May 1, 2016

Pages 5485-5500
Whole Number 193

WILLIAM SPARK (died 1767) & ALEXANDER SPARK (died 1783)

In Westmoreland County, Virginia, a will was recorded in "Wills & Deeds, No. 14," page 490, for William Spark [sic] dated January 1, 1764. It was probated on August 25, 1767, thus proving that he had died that year, probably in the summer, 1767. In his will, William Spark described himself as being "of the Parish of St. Thomas in the East, in the County of Surry, Colony of Virginia." Because he died in Westmoreland County three and one half years after making his will, having gone there, perhaps, to be near his brother, Alexander Spark, it was in Westmoreland that his will was probated.

The will of William Spark is especially interesting because in it he not only identified Alexander Spark as his brother, but he also named his mother and three sisters who were still residents of Arbuthnott in the County of Kincardine in Scotland. This had doubtless been his and his brother's home before they migrated to Virginia.

In his will, William Spark made the following provisions:

To Elizabeth Cooper of the Parish of St. Thomas in the County aforesaid [i.e., Surry, the two following negro [sic] coopers, vizt., Warrick and Samson, during the term of her natural life, and this I give her as a small acknowledgment of her great kindness and care of me during my long sickness.

The sum of fifty pds. [pounds] sterling unto my dear mother, Margaret Duthie in the Parish of Arbuthnott in the County of Kincardine, in Scotland. If my mother die before me, then the 50 pds. to my three sisters, June, Rebecca, and Mary, all of the County of Kincardine aforesaid, and also to each of my sisters the sum of 40 pds. sterling to be paid by my heir hereafter named. To my mother an annuity of 10 pds. sterling to be paid her yearly out of the residue of my interest or estate, by my brother, Alexander Spark, Merchant in Westmoreland County, Virginia, unto whom I doe hereby give and devise all my estate or interest, whether reall [sic] or personall [sic].

My executors to be: John Henry, David Fife, and John Robertson of the Parish of St. Thomas aforesaid, gentlemen, with my brother, Alexander. To each of the two first named, 10 pistoles to buy rings.

Note: A pistole was a Spanish gold coin then worth about $4.00. These coins were commonly used as specie in Colonial Virginia. Gold rings were frequently given to friends in memory of a well-to-do person after his death.

The above abstract of William Spark's will was provided to us by Charles Hughes Hamlin, a professional genealogist of Richmond, Virginia, many years ago. Mr. Hamlin added:

In recording the probate, the clerk stated that the Will was presented to the Westmoreland County Court for probate by Alexander Spark, and no witnesses being subscribed thereto, John Ballentine, Jr., Jer miah Rust, and Richard Parker severally made oath that they were "well acquainted" with the testator's handwriting. Securities on the Bond were Richard Parker and Alexander Rose.

Of these four men who either witnessed the will of William Spark or served as securities, Richard Parker serving in both roles, all but Alexander Rose appeared on the 1787 tax list for Westmoreland County and all were men of wealth.

William Spark mentioned neither a wife nor children in his will. We may assume that if he had married, his wife was no longer living in 1764. Whether Elizabeth Cooper, to whom Spark left two slaves named Warrick and Samson, who were apparently skilled coopers (i.e., barrel and tub makers), was a relative or just a friend, we do not know. His mother in Scotland to whom William Spark referred to as "Margaret Duthie," had probably been married to a man name Duthie as her second husband.

Because the will of William Spark had been drawn up in Surry County, the executors whom he had named, other than his brother, Alexander Spark, were not available in Westmoreland County to administer William's estate. Alexander served as the sole executor, with Richard Parker and Alexander Rose securing his bond to do so.

Alexander Spark, brother of William, was surely the same Alexander Spark for whom there is a marriage bond in Richmond County, Virginia. Dated November 21, 1765, this bond was for the marriage of Alexander Spark and Elizabeth Lawson, the bondsman being Thomas Yeatman. This was probably a second marriage.

Alexander Spark lived until 1783. He must have died from a sudden illness or from a severe accident because he dictated to Richard Parker how he wished to divide his estate, but he died before Parker was able prepare a will for him to sign. Parker, who had been one of his securities in executing his brother's will, had made notes regarding what Alexander had intended to include in his will. The Westmoreland Court accepted Parker's notes as constituting Alexander's will as recorded in the county's "Deeds and Wills No. 16, 1773-1787," page 297.

At a Court held for Westmoreland County the 20th day of February 1783.

It appearing to the Court that the notes offered to them as the last Will and Testament of Alexr Spark, decd., were taken by Richard Parker at the Instance of the said Alexander in order to Draw his will by, but the said Alexander dying before the execution of the will so drawn by the said Richard, and their [sic] appearing several concurring circumstances to induce them to a belief thereof, ordered that the said Notes be admitted to Record as the last Will and Testament of the said deceased Alexander Spark, so far as it relates to personal Estate, and at a Court held for the said County the 29th day of April 1783. On the motion of Thomas Thomson who made oath thereto according to Law and together with Richard Buckner & Thomas Rowan, his securities, entered into and acknowledged Bond with condition as the Law directs, Certificate is granted him for obtaining letters of administration of the Estate of the said Spark decd. with the said Notes annexed in due form.

[signed] Richard Bernard CWC

The notes taken by Richard Parker were then recorded by the Court as follows:

Alexander Spark's Win Compd.

The land bought of Strother and the Land bought of Neale, & the plantation in Gloucester purchased of Major Roswell called Masrous [?] to James. The land purchased of Richard Neale, John Treplett & Jno. Nichols, near the Bristol mine in this County, to William.

The stock on the Plantation together with them, Negroes equally divided among the three. The personal Estate except the stock divided among the three; four negroes living with Betty Davis: Sam, Hannah, & two children, to her and her Daughter Betty Davis and longer liver, afterwards to be equally divided. Negro formerly called Rose changed to Fanny to Grace Fisher, the natural Daughter of Thomas Shadricks Wife for life, and after her death to go with her future increase to James and Sophia Fisher, children of the said Grace forever.

Mr. Thomas Smith, Richard Parker, and Doctor Steptoe.

A Westmoreland County tax list for 1783 survives showing "Alexander Spark, estate" with 49 slaves. Also taxed that year in Westmoreland County was a Caty Sparks. We have no clue regarding this person's identity.

Athough the wording of the notes taken by Richard Parker as Alexander Spark had told him the provisions that he wished to include in his will are somewhat confusing, it seems apparent that Alexander Spark had two sons, James and William. (William had doubtless been named for Alexander's brother.) The three men whose names appear at the end of the notes probably signed their names at the end of the original "notes" as witnesses. The two references to "the three" heirs of Alexander to receive slaves and personal estate suggest that Betty Davis may have been a daughter of Alexander.

The two sons of Alexander Spark named James and William were doubtless the men of these names appearing on the 1787 tax list of Westmoreland County (see page 5482 of the present Quarterly). There, William's name was recorded as Sparks, however. Both James and William were shown as "not tithable," the reason we imagine being that both were under the age of 21. Both had taxable property, however; James had one slave and 2 horses while William had 26 slaves and 5 horses and 33 cattle. The Betty Davis mentioned in the notes taken by Richard Parker in his interview with Alexander Spark in preparation for drafting his will was probably the Elizabeth Davis shown on the 1787 tax list of Westmoreland County in the district for which Thomas Muse was the tax commissioner. It was also called Washington Parish. Muse called on Elizabeth Davis on May 28, 1787, and on James Spark on June 9th. She was taxed for 2 slaves over 16 and 4 slaves under 16, along with one horse and 9 cattle. Grace Fisher, the "natural Daughter of Thomas Shadricks Wife" means, of course, that Grace was illegitimate. Two men named Thomas Shadrick were taxed in Westmoreland County in 1787. One was in the tax district of William Harwar Parker, as was William Sparks; Parker called on William Sparks on May 5, 1787, and on Thomas Shadrick on May 10th. The other Thomas Shadrick was taxed in the district assigned to Thomas Muse, the same district in which James Spark was taxed; Muse called on this Thomas Shadrick on April 30, 1787, and on James Sparks on June 6th. We may wonder whether Grace Fisher could have been a daughter of Alexander Spark born out of wedlock. There were three men taxed in Westmoreland County in 1787 named Fisher: James, John, and Martin.

Although it seems apparent that the brothers, William and Alexander, had the surname Spark, we believe that the spelling gradually became Sparks, as was given for Alexander's son, William Sparks, on the 1787 tax list.

As was noted on page 5482, James Sparks was married in Westmoreland County to Harnar [Hannah?] Parker on July 10, 1791, and William Sparks was married there on January 6, 1801, to Lucy Redman. There can be little doubt that these were the sons of Alexander Spark.