April 12, 2021
Whole Number 198
184.108.40.206.1.9 BENJAMIN SPARKS (1769/70-1850)
Son of 220.127.116.11.1 William and Ann Sparks
by Russell E. Bidlack
18.104.22.168.1.9 Benjamin Sparks was a son of 22.214.171.124.1 William and Ann Sparks of Maryland and North Carolina who were featured in a lengthy article in the June 1991 issue of the Quarterly, No. 154. Benjamin was, we believe, the ninth of the ten childen of William and Ann Sparks who had come from Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin in 1763 (then part of Rowan County, North Carolina). William purchased land from his
older brother, 126.96.36.199.2 Matthew Sparks (died 1793) in the part of Rowan County that is today Davie County, and it was there that Benjamin was born in either 1769 or 1770. In 1773, however, Benjamin's parents moved with their younger children, including Benjamin, to Surry County, North Carolina. This move was not far, however, because until 1770, Surry had been part of Rowan County. Benjamin Sparks was a lad of only three or four years when the family made this move.
As was explained in the article on Benjamin Sparks's parents in the June 1991 issue of the Quarterly, settlers in Surry and other counties in the Granville domain could not purchase tracts in this vast area of rich and largely unoccupied land after 1763 because there was no one with the authority to sell it.
The Carolinas had been a single "proprietary colony" created by King Charles II in 1663 as a reward to eight English noblemen who had helped him to regain the throne following Cromwell's rule. In 1711, however, the portion of the colony that became South Carolina (a Royal Colony) had been restored to the Crown, and in 1728 King George II offered 2,500 pounds to each heir of the original eight proprietors for his share of North Carolina. Seven agreed to sell, but the Right Honourable John Earl Granville declined to give up his share that stretched from the Virginia border on the north to the parallel line on the south, which was the lower level of Rowan County. While he had no role in governing his portion of North Carolina, Lord Granville alone could sell portions of his land and collect quit-rents thereafter. Never leaving England himself, Granville appointed agents to act for him in making these sales. When he died in 1763 amidst the turmoil of the approaching Revolution, however, Granville's heirs did not continue to maintain the land offices. Unable to obtain a legal title, William Sparks, like many other prospective buyers, simply chose a tract to occupy and improve with the expectation that the time would come when he could purchase and obtain a deed for it.
The practice of "squatting" on a tract of land until a purchase could be made was a common practice among American pioneers. The boundary lines marked by the initial "squatter" were usually respected by his later "squatting" neighbors as they determined their own boundaries.
William Sparks selected a tract comprising 200 acres on the North Branch of Hunting Creek. It was less than a mile south of what would become later a little village called Cycle on what is now known as "Old Highway 421" in Buck Shoals Township of Yadkin County. (Yadkin County was created in 1850 from the part of Surry County that lay below the Yadkin River; Yadkin County's southwest corner is Buck Shoals Township and adjoins Wilkes County on the west.) Cycle never consisted of more than a store and a few houses, and it disappeared after the path of Highway 421 was changed a number of years ago. It was there that Benjamin Sparks spent his childhood.
As was noted in the June 1991 article on William and Ann Sparks, the funds that William Sparks had from the sale of his land in the Forks of the Yadkin, enabled him not only to build a substantial cabin for his family but, also, to construct a gristmill on North Hunting Creek for the benefit not only of his own household, but for his neighbors as well. A grist mill was essential to every community in those days, providing a service for which others were glad to pay, although often in kind. For many years deeds for land near William's mill contained references to the "Sparks Mill Tract."
It was in 1778 that the new state of North Carolina confiscated "the Granville dominion" and offered the land therein, along with proper titles, to settlers for relatively small fees. Preference of occupied sites was reserved for "squatters" who had built "improvements" on the tracts of land on which they had "squatted." It was required, however, that all tracts be surveyed and claim numbers assigned. There was another requirement, however: each claimant must take an oath of allegiance to the state of North Carolina, thus renouncing his loyalty to the Crown of England. This William Sparks refused to do, even though "squatters" had only until January 1, 1779, to submit their claim to the land on which they had been living. Like a number of other Surry County pioneers, William had not hidden the fact that he was a Loyalist.
The refusal of a number of "squatters" to sign the oath of allegiance to North Carolina provided an opportunity for aggressive "Patriots" to lay claim to Loyalists' land and improvements. On September 7, 1778, a wealthy local Patriot, William Terrel Lewis, entered, in his own name, Surry County Claim #680 for 200 acres "on the waters of Hunting Creek, including William Sparks' mill and plantation." Probably the wealthiest man then living in Surry County, Lewis was also a "bounty hunter" who was receiving rewards for capturing deserters from the American Army. He was making other land claims against his Loyalist neighbors at the same time that he attempted to cheat William Sparks out of his property. Illustrative of his wealth, and, therefore, local influence and power, of the 49 slave owners in Surry County when the first census was taken, Lewis owned a total of 58 slaves, twice the number owned by anyone else in the county.
Having no title to his land and mill, William Sparks could not deed them to his son, Matthew Sparks, who was willing to sign the loyalty oath, so William very cleverly used a simple "Bill of Sale" to accomplish the same purpose. When the County Court met for its quarterly session in November in 1878, he was granted the right to have it officially recorded in Will Book I, page 121. It reads as follows:
Know all men by these presents that I William Sparks of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina for and in Consideration of the sum of one Hundred Pounds to me in hand paid by Matthew Sparks of the County and State aforesaid have Bargained and sold unto the Said Matthew Sparks One Grist Mill and Improvement of land lying and being in Surry County on the North fork of hunting Creek. Which Mill and Improvement I do warrant unto the said Matthew Sparks from any person or persons Laying any Just Claim thereunto Except the Lord of the Soil.
Given under my hand this 12th day of September 1778.
William o Sparks
The Execution of the within Bill of sale was acknowledged in open court by the sd. Wm Sparks and ordered to be recorded.
Recorded accordingly & & [signed] JO Williams C.C.
It was his his bill of sale and Matthew's willingness to sign the oath that saved William Sparks from financial ruin. (We may wonder whether the hundred pounds was actually paid by Matthew to his father.) On March 9, 1780, Matthew was able to transfer back to his father the original 200-acre tract on which he had "squatted" seven years earlier. Matthew continued to operate the grist mill, however.
It does not appear that William Sparks suffered from his Loyalist sympathies after the Revolution ended in 1781. He was able to purchase a number of tracts of land in the 1780s and 1790s in Surry County.
As readers of the Sparks Quarterly know, the editor makes frequent use of census records in tracing the Sparks family history. The first U.S. census was taken in 1790, with another taken every ten years thereafter. Unfortunately for today's researcher, it was only the head of each household (family) that was recorded until the 1850 census. Until then, the members of a household were simply enumerated by sex and age category, including the head him/or herself. Among women for census purposes, only widows could head a household in those days.
In 1790, the age groupings for males were only two: those 16 and over and those under 16; for females, only the total of all ages in each household was reported. William Sparks was named on the 1790 census of Surry County, his household consisting of one male over 16 (himself, no doubt) and one male under 16. There were two females. The male under 16 may have been a grandson. William and Ann's daughter, Margaret, born ca. 1764, had been married to William Gibson in 1782; she had died quite young, leaving an infant son who may have been reared by Margaret's parents. Of the six sons of William and Ann Sparks, the three oldest were shown as heads of households in Surry County on the 1790 census: William Sparks, Jr., born ca. 1750; Matthew Sparks, born ca. 1752; and George Sparks, born ca. 1758/ 60. We cannot account for the fourth son, James Sparks, on the 1790 census--he had been born ca. 1762. James was included on the 1800 census of Surry County, however. Likewise, we cannot account for William and Ann's youngest sons when the 1790 census was taken. Benjamin would have been about 20 years of age then, while Jeremiah would have been about 18. Since they were not living "at home" in 1790 according to the census, we can speculate that they were employed by a neighbor, in which case they would have been enumerated in his/her household. by 1800, Jeremiah had moved to Burke County, North Carolina, while Benjamin was shown as head of his small family in Surry County when the 1800 census was taken; he and his wife had two children, a son and a daughter, both enumerated in the "under 10" age category. (The age categories used prior to 1850 varied with each census.)
Our earliest official record in Surry County, North Carolina, bearing Benjamin's name is his marriage bond dated January 18, 1797. This bond, signed by a well-to-do neighbor, John Allen, enabled Benjamin Sparks and Elizabeth Hicks to be married on a future date of their choosing. The marriage bond law existed in North Carolina from 1741 until 1868. The bondsman under this law certified, in effect, that the proposed marriage would be legal in every sense. The groom was also charged a fee for a license authorizing a minister or justice of the peace to perform the ceremony. A marriage, without securing a bond and paying a fee for the license, could be performed after the "crying of the banns" for three weeks, such as announcing the intended union in church on three successive Sundays or posting a notice in a public place for a like period of time. To a considerable degree, the use of a marriage bond suggested that the groom was from a family of some means.
Thus far we have been unable to identify the parents of Elizabeth Hicks, wife of Benjamin Sparks. There were three Hicks households in Surry County in 1790 according to the census of that year. Because census takers recorded households in the order that they travelled from one cabin to the next, we have clues regarding the probable nearness to, or distance from, that families were living in relationship to each other. For example, the names of the three oldest sons of William and Ann Sparks were recorded in 1790 very near the household of their parents in Surry County. It may be significant that a John Hicks was shown as head of a household near those of the Sparkses. A Nathaniel Hicks also headed a household in Surry County in which there were five females. Might one of these five have been the future wife of Benjamin Sparks?
As we have noted earlier, Benjamin's father made his will on December 21, 1801. The original of this brief document has been preserved and was reproduced on page 3791 of the June 1991 issue of the Quarterly. In his will he left a few specific items to Ann, his wife, but directed that everything else that he owned, "be it Land or Moveable propertie," be sold and "the money Equally and peaceably divided amongst my Children and wife, she Taking an Equal Share with One of the Children." His son-in-law, William Wilcockson (husband of his daughter, Nancy) was designated by William Sparks to be an executor of his estate, along with three of his sons: William, Jr., Thomas, and George. His youngest son, Jeremiah Sparks, was a witness, along with neighbors named Richard Gentry and Major Austil.
William Sparks's will was probated at the May 1802 session of the Surry County Court, thus revealing that he had died between December 1801 and May 1802. A record survives, made at the public sale of his "moveable property." listing each of the purchasers, but not the items that they bought. Benjamin Sparks paid 24 pounds and 1 shilling for one or more items. When this same record was copied from the original into the Court's proceedings, the amounts were converted into either "Hard money" or "Currency." Benjamin's payment was shown there under "Hard money" as $24.121. There was also a purchaser at the sale named James Hicks who paid 1 pound, 6 shillings, and 6 pence in "Currency." He was probably a relative of Benjamin's wife.
On 3 February 1801, in the same year that William Sparks made his will, he sold to his son, Benjamin, a tract of land in Surry County for "fifty Pounds Current money of the state of North Carolina." William had owned this 200-acre tract since July 9, 1774, when it was granted to him by the state. As seen in the description that follows, it adjoined land owned by Gilbert Keen that was described in other deeds as located on Beaver Dam Creek in what is now Knobs Township of Yadkin County, near the town of Jonesville. (The description in Benjamin's deed reads as follows in Surry County Deed Book E, page 179):
. . . a certain Tract or Parcel of Land lying and being in the aforesaid County of Surry joining Gilbert Keen's line beginning at the two black oaks & Post oak, then running North thirty five chains to two Post oaks, then East crossing two Branches fifty seven Chains fourteen links to two Post oaks, then south thirty five Chains to a Stake, then west fifty seven Chains fourteen links to the beginning, including two hundred Acres of Land...
The two witnesses to William Sparks making his mark (signature) on this deed were his son, George Sparks, and a Richard Gentry, a neighbor. (In linear measurement then used in surveying, a chain was 66 feet in length, while a link was 7.92 inches; there were 100 links in a chain.)
Benjamin Sparks, the subject of this sketch, was probably just under the age of 30 when he acquired this land from his father. Care must be taken as we trace the life of Benjamin further lest we confuse him with another Benjamin Sparks, fifteen years his junior, who also lived in Surry County. born ca. 1785, he was a son of Reuben and Cassie Sparks. Not only were the two Benjamins related, they also knew each other personally, as had their fathers and grandfathers.
The two Benjamin Sparkses were actually third cousins, both being great-greatgrandsons of the William Sparks who migrated from Hampshire County, England, to Maryland ca. 1663. (See the Quarterly of March 1971, No. 73, and December 1992, No. 160.) Their grandfathers (William Sample Sparks and Solomon Sparks) had moved from Frederick County, Maryland, to the Forks of the Yadkin (now Davie County, North Carolina), although not at the same time, and their fathers (William Sparks, whose wife was Ann, and Reuben, whose wife was Sarah), were living near each other in Surry County, North Carolina, at the time of the American Revolution. There being about fifteen years difference in their ages, the younger Benjamin, son of Reuben, was sometimes called "junior," as in 1818 when both were taxed in Joshua K. Speer's District. It was probably to help identify these two men that the younger Benjamin seems to have been called "Bennie" throughout his adult life. He died in Yadkin County in 1876 whereas Benjamin, subject of the present sketch, died in 1850 in Caldwell County, North Carolina.
On the following page is a chart showing the descent of the two Benjamins from their common ancestor.
1.2 William Sparks, born ca. 1646 in Hampshire County, England,
died in 1709 in Queen Annes Countv. Maryland
|1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr
died after 1734
|Brothers||1.2.5 Joseph Sparks
|188.8.131.52 William Sample Sparks
died ca. 1765
|First cousins||184.108.40.206 Solomon Sparks
died before 1800
|220.127.116.11.1 William Sparks
|Second Cousins||18.104.22.168.3 Reuben Sparks
|22.214.171.124.1.9 Benjamin Sparks
|Third cousins||126.96.36.199.3.4 Benjamin Sparks (Bennie)
born ca. 1785
For biographical information regarding Benjamin Sparks (ca.1785-1876), son of 188.8.131.52.3 Reuben and Cassie (Buttery) Sparks, see the Quarterly of September 1967, No. 59. This Benjamin Sparks was callled "Bennie." He married Susan Jeffreys (or Jeffrey), daughter of William and Patsey Jeffreys (or Jeffrey), and they were the parents of eleven children listed there.
On July 9, 1808, Benjamin Sparks (1769/70-1850) sold to his brother, George Sparks, the 200-acre tract that he had purchased in 1801 from his father. (See Surry County Deed Book M, p.45.) George paid Benjamin $40 for this land. The description of the tract in this 1808 deed was the same as in 1801 except that the measurement on its north side was given as 32 chains rather than 35, with the same difference on the south side. It is of interest to note in both descriptions of this tract that it adjoined Gilbert Keen's land. In 1795, George Sparks had purchased 200 acres from Gilbert Keen described as being "on the waters of Beverdam Creek at the foot of the Brushy Mountain" for "five pounds current money of North Carolina." (Surry County Deed Book G, p.280.) In this 1795 deed, Gilbert Keen was identified as of Oglethorpe County, Georgia, the tract having been granted originally to Josiah Keen.
George Sparks, to whom Benjamin sold his land in 1808, was an older brother born ca. 1760. He was listed regularly in the Surry County census from 1790 through 1840. He died in the autumn of 1842. (See the Quarterly of June 1983, No. 122, pp.2520-22, for information on him and his family.)
As was noted earlier, Benjamin obtained his marriage bond to marry Elizabeth Hicks in January 1795, and when the 1800 census of Surry County was taken, he was shown as heading a household that included two small children in addition to his wife. The age categories numbered five for both males and females in 1800: from 1 to 10; 10 to 16; 16 to 26; 26 to 45; and 45 and over. Benjamin, himself, was enumerated in the 45 and over category while his wife was shown in the 26 to 45 group; also in Benjamin's household in 1800 were two small children, doubtless his and Elizabeth's own, a boy and a girl, both under 10 years. Considering the marriage date (1795) of their parents, they were probably no more than 4 or 5 years old.
Few records have been found in Surry County pertaining to Benjamin Sparks after he sold his 200-acre tract to his brother in 1808. When the 1810 census was taken there, he was shown as heading his household, with himself in the age category of 26 to 45 as was also a female who was surely his wife, Elizabeth. Benjamin and Elizabeth were now the parents of five children: 2 males and 1 female, under age 10; and 1 male and 1 female between 10 and 16.
Although our evidence is largely of the circumstantial type, this writer is convinced that the boy shown in Benjamin's household in 1800 as under the age of 10, and in 1810 as between age 10 and 16, was named Allen. This was a new forename in this branch of the Sparks family, and we wonder whether there was a connection between the Allen and Sparks families, recalling that it had been John Allen who served as bondsman in Benjamin's marriage to Elizabeth Hicks in 1795. It was also ca. 1795 that Thomas Sparks (born c.1766), brother of Benjamin, named a son Allen. This Allen Sparks accompanied his father to Lee County, Virginia, and from there to Kentucky, where in 1822 he married Elizabeth Kozee. (See the Quarterly of December 1991, No. 156, for an article on Thomas Sparks and his son Allen Sparks (p.3861).
by the time the 1820 census was taken, Allen Sparks, son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks, had been married and had moved to Burke County, North Carolina, with his family. Burke County had been created in 1777 from Rowan County just as Surry County had been six years earlier. Wilkes and and Iredell Counties lay be tween Surry and Burke, Wilkes having been created from Surry County in 1777 and Iredell from Rowan in 1778. Jeremiah Sparks, born ca. 1772 (the last of the children of William and Ann Sparks) had moved to Burke County before 1820; we can conjecture that Allen and his Uncle Jeremiah may have gone there together. Allen was shown on the 1820 census as heading a household in which he, himself, was enumerated as between 26 and 45 while his wife was between 16 and 26. The two children, a boy and a girl under age 10, were doubtless their own.
Both Jeremiah Sparks and his nephew, Allen, were probably influenced in making their decision to move to Burke County by the fact that Jeremiah's oldest brother, William Sparks, Jr. (born ca. 1750), had gone there from Surry County as early as 1798. From later records, it appears that, like William, Jr., the Sparkses that followed him there settled in the part of Burke County that became part of Caldwell County when it was created in 1841.
Benjamin Sparks was still living in Surry County when the 1820 census was taken. His household was enumerated that year as follows:
1 male age 45 & over (Benjamin, himself)
1 female age 45 & over (Elizabeth, his wife)
2 males & 1 female ages between 16 & 26
2 males & 1 female ages between 10 & 16
We can speculate that the members of Benjamin and Elizabeth's household in 1820 included a son, possibly two, a daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. It was shortly after the 1820 census was taken that Benjamin and Elizabeth, probably with other members of their family, followