May 3, 2021
Whole Number 186
32.2 BENJAMIN SPARKS (Born ca,1754, Died 1801)
OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
SON OF 32. RICHARD SPARKS
by Russell E. Bidlack
32.2 Benjamin Sparks, second son of 32. Richard Sparks (ca.1720/25-1792), was born near the village of Cranbury (once called Cranberry, now called Cranbury Center) in the township of Cranbury, in Middlesex County, New Jersey. Cranbury Township today borders Plainsboro, South Brunswick, and Monroe Townships in Middlesex County, and East Windsor Township in Mercer County.
As was discussed in the preceding article, Richard Sparks, whom we have sometimes called "the elder" or "senior,"to distinguish him from his son of the same name, "went west"with his wife and children well before the American Revolution and, with friends and former neighbors, settled on vacant land in what was commonly known as the "Forks of the Yough,"so-called for the Youghiogheny River. As was noted in the detailed account in the previous article, both Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed that this area lay in its domain. This meant that Richard Sparks and his numerous fellow immigrants from New Jersey could only "squat" on tracts of land, called "tomahawk claims,"until this controversy was finally settled in Pennsylvania's favor in 1784. It was not until 1785, however, that these settlers could apply for and obtain warrants from Pennsylvania recognizing their ownership of the tracts that they had occupied for up to two decades. Although he thought that his claim amounted to 300 acres, when Richard's tract was surveyed in 1787, following the issuance of his warrant, it was found to comprise 308 acres.
Benjamin Sparks was a lad of perhaps ten years when he "went west" with his parents and siblings. From his childhood until his untimely death in 1801, Benjamin lived on his father's land, located initially in what was organized as Rostraver Township in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1773, however, Westmoreland County was created out of Bedford County, and Richard Sparks's land "went with"the new county. Then, in 1788, Allegheny County was created from parts of Westmoreland and Washington Counties, and the Sparks land became part of the township of Elizabeth in the new county of Allegheny. So it was that when Benjamin Sparks made his will on July 26, 1801, he identified himself as "of Elizabeth township, Allegheny County, in the State of Pennsylvania, Yeoman."
The last boundary change came many years later, in 1869, when Elizabeth Township was divided, and the part that included the tract on which the Sparkses once lived became Forward Township.
The map reproduced on page 5163 shows the Richard Sparks tract following its survey in 1787 as well as nearby tracts for which warrants were issued to his friends and neighbors whom Richard had known back in New Jersey. On page 5155 is a modern map showing the location today of Forward Township and the approximate location of the Sparks land. Because so many of the settlers in this part of the Forks of the Yough had come from New Jersey, it was called "The Jersey Settlement"for many years.
It was in or ca. 1776 that 32.1 Benjamin Sparks married Rachel Pearce (sometimes spelled Pierce or Pearse), a daughter of Andrew, Jr. and Massa Pearce. As was so typical in the 18th century, Rachel was a neighbor girl of the Sparkses; her father's land, called "Recreation," lay just south of Richard Sparks's tract, the northeast corner of which touched the southwest corner of the Sparks land. (See the land map on page 5163.) The Andrew Pearce who owned the tract called "St. Andrew" to the east of the Sparkses, was an older cousin of Andrew Pearce, Jr.
Rachel and Benjamin had not only known each other from childhood, but even earlier the Pearce and Sparks families had been neighbors back in New Jersey. Andrew Pearce, Jr., Rachel's father, was a son of John Pearce; his older cousin, also named Andrew, was a son of James and Sarah Pearce. Both John and James had died in 1778, and the will of each had been probated in the Augusta County, Virginia, Court. That of John Pearce was dated March 19, 1776, and was proved in September 1778; his wife had died earlier. Besides his son Andrew, called junior to distinguish him from his older cousin, John Pearce left sons named Isaac, Elisha, Joseph, John, and Jonathan, with daughters named Mary Smith and Sarah Watkins; also a grandson named Daniel, son of his deceased son of the same name. (See "Abstracts of Old Virginia Wills,"in Records of West Augusta, Ohio County, and Yohogania County, Virginia [Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Printing Dept., 1970] pp.326-327.)
The elder Andrew Pearce, son of James Pearce, was mentioned frequently in the surviving records kept by Virginia for the Forks of the Yough while Virginia and Pennsylvania contested the area. Some of these records may have pertained to the younger Andrew Pearce, son of John, but where the latter's name was actually recorded as "Andrew Pearce, Jr."we can be sure that the reference was to the Andrew who became Benjamin Sparks's father-in-law.
On April 27, 1779, for example, the "Minutes of Court of Yohogania County [Virginia]"included the following:
Ordered that Richd, Sparks, Jas. Wall & Walter Wall, & Andrew Pearse, Jr. do view a Road from the new store on Monongehala to the dividing Ridge Road near Jas. Wilsons & leading to Colo. Cooks. (p.334)
At a meeting of the Yohogania Court on April 27, 1779, the following was recorded:
Andrew Pearce, lun. appointed Constl [Constable]. Ord'd that he take the Oath according to law. (p.342)
It was at this meeting of the Yohogania County Court that Andrew Pearce, Jr. also agreed to be the security in the amount of 500 pounds to assure the appearance, at the next meeting of the court of a neighbor, James Spear. (p.397) In the tantalizing brevity of court minutes, we know only that one John Brackenridge was accused of "an assault on Mary Spear" as well as "on the Body of Jas. Spear."
