February 4, 2020

Pages 5563-5565
Whole Number 195


In Sparks Quarterly of March 1978, Whole No. 101, we published an article devoted to Cornelius and Susannah (Stevens) Sparks and their eleven children. Cornelius Sparks was born June 11, 1789, the eldest child of David and Mary (Little) Sparks, in Rowan County, North Carolina. The marriage bond for Cornelius and Susannah was issued in Rowan County on December 14, 1812, and we can be sure that they were married either on that day or soon thereafter. Susannah Stevens, who had been born in Rowan County on October 28, 1794, was a daughter of Spencer Stevens (sometimes spelled Stephens) and his wife, Elizabeth Robard (also spelled Rupert). David Sparks, father of Cornelius, had been born ca. 1768, a son of Jonas and Elizabeth Sparks. Jonas Sparks, a son of 1.2.5 Joseph and Mary Sparks of Frederick County, Maryland, had migrated with other Sparks relatives to the Forks of the Yadkin in North Carolina in 1754. Jonas was a grandson of the English immigrant, 1.2 William Sparks, who died in Queen Annes County, Maryland, in 1709.

Cornelius and Susannah Sparks left North Carolina by ox-cart in October 1814 with their first child, nine-month-old Joseph Sparks, and accompanied by Susannah's parents and other Stevens family members. According to family tradition, the reason for Cornelius' migration north was his objection to slavery. In 1828, by which time he and Susannah had eight children, they moved again, this time to Michigan Territory, settling in what would become Niles Township in Berrien County. When Susannah bore her ninth child, Wilson Sparks, on April 19, 1830, he was only the second white child born in Berrien County.

Unfortunately, the tract of land on which Cornelius "squatted," with the expectation that later he could purchase it from the U.S. Government, proved to be part of a section designated as "school land," and he had to move over the line into Buchanan Township, in 1831. It was there that he and Susannah spent the remainder of their lives. They were the parents of eleven children, all of whom grew to adulthood, and five lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They were: Joseph Sparks, born January 24, 1814. Spencer Sparks, born December 9, 1815. David Sparks, born August 14, 1817. Mary Sparks, born July 7, 1819. Elizabeth Sparks, born July 26, 1821. Levi Sparks, born October 3, 1823. Anna Sparks, born September 30, 1825. Ira Sparks, born October 30, 1827. Wilson Sparks, born April 19, 1830. Susannah Sparks (called Susan), born August 1, 1832. Cynthia Sparks, born August 27, 1834.

Susannah (Stevens) Sparks died in 1861. A great-great-granddaughter, Jean E. Sparks Ducey, has shared with us a short obituary of Susannah preserved as a clipping from a local newspaper:

DIED, Mrs. Susanna Sparks, consort of Cornelius Sparks of this Village, on Thursday morning the 25th inst. The deceased was 67 years old and had lived with her husband for almost fifty years. She united with the Christian Church about twenty years since, of which she was a faithful member until her death. She left a husband, nine children, and a large number of friends to mourn her loss. She died with a well formed hope of blessed immortality beyond the grave.

Cornelius Sparks died on August 17, 1862. Both he and Susannah were buried in a plot on their farm in Berrien County, near the town of Buchanan, Michigan.

As noted in the Quarterly of March 1978, cited above, Loretta B. Bingham of Battle Creek, Michigan, then a member of our Association, recalled that she had sought and had located the burial plot of Cornelius and Susannah on what was then called the Chamberlin Farm. She described it as overgrown and neglected, but that she had found the gravestone of Cornelius "lying flat and broken in half." Although the owners of the farm in 1968 could recall once seeing Susannah's stone beside that of Cornelius, Ms. Bingham did not find it. A number of years later, she shared with us a somewhat blurred photograph she had taken of Cornelius' stone, which we have reproduced on the previous page. The inscription reads:

Our Father Cornelius Sparks Died August 17, 1862

Jean E. Sparks Ducey, whose great-grandfather was Levi Sparks (1823-1900), the sixth child of Cornelius and Susannah Sparks, recently located the Sparks burial plot as had Ms. Bingham some thirty years earlier. While unable to find the stone for Cornelius, as Ms. Bingham had done in 1968, Mrs. Ducey found that of Susannah and has provided us with the photograph on page 5563. Part of the inscription on Susannah's stone remains legible, as follows:

Our Mother Sussanna Sparks Wife of Cornelius Sparks

Account by Jean E. Sparks Ducey

Thirty years ago, my husband and I set out to find the graves of Cornelius and Susannah Sparks. I knew they were near a hill, perhaps behind a large farm house.

We saw a field in such a location, planted, except for a stand of trees. We asked at a nearby farm if there were graves within those trees. They were pleased to find that someone in the family was interested.

We walked back and found that the iron fence my grandmother, Mrs. Edwin Sparks, (born January 21, 1867), had had erected was missing. The stone for Cornelius was erect, but that of Susannah was broken and leaning against his. Unfortunately, we had no camera with us. We intended to return, but never did.

This past summer, when my sons were visiting, they were determined to help me find the graves again. We saw a straggly bunch of trees, but I was certain this could not be the same lovely spot that I remembered. The boys insisted that we go back, and we found the stone for Cornelius was now missing; only that of Susannah remained, leaning against a tree trunk.

The large house nearby had belonged to Burton Jarvis, husband of Elizabeth Sparks, daughter of Cornelius and Susannah, married on January 2, 1840. This is likely why those graves were behind the Jarvis home, on the hill, on land once owned by Cornelius Sparks.