October 2, 2017

Pages 4131
Whole Number 164

Deposition Made

by John Sparks of Ipswich, March 25, 1662



From the records of the Essex County Quarterly Court, 22 March 1662, property of the Supreme Judicial Court, Division of Archives and Records Preservation, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, on deposit in the James Duncan Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts. Reproduced from the original (File 7-51-1) with the permission of the Museum's director, (see page 4203)

Page 4231-4232

Whole Number 164

THOMAS SPARKS OF IPSWICH, BORN ca.1651

by Russell E. Bidlack


This brief article is in the nature of an extension of the article on John Sparks, innkeeper of Ipswich, with the same sources being used here as in that account. (See pages 4191-4230)

Sometime prior to March 26, 1672, Thomas Sparks (usually spelled Spark or Sparke), who was then a young man living in Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts, was apprenticed to or was indentured as a servant to, William Goodhue, one of the town's wealthiest and most prominent citizens. Goodhue had a houselot in Ipswich as early as 1635. (See the diagram on page 4206; the Goodhue lot faced High Street, just above the lots of John Whityear and William White.) As the years passed, Goodhue acquired several other tracts of valuable land in the town. In a deed dated April 19, 1649, Goodhue's occupation was given as "weaver," but by the time he became master of Thomas Sparks he was probably doing little actual weaving himself. From 1658, Goodhue was a deacon in the First Church of Ipswich, and from 1666 until 1683, he was a representative to the General Court of the colony. Thomas Sparks was fortunate, it would seem, to be associated with a man of such distinction in his community. (See Hammett, pp. 119-120)

Who was Thomas Sparks (or Spark, Sparke)? It seems very probable that he was related to John Sparks (born 1634) about whom we have written earlier in this issue of the Quarterly. Thomas could not have been a son of John Sparks, however, even by John's probable first wife, Mary Sinnet, because John was Thomas' elder only by about seventeen years. (John was an apprentice to Obadiah Wood in Ipswich at the time Thomas was born.) It seems more probable that Thomas was a son of the John Sparks (Spark) of Saco whom we discussed on page 4231; he could well have been a younger brother (perhaps half-brother) of John Sparks (born 1634).

The earliest reference to Thomas Sparks of Ipswich that we have found is in the records of the Essex County Quarterly Court is during its meeting in Ipswich on March 26, 1672. A case taken up in that sitting of the court involved a stray colt that Amos Stickni had "taken up" in the town of Newberry (located north of Ipswich) which had been claimed by Robert Collins. Deacon Goodhue, however, had lost a colt of similar description and had sent "his man," Thomas Sparks, to Newberry to obtain information from Amos Stickni about just where he had found the colt and how it was that Collins had laid claim to it. A researcher for us (Melinde Lutz Sanborn) has found among the Essex County Quarterly Court records the original deposition made by Thomas Sparks and recorded by the court's clerk, Robert Lord. This deposition reads as follows, just as it was written:

Thomas Sparke testyfyeth that being sentt by his master to nubery [Newberry] too inquire of amis stickny [Amos Stickni] aboutt the colt in controversy testyfyeth that the sayd amis stickny sayd that the colt was allways whil he was with him of the same couler as when Goodman Colings [Collins] fech him away and that the colt was very wild when hee came too him and would leape over five rails in too his stoke yard and alsoe that hee was afrayd hee [Collins] had goot the mark of the colt by some mean while hee was with him and alsoe that hee [Stickni] delivered the colt to him on condishehon that if any could laye better dame too him they should have the colt forthcoming

Sworne in court held at Ipswich the 26 of march 1672

[signed] Robert Lord

In the end, the court determined that the colt "taken up" by Stickni did, indeed, belong to Collins.

On 1 April 1673 (Ipswich Deed Book 3, p. 252) Deacon Goodhue purchased a lot from a "soap-boiler" named Nathaniel Brown. Brown had also sold an adjoining lot to Joseph Lee (also spelled Leigh), and a dispute arose between Goodhue and Lee regarding the dividing line between these two lots. The matter finally went to court. Again, in this case, Thomas Sparks testified on behalf of his master, the Deacon (the record being copied for us by Ms. Sanborn).

