April 27, 2021

Pages 3484-3500
(Born ca.1700, Died ca.1765)

by Russell E. Bidlack

For many years the present writer has been promising a number of descendants of William Sample Sparks that he would prepare an article setting forth all of the information we have been able to gather regarding this individual. Be cause there remain a number of unsolved questions regarding his life and family, however, we have hesitated preparing a biographical sketch for publication with the thought that further facts might yet be uncovered. Additional discoveries now seem unlikely, however, so perhaps it is time to record what we have been able to learn regarding William Sample Sparks, born nearly 300 years ago. This writer has a personal interest in this individual because his wife, Melva (Sparks) Bidlack, is a 5th great-granddaughter. She descends through his son, William Sparks, who died in Surry County, North Carolina, between December 21, 1801, and May 1802.

A number of people have done research during the past forty years regarding the life of William Sample Sparks, among them being Paul E. Sparks, president of The Sparks Family Association. In fact, Dr. Sparks could have written this article as well as the present writer, because he has been the one to unearth many of the known facts regarding our subject. (Paul descends from an uncle of William Sample Sparks named 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks who died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749.) The late William P. Johnson also spent many hours searching for clues pertaining to William Sample Sparks, trying to determine where he might fit within the Sparks family of Queen Annes County, Maryland.

Paul E. Sparks and this writer are now convinced that we have identified the parentage of William Sample Sparks, as well as his siblings and three of his children. We have to admit, however, that our proof for these relationships is based on what in the law is called "a preponderance of evidence" rather than upon a primary source document containing this information. In part, our conclusions have been reached through a process of elimination based on years of study of all members of the Queen Annes County Sparks family. Much of our difficulty in this research results from the repeated use of the forename "William" by members of this branch of the family. Not only was the grandfather of William Sample Sparks named 1.2 William Sparks (we have his 1709 will that was probated in Queen Annes County that same year), but this first William Sparks named his oldest son William, and in turn not only did that son (William Sparks, Jr.) name a son William, but each of the other three sons of this first William Sparks (who died in 1709) also named a son William, apparently to honor their father. Fortunately, William, son of William, Jr,.., was either given a middle name at his birth or, what is more probable, adopted the middle name "Sample." This helps greatly to distinguish him in the records of the time from his father and from his three first cousins named William Sparks. Unfortunately, there were occasions when "Sample" was omitted from his name when a clerk recorded it in an official record.

Until about a decade ago, we thought that the William Sparks who died in Surry County, North Carolina, in 1802 was William Sample Sparks. We gradually came to realize, however, that this William Sparks, who died between December 21, 1801, and May 1802 was actually a son of William Sample Sparks, who had died some 35 years earlier. Unfortunately, this erroneous identification was given in several early issues of The Sparks Quarterly. A citation for each of these errors will appear at the end of this article.

In the Quarterly of March 1971, Whole No. 73, pp. 1371-1389, appeared a study of the early Sparks families of Kent, Talbot, and Queen Annes Counties, Maryland. On pages 3881-89, we presented a biographical record of the first 1.2 William Sparks, to live in that area and who wrote his will in June 1709 in Queen Annes County. This will was probated in the County Court when the justices met the following October, which means that he had died in the summer or early autumn of 1709. There we presented documentary proof that this first William Sparks had come to Maryland from the county of Hampshire in England

These same records prove that he had a brother named 1.1 John Sparks who lived near William Sparks in Maryland, dying in 1700. In his will, 1.1 John Sparks referred to two sons named 1.1.1 John Sparks and 1.1.2 George Sparks still in England. Another document proves that in 1716 John and George were living in Christ Church Parish in Hampshire County. From information recently provided us by Susan Sparks LeDuc of Ft. Wayne, Indiana, who also descends from this branch of the family, we believe that the above William and John Sparks may have been sons of 1. Thomas and Joane (Davis) Sparks who were married in Fareham Parish in Hampshire County, England, on October 19, 1635. Among their children baptized in that parish were William Sparks, baptized on August 6, 1646, and John Sparks, baptized on December 3, 1649. While the ages of these two children appear to fit those of William and John Sparks who later appeared in Maryland, we must beg our readers to treat these relationships as speculative until more extensive proof can be obtained. (Thomas Sparks of Fareham Parish had two other sons: 1.3 Francis Sparks who was baptized on July 20, 1641, and 1.4 Richard Sparks who was baptized on December 10, 1658.) Baptisms in England in the 1600s were usually performed soon after a child's birth.

1.2 William Sparks (died 1709), the first American ancestor of this branch of the Sparks family, came to the colony of Maryland in or ca. 1663. During the next 45 years, he accumulated a good deal of property which he passed on to his wife, Mary MNU, and to his children in his will. As noted earlier, one of his sons was named 1.2.1 William Sparks, and while the elder William Sparks was living, this son was called "William Sparks, Jr." in official records. We believe that William Sparks, Jr. was the eldest son of William Sparks and that he was born ca. 1674. He was married twice, his first wife being Margaret Hamilton, daughter of Josiah Hamilton, to whom he had been married no later than March 1696 and who was the mother of William Sample Sparks. (Margaret Hamilton was identified as the wife of William Sparks and the daughter of Josiah Hamilton in a New Castle County, Delaware, deed dated March 31, 1696, and recorded in Deed Book B-1, pp. 101-02; Josiah Hamilton had died by this date and property In New Castle that had been inherited by Margaret was sold in this deed.)

