February 14, 2021

Pages 5432-5439
Whole Number 192 THOMAS SPARKS (1816-1863)

In The Sparks Quarterly of September 2000, Whole No. 191, pp.5396-5304 appeared an article devoted to William Z. Sparks (ca.1791-1858) of Yadkin County, North Carolina. (Until 1850, Yadkin County had been part of Surry County.) Based on quite compelling circumstantial evidence, we believe that William Z. Sparks was a son of George Sparks, Sr. who had been born between 1758 and 1760 in Frederick County, Maryland; George Sparks had accompanied his parents, William and Ann Sparks, on their move to the Forks of the Yadkin, then part of Rowan County, North Carolina, in 1764. (See the Quarterly of June 1983, Whole No. 122, pp. 2520-24, for an article devoted to George Sparks.) William Z. Sparks died in December 1858 in the Jonesville area of Yadkin County where he had spent most of his life. We have not discovered the name of his first wife, who was also the mother of his seven children. Although she might have been Elizabeth Gentry, married in 1813. Sometime after her death, between 1840 and 1850, he was married, second, to a widow named Mary Benge.

Of the seven children of William Z. Sparks, we can be certain of the identity of only two. One was James Sparks who was shown on the 1850 census as 21 years of age, still living in his father's household. The other was Thomas Sparks who married Catherine Swaim in Surry County, North Carolina, in 1837. The marriage bond for Thomas and Catherine was dated February 28, 1837, and from Bible records that will be noted later in this article, we have learned that their marriage ceremony took place nine days later, on March 9, 1837. It is significant that their bondsman was William Z. Sparks, doubtless the father of Thomas.

As we noted on page 5401 of the Quarterly of September 2000, Whole No. 191, it is evident that Thomas Sparks was in an informal partnership with his father, William Z. Sparks, both before and for a period of time after his marriage.

We have not been able to determine the parentage of Catherine (or Katherine) Swaim (sometimes spelled Swain). When the 1840 census of Surry County was taken, William Z. Sparks and Thomas Sparks were living in the southern part of the county, below the Yadkin River, that would become Yadkin County a decade later. There, also, were enumerated five Swaim (or Swain) families. The heads of these five families were:

(1) Michael Swaim, Sr., age 50 to 60, with wife 40 to 50, and 4 children;

(2) John Swaim whose household immediately followed that of Michael, Sr., age 50 to 60, with wife 40 to 50, a female 70 to 80, and 7 children;

(3) William Swaim, age 40 to 50, with wife 30 to 40, and 10 children;

(4) Solomon Swaim, age 30 to 50, with 7 children; and

(5) Moses Swaim, age 20 to 30, with wife in the same age category, but no children.

From the ages of these heads of households, we can be fairly certain that Catherine (Swaim) Sparks, born in 1816 and therefore 24 years of age in 1840, was a daughter of either Michael Swaim, Sr. or John Swaim. It is interesting that Thomas and Catherine named sons Solomon Sparks, Michael Sparks, and John Sparks. Of these three names, however, only Michael was an unusual name in the Sparks family. [Webmaster: perhaps Catherine's father was Michael Swaim.]

Thomas Sparks's household, as enumerated on the 1840 census of Surry County, then consisted of himself and his wife, along with their first two sons, both of whom were shown as under 5 years. On this 1840 census, the name of Thomas Sparks appeared just before that of William Z. Sparks.

by the time that the 1850 census was taken, Thomas and Catherine Sparks had moved with their children to Iredell County, which adjoins Yadkin County on the south. Thomas' occupation was given as 'Stiller.'

by 1857 Thomas Sparks had moved with his family to York County, South Carolina, the northern boundary of which is the southern boundary of three North Carolina counties: Cleveland, Gaston, and Mecklenburg.

Recently we received from Louise Pettus of 708 Harrell St., Rock Hill, South Carolina, who descends from Thomas and Catherine (Swaim) Sparks, the results of her research on this family in York County, South Carolina. Through her, we have also obtained copies of family records contained in two 19th-century Bibles now owned by another descendant of Thomas and Catherine, Pat Rodgers Murphy. The older of these two Bibles was published in 1846 by the New York Bible Society, and on a blank page at the beginning of the New Testament appear the dates of birth of Thomas and Catherine, with their date of marriage. Following, on the same page, were recorded the names and birth dates of their six children, Because the Bible was published in 1846, we know that only the last two children could have been entered at the time they were born. The information about the parents and the births of their first four children, and probably, also, the last two, were surely copied from another, earlier, record.

The second Bible owned by Mrs. Murphy was published in 1851. It appears to have been owned first by a man named John A. Marion. At a later date, this Bible came into the possession of Marion DeKalb Rodgers and his wife, Adeline Josephine Sparks, daughter of Thomas and Catherine. In this 1851 Bible there is what Mrs. Murphy has described as 'a very fragile piece of paper' containing, also, the record of births of Thomas and Catherine (Swaim) Sparks, their marriage, and the births of their six children. Besides this 'fragile piece of paper' there is a smaller sheet giving the date of death of Thomas Sparks and the death dates of four of his children.

From these two Bible records, we learn the following: Thomas Sparks was born on December 25, 1816, and Catherine Swaim was born April 11, 1816. They were married on March 9, 1837. (In the Bible published in 1846, Catherine's name was written 'Catharn Sparks' while on the sheet in the the 1851 Bible her name was written 'Katharine Swain.') The dates of birth for their six children are the same in both of these records. Thomas Sparks died November 23, 1863. Solomon Sparks was born December 25, 1837. Solomon Sparks died December 19, 1853. Michael Sparks was born December 14, 1839. Michael Sparks died November 4, 1861. William Ashley Sparks was born June 24, 1841. Wm. A. Sparks died March 5, 1863. John Calvin Sparks was born July 21, 1843. Adeline Josephine Sparks was born April 11, 1849. Martha Ellen Sparks was born November 22, 1851. Martha Sparks died October 11, 1853.

The deaths were recorded on the small piece of paper in the 1851 Bible.

Thus, of the six children of Thomas and Catherine (Swaim) Sparks, two (Solomon and Martha) died as children, while two others (William Ashley and Michael) died as young men, both at the age of 21, The cause of Michael's death on November 4, 1861, is not known. William Ashley Sparks was a victim of the Civil War. William Ashley Sparks, born June 24, 1841, served in the Army of the Confederate States in the Civil War, having enlisted in Company H of the 12th Infantry Regiment of South Carolina. He was wounded in the battle called 'Second Manassas' by the Confederates and 'Second Bull Run' by the Federals, on August 29, 1862. He was discharged because of his wounds and died on March 5, 1863, from disease. He was unmarried. John Calvin Sparks, born July 21, 1843, was the only one of the four sons of Thomas and Catherine (Swaim) Sparks who survived the period of the Civil War. He was only 18 years old when, with his brother, William Ashley Sparks, he enlisted in Company H of the 12th Infantry Regiment of South Carolina. Like his brother, he was severely wounded at the battle called 'Second Manassas' by the Confederates, but called 'Second Bull Run' by the Federals. Shot in the left knee on August 29, 1862, he was discharged, and, according to family accounts, he was brought home in a wagon.

John Calvin was living with his widowed mother in York County, South Carolina, when the 1870 census was taken, but by 1873 he had been married to Nancy Dulsina Allison. On the census taken in 1900 of Catawba, York County, Nancy's date of birth was given as May 1845 in South Carolina; she was shown on that census as having had four children, three of whom were then living. These three are known to have been Martha M. Sparks, born ca. 1874; John Thomas Sparks, born November 1, 1876; and William Franklin Sparks, born July 16, 1881.

(Further information on these children of John Calvin Sparks is given below.)

According to Reports and Resolutions of General Assembly of SouthCarolina, Vol. 1, 1903, in 1902, John C. Sparks applied to the state for an artificial leg, stating that he had been 'shot through left leg and has since used a crutch.' The state had set up an 'artificial fund' for its Civil War veterans, and John stated that he had 'not heretofore participated in [the] artificial fund.' His application was rejected, probably because he had not actually lost his leg.

John Calvin Sparks died a tragic death on December 2, 1902, having been shot accidentally by his 15-year-old grandson, Thomas Calvin Collins, whose nickname was Cally. Ms. Pettus has provided us with a transcript of the detailed account of the incident and of the inquest that followed, as they appeared in The Record, a newspaper published in Rock Hill, South Carolina, on December 5, 1902. The inquest resulted in a verdict by the jury that the deceased came to his death at the hands of Cally Collins as the result of criminal carelessness in the handling of a pistol.... Collins in default of a $1,000 bond was placed in the city lock-up pending efforts to secure the bond or have it reduced. It was signed Thursday.

In reporting the incident, The Record of December 2, 1902, had described John Calvin Sparks as 'a leading Friendship farmer, 59 years old,' adding that the accident had occurred 'at the home of his son-in-law, J. J. Collins, in White Street near the Laurelwood Cemetery.' In the issue of December 5, 1902, the paper quoted the testimony of Martha M. (Sparks) Collins, Cally's mother:

She said that the family were at the table eating supper, all laughing and talking and in a 'good humor.' The father had threatened to whip the boy during the day. Cally had finished eating and arose from the table and was in the act of showing his father how he would trip him off his feet if he should attempt to whip him when the pistol dropped from his pocket and fired.

Nancy Dulcina (Allison) Sparks, widow of John Calvin Sparks, lived until 1909. She was buried in the Old Friendship Cemetery near Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The three children of John Calvin and Nancy Dulcina (Allison) Sparks to survive childhood were: Martha M. Sparks was born ca. 1874 according to census records. She died in 1909. She married John Jackson Collins in 1885; he had been born on June 13, 1860, a son of John Thomas and Patience Fennell (Williams) Collins. They were the parents of four children: John Jackson Collins. Thomas Calvin Collins, born in 1888. His nickname was Cally. We have noted above that when he was 15 years old he accidentally shot his grandfather, John Calvin Sparks. Three years later, Cally Collins also died a tragic death, as described in the Enquirer published in Yorkville, South Carolina, on February 20, 1906, as follows:

Rock Hill -- Callie [sic] Collins, the eighteen year old son of Mr. S. M. Collins of this city, was crushed to death between two box cars Friday [February 14, 1906] afternoon, late. The accident occurred at Blacksburg. He was a brakeman on the Charleston Division of the Southern railway and was engaged in making a coupling when killed.... The young man was an exceedingly affable, friendly fellow and was very popular with his associates. Carrie Lee Collins was born in 1891. She was married on May 11, 1915, to George Turner Holler. Katherine ['Katie'] Collins was born August 28, 1894, and died on December 7, 1974. She married W. A. Blanks. John Thomas Sparks was born November 1, 1876. He was married on February 10, 1904, to Nancy Bell Snider, daughter of Fred W. and Sallie (Enloe) Snider. She had been born on November 23, 1881, at Bethany, near Clover, York County, South Carolina. An item in TheRecord of Rock Hill dated February 12, 1904, pertains to their marriage:

J. T. Sparks of Roddeys married Miss Nannie Snider of Clover. Spent night with Mrs. S. S. Collins, sister of groom on W. White St., Rock Hill. Will make home in Roddeys. [Mrs. S. J. Collins was Martha Sparks, see, above.]

John Thomas Sparks died on December 23, 1953, and was buried in the Grandview Cemetery at Rock Hill. Nancy Bell died on November 9, 1958. A clipping, undated, found by Ms. Pettus, gives a brief obituary for John T. Sparks. He was described as a 'retired railroad clerk and he operated a small grocery.' It was noted that his brother, W. F. Sparks, of Rock Hill survived him. His children were identified as follows: Mrs. Guy P. Steele, Rock Hill; Miss Louise Sparks; Mrs. T. M. Anderson, Monroe, North Carolina; Mrs. Jason Radisill, Buffalo, New York; Mrs. James L. Dozier, Charlotte; and his son, John T. Sparks, of Rock Hill.

It was noted that there were 12 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

A photograph of John Thomas Sparks taken in his youth, along with a snapshot of him with his wife and their son, John Thomas Sparks, Jr., taken in later years, appear on the following page. The six children of John Thomas and Nancy Bell (Snider) Sparks were: Callie Elizabeth Sparks was born November 8, 1904, and died on March 3, 1974. She married Guy P. Steele, Sr. Janie Louise Sparks was born August 13, 1906, and died on December 12, 1976. Eunice Bell Sparks was born May 28, 1908, and died in 1987. She married Thomas McDonald Anderson. Carrie Sparks was born November 15, 1910. She married John Rudisill (or Radisell), according to obituary of John Thomas Sparks. Cleo Evelyn Sparks was born October 9, 1913. John Thomas Sparks, Jr. was born March 26, 1920, and died on June 19, 1990. He married Evelyn Keels. His widow, Mrs. Evelyn Sparks, has provided us with the above photographs. William Franklin Sparks was born July 16, 1881, and died on July 22, 1959. He married Laura Virginia Sims, daughter of Thomas M. and Mary Jane (Sutton) Sims. She had been born on May 4, 1886, in Waxhaw, North Carolina; she died on December 16, 1966. Adeline Josephine Sparks was born April 11, 1849. She married Marion DeKalb Rodgers. He had been born in York County, South Carolina, on April 10, 1842, a son of John R. and Priscilla Jane (Riggins) Rodgers. A photograph of Adeline and her husband appears on the cover of the present issue of the Quarterly. Adeline Josephine (Sparks) Rodgers died in Indian Land Township, Lancaster County, South Carolina, on August 5, 1921. Her husband, Marion DeKalb Rodgers, had died on February 2, 1921. Both were buried in the Belair United Methodist Church Cemetery at Belair, South Carolina. They were the parents of the following children: Catherine J. Rodgers was born August 24, 1873; she died on November 8, 1874. William John Thomas Rodgers was born October 5, 1876, and died on December 29, 1974. He was married on October 25, 1900, to Eudosia Jane Perry, daughter of John James and Clara Elena (Morrow) Perry, at John Hall's home in Belair, Lancaster County, South Carolina. She had been born January 11, 1884, and died on November 3, 1968. Both were buried in the Belair United Methodist Church Cemetery in Lancaster County, South Carolina. They were the parents of the following children: Addie Eleanor Rodgers was born October 12, 1901, and died on February 23, 1999. She married Marshall Olin Griffin who had been born on March 25, 1899; he died on April 29, 1959. Their children were: Mary Eldora Griffin; Marshall Olin Griffin, Jr.; and Joyce Nell Griffin. Marion Lee Rodgers was born November 11, 1902, and died on December 27, 1961. He was married on May 4, 1924, to Sarah Lemmond who died on May 4, 1954. Their children were: Minnie Lee Rodgers; Evelyn Rodgers; Sarah Frances Rodgers; and Dale Rodgers. Bessie Kathryn Rodgers was born February 12, 1904. She was married on November 29, 1923, to Calvin Hall Pettus. He had been born on February 10, 1901, and died on July 2, 1949. Their children were: Mildred Louise Pettus; Peggy Anne Pettus; Calvin Hall Pettus, Jr.; and David Lindsay Pettus. Alta Rodgers was born September 19, 1905. She married James Shepherd Howie, and their children were: Alta Jean Howie; James S. Howie, Jr.; Sarah Ann Howie; and Cynthia Louise Howie. Florence Rodgers was born March 19, 1908, and died on March 9, 2000. She was married on June 10,1928, to Cyrus Parsons Earnhardt. He was born February 5, 1902, and died on December 7, 1989. Their children were: Cyrus Parsons Earnhardt, Jr.; John Walter Earnhardt; Roger Earnhardt; and Diane Earnhardt. James William Rodgers was born December 14, 1909, and died on October 16, 1992. He was married on January 2, 1930, to Mary Hannah Colllins. She had been born on October 13, 1911. Their children were: Betty Mac Rodgers; and Jane Rodgers. Carl Edwin Rodgers was born October 23, 1911, and died on June 21, 2000. He married Bessie Robinson on March 27, 1937. She had been born July 17, 1914. Their children were: Carl Edwin Rodgers, Jr.; Jerry Rodgers; David Lane Rodgers; and Pattie Lee Rodgers. Evelyn Rodgers was born January 7, 1914; she died on September 26, 1920. Richard Manning Rodgers was born June 21, 1916, and died on November 19, 1993. He married Dorothy Wilson. Their children were: Richard Manning Rodgers, Jr.; Sandra Elaine Rodgers; and Wanda Karen Rodgers. John Kell Rodgers was born May 30, 1918, and died on November 15, 1983. He married Margaret Rodden, and they were the parents of: Carolyn Rodgers; John Kell Rodgers, Jr.; Judy Kay Rodgers; and Wayne Rodgers. Marion DeKalb Rodgers Jr. was born January 15, 1882. He died on September 2, 1882. James Mitchell Rodgers was born July 6, 1889, and died on March 7, 1972. He was married on April 10, 1920, in Belair, Lancaster County, South Carolina, to Ethel Tate, daughter of Irving (Isaac) Christenberry Lee and Amanda Ezekiel (Webster) Tate. She had been born on April 8, 1891, and died on January 30, 1979. Their children were: Jimmie Lee Rodgers; and Patricia Rodgers.