Thomas Sparke testyfyeth that his master hearing that Joseph Leigh was breakig up the ground he bought of Nathanil Browne sent hyms to forbit him but Joseph Leigh Sayd hee would not butt forwarned hym oft the ground and bid hym lett his master take his corse. 23 June 1673 [signed] Daniel Denison

Later, in the same sitting of the court, June 23, 1673, Thomas Sparks again gave a deposition on his master's behalf. This time, it was a joint deposition with Mary Wilson, who was also in the service of Deacon Goodhue. What is most interesting in this document copied for us by Ms. Sanborn, is that the age of Thomas, like that of Mary Wilson, was given as "about 22 years." It is on this basis that we have caluculated the approximate year of birth of Thorns Sparks as 1651.

These Deponentts wittnes Thomas Sparke and Mary Willsonn agged about 22 yeares apeare Doe testify that Joseph Leigh threatened too sue there master William Goodhue if hee come upon the grond that he bought of Nathaniel browne as alsoe wee testyfy that our Master tendered hym five pounds for Nathael browne and further saith nott Sworn 23 June 1673

This Mary Wilson (Willsonn) was probably the same Mary Wilson that married Joseph Knowlton in Ipswich on August 14, 1677. (Hammatt, p. 189)

In our earlier account of John Sparks, innkeeper of Ipswich, we noted his testimony in May 1674 relating to the charge against the town's miller, Freegrace Norton (page 4208). There were several complainants in this case who charged that the meal received from the Norton mill often weighed considerably less than the wheat that had been taken to the mill to be ground. William Goodhue was one of those who complained, and in his deposition on May 5, 1674, Goodhue referred to "my man, Thomas Sparke" having been the one to take the wheat to the mill. Thomas made a deposition himself on the same day, stating that his master had sent him to the mill with 108 pounds of wheat, but when he returned he had but 87 pounds. (See Vol. V, p. 305 of the published Essex County General Court records)

When the Essex County General Court met in Ipswich in November 1674, one of its verdicts was to find Samuel Hunt guilty of a "pernicious lie" regarding Samuel Appleton. It is interesting to note that in this case, Thomas Sparks and Mary Goodhue (the Deacon's second wife) made a joint deposition on Appleton's behalf, as follows:

These deponents testifyes that Samuel Hunt and his wif did say that Lt. Samuel Appelton did give a charge to the Constable that he should take nothing but money of the said hunt or else hee must goo to prison and mistris Darby did propher all her plate to let him ly one night in her house and hee would not because of the Charge the said Appelton did give th® Constable 4 November 1674

On December 26, 1674, Thomas Sparks signed his name (as "Thomas Sparke") as a witness to the will of a man named John Frinck. Mary Wilson was the other witness; she signed by mark. From other records, we know that John Frinck had been born ca. 1642 and may, also, have been in the service of Deacon William Goodhue.

by 1674, when he made his will, John Frinck had been married (his wife's name was Mary) and they had two small sons (John and George). Probably with Goodhue's advice, Frinck noted at the beginning of his will that "being called to make a voyage into Europe not knowing how it may please God to deal with me before I return," he went on to direct that in case he died, his "small estate" should be divided between his wife and their two sons, with his wife as the administratrix. Frinck added, however, that he wished for "Deacon of Goodhue of Ipswich" to be "supervisor" for Mary in administering his estate. Frinck did, indeed, die during his journey, and on September 29, 1675, Deacon Goodhue presented his will for probate.

