October 7, 2020
Whole Number 152
JAMES SPARKS (1806~09-1893)
(Born in Schoharie Co., NY; Died in Sauk County, WI)
In the September 1990 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 151, pp. 3663-66, we published abstracts of the Civil War pension applications of David Sparks (born October 9, 1846) and Julius Mortimer Sparks (born 1834). Both men were residents of Reedsburg, Sauk County, Wisconsin, when they made their applications in 1887, and both men died there, David on June 8, 1917, and Julius on March 2, 1899. From information contained in their pension papers, we know that David and Julius were brothers. In an editor's note on page 3664, following these abstracts, it was noted that both men had been buried in a Reedsburg area cemetery. In his application, David Sparks had identified his parents as James and Amanda Sparks. His death certificate gives his mother's name as Anna Palmer. "Anna" was probably a nickname for Amanda.
Since publishing these abstracts, your editor has received a letter from James L. Hansen, Reference Librarian of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, which institution is on our complimentary mailing list. Mr. Hansen, after noting these abstracts, very generously took time to conduct some research in his library, the results of which provide further information on this Sparks family. We are pleased to share this added information with our readers.
Among the items found by Mr. Hansen is a short obituary for James Sparks, father of David and Julius, which appeared in the Reedsburg, Wisconsin, FREE PRESS of February 23, 1893. This reads as follows:
On Sunday, February 19th, 1893, at the age of 86 years, 6 months and 2 days, Mr. James Sparks was called upon to join the silent majority, after a lingering illness. The deceased was born in the town of Summit, Schoharie County, New York, June 17, 1806. The funeral services were held at 10 o'clock Tuesday morning, Rev. Scovill officiating.
Mr. Hansen also xeroxed for us information that was copied in 1983-4 by some local historians from the stones in the Greenwood Cemetery located "on the east side of County K (Myrtle Street) on north side of the city." James Sparks was buried there, but, according to this transcription from his tombstone, he was born June 17, 1809 rather than 1806 as given in his obituary. Buried on the same lot as James Sparks was Harriet Sparks who appears to have been James's second wife. No dates are given for Harriet, but from the 1870 census, it appears she was born ca. 1835. Three daughters of James and Harriet were also buried in James's lot:
Lillie A. Sparks, born December 3, 1864, died October 23, 1882;
Nellie E. Sparks, born June 22, 1868, died February 9, 1883; and
E. May Sparks, born August 11, 1866, died September 24, 1884.
Mr. Hansen has also copied for us the record of the family of James Sparks as found on page 189 of the 1860 census of Ironton in Sauk County, Wisconsin. The age of James was given then as 54, which supports the obituary statement that he was born in 1806. His first wife, Amanda, apparently had died before 1860; he had not been remarried by that time. Living with James in 1860, according to the census, were Lydia Sparks, aged 17 (thus born ca. 1843); David Sparks, aged 13 (we know he was born October 9, 1846); and a 6-year- old boy named Judson Sparks (thus born ca. 1854). James's son, Julius, was shown on this census immediately following the family of his father. Shown living with Julius was Sophronia Sparks, age 21. This was Julius' first wife who was identified in an affidavit signed on April 18, 1899, by George's brother, David Sparks, and their sister, Laura E. Parker. Her maiden name had been Sophronia Yerter; she and Julius Sparks were divorced on January 7, 1868. From the 1800 and 1870 census records, it appears that Julius M. Sparks and his first wife, Sophronia (Yerter) Sparks, had a son named George H. Sparks, who was born ca. 1858.
We have not succeeded in finding James Sparks on the 1850 census. Because his brief obituary gives his place of birth as Summit, Schoharie County, New York, we are sure, however, that he belonged to a branch of the Sparks family discussed in the Quarterly of March 1970, Whole No. 69, pp. 1288- 1303. That article, prepared by M. Ward Wilson of St. Paul, Minnesota, who is now the oldest member of our Association, was devoted primarily to the life and descendants of Thomas Sparks, born October 6, 1790, oldest son of James and Elizabeth (Freeman) Sparks. James and Elizabeth (Freeman) Sparks lived in Albany County, New York, from before 1790 until after 1803, and were at that time members of the Reformed Dutch Church of Guilderland, Helderburgh, and Princeton. The births and baptisms of their first six children were recorded in that church, including 42.1 Thomas Sparks.
There was a tradition in the family of Thomas Sparks that he had a brother named James, and your editor feels quite confident that that James was the same James Sparks who died at Reedsburgh, Sauk County, Wisconsin, in 1893. This would mean that he was James Sparks, "Jr." and a son of James and Elizabeth (Freeman) Sparks. James and Elizabeth (Freeman) Sparks moved from Albany County, New York, to the Summit area of Schoharie County, New York, sometime between 1803 and 1810. James died before 1830 and his widow, Elizabeth Sparks, was shown as head of the family on the 1830 census of Schoharie County. Later she went to live with her son, Thomas Sparks, who married Mary Howe in late 1810 or 1811, probably in Schoharie County
In the editor's note following the abstract of the pension application papers of David Sparks (page 3664), it was noted that a woman named Doris Berning had published an article entitled "Veterans" Graves Prior to World War I in Reedsburg and Reedsburg Area Cemeteries, Wisconsin, With Annotations and Additions." This appeared in the Summer 1964 issue of the Detroit Society for Genealogical Research MAGAZINE (Vol. 22, No. 4), and it was from that article that we copied the entries for David Sparks and Julius Mortimer Sparks. Ms. Berning indicated that the stone for David Sparks gives his date of birth as October 9, 1845, but that his "obituary gives birth as October 9, 1847." She also noted that David's wife was Hattie E. Percival nee Decker Perhaps her nickname was Hattie, but from the information sent us by Mr. Hansen, it is apparent that her name was Harriette. She was buried beside David Sparks, and her stone indicates she was born July 1, 1841, and died on March 23, 1919.
From the pension papers of Julius M. Sparks (abstracts of which appear on pp. 3665-66), we know that he was married, second, to Minnie A. Bamber on November 18, 1868. From information provided by Mr. Hansen, we can now report that she died in Iowa Falls, Iowa, on December 19, 1927, and was buried there. A stone bears her name, however, near that of Julius M. Sparks in the Greenwood Cemetery which provides this information. On the same lot, there is a stone for Vernie W. Sparks, 1872-1881. This was probably a son of Julius and Minnie. The 1870 census of Reesburg, as copied by Mr. Hansen, shows a 12-year-old boy named George Sparks living with Julius and his second wife. (Her name was given as "Mary" on this census, which was probably an error of the census taker.) George was doubtless a son, also.
Your editor would be pleased to hear from anyone having further information on this branch of the Sparks family.