Sometime prior to 1729, Margaret (Hamilton) Sparks died, and 1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr. then married Anne MNU, who died on December 16, 1730. (The Julian Calendar was still used by England and her colonies in 1730, and Anne's date of death under the Gregorian Calendar adopted by England in 1752 would have been on December 27, 1730, according to today's reckoning.) Anne Sparks's death was recorded in St. Luke's Parish Register in Queen Annes County, Maryland. William Sparks, Jr. died ca. 1735, we believe, but no probate of his estate has been found among Queen Annes County records.

1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr. had three brothers who, along with himself, were named in their father's will of June 1709. They were:

1.2.2 George Sparks, born ca. 1679; 1.2.4 John Sparks, born ca. 1684; and 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks, born ca. 1689. The elder William Sparks also mentioned a deceased daughter in his will, who had married FNU Hynson.

William Sparks, Jr. and each of his brothers had several children, resulting in at least 35 Sparks grandchildren for the elder William Sparks (died 1709). As mentioned earlier, four of these grandchildren were named William in his honor. Dr. Paul E. Sparks, as has been noted, has spent many years studying the records pertaining to this branch of the Sparks family, and in the Quarterly of June 1988, Whole No. 142, pp. 3229-31, he presented a list of these 35 probable grandchildren, with notes identifying each as best he could. The William Sparks shown as number 32 on this list was, we are convinced, the William Sample Sparks who is the subject of this article.

Middle names were very rarely used before the 19th century, and we suspect that "Sample" was added by our subject to help distinguish himself in official records from his father and his three first cousins who were also named William Sparks. When it was that he may have added "Sample" to his name, we do not know, nor do we know why the name "Sample" was chosen. This was a Maryland surname, and it is possible that there was some connection between the Sparks and Sample families. Each time that a record was made that had been initiated by William Sample Sparks, whether in Maryland or later in North Carolina, his full name appeared, but when a clerk recorded his name in a court or church record, his middle name was usually omitted. This was probably because middle names were so rare in the 17th and 18th centuries.

In the several instances where William Sample Sparks signed a document which has been preserved, he signed by mark, as did his father and grandfather. Not everyone in those days who signed by mark, however, was illiterate, and even if they could not write they could often read.

Prior to the creation of St. Luke's Parish in Queen Anne's County, the parish which included the area where the Sparks family lived was St. Paul's Parish, the records for which, unfortunately, have not been preserved. In 1728, a petition addressed to the Upper and Lower Houses of the Assembly of the Province of Maryland was circulated for signatures. It requested that a new parish be created because "many souls have to travel as much as twenty to thirty miles to keep the Lord's Day." Among the signers of this petition was "William Sparks, Senr."  This was surely the William Sparks born ca. 1674 who had been called "William Sparks, Jr." until his father died in 1709. In 1728, with his father having been dead for nearly 20 years and his own son, also named William, having come of age, it was logical that he now be called "Senior."

Also among the signers of this 1728 petition were two other men whose names appeared simply as "William Sparks." We are confident that one of these was our William Sample Sparks--someone probably obtained his permission to add his name and omitted the middle name "Sample," or it is possible that he had not yet begun using it. The second William Sparks on this petition was probably the son of John Sparks and a first cousin of William Sample Sparks. (William Sparks, son of John, was born ca. 1706.) John Sparks also signed this petition, as did two man named George Sparks. One of these was doubtless the George Sparks, born ca. 1679, who was a son of the elder William Sparks who had died in 1709; the other was either George's son or a nephew.

The petitioners were successful, and St. Paul's Parish was divided to form St. Luke's Parish. The Sparks family was included in the new parish.

The marriage dated August 24,1732., which was recorded in St. Luke's Parish register (page 41), of a William Sparks and a Mary Courmon (or Corman) may have been that of William Sample Sparks, but, if so, it must not have been his first marriage. Our reason for believing that there had been an earlier marriage date for William Sample Sparks is the fact that his son, William Sparks (died 1801 in Surry County, North Carolina) obtained his first grant of land in Frederick County, Maryland, on July 11, 1749. He must have been at least 21 years old in order to qualify for a land grant, which would place his birth at least as early as 1728.

A map showing where the Sparks family of St. Luke's Parish in Queen Annes County, Maryland, lived appeared on the cover of the Quarterly for March 1971, Whole No. 73.

We have found no record of William Sample Sparks ever owning any land. He must have been a tradesman, perhaps an inn keeper. (As will be noted later, there are records of his having had a license to operate an "ordinary," a term used for an inn or tavern, after he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina.)

From our brief records pertaining to William Sample Sparks found in Queen Annes County and Frederick County, Maryland, it appears that he had both financial and health problems at different times in his life. For example, on page 236 of the register of St. Luke's Parish (this was copied ca. 1899 from earlier records now in the Library of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore), there is a record dated 1736 indicating that he had moved out of the parish without paying his church tax. In fact, he was called a "Runaway Insolvent" in the parish record. At that time, every adult white male, regardless of his personal religious convictions, was required to pay a yearly tax to the Church of England. William Sample Sparks's tax for 1736 was 6 pence, but he left the parish without paying it. (In this parish record, his middle name was used.)

It was in or ca. 1736 that William Sample Sparks left Queen Annes County with his family and moved to the western part of the Province of Maryland. To do so, he would have crossed the Chesapeake Bay and probably travelled near, or possibly through, the small town of Baltimore, which had been laid out in 1730, to reach the western edge of what is now Carroll County, although at the time it was part of Prince Georges County. He settled in the area of Big Pipe and Little Pipe Creeks, perhaps close to where they join to become Double Pipe Creek, which, after about a mile, flows into the Monocacy River just above today's Millers Bridge, about 5 miles north of the town of Woodsboro. (Little Pipe Creek, which flows north and west, now forms the boundary between Carroll and Frederick Counties for several miles.)

