April 27, 2021
Whole Number 178
RACHEL (SPARKS) BICKNELL (1757-ca.1851/55)
AND HER BROTHER, GEORGE SPARKS (died 1795/06)
PROBABLE CHILDREN OF 188.8.131.52 WILLIAM SAMPLE SPARKS
by Russell E. Bidlack
For many years we have pondered over the parentage of a George Sparks who made his will in Newberry County, South Carolina, on October 20, 1795. Be cause his will was entered for probate on March 2, 1796, we can be certain that George Sparks died either late in 1795 or early in 1796. From its wording, we can also deduce that he was a relatively young man when he died.
Our primary clue in tracing George Sparks's origin has been the provision in his will for his young son, Reuben Sparks, to be reared by his sister, Rachel Bicknell, who lived in North Carolina. The fact that George Sparks also referred to my affairs in the North State," leaves no doubt that he and his sister were members of the branch of the Sparks family that had migrated prior to the Ameri can Revolution from Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin, then included within the boundaries of Rowan County, but now within Davie County, North Carolina. Following is the full text of the will of George Sparks:
Will of GEORGE SPARKS
State of South Carolina, Newberry County.
Be it remembered that on the Twentieth of October in the Year of our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and Ninety Five that I GEORGE SPARKS being Sick and Weak in Body, I thought it Proper after my body is laid in the Grave that my Worldly Affairs Should be Honestly Settled, for Which I leave my friend George Powell to do this in State aforesaid and After Settling my Affairs aforesaid According to law he to make a true Return of all to my sister Rachel Bicknel in North Carolina and she to receive it and use it as her own till my Son REUBEN SPARKS is Come to the Age of Twenty One Years, as this I assirt my Last Will.
Witnesseth: [signed] George X Sparks
Volentinee Braswell Mark
This will was recorded in Newberry County Will Book A, page 355, and was marked as 1'Proved March 2nd 1796" by Fred. Nance, County Clerk.
When it was that George Sparks went from North Carolina to Newberry County, South Carolina, is not known, except that he was there at the time the 1790 census was taken
On the 1790 census, as would be true of each federal census taken prior to 1850, only the head of each household was actually named. Free white males in 1790 in each household, including the head, were then enumerated in two categories following the name: those 16 and over, and those under 16. White females were also counted and recorded, but with no division by age.
George Sparks was shown in Newberry County, South Carolina, still considered part of the "Ninety-Six District," in 1790, as over age 16. In his household was a male under 16, who was doubtless his small son, Reuben Sparks, and one female who was surely his wife, of whom we have no knowledge. Two other men named Sparks were also shown as heading households in Newberry County in 1790, John Sparkes and Stephen Sparks, but we are certain that they were unrelated to George Sparks.
The only record that we have found in Newberry County, South Carolina, pertaining to George Sparks, other than his will, is his purchase of fifty acres of land there on April 6, 1795. He paid fifty pounds sterling to Herman Davis, Sr., who was called "Planter," also a resident of Newberry County. (See Newberry County Deed Book C, page 814.) According to this deed, George Sparks's fifty acres were part of a grant of 200 acres that had been made earlier to Davis, located in the fork between the Enoree and Saluda Rivers. The witnesses to George Sparks' purchase of his fifty acres were William Finney, Andrew Spence, and Josiah Elliot. This deed was not proven and recorded in Newberry County until July 28, 1796, by which time George Sparks had died, his will having been entered for probate on March 2, 1796.
It seems apparent that George Sparks's wife had died before he wrote his will, in which he left all of his property to his sister, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, with which to rear his son, Reuben. We have found no record pertaining to this Reuben Sparks other than his mention in his father's will.
It is the will of George Sparks that enables us to fit his sister, Rachel, into the branch of the Sparks family that came to the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina in 1754.
A rather detailed account of the migration of members of the Sparks family of Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina, was included in an article on the life of 184.108.40.206 William Sample Sparks published in the Quarterly of December 1989, Whole No. 148, pp. 3484-3501. This writer and Dr. Paul E. Sparks, the Association's president, have become convinced, partly through a process of elimination, that William Sample Sparks was the father of George Sparks and of Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, the subjects of this article.
William Sample Sparks had been born ca. 1700 in Queen Annes County, Mary land; he was a grandson of the 1.2 William Sparks who died there in 1709. His father, we are certain, was 1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr. (ca.1674-ca.1735), who was the eldest son of the William who died in 1709. An article about this early immigrant from Hampshire County, England, to Maryland with his brother, 1.1 John Sparks (died 1700), appeared in the Quarterly of March 1971, Whole No. 73, pp. 1371-1389; a more detailed account, based on later research, appeared in the issue for the December 1992, Whole No. 160, pp. 4025-4034.
We have no knowledge of the first wife of 220.127.116.11 William Sample Sparks, but it appears that she was the mother of his first two sons, 18.104.22.168.1 William Sparks, born ca. 1725, and 22.214.171.124.2 Matthew Sparks, born ca. 1730. We believe that the first wife of William Sample Sparks died and that he was the "William Sparks" who was married in St. Luke's Parish in Queen Annes County on August 24, 1732, to Mary Courmon (or Corman). It is probable that the son of William Sample Sparks named James was a son of Mary, if we are correct regarding his father's second marriage.
In or ca. 1736, William Sample Sparks left Queen Annes County with his family and migrated to an area of western Maryland that is drained by the Monocacy River and its tributaries; this area was called "Monocacy" by the Indians long before the appearance of the white man. (See the map showing the Big.and Little Pipe Creeks, where Sparks settled, along with other streams flowing into the Monocacy River, on page 3488 of the December 1989 Quarterly.) This area was included in Prince Georges County when William Sample Sparks moved there, but it became part of Frederick County when Frederick was created in 1748.
A few years after William Sample Sparks settled in Monocacy, he was joined by an uncle, 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks, and Joseph's large family. Joseph Sparks died in 1749, at which time William Sample Sparks and Rachel Sparks both signed as "next of kinn" when the inventory of Joseph's personal property was prepared. (See the article on Joseph Sparks who died in 1749 in the Quarterly of March 1990, Whole No. 149, pp. 3554-3561.)
When a property owner died, Maryland law then required that two close relatives of the deceased. with the two chief creditors of the estate, sign the inventory of his personal property as part of the probating procedure. There can be little doubt that this Rachel Sparks was, in 1749, the wife of 126.96.36.199 William Sample Sparks. Apparently she was his third wife, by whom, we believe, he had the son named 188.8.131.52.5 George Sparks and the daughter named 184.108.40.206.4 Rachel Sparks, who are the subjects of the present article.