There is a reference to " Goodhue's man, Thomas Spark," during a meeting of the Essex County Quarterly Court in July 1675 (Vol. VI, p. 50). In 1678, Thomas Sparks was one of the men from Ipswich who signed an oath of allegiance to King Charles II. (Vol. VII, p. 157)

Whether our next record of a Thomas Sparks pertains to the Thomas noted thus far, we cannot be sure, but it seems probable. There is a deed dated May 22, 1685, recorded in York County, Maine (Book 4, page 38), in which a "Thomas Sparke" purchased land in the town of Cape Elizabeth. Cape Elizabeth, located on the Atlantic Ocean seven miles south of Portland, is in Cumberland County, Maine, but Cumberland County was not cut off from York County until 1760. Cape Elizabeth was settled by some fisherman early in the 1600s and became a town as early as 1630. As we have noted earlier, Maine was considered to be part of Massachusetts until 1819. The town of Cape Elizabeth was administered by the county of Suffolk (in which Boston is located), and this 1685 deed involving Thomas Sparks (Sparke) is found in Suffolk File 2298 as well as in York County, Maine.

by this deed of May 22, 1685, "Thomas Sparke now residing at Cape Elizabeth" purchased for twenty-four pounds a tract of 20 acres in Cape Elizabeth from Clement Swett. The latter is described as "of Cape Elizabeth, Fisherman." It is significant, we believe, that Thomas Sparks was described as now being a resident of Cape Elizabeth, indicating that he had not been there earlier. This tract adjoined land owned by John Parrott, who may have been the John Parrott who was a resident of Rowley in Essex County as early as 1643. The witnesses to the deed were Joshua Scotow and Richard Farr. We have no further record of Thomas Sparks's ownership or sale of this land at Cape Elizabeth.

In the year 1700, a Thomas Sparks died in Ipswich, Massachusetts, without leaving a will. In the Essex County probate file for this case (#25952), there is but one document. It consists of a printed form, containing the necessary legal language, with blank spaces to be filled in, for use when a probate court appointed men to take an inventory of the personal estate of a deceased person. From this single record pertaining to the estate of Thomas Sparks (spelled "Sparkes" in this instance), we know that a little earlier an administrator for the estate of Thomas had been appointed in the person of John Brown. Then, on January 18, 1700, (it would have been 1701 under the Gregorian Calendar), the Probate Court ordered that John Brown and Joseph Hunt "make or cause to be made ... a full and singular" inventory of the "goods, Chatties, Rights and Credits of Thomas Sparkes Late of Ipswich afores" Dec®^ Intestate. Brown and Hunt were given until February 16, 1701, to complete the inventory. Because they were required to post bond only in the amount of twenty pounds, it can be assumed that Thomas Sparks's estate was small.

Both John Brown and Joseph Hunt signed this document; their two witnesses, Nathaniel Hathorne and John Higginson, were residents of Salem where it had been necessary for Brown and Hunt to appear before the Probate Court to sign this document.

In 1909, Thomas Franklin Waters, then the leading historian of Ipswich, published an article on the Brown family in the Proceedings of the Ipswich Historical Society, pp. 89-127, and it is from his research that we are able to identify the John Brown who administered the estate of Thomas Sparks. He was the same John Brown who had helped to take the inventory of the estate of Walter Roper (father-in-law of John Sparks) in 1680, and he was the father of the John Brown (1678-1759) who became guardian in 1728 for young John Newman, a grandson of John Sparks. (See page 4229 of the earlier article on John Sparks in this issue of the Quarterly) born ca. 1639, the elder John Brown, administrator for the estate of Thomas Sparks, was first a farmer and later a "house-carpenter," and his name is found frequently in Ipswich records. (He has sometimes been confused with another John Brown of Ipswich who was a "glazier" by occupation, and who was described by Waters as "a notorious drunk.") The John Brown who administered the estate of Thomas Sparks lived to be eighty- eight years old, dying on April 9, 1727. The inscription on his tombstone in Ipswich's High Street Cemetery was barely legible when Waters transcribed it early in the 1900s.

This is our last record of Thomas Sparks, assuming that he was the same Thomas Sparks who had been born ca. 1651 and who lived much of his life in Ipswich, where he died in 1700. The inventory taken by Brown and Hunt of his estate seems not to have been preserved. Whether he left descendants, we do not know.

top