April 24, 2021

Pages 5592-5596
Whole Number 196


In the Quarterly of June 1976, Whole No. 94, on page 1832, we published a photograph of three women that had been taken in Markle, Indiana, probably in the mid-1870s. The original had been loaned to us by Florence N. DeSelms of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mrs. DeSelms was a granddaughter of Mary Ellen (Sparks) Wilcoxson, born January 2, 1832, who was standing behind the other two ladies in the photograph, both of whom were seated.  Mrs.. DeSelms could not identify either of the two seated ladies. When we published this photograph 1976, we invited any reader who could identify either, or both, of the "mystery women" to share the information with us.

Mary Ellen (Sparks) Wilcoxson (1832-1913) - Standing
Lydia (Sparks) Brown (Born 1816) - Seated on Viewer's Left
Is the Lady on the Right a Sister of Mary Ellen and Lydia?

In the March 2000 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 189, we published an article entitled "Some Descendants of Solomon Sparks, Jr. (Died 1817) of Wilkes County, North Carolina." On page 5290 of that issue, we again included the above photograph, with the repeated hope that a descendant of one of the unidentified women might recognize her from another old photograph in his or her possession. Happily, a young lady named Sarah Brown of Oak Creek, Wisconsin, recently did, indeed, recognize the lady seated on viewer's left in this photograph as her great-great-great-grandmother, Lydia (Sparks) Brown, sister of Mary Ellen. Lydia Sparks had been born in Wilkes County, North Carolina, on May 11, 1816.

Sarah Brown, who had but recently begun doing research into her family history, had received from a cousin the photograph appearing on the cover of the present issue of the Quarterly. (Sarah had not yet been born when we published the above photo in 1976.) Lydia (Sparks) Brown, who was nearly 16 years older than her sister, Mary Ellen (Sparks) Wilcoxson, was obviously younger when the picture that we are using on the cover was taken than she was when she posed for the above photograph. We may now speculate that the lady sitting on the viewer's right in the above photograph was probably another sister. There are five possibilities among the sisters who apparently lived beyond young adulthood and could be she. All were daughters of George and Delila Sparks who came from North Carolina to Randolph County, Indiana, prior to 1830. These five were:

Lodiceo ["Dicy"] Sparks, born September 28, 1807. She married Richard Vernon.
Elizabeth ["Betsy"] Sparks, born January 10, 1811. She married Mordecai Samuels.
Sarah ["Sally"] Sparks, born November 10, 1812. She married James Johnson.
Matilda Sparks, born July 20, 1818. She married John Jackson Grant.

Delilah Sparks, born January 26,1830. She married David C. Conklin. Her photograph, at age 91, appeared on page 394 of the June 1959 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No. 26. [To the editor's untrained eye, Delilah does not resemble the unidentified lady in the photograph on the previous page.]

Although Mary Ellen and Lydia Sparks had two other sisters, both had died prior to 1845, the year in which their father's estate had been settled. They were:

Phereby (or Faribee) Sparks, born November 10, 1812, who married Wiseman Brown, and
Jane Sparks, born July 7, 1824.

In all, George and Delila Sparks were the parents of thirteen children. The nine daughters identified above had four brothers:

Aaron Sparks, born April 14, 1809;
George Sparks Jr., born January 31, 1820;
Solomon Sparks, born October 5, 1822; and
Abel Sparks, born in May 1827.

In the Quarterly of March 2000, noted above, we gave a record of this branch of the Sparks family that will not be repeated here, except to note that our information on Lydia (Sparks) Brown had been limited to her date of birth and her marriage. We are now able to provide the following information about her through her great-great-great-granddaughter, Sarah Brown.

Lydia Sparks, daughter of George and Delila Sparks, was born May 11, 1816, in Wilkes County, North Carolina. She accompanied her parents and several siblings in their move to Indiana prior to 1830, settling in that part of Randolph County that helped to form Wells County when it was created in 1835. The record of the marriage of Lydia Sparks to Thomas Brown has been preserved in Randolph County:

"...State of Indiana, Randolph County, I Jonathan Shaw, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church hereby certify that on the 30th of March 1834, I joined in marriage Thomas Brown and Lydia Sparks, as witness my hand this the 14th day of June 1834."

Members of the Brown family had also moved from Wilkes County, North Carolina, to Randolph County, Indiana, at or near the same time as the Sparks family. Thomas Brown, husband of Lydia Sparks, had been born in Wilkes County in 1809. He was a son of James and Suckey (Alvey) Brown who had been married in Wilkes County on August 10, 1808.

The Sparks and Brown families lived in that part of Randolph County that was cut off to form Wells County, Indiana, in 1835. Based on census and family records provided by Sarah Brown, Thomas and Lydia (Sparks) Brown were the parents of the following children:

1. Elizabeth Brown, born ca. 1836.
2. Joseph Brown, born January 10, 1838. He married (first) Elizabeth Campbell on November 22, 1863, and (second) to Mary Melissa Niman on September 3, 1871. He enlisted in the Civil War on July 30, 1862, as a private in Company K, 75th Indiana Infantry Regiment, and was discharged on January 12, 1863. He died on August 16, 1926, and was buried in the Oak Lawn Cemetery in Ossian, Indiana.
3. John Brown, born ca. 1839.
4. Henry Brown, born ca. 1841.
5. Mary Brown, born ca. 1845.
6. Abel Brown, born ca. 1847.
7. Lydia Armedia Brown, born ca. 1849.
8. William W. Brown, born ca. 1850.
9. Charles Brown, born February 11, 1855.
10. Melissa J. Brown, born ca. 1856.

Charles (1855-1922) was a Son of Thomas and Lydia (Sparks) Brown

Charles Brown, born February 11, 1855, the 9th child of Thomas and Lydia (Sparks) Brown, married Mary Jane Rinker on May 18, 1882, in Huntington County, Indiana. (A photograph of them appears at the top of this page.) Mary Jane, who had been born on January 18, 1863, was a daughter of George and Nancy (Houser) Rinker. George Rinker was born in May 1830 in Ohio; he died between 1900 and 1910. Nancy (Houser) Rinker, the second wife of George Rinker, was born in September 1836, also in Ohio; she died after 1910. Charles and Mary Brown were the parents of seven children:

1. Nellie Brown married FNU Crist.
2. Rosa Brown was born December 26, 1884, and died on April 22,1962.
3. William Clifford Brown was born July 3, 1886, and died on February 18, 1975. (He was Sarah Brown's great-grandfather.)
4. Frank Sheridan Brown was born April 20, 1888.

5. Ethel Fronie Brown was born February 25, 1889.
6. Garle Brown was born in November 1893.
7. Ross H. Brown was born March 9, 1896; he died on May 4, 1970.

Charles Brown, son of Thomas and Lydia (Sparks) Brown, died on May 7, 1922, in Union Township, Huntington County, Indiana. His wife, Mary Jane (Rinker) Brown, died on July 7, 1926. Both were buried in Union Church Cemetery, Huntington County, Indiana.