When Joseph Sparks died in 1749, he left a wife named Mary and children:
220.127.116.11 Solomon Sparks. Born ca. 1727.
18.104.22.168 Joseph Sparks. Born ca. 1730.
22.214.171.124 Merum Sparks. (daughter) Born ca. 1730.
126.96.36.199 Charles Sparks. Born ca. 1731.
188.8.131.52 George Sparks. Born ca. 1733.
184.108.40.206 Jonas Sparks. Born ca. 1734.
220.127.116.11 Ann Sparks. Born ca. 1735.
18.104.22.168 Jonathan Sparks. Born ca. 1735.
22.214.171.124 Rebecca Sparks. Born ca. 1735.
126.96.36.199 William Sparks. Born April 27, 1738, married Martha Moore.
188.8.131.52 Mary Sparks. Born ca. 1740.
184.108.40.206 Sarah Sparks. Born ca. 1747
Because 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks had been the youngest son of the 1.2 William Sparks who died in 1709, while 220.127.116.11 William Sample Sparks father, 1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr., had been his oldest son, Joseph's older sons were considerably younger than their first cousin, William Sample Sparks.
It was in the spring of 1754, we believe, that William Sample Sparks, with members of his own family, and accompanied by three of the sons of Joseph Sparks (Solomon, about 27 years of age; Jonas, about 20; and Jonathan, about 18) left Frederick County, Maryland, for the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina. The eldest son of William Sample Sparks, named 18.104.22.168.1 William Sparks, born ca. 1725, remained in Frederick County, but he would join his father and other family members in North Carolina a decade later. As can be seen from the frequent repetition of the same given names for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the immigrant, William Sparks (died 1709), one can become easily confused in trying to identify the parentage of each one. We believe that William Sample Sparks, himself, chose "Sample" as a middle name simply to identify himself from his father and from his cousins named William, for which his descendants can be grateful.
The Sparkses who went to the Forks of the Yadkin were part of a rather large migration from Maryland to North Carolina beginning in the 1750s. These pioneers were in the search of fertile, but inexpensive, land in a mild climate. This they found in what was known as "Lord Granville's Domain." (See pages 3492-93 of the December 1989 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 148, for a detailed explanation of how Lord Granville acquired his "domain" and how his agents sold portions to settlers prior to the American Revolution.)
We have known for many years that two sons of William Sample Sparks accompanied their father in his 1754 migration to the Forks of the Yadkin. 22.214.171.124.2 Matthew Sparks, then about 34 years of age, was married and had several children, while 126.96.36.199.5 James Sparks was about 20 years of age and, we believe, unmarried. As noted above, the son named 'William, born ca. 1725, did not join his father and siblings until 1764. We have assumed, however, that there were probably daughters and, perhaps, other sons, of William Sample Sparks of whom we had no record. We have now concluded, in part through a "process of elimination," that George and Rachel Sparks, subjects of this article, were surely, also, children of William Sample Sparks, and that their mother was surely the Rachel Sparks who co-signed with her husband the inventory of Joseph Sparks's personal property in 1749. It was a common practice to name a daughter for her mother.
Very few records survive in Rowan County, North Carolina, from this early period. Until recently, we had found no record of William Sample Sparks in Rowan County's land records, although there are county court records pertaining to his receiving a license in 1762 and in 1764 to keep an "ordinary," the name then used for an inn or tavern serving travellers, There is also a record of his serving on a jury in 1764. With the publication in 1995 of Vol. 5 of Margaret M. Hofmann's The Granville Districtof North Carolina,1748-1763, we know now where he lived in the Forks of the Yadkin.
Immigrants to Lord Granville's District, which included the Forks of the Yadkin, regularly "squatted" on vacant land that appealed to them until such time as they were able, or found it convenient, actually to purchase the tract from Lord Granville's agent. In some instances, years passed before actual ownership was gained or the "squatter" moved to a different site. There was always the danger, however, that someone else would purchase the "squatter's claim," in which case the original settler might lose whatever "improvements" he had made. William Sample Sparks's son, Matthew Sparks, as well as his young cousin, 188.8.131.52 Solomon, made their initial purchases in 1761. Matthew bought 372 acres while Solomon bought 250 acres. In 1762, Solomon bought 290 additional acres that adjoined his first pur chase, although he later sold a portion to his brother, Jonas. (See the map on page 3495 of the December 1989 issue of the Quarterly.)
William Sample Sparks, however, never acquired a legal title to land in the Forks of the Yadkin, although from Vol. 5 of Ms. Hofmann's abstracts of Lord Granville's land records (p.272), we now know that he had "squatted" on a tract very near that of his son, Matthew. On May 30, 1761, however, a settler named James Andrews purchased a tract of 700 acres that included the "improvements" that had been made there by William Sample Sparks. The warrant authorizing a survey to be made of Andrews' purchase described the tract as "700 acres in Rowan County on the South Side of the South Yadkin, joining the Mouth of Second Creek, in cluding the improvements where William Sample Sparks formerly Lived." The exact location of this tract can be identified on the map appearing on page 3495 of the Quarterly, cited above. Perhaps Sparks moved to a portion of the nearby tract purchased by his son, Matthew, and established his ordinary there. It is even possible that Andrews had purchased from William Sample Sparks the "improvements" Sparks had made on his "squatter's" site.
Unfortunately, William Sample Sparks did not leave a will, nor have we found any record of the settlement of his estate. Since no Rowan County record bearing his name after 1764 has been found, we believe that he died soon after 1764.
In her pension application made many years later that will be quoted later in this article, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell indicated that she had been born on December 12, 1757. This means that she was born in North Carolina about three years after her parents' arrival there. Because it was to his sister, Rachel, that George Sparks left the care of his young son with whatever property he had, rather than to one of his half-brothers, it is logical to speculate that George was of an age similar to that of Rachel Bicknell, who was then a widow with six children of her own.
In our earlier efforts to identify the parents of Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell and her brother, George Sparks, we were confused by the fact that 184.108.40.206 Jonas Sparks, son of the 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks who had died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749, had a son named George and a daughter named Rachel. The Rachel Sparks who was a daughter of Jonas Sparks was married, however, to a man named Minus Griggs, and they subsequently moved to Kentucky. (A record of the family of Minus and Rachel [Sparks] Griggs also appears in the present issue of the Quarterly, beginning on page 4829.) The George Sparks who appeared on a tax list of Rowan County believed to date from 1775, was a son of Jonas Sparks ; he was not the George Sparks who died in Newberry County, South Carolina, in 1795/96. In his will dated May 11, 1805, Jonas Sparks made no mention of his son, George Sparks, which suggests that he either died young or had moved to a different part of the country.
As was noted earlier, it was in 1764 that the son of William Sample Sparks named William, who had been born ca. 1725, made the journey with his family from Frederick County, Maryland, to join his Sparks relatives in the Forks of the Yadkin. (See the Quarterly of June 1991, Whole No. 154, pp. 3752-3898, for an article about William Sparks [ca.1725-1801/02.]) On April 10, 1765, William Sparks purchased from his brother, Matthew Sparks, 200 of the 372 acres that Matthew had acquired from Lord Granville in 1761.
As has been noted in other articles in the Quarterly devoted to the Sparkses of the Forks of the Yadkin, members of the older generation at the time of the American Revolution tended to be Tories (i.e., men who maintained their allegiance to the English crown.) As the fever of rebellion against King George III intensified in the Colonies, pressure mounted to force the Tories either to declare their allegiance to the rebellion or risk having their lands confiscated. It was in 1778 that Captain Johnston prepared a list of the names of some 152 men in his district who had either failed or refused to pledge allegiance to the state of North Carolina. The two Sparkses appearing on this list were William and George, sons of Jonas. Solomon Sparks, with the sons of William Sample Sparks named William and Matthew, would probably have appeared, also, on Johnston's list had they still been residents of Rowan County.
Early in 1773, 220.127.116.11.1 William Sparks and his brother, 18.104.22.168.2 Matthew Sparks, sons of William Sample Sparks, sold their land in the Rorks of the Yadkin and moved their families to Surry County, North Carolina. Surry County had been cut off from Rowan County in 1770. Matthew settled in that part of Surry that eventually be came Ashe County, while William chose a spot in what is now Yadkin County, near the Wilkes County line. This was near where William's cousin, 22.214.171.124 Solomon Sparks (son of 1.2.5 Joseph), had moved two years earlier. William's oldest son, also named William, had either accompanied or followed Solomon--both were shown on the oldest extant tax list for Surry County, that for 1771. The land on which these Sparkses settled was also part of Lord Granville's vast domain, but his land office had been closed following his death in 1764, and his family had not reopened it because of the unrest leading up to the Revolution. Settlers simply "Usquafled?" on vacant Granville land that pleased them, marking their proposed boundaries with an axe mark on corner trees. This was called a "tomahawk survey." Their hope was, of course, to purchase the land when the Granville land office opened again. It did not open again, of course, and the state of North Carolina, while respecting earlier Granville sales, took over land-granting authority at the end of the Revolution.
We believe that 126.96.36.199.4 Rachel Sparks, daughter of William Sample Sparks, accompanied her half-brother, 188.8.131.52.1 William Sparks, in his 1773 move to Surry County, and we think it likely that her brother, 184.108.40.206.5 George Sparks, did likewise. The 1774 poll tax list for Surry County survives, and on the portion prepared by Benjamin Cleve land appears the name of William Sparks and that of his son, Matthew (named, obviously, for William's brother). White males between 16 and 60 were considered to be "taxables" in Surry County in 1774, proving that William's son, Matthew, was at least 16. 220.127.116.11 Solomon Sparks was also shown as a taxable on this same list, with his sons, named 18.104.22.168.2 John Sparks and 22.214.171.124.1 Joseph Sparks.
126.96.36.199 William Sparks's older son, 188.8.131.52.1 William, Jr., was included, as was 184.108.40.206(?) James Sparks, the younger brother (or half-brother, in all probability) of William, Sr.
Although George Sparks did not appear as a taxable in Surry County in 1774, we believe that he was there, but he probably had not yet reached the age of 16. We know that his sister, Rachel, was there because on October 22, 1774, she married Thomas Bicknell in Surry County according to her own sworn statement. She made this deposition on December 3, 1845, shortly before her 88th birthday, when she applied for a widow's pension based on her husband's service in the Revolutionary War. She stated that her marriage had been performed by a justice of the peace named Squire Riggs, following the "publication" of their marriage banns "in Church as the custom was in those days." This type of marriage procedure was more common in early North Carolina than that through the "marriage bond," but it was only a marriage bond that became an official county record. Rachel was 16 years of age at her marriage, or, as she stated, she was in her seventeenth year. Her seventeenth birthday would fall on December 12, 1774.
Thomas Bicknell's surname was spelled variously in the 1700s and early 1800s, often as Bicknel, Becknel, or Becknell, other times as Beicknell, and even as Bucknell or Begnell. In this article, except in direct quotations, we will use the spelling that Thomas used when he signed his will in 1780 in his own hand, Bicknell.
The earliest record that we have found of Thomas Bicknell in North Carolina is his name on the 1772 "List of Taxables of Surry County." Shown, also, on the same list is that of his brother, Samuel Bicknell. Samuel, but not Thomas, had also appeared on the 1771 tax list of Surry County, it being the oldest such list known to exist. Research into the Bicknell family by a number of descendants points to Samuel and Thomas being sons of a William Bicknell, born ca.1714115, who died in 1780 or 1781, in Amherst County, Virginia. His wife's name was Hannah. According to William Bicknell's will, he had sons named Samuel, William, Thomas, John, and Micajah, and daughters named Ruth, Anna, and Mary Ann. At an earlier time, the family had lived in Albemarle County, Virginia.
The tax list for Surry County for 1774 shows how the county had been divided into militia districts, which also served as tax districts. Benjamin Cleveland was captain of the district that later became Yadkin County in 1850; also included in his district was a portion of what became Wilkes County when it had been cut off from Surry in 1777. Included in Captain Cleveland's 1774 list were Thomas and Samuel Bicknell (spelled "Becknall"), as well as William Sparks (with his son, Matthew Sparks), and Solomon Sparks (with his sons, John Sparks and Joseph Sparks); also James Sparks, half-brother of William Sparks, and William Sparks, Jr.
There can be litfie doubt that Rachel Sparks and Thomas Bicknell became acquainted after both moved to Surry County, he from Virginia and she from the Forks of the Yadkin. Because Rachel recalled many years later that their marriage banns had been announced "in Church," she doubtless meant the Mulberry Fields Meeting House that had been organized by a group of Baptists and was located in what later became the town of Wilkesboro. General William Lenoir, who became one of Wilkes County's most distinguished leaders, recalled this church in an 1824 letter quoted on page 3782 of the June 1991 Quarterly.
It was in November 1777 that the North Carolina General Assembly proclaimed, with its passage of the "Confiscation Act," the state's ownership of all Granville land. Grants previously made by Granville's agents were to be honored, however. It was now possible for settlers who had formerly been "squatters" in Surry County to gain a legal title to "their" land, if someone else did not produce a better claim. It was also in 1777 that Wilkes County was created from part of Surry County.
A detailed account of the manner in which "squatters" went about acquiring their legal titles from the state begins on page 3784 of the June 1991 Quarterly. On April 22, 1778, Thomas Bicknell "entered" a tract of 247 acres of land in Wilkes County, described as located on "both sides of Swan Creek, joining Tho Parks at the lower and John Bowerland [Bourland] at the upper end, cornering on the main road." (Entry 63 in LandEntryBook,WilkesCounty,NorthCarolina,1778-1781, edited by Mrs. W. O. Abshire, 1971.)
On March 4, 1778, Samuel Bicknell's entry #12 had been for 320 acres on Yadkin River at Benjamin Herndon's lower corner [and] claim(s] of Thomas Becknel & Thomas Parks [and] Alexander Gordon." On January 4, 1779, Thomas Bicknell entered 50 additional acres that adjoined his other tract and one belonging to Benjamin Herndon (Entry 749). On September 24, 1779, he received conflrmation of his first "entry" in the form of a grant (a deed) from the state, although it was found to contain 240 acres, not the 247 acres that had been estimated in his entry. In the deed, this tract was described again as lying on both sides of Swan Creek, adjoining land belonging to Benjamin Herndon and John Bourland. (Wilkes County Deed Book A-i, p.72.) We have found no record, however, confirming Thomas Bicknell's 50-acre entry--perhaps he sold his claim to this before it was confirmed by a grant.
Thomas Bicknell's land was not far from where Swan's Creek empties into the Yad- kin River. Today this tract, as well as that of his brother, Samuel Bicknell, would be found in New Castle Township of Wilkes County, one and one-quarter miles west of the line dividing Wilkes County from Yadkin County.
During the second day of the initial meeting of the Wilkes County Court, on March 3, 1778, "Thomas Bicknal" and three others were appointed constables for the new county, and on September 11, 1778, Thomas was appointed "Collector for Captain Herndon's District." A year after his appointment as constable, on March 3, 1779, however, Thomas Bicknell resigned from the latter post, probably because of his involvement with military affairs. These appointments indicate that he had soon become recognized as a youthful leader in his community.
Historians have noted that most of the settlers in the Forks of the Yadkin in the 1750s and 1760s became Loyalists during the American Revolution, as was true of several members of the Sparks family. There developed a "generation gap" within many of these families, as the immigrants' sons tended to join with the rebels, demanding the Colonies' freedom from English rule. As was noted in the article in the June 1991 Issue of the Quarterly, devoted to William Sparks (son of William Sample Sparks) mentioned earlier, both William and his cousin, Solomon Sparks, would suffer later because of their loyalty to King George III. Although neither of them actually joined Tory military forces, their known sympathies for British rule would result in their being denied titles to the land in Surry County on which they had "squatted." Thomas Bicknell, however, was a rebel from the start of the Revolution. In fact, he would give his life for the American cause.
Our only record of Thomas Bicknell's service in the Revolution is found in Rachel's own account when, many years later, on December 3, 1845, just nine days prior to her 88th birthday, she made application for a pension based on that service. Not only did she, as a war widow, have to prove that she had been married to a soldier, but, also, to provide information regarding her husband's service. Documents proving Revolutionary War service were often lacking for a widow's pension application, but Rachel was further handicapped because of her long separation from friends and neighbors who had known her in North Carolina; she was living with a daughter in Pickens County, South Carolina, when she made her pension application. (Rachel Bicknell's pension file at the National Archives has the number R-12399; it is filed under "Biecknell.") The judge writing the declaration that Rachel signed by mark, spelled her name three different ways. The full text of her application follows; punctuation has been added for clarity.
In order to obtain the benefit of the third section of the Act of Congress of the 4th July 1836 entittled [sic] An Act granting half pay and Pensions to Certain widows:
State of South Carolina )
District of Pickens ) SS
On this third day of December 1845 personally appeared before William D. Steele, Judge of the Court of Ordinary for the District & State aforesaid, Mrs Rachel Biecknell of the District & State aforesaid, aged eighty eight years the 12th Instant (and who the said Ordinary certifies is unable by body in firmity to attend in Open Court) who being first duly sworn accord ing to law, doth on her oath make the following Declaration in order to obtain... [a pension]
That she is the widow of Thomas Biecknell who was a private and Lieutenant in the War of the Revolution, that she married the said Thomas Biecknell when in her seventeenth year; and she thinks [it was] when she had three children [that] her said hus band entered the service under Capt Richard Allen, who was after wards, Colonel; that they then resided in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and her said husband there entered the service the first time, and was not much at home until the close of the War; that he was at one time a Volunteer & at other times drafted, and was a considerable portion of the time a Lieutenant; that she is sure he was a Lieutenant under Capt Allen at the siege of Charleston early in 1780, that he marched much through North & South Carolina, and served at various times under Col. Lanore, Col. Cleveland, & Col. Hearne, but it is impossible for her to state the par ticulars of his service, at her advanced age.
That her husband the said Thomas Biecknell was wounded with an ounce ball in his hip in the Battle at King's Mountain, with which wound he died; he was carried to Burke County near Morgantown [Morganton], to the house of Mr. Bowman, whence declarant went and waited upon him with his wound Eleven weeks, at the end of which time he died. She does not know of any documentary evi dence, or any evidence of any kind, that she can certainly get to prove his service, but thinks an indent may have been issued to her for his service, as she recollect [ s], to have tryed to get something, & thinks, she did get a small sum, but does not know how [much].
That she married the said Thomas Bicknell in Wilkes County N.C. by Squire Riggs, as she believes on the 22nd October, as she thinks the year 1774, as she had but three children when her husband entered the service, and when his service closed entirely she had five children and four months and fifteen days after his death her sixth child Mary was born; her said Daughter, Mary, married David Roper, and she now lives with her, and on their charity. She has no record of her marriage, nor of the births of her children, they [the banns] were published in Church as the custom was in those days to be married. That her husband, the aforesaid Thomas Becknell, died on the thirty first day of December 1780, and that she has remained a widow ever since that period, as will more fully appear by reference to the proof herewith forwarded.
[signed] Rachel k Biecknell
Rachel Bicknell's declaration was "sworn to and subscribed" before William D. Steele, Judge of the Court of Ordinary for Pickins District.
While Rachel Bicknell could not recall the date on which her husband had "entered the service," it is seen that she remembered that he had done so "under Capt. Richard Allen, who was afterwards Colonel." It happens that many years earlier, in 1832, this same Richard Allen had applied for a pension (file 5-6490 at the National Archives), and in his application, he had given a detailed record of his own service, which he recalled had begun in either October or November 1775 in "Captain Jesse Walton's company of minute men...." by 1777, Allen had become an ensign in Captain Benjamin Cleveland's company of Wilkes County Militia, and when Cleveland was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1778, Richard Allen had succeeded him as captain of the company.
It may not have been until 1779 that Thomas Bicknell joined Captain Allen's company, but he was surely a member at the time of the events that Allen recalled taking place in 1779, as follows:
In the latter part of the year 1779, a call was made for troops to march in the defense of Charleston. A draft was made from the militia in Wilkes [County) for one company, and a draft also made from the captains of companles for a captain to command that company--the lot fell upon the deponent [i.e. on Allen, himself], and he accordingly repaired with his company to Hamblins old store where they rendeyvoused [sic] on the 15th of January 1780--as soon as they could organize and make the necessary preparations they marched direct to Charleston, S.C., where they joined the third regiment of North Carolina Militia commanded by Col. Andrew Hampton.
Capt. Allen's company helped prevent the Tories from burning the city of Charles ton, after which they returned to their homes in Wilkes County in April 1780, "having been gone between three and four months," in the words of Allen.
Rachel Bicknell stated in her pension application that she was was sure that her husband had been "a Lieutenant under Capt. Allen at the siege of Charleston, that he marched much through North and South Carolina, and served at various times." Her memory of her husband's activities during this period is in keeping with Capt. Allen's account, as follows:
From the month of April to September 1780 this deponent [i.e., Allen], with small detachments of the men under his command, served three short terms... one of which was against a body of Tories assembled near the head of the Catawba River, another against Cob. Bryan, a Tory Cob. who had embodied a band of Tories in the Southern part of the State, and the other against some Tories on the North West side of the Blue Ridge.
In the month of September 1780 intormation was received by Col. Cleveland that Major Ferguson of the British army was advancing from South Carolina with a large body of British and Tories--upon which Col. Cleveland immediately issued orders for all the troops within the County of Wilkes to reneyezvous [sic] at the Court House. This deponent, with what men he could collect, repaired thither immediately, and after the troops were organized they all set out on their march to meet Majr Ferguson. Upon the way they were joined by Col. Campbell with a body of troops from Virginia, as also by Cols. Sevier, Shelby and McDowell with troops from North Carolina. After a junction of the troops was formed, as most of them had horses, it was proposed that all those who had horses or could procure them should advance im mediately upon Ferguson.
Captain Allen was placed in command of those troops who did not have horses, and though they "continued their March with all possible speed in the direction of Kings Mountain," the battle had been won by the Americans before Allen and his footmen reached their destination.
Because Thomas Bicknell had been on horseback, he had become a member of Colonel Sevier's command and was in the thick of the battle.
A low mountain or ridge, King's Mountain is located near the border line of North and South Carolina, just over the line in York County, South Carolina, from Cleveland County, North Carolina. When the battle was fought, York County was still part of Camden District in South Carolina, and Cleveland County in North Carolina was part of Rutherford County, which had been cut off from Burke County in 1779. For the Americans, the Battle of Kings Mountain resulted in one of their most brilliant victories of the Revolution and played an important role in breaking British power in the South. Col. Sevier, under whom Bicknell was serving at the time, became a hero of the Revolution as a result of this American Victory.
A portion of a map entitled "The Revolutionary War in the South" drawn by Hugh T. Lefler for the Atlas of American History, published in 1943, page 74. Shows the location of Charleston, where Thomas Bicknefl participated in the Siege of that city, and of Kings Mountain, where he was mortally wounded.
As was indicated earlier, Thomas Bicknell was severely wounded during the Battle of Kings Mountain. In her pension application, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell gave a brief account of his injury, and subsequent death, as quoted earlier.
Although her declaration for a pension was made in 1845, six years passed before supporting affidavits could be obtained from people who could remember her and her husband. by this time, Rachel was 94 years old. It was in September 1851 that four individuals were found who could testify on Rachel's behalf.
In Wilkes County, North Carolina, Benjamin Parks was found who remembered both Thomas and Rachel Bicknell. Described in his affidavit, dated September 22, 1851, as "an old and respectable Citizen," he was closely related to the Thomas Parks, Jr. whose land had adjoined that of Thomas Bicknell on Swan's Creek. On the 1850 census of Wilkes County, Benjamin Parks was shown as 84 years old and a native of Virginia. He was then living in the household of James Parks, age 59.. Benjamin Parks claimed in his deposition that he could remember three of Bicknell's neighbors who had been killed at Kings Mountain; he could also recall that Thomas Bicknell had been brought from the battlefield in a "Horse Litter." Parks added in his sworn statement that Bicknell was a married man and had children, but he did not think any record of marriages was kept in those days, and that "even now they are very imperfectly kept." He added that "Mrs. Rachael Beicknell [sic] left this country long since and he never heard of her marrying again." He must have been told that Rachel had testified that her marriage had been performed by Squire Riggs, because Benjamin Parks stated that he had known "Esquire Riggs and that he was in the habit of marrying People."
Also providing an affidavit to assist Rachel was "an old and Respectable Lady" in Wilkes County named Sarah Gray. In her sworn statement, also dated September 22, 1851, she said that she had known Thomas Bicknell well and that during the Revolution he "was from home a considerable time, said to be in the service of his country." She added that she had had a brother in the Battle of Kings Mountain who had reported to her that Bicknell "was badly wounded in his hip and never recovered, and that her brother had assisted in bringing him from the battle ground." She added that Bicknell's "wife's maiden name she recollects very well, was Rachael Sparks," and that she "was a woman of good and unimpeachable character"; that [she, Sarah Gray, herself] was "bound to believe her statement in any matter."
In McDowell County, which had been created in 1842 from Burke and Rutherford Counties, a man named David Glass, Esqr., "an old man, and a man, in every way worthy of credit," swore on September 25, 1851, that he could remember Rachel Bicknell "saying a long time ago that her husband... served in the war of the Revolution, and was shot at the Battle of King's Mountain and carried to Mrs. Bowman's near Morganton in Burke County where he lay a considerable time and then died with the wound."
Also on September 25, 1851, Martha McKenzie, "an old and respectable Lady" in McDowell County, swore that she had been "well acquainted with Thomas Bicknell and Rachail [sic] his wife, who was a Sparks. That she has often heard various persons say the said Thomas Bicknell served several years in the War of the Revolution and was Badly wounded at the Battle of King's mountain and carried to Mrs. Bowmans, near Morganton in Burke County and lay there several weeks and died..." She added that the Bicknells "were both of unimpeachable character, that they lived together and had children and was always recognized as man and wife... This deponent says she is Eighty-six years old and came to this County when a child from Virginia."
Morganton, to which Thomas Bicknell had been carried, was, and is, the county seat of Burke County, North Carolina; it is located about fifty miles from Kings Mountain. The journey there from the battlefield by "horse litter" must have been a painful ordeal for Bicknell.
While the kind of wound that Thomas Bicknell received on Kings Mountain could probably be easily treated today, his chances of avoiding infection and other fatal disorders were poor in 1780. Ten days following his misfortune, recognizing the probability that he would die, Thomas made his will on October 20, 1780. The original, as well as the recorded copy, survive in the North Carolina Archives at Raleigh. The original document is transcribed below:
In the name of God Amen. I Thomas Bicknell of Wilkes County in the State of N0 Carolina, being much disordered in Body but of Sound mind & memory & Reflecting on the uncertainty of Human Affairs, do make this my last will &. Testament in manner & form following ViZt
Imprimis I commit I [sic] body to the Earth there to be decently intered at the direction of my Executors, & my Worldly Estate I dispose of as follows
Item I will & bequeath unto my beloved Wife Rachel the Plantation whereon I dwell, togather with my Horses & Cattle, Sheep & Hoggs & all Other my Houshold furniture & Plantation Tools to the Intent that she may be able to Raise my Children and I hereby will & Appoint my Wife Rachel Sole Executrix of this my last will & Testament as Witness my hand & Seal this 20th day of October 1780. Signed Sealed & Acknowledged
in presence of us:
" Joseph Dobson
" Grace Bowman
" Samuel Bicknell
" Wm Terrell Lewis
" William Ragland
" Gabrl Loving Junr
It was most unusual to have six witnesses to a will; we do not have an explanation. The first to sign, Joseph Dobson, was a physician who had brought his family from London, England, to Virginia in 1753, and had come to Burke County, North Carolina, in 1764. We can conjecture that it may have been Dr. Dobson who, serving as Thomas Bicknell's physician, recommended that he make his will. The document appears to be in Dobson's handwriting--he obviously did not know his patient's correct name when he wrote "Bignall." According to The Burke County Heritage Book, page 157, quoting from Draper's Kings Mountain Men, Dr. Dobson had eighteen wounded Americans from the Battle of Kings Mountain under his care at Morganton.
The second witness, Grace Bowman, widow of the late sheriff of Burke County, was providing shelter for Thomas Bicknell and, probably also, for Rachel during the eleven weeks that she nursed her husband. The third witness, Samuel Bicknell, was Thomas' brother. Perhaps he had brought Rachel to Morganton from Wilkes County to care for his brother. The three remaining witnesses, William Terrell Lewis, Sr., William Ragland, and Gabriel Loving, Jr., were all close neighbors of both Thomas and Samuel Bicknell in Wilkes County. We may conjecture that they, too, may have been among Dr. Dobson's patients from the Battle of Kings Mountain
It was on the last day of December in 1780, according to Rachel Bicknell's pension application, that her husband died. Gabriel Loving, Jr., one of the witnesses to Thomas Bicknell's will, appeared before the Wilkes County Court on March 7, 1781, to swear that he had been present when Thomas Bicknell had made his will; and the will was then admitted for probate. (See p.50 of Wilkes County Will Book 1.)
As noted earlier, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell stated in her pension application that she believed that she had three children at the time her husband entered service. She added that "when his service closed entirely, [with his death on December 31, 1780] she had five children, and four months and fifteen days after his death, her sixth child, Mary was born." This would place Mary Bicknell's birth date on May 15, 1781.
Unfortunately, Thomas Bicknell did not name his children in his will. From later land transactions, we know that two of Rachel's six children were sons, named William and Micajah.
We can only wonder what Rachel did with her five children when she went from Wilkes County to nurse her husband in Burke County, although there were both Bicknell and Sparks relatives living near her in Wilkes County with whom she may have left them.
On September 3, 1781, the Wilkes County Court ordered Benjamin Herndon, William Terrell Lewis, and William Carrell to appraise the Estate of Thomas Becknel, decd." This was done promptly, and when the court met later in the same month, it was noted that the inventory had been returned by "Rachel Bicknall, Execrx." A copy of this inventory was made on page 60 of Vol. 1 of the Wilkes County Will Book 1 as follows:
|Land 321 acres|
|three Beds and Furniture|
|8 knives and forks|
|1 pair of Sizzors|
|3 water Pales|
|2 washing Tubs|
|2 Bed Steads|
|2 Stais r?J|
|2 pair of Cards|
|2 Bundletts [?]|
|on Book L25|
One of the earliest tax lists of Wilkes County, North Carolina, that survives in the North Carolina Archives is that for 1782. In Captain Alexander Gordon's District, Rachel Bicknell was taxed, as was also her brother-in-law, Samuel Bicknell. Rachel was shown as owning 321 acres of land, the same number of acres as shown in the inventory of her husband's estate. For tax purposes, this tract was valued at forty pounds. Also taxed that year in Wilkes County were slaves, horses, and cattle, as well as "stock in trade" [for merchants] and "carriage wheels." Rachel owned no slaves, nor did she have a carriage, but she was taxed for four horses and eleven cattle.
Rachel Bicknell also appeared on the 1784 tax list of Wilkes County, again in Capt. Gordon's District. Only the land portion of the 1784 tax list survives on which Rachel was credited with 347 acres; why there was this difference in acreage, we do not know.
When Rachel Bicknell applied for a pension in 1845, she stated that she did not know where documentary proof could be found regarding her husband's service in the Revolution, but she thought that 'an indent may have been issued to her for his services, as she recollects to have tried to get something, and thinks she did get a small sum, but does not know how [much].' Here Rachel probably referred to action that had been taken by the Wilkes County Court on July 28, 1784, by which Justices Benjamin Cleveland, Elijah Isaac, and James Fletcher ordered that "Rachael Bicknel, widow of Thomas Bicknel who was killed in defence of his country in the Battle at Kings Mountain, be Recommended to the General Assembly as an Object of Pity and that Twelve pounds pr. year we think would be as little as she could Subsist on with a large family of children together with her own Industry." Whether the North Carolina General Assembly complied with this recommendation, we do not know.
When Thomas Bicknell obtained his grant of land on Swan Creek on April 22, 1778, it was noted in its description that one of the men owning adjoining land was Thomas Parks. On May 22, 1778, Thomas Parks, Jr. had entered 422 acres "lying on both sides of Swan Creek & in the forks of 5d Creek & joining Thomas Bicknell at the upper end & Mair Wm Lewis at the Lower end & cornering above the Main Road."; (Entry 113)
In 1779, Thomas Parks conveyed 140 acres of his tract to Charles Parks who, on November 2, 1785, sold forty acres to Rachel Bicknell. He sold the remaining 100 acres to William Harvey on the same day. (See Wilkes County Deed Book A-I, pp.520-22.) Rachel paid Parks 25 pounds for her forty acres, described as ad joining her own land and "Bourlands fork of Swan Creek." The witnesses to this deed were: Evan Davis, 220.127.116.11.3 Reuben Sparks, and John Hawkins. William Harvey paid Parks 65 pounds for his 100 acres, noting that it adjoined land owned by Rachel Bicknell. (The Reuben Sparks who served as a witness to this deed was a son of 18.104.22.168 Solomon and Sarah Sparks, Solomon being a son of the Joseph Sparks who had died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749.)
