May 3, 2021

Pages 3463-3472
Whole Number 147

born ca. 1802, Died ca. 1860

by Marsha Wharton

[Editor's Note: the September 1982 issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 119 contained an article about Absalom Sparks (ca.1771-ca.1830), son of Matthew and Sarah (Thompson) Sparks. A portion of that article was devoted to the family of Willoughby Sparks, a son of Absalom. Since the publication of that article, additional information has been collected about the family of Willoughby Sparks largely through the interest and efforts of a descendant, Marsha Wharton. We are pleased to present this new information.] Willoughby Sparks was born ca. 1802 in Clarke County, Georgia, and was a son of Absalom and Lydia (Elsberry) Sparks and a grandson of Matthew and Sarah (Thompson) Sparks. Absalom Sparks was in Clarke County in 1802 when he gave an affidavit to the Clarke County Court pertaining to the losses he and his mother, Sarah Sparks, had suffered from the uprisings of the Creek Indians in 1793-94. [Further details of the family of Matthew and Sarah (Thompson) Sparks may be found in the June 1961 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 34.]

Willoughby Sparks accompanied his parents to the Illinois Territory ca. 1807, and it was there that he grew to manhood. He also went with his parents to the Territory of Arkansas when it was opened up for settlement in 1819, and it was probably there that he married Mary ["Polly"] Harrell ca. 1825. She was born ca. 1810 in Illinois Territory.

Willoughby joined his father, Absalom Sparks, and his brothers, Elsberry Sparks, [Note: there is no brother named William]. William Sparks, and Matthew Sparks, in Miller County, Arkansas, in 1825 in presenting a petition to the President and to the U.S. Congress asking for help in keeping possession of their land in Lovely County, Arkansas Territory, which lay just north of Miller County and which later became a part of Oklahoma Territory. The federal government, in a treaty, had ceded land to the Choctaw Indians that included the farms belonging to the Sparks families. Willoughby was in Crawford County, Arkansas, in 1829, but by 1830 he was living in Pope County. It was there, on October 17, 1830, that he was given replacement land by the federal government. On the 1830 census, he and his wife were shown as having three children, a son and two daughters.

On November 5, 1832, Willoughby and his wife, Polly, of Hot Springs County, Arkansas, sold 320 acres of land to Elias Rector of Pulaski County, Arkansas. In this deed, Willoughby's wife was referred to as "Polly Sparks nee Harrell." Willoughby paid taxes in Hot Springs County in 1834, but by 1837, he was in Sevier County, Arkansas, where he paid taxes in 1837 and 1838. by 1840, he was back in Hot Springs County, and then on the 1840 census, he and Polly were listed there with seven children. The following year, he moved over into Tennessee where four more of his children were born. In all probability, he moved to Carroll County, Tennessee, to be near his uncle, Isaac Sparks, although he also had an uncle, Nathan Sparks, in Wilson County, Tennessee, and an uncle, Jesse Sparks, in Hickman County, Tennessee.

Willoughby did not remain very long in Tennessee, and by 1845 he was in Robertson County, Texas, where he paid taxes that year. His move to Robertson County may have been prompted by the fact that he had a brother and four sisters already there. His uncle, William Sparks, was also there, along with several cousins who had participated in the Texas-Mexican War in 1835-36; they had been granted land for their services. [See the June 1985 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 130, for further details for the family of William Sparks.]

Edy Sparks, sister of Willoughby, died shortly after he moved to Texas, and, since she apparently had never married nor had any children, her estate (consisting of a rather large tract of land) was divided by her brothers and sisters. On September 8, 1849, Willoughby sold his share of the estate for one dollar and "other considerations." He also apparently traveled to Scott County, Arkansas, to obtain the releases of Edy's estate from his brother, Elsberry Sparks, and also from Elsberry's son, Willis Sparks. The releases were signed on November 27, 1851, but by 1853 Willoughby was in Falls County, Texas, where, on March 5th, he witnessed the release of his sister, Lydia (Sparks) Boatright, to her share of Edy's estate.

The family of Willoughby Sparks was listed on the 1850 census of Limestone County, Texas; however, it was in that portion of the county that became a part of Falls County that same year. In August 1850, Willoughby was one of the petitioners who asked for a voice in locating the new county seat. The following year, he served as a juror for the Falls County Commissioners Court, and at the December 8th session of the court he was appointed to "review" the road from Springfield, Texas, to Marlin, Texas.

