October 26, 2017

Pages 4231
Whole Number 164

NOTES ON JOHN SPARKS OF EARLY SACO, MAINE

by Russell E.



We have a few references to a Sparks that lived in what became York County, Maine. Maine did not become a state until 1820, and from 1650 until 1819, it was under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. A settlement on both sides of the Saco River, which was devoted primarily to the fishing industry, was founded near the mouth of the river in 1630. (The Saco River rises in the White Mountains in what is now New Hampshire, and it flows southeast through Maine into the Atlantic Ocean.) The part of the settlement on the south side of the river eventually became Biddleford. The county of York (called Yorkshire initially) was created in 1652 and included all of what is now Maine until 1760. During the 1660s, Saco, including nearby islands, was administered by Essex County, Massachusetts. Persons in Ipswich associated with the fishing industry often spent time at, and had investments in, Saco.

There is a York County record dated July 4, 1654, that refers to a "fishing catastrophe" in which eight men were granted "administration to satisfy John Sparke and Christopher Hobbs for their disbursements upon their fishing voyage." In his Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, James Savage identified Christopher Hobbs as a settler in Saco in 1652; he died there in 1673. (Vol. II, p. 436) The "John Sparke" mentioned in this 1654 record as an apparent partner of Hobbs in a "fishing voyage" could not have been the John Sparks of Ipswich born in 1634 because he was then an apprentice to Oba- diah Wood in Ipswich. We may wonder, however, whether possibly this John Sparke mentioned with Christopher Hobbs in 1654 might have been the father of John, born in 1634, as well as the latter's sister, Margaret (Sparks) Wood, and his brother, Samuel Sparks. The counter argument to this theory, how- ever, would be that no mention was made of a father when John was apprenticed to Obadiah Wood and Samuel to William English in Ipswich on July 24, 1660. (See pages 4197-98 of the present issue.)

There is a Saco town record indicating that John Sparks owned a lot there in 1656. Another record dated May 17, 1661, lists John Sparks as a member of a jury which investigated the drowning on one Richard Razer; this jury found that Razor's death had been accidental. John Sparks was taxed in Saco in 1669. but he also died that same year; he was buried there on October 24, 1669.

We have found no record to prove that this John Spark (s) of Saco was related to the Sparkses of Ipswich, but it seems probable.

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