The area in which Sparks settled, which is drained by the Monocacy River and its tributaries, was then commonly called "Monocacy," as the Indians had called it before the appearance of the white man. This area comprised most of what is now Frederick County along with part of today's Carroll County.

This area called Monocacy was a new frontier in the 1730s, and William Sample Sparks and his family were true pioneers. He doubtless built his own cabin after his arrival. Record keeping was very limited, except for recording the granting and selling of land. Because Sparks was not a land owner, nor did he become involved in any major lawsuit, his name was rarely recorded during the nearly two decades that he lived there. No church existed there in the 1730's except a small Quaker meeting-house. He did not join this group, nor did he join the Lutheran Church established later by German settlers.

When Frederick County was cut off from Prince Georges County in 1748, it contained all of the western portion of the province, including Washington County (which was cut off from Frederick in 1776), as well as Allegany County (which was cut off from Washington in 1789), and Garret County (which was cut off from Allegany in 1872). To the east, Frederick County also included, until 1776, Montgomery County, and from 1748 until 1837, a portion of Carroll County was included in Frederick.

This large area that became Frederick County in 1748 had been part of Prince Georges County from the time that Prince Georges County had been cut off from Charles and Calvert Counties in 1695. Between 1695 and 1748, Prince Georges County adjoined Baltimore County and comprised the entire western half of the province.

Our earliest reference to William Sample Sparks among court records of Prince Georges County is in the probate file of a man named Allen Farquhar who died in December 1738. Allen Farquhar (he signed his will on November 30, 1738, as "Allen Farquer"), was a miller. He had moved from Chester County, Pennsylvania, sometime after 1726 and settled on either the Big or Little Pipe Creek. He was a man of some means, and his mill served the early settlers for several miles around. Most business was conducted on credit in those days, but all bills came due when a creditor died. As part of the inventory of Allen Farquhar's estate, a list was made of all of those who, according to his account book, were in his debt for milling services. Over 60 names were listed, including several Indians The fourth name on the list was that of William Sparks in the amount of one pound and 14 shillings. It is not surprising that his middle name was omitted in Farquhar's account book since he was then the only Sparks in the neighborhood. (This inventory of Farquhar's estate is preserved in the Hall of Records in Baltimore, Prince Georges County Inventories, Vol. 24, pages 8-10; we are grateful to George J. Horvath of Eldersburg, Maryland, for discovering this record for us.)

At some point following his settling in the Monocacy area, William Sample Sparks was joined there by his uncle, 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks, with his family. We know that Joseph Sparks was still in Queen Annes County, Maryland in the spring of 1738 when, on April 27, 1738, his son was baptized in St. Luke's Parish church. Joseph and his wife, Mary, named this son William. It was some time during the decade that followed that Joseph Sparks and his family joined Wmiam Sample Sparks in the Monocacy area, and it was there that he died in 1749. (For in formation. on the life and some of the descendants of Joseph Sparks, see the Quarterly of September 1986, Whole No. 135, beginning on page 2914.)

1.2.5 Joseph Sparks, uncle of William Sample Sparks, died the year following the creation of Frederick County. He was a relatively young man when he died, somewhere in his 50's, and he left his wife, Mary, with a large family. He did not leave a will, which may suggest that he died suddenly. The records pertaining to the settlement of his estate are in the Maryland Hall of Records. As was customary, a detailed inventory of Joseph Sparks's possessions was taken. It was a Maryland law that two relatives of the deceased should certify the accuracy of such an inventory by signing their names to it; the two chief creditors of the estate were also supposed to sign. The children and spouse of the deceased rarely signed such a document, since they would be heirs, so other close relatives were expected to perform this service. So, after the inventory of Joseph Sparks's belongings was completed by two of his neighbors in June 1749, William Sample Sparks signed it (by mark). His full name was given. The other signer was "Rachell Sparks," who likewise signed by mark. In-laws were permitted to sign Maryland inventories and, while we cannot be certain, it would appear that Rachel may may have been the wife of William Sample Sparks.

If, indeed, the Rachel Sparks who signed with William Sample Sparks as kin of Joseph Sparks in 1749 was the wife of William Sample Sparks, we must concude that she was either a third wife or that the marriage record cited earlier for a William Sparks and a Mary Courmon was not that of William Sample Sparks. It may well be that his one and only wife was named Rachel.

There was not a great deal of difference in the ages of William Sample Sparks and his uncle, 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks. The latter was born ca. 1689 while William Sample Sparks was born ca. 1700. While Joseph's children were first cousins of William Sample, they were nearly a generation younger than he.

The widow of Joseph Sparks was named Mary--we have found no clue to reveal her maiden name. She became administratrix of her husband's estate. The two disinterested parties who prepared the inventory were Joseph Wood and William Carmack. From a recent book entiled Pioneers of Old Monocacy, the Settlement of FrederickCounty,Maryland, 1721-1743, by Grace L. Tracey and John P. Dern, we know that Joseph Wood lived on Linganore Creek about a half mile south of present day Unionville. William Carmack (1716-1776) had moved to the Linganore Creek area after 1733 from Cecil County, Maryland. The two creditors who signed the. inventory of the estate of Joseph Sparks in 1749 were David Young, who claimed that Sparks had owed him "one pound and forpence," and Osborn Sprigg. The amount owed to Sprigg was not specified, although in the final settlement he was identified as "Sheriff" and was paid in tobacco valued at 3 pounds, 14 shillings, and 4 pence.

Recalling that the mother of William Sample Sparks was Margaret (Hamilton) Sparks, it is interesting that a John Hamilton was one of the 1749 creditors of Joseph Sparks in Frederick County. (We have not succeeded as yet in tracing the ancestry of Margaret Hamilton other that knowing her father's name was Josiah Hamilton.)

