March 15, 2020

Pages 5404-5405
Whole Number 191


On the cover of this issue of the Quarterly appears a charming photograph, taken about 1920, of Mary Ann Mariah (Sparks) Milnor with her granddaughter, Alice Milnor Reasoner. Alice was about nine years old when this photograph was taken, having been born on December 31, 1911. We are grateful to Alice Anabel (Herrick) Reynolds of Plymouth, Minnesota, a great-granddaughter of Mary Ann Mariah, for providing a reproduction of this photograph for our use here.

Mary Ann Mariah Sparks was the eldest child of 49.8 David Rhodes Sparks whose autobiography we have been publishing in parts in the Quarterly. In Part II of the autobiography in the Quarterly of September 1998, David R. Sparks recounted the early death of his first wife, Mariah Parisher, in 1847 (she died childless), after which he volunteered to fight in the War with Mexico (see Part III in the Quarterly of March 1999). Soon after his return home in 1848, he married his second wife, Anna Davenport Chapman, a daughter of Richard Chapman. Sparks credited his father-in-law with having been a major benefactor to his later career.

Mary Ann Mariah, born September 26, 1849, was not yet six months old when her father left their home in Staunton, Illinois, with four other young men, including a brother and his brother-in-law, to join the California Gold Rush. Parts III and IV of his autobiography (see the Quarterly of March 1999 and that of September 1999) were devoted to his unsuccessful venture in the Far West. He returned home by way of the Isthmus of Panama sixteen months after his departure. Sparks then tried farming for a couple of years, but in 1854 he and a partner purchased a small sawmill. Soon convinced that milling should be his occupation, he borrowed money to build a flourmill in Staunton, but in 1859, still dreaming of gold, he responded to the siren call announcing the discovery of the precious metal in Colorado. Again, however, he returned home in November 1860 with less in capital than when he had started.

Following this sketch of his eldest daughter, in Part V of David R. Sparks's autobiography, he tells of organizing a company of cavalry at the beginning of the Civil War, with himself as captain. Three years would pass before little Mary Ann Mariah Sparks would see her father again. With the end of the war, however, the Sparks flour-milling operation prospered, and for her time, she received a fine education, first at the Monticello Seminary and then at Lombard College in Galesburg, Illinois, from which she was graduated.

Mary Ann Mariah was married on April 23, 1874, to Frank Richmond Milnor. A son of Joshua and Henrietta (Platts) Milnor, he had been born in Alton, Illinois, on December 15, 1846. He had attended Lombard College and later the School of Pharmacy in Cincinnati. He came to Litchfleld, Illinois, to work in a drugstore which he later purchased, and in due course he became the city's leading pharmacist. During his life he held many public offices and in 1900 was elected to the Illinois General Assembly.  At the time of his death in June 1938, he was President of the Litchfleld Bank & Trust Company.

In a sketch of the life of Frank R. Milnor appearing in the Litchfield Centennial History, published in 1953, there is the following paragraph regarding his wife, Mary Ann Mariah Sparks.

Mrs. Milnor took an active interest in affairs of the Litchfleld community by helping found the Litchfleld Woman's Club, of which she was the first President, serving as a member of the Library Board for many years, taking an active part in the work of the Universalist Church. She was largely instrumental in establishing a visiting nurse in the city and also participated prominently in the social life of the city.

Mary Ann Mariah Sparks and her husband, Frank Richmond Milnor, were the parents of two children:

1. Mabel Sparks Milnor, born May 22, 1877, at Litchfleld, Illinois. She was married on June 10, 1909, to Matthew A. Reasoner who had been born in Iowa on September 1, 1875. He became an officer in the United States Army Medical Corps. It was their daughter, Alice Milnor Reasoner, an only child, who is shown with her grandmother on the cover of this issue of the Quarterly.

2. George Sparks Milnor, born December 11, 1880, at Litchfleld, Illinois. He married (first) Alice Bowman who had been born in 1882 at Alton, Illinois; and (second) to Alice Elizabeth Ryrie, born October 24, 1890, also in Alton, Illinois. There was one child by the first marriage, George Bowman Milnor, born July 9, 1908; he married Jeanne Betty Johnson. George Sparks Milnor and Alice Ryrie were the parents of two children: Magnus Ryrie Milnor, born August 10, 1914, who married Dorothy Gaines, and Frank Richmond Milnor, II, born August 23, 1915, who married (first) Forence Jacobson, and (second) to Barbara Wheeler.

Mary Ann Mariah (Sparks) Milnor died on September 3, 1931, and was buried at Alton, Illinois. It was her son, George Sparks Milnor, with Col. Matthew A. Reasoner, husband of her daughter, Mabel Sparks (Milnor) Reasoner, who arranged for the autobiography of David Rhodes Sparks to be typed from the original handwritten copy in 1937. Copies were then shared with other members of the family.