May 16, 2021

Pages 4542-4544
Whole Number 171


by James J. Sparks

A Happy Jim Sparks Finds Sparks Mill Road
Near Land Once Owned by William Sparks (died 1709)
Nine Generations Earlier

[Editor's Note: Here we share with our readers a letter written to our President, Dr. Paul E. Sparks, by James (Jim) J. Sparks of 27 Trillium Lane, San Carlos, California. In this, Jim Sparks describes a genealogical pilgrimage that he and his wife made recently to Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, to visit the locales associated with the lives of his Sparks ancestors. We believe that many of our readers who, like Jim, descend from William Sparks (died 1709) of Queen Annes County, Maryland, will find his account to be interesting.

[James J. Sparks is among the members of the ninth generation of descendants of William Sparks about whom we have published two articles in the Quarterly (the March 1971, Whole No. 73, and December 1992, Whole No. 160). His line of descent is through William's grandson, William Sample Sparks (ca.1700-ca.1765) whose migration from Queen Annes County to Frederick County, Maryland, and then in or ca. 1754 to the Forks of the Yadkin (now Davie County) in North Carolina, is described in the Quarterly of December 1989, Whole No. 148. A son of William Sample Sparks named William (ca. 1725-1801/02), followed his father to the Forks of the Yadkin in 1764 where he purchased part of his brother Matthew's land. (See the Quarterly of June 1991, No. 154.) Just prior to the beginning of the American Revolution, William moved to what is now Yadkin County, North Carolina, settling on land near what became the village of Cycle, although, as Jim Sparks discovered, Cycle has now disappeared.

[A son of William Sparks and his wife, Ann, was James Sparks, born ca. 1762, who served in the American Revolution; he was Jim's 3rd-great-grandfather (see the Quarterly of March 1994, Whole No. 165.) Prior to 1804, James Sparks went from North Carolina to Washington County, Virginia, and, in his old age, lived with a son in Lawrence County, Kentucky. James's son, Solomon Sparks, remained in Virginia, however, as did Solomon, Jr., the latter being Jim's great- grandfather. David Lilburn Sparks, Jim's grandfather, was born September 23, 1865, at Glade Spring in Washington County, Virginia.]

To identify myself, I am the son of Joseph Sparks, whose ancestral line is: David, Solomon, Solomon, Jr., James, William, William Sample, William, and William (the latter dying in Queen Annes County, Maryland, in 1709). You once told me, Paul, that we were "thin" blood relatives, 8th cousins, once removed! I want to pass on to you a tale which might be of some amusement and interest.

My wife, Ellen, and I recently completed a two-week trip designed primarily to visit the farms of my early Sparks ancestors and to do a modicum of research if the circumstances permitted. We flew to Baltimore and stayed in Annapolis, Frederick, MD, Staunton, VA, Salisbury, NC, and Abingdon, VA. We found Sparks Mill Road (as shown on the map on the cover of the Quarterly of March 1971, No. 73) and took pictures of a proud James J. Sparks! [See the photo on page 4542.] We visited William's farm site nearby (in Queen Annes County), the Monocacy River near Big and Little Pipe Creeks in Frederick County, MD, and visited the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina. We took pictures of Matthew and William's farm from across the fork in Rowan County, NC. We crossed into Davie County and tried to approach the farm from the north, but we could find no good map of Davie County so were not successful.

We had stayed in Abingdon, Washington County, Virginia, to visit the area where the Solomon Sparkses (Sr. and Jr.) had lived around Saltville, and where my grandfather, David Sparks, was born in Glade Spring. Since our circular route from Frederick, MD, and Staunton, VA, dictated this visit prior to our swing into North Carolina, and back to Richmond and Washington, we were going back- wards in time for this one portion of the trip. We decided to visit the Cycle area in Yadkin County, NC, where William and Ann had taken up land before the Revolution, en route between Abingdon and Salisbury, NC.

We cut through the northeastern corner of Tennessee on 91 to Mountain City where we picked up Highway 421 all the way to Cycle. When we approached the Cycle area, we used the map on the cover of the Quarterly of June 1991, No. 154, as a guide. We slowed as we approached the area near the county line into Yadkin County. Surprise - no Cycle! When we approached the freeway for US 77, we retraced our steps on 421 to the county line and beyond without luck. We finally turned into a small grocery store/gas station to seek assistance. The lady said she had never heard of Cycle, but she did look in a local map and there it was! She was quite surprised. A male customer suggested that it might be on "Old" Highway 421 where there was a store and a few houses. He told us to take the first road about 3 mile east of the store, and turn left for i mile to a T intersection.

Doing as he had suggested, we came upon another small grocery store/residence, the only establishment on "Old Highway 421" that we noticed. I asked the lady if she knew where Cycle was, and she said, "This area used to be called Cycle, but when they built the new Highway 421, it bypassed us. This area is now called Hamptonville, NC." I explained that we were exploring areas where our ancestors had lived in the 1770s. She asked me what was the family name. When I told her, she said, "I'm a Sparks." I was amazed and quite thrilled. Her name is Barbara (Sparks) Pinnix.

I asked Mrs. Pinnix if she knew anything about her Sparks history and, other than knowing that her great-grandfather, Benjamin M. Sparks, and his descend- ants, had lived in the area, she knew nothing. She was quite excited to learn that her family had lived in the area since before the American Revolution.

The maps which you provided in the Quarterly made our trip a very happy and productive one. Thank you for all you fellows have done over the years. In the four years since I retired from practicing law, I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours working on my family history and have been delighted with the results. A dozen other branches of my family, mostly ancestors of my father's maternal grandmother, Martha (Jenkins) Stone, originated in St. Mary's and Charles Counties in Maryland (Payne, Spalding, Jenkins, Mattingly, Boarman, Jarboe, Gardiner, Cole, Ford, etc.) where we also visited. Someday I hope (like all other old family historians like me) to print up some sort of book for my descendants to enjoy.

James J. Sparks

[Editor's Note: Barbara (Sparks) Pinnix whom James J. Sparks happened to find in what was once Cycle, North Carolina, is a very distant cousin of his. While, like Jim, she descends from the William Sparks who died in Queen Annes County, Maryland, in 1709, her descent is through William's youngest son, Joseph Sparks, who died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749. Joseph's son, Solomon Sparks, who is also the ancestor of Paul E. Sparks, accompanied his first cousin, William Sample Sparks, to North Carolina in or ca. 1754. As did the son of William Sample Sparks named William Sparks (who died in 1801/02), Solomon moved, prior to the American Revolution, to what became the Yadkin County area of North Carolina. Information regarding Solomon Sparks appeared in the Quarterly of December 1955, No. 12, in an article devoted primarily to his son, John Sparks. See also the issues of March and September 1988, Nos. 141 and 143 for several references to him.

In the cemetery at Hamptonville, earlier called Cycle, Jim found the tombstones of Mrs. Pinnix' grandparents: "M. W. Sparks, January 2, 1889 - August 28, 1940" and "D. F. (Swaim) Sparks, November 15, 1888 - January 24, 1980." The full name of M. W. Sparks was Marcus Winfield Sparks, while that of his wife was Delania Florence (Swaim) Sparks.]