April 27, 2021

Pages 4829-4837
Whole Number 178

RACHEL (SPARKS) GRIGGS (Born ca.1756/58)

by Russell E. Bidlack

In Sparks Quarterly of March 1964, Whole No. 45, pp. 790-807, we published an article devoted to Jonas Sparks and his family of Rowan County, North Carolina. Since then, further research has revealed much more regarding Jonas' origin than we knew in 1964. While in that article, we conjectured that Jonas was a son of 1.2.5 Joseph Sparks, who had died in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1749, and that he was a brother of Solomon Sparks with whom he was closely associated in Rowan County, we now have proof that, indeed, Solomon and Jonas were brothers. They had migrated to the Forks of the Yadkin, then within the borders of Rowan County in 1754. A court record in Frederick County, Maryland, pertaining to the settlement of Joseph's estate proves that he had been the father of the following children: Solomon Sparks. Born ca. 1727. Joseph Sparks. Born ca. 1730. Merum Sparks. (daughter) Born ca. 1730. Charles Sparks. Born ca. 1731. George Sparks. Born ca. 1733. Jonas Sparks. Born ca. 1734. Ann Sparks. Born ca. 1735. Jonathan Sparks. Born ca. 1735. Rebecca Sparks. Born ca. 1735. William Sparks. Born April 27, 1738, married Martha Moore. Mary Sparks. Born ca. 1740. Sarah Sparks. Born ca. 1747

Of the seven sons of Joseph Sparks (died 1749), four (Solomon, Charles, Jonas, and Jonathan) came to the Forks of the Yadkin, although Charles later returned to Maryland and then moved to Bedford County, Pennsylvania. We were mistaken, however, in speculating that Matthew and William Sample Sparks, were brothers of Jonas. We know now that William Sample Sparks was a first cousin of Jonas and that Matthew Sparks was William Sample Sparks's son. (In the article on Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, also appearing in the Quarterly, beginning on page 4809, we give further details regarding William Sample Sparks and his family.

Jonas Sparks had probably come of age but recently before his arrival in North Carolina in 1754. We doubt that he was married at that time. Few Rowan County records survive of that period, but he appeared on a poll fist there in 1761, along with his brother, Solomon, and his first cousin once removed, Matthew Sparks. Jonas acquired ownership to his first land in Rowan County on January 1, 1763. For 20 pounds, he purchased 130~14 (###) acres from his brother, Solomon. (See Rowan County Deed Book 5, p.275.) This was the lower portion of a 290-acre tract of "vacant land" that Solomon had purchased on August 28, 1762, from Lord Granville. (Rowan County Deed Book 5, p.228) For further details regarding the location of this land, see page 790 of the 1964 article. There is quite a firm tradition among descendants of Jonas Sparks that his wife's forename was Elizabeth. After her death, Jonas was married a second time, to a widow named Mary Eakle, on September 5, 1786, but the mother of all of his children was his first wife.

Jonas Sparks settled near the famous frontiersman, Daniel Boone, when he came to the Forks of the Yadkin. He was also near the Bryan family into which Daniel had married.

Daniel Boone spent two years, from May 1769 to March 1771, exploring the wilderness that would become the state of Kentucky, and according to his autobiography that he completed, with the help of John Filson, in 1784, he concluded that it was to Kentucky that he should take his family to begin a new settlement. So it was that on September 25, 1773, after selling his property in Rowan County, Boone set out with his family and livestock for Kentucky.

Five other families cast their lot to accompany the Boones on what would become known as the Wilderness Trail to Kentucky. These other families were those of Daniel's brother, Squire Boone, Jr., and of those of three of his brothers-in-law: James, Morgan, Jr., and William Bryan. Jonas Sparks's family was the fifth. It seems possible that the wife of Jonas Sparks may have been related in some manner to the Boone or the Bryan family, since the other four families were related.

When the party reached Powell's Valley, located near the present border between Western Virginia and Tennessee, they were joined by five other families, including forty well-armed men. These individuals have not been identified by historians.

This journey was described in Boone's autobiography as well as in a 1905 article written by Dr. J. D. Bryan, a descendant of one of the Bryan brothers who was part of the group. This latter account was published in the Quarterly of September 1953, Whole No. 3, pp.13-16.

