January 30, 2020

Pages 4247-4252
OF CLAY COUNTY, ALABAMA Dennis McFranklin Sparks was born November 18, 1847, in Carroll County, Georgia. He was a son of Uriah and Sarah (Whatley) Sparks. His mother died, probably late in the summer of 1850, leaving her husband with seven children, ranging in age from seventeen years down to a few months. Uriah Sparks moved his family to Talladega County, Alabama, (just about fifty miles due west) in 1857. It was there that he married Mrs. Mahala (Browning) Coleman in 1859. It was his third marriage. He died in 1863.

Dennis Sparks was a twelve-year-old boy when his father remarried. Descendants say that neither he nor his nine-year-old sister, Nancy, liked their stepmother, and, in particular, they thought that their stepbrother, Daniel Coleman, was lazy and did not help with the household chores. Accordingly, they left home shortly after their father's marriage and went to live with their sister, Mary (Sparks) Parker. There they remained until they reached adulthood.

Dennis Sparks was fourteen years old when the Civil War broke out. Two of his brothers. Citizen Napoleon Bonaparte Sparks and Joseph M. Sparks, aged about twenty and eighteen years, respectively, joined the 14th Regiment Alabama Infantry, Confederate States Army, in July 1861 at Lineville, Alabama. Another brother, Moses Andrew Jackson Sparks, also joined the 14th Regiment in February 1864. Two brothers. Green B. Sparks and William H. Sparks, served the Confederacy in Georgia military units.

Dennis was too young to join the Confederate States Army until about a month before he reached his seventeenth birthday. On October 1, 1864, he was mustered into Company A, commanded by Capt. George Bonner, of Col. Joseph Hardie's Battalion of Confederate Cavalry, as a private. Sometime during the following winter, he was transferred to Company K in the same battalion.

Hardie's Battalion of Confederate Cavalry participated in the defense of Selma, Alabama, a city that was a major source of military guns and supplies for the Confederate Army. The city was defended by a strong line of works about five miles long and anchored at one end by the Alabama River. General James H. Wilson, Union leader, began his raid on the city on March 22, 1865, and was able to attack the city quickly. The city was taken on the afternoon of April 2, 1865.

Dennis M. Sparks was among those who were taken prisoner that afternoon. He was imprisoned at Selma for several days, but was paroled at Talladega, Alabama, on May 24, 1865. According to the official prisoner of war roster of the United States Adjutant General's Office, he was listed as Pvt. D. M. Sparks, Co. F 51st Regiment Alabama Partisan Rangers. His name was also borne on a prisoner of war roster as Pvt. E. M. Sparks, Co. K, Hardie's Alabama Confederate Battalion.

The date and place given on the Adjutant General's Office record of Dennis M. Sparks's parole is at variance with his memory. Many years later, when he applied for an Alabama Confederate pension, he stated that he had been paroled on April 11, 1865, at Selma, Alabama. His request for a pension was denied, apparently because he owned too much property. He reapplied a few years later; on June 8, 1921, his new application was accepted, and he was placed upon the pension roll. At that time, he was a member of Camp Pettus, a camp for Confederate veterans.

After he was paroled. Sparks returned to his sister's home near Lineville, Alabama. His only possessions were a pocket knife and seventy cents in coins. Throughout the rest of his life, he believed in the value of metal money. When he arrived home, he found the other members of his family working in the fields.

Years later, Dennis Sparks told his grandchildren of some of the incidents that happened during his military service. He recalled that his sweetheart, Julia Ann McCoy, knitted him a pair of mittens. He also remembered the thirst he had during the Battle of Selma--a thirst that was so intense that he drank water which had collected in the hoof prints of the horses. After his parole, his captors threw his cap in the air and shot it full of holes. They also took his horse, but he was able to get it back.

Another tale centered around a raid his outfit made against a Union Army camp in which a Yankee payroll, consisting of bundles of United States paper money, was scattered around the countryside. No one bothered to try to collect this loose currency because it was believed that paper money had no value--only gold or silver coins were acceptable tender. It was not until the war ended that the people regretted that they had treated the paper money so indifferently!

The portion of Talladega County in which the family of Dennis Sparks lived became a part of Clay County when that county was formed in 1866, and thereafter most of his legal records can be found in Clay County. It was to Clay County that he returned after he was paroled, and it was there that he married Julia Ann McCoy on November 11, 1866, just one week before he reached his nineteenth birthday.

Julia Ann McCoy had been born on October 8, 1847, and was a daughter of John and Mary (Chappell) McCoy. For a wedding present, the McCoy s gave the young couple eighty acres of land. It is said that John McCoy had a high regard for his son-in-law and that they remained close friends until McCoy's death in 1877.

Sparks was basically a cotton and corn farmer, and at one time he worked seventeen mules in his cotton. This was considered to be a fairly large cotton operation. As his family grew, however, he began to involve his children in other business activities. He owned and operated a general merchandise store for a number of years. He also engaged in "huckstering" with one or more of his sons. They would travel in a two-mule wagon full of store-bought goods which they traded to the people for eggs, chickens, fruit, etc. They would then dispose of the products to a wholesaler for additional merchandise to sell.


The Providence Primitive Baptist Church


Family Reunion - Children and Grandchildren of
Dennis McFranklin & Julia Ann (McCoy) Sparks

A family reunion of the children and grandchildren of Dennis and Julia Ann (McCoy) Sparks was held ca. 1908 at which a photograph was taken. This has been reproduced on page 4249. Identification of the twelve living children who attended (with their children) has been provided by descendants as follows:

Front Row, left to right: Coreene Joiner; Vernie Carwile; Johnie Carwile, unidentified boy; Mack Sparks; Bill Sparks holding unidentified boy; Velpo Sparks; Molly (Burks) Sparks holding unidentified child; unidentified child leaning on right leg of Dennis McFranklin Sparks; unidentified boy leaning against Julia Ann (McCoy) Sparks; Hubert Wallace; Bob Wallace; Gwin Wallace; Almedia (Sparks) Wallace holding Braxton Wallace.

Middle Row, left to right: Eugene Sparks; Alexander Joiner; Oria Lee Sparks; Mary Etta (Sparks) Joiner; Lula (Sparks) Boyd; Olie Sparks; Minnie (Sparks) Jones; Bob Sparks; Lee Ella Wallace; unidentified boy; Bertha Carwile, unidentified girl; unidentified boy; Woody Sparks; Monroe Sparks; Mattie (Joiner) Sparks; Melford Wallace; Ellis Sparks; Dewey Wallace; Norman Carwile; unidentified boy; Cordia Sparks; unidentified boy; Sally (Nichols) Sparks; Tom Sparks holding Ralph Sparks.

Back Row, left to right: John Wesley Sparks; Beulah (Carpenter) Sparks; Dennis Walden Sparks holding Q. P. Sparks; Lee Emma (Hassell) Sparks holding Leon Sparks; Barto Sparks; Norma (Moon) Sparks holding Wilma Sparks; Eula (Sparks) Powell holding unidentified baby; Monroe Carwile; and Dora (Sparks) Carwile.

Julia Ann and Dennis Sparks were lifelong members of the Providence Primitive Baptist Church, located about two miles from their home. (A photograph of this church appears on page 4248.) The church was quite strict and did not believe its members should belong to organizations such as the Masons, Odd Fellows, etc. The Sparkses were also strong believers in getting an education, and on one occasion, they hired a teacher to teach penmanship to their children.

Dennis and Julia also had a rather unusual custom which they followed at the weddings of their children. They would give the child to be married a wedding present of $165.00 in gold coins. The child was always admonished never to let all of the money get away, but always to save something back. Some of these coins have been passed down and are now in the hands of great-grandchildren.

Of all of the fine qualities of Dennis and Julia Ann, their close relationship with their children and grandchildren appears to be one of their strongest. The family reunion held ca. 1908 is pictorial proof of this quality.

Some of the grandchildren remembered a special relationship with their grand-parents. They would take turns in making weekly visits to their grandparents, helping with the household chores. One child had the privilege of helping her grandfather open his big iron safe, because he could no longer see the numbers. Another told of helping his grandfather walk safely along a road which was traveled by automobiles. Some of the grandchildren stayed with their grandparents for extended periods of time. All of them appear to have been welcomed with open arms at all times. Their children were:

A. William E. ["Bill"] Sparks was born February 2, 1868, in Clay County, and it was there that he married Mary ["Molly"] E. Burks on May 13, 1888. Bill died on January 25, 1934, and Molly died on February 29, 1936. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. They had eight children:

Monroe, Olie, Ellis, Grover, Lula, Clarence, Thessel, and Grady.

B. Joseph Henry Sparks was born July 13, 1869. He died on January 24, 1886, at the age of sixteen years. He was buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. He was never married.

C. Robert ["Bob"] F. Sparks was born August 5, 1870. He married Delia E. H. Cook on August 28, 1891, in Clay County, Alabama. She had been born on August 5, 1872. Bob died on October 22, 1929, and Delia died on August 1, 1954. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. They had seven children: Marvin, Cordia, Minnie, Bertie Lee, L. D., Velpo, and J. Q.

D. James Woodrow ["Woody"] Sparks was born November 7, 1871. He married Mattie A. Joiner on December 23, 1890, in Clay County. She had been born in September 1871. We have not learned the dates of their deaths; however, they were buried in Memory Hill Cemetery at Albertville, Alabama. They had four children: Walter, Eula, James, and Woodrow.

E. Nancy Almedia ["Media"] A. Sparks was born July 15, 1873. She married W. Robert ["Bob"] Wallace. She died on March 30, 1941. She and Bob had seven children: Melford, Braxton, Lee Ella, Hubert, Homer, Gwin, and Dewey.

F. John Wesley Sparks was born December 23, 1874. He married Mary Beulah Carpenter on December 25, 1895, in Clay County. She had been born on June 16, 1875. Wesley died on December 15, 1949, and Beulah died on May 6, 1959. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. They had four children: Owen D., Mack F., Himan B., and Exor.

G. An unnamed infant daughter was born to Dennis and Julia Ann Sparks on July 9, 1876. She died on July 10, 1876, and was buried in the Shiloh Cemetery.

H. Rose Eldora ["Dora"] Sparks was born June 28, 1877. She married Edward Monroe Carwile. He had been born on March 6, 1872. He died on December 19, 1933. Dora died on September 21, 1947. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. They had six children: Norman, Johnie Mae, Bertha, Vernie, Trudie, and Truit.

I. Mary Etta Sparks was born September 28, 1878. She married Alexander ["Elic"] L. Joiner on December 25, 1898, in Clay County. Elic was born on August 7, 1877. Mary Etta died on December 27, 1942, in Autauga County, Alabama. Elic died there on July 27, 1951. They were buried in the White City Cemetery in Autauga County. They had three children: Leslie, Durral, and Corrine.

J. An unnamed infant was born to Dennis and Julia Ann Sparks on March 13, 1880, and died at birth.

K. Oria Lee Sparks was born June 23, 1881. She died on July 12, 1918, and was buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. She was never married.

L. Cora Bell Sparks was born June 23, 1881, and was a twin sister of Oria Lee Sparks, next above. She died in November 1881.

M. Dennis Walden Sparks was born June 5, 1883. He married Lee Emma Hassell on January 7, 1906, in Clay County. She had been born July 28, 1881. She died on December 2, 1979. Dennis died on May 31, 1968. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetery. They had six children:

###Q. P., Leon, Lorene, Mary Ethel, Nora Lee, and Charles Edward.

N. Thomas ["Tom"] Grover Sparks was born November 15, 1884. He married Sally Mae Nichols on January 8, 1905, in Clay County. She had been born on May 3, 1886. Tom died on May 3, 1966, in Coffee County, Alabama. Sally died on December 8, 1967. They were buried in Coffee County. They had four children: Ralph M., Annie P., Clifford C., and Elsie Mae.

O. Eugene U. Sparks was born April 21, 1887. He married Effie Hassell on May 29, 1910, in Clay County. She had been born July 31, 1890, and was a daughter of Winfield Scott and H. M. (---) Hassell. She died on January 2, 1980. Eugene died on March 19, 1981. They were buried in Memory Gardens in Clay County. They had five children: Henry B., James C., Mabel M., Russell F., and John D.

P. W. Barto Sparks was born April 12, 1889. He married Norma Moon on July 21, 1907, in Clay County. She had been born July 6, 1889. Barto died on January 20, 1960. Norma died on December 2, 1977. They were buried in the Shiloh Cemetry. They had one child, Wilma.

[Editor's Note: The story about Dennis and Julia Ann Sparks has been compiled almost entirely by three of their descendants. They are George C. Burdette, 5243 Rockborough Trail, Stone Mountain, Georgia (30083); James C. Sparks, 805 Mt. Zion Avenue, Gadsden, Alabama (35901); and Robert E. ["Bobby"] Sparks, 392 Williams Avenue, Rainbow City, Alabama (35906).

[For further information about this branch of the SPARKS family, see the following issues of the Quarterly: In the issue for September 1960, Whole No. 31, p. 501, appears an abstract of the application of David Sparks (1794-1862), brother of Uriah Sparks, for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812. In the September 1964 issue. Whole No. 47, pp. 842-43, appears an abstract of the application of Uriah Sparks, father of Dennis McFranklin Sparks, for bounty land for his service in the War of 1812, in the same unit as his brother, David. In the issue of the September 1969, Whole No. 67, pp. 1257-65, appears an article on David Sparks (1794-1862) and his descendants. In the issue of December 1980, Whole No. 112, on page 2258, appears a query of George C. Burdette regarding the family of Uriah Sparks (ca. 1797-1863) with a list of his children, including Dennis McFranklin Sparks. In the Quarterly of June 1987, Whole No. 138, pp. 3061-84, appears an article entitled "Two Men Named Abel Sparks, Originally from Surry and Wilkes Counties, North Carolina"; on page 3067 of that article, we noted the evidence supporting our conclusion that Uriah and David Sparks were sons of Abel Sparks, born ca.1767, whose wife was Elizabeth Benge.]