Sometime in 1852, Willoughby and Polly Sparks were in Parker County, Texas, where their last child, Rachel, was born April 7th, but by the spring of the following year they were back in Falls County where Willoughby witnessed the release of his sister Lydia for her share of Edy's estate (see above).

Willoughby was also active in buying and selling land in Falls County during the 1850s; he was a party to at least five transactions. He bought (and sold) land in July 1854, August 1854, August 1855, December 1857, and March 1858. Among the persons involved in these sales and purchases were: David Clark and John A. Goudy of Big Creek; James Burton and John H. Walker of the Pin Oak Branch of Brushy Creek; Samuel D. Barclay, James Cook, James Long, and Isaac Cook of Rocky Creek; and D. F. Garrett.

When a special school census (called "The Texas Scholastic of 1854-1855") was taken, Willoughby Sparks was in Limestone County. School-age children in his household included his own children: Clarinda Sparks, Nancy Sparks, Bailey Sparks, and John Sparks, and

also three other children,

John Nelson,
Willoughby Nelson, and
Minerva Nelson.

The latter three children were probably his grandchildren.

by 1859, Willoughby Sparks was back in Parker County; however, he did not appear on any 1860 census of Texas counties. He may have been missed by the census-taker because he was making one of his frequent moves between Parker County and Falls County. These moves were the result of the frequent Indian uprisings during the period 1849 -1865, and Willoughby was following a pattern adopted by the pioneer settlers in this area of Texas. Simply stated, these families would settle along the Brazos River in the general area of Parker, Palo Pinto, and Jack Counties. Periodically, the Indians would "go on a rampage," and the settlers would return to the relative safety of Falls and Limestone Counties until order was restored, after which they would return to their former homes.

Willoughby Sparks apparently died between March 1858 (when he participated in his last land transaction) and 1862 (when his wife, Mary, apparently received a tax exemption in Parker County, probably because of her widowhood). Mary may have died the following year. She was buried in an unmarked grave in the Hills Cemetery in Parker County. Some relatives believe that Willoughby was also buried there.

(A great many years ago, two great-grandchildren of Willoughby and Polly (Harrell) Sparks, Frank Sparks and Segonia (Sparks) Pritchett, found Mary's (Polly's) grave in Hills Cemetery. It had a headstone marker then which read "Polly Sparks, 1813." When they revisited the cemetery the following year for the purpose of replacing the marker, someone had removed it. )

The photograph reproduced here is said to be that of Willoughby and Polly. A copy of the original has been loaned to us for reproduction by Katherine Springer, P.O. Box 157, Magazine, Arkansas, 72943.

(View photograph)

According to census records and information gathered by descendants, Willoughby and Polly Sparks had twelve children; however, three daughters have not been identified. Here is what we have learned about them. Levi Sparks, son of Willoughby and Polly Sparks, was born ca. 1825 in Arkansas, probably in Miller County. He is said to have lived for a time in Georgia, but he joined family members in Limestone County, Texas, in time to be recorded on the 1850 census of that county. He is said to have married and moved back to Georgia where he had a family of at least seven children. We have found no records to prove this to be correct nor do we have any further information about Levi Sparks. A Dau1 Sparks was born to Willoughby and Polly Sparks between 1825 and 1830. A Dau2 Sparks of Willoughby and Polly Sparks was born between 1830 and 1835. She may have been named Minerva. She may also have married S. Nelson and perhaps she was the mother of the three children who were living in the household of Willoughby Sparks when a special school census was taken in 1855. The names of these children were: John Nelson, Willoughby Nelson
, and Minerva Jane Nelson
. William Sparks, son of Willoughby and Polly Sparks, was born ca. 1832 in Arkansas. He married Martha A.Erskine, ca. 1857. She was born ca. 1832 in Tennessee and was a sister of James D. Erskine. (See Item 8, below.) When the 1860 census was taken of Falls County, Texas, William and Martha had two children, and there were probably others born to this marriage later. M. J. Sparks, a daughter, was born ca. 1858. J. M. Sparks, a son, was born ca. 1860. A Dau3 of Willoughby and Polly Sparks was born between 1830 and 1835. TILLMAN SPARKS (1837 - 1912)
Son of Willoughby and Polly (Harrell) Sparks
(Picture) Tillman Sparks, son of Willoughby and Polly Sparks, was born July 24, 1837, at Ouachita Cove in Hot Springs County, Arkansas. He accompanied his parents on their frequent moves in Arkansas and Tennessee and had, attained manhood when they finally settled in Texas. It was there, in Falls County, that he married Elcy Pevehouse on May 13, 1861, just one month after the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