The children of 1.2.5 Joseph and Mary Sparks were identified in a Frederick County court record dated August 1750 in which Mary was ordered to give to each of her children his/her proper share of Joseph's estate. The children were named as: Solomon Sparks. Born ca. 1727. Joseph Sparks. Born ca. 1730. Merum Sparks. (daughter) Born ca. 1730. Charles Sparks. Born ca. 1731. George Sparks. Born ca. 1733. Jonas Sparks. Born ca. 1734. Ann Sparks. Born ca. 1735. Jonathan Sparks. Born ca. 1735. Rebecca Sparks. Born ca. 1735. William Sparks. Born April 27, 1738, married Martha Moore. Mary Sparks. Born ca. 1740. Sarah Sparks. Born ca. 1747

(For further information on these children of Joseph and Mary Sparks see the Quarterly of September 1986, Whole No. 135, beginning on page 2914.)

Our next record pertaining to William Sample Sparks is dated 1750. This was a petition submitted by him to the Frederick County Court at its June 1750 sitting. As recorded in Liber 1748-50 of the Frederick County "Circuit Court Judgments," Folio 557, this petition reads.

"To the worshipful the Justices of Frederick County Court, now setting, the petition of William Sample Sparks, Pipe Creek One Hundred, humbly sheweth that your petitioner has been afflicted many years with a sore leg that renders him very incapable to maintain his family; that if ye worships would please to make an order to set your Petitioner Levy free, your Petitioner as bound shall pray, etc. Upon reading which petition and consideration thereof had, it is ordered by the Court here that the Petitioner be levy free for the future.

From this petition, it appears that William Sample Sparks still had children to support who were still living at home in 1750.

A key source for genealogical research in Maryland are the land records, which are, in some ways, different from those of any other American colony. The period in Maryland's history with which we are concerned here fell into what is known as the "Second Period of Proprietary Rule, 1716-1776." Prior to 1683, land had been granted to individuals who paid the transportation costs to bring settlers, including themselves, to the province, but after 1683 individuals could obtain land grants without bringing in settlers. Because the colony was governed by a "Proprietor," however, annual rent had to be paid to him even though an individual held title to his land. This all ended, of course, with the American Revolution. Another peculiar feature of land ownership in Maryland was the custom of naming each piece of land when it was initially granted. The first owner chose the name for it by which it would usually be known thereafter, even when sold to another party. This makes the tracing of land ownership much easier in Maryland than in other states. Sometimes the names chosen for the land had genealogical significance. When land was plentiful, as it was when William Sample Sparks moved to what became Frederick County in 1748, individuals often "squatted" on vacant land until they or another party obtained an official grant. This is probably what was done by William Sample Sparks. Joseph Sparks probably did the same, but had he not died in 1749, it is likely that he would tried to obtain a land grant following the creation of Frederick County in 1748. William Sparks, son of William Sample Sparks, (we feel certain he was the oldest son), began acquiring land in Frederick County in 1749. He left Frederick County in 1764 to join his father and brothers in Rowan County, North Carolina. An article devoted to this William Sparks, born ca. 1725-28, will appear in a future issue of the Quarterly.

Another son of William Sample Sparks was named Matthew and was born ca. 1730. We believe he was his father's second son. According to a descendant, he married Sarah Thompson, but whether this marriage took place in Maryland or after he moved to Rowan County, North Carolina, in or ca. 1754, we do not know. An article devoted to Matthew Sparks and his family appeared in the Quarterly of June 1961, Whole No. 34, pp. 556-566. At that time, however, we had not identified him as a son of William Sample Sparks and stated simply that the two men were somehow related. We know now that he was the same Matthew Sparks who was shown as a creditor in the inventory of the estate of one Matthew Hopkins who had died in Frederick County a year or two following the death of Joseph Sparks. Although undated, this inventory was taken sometime in 1751; it showed that Hopkins had owed Matthew 475 pounds of tobacco when he died. (See Frederick County lnventories, Book A, No. 1, p. 187.) Tobacco was a common medium of exchange, and this probably meant that young Matthew Sparks had performed some kind of labor for Hopkins for which he had not yet been paid when he died. The other Frederick County record pertaining to Matthew Sparks is a court record dated November 1752 describing a proposed road in the area of Beaver Dam Branch, Great Pipe Creek, and Little Pipe Creek which "has been lately marked by Matthew Sparks." The person advocating that this road be built, Dr. Charles Carroll, indicated that Matthew Sparks had performed this task at his "instance and charge." It would appear that Matthew Sparks had acquired some surveying skills in order to perform this service for Dr. Carroll. The court rejected the proposal, however; Dr. Carroll died in 1755. (See Frederick County Court Judgments, November 1742.) Solomon Sparks, son of 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks and a first cousin of William Sample Sparks, obtained a grant of 93 acres of land on the east side of Beaver Dam Creek on March 20, 1750. Because, under the old Julian Calendar, the new year did not begin until March 25, it was on March 31, 1751, that Solomon made his purchase according to today's calendar. (England and her colonies adopted our present Gregorian Calendar in 1752 which changed the New Year to January 1 and also moved the reckoning of days ahead by eleven.) Solomon Sparks was required to pay a yearly "Rent of Three Shillings and nine pence Sterling in Silver or Golde." (See Frederick County Liber GS #1, Folio 116-118.) He chose the name "Cold Friday" for his tract of land. On June 30, 1753, Solomon Sparks, with the approval of his wife, Sarah, sold this tract for 35 pounds to Matthew Howard. (See Frederick County Deeds, Liber E, Folio 194-95.)

We believe that the reason Solomon Sparks sold "Cold Friday" in November 1753 was that he, along with several other members of the Sparks family, including William Sample Sparks, were preparing to move from Frederick County, Mary land, to the newly formed county of Rowan in North Carolina. They probably made the journey in the spring of 1754.