It appears that the two sons of Rachel and Thomas Bicknell named William and Micajah came of age ca. 1797, at which time they became eligible to receive their share of their father's estate. Under her husband's will, Rachel could use his land to rear their children, but she could not sell it until it could be divided among them, she retaining only her dower right of one-third. On October 19, 1797, Rachel and her two sons, William Bicknell and Micajah Bicknell, sold all of the Bicknell land, including the forty acres that Rachel, herself, had purchased (with money in the estate), to Isaac Martin and Thomas Green of Wilkes County. Isaac Martin and Thomas Green, who were related to each other by marriage, were slave-owning neighbors of Rachel Bicknell. (See Some Pioneers From Wilkes County, North Carolina by Mrs. W. O. Absher, published by Southern Historical Press in 1989, for information on the Martin and Green families, along with many other individuals and families mentioned in this article.)
The Bicknells received 200 pounds from Martin and Green for the original grant of land to Thomas Bicknell, now described as containing 247 acres, and 100 pounds for the tract that Rachel had purchased from Charles Parks in 1785 for 25 pounds. This latter tract was described as containing 41acres in this 1797 deed. The witnesses for both deeds were Thomas Benge, William Benge, and Thomas Sisk. (See Wilkes County Deed Book D, pp.240-41.) It was William Benge who appeared at the meeting of the Wilkes County Court in October 1797 to swear to the validity of both deeds.
Although in both of these 1797 deeds, Rachel and her sons were identified as of Wilkes County, it seems probable that they were actually in Burke County by that time, probably living in a relative's household. Rachel's name does not appear on either the 1785 or 1786 list of taxables in Wilkes County preserved by William Lenoir, now in the North Carolina Archives. Samuel Bicknell, her de ceased husband's brother, is shown on both tax lists as a poll in Captain Alex. Gordon's District. Also, Rachel's name does not appear as head of a house hold anywhere in a state census taken in North Carolina in 1787, nor on the North Carolina census of heads of families in 1790. Samuel Bicknell, brother of Rachel's late husband, appeared as "Samuel Bucknall" on the 1790 census of Wilkes County; he was in the "Seventh Company," which appears to have involved the same area as had the District under Captain Alexander Gordon where he and Rachel had appeared on earlier tax lists. His household in 1790 consisted of three white males age 16 and over; two white males under 16; four white females; and one slave. (White females were not divided in any way by age group on the 1790 census.)
Samuel Bicknell continued to live in Wilkes County until his death in 1819. In his will (Wilkes County Will Book 3, p.314), he named his wife, Elizabeth, and child ren: Thomas, John, Sinsfield, Benjamin, Randolph, Nancy Camp, Jane Huland, Rhoda Brown, Hannah Stanley, and "my wife's five children, Lewis, Larkin, Escenith, Clara, and Dolly." Elizabeth had been his second wife, by whom he was the father of these last five children.
In her declaration for a pension in 1845, Rachel Bicknell stated that she was then living with her daughter, Mary, whose husband was David Roper, "on their charity." Fortunately, the marriage bond for Mary Bicknell and David Roper has been preserved among the early surviving records of Burke County following the courthouse fire in 1865. Most records were destroyed then, including all land records, making genealogical research in Burke County very difficult. The marriage bond of David and Mary (Bicknell) Roper is dated January 23, 1816, with Solomon Roper as bondsman and J. Erwin as witness.
If Rachel Bicknell's statement is correct, that her daughter, Mary, had been born four months and fifteen days following her husband's death on December 31, 1780, then Mary had been born on May 15, 1781. This means that she was 34 years old when she married David Roper, well beyond the typical age for women to marry in those days. David Roper, according to census records, had been born between 1760 and 1770, and was thus from 12 to 24 years older than Mary. He was a widower with a large number of children.
David Roper was probably related to the James Roper who was born ca. 1766 In that part of Orange County, North Carolina, that became Caswell County, in 1777; James Roper died in Burke County, North Carolina, In 1853. Of interest is the fact that a son of James Roper named Benjamin Roper, born between 1780 and 1790, moved to Pickens County, South Carolina, as did David Roper. (A descendant of James Roper, Mr. L. David Roper of Blacksburg, Virginia, has done extensive re search on the descendants of this James Roper.)
David Roper's name did not appear on the 1800 census of Burke County, although James Roper was shown heading a household and living near the household headed by William Sparks, Jr. and Jeremiah Sparks, sons of William Sparks (born ca.1725) who had joined his relatives in the Forks of the Yadkin in 1764. This William Sparks, son of William Sample Sparks, died in Surry County, North Carolina, in 1801/02. (See the Quarterly of June 1991, Whole No. 154, pp.3751-3798, for an article about William Sparks, born ca.1725, and his family.)
The 1810 census of Burke County has become so faded that much of it is impossible to read, but, fortunately, pages 342 and 348 are legible, and on the latter page appears the name of David Roper, with an enumeration of his household. On page 342 is clearly legible the name of Rachel Bicknell. They were obviously neighbors.
David Roper was shown on the 1810 census in the 26 to 45 age category, as was a female, who was surely his first wife. They then had ten children, four sons and one daughter between 10 and 16, and three daughters and two sons under 10 years. We can imagine that his marriage to Mary Bicknell in 1816 followed rather closely his first wife's death. (It is our assumption that the children in David's household were his own children; it was not until 1880 that the decennial federal census provided for the relationship of household members to, or their connection with, the head of that household.)
As noted, Rachel Bicknell was living near David Roper in Burke County in 1810; she was shown in the enumeration of her household in the "over 45" age category. Living with her was a female between 16 and 26 who was doubtless her youngest daughter, Mary Bicknell. Mary was actually 29, but she probably fibbed to the census taker when he asked her age. There was also a male child, shown as under 10 years of age, in Rachael Bicknell's household in 1810. We wonder whether he might have been a grandson.