Elcy (her name was also spelled Alcey, Alcy, Eliza, and Elsie) was born October 16, 1845, in Fort Bend County, Texas, and she was a daughter of Abraham and Mary (Hodge) Pevehous (or Peaveyhouse). Descendants remember her as a very beautiful, red-haired woman. Her mother, Mary Hodge, was a descendant of Alexander Hodge, a Revolutionary War soldier who had served in the South Carolina militia under Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox." The family of Alexander Hodge was one of the original 300 families in Stephen Austin's Colony which settled in Texas in 1825.

A photograph of Elcy (Pevehous) Sparks (or Alcey Peaveyhouse) appears below.

Shortly after his marriage, Tillman Sparks enlisted in Company B, Waller's Regiment, Green's Brigade of Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army, along with his brother, Bailey Sparks. Tillman was captured on June 30, 1864, in Concordia Parish, Louisiana, while defending a bridge so that his fellow soldiers could cross. He was listed on the prisoner-of-war roster at Ship Island, Mississippi, until November 5, 1864, when he was sent to the Elmira, New York, Prison Camp. He was received there on November 19, 1864. His description on the POW roster stated that he was 5 feet, 10 inches tall, and that he had a dark complexion, light hair, and blue eyes. A reproduction of a painting made from a "tintype" photograph of Tillman Sparks appears on the cover of this issue
of the Quarterly. The tintype itself has been reproduced on the following page. A comparison of the tintype and the painting made from it reveals how the artist improved the appearance of Tillman's coat.

1845-1919 1837-1912
Wife of Tillman Sparks Son of Willoughby Sparks
(Picture) (Picture)

Years later, Tillman Sparks told his son, Jim Sparks, about the Elmira Prison. It was located on a river which was iced over during the winter of 1864 - 65. The buildings were old barracks that were too small to house the 10,000 prisoners, and many of the prisoners were forced to live in tents. In addition to the severe cold, the food was scant and poorly prepared, and their clothing was unfit for the climate. The death rate was high, nearly five percent each month.

Somehow, Tillman Sparks managed to survive, and at the end of the war he returned to Texas. He walked barefoot most of the way home, his shoes were worn out. Sometimes he was able to catch a ride. It took him several months to rejoin his wife and two children.

For a time after his return, Tillman lived in Johnson County, but when the 1880 census was taken, he was in Eastland County. Soon thereafter, he moved to Parker County. When he applied for a Confederate pension from the state of Texas in 1909, he stated that he had lived in Parker County for thirty years. He died there in the village of Buckner on October 23, 1912, and was buried in the Hills Cemetery.

After her husband's death, Elcy Sparks applied for a Widow's Pension from the state of Texas. In 1913, she moved to Henderson County to be with her daughter, Necie Bell (Sparks) Mayhew. She died there on September 27, 1919, from a fall. She was buried in the Tool Cemetery. A sandstone marker reads: "Mrs. T. Sparks."

Although Tillman and Elcy Sparks had twelve children, only six of them lived to reach maturity. Willoughby Sparks was born February 28, 1864. He was undoubtedly named for his grandfather. He died on March 17, 1869, in Johnson County. Mary Sparks was born December 20, 1864, in Falls County and was named for both of her grandmothers. She died on September 25, 1880. James Richard ["Jim"] Sparks was born September 10, 1866, in Johnson County and was a teenager when his parents moved to Parker county. It was there that he married Laura Ida Phillips on August 5, 1893. She was born on September 24, 1876, in Calhoun County, Alabama, and was a daughter of William Lewis and Mary Victoria Lorinda (Gilbert) Phillips. She was only three years old when her parents went to Texas in a wagon train. Years later, she told of having a playmate on the wagon train named "Segonia." She never forgot her, and named her only daughter Necie Segonia Sparks.

