April 15, 2021

Pages 5596-5598
Whole Number 196


Again we are grateful to Mr. Douglas C. Schenk, a longtime member of our Association, who has sent us a number of obituaries pertaining to the Sparks family in New England that he has copied for us from old newspapers. The following obituaries were for members of the family of Joseph Sparks of Tolland County, Connect icut. Joseph Sparks was born February 3, 1761, in the town of Tolland, which was, and is, the seat of justice for the Connecticut county of the same name. He was a son of 43.2.5 Joseph and Mehetabel (Johnson) Sparks who had been married in Windham, Connecticut, on April 29, 1747. (See the Quarterly of March 1987, Whole No. 137, beginning on page 3000 for a record of Joseph's ancestry.)  He was married on December 24, 1789, to Eleanor Orcutt, a daughter of Caleb Orcutt. Joseph served in the American Revolution and later received a pension for his service. The papers pertaining to his pension, as well as those for his wife following his death, were published in the Quarterly of March 1961, Whole No.33, pp.535-39. A record of the children of Joseph and Eleanor (Orcutt) Sparks appeared in the Quarterly of March 1987, cited above, pp.3029-32.

Among the children of Joseph and Eleanor Sparks was a son named Origin Sparks, born June 23, 1800. Origin was married in Willington, Connecticut, on November 26, 1829, to Calista Converse. He died in Willington on April 2, 1852. His widow, Calista, survived him for over 45 years, dying in Willington on July 28, 1898. Mr. Schenk found her obituary in a newspaper called The StaffordPress, dated August 6, 1896. It reads as follows:

Calista Converse, widow of the late Origen Sparks, whose sickness has been mentioned in The Press, died Wednesday, 29th ult., after a distressing illness of four weeks. She was a daughter of the late Josiah Converse, brother of Parley and Solva Converse, deceased, of Stafford Springs. Since her husband's death in 1849 she has lived at the homestead with her son, Josiah, and daughter, Marian, who devoted themselves to her, and her old age (although no one thought of her as old) was passed in remarkable cheerfulness and much comfort. She had been a respected resident of this town for over 80 years, the late Leonard Holt having married her widowed mother in her early childhood. She united with the Baptist church here in 1829, and was always a devoted though not demonstrative Christian, being able to attend religious services but seldom on account of delicate health.

She was attractive in person, intelligent and pleasing, and is deeply mourned by her children and the friends to whom her quiet life is now a sacred memory. She was the mother of eight children, four of whom are now living: Henry O., Josiah C., Julia, and Marion. The funeral was attended from the house, her pastor officiating. Selections were sung by the Baptist choir, with the exception of the bass, who was absent because he was not asked to sing by those with whom the matter was left, not because of the request of the family, as was reported. The interment took place in the family lot in the old cemetery. So, one more of the very few remaining of the old pioneer stock of this ancient town ship has passed on.

The inscription on the gravestone for Calista (Converse) Sparks in the Willington Hill Old Cemetery, was transcribed for the New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Vol. 69, p.85, as: "Calista, wife of Origen Sparks, d. 7-28-1898, age 88 yrs." That for Origen in the same cemetery was copied as: "Origen Sparks, d. 4-2-1852, age 52 yrs." Because of the date (August 6, 1896) of the newspaper in which Calista's obituary appeared, there can be little doubt that she died on July 28/29, 1896, not 1898. On the other hand, the date of Origen's death engraved on his gravestone (April 2, 1852) is probably correct, rather than 1849, as given in Calista's obituary.

Other tombstones for members of the family of Origen and Calista buried in the Willington Hill Old Cemetery, have the following inscriptions, as copied for and published in the New England Historical & Genealogical Register: Caleb B. Sparks, son of Origin & Calista Sparks, died October 3, 1852. Calenda M. Sparks, dau. of Origin & Calesta Sparks, died 3-4-1883, age 44, twin of Caleb B. Sparks Maria L. Sparks, dau. of Origin & Calesta Sparks, d. 3-29-1851, age 18 yrs.

Another son of Joseph and Eleanor Sparks was Solomon Sparks, who was born in Willington, Connecticut, on March 15, 1807. His name has often been spelled "Solymon." The 1850 census taker who recorded his family gave his name as "Lyman Sparks." This was probably a nickname. No occupation was given for him in the enumeration of his family for the 1850 census.

Solomon Sparks was married on April 14, 1833, to Annis Holman in Willington, Connecticut. Annis had been born, according to her parents' family Bible, on August 20, 1810, at Union, Connecticut. She was a daughter of Rufus and Lucy (Eddy) Holman. As noted in the following obituary, appearing in the TollandCountyPress of April 28, 1881, Solomon took his own life. The date recorded in a family record was March 23, 1881.

The community was shocked by the tragic death of Solomon Sparks. To all appearances he committed suicide, but his friends hold to the theory that his death was accidental. He had, in his frequent fits of depression of spirits, threatened to hang himself, and it is thought that while experimenting with a piece of rope in his bedroom, a greater strain on the wind-pipe than was intended paralyzed him, and he was found upon his knees by the bed, strangled to death. Mr. Sparks was an old resident of this town, an industrious and honest man, but from illness while living in Rockville, he became unable to work, and was obliged to return to his native town and to be thrown upon it for support. The consciousness of this latter fact was galling to him, and, without doubt, undermined his reason.

Another son of Joseph and Eleanor Sparks was named for his father. Joseph Sparks, who was his parents' youngest child, was born June 24, 1809, in Willington, Connecticut. He was a shoemaker according to the 1850 census. He died in 1901 at Willington. He married his first wife, Mary Battey, in Willington, on October 13, 1833. Born on October 13, 1813, she was a daughter of Amasa and Sally Battey. She died in 1854, the year following the birth of her fourth child, Ellen B. Sparks. Their other three were: Andrew J. Sparks, born 1834, died 1906; Sarah Sparks, born 1836, died 1856; she married Barrett; and Mary E. Sparks, born 1846, died 1875. Ellen B. Sparks, born 1853.

Following the death of Mary (Battey) Sparks, first wife of Joseph Sparks, he was married, second, to Emily Morse (1814-1867), and, third, to Rosetta Felch (1818-1896).

The following obituary was found by Mr. Schenk in the February 20, 1879, issue of the Tolland County Press. It was for Ellen B. Sparks, the fourth and last child born to Joseph and Mary (Battey) Sparks.

A deep affliction comes to the family of Mr. Joseph Sparks in the death of Miss Ellen Sparks, the only remaining daughter. She had been ill during the winter with consumption, yet her death, which occurred on the 11th inst., was very sudden and unexpected at the time. Her father was in pursuit of a watcher for the night when her soul was transported to brighter realms. Her funeral was solemnized at her late residence. Rev. C. W. Potter spoke words of comfort and peace, choosing for his theme, the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God, from which fountain all may drink and never thirst. On the morning of the day of her death he asked her, if all was well with her soul. With firm faith and a heavenly smile, she answered, "0, Yes, all is well." "Such hopes when on the borders of the eternal world light up the darkness, and to the bereaved ones it is a source of great comfort," said the pastor, and, he adds, "we often wonder why the modest and virtuous and lovely ones are taken from us, but we must remember that eternity wants the brightest and best." A beautiful thought. But one child now remains of the once happy family--Andrew J. Sparks of New York. The family is directly descended from the celebrated historian--Hon. Jared Sparks.

The person who prepared this obituary was mistaken in stating that the family of Joseph Sparks was "directly descended from the celebrated historian--Hon. Jared Sparks." Jared Sparks (1789-1866) was a brother (possibly a half-brother) of Joseph Sparks, as well as Solomon and Origen Sparks, thus an uncle of Ellen B. Sparks. In the Quarterly of March 1961, Whole No. 33, pp.531-34, we published a biographical sketch of Jared Sparks, with his portrait on the cover. Of all the thousands of persons named Sparks who have lived and died in the United States, Jared Sparks, noted author and the 18th President of Harvard University, is the one scholar we meet most frequently in historical and literary studies, even today.