September 17, 2017

Pages 3975-3977
Whole Number 159 ALEXANDER SPARKS (1780-1857)
SON OF 9.1.1 DANIEL SPARKS (1740-1810)

Portrait Painted by William Harrison Scarborough

In the Quarterly of December 1962, Whole No. 40, page 692, we included a biographical sketch of Alexander Sparks, who was born September 27, 1780, and died on January 29, 1857. In the present issue, on our cover, we feature a photograph of a portrait of Alexander Sparks, painted by William Harrison Scarborough. The existence of this portrait has come to our attention only recently. It is owned by a descendant of Alexander Sparks, Judge John A. Jamison, retired, of the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit of Virginia. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We are most grateful to Judge Jamison for providing us with a photograph of this painting and for permitting us to publish it.

Alexander Sparks was a son of 9.1.1 Daniel Sparks (1740-1810) who had been born in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, but who, as a young man, had moved to the Welsh Neck area of South Carolina. Daniel Sparks's life, including a record of his Revolutionary War service, was described in the above cited issue of the Quarterly, pp. 689-692.

Alexander Sparks married Janette McKearly, a native of Scotland, who had been born in 1791; she died in 1871. They lived on the west side of the Pee Dee River, in what is now Darlington County, across the river from Marlboro County; he and his wife were buried in the cemetery at Society Hill.

Alexander Sparks became an extensive land and slave owner and was an exceedingly wealthy man when he died. In his will, dated May 4, 1852 (see Darlington County Will Book 10, p. 326), he left his widow his "mansion house at Society Hill" along with 100 acres of land, 20 slaves, the family carriage, carriage horses, and "my coachman, Robert," plus $20,000. To one daughter, he left 2600 acres of land; to another, he left 3,000 acres and 32 slaves; to his only living son he left several plantations, along with 30 slaves; to the only child of a deceased son, he left $25,000 in trust; and to "the Baptish Church at the Welsh Neck, Peedee River, being the particular Church of which I am a member, worshipping," he left $1,000. Alexander and Janette (McKearly) Sparks had the following children: Elizabeth D. Sparks, who married Thomas P. Lide Margaret Jane Sparks, who married Col. Isaac D. Wilson Samuel Sparks, born April 11, 1829, died June 24, 1853, without issue; Dr. William Alexander Sparks, born October 4, 1817, died August 19, 1849, who married Alicia Middleton; and David G. Sparks, who had died before his father. For more details regarding these children, see page 693 of the Quarterly.

William Harrison Scarborough, the artist who painted the portrait of Alexander Sparks, is remembered as a highly admired Southern portraitist and miniaturist. He was born in Tennessee in 1812. He received his fundamental artistic training at the Littlejohn Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. He made his home in Darlington County, South Carolina, in 1837, and during the years that followed, he painted portraits of the leading citizens of the area.