The destination of these Sparks emigrants was the land called "Lord Granville's Domain between the Yadkin and the Catawba Rivers" in North Carolina. North Carolina had been established originally as a proprietary colony belonging to eight English lords. In 1729, however, seven of these lords sold their rights to the colony to the King, but one, the Earl of Granville, refused to part with his share which, in 1744, was set apart with specified boundaries. Part of his "domain" consisted of a vast area which had been organized in 1749 as Anson County, but from which Rowan County had been cut off as a separate county in 1753. Shortly after Rowan County had been created, the county seat was established and named initially Rowan Court House, but this was changed later to Salisbury.

by 1754, the year in which we believe that William Sample Sparks, with two of his sons and three of his cousins (sons of his deceased uncle, 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks), set out for North Carolina, a great many other settlers had already made the journey. Agents for Lord Granville had advertised the virtues of this new land, particularly in Ireland and in Germany. Thus many of the early pioneers were Irish and German immigrants. How it was that William Sample Sparks and his sons and cousins learned of "Lord Granville's Domain" we shall probably never know, and we can only guess why they were attracted to it. A possible reason was a growing fear that there would be warfare between England and France and that this would result in Indian uprisings in western Maryland. Indeed, what would be called the French and Indian War in America was about to commence. There was also the fact that desirable vacant land was much less plentiful than had been the case a few years earlier, and owners of good land in Frederick County were demanding high prices. There was the pleasing prospect of being able not only to obtain new land in North Carolina at a much lower cost, but also there were reports that the soil there was unusually rich and that the climate was more mild than in western Maryland.

Whether other Frederick County families joined the Sparkses in their pioneering venture, we do not know, but it seems likely. The men named Sparks in the group besides William Sample Sparks were his sons Matthew (about 34 years old) and James (who was still in his teens); there were also three sons of Joseph Sparks: Solomon Sparks (about 27), Jonas Sparks (about 20); and Jonathan Sparks (about 18). One or more daughters of William Sample Sparks may also have been included as perhaps, also, one or more of the daughters of Joseph Sparks (died 1749).

We can only speculate on the route followed by these pioneers. The following paragraphs from James S. Brawley's The Rowan Story, 1753-1953 (Salisbury, NC, 1953, pp. 12-13), helps us to imagine what their path may have been.

At the time Granville's survey was run (1746) people were beginning to fill the valley between the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers. The first settlers seem to have followed the river courses from South Carolina, principally the Pee Dee and Santee, and picked up lands in the southern part of what is now Rowan. Others poured in from Pennsylania and traveled down the "Great Wagon Road" that led them through the Shenandoah Valley into the North Carolina Piedmont. A record of one German, John Ramsour, showed that he traveled 502 miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Salisbury. His route took him to Frederick, Maryland, [then to] Warrenton, Virginia, thence eastward to Amelia Court House, thence southward into North Carolina where he hit the trading path near Granville Court House, thence on to Trading Ford.

Another route followed the "Upper Pennsylvania Road" which is found on a map of 1775 and shows that the route instead of turning eastward in Virginia towards Amelia Court House, continued down through the Shenandoah Valley to Winchester, Salem, and into North Carolina where it stopped just about ten miles above Reedy Creek, a distance of 435 miles. Both of these routes were used a great deal by the immigrants coming into this section.

The great bulk of the settlers into the Yadkin Valley came via these two routes. It is unique that settlement in this part of North Carolina took place much faster than it did in counties to the east of Rowan. Immigration did not come from the eastern seaboard as was true in practically every other county, but from North and South.

The area in Rowan County where the Sparkses settled was called "The Forks of the "Yadkin River." This area was cut off from Rowan County in 1836 to form Davie County. It is at the southern tip of what is now Davie County that the South Yadkin River flows into the Yadkin River. The Yadkin above this point is sometimes called the "North Yadkin." The County seat of Rowan County, Salisbury, is about nine miles south of this lower tip of Davie County. Whether "The Forks of the Yadkin" was the area where the Sparkses planned to settle from the start, or whether they chose it after their arrival in Rowan County, will probably never be known.

Robert W. Ramsey in his book entitled CarolinaCradle,Settlement of the Northwest CarolinaFrontier, 1747-1762(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1964) points out that prior to 1752, there were virtually no settlers in the Forks of the Yadkin, where the land was "rockier, more hilly, and less fertile than the land further south." He added:

It was not until the choice land to the east and south had been occupied that settlers sought out homes in the forks of the Yad kin. The immigrants to this region were largely of English stock, though there was a substantial number of Germans. Although the land grants of many are dated much later, a majority of these settlers were undoubtedly living in the area prior to 1756. (p.72)

While the number of settlers in the Forks of the Yadkin was small at the time of the Sparks family's arrival, there were a few families present. James Carter had gone there from Augusta County, Virginia, in 1747, but by 1753 he had obtained a 305-acre tract where Salisbury was being laid out as Rowan County's seat of justice, and it is thought that he had moved there by 1754. A man named Morgan Bryan had come to the Forks of the Yadkin with his family from Virginia in 1747, and two years later, in May 1750, Squire Boone had come from Pennsylvania with his family. Squire Boone's son, Daniel, who would become Kentucky's most famous pioneer, married Bryan's daughter, Rebecca, in 1755.

Others present when the Sparkses arrived included George Forbush, whom William Sample Sparks and his sons may have known back in Maryland; in the early 1740s Forbush had lived in the "back parts" of Prince Georges County, Maryland. (These "back parts" of Prince Georges County became Frederick County in 1748.) Another settler already on the scene and who may have been known to William Sample Sparks, was Samuel Davis who, likewise, had lived in the "back parts" of Prince Georges County from ca. 1738 until 1747 when he had gone to North Carolina. Still another settler in the area was Edward Hughes, originally from Pennsylvania, who had moved from Wallings Creek in the Valley of Virginia to the Forks of the Yadkin in 1748.

Robert W. Ramsey provides information regarding the above men in the chapter of Carolina Cradle entiled "In the Forks of the Yadkin, 1752-1762," noting that the land on which they had settled had become known as "the Bryan settlement" by 1752. This was in the upper (northern) part of today's Davie County, and extended over into the southern portion of what is now Yadkin County. Ramsey adds: "... the only entrance to the area was the way of the shallow ford, and the crossing there was controlled by Hughes, Davis, Carter, Forbush, and Bryan." (p.73)

The "shallow ford" was the point where the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania and Maryland crossed the Yadkin just below the mouth of Deep Creek. It was in what is now Yadkin County, a mile or two north of the dividing line between Yadkin and Davie Counties. This was surely where the Sparkses crossed the Yadkin in 1754 to seek their homesteads and where they doubtless obtained information regarding the region further south where the South Yadkin joins the Yadkin (or North Yadkin) River.

It was a common practice for a settler on the Earl of Granville's land to choose a site and to live upon it as a "squatter" for a number of years before purchasing it. One ran the risk, of course, that Granville's agent might sell the tract to someone else, but apparently it was a risk worth taking to make certain that a wise selection had been made. It also gave one time to save the necessary shillings to make the purchase.

Matthew Sparks, whom we have identified as WIlliam Sample Sparks's second son, chose a tract of land consisting of 372 acres at the very tip of what is now Davie County, where the South Yadkin flows into the Yadkin River (or North Yadkin). It was not until April 4, 1761, however, that he obtained a deed from Lord Granville's agent for this land--it had been surveyed the previous year. (Rowan County Deed Book 4, p. 514) Matthew paid Granville's agent 10 shillings sterling for his tract. We know also from the early land records of Rowan County that Matthew Sparks built what became known as "Spark's Fish Dam" on the Yadkin, which was a rather complex structure for catching fish which he probably shared with his neighbors.

Also in 1761 (December 21), David Bailey (or Bayley) obtained a deed to a tract of 235 acres along the Yadkin River about three miles above that of Matthew Sparks. He may well have accompanied the Sparkses to the Forks of the Yadkin since he had been a close neighbor of theirs in Frederick County, Maryland. In fact, David Bailey's "plantation" had been mentioned in the survey for a new road that had been made by Matthew Sparks for Dr. Carroll in Frederick County in 1752. (It is interesting to note that Matthew Sparks later named a son "Bailey Sparks"--was his name chosen to honor David Bailey?) Solomon Sparks, son of 1.2.5 Joseph and first cousin of William Sample Sparks, settled on land which also adjoined the Yadkin River, about 12 miles (as the crow flies) north of Matthew Sparks's tract. On April 2, 1761, he obtained his deed for this tract (250 acres) from Granville's agent for 10 shillings In sterling. ('Iowan County Deed Book 4, p. 389.) Then, on August 28, 1762, Solomon purchased (also for 10 shillings) 290 additional acres adjoining his first tract. (Rowan County Deed Book 5, p. 228.) A map showing the location of Matthew's and Solomon's lands appears on the following page.

(Until 1836 part of Rowan County)
The Forks of the Yadkin

As was noted earlier, William Sample Sparks seems never to have owned any land in either Queen Annes County or in Frederick County, Maryland, and, likewise, he acquired none in Rowan County. From a later Rowan County record, however, we know that he had a "dwelling house" in which he maintained an ordinary. Perhaps he built a home on the land owned by his son, Matthew Sparks.

James Sparks, Matthew's brother, was too young to acquire land when the family arrived at the Forks of the Yadkin, as was probably also true of Solomon's brothers, Jonas and Jonathan. In all likelihood, James Sparks lived with his parents for a number of years, perhaps on the land owned by Matthew Sparks, while Jonas and Jonathan probably lived with their brother, Solomon, for several years before establishing homes of their own.

Records were sparsely kept in Rowan County during its early years, and, until settlers actually purchased land, the chances were slight that their names would be recorded in any county or colonial record. Many years would pass before there were organized churches where marriages, births, and deaths might be recorded. The earliest record we have found pertaining to a Sparks in Rowan County is dated June 1756 when the justices of the Salisbury District Superior Court were sitting. Peter Arrand (or Aaron), who was a Rowan County settler as early as 1753, was accused of a "Felony that is to say Buggery [i.e. sodomy]". Among the witnesses was James Sparks. Another witness was Edward Hughes whom we have mentioned earlier. A jury found Arrand "Not guilty." (For the early minutes of this court, see a transcript begun in Vol. 1, No. 1, February 1986, of the Rowan County Register.)

Although our earliest reference to "William Sample Sparks" in Rowan County is dated January 1762, we have no doubt that the "Will Sparks" who was a member of a jury on January 22, 1757, was actually William Sample Sparks. Since there was no other William Sparks in Rowan County at that time, and because the clerk keeping a record of the court's proceedings made the entries as brief as possible, there was no reason for him to use any fuller name than this. (See Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions ,Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762, by JoWhite Linn, 1977, p. 70.) This particular jury trial involved an unspecified charge against Andrew Pitts. The 12-man jury of which William Sample Sparks was a member, found the defendant innocent. William Sample Sparks again served on a jury for the same court on July 23, 1757. In the minutes for this case, his name was recorded as "Wm Sparks." This case was brought by Joseph Harrison against James Berry for a debt; again, the jury found for the defendant. (see p. 77) Matthew and Solomon Sparks did not begin serving on juries until 1761, the year in which they purchased their land from the Earl of Granville.

In January 1762, William Sample Sparks requested the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Rowan County to grant him a "Licence to keep Ordinary." Since this request involved his presenting a formal, written petition, it is not surprising that his full name should appear. The request itself was not recorded, but the following entry was made in the court's minutes for January 19, 1762:

"Ordered that Mr. William Sample Sparkes have Licence to keep Ordinary." The justices who granted the license were William Giles (who owned four tracts of land in the Forks of the Yadkin not far from Matthew Sparks's land), Edward Hughes, and John Frohock, both of whom have been mentioned earlier. All three judges doubtless knew William Sample Sparks personally, and the fact that they referred to him as "Mr." is significant. "Mr." was then a title used only for men of high standing in their community, who had established themselves as gentlemen of integrity. While obviously a tradesman, inn-keeper to be exact rather than a land owner and farmer, William Sample Sparks had achieved a rather high degree of status in Rowan County.

The term "ordinary" in this instance was interchangeable with inn or tavern. It was a place where a traveller could expect to obtain lodging not only for him self and his family, but for his horses as well, and he could also expect to find food and drink. Not only was a license required to operate an ordinary but the county court set the prices that the proprietor might charge.

Further more, the proprietor of such an establishment was required to arrange for two citizens of substantial means to serve as his securities. One of the men who agreed to serve in this capacity for William Sample Sparks was his neighbor, William Giles, who was, himself, a justice of the court approving the license. Giles had come to the Forks of the Yadkin from New Kent County, Virginia, at about the same time that the Sparkses arrived. The other security was Benjamin Milner who lived on Barsheby Creek and had been sheriff of Rowan County since 1759.

While our first record of Sparks obtaining a license for his ordinary was dated January 1762, we suspect that he had been operating it prior to this time either without a license or with one which had not been recorded in the extant court records.

On April 15, 1764, William Sample Sparks again served on a Rowan County jury. In this instance, his name was recorded in full by the clerk keeping the minutes. Jonas Sparks, his first cousin, also served on the same jury, which involved a case brought by Peter Johnson against John Brandon. (See p. 25 of Vol. II of Mrs. Linn's abstracts of these court records, 1763-1774.)

On October 13, 1764, the court agreed to renew William Sample Sparks's license to keep an ordinary. In this instance, it was noted that he maintained his ordinary "at his Own Dwelling House." (Vol. II, p. 554) On this occasion, his securities were Jacob Aaron (or Arrant) and Hugh Montgomery. Jacob Aaron was a German immigrant who also operated a tavern "at his own dwelling house." Hugh Montgomery was a merchant from Philadelphia who had bought a lot in Salisbury in 1756 and operated an ordinary there.

As was mentioned above, it was customary throughout the American colonies for the prices charged by proprietors of ordinaries, taverns, and inns to be regulated, usually by the county court. These establishments existed primarily to serve travellers and immigrants who were either passing through or looking for a place to settle. When located in towns, particularly county seat towns, they served area citizens who had business or court obligations there. Since William Sample Sparks's ordinary was probably located on his son's farm, he must have served travellers primarily. Hanna's River Ferry was located there. At a meeting of the Rowan County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions held on July 25, 1762, the following rates were set for all ordinaries within the county. (Recorded in Mrs. Linn's abstracts, Vol. 1, p. 152; these prices were given in shillings and pence, there being 20 shillings in a pound and 12 pence in a shilling.)

Medaira Wine per gallon & sold in proportion  10 shillings
Claret per gallon & sold in proportion 16   "
English Cyder per quart  1 "
Home Cyder per quart 6 pence
Home Brewd Beer per quart 4  "
Whisky & Peach Brandy per gallon and sold in proportion  8 shillings
Dinner with 2 dishes of flesh meat hot with a pint of Cyder or Beer  1  "
Breakfast or Supper  8 pence
Stablage for 24 Hours with good Indian fodder or good Hay 6   "
24 Hours Pasturage 4  " h
Indian Corn or Oates per gallon & sold in proportion  6 "
Lodging in a good bed 2  "
Rum punch with 1/2 pint of Rum & Loaf Sugar 1 shilling & 4  "
Rum Toddy with 1/4 pint of Rum & Brown Sugar 1  "
Whiskey Toddy with 1/2 pint of Whiskey & good Sugar, per gallon & so in proportion  10 shillings

As we have noted earlier, William Sparks, whom we are certain was the oldest son of William Sample Sparks, had remained in Frederick County, Maryland, when his father and brothers moved to North Carolina in 1754. During the next decade, William (whose wife's name was Ann) had, through five different transactions, become the owner of 283 acres of land. On April 26, 1764, he and his wife sold this entire 283-acre tract to a German settler named Christian Newswanger for 400 pounds. On the same day that he signed this deed (by mark), William appeared with his wife, Ann, before the Frederick County Court to declare the validity of the deed. (See Frederick County Land Records, Liber J, Folios 305-06.)

The reason that William and Ann Sparks sold their valuable farm in 1764 was that they were about to follow William's father and brothers to North Carolina. We can only speculate regarding the communication that had existed between William and his father and brothers during the decade from 1754 to 1764, but there must have been an exchange of information in order for William and Ann to know that they should go to the Forks of the Yadkin to find them.

We assume that William and Ann, with their children, set out for North Carolina shortly after selling their Frederick County land. It is logical to assume that, on their arrival, they took lodging with William's brother, Matthew Sparks. It was on Matthew's 372-acre tract of land that we believe William Sample Sparks also had his home.

According to the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for Rowan County, on October 11, 1764, the justices appointed William Sparks to be over seer of the road that had been laid out from John Howard's ferry "up the Forks in Boones Roade & that all the Inhabatence within that District Worke under him."  John Howard's Ferry was located on the South Yadkin River just above the north western corner of Matthew Sparks's land and about two miles above the point where the two rivers join. To join Boone's Road, this new road was only about half a mile in length, running northeast from Howard's Ferry.

We believe that this court order refers to William Sparks, son of William Sample Sparks. The latter was now about 65 years old, and probably because of his age and his lame leg he was not required to pay a poll tax. It would seem highly unlikely that he would have been assigned such a physically demanding task as road building and maintenance. Furthermore, now that his son was also living in Rowan County, the elder William Sparks's name was recorded in official records as William Sample Sparks. (This court record is to be found in Vol. II, page 545, of the original; abstracts of these court records have been prepared and published by Jo White Linn, an authority on Rowan County history and genealogy.)

by 1764, the best land in the Forks of the Yadkin had already been claimed, though not necessarily purchased, which may account for the fact that William Sparks purchased from his brother, Matthew, 200 of the 372 acres which Matthew had obtained from the Earl of Granville in 1761. On April 10, 1765, William paid his brother 50 pounds for these 200 acres. The witnesses were Thomas and William Frohock. (See Rowan County Deed Book 6, p. 139.) These 200 acres were at the very southern tip of what is now Davie County, and thus included the land between the South Yadkin and the Yadkin (or North Yadkin) at the very point where the former flows into the latter. These 200 acres extended up the sides of both rivers to a point, as stated in the deed, "on the Bank of the south side of the Main River at the Fish Dam." This was the "Fish Dam" which Matthew had built and which would now serve the needs of both brothers. (Today the county on the other side of Yadkin is Davidson County, while that below and to the west of where the two rivers join remains as Rowan County.)

On September 17, 1767, Matthew Sparks sold the remaining portion of his original tract to William Haden for 150 pounds. (Deed Book 6, p. 482) Since he had sold the 200-acre portion to William Sparks for 50 pounds two years earlier, it would appear that he had charged his brother considerably less than he might have received from someone else. (In each of these sales, the pounds were in "proclamation money," and were of much less value than pounds sterling.)

Following his sale of his Rowan County land to his brother and to William Haden, Matthew Sparks moved northwest to that part of Rowan County which would be come Surry County in 1770. He settled in that part of Surry which would later be cut off to form Wilkes County in 1777 and which in 1799 would again be cut off to Ashe County. Ashe County today lies on the southern boundary. of Virginia, across from Grayson County in that state.

William Sparks did not live on his 200-acre tract at the Forks of the Yadkin for more than four years, at which point he followed his brother to what would be come Surry County, but not in the same neighborhood. William Sparks was taxed for one white poll (himself) in 1771. On January 27, 1773, William sold his 200 acres in the Forks of the Yadkin to William Frohock for 150 pounds in "proclamation money." William Sparks lived in that part of Surry County which was cut off in 1850 to form Yadkin County; he gradually came to own a rather extensive amount of land in the Brushy Mountains area near North Hunting Creek. This is in the northeast corner of today's Yadkin County, near the boundary of Wilkes County on the east and and Surry County on the north.

If we are correct in believing that William Sample Sparks lived with or near his son, Matthew, in the Forks of the Yadkin, it is quite possible that, with the arrival of his son William in 1764, William Sample thereafter lived with or near him. We have no record of William Sample Sparks, however, after October 13, 1764, when his license to operate his ordinary was renewed. There is nothing in the Rowan County Court Records to indicate that it was ever renewed again, nor did he again serve on any Rowan County jury after his last service in this regard on April 15, 1764. It is probable that he died in the Forks of the Yadkin sometime after 1764, at which time his age at death would have been in the late 60s.

While we are convinced that we have identified three of the sons of William Sample Sparks (William, Matthew, and James), there may have been others. We assume that William Sample Sparks probably also had daughters, but we have not identified any of them if he did.

The present writer hopes to have a detailed record of the life of William Sparks, eldest son of William Sample Sparks, ready for publication in the Quarterly sometime in 1990. As was noted earlier, an article on the son named Matthew appeared in the Quarterly of June 1961, Whole No. 34, pp. 556-566. He continued to live in that part of Surry County which became Wilkes County and then Ashe County until ca. 1783. At that time, Matthew Sparks, with his wife, Sarah, and their large family moved to Franklin County, Georgia, where Matthew was killed by Indians in 1793.

The third son of William Sample Sparks, whose name was James Sparks, was born ca. 1747. It is interesting to note that when, on December 16, 1760, the tract of land purchased by his brother, Matthew Sparks, in the Forks of the Yadkin was surveyed, James Sparks was one of the chain carriers for the surveyor--this was a task frequently assigned to boys and young men. We know that James paid a poll tax in Rowan County in 1768; he would have had to have been at least 21 to be counted as a poll at that time. by 1774, James Sparks had followed his brothers to what was then Surry County. He lived on Deep Creek in what is now Yadkin County, just a few miles north of the line dividing Davie County from Yadkin County. (He was mentioned as a resident on Deep Creek in connection with the description of a tract of land granted to Reuben Shores on September 11, 1778.) In the Revolutionary War pension application made by a son of Matthew Sparks (his name was William) dated September 14, 1846, he recalled that in 1778, while camped on the French Broad River near the modern border between North Carolina and Tennessee, he saw his "Uncle James Sparks" on two occasions; he noted that James was then a member of a foot company from Wilkes County. (See the Quarterly of June 1954, Whole No. 6, p. 36, for this reference.) We have not succeeded in the further tracing of James Sparks.