May 9, 2021

Pages 4978-4993
Whole Number 182


by Russell E. Bidlack

Some forty years ago, this writer had extensive correspondence with a Sparks descendant named Charles H. Smith (1872-1964), of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Smith was a son of Hines Maguire and Sarah Jane (Sparks) Smith. (For an autobiographical sketch of Mr. Smith see the Sparks Quarterly of March 1958, Whole No. 21, pp. 281-85.)

Charles H. Smith was a great-grandson of 25. Martin Peeples Sparks, who had been born July 18, 1786, according to family records preserved by Mr. Smith. We cannot be certain, however, of the place of birth of Martin P. Sparks, but he was a member of the branch of the Sparks family long associated with Morgan County, Georgia. Our earliest official record of him is found in a deed dated November 6, 1810, by which he purchased land on Sandy Creek in Morgan County, described as Lot 294, District 20, containing 202j acres, for which he paid $1,002. This was a considerable amount of money for a twenty-four-year-old Youth to pay for land at that time, making one wonder whether he may have inherited it. The man selling this tract to Sparks was Charles M. Lin, who was the guardian of Nancy and Thomas Cooper, children of Thomas Cooper, deceased. (See Morgan County Deed Book B, p.362.)

Martin Peeples Sparks continued to acquire Georgia land, not only in Morgan County, but in several nearby counties as well, and he soon became a man of considerable wealth.His home in Morgan County appears to have been located on Hard Labor Creek, not far from the present town of Madison.On a tax list of Morgan County for 1832, he was credited with owning twenty-two slaves, a town lot, plus 3,033 acres of land. He was one of the few men in the county to be taxed that year on a carriage, considered to be a major luxury.He served as Morgan County1s sheriff from 1818 to 1820 and from 1822 to 1824, and he represented the county in the Georgia Legislature in 1832, 1833, and 1834.

On December 2, 1810, 25. Martin P. Sparks married Elizabeth Whatley, who had been born July 28, 1795, according to family records preserved by Mr. Smith. He believed Elizabeth Whatley to have been a daughter of Oman and Judith Whatley, but we are uncertain of the accuracy of his memory in this regard. Martin and Elizabeth (Whatley) Sparks became the parents of three children, but only their son named Thomas Hunter Sparks, born September 1, 1814, lived to adulthood.

Martin P. Sparks seems to have been possessed of the pioneering spirit, and in or ca. 1836, he moved his family northwest to Paulding County, Georgia, acquiring land formerly belonging to the Cherokee Indians.This was part of a vast area that had been purchased from the Cherokees by the state of Georgia in 1831. Sparks settled in that part of Paulding County that became Polk County in 1851, near the present town of Cedartown, in an area called Cedar Valley.

Within a year of his move to Paulding County, Martin P. Sparks died. The fact that he left no will suggests that his death on June 8, 1837 may have been sudden. His widow, Elizabeth, lived until September 4, 1870.

25.2 Thomas Hunter Sparks, only surviving child of Martin P. and Elizabeth (Whatley) Sparks, had been born, as noted above, on September 1, 1814. He was only twenty-two years old when he inherited his father's considerable estate, for the settlement of which he became administrator.

A much more complete account of the life of Martin P. Sparks can be found in the Quarterly of March 1958, Whole No. 21. That issue includes a photograph of his widow, Elizabeth (Whatley) Sparks, taken when she was quite old. As noted earlier, however, we have never succeeded in finding proof of Martin's parentage. We know from several sources that he had a close relationship with Carter Walton Sparks, born May 28, 1797, who was, thus, eleven years younger than Martin. A record of Carter Walton Sparks's life appeared In the Quarterly of December 1960, Whole No. 32, pp. 523-25. Some descendants of Martin P. Sparks remembered calling Carter W. Sparks 'Uncle," but this could simply have been a courtesy title used by children for a man whom their parents called by his first name, a common practice of the time Carter Walton Sparks was a son of 70.1.1 Jeremiah Sparks, Sr , who made his will in Morgan County, Georgia, on October 11, 1839; it was probated on January 4, 1841, indicating that he had doubtless died late in 1840. Jeremiah was called 'Senior' because he had a nephew of the same name for whom he served as guardian for a number of years. This elder Jeremiah Sparks's will was published in the December 1960 issue of the Quarterly, pp. 521-22. While he made a detailed record of how his possessions were to be divided among his son, Carter Walton Sparks, and two living daughters, as well as his grandchildren whose mothers (his daughters) had died, he made no mention of the widow of Martin Peeples Sparks nor of her son, Thomas Hunter Sparks. We are doubtful, therefore, that Martin and Carter could have been brothers, although they must have been closely related because of their close association with each other as adults.

Continuation of Thomas Hunter Sparks story.