Andrew Pearce, Jr. lived until ca. 1812. On April 4, 1812, Rachel Sparks sold to William and John Menown for $206.00:
all my Estate, right, title, interest, property, claim, and demand Whatsoever in, to or out of my deceased Father Andrew Pearce's Real Estate, a tract, or parcel of Land situate in Elizabeth Township in the County aforesaid [i.e., Allegheny] adjoining land of Moses Devore, Lewis Pearce, Isaiah Applegate and others Containing One hundred and Sixty five Acres. . .
Rachel signed this deed by making her mark; her witnesses were her son, Andrew Sparks, and James Jobbs. (See Allegheny County Deed Book 17, p.516.)
In the previous article on the family of Richard Sparks, we discussed in some detail the fact that, although the elder Richard Sparks had obtained his warrant with the official survey by the state for his claim, he failed to obtain a patent (or deed), probably because of his death in 1792. Although his and his heirs' ownership of this land could not be questioned (he/they held the warrant), this greatly complicated the sale of portions of this land in the following years.
The drawing on page 5170 shows the location of the 95-acre-plus tract that had become Benjamin's farm following his father's death.
As was noted earlier, Benjamin was the only son of the elder Richard Sparks to remain permanently in Forks of the Yough living on his father's land. On May 1, 1786, Richard had agreed to sell to Benjamin 148 acres of his tract once he obtained his patent, but this never materialized. We assume that the 95 acres and 111 poles that subsequently became Benjamin's farm was part of the planned 148 acres once promised to Benjamin. Because the original grant to the elder Richard was wooded, we can assume that Benjamin gradually cleared at least part of his land, bringing it under cultivation.
The elder Richard Sparks's name appears on a 1773 tax list that survives for Rostraver Township in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, in which his claim was then included. His tax in 1773 was 4 shillings, but what the basis may have been for determining taxes in Bedford County at that time is not known. The tax list for 1783 for Rostraver Township also survives, although by then Westmoreland County had been created, which included Rostraver Township. This was three years before Richard received his warrant. Richard's sons Benjamin and Walter were also taxed in 1783, and in this list their property subject to tax was itemized. There can be little doubt Benjamin and Walter were occupying a portion of their father's claim, but how the tax collector calculated the number of acres for which each of them was responsible is a mystery. The father was taxed for 170 acres, Benjamin for 200 acres, and Walter for 150 acres, the total of which (420) acres, considerably exceeded the number of acres (308) later surveyed as comprising Richard Sparks's claim. (The reader is reminded that Richard's sons, James and Daniel, had gone to Kentucky before 1783, and Richard, Jr. was serving in the U.S. Army.) The livestock belonging to the three Sparks taxpayers in 1783 were as follows: the elder Richard owned 2 horses, 4 cattle, and 8 sheep; Benjamin had 2 horses, 2 cattle, and 2 sheep; and Walter had 1 horse, 1 cow, and 3 sheep. The total amount of tax that each man paid was not recorded.
On this 1783 tax list, the number of persons living in each household was also recorded. Oddly enough, each of the three was credited with 4 members. For Benjamin and Rachel, we can assume that the two other than themselves were their two children born before 1783, Andrew and Elizabeth Sparks. One other early Pennsylvania tax list survives containing the names of the elder Richard and Benjamin Sparks, that for 1791. 32.4 Walter Sparks had followed his brothers, 32.1 James and 32.5 Daniel, to Kentucky by 1791. Richard's tax was shown as 9 shillings and 1 pence; that for Benjamin was 4 shillings and 2 pence. (All of these Pennsylvania tax lists noted here are contained in Vol. 22 of what is known as the 3rd Series of the Pennsylvania Archives published by the state between 1874 and 1899. The pages in this Vol. 22 on which the above Sparks names appear are: 1773, p. 16; 1783, p. 379; and 1791, p. 663.)
Benjamin Sparks served the American cause during the Revolution in at least two capacities. Between 1778 and 1883, he served as a "Ranger on the Frontier,"from Westmoreland County. (See the Pennsylvania Archives, 3rd Series, Vol. 23, p. 224.) He was a member of a militia unit which had as its main purpose the defense from the Indians of the Western settlements. In a "return of the class drafted and ordered to randivous" from Westmoreland County on September 6, 1782, Benjamin was listed as a member of Capt. Thomas Moore's Company. (Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Vol. 2, p. 346) His name also appears on a list of men who signed the following statement: "We whose names are underwritten acknowledge to have rec'd the several sums annexed to our names respectively in state certificates for services rendered in the militia of Westmoreland County 1782 and before."The amount entered following Benjamin Sparks's name was 3 pounds and 10 shillings. (Ibid., p. 347)
Unlike the adventurous lives of his four brothers, that of Benjamin Sparks appears to have been relatively quiet. He was the first of the sons of the elder Richard Sparks to die--in 1801 at about the age of 47. Of his and Rachel's seven children, five were minors. We will probably never know the cause of his early demise. He was able to sign his will on July 26, 1801, with a firm hand, yet he described himself as "weak in body," and within three weeks he was in his grave. His will was submitted to the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Court for probate on September 19, 1801. The full text of his will, copied from the surviving original, follows:
Last Will & Testament of Benjamin Sparks
In the name of God Amen I Benjamin Sparks of Elizabeth township Allegheny County in the State of Pennsylvania Yeoman being weak in body but of sound mind, memory and understanding (blessed be God for the same and knowing and Considering the uncertainty of this Transitory Life) do make, publish and declare this my last Will and testament in manner and form following, to wit,
Principally and first of all I recommend my immortal Soul into the hands of God who gave it, and my body to the Earth to be buried in a Decent Christian-like mner [sic], at the discretion of my Executors herein after named, And as to such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me in this life I will and positively order in the first place that all my just and lawful debts shall be paid
Imprimis I give and bequeath unto my well beloved wife Rachel Sparks the whole of my real and personal Estate that I may die possest of to hold the same both lands and tenaments, movables and effects so long as she remains my Widow and for this reasonable consideration that it may I hope enable her to keep together my Children, Support and Educate the Younger ones and to raise all in a becoming manner and it is my will and desire that she shall keep together all the property and to so Educate and maintain the Children with the profits of it and should she die before the Youngest arives [sic] to the age of twenty one Years being my widow at the time of her death I order that my executors shall sell the movable property to the best advantage and rent the Land in the best manner they can and with the money thus arising maintain and educate the Children under age that may need it -- But should my said Wife see fit to marry then in that case I order and desire my Executors hereinafter named to sell the moveable property and rent the lands as before mentioned in case of her death and to put the money thus arising to the maintaining and Educating the children under age that needs it.