Dr. Bryan and Daniel Boone both described an attack made by Indians on this rather large migrating group on October 10, 1773. The attack, by ambush, came as the families were approaching the Cumberland Gap. Daniel Boone's oldest son, James, was killed, along with five other young men, none of whom, apparently, was a son of Jonas Sparks. The only reference to a member of Jonas' family in this incident mentions that the nine year-old daughter of Jonas, named Elizabeth, was carrying her younger brother on horseback across the Powell River when the shooting began. Both Elizabeth and her brother reached the shore safely, as well as the "gentle horse" they were riding. Daniel Boone wrote: "Though repulsed the enemy, yet this unhappy affair scattered our cattle, brought us into extreme difficulty, and so discouraged the whole company, that we retreated forty miles to the settlement on the Clench River."

An Indian war now broke out, known as Lord Dunmore's War, and the emigrants remained in their settlement on the Clinch River for two years. During this time, Daniel Boone served the government of Virginia in various ways, including the buildlng of a fort on the Kentucky River which was called Boonesborough. Finally, on June 14, 1775, he returned to his family and led those who wished to continue to Kentucky to the new fort.

It appears that Jonas Sparks did not choose to continue. He brought his family back to Rowan County, and on a surviving poll tax list believed to date from 1775, Jonas Sparks was taxed for three polls, himself and "sons Joseph and George." White males sixteen and over were taxed as polls during the Revolution in most North Carolina counties, rather than twenty-one and over, as had previously been the custom. Jonas moved back to the 130-acre farm he had purchased from his brother, for which he was taxed based on its value of 4 pounds, 3 shillings, and 6 pence, according to a surviving tax list dated 1778. It was also in 1778 that Jonas purchased additional land (a total of some 412 acres) adjoining his tract purchased from his brother in 1763.

On May 11, 1805, Jonas Sparks made his will. As recorded in Rowan County Will Book D, page 50, this document reads as follows, including spelling errors:

In the name of God Amen the 11th of May 1805. I Jonas Sparks of Rowan being very weak in body but of perfect mind and memory thanx be to God for it therefore calling to mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men oncle to die do make [and] ordain this my last will and testament that is to say principally and first of all I give & recomend, my soul unto the hands of God who gave it & for my body I recomend it to the earth to be buried in a descent and christian like maner at the discretion of my executors nothing doubting, but at the general resurrection, I shall receive the same again, by the mighty power of God and as touching such worldly estate, where with it had pleased God to bless me with in this life I give devise and dispose in the following manner and form --

I give & bequeath unto my well beloved wife Mary Sparks the dwelling house where I now live and a sufficient maintenance of the plantation during widowhood or lifetime one desk a bay mare that my wife road two cows two beds and furniture one pewter dish & six pewter plates & two pewter basons one flax wheel, one bottle one pot one old pot one looking glass, one coffee mil one Corner Cuberd one griddel pare of dogs one old coper kettel one stillard

I give & bequeath unto my Son Jonas Sparks Junr dec: Widow Anna Sparks during her widowhood the land & plantation where she now lives.

It[emj I give & bequeath unto my grand son Joseph Sparks son of Jonas Sparks Jun: & his heirs forever all the land & plantation and premisses with all the pertanning their unto where I now live.

Item I give & bequeath unto my daughter Rachel Griggs one sliver dollar & no more

Item I give & bequeath unto my daughter Easter Caton one silver Dollar & no more

Item I give & bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth Bryant one silver dollar & no more

Item I give & bequeath unto my son William Sparks one silver dollar & one half of the waggon which we have now in use between us for the use of both the plantation and one third of the fishery.

Item I give & bequeath unto my Son David Sparks one silver dollar & one third of the fishery

Item I give & bequeath unto my three grand children my son Jonas Sparks['s] children Elizabeth Sparks, Jamimah Sparks and Joseph Sparks, the balance of all my stock of every kind with the ballance of my house hold furniture & plantation utintinals to be equeally davided between them three children.