Also appearing on a legible portion (page 27) of the 1810 census of Burke County, was a household headed by "William Bucknell." "Bucknell" was a frequent misspelling for Bicknell, and we believe that this was Rachel's son who, with her son Micajah, had signed the 1797 deed with her, selling Thomas Bicknell's land in Wilkes County. Micajah Bicknell may well have appeared on the 1810 census heading a household in Burke County, also, on one of the many illegible pages. William's age category was given in 1810 as between 26 and 45 (thus born between 1765 and 1784), as was that of the female in his household who was surely his wife. There were also one male and two females under the age of 10, and one male between 10 and 16.
Living not far from Rachel Bicknell in Burke County in 1810 was Elizabeth Sparks (recorded as "Eliza."), widow of John Sparks, grandson of the 22.214.171.124.1 William Sparks, born ca. 1725, whom we believe to have been Rachel's half-brother. John Sparks had followed his father, 126.96.36.199.1.1 William Sparks, Jr., to Burke County shortly after 1800. (See the March 1996 issue of the Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 173, pp. 4603-10, for an article about this John Sparks and his widow, Elizabeth.)
When the 1820 census was taken of Burke County, "Rachel Becknell" was shown on page 95 as heading her own household, consisting now of only herself and a male child under ten; perhaps this was the same child who had also been shown as under ten on the 1810 census--a grandson, perhaps.
David Roper appeared, also, on page 95 of the 1820 census of Burke County, heading a household that was enumerated as follows:
1 male, 45 & up (himself) 1 female, 26 to 45 (his wife, Mary)
2 males, 16 to 26 3 females, 16 to 26
2 males, 10 to 16 1 female, 10 to 16
1 male, under 10 1 female, under 10
Some of David Roper's older children by his first wife had likely left home by 1820; we can be sure that at least those in 1820 who were then under ten years of age were Mary's. A question on the 1820 census asked for the number of per sons in each household engaged in various specified fields of labor. David Roper reported the five members of his household were engaged in agriculture.
Also shown on the 1820 census of Burke County, on page 15, was "William Becknell" with a large family, whose name had been spelled "Bucknell" on the 1810 census. We are confident that he was Rachel's son. The enumeration of his household in 1820 was as follows:
1 male, 45 & up, 1 female, 26 to 45
1 male, 26 to 45, 1 female, 16 to 26
1 male, 16 to 26, 2 females, 10 to 16
1 male10 to 16, 2 females under 10
1 male under 10
We have found neither Rachel Bicknell nor David Roper as head of a household on the 1830 census of Burke County, North Carolina. David Roper had moved to Pickens County (called "Pickens District") in South Carolina by that time, as was probably also true of his mother-in-law, Rachel Bicknell. Located in the northwest corner of South Carolina, Pickens County had been part of Pendleton District until it had been cut off in 1825. Today its northern border adjoins Transylvania County, North Carolina, although in 1830 that portion of North Carolina was contained in Buncombe County.
Unfortunately, the 1830 census of Pickens County is in very poor condition, with large portions of a number of its pages faded beyond legibility. Nevertheless, the surname of eleven heads of households is discernible as "Roper," including David Roper (page 317), whose age was marked in the "60 to 70" category. On the same page, indicating geographical proximity, are the names Singleton Roper and William Roper, both enumerated as between 20 and 30 years of age. We may wonder whether they could have been sons of David Roper by his first wife. Each had a wife in the same age category as himself, with small children. Curiously, no female in David Roper's household was enumerated that would fit the age of his second wife, Mary (Bicknell) Roper, although the enumeration section of this page, as is true throughout this census, is especially faded. It is clear, however, that there was one male between 15 and 20 and two females between 10 and 15 living with David Roper in Pickens County, South Carolina, in 1830. Where Rachel Bicknell was living in 1830 is not known; perhaps she was with one of her other children, or appeared on one of the illegible pages of the 1830 census.
David Roper was among fifteen men and four women named Roper who appeared as heads of households on the 1840 census of Pickens County. David Roper's name is on page 370; he was now shown in the 70 to 80 age category. The female in his household shown as between 50 and 60 was doubtless his wife, Mary, while the female shown as between 80 and 90 was surely his mother-in-law, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell. Five years later, in 1845, in her declaration seeking a pension, Rachel stated that her daughter, Mary, had been married to David Roper, and that '1she now lives with her, on their charity" In Pickens County.
As was noted earlier, in her 1845 application for a pension, Rachel Bicknell stated that proof she was the widow of the Revolutionary War soldier named Thomas Bick nell, was "herewith forwarded." That proof was not obtained, however, until 1851.
It was on October 15, 1851, that Rachel Bicknell's application, with its four sup porting documents, was sent by a Washington, D. C., lawyer named Thomas Lump kin to the Commissioner of Pensions, James E. Heath. Lumpkin must have been engaged by a member of Rachel's family to perform this service.
We have xerox copies of all the papers in the pension file of Rachel Bicknell from the National Archives. The only document created by the Bureau of Pensions in this file is a form designed to show the receipt and disposition of pension appli cations; it was only partially completed for Rachel. Following the number assigned to her (R12399), it was stamped "REJECTED," without date or ex planation. We can only conjecture why.
David Roper apparently died sometime before 1850, and when the census for that year was taken in Pidkens County, his widow, Mary (Bicknell) Roper, now 70 years old, was shown as living with Mead and Margaret Smith, aged 29 and 31 respectively, in the Eastern Division of the county (page 496). (It was the 1850 census that included for the first time, the name, age, and place of birth for each member of each household.) Besides her age as 70, Mary Roper was reported as being a native of North Carolina; she could neither read nor write, owned no property, and had no occupation.
The Smiths, with their eight children, were natives of South Carolina. What the relationship between Mary Roper and this Smith family may have been, if any, is unknown. On the 1860 census of Pickens County (page 163A) Mead Smith was identified as "Washington Smith," age 51, and a native of "Pickens, S.C." The age of his wife, Margaret Smith, was given as 50; she, also, had been born in "Pickens," as had their children, four more of whom had been added since the 1850 census.
Although Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell must have been living with a relative some where in South Carolina or North Carolina when the 1850 census was taken, she has not been found in either of the indexes published for those states. We hope that a record may exist somewhere to reveal the place and date of her death, as well as a complete list of her and Thomas Bicknell's six children. We know the names of only her two sons, William and Micajah, and that of her youngest daughter, Mary. Because only William and Micajah had been involved with their mother in the selling of Thomas Bicknell's land in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1797, we believe that her three other children were daughters, if still living then.
To aid in possible future research regarding the Bicknell family, we publish be low a transcription made many years ago by William Perry Johnson, one of the founders of our Association, of Bicknell marriage bonds in Wilkes County, North Carolina, between 1800 and 1856.
Should any reader have further knowledge of Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, or her brother, George Sparks, and his son Reuben Sparks, your editor would be delighted to hear from you.