Item I give Will and bequeath unto my Eldest Son Andrew Sparks all my right and Claim of in and to a certain tract of Land of five hundred acres held by warrant in the State of Kentuckey [sic] provided he neglects not to clear it out of the Office and pays to my Executors hereinafter named the one equal half of the whole to be divided equally among all my Sons and daughters and I also give my said Son Andrew the one half of a bond I have agains [sic] the estate of John Reed in Kentucky for his trouble to Collect it
Item I Will divise [sic] and bequeath all my real and personal estate that I am or shall be possest of at my decease here or else where (excepting the one half of the land in Kentucky and the one half of the bond upon John Reed decesed [sic] which I gave to my said eldest Son in my life time and now have bequeathed to him absolutely) unto my seven Children namely my Eldest Son Andrew Sparks my Eldest daughter Elizabeth Sparks my second Son Elijah Sparks my second daughter Massa Sparks my third daughter Catherine Sparks my third son Benjamin Sparks and my fourth daughter Charity Sparks all the real and personal estate (excepting as before bequeathed to my Son Andrew) to be divided equally among them and to be paid to them when the Youngest arives [sic] to the age of twenty one Years provided my wife shall not then be living or have married but no Legacies is [sic] to be paid whiles [sic] she lives and remains my widow
Impirmis I will make, Constitute and Appoint my Eldest Son Andrew Sparks and my trusty and faithful friend Frederick Brown -- both of Elizabeth township Allegheny County and State of Pennsylvania my Sole Executors of this my last Will and testament and do order them my said Executors to see that all and every devise, legacy, bequeath order and desire be truly and justly, inade, done, paid, and perfor:ned according to the intent and meaning of this my last Will and testament and I do hereby Revoke disannul and make void all my former and other Wills and testaments heretofore made Ractifying [sic] and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and testament
In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this Twenty Sixth day of July in the Year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and one
[signed] Benjamin Sparks [seal]
Signed, Sealed published and declared by the said Testator as and for his last Will and Testa:nent in the presence of Us who in his presence and at his request have hereunto Subscribed our names as Witnesses
[signed] Garret Wall
[signedl Mary Wall
[signed] Alexr Sutherland
Added to Benjamin Sparks's will was the statement by Samuel Jones, the Register of Deeds for Allegheny County, that on September 19, 1801, Garret Wall and Alexander Sutherland had appeared and had sworn that they had been "personally present and did see Benjamin Sparks the Testator above named sign, seal & hear him publish pronounce & declare the foregoing Instrument of writing as his Last Will & Testament, & that he was of sound mind & memory to the best of their knowledge."The will was recorded as No. 93 in Vol. 1, p.154, of the Allegheny County will books.
Mary Sparks Wall, eldest daughter of Richard Sparks, Jr., and her husband, Garret Wall, were living at the time of Benjamin's death on the portion of the elder Richard Sparks's grant of 308 acres that the two brothers had agreed should belong to Richard, Jr. See page 5170. The signature of Benjamin Sparks appearing on his will, and those of his witnesses, are reproduced on the following page.
(Page 5179 contains a photocopy of the signature of Benjamin Sparks, part of his original will. The photocopy also includes the signatures of his three witnesses.)
As was customary at the time of Benjamin Sparks's death in 1801, the probate court ordered an inventory to be taken of his personal property. We have not been able to obtain a copy of this document, but many years ago a great-granddaughter of Benjamin (Sara Lynch Douglas, 1880-1965) located the record in the Allegheny County Courthouse in Pittsburgh and copied portions, if not all, of it. She shared her copy with this writer in 1962. We cannot be sure of the complete accuracy of Mrs. Douglas' copy, but it gives an interesting picture of a Pennsylvania farmer's possessions two centuries ago. The two men who prepared this inventory were near neighbors of Benjamin: Daniel Applegate and John Imlay.