Jim Sparks was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man. Ida (as she was called) was a stout woman who wore her hair in a bun. Her hands told that she had worked hard all of her life. She was also a very strong-willed, but a good, woman. An example of her determination was her care and concern for her youngest child, Cecil, who became blind when he was only eight months old. Ida made up her mind that he would receive a good schooling so that he could take care of himself and lead a normal life. Ultimately, her patience and concern resulted in Cecil's musical education which led him to a place in the Leon Paine Western Band, and, for a while, he had his own radio program from a Houston station.

Jim Sparks was a farmer most of his life. In 1909, he moved his family to Elmore City, Oklahoma, where he stayed until ca. 1925. From there, he moved to Breckenridge, Texas, to operate a boarding house, but by 1930, he was operating a dairy in Denton, Texas. He died in Denton on October 30, 1941. Ida survived him only a few years, dying on March 18, 1947. They were buried in the Hills Cemetery. They had eleven children. The eight oldest were born in Parker County, while the three youngest were born in Garvin County, Oklahoma.


Four standing in rear, left to right: Jay, Tom, Frank, and Leslie
Two standing in middle row, left to right: Virgil and George
Front row, left to right: Mike (standing); "Dad" i-e. James Richard Sparks; "Mother" i-e. Laura Ida (Phillips) Sparks (holding Cecil); and Segonia (standing)
(Picture) William Tillman ["Tom"] Sparks was born July 29, 1894. He married Bonnie Carpenter, and they had one child, Jackie Sparks. Tom died in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. James Franklin ["Frank"] Sparks was born July 4, 1896. He never married. He died on October 5, 1965, at Great Bend, Kansas. Leslie Utah Sparks was born March 20, 1899. He married Bessie Emmeline Jones on August 1, 1920, in Parker County, and they had two children, Dorothy Hotona Sparks married James A. McDonald on December 23, 1938, and they are the parents of: Marsha (McDonald) Wharton, the author of this article. Melba Cleola Sparks.

Leslie died on March 3, 1969, at Weatherford, Texas. John Jay Gilbert Sparks was born August 27, 1901. He married Ester Sisemore in 1925, and they had five sons Edgar Sparks, Truett Sparks, Wylie Sparks, Kenneth Sparks, and Gerald Sparks. George Nunley Sparks was born April 28, 1904. He married Edna Dean in 1928, and they had five children: Mack Sparks, Lovey Sparks, Wanda Sparks, Don Sparks, and Ted Sparks. Virgil Clarence Sparks was born March 15, 1906. He was married twice. His first marriage was to Winnie Brooks in 1930, and his second was to Pearl King in 1951. He had three children: Marisa Sparks, Timothy Sparks, and Caroline Sparks. Hubert Densley ["Pat"] Sparks was born September 22, 1908. He married Alta Brewer on June 8, 1935, and they had one child, Myron Sparks. A son was born to Jim and Ida Sparks in 1910, but he lived only a few hours. Albert Sidney ["Mike"] Sparks was born March 28, 1911. He was married twice. His first marriage was to Alice Roach in 1931. His second marriage was to Marjorie Crafton in 1945. Mike had seven children: Virginia Sparks, Albert Sparks, Lynn Sparks, Glen Sparks, Wayne Sparks, Judy Sparks, and James Richard Sparks. Necie Segonia Sparks was born February 7, 1913. She married Clarence Pritchett, and they had three children: Bervel Pritchett, Melvin Pritchett, and Herbert Pritchett. Cecil Willard Sparks was born April 8, 1916. He was married four times. He had a son by his second marriage:

Kenneth Sparks Nelson Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born November 11, 1868. He died on June 12, 1872. Tillman Alexander ["Alex"] Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born on August 15, 1870. He married Lillie Dona MNU in 1900, and they lived in Breckenridge, Texas. They had six children: Willie Mae Sparks, Roy M. Sparks, Alfred Sparks, Ruby Sparks, Geraldine Sparks, and Oscar Sparks. Jacob M. Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born July 10, 1872, and was named for his great-grandfather, Jacob Pevehouse. He died on October 2, 1873. & 8 Twin daughters of Tillman and Elcy Sparks Dee Sparks, born January 14, 1875. She died on October 13, 1875 Anna Sarah Sparks, was born January 14, 1875. She died on February 4, 1877. Samuel Walter Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born September 28, 1876. He married Jodie May MNU in 1899, and they had three daughters, Georgia Lee Sparks, Callie Sparks, and Mamy Sparks. John Henry Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born March 24, 1879, in Eastland County, Texas. He married Ada E. Eskridge in 1902, and they had two children before his untimely death on December 8, 1911, in Parker County. He died from a thorn in his knee. He was buried in the Hills Cemetery. His children were: Robert Lee Sparks and Ethyl Sparks. Cordon Wesley Sparks, son of Tillman and Elcy Sparks, was born March 13, 1881, in Eastland County. He married Etta MNU, and they had five children: Arthur Sparks, Bernice Sparks, Clifford Sparks, Eula Mae Sparks, and Von Sparks. Necie Bell Sparks, daughter, was born November 30, 1887, in Parker County. It was there that she married Russell Mayhew on November 5, 1911. She died on February 10, 1974. She had no children. Molly Sparks, daughter of Willoughby and Polly Sparks, was born ca. 1838 in Arkansas. She died when she was quite young. Clarinda Sparks, daughter, was born ca. 1840 in Tennessee. She married James D. Erskine on September 2, 1856, in Falls County, Texas. [See Item 4, above.] They lived in or around the general area of Parker, Palo Pinto, and Falls Counties, Texas. We have no further information about them. Nancy C. Sparks, daughter, was born ca. 1842 in Tennessee. She married Wesley Thompson ca. 1862, and they had two children before her death which occurred prior to 1871. Her children were: Agnes May Thompson. She married John Smethers, a brother of Cordon Wesley Smethers. [See below.] Dee Waverly Thompson, son. Bailey Milton Sparks, son, was born in Tennessee in January 1847. He was probably named for his great-uncle, Bailey Sparks, son of Matthew and Sarah (Thompson) Sparks. He served in Company B, Waller's Regiment, Green's Brigade of Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army during the Civil War and received a pension in later years from the state of Texas for his service. When the 1880 census was taken of Eastland County, Texas, he was living in the household of his brother, Tillman Sparks. [See page 1281 of the December 1969 issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 68, for an abstract of his military records.]

Bailey Sparks married Julia Antley, ca. 1882, and they had three children before her death on April 11, 1887, shortly after their third child was born. Bailey married (second) Amanda MNU, ca. 1895. She apparently had a large family by a previous marriage. Bailey died on January 27, 1931, in Wise County, Texas. Nora Sparks, daughter, was born ca. 1883. She married D. B. Brown, and they had one child, Mildred Brown. Chauncey Sparks, son, was born ca. 1885. Thomas Columbus ["Lum"] Sparks, son, was born on March 31, 1887. After the death of his mother, he was reared by his aunt, Rachel (Sparks) Smethers. He died on July 22, 1976. [See Item below.] John Sparks, son, was born ca. 1848 in Tennessee. He served in Company D (Lt. Spruell's Company) 35th Regiment Texas Cavalry, Confederate States Army during the Civil War, and after his death, his widow received a pension from the state of Texas for his service.

After returning from the military service, John Sparks married Rebecca A. ["Becky"] Brown on December 29, 1871, in Limestone County, Texas. She was born November 25, 1855, in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. John died on December 13, 1925, in Limestone County, and Becky died on March 6, 1953. According to the 1880 census of Limestone County, they had four children; there may have been other children born to them later. These four were: Samantha Sparks was born ca. 1872. Minnie Sparks was born ca. 1874. Mary F. Sparks was born ca. 1876. Nora Ann Sparks was born ca. 1878. Rachel A. Sparks, daughter, was born April 7, 1852, in Parker County, Texas, and it was there that she married Cordon Wesley Smethers on October 3, 1867. (The surname of Smethers is also written as Smithers by some descendants.) Cordon was born in May 1849 in Indiana. He died on April 14, 1929, in Palo Pinto County, Texas. Rachel died February 7, 1930, in Young County, Texas. She was buried in the Hills Cemetery. According to census records, she and Cordon had four children. John Wesley Smethers was born May 19, 1872. He married Minnie Ardell Grigsby on August 26, 1894, in Palo Pinto County, Texas. He died on December 15, 1952, in Denton County, Texas. Mary Jane Smethers was born January 4, 1874. She married Henry Schlitter on December 2, 1894. She died on February 26, 1959. Julia Smethers was born ca. 1876. She died prior to 1900. Fannie L. Smethers was born in November 1887. She never married. She died in 1943.