And further I do by this present constitute and appoint my son David Sparks & Josuah Caton my whole & sole executors and administrators & I do utterly disallow, revoke & disanull every other former testaments, wills legacies & executors by me in any way before this time named willed & bequeathed ratify & confirming this & no other to be my last will & testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand & seal this day & year above written. his

Jonas Sparks (Seal)
[Witnesses] mark
Rowland Jones Jacob Hill

As seen above, Jonas Sparks named three sons and three daughters in his will. One of his sons, named Jonas, Jr had died, leaving a widow named Anna and three children. Jonas provided specifically for these three grandchildren, leaving a major portion of his estate to the grandson, named Joseph Sparks.

Jonas Sparks made no mention in his will of the sons named Joseph and George who appeared with him as polls on the tax list of 1775, noted earlier. Both may have died without issue before 1805, or they may have moved away from Rowan County after receiving, perhaps, their share of their father's estate. Jonas' three daughters were identified, as shown, under their married names. The fact that Rachel was named first probably indicates that she was the oldest of the sisters.

In the Quarterly of March 1964, cited earlier, we were able to give a fair amount of information about each of the children of Jonas Sparks, except for his daughter named Rachel.

A reason for including the following record of Rachel (Sparks) Griggs in this issue of the Quarterly is to correct our earlier assumption that she was the same Rachel Sparks who married Thomas Bicknell, who was mortally wounded at the Battle of King's Mountain in 1780. Although, fortunately, this error in judgement was never published in the Quarterly, it was expressed in letters to several descendants of Rachel (Sparks) Griggs. Our erroneous assumption was that, following the death of Thomas Bicknell, his widow was married, 2nd, to Minus Griggs. As explained in the article beginning on page 4809, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell, believed to have been a daughter of William Sample Sparks, actually remained a widow for the rest of her life following Thomas Bicknell's death, as proven by the papers in her pension application file at the National Archives.

Rachel Griggs, identified in Jonas Sparks's will as one of his three daughters, was very nearly the same age as her second cousin, Rachel (Sparks) Bicknell. Our only clue regarding the year of birth of Rachel (Sparks) Griggs is the approximate year of birth, based on census records, of her first son, Clement Griggs. He was born ca. 1775. If Rachel had been married at age 16, a typical age for a girl to be married in those days, she could have been born as early as 1758. It is possible that she was even married before her father joined Daniel Boone in 1773, bound for Kentucky. In her father's will, she was named immediately after her deceased brother, Jonas Sparks, Jr. Although it has long been a common practice in drawing up a will to name one's children in the order of their birth (sometimes with the sons before the daughters), the fact that Jonas Sparks, Jr. had pre-deceased his father, could account for Jonas naming him first. The fact that Jonas provided so liberally for this grandson, Joseph, son of Jonas, Jr., suggests, however, that Jonas, Jr. had been, indeed, the oldest son. Under the custom of primogeniture, by which the eldest son was en titled to all of his father's land, if Jonas, Jr. was the eldest son, his son, Joseph, would have been considered the principal heir of his grandfather.

The husband of Rachel Sparks, daughter of Jonas Sparks, was Minus Griggs. His father's name was also Minus Griggs, but he had died long before his son of the same name came to Rowan County, and the younger Minus Griggs was never called "Jr." there. For this reason, we have not added "Jr." to his name in this account. In referring to his father, however, we will call him "Sr."

The date of birth of Minus Griggs has not been discovered, but it appears that he was a number of years older than his wife, Rachel Sparks. His father, Minus Griggs, Sr., appears to have been in Orange County, Virginia, as a young man, but by 1760 he was with Ms father in Granville County, North Caro lina. Minus Griggs, Sr. died soon after 1760; his will was proved in the Gran ville County Court on February 10, 1761, on the oaths of two of the witnesses, Andrew Hampton and Andrew's son, Ephraim Hampton. The original of this document survives in the courthouse in Granville County. The following tran script has been made from a xerox copy appearing in TheHamptonFamilycom piled by Caroline Parker Maurice and published in 1993.

WIll of Minus Griggs, Sr.

In the Name of God Amen. I Minus Griggs being Sick and weak But in perfect Sense [?] & memory do make this my last will & Testament Imprimis, I Bequeath my Soul to god that First gave it me, and my Body to the Earth from whence it was Taken in full expectation of the resurection from thence at the last day as for my Burial I De sire it may [be] Decent.