|1 acre & 1/2 corn||$ 5.33|
|2 1/2 23 acres corn||10.67|
|20 bushels wheat in stack||9.33|
|29 Ibs. old iron||1.60|
|2 collars & harness; 2 pr. chains; bridle & bit||2.50|
|singletree & cleveffess [sic]||54|
|1 cow, red||2.00|
|1 calf, white||5.23|
|1 sow & pigs||2.00|
|1 scythe & hanging||.50|
|1 scythe & hanging||2.00|
|1 broad ax||.50|
|3 pitching axes||1.53|
|1 edge & drawing knife||.50|
|1 hand saw & trowel||1.00|
|1 round share & chisel||1.00|
|1 pick & ha:n!ner||.25|
|1 brier hook||.50|
|1 small pot||.25|
|1 meat cask||.50|
|pewter, queensware (china), & earthen ware||20.00|
|1 bed & bedding||10.67|
|1 churn & pan||.40|
|2 spinning wheels||.67|
|1 broad hoe||.20|
|1 chopping hackle||.40|
|rye in the sheaf||1.70|
|2 coats & great coat||2.00|
|1 note on Hezekiah Douthitt||21.82|
As widow of Benjamin Sparks, Rachel Sparks was entitled to her dower third of her husband's possessions. The items that she chose were listed separately, with their estimated value, some in shillings and pence and some in dollars and cents:
|bal. of bedding||3 shillings||8 pence|
|1 bedstead||5 "||0 "|
|1 wheel||2 "||6 "|
|1 reel||5 "||0|
|1 reel||5 "||0|
|1 acre & 1/2 corn||$2.00|
|2 acres corn||4.00|
|wheat in stack||3.10|
|collar & chain||6 "||9 "|
|10 gal. jug||1 "||7|
|old bottles||1 "||10 "|
|to meat cash||5.00|
|1 keg||0 "||11 "|
|1 saddle||1 "||2 "|
|dresser ware||15 "||0 "|
|1 chest||1 pound &2 "||6 "|
|chairs & pan||1 "||6|
|1 lamb not Paarsd||9 "||0|
|1 cow||3 pounds & 15 "||0 "|
|1 ax||15 "||0|
|1 kettle||15 "||15|
|1 sinall pot||3 "||9|
Although in his will Benjamin Sparks had directed that his personal property, as well as his land be available for his widow to use in the support and education of their minor children so long as she remained a widow, he also directed that his debts be paid. These debts appear to have amounted to 30 pounds, 6 shillings, and 8 pence, for which the following additional items were sold at public auction. These items, with their buyers, were copied by Mrs. Douglas as follows:
|John Wright||double C tree, clevias & cask||2 shillings||3 pence|
|1 ax||7 "||7 "|
|Hezekiah Doughart||1 broad ax||10 "||6|
|Henry NlcKinney||1 hand saw||12||9|
|Hezekian Douthard||1 hammer & trowel||10||1|
|John Wright||1 pick||3 "||0|
|"||1 box & irons||3||4|
|"||3 boxes||2 "||3|
|Samuel Cramer||1 ax||5 "||9 1/2|
|Frederick Brown||1 brier hook||5 shillings||4 pence|
|Henry McKinney||1 cutting box & knife||5 "||0|
|John Wright||sole leather||1 "||4|
|Henry McKinney||1 spinning wheel||11 "||4|
|Joseph Blakney||2 chairs & cards||4 "||7|
|"||plow & shear||7 "||6|
|Elizabeth Sparks||bake oven||10 "||6|
|Henry McKinney||case of razor box & compasses||4 "||6|
|John Wright||box & bell||8 "||1|
|Rachel Sparks||1 ten gallon jug||1 "||7|
|""||1 grindstone||4 "||1|
|John Wright||shaving box & sun viewers||2 "||6|
|Rachel Sparks||1 bedstead & bedding||4"||1|
|John Wright||1 Screw auger||7||6|
|Joseph Scott||1 ewe lamb||17 "||6|
|" "||1 ewe lamb||16 "||6|
|Richard Story||1 bu. stack of rye||18 "||10|
|Stephen Warner||1 table||7 "||8|
|Ezra Brant||flax break||1 "||2|
|Jos. Blakeley||a Malt & chard||1 "||0|
|John Wright||1 spitoon||0 "||9|
|Fredrk Brown||seven hundred red [?]||12 "||6|
|" "||1 old hat & sundries||2 "||7|
|Henry McKinney||1 straight coat||2 "||6|
|Ezra Brant||1 great coat||4 "||7|
|Henry McKinney||1 pair saddlebags||3 "||0|
|Aaron Applegate||1 Square||3 "||10|
|Wm. Dinwiddy||1 buckhorn||1 "||6|
When the Federal census of 1810 was taken in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Rachel Sparks was not shown as heading a household as we would expect. Based on a later record, we believe that her oldest daughter, Elizabeth Sparks, had been married to John Pearce (her Ist or 2d cousin) before 1810, and that they were living in Rachel's home, in which John Pearce was counted as the head. Rachel, we believe, was the female enumerated in the 45 and over age category; the male and female enumerated as between 26 and 45 were doubtless John and Ellzabeth; the male and female between 10 and 16 could well have been the youngest children of Rachel; while the male and female under 10 were likely children of John and Elizabeth (Sparks) Pearce. Shown on the 1810 census of Elizabeth Town ship, immediately before John Pearce, was Andrew Sparks, oldest son of Rachel, who had been born January 25, 1777.
In his will, Benjamin Sparks had provided that when his youngest child came of age, his property should be sold and the proceeds divided among his heirs. His and Rachel's youngest child, Charity Sparks, appears to have died in youth, while their next youngest, Benjamin P. Sparks, who had been born June 27, 1798, would come of age on June 27, 1819. Contrary to Benjamin's will, however, the claim that the heirs had for his farm (the 95 acres and 111 poles that were considered his share in his father's 1786 grant) was sold two years before Benjamin P. Sparks came of age. Because there was still no patent from the state for this land, Rachel Sparks and her six surviving children could only "sell" their inheritance by means of an "agreement" rather than a deed. This they did on October 4, 1817.
A granddaughter of Benjamin P. Sparks, the youngest son of Benjamin and Rachel Sparks, recalled in a letter to this writer many years ago that her grandfather had always felt bitter toward his siblings because he believed they had cheated him in the division of his father's estate. We wonder whether the reason was that he had not yet come of age when the estate was divided in 1817.
