, and second Sarah Camp; he died in Franklin County, Georgia, in the 1830s. 70.1.2 Thomas Sparks remained in North Carolina for a while, in fact, he stayed for a decade after his parents left for Georgia. On February 22, 1797, he purchased 108 acres of land from William Bethell, the man to whom Jeremiah had sold his land in 1787 and 1788. The following year, however, on August 25, 1798, Thomas Sparks, Jr. with his wife, Elizabeth, sold this same land to Jeremiah Odell and shortly thereafter moved to Franklin County, Georgia, to join his parents.

70.1.3 James Sparks, whose wife's name was Nancy Crain (nicknamed Ann); he died in Franklin County, Georgia, in 1807 or 1808.

70.1.4 Elijah Sparks, born, we believe, in the early 1770s, whose wife's maiden name was Judith Humphries; he died in Franklin County, Georgia, in 1831 or 1832.

70.2 Edward Sparks obtained his first land (of which we have record) not in Rockingham County, North Carolina, but over the line in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. On February 1, 1781, he obtained from the state of Virginia for 3 pounds sterling a tract of 569 acres on Rutledge's Creek in Pittsylvania County. His tract was described in the grant as adjoining land owned by men named bynum and Yeates. [See "Land Grants of Virginia, 1779-1803," in the Virginia State Library.] Edward Sparks may have been living in Pittsylvania County prior to acquiring this land. Less than six months later, however, on August 15, 1781, he sold it to Robert Payne for 160 pounds. (His profit was probably not as great as might appear, however, for he paid for the tract in pounds sterling while selling it for Virginia currency which was then greatly inflated in value.) The deed described Edward Sparks as living on "the land & plantation" at the time he sold it. Also included in the sale was a tract of land described as having been purchased earlier by Edward Sparks from Gilbert bynum and adjoining the tract he had obtained by grant. We have found no record of when it was that Edward Sparks had purchased land from bynum. [See Pittsylvania Deed Book 6, p. 245; see also abstracts of various Pittsylvania County records published in the Quarterly of September 1955, Whole No. 11, pp. 79-85, and the March 1956, Whole No. 13, pp. 109-121.]

Rutledge's Creek, on which Edward Sparks's land was located, had been named for Thomas Rutledge who had come to Virginia from Pennsylvania in 1740. According to Maud Carter Clement in her The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, published in 1929 in Lynchburg, Virginia, p. 11: "Rutledge's Creek, now a tributary, was at that time all of Pumpkin Creek, which flows through Schoolfield and enters Dan River on the outskirts of Danville." The Dan River from which Danville (founded in 1793) was named, flows south into Caswell County, North Carolina, after winding along the dividing line between Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and Rockingham County, North Carolina. Edward Sparks's land in Pittsylvania County was not far from that of his brother and nephews in Rockingham County.

Unfortunately, the survey for the tract of land which Edward Sparks acquired from the state of Virginia in 1781 has not been located, but surveys for other tracts of land which adjoined that acquired by Edward have been found. For example, Gilbert bynum, from whom Edward Sparks had purchased some of the land which he sold on August 15, 1781, had obtained a grant of 569 acres on Rutledge's Creek which was surveyed for him on May 6, 1771. [See page 259 of "Old Survey Book 1, 1746 -1782, Pittsylvania County, Virginia," which has been edited and published by Marian Dodson Chiarito in 1988.] The man named "Yeates" whose land adjoined that of Edward Sparks was John Yates, who was in the area that became Pittsylvania County as early as 1757. His name appears as a land owner on Rutledge's Creek in a number of surveys of land adjoining that of Edward Sparks.

In addition to the surveys for land belonging to Gilbert bynum and John Yates located near that of Edward Sparks, we know from other surveys that his close neighbors included men named Samuel bynum, Gray bynum, Robert Wynn, William Wynn, Henry Dixon, Edmond Floyd, James Hagan, John Wilson, Thomas Duncan, Jacob Stillwell, William Washington, William Cornelius, and James Dix.

Edward Sparks moved from Pittsylvania County shortly after selling his land there and settled in Fluvanna County, Virginia. Fluvanna County lies northeast of Pittsylvania County, some 150 miles. We have found no hint of what may have prompted Edward Sparks to make this move. In Fluvanna County, on November 7, 1782, he purchased from William and Agnes Clarke for 40 pounds a tract containing 100 acres "by estimation" which was located "on the branches of Great Bird [Creek]." This land was described further as adjoining land owned by Ambrose Stodgel, Jonathan Clarke, Charles Alford, and Thomas Baley, Sr. [See Fluvanna County, Virginia, Deed Book 1, p. 421.]

The 1782 tax list for Fluvanna County survives and lists Edward Sparks with five "white tithes" in his household. This category on the tax list was intended to include all white males of 16 years and older; it did, of course, include Edward himself. From later records pertaining to Edward Sparks, we feel certain that none of the other 4 were his sons; perhaps they were employees or relatives of his wife or himself. Edward's name does not appear on the personal property tax lists in Fluvanna County, however, which may suggest that he was not an actual resident of the county even though he owned a tract of land there. As will be seen in the court record below, however, his widow appeared in person at a meeting of the Fluvanna County Court in March 1786 following the death of Edward Sparks. This court record, as copied for us by a researcher, reads as follows:

March 1786. Elizabeth Sparkes, Widow of Edward Sparks, dec'd., personally appeared in Court and relinquished her right of administration of the said decedent's Estate to Tunstal Quarles, Gent., and on the motion of the said Tunstal Quarles, who made oath as the law directs and entered into Bond with John Napier, Gent., his security--Certificate is granted him for obtaining Letters of Administration on the Estate of the said Edward Sparks, deed., in due form.

From this court record, we know that Edward Sparks had died shortly before March 1786 and that his widow was named Elizabeth. He obviously did not leave a will, which may suggest that he died suddenly. As his widow, Elizabeth could have requested appointment as administratrix of her husband's estate, but she declined, and a prominent citizen of Fluvanna County (note he was called "Gent." i.e. "Gentleman") named Tunstal Quarles became administrator of the estate. We have no further record of Elizabeth, widow of Edward Sparks.

It is curious that the tax records for Fluvanna County, Virginia, list the 100 acres of land owned by Edward Sparks under his name each year from 1787 until 1814, which means that his estate was not settled during those 27 years. We can only conjecture that, if there was income from this land during that long period, it was Tunstal Quarles who received it. Perhaps he conveyed it to Edward's widow, Elizabeth. A note was added to the tax list of 1814, however, opposite the name of Edward Sparks which reads: "Residence unknown-100 acres said to be in possession of H. Holland, 11 miles East of Courthouse." An explanation of this 1814 entry will be given below. [These tax lists are preserved in the Virginia State Library.]

Our next record pertaining to Edward Sparks is found in Rockingham County, North Carolina. It will be recalled that Jeremiah Sparks, Sr., son of Thomas Sparks and thus, we believe, a nephew of Edward, was still living in Rockingham County in 1787, although he would leave for Franklin County, Georgia, the following year. As will be seen below, in May 1787, the oldest son of Edward Sparks was apprenticed to 70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks, son of Thomas, while the two younger children, James and Nancy, were apprenticed to William Washington, also living in Rockingham County.

Court Minutes, Rockingham County, North Carolina, May 1787. [p. 31, folio 2] Ordered that 70.2.1 Jeremiah Sparks, orphan of Edward Sparks, Decd., Aged fourteen years be bound to 70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks until he arrives to the age of Twenty one years, he the Said Jeremiah Sparks engageth to give the said apprentice when he arrives of age, one good Horse and Saddle and a good Suit of Clothes, he is also to teach or Cause to be Taught the apprentice to reade Write and Arithmatick as far as the rule of three.

[p. 34, folio 1] Ordered that 70.2.3 James Sparks, aged three years, be bound to William Washington until he arrive to the age of Twenty one years, to learn the apprentice, or cause him to be taught to read Write & Cypher as far as the rule of Three and when he comes of age to give him a good horse and Saddle.

[p. 36, folio 2 ] Ordered that 70.2.2 Nancy Sparks aged 12 years the 19th July next be bound to William Washington until she arrive to the age of Eighteen years.

Little is known of William Washington except that on March 8, 1780, 360 acres had been surveyed for him in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, on "the branches of the Dan River." From the description, we know that this land was located very near that of Edward Sparks on Rutledge's Creek. The two men must surely have known each other at that time. Perhaps there was even a family relationship involving either themselves or their wives.

When Jeremiah Sparks, Sr. moved from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Franklin County, Georgia, we can assume that his young cousin for whom he was responsible (Jeremiah Sparks, Jr.) accompanied him. At some point prior to 1802, probably much earlier, the other two orphans of Edward Sparks, James and Nancy, also went to Franklin County, but whether accompanied by William Washington we do not know.

Our next record of the children of Edward Sparks is dated November 6, 1802, by which time both Jeremiah, Jr. and Nancy had come of age. Jeremiah, Jr. would have been about 29 and Nancy was 27. James, however, was only 18, which probably accounts for his not being one of the signers of a document appointing a neighbor named William Walker Walton as the "lawful attorney" of the children of Edward Sparks "to receive, collect or recover by any lawful manner or way, all their Estate both real or personal and also all sums of Money, arrears of rent to which we may by law be entitled as heirs of Edward Sparks deceased, or in any person in the County of Gouchland or any County in the State of Virginia..." [See Franklin County, Georgia, Deed Book O, p. 82 and/or 254.] Dated November 6, 1802, this document was signed by mark by both Jeremiah Sparks, Jr. and his sister, Nancy Sparks. (In recording this document, however, the clerk of the Franklin County Court mistakenly identified Nancy as the wife of Jeremiah Sparks, Jr. rather than his sister.)

It seems apparent from the wording of this document that the children of Edward Sparks were unsure of what estate might have been left them by their father, even as to the county in Virginia where he had owned land. Goochland County and Fluvanna County do adjoin, however, and, furthermore, it was to Goochland County that Walton was going. Another document recorded in Franklin County [Deed Book O, page 80] reveals that William Walker Walton had been authorized by his brothers, Killis and George Walton, along with his sister, Mary, wife of Joseph Martin, to go on their behalf to Goochland County to claim their share of the estates of Henry and John Mullins, relatives, apparently, on their mother's side of the family. The Sparks heirs were simply taking advantage of William Walker Walton's making this trip to the area where they believed they had some rights of inheritance of their own.

Nothing appears to have come of the journey of William Walker Walton, however, to benefit the Sparks heirs. Perhaps he simply determined that their father had owned no land in Goochland County.

In 1809, the three heirs of Edward Sparks again tried to claim their inheritance. Again they gave power of attorney to a friend and neighbor in Franklin County for this purpose, this individual being John Gettens (or Gittings). The exact day in October 1809 when this document was signed was not recorded, but it was copied into the Franklin County court records on October 10, 1809. [See Franklin County Deed Book RRR, pp. 166-67.] Although only Jeremiah, Jr. and James signed (both by mark), the text of this document identifies Nancy as their sister and an heir, with them, to the estate of Edward Sparks.

John Gettens was directed by this power of attorney "to ask, demand, sue for and recover and receive of and from ----- Quals of the County of Gouchland and State of Virginia, administrator of the Estate of Edward Sparks deceased all Such Sum or Sums of Money, debts and demands whatsoever which are now due and oweing [sic] unto the said Jeremiah, Nancy and James Sparks and from the said Quails." Later in this document, the land owned by Edward Sparks was described as "on the Waters of Little Bird Containing one hundred acres." Since Tunstal Quarles' first name was left blank and his name was misspelled twice in this document, it is apparent that these Sparks heirs were not actually acquainted with him. Also, Edward Sparks's land had been located on Great Bird Creek, not Little Bird Creek.

A very interesting sworn statement was added to this 1809 document which provides further proof of the relationship between Edward Sparks and Thomas Sparks, Sr. It reads as follows:

Personally came Thomas Sparks, Senr before me a Justice of the peace for said County and after being duly Sworn Saith the within Named Jeremiah Sparks and James Sparks... is the Lawful heirs of Edward Sparks, deceased. Sworn to and Subscribed before me this 10th day of October 1809.

                             [signed] Joseph Chandler, J.P.                  Thomas + Sparks

Thomas Sparks, identified as "Senr" in this document, was the same Thomas Sparks who had been the first Sparks to move from Rockingham County, North Carolina, in 1786 or 1787. We firmly believe that he was a brother of Edward Sparks which gave credence to his statement regarding the identify of Edward's children. The first wife of Thomas Sparks, Sr., whose given name was Margaret, died at about the time he made the move to Georgia, and he subsequently married a woman named Amelia ["Milly"] whose name was Sparks before they were married. She was probably a widow, but we have not identified her earlier husband, if that is the case.

To what extent John Gettens succeeded in recovering property for the children of Edward Sparks is not known; however, the matter of the 100 acres of land to which Jeremiah, Jr., James, and Nancy claimed right of inheritance was finally settled in 1813, so perhaps Gettens succeeded in locating it. On November 10, 1813, a deed was drawn up in Fluvanna County, Virginia, that recorded the sale of this tract of land by Joseph Dickson and his wife, Nancy, to Hezekiah Holland for 22 pounds and 10 shillings. It was described in this 1813 deed exactly as it had been when Edward Sparks purchased it in 1782, "on the Waters of the Great Bird Creek... bounded on lines of Ambrose Stodgel, Jonathan Clark, Charles Alford, and Thomas Baley, Senior." [See Fluvanna County Deed Book 6, p. 202.] The witnesses were Alexander Davis, Richard Holland, and Shanday Holland. Joseph and Nancy Dickson both signed the deed by mark.

Nancy also signed (by mark) the customary relinquishment of her right of dower, appearing before a justice of the peace in Fluvanna County to do so.

It is apparent that 70.2.2 Nancy Sparks, daughter of Edward, had married Joseph Dickson prior to 1813, and that she and her husband had gone to Fluvanna County from their home in Kentucky to make personal claim to the land that Nancy's father had owned. Whether Nancy and her husband had purchased the rights of her two brothers to their share of the inheritance, or whether Joseph Dickson was acting on their behalf as well as for Nancy, we do not know.

The sale of Edward Sparks's land to Hezekiah Holland explains, of course, the entry on the 1814 tax list of Fluvanna County, mentioned earlier, to the effect that Edward's land was "said to be in possession of H. Holland, 11 miles East of Courthouse." (On other occasions, it was referred to as being 11 miles northeast of the courthouse.)

During the year following this sale, on July 12, 1814, Hezekiah Holland and Mary his wife sold this same 100 acres to Alexander Davis for 23 pounds and 8 shillings. [See Fluvanna County Deed Book 6, p. 334.1 In this deed, the men owning adjoining land were named as "Ambrose Stodggel, dec'd., Abner Altmyers, and Waller Johnson." The 1813 deed signed by Joseph and Nancy Dickson had simply listed the adjoining land as belonging to the same men as were there in 1782 when Edward Sparks purchased it from William and Agnes Clarke. The 1814 deed indicates there had been changes, as one might expect.

We have no further knowledge of Nancy (Sparks) Dickson. Because she and her husband, Joseph Dickson, were described in 1813 as residents of Kentucky, we can assume that they returned there following their sale of Edward Sparks's land. Since we know Nancy's exact date of birth (July 19, 1775) from her apprenticeship document, we may succeed someday in finding a further record of her.

Our knowledge of James Sparks, son of Edward and Elizabeth Sparks, is very limited. We know that he was born ca. 1784 and that he was only three years old in 1787 when he was apprenticed to William Washington in Rockingham County, North Carolina. At what point he joined his brother and sister in Franklin County, Georgia, we do not know, except that he was there in 1809. He must not be confused with an older James Sparks, son of Thomas Sparks, Sr., who was his cousin and who died in Franklin County prior to the spring of 1808.

On July 17, 1809, James Sparks, son of Edward Sparks, signed (by mark) as a witness to a deed in Franklin County, Georgia, by which 17.1 Thomas and Elizabeth Sparks sold 9 acres of land to James's brother, Jeremiah Sparks, Jr. [See Franklin County Deed Book T, pp. 198-99.] We believe that the Thomas Sparks who made this sale was the same Thomas Sparks whom we have called "Jr." He was a son of Thomas Sparks, Sr. and thus a cousin of the children of Edward Sparks. The other witness to this 1809 deed was John Gettens, the man to whom Jeremiah, Jr., James, and Nancy gave power of attorney the following October to try to collect their inheritance in Virginia.

This deed of 1809 was not recorded in the Franklin County Courthouse until May 7, 1811, at which time James Sparks appeared in court to swear that he had, indeed, seen Thomas and Elizabeth Sparks sign it on July 17, 1809.

On July 29, 1811, James Sparks again witnessed a deed signed in Franklin County. On this occasion, James actually signed his name rather than by mark according to the recorded copy. This deed involved the sale of 100 acres of land on the South Fork of the Eastanolle Creek in Franklin County by Daniel Morgan, Sr. and his wife Deborah to Jeremiah Sparks, Sr. The other witness was David Allison. [See Franklin County Deed Book TTT, p. 34.1 This is our last reference to James Sparks, son of Edward, found thus far. We assume that he moved away from Franklin County, Georgia, not long after 1811 because there is no subsequent mention of him. Possibly he went to Kentucky to join his sister and her husband, Joseph Dickson.