Item I give Unto my son Minus Griggs the Upper Part of my Land three hundred and & Twenty Acres And the Other part of my land where my Plantation now is I Bequeath to my Son John Griggs to them & their heirs for Ever. It is my wfll & Desire that my Lawful Debts & Funeral Charges be Discharged out of my Personal Estate by my Executors hereafter mentioned:

Item I give unto my loving wife Jane Griggs an Equal Share of my personal Estate with my Daughters After my Lawful Debts be paid to them and their heirs for Ever. I appoint my Loving wife Jane Griggs and Jonathan White my whole & Sole Executors of this my Last will and testament, Disanuling and making Void all Other wills & Testaments by me made or Caused to be made and this Only and Alone to be my last will. In Witness Whereof I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal this 7th Day of Oct: 1760.

Interlind before signd [signed] Minus Griggs
Seal & Delivered

in presence of us

[signed] Andrew Hampton
" Jurat Ephraim Hampton
" William Berry

Sometime in the 1770s, Minus and John Griggs, sons of Minus Griggs, Sr., who were named in the latter's will, above, moved west from Granville County, North Caro lina, to Rowan County, North Carolina. Members of the Hampton family made the move at about the same time. They all doubtless "squatted" on vacant land owned by Lord Granville. As explained on page 4813 of this issue of the Quarterly, Lord Granville had died in 1764, and, because of the growing unrest in the Amer ican colonies, the Granville land office was never reopened by the lord's heirs in England. "Squatters" on Granville land expected, in most instances, to purchase the tracts on which they had settled when that became possible. Following the Revolution, the state of North Carolina confiscated the remaining "vacant" Gran ville land, and began selling it to settlers as Granville's land office had done in the past, although men who had been active Tories (or Loyalists) could not pur chase such land, even though they had made "improvements."

John Griggs, brother of Minus, died in Rowan County in the autumn of 1778. He did not leave a will, under which circumstance it was customary for the widow to be appointed administrator of the deceased's estate. According to the minutes taken in the Rowan County Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (Vol.4, p. 181), however, Sarah Griggs requested on November 5, 1778, that she be excused from this responsibility, according to an oath of John Hampton before the court on her behalf. John Griggs' s brother, Minus Griggs, was then appointed by the court to act in Sarah's behalf. Hardy Jones and Roland Jones became Minus' securities in the amount of 400 pounds.

A descendant of John Griggs, Mrs. Maxine Kopp of 422 W. Delaware Ave., Nowata, Oklahoma 74048, has stated that Sarah, wife of John Griggs, had the maiden name Sarah Minah (or Minor), and that she and John had a daughter named Tilithia Griggs. Sarah was married, following John Griggs's death, to Andrew Hampton, son of Ezekiel Hampton. They moved to Grayson County, Virginia, in 1793, taking Tilithia with them.

Like the Sparks immigrants to the Forks of the Yadkin, Minus Griggs appears not to have embraced the cause of American "rebels" who demanded independence from England. On August 5, 1778, the Rowan County Court of Pleas and Quarter Ses sions (Vol. 4, p. 159) issued a long list of men living in the county who had "neg lected or refused to appear to take the Oath of Allegiance to the state." The court added that these men "are now admitted to take the Oath and have certified they paid for so certifying." Among the names on this list are those of Jonas Sparks, Minus Griggs, and Ezekiel Hampton. (See Jo White Linn's Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, Vol. III, 1775-l789 J page ltg)

Our earliest record of Minus Griggs actually acquiring title to land in Rowan County is a deed dated September 27, 1778 (Entry 1584). He obtained from the state of North Carolina a tract of 100 acres on "the waters of Muddy Creek adjoin ing Samuel Garland and Joseph Garland & running N [orth], including Mathias Wasnor's Improvements." (See Rowan County, North Carolina, Vacant Land Entries, 1778-1789 by Richard A. Enochs, published in 1988.) Knowing that Minus Griggs would marry Rachel Sparks, it is significant that her father, Jonas Sparks, also lived on Muddy Creek.

There is a deed in Rowan County dated August 25, 1783, by which a 100-acre tract was purchased by Ephraim Hampton from William Poole on the east side of the Yadkin River. (Vol. 10, p.161) The witnesses to this deed included both Jonas Sparks and Minus Griggs, along with John Poole, Sary Hampton, and Morning Hampton. All signed by mark except Morning Hampton (sometimes spelled "Mourning"). She would later become the wife of Jonas Sparks's son, William Sparks.

When, on February 28, 1786, Thomas Wood obtained a marriage bond in Rowan County to marry Sarah Hampton, Minus Griggs served as bondsman for 50 pounds. (See Rowan County, North Carolina, marriages, 1753-1868, compiled by Brent H. Holcombe, published in 1981, page 434.)

When a man named Henry Miller and his wife, Mary, sold to Jacob Huffman on May 26, 1787, a 76-acre tract "on a branch of Muddy Creek," it was described as "adjoining Minus Griggs' house where he now lives." (Rowan Co. Deed Book 11, p.97) We wonder whether this branch was the one that became known as, and is still called, "Sparks Branch."

When the 1790 census was taken in Rowan County, the household headed by Minus Griggs was enumerated with one white male over the age of 16 (Minus himself), and there were five males, all under the age of 16. The four females were surely Rachel (Sparks) Griggs and her three daughters.

A descendant of Minus and Rachel (Sparks) Griggs's son named John, born ca. 1779, who has done extensive research on the Griggs family, is Marjorie N. Judd of 2201 West 15th St., Emporia, Kansas, 66801. Ms. Judd has been generous In sharing her research with us. She reports that the oldest son of Minus Griggs, named Clement ["Clem"] Griggs, was taxed for the first time in Clark County, Kentucky, in 1796. He was joined there by his next youngest brother, John Griggs, who appeared on a Clark County tax list for 1802. Then, in 1803, Hughes Brookshire, the husband of their oldest sister, Elizabeth Griggs, was taxed, also, in Clark County, Kentucky. In 1804, Minus Griggs and his son named William Griggs, were included on Clark County's tax list, indicating that the entire family of Minus Griggs had made the move there from North Carolina.

Minus Griggs appeared on the 1810 census of Clark County, Kentucky. His age was shown as over 45 as was that of his wife, Rachel, indicating only that they had been born before 1765. With them were six other males and one female. We assume that these were their children who were still living at home.

There is a Clark County court record dated January 23, 1815, indicating that Minus Griggs had been authorized to "keep an Ordinary in his own house in the Co[un]ty for one year." (See the Clark Co., KY1 Order Book, 1812-1816, unpaged.) Samuel Griggs (born 1787), son of Minus, cosigned the latter's bond for this privilege, in the amount of $100.

It was either late in the year 1815, or early in 1816, that Minus Griggs died, from what cause we do not know. He left no will. At a meeting of the Clark County Court on February 26, 1816, John and Samuel Griggs, sons of Minus, were ap pointed to administer their father's estate. Anderson Rigg and Caleb Bendurant served as sureties in the amount of $1,500.

An inventory of the estate of Minus Griggs was taken on March 2, 1816, by David Hampton, Nicholas Aldridge, and Caleb Bendurant. It reads as follows, including spelling errors:

An Inventory of the Estate of Minus Griggs Decd made out and Appd by us the under subscribers on this 2d Day of March 1816

Item $ cts.
to one bay bay [sic] mare at $25 25  
to one Gray D0 @ $45 & one Colt @ $5.00 50  
to 17 head of hogs at $18 18  
to one brindle Cow @ $12.00 / one D0 at $10 22  
to one Black stear @ $8 / one D0 $8 16  
2 yearlings at $5.00 / one Calf at $1.50 6 50
to 20 Wt of Tobacco @ $1.16 / salt barrel @ 5 Cts 1 36 [sic]
to 4 falling axes at $8.00 8  
to one mattock & 3 weading hoes @ 5  
to one Drawing nife   37 ½
to one loome @ $4.00 / a flax wheel at $5.00 9  
to 2 plows gare &c @ 10 25
to one Cotten wheel & Chck reel 9  
to 3 Barrels @ $1.50 / Table Chain tub &c 4  
to 2 Dutch ovens & three pales @ $10.00 10  
to one Cubbard & Cubbard furniture 35  
to one bed / bed frame & furniture 20  
to one D0 $25.00 / D0 / D0 $12 37  
to womans saddle @ $15.00 15  
to 11 Chears @ $5.00 & table @ $1.50 6 50
to one Chest @ $2.50 2 50
to pewter $4.00 / to one Log chain & pichfork 7  
to one Rifle Gun &c @ $18 / to books at 50 cts 18 50
to smoothing Iron and double swingle trees &c. 1 50
to one tub at 50 cts   50
to 400 feet of loose plank @ 5 00
to one pare Cotten Cards @   75
to one tin quart & funnels @ 1 25

The inventory was signed by the three appraisers who had been appointed to make it, as well as by John and Samuel Griggs as administrators of their father1s estate. It was accepted by the Clark County Court on April 22, 1816.

In the absence of a will by Minus Griggs naming his children, we are fortunate to have a deed, dated March 1, 1816, that reveals the list. (Clark Co., KY, Deed Book 12, pp.504-05) It has been transcribed as follows from the recorded copy:

Griggs heirs to Decd Haggard

This indenture made this seventh day of March in the year one thousand Eight Hundred and sixteen Between Clem Griggs John Griggs William Griggs Hughs Brooksher & Elizabeth Brooksher his wife Cornelas Howard and Sarah Howard his wife Samuel Griggs Wiley Griggs Levina Griggs and Joshuay Griggs Heirs & Legal Representatives of Minus Griggs Decd of the one part and Pleasant Haggard all of the County of Clarke and State of Kentucky Sheweth that the aforesaid heirs and Legal Representa tives of Minus Griggs Decd for and in Consideration of the sum (ofi one Hundred and Eighty seven Dollars and fifty Cents in hand paid before the sealing and Delivering of these presents the Receipt whereof the 5d Heirs and Legal Representatives of Minus Griggs Decd doth hereby acknowledge hath Bargained and sold and by these presents doth Bargain and sell to the 5d pleasant Haggard one tract or parcel of Land in the aforesd County of Clarke and on the Dry Fork and Howards upper Creek Containing twenty five acres by the same more or less Beginning on a White oak on the South side of the Dry fork of Howards Creek thence South 86 poles to the Creek thence up the Creek with its several Meanders to the mouth of Dry Fork of Howards upper Creek thence with the several Meanders of said Dry Fork and Bending thereon to the Beginning... This Indenture further witnesseth that Rachel Griggs Late wife of the 5d Minus Griggs for the Consideration above mentioned doth also make over and Relin quish her right of Dower to the above sold Land and premises unto the 5d Pleasant Haggard as Witness our hands and seals

this day and year above Written
Signed Sealed and Delivered
in presents of us

Clem Griggs
Wiley X Griggs (his mark)
D. X Hampton (his mark)
John Griggs
Jas Wood (his mark)
Joshuay X Griggs
William X Griggs
Elizabeth X Brooksher (her mark)
Hughes X Brooksher (his mark)
Sarah X Howard (her mark)
Cornelas X Howard (his mark)
Rachel Griggs
Samuel Griggs
Levina C Griggs (her mark)

It is interesting to note that Rachel Griggs, widow of Minus, signed her own name to this deed, as did her sons, Clem (Clement) and Samuel. Her other sons, John, Wiley, Joshua, and William, however, signed by mark, as did Rachel's three daughters and their husbands. The reason that Elizabeth's husband, Hughes Brookshire, and Sarah's husband, Cornelius Howard, signed this deed with their wives is, of course, because at that time, a married woman's property, including her inheritance, was controlled by her husband.

We have not learned the date of Rachel (Sparks) Griggs's death. Her name does not appear on Clark County tax lists after 1823. Widows often lived with a son or daughter in their old age; it is possible, of course, that Rachel was married a second time.

In a future issue of the Quarterly, we hope to provide a further record for each of the children of Minus and Rachel (Sparks) Griggs. Readers of this article having additional knowledge of this family are urged to share your information with the author, who is also the Quarterly's editor.