It was on October 4, 1817, that two "articles of agreement" were drawn up selling to Amos Robins the farm that Benjamin Sparks had occupied from his young manhood until his death in 1801. As was noted in the previous article on the elder Richard Sparks, following his sale of a 3-acre portion to Samuel Applegate on March 23, 1792, and the sale by Benjamin and Richard, Jr. to Hezekiah Douthitt (or Doughard as his name was sometimes spelled) on April 2, 1792, of a 92-acre-plus portion, the brothers agreed upon a division between them of what remained of their father's grant from the State of Pennsylvania in 1786. (See page 5170.)
For $300, Rachel Sparks agreed that Amos Robins should have all her "wright, title and claim"(i.e., her dower right) to her husband's farm, except a seven-acre lot on which she was living. This had doubtless been the location of her and Benjamin's home. This lot was described in the agreement as bordering "on Garret Walls line."From other records, we know that Garret Wall and his wife, Mary, daughter of Richard Sparks, Jr., were then occupying Richard Sparks, Jr.'s portion of the elder Richard's 1786 grant.
In this 1817 agreement with Amos Robins, Rachel Sparks added the following condition regarding her retention of the seven-acre lot:
. . . with all the houses and improvements thereon, To have and to Hold the same during her natural Lifetime, also to have privilage of Cuting timber on part of said tract of land for the purpose of fencing said Lot, Also full privilege of dead and dying timber and Stone Coale for fuel for house use, also one years rent of a lease given by said Rachel Sparks to Elizabeth Pearce [her daughter] dated November the 22nd 1816 & three days getting of wood yearly as mentioned in said lease, also to be excepted one third of what grain May be raised on one half of the field above her house to be Sowed this fall by Forgus Dinnay. And it is further agreed by and Between the said parties that if the said Rachel should make any improvements on said Lot not exceeding in value one hundred dollars and should not survieve a suffient length of time to receive full compensation for the same at a reasonable rent to be adjudged by two or three of the neighbors to be chosen by her heirs and the said Amos Robins or his heirs or assigns to be paid to the said Rachel Sparks heirs as may be that adjudged. She is also to have privilege of cutting timber for said improvements . . .
It is this reference to Rachel's daughter, Elizabeth (Sparks) Pearce, that makes us believe that Rachel was living with Elizabeth when the 1810 census had been taken. The agreement was signed by Rachel Sparks and Amos Robins (she making her mark), and it was witnessed by Garret Wall and his wife, Mary. (See Allegheny County Deed Book Y24, pp.340-41.)
Also on October 4, 1817, the surviving children of Benjamin and Rachel (Pearce) Sparks signed an agreement with Amos Robins under which Robins paid $800 for their claim to their father's farm. They also agreed to try to obtain a proper deed for Amos Robins. Those signing this agreement were:
Andrew Sparks and his wife Nancy (she by mark);
Elijah Sparks and his wife Elizabeth (she by mark);
Elizabeth Pearce (by mark);
Catherine Sparks (by mark); and
Benjamin [P.] Sparks.
Their witnesses were Stephen Echles and Garret Wall. (See Allegheny County Deed Book Y24, pp.341-46.)
Rachel (Pearce) Sparks was still living when the 1820 census was taken of Elizabeth Township. She was enumerated in the age category on that census as over 45 years. Living with her was a male between 16 and 26, who was probably her youngest son, Benjamin P. Sparks; the female in her household whose age category was 26 to 45, may have been her daughter Catherine Sparks who had been unmarried when the 1817 agreement was signed by Benjamin and Rachel's surviving children.
Rachel also appeared as head of her household when the 1830 census was taken of Elizabeth Township. This census provided more age categories than had earlier ones, but, still, only the head of each household was named. Rachel's age in 1830 was given as between 70 and 80. Living with her in 1830 was a female between 30 and 40; also a male between 5 and 10, and a male and female both under 5 years of age. We wonder whether this could have been a widowed daughter of Rachel with three small children.
Rachel (Pearce) Sparks died sometime after 1830. Sarah (Lynch) Douglas, who was a granddaughter of Massa Sparks (daughter of Benjamin and Rachel), believed that both Benjamin and Rachel had been buried in the "Old Edmundson Cemetery"in Lincoln Township, Allegheny County. In his will in 1856, Joseph Lynch, husband of Benjamin and Rachel's daughter, Massa, requested that his burial be in this cemetery. Mrs. Douglas, whom we have quoted earlier in this article, reported visiting this cemetery in 1935, but she could find no Sparks stones then remaining.
Following are brief biographical sketches of the seven children of· Benjamin and Rachel (Pearce) Sparks. In a future issue of the Quarterly, we will provide more detailed records of some of these children and their descendants.
32.2.1 Andrew Sparks was identified in his father's will of 1801 as his oldest son. by 1830, Andrew had moved to Wayne County, Indiana, but by 1840 he had moved over the dividing line into Darke County, Ohio. When the 1850 census of German Township, Darke County, was taken, Andrew Sparks was shown as 72 years of age, a native of Pennsylvania, and a farmer whose land was valued at $2500. His wife, Nancy, was 61, a native of Maryland. Living with them were their daughters: Sarah Sparks, age 30, born in Pennsylvania; and Emeline Sparks, age 20, born in Indiana.
When he died in Darke County on December 12, 1856, Andrew Sparks was buriedin the Hollansburg Cemetery located in Harrison Township in Darke County, as was also his wife, Nancy Sparks, whose maiden name we have not discovered. On Andrew's grave stone his age was given as 79 years, 10 months, and 17 days. If calculated correctly, this would place his birth on January 26,1777. A military marker has been placed on Andrew's grave to represent his service in the War of 1812, and, according to the Index to the Grave Records of Soldiers of the War of 1812 in Ohio, published in 1945 by Mrs. H. B. Diefenbach, his rank had been that of corporal. We have found no record of this service in Pennsylvania, however, and he did not apply for bounty land on the basis of it.
Nancy Sparks, wife of Andrew, was buried beside him in the Hollansburg Cemetery. She died on May 29, 1860, at the age of 71 years, 9 months, and 9 days, placing her date of birth as August 20, 1788. Apparently Nancy Sparks was living in Preble County, Ohio, (which adjoins Darke County) at the time of her death, because her death was reported in the "Mortality Schedule"of Monroe Township, Preble County, of 1860. On this schedule, her age at death was 71, her place of birth was given as Maryland, and the date of her death as May 1860.
Following is a list of the five known children of Andrew and Nancy Sparks; there may have been others.
184.108.40.206 Eason Sparks (sometimes spelled Easm as well as Easton), was born April 11, 1811, and died on December 29, 1882. His wife's name was Cynthia A.. She was born November 25, 1816, and died on July 8, 1894.
220.127.116.11 Andrew Jackson Sparks was born ca. 1818. He married Miranda Head, who was born November 25, 1816, and died on May 18, 1864.
18.104.22.168 Sarah A. Sparks was born ca. 1821. She married Isaac Sebring.
22.214.171.124 Emaline B. Sparks was born ca. 1824. She married Charles Lindsey.
126.96.36.199 Nancy Ellen Sparks was born ca. 1826. She married Rollen Reed.
32.2.2 Elizabeth Sparks, identified in her father's will as his eldest daughter, was born ca. 1779. When she signed the agreement between the surviving children of Benjamin Sparks and Amos Robins on October 4, 1817, she appears as Elizabeth Pearce, making her mark. Contrary to custom at that time, her husband did not sign the agreement with her. As was noted earlier, when the 1810 census had been taken in Elizabeth Township, it appears that her husband was probably John Pearce, perhaps a cousin of first or second degree, and that her mother was living with them; there were also two small children in the household. When the 1820 census was taken, however, Rachel Sparks was recorded as head of her own household, but the name immediately preceding Rachel's was "Enoch Pairse"(doubtless intended for Pearce). Enoch's household in 1830 was comprised of only himself and a female, doubtless his wife, age 26 to 45, and a male between 10 and 16 years.
32.2.3 Elijah Sparks, identified in his father's will as his second son, was born in the mid-1780s. He was married ca. 1815 to Elizabeth Porter who, according to a descendant of the Porter family, was a daughter of Edward and Elizabeth (Morgan) Porter. She had been born in 1796. They moved to Ohio shortly after the agreement of Elijah and his siblings on October 4, 1817, to sell to Amos Robins their claim to their father's farm. Both Elijah and his wife, Elizabeth, signed their names on this document by making their marks. Perhaps it was Elijah's decision to move to Ohio that prompted the heirs of Benjamin Sparks to settle his estate prior to the coming of age of their youngest sibling, contrary to Benjamin's will. Elijah and Elizabeth, like Andrew Sparks, were members of the Salem Baptist Church located in the Forks of the Yough. The "Minute Book"of this church survives, and the following entry therein is dated November 15, 1817: "Elijah and Elizabeth Sparks requested a dismission to join in the Ohio; voted to give them one."
Elijah Sparks was shown as head of his household in Muskingum Township of Muskingum County, Ohio, when the 1820 census was taken. He was enumerated in the 26 to 45 age category; his wife was counted in that of 16 to 26. Three children were enumerated in Elijah's household all under the age of 10 years--two boys and one girl.
Elijah and his family must have moved from Muskingum County to Franklin County, Ohio, within a year of two after the 1820 census was taken, for it was in Franklin County that Elijah died in the autumn of 1822. A "Docket Sheet"is preserved in Franklin County's Probate Court (No. 0387) showing that on November 2, 1822, his widow, Elizabeth Sparks, and her brother, Benjamin Porter, were appointed administrators of his estate, with a bond of $300 being secured by Jacob Runkle, Jacob Ebey, and Jacob Kellar.
Following Elijah's death, Elizabeth Sparks moved to Vermillion Township, Richland County, Ohio, either with or following three of her brothers. She lived in that part of Richland County that was cut off to form Ashland County in 1846. Elizabeth died there on September 15, 1832. She was buried in the Eckley Cemetery near Hayesville, Ohio; her gravestone has the inscription: "departed this life in the 37th year of her age." Her brother, John Porter and his family, were buried in this same cemetery. Her two sons, Daniel P. Sparks and William Sparks, survived to adulthood, but it is believed that there were two daughters who died when quite small.
188.8.131.52 Daniel Porter Sparks was born December 19, 1816, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He was a babe in arms when he accompanied his parents to Ohio; by 1850 he had moved to Appanoose County, Iowa; he died at Centerville in that county on November 7, 1902. He married Mary Ann Boyd on March 26, 1846. She had been born in Sussex County, Delaware, on February 1, 1828. She died on February 17, 1922.
184.108.40.206 William Sparks was born August 22, 1820, in Ohio; by 1850, like his brother, he had moved to Appanoose County, Iowa, where he was shown on the census of that year as a 29-year-old farmer in Center Township, living in the household of Leah Waples (age 45, a native of Delaware) and four Waples children. It was there that William Sparks was married on August 16, 1854, to Lucinda Fitzpatrick, who had been born on September 18, 1832. They moved to Caldwell County, Missouri, before the Civil War, where he served in Company A of the 33rd Enrolled Missouri Militia between July 26, 1862, and April 30, 1863. He applied for a Civil War pension in 1891 based on that service, but his application was rejected because this unit had not been incorporated into the Union Army. He died ca. 1897 in Missouri.
32.2.4 Massa Sparks (sometimes called Massy; she was called Maria by the 1850 census taker of Elizabeth Township in Allegheny County.) In his will of 1801, her father had called her his second daughter. She was born ca. 1791; her age was given as 59 on the 1850 census. She married a neighbor boy in Elizabeth Township named Joseph Lynch in or ca. 1820. He had been born there ca. 1792. His age was given as 58 on the 1850 census. On the 1850 census of Elizabeth Township, where Joseph Lynch was described as a farmer with land valued at $3,000, the following five individuals whom we assume were his children, were living in his and Massa's household: Charity, Benjamin, Lewis, Joseph Daldden, and William. Sara (Lynch) Douglas to whom we have referred earlier, was a granddaughter of Joseph and Massa (Sparks) Lynch, but she shared little information on their children. She listed the names of those whom she could recall. Incorporating her information with the census data, we believe that the children of Joseph and Massa (Sparks) Lynch were:
220.127.116.11 Charity Lynch, born ca. 1822. (Her age was given as 28 on the 1850 census.)
18.104.22.168 Austin Lynch.
22.214.171.124 Nelson B. Lynch.
126.96.36.199 Benjamin Sparks Lynch was born January 27, 1833, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; he died on August 2, 1885, in Pittsburgh. He was married on September 6, 1858, at Hawsville, Kentucky, to Sarah Ann Smith, a daughter of Timothy and Millicent (Gelstrup) Smith. She had been born June 2, 1843, in Derbyshire, England, and died in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on April 3, 1912. They were the parents of 188.8.131.52.1 Sara (Lynch) Douglas, born May 30, 1880.
184.108.40.206 Lewis Lynch, born ca. 1836, (His age was given as 14 on the 1850 census.)
220.127.116.11 Joseph Daldden Lynch, born ca. 1842. (His age was given as 8 on the 1850 census.)
18.104.22.168 William Lynch, born ca. 1845. (His age was given as 5 on the 1850 census.) He married his cousin, Lizzie Lynch, according to Mrs. Douglas.
22.214.171.124 Eliza Lynch.
32.2.5 Catherine Sparks, identified in Benjamin Sparks's will as "my third daughter,"was born in the mid-1790s. She was a resident of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, when she signed the agreement by which she and her siblings relinquished their claim to their father's farm to Amos Robins on October 4, 1817. She was still single at that time. We have no further information regarding her.
32.2.6 Benjamin P. Sparks, identified in Benjamin Sparks's will as "my third son,"was born June 27, 1798. He died on July 29, 1882, and was buried in the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery at Raymilton, Pennsylvania, near the line between the counties of Venango and Mercer. We imagine that his middle initial "P."stood for his mother's maiden name, Pearce. His oldest son was named John Pierce Sparks, Pierce being an alternate spelling of Pearce.
We published an article about 32.2.6 Benjamin P. Sparks (1798-1882) in the March 1995 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 89, pp.1714-18, although at that time we could only speculate regarding his parentage. A granddaughter of Benjamin P. Sparks, Rose Sparks McKean, born April 24, 1895, died April 4, 1993, recalled many years ago that her father, 126.96.36.199 William Trafford Sparks (1844-1924) had told her that his father, Benjamin P. Sparks, had been bitter toward his family, especially a Richard Sparks, because he had not received a proper share of his father's property. When Benjamin P. was old enough, as the story goes, he left home never to return. He told his children little regarding his youth, except that he had been born in Pennsylvania. The unhappiness that he felt toward the settlement of his father's estate may well have been related to the fact that, contrary to the provisions of his father's will in 1801, Benjamin P. had not yet come of age when his mother and siblings sold their claim to the estate of his father, although Benjamin P. had signed the agreement along with his siblings.
According to Mrs. McKean, Benjamin P. Sparks became a "traveling tailor"and worked in Virginia as well as Pennsylvania. When the 1830 census was taken, he was living by himself in French Creek Township located in the northeast corner of Mercer County, Pennsylvania. by 1840, he had moved over the line into Venango County, in that county's township also called Frenchcreek (spelled as one word). In 1838 or 1839, he had been married to Phoebe (or Phoebia) Jane Cory, daughter of Benijah and Deborah Telford (Williams) Cory, who had been born on April 4, 1821. She was some 23 years younger than her husband. (See The Cory Family by Harry Harmon Cory published by the Argus Pub. Co. in Minneapolis, MN, p.93.) She lived until July 1, 1902.
Our knowledge of Benjamin P. Sparks is much enhanced by the Civil War pension papers relating to his son, John Pierce Sparks (1842-1864), who died of disease ("erysepelos") at Petersburg, Virginia, on July 4, 1864. Because his mother, Phoebe Sparks, was able to prove that she and her feeble husbandhad been financially dependent upon this oldest son, she was able to qualifyfor a "Mother's Pension." Among the information that she submitted to the Bureau of Pensions was a list, with dates of birth, of her and Benjamin's twelve children. A descendant of their second son, William Trafford Sparks, Mr. Calvin C. Sparks, R.R. 2, Box 179, Oil City, Pennsylvania, has provided the information given below on the family of Benjamin P. and Phoebe Jane (Cory) Sparks. He is a great-grandson of Benjamin P. Sparks.
188.8.131.52 Permelia Sparks, born June 22, 1840, (twin of Euphemia) in Sandy Creek Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania. She was sometimes called "Amelia." She married Samuel C. Niece, who had been born in 1838 and died in 1909. He served as a justice of the peace during his lifetime. They were living at Sandy Lake in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, when the U.S. census of 1880 was taken. Permelia died in 1812 at Sandy Lake; she and her husband were buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Sandy Lake. At the time of the U.S. census of 1880, Samuel and Permelia (Sparks) Niece had six living children.
184.108.40.206 Euphemia Sparks, born June 22, 1840, (twin of Permelia) at Sandy Creek Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania. She was married on January 7, 1866, to Abraham (or Abram) Hart, who had been born on September 18, 1839, and died on July 20, 1905. A member of the GAR, he had served in Company G of the 100th Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers in the Union Army. Abraham and Euphemia (Sparks) Hart lived in Worth Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and they had a family of eight children.Euphemia died on March 6, 1929, at Stoneboro, Mercer County. She and her husband were buried at Hendersonville, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
220.127.116.11 John Pierce Sparks, born October 22, 1842. Unmarried, he enlisted in the Union Army on February 27, 1864; he was a member of Company H, 100th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry Volunteers, when he died in service on July 3, 1864.
18.104.22.168 William Trafford Sparks, born June 24, 1844, at Edinburg, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Named originally Trafford William Sparks, he became known as William Trafford Sparks sometime after his younger brother, William P. Sparks, died in 1854. by the children of his second marriage to Miranda Luella Crooks, he was always referred to as William Trafford Sparks or just plain "Bill,"or W. T. Sparks. He married (first) Mary Ellen Henderson who had been born on August 16, 1847, near Hendersonville in Mercer County; she died on February 8, 1870, at Hendersonville while visiting home. She was survived by two children.
William Trafford Sparks married (second) Miranda Luella Crooks on June 20, 1876, and they had eight children. Miranda had been born on February 7, 1853, near Cooperstown, Venango County; she died on May 24, 1933, at Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania. Both the first and the second families of William Trafford Sparks lived in the Oil Creek Valley between Rouseville and Titusville in Vanango County, moving from oil field to oil field during the "oil excitement period"of Western Pennsylvania before finally settling along the Allegheny River at Eagle Rock in Venango County in or about 1900. William T. Sparks died on August 15, 1924, at Eagle Rock, Pennsylvania. Both W. T. Sparks and his first wife, Mary Ellen, were buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Mineral Township, Venango County, while his second wife, Miranda, was buried in the Plumer Cemetery, Cornplanter Township, Venango County, Pennsylvania. Calvin C. Sparks is a grandson of William Trafford and Miranda Luella (Crooks) Sparks through their son, James Story Sparks, born May 4, 1882.
22.214.171.124 James H. Sparks, born September 24, 1846, died November 25, 1850.
126.96.36.199 Moses Corey Sparks, born November 23, 1848, in Pennsylvania. He married Carrie Curtis on February 18, 1880, in Kingsville Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio. At the time of the publication of the obituary of his brother, Lewis B. Sparks, on April 27, 1903, Moses was living at Elgin, Illinois. At the time of William Trafford Sparks's obituary in August 1924, Moses was living at Pierce, South Dakota. He was living in Round Up, Montana, in 1926.
188.8.131.52 Lewis Benjamin Sparks, born February 17, 1851, in Pennsylvania. He married Ella. He died on April 19, 1903, at Sisterville, Tyler County, West Virginia, said to have been murdered by a gunman. He was buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Mineral Townships, Venango County, Pennsylvania.
184.108.40.206 William P. Sparks, born August 15, 1853; died May 28, 1854.
220.127.116.11 Priscilla (or Pereilla) J. Sparks, born August 3, 1855; died November 3, 1856.
18.104.22.168 Elizabeth ["Lizzie"] M. Sparks, born November 2, 1857. She married Frank A. Rathburn (or Rathburne). She was living in Sharon in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, in 1921 with her daughter, Beuhta Hall. She is believed to have died between 1930 and 1933, at Sharon, or Erie, Pennsylvania (?). She had at least two children.
22.214.171.124 Charles B. Sparks, born July 26, 1860. He married Alice Maude Lockwood ca. 1889. She had been born in July 1873 according to the 1900 census, which listed six children. Calvin C. Sparks has stated that his father, James Story Sparks, told him that Charles and Alice Sparks had 12 or 13 children. Charles and Alice Sparks moved to Minnesota in 1904 and he worked on a railroad as a telegraph operator. At the time of William Trafford Sparks's death in 1924, they were living at Rutley, Minnesota.
126.96.36.199 Ellen N. Sparks, born May 23, 1862, married Logan Mark (or Mook); his nickname was "Dan."They lived at Erie, Pennsylvania, and were said to have had 5 or 6 children.
Calvin C. Sparks has written: "The sons of Benjamin P. and Phoebe Jane Sparks, William Trafford, Moses Corey, and Lewis B. Sparks, were oil well drillers and contracted for many leases throughout the oil fields of Venango County, Pennsylvania during the years of the oil excitement of 1860 through 1900."
32.2.7 Charity Sparks, youngest child of Benjamin and Rachel Sparks, was called "my fourth daughter " in her father's will of 1801. She was not named in the agreement of 1817 by which the children of Benjamin Sparks sold their claim to their father's farm to Amos Robins. She probably died in childhood.
Your editor, who is also the compiler of this and the preceding article, will welcome further information on these children and grandchildren of Benjamin and Rachel (Pearce) Sparks. We have not attempted to list here their grandchildren's children in the above record, but hope to provide extended accounts of the lives and descendants of most of these children of Benjamin and Rachel in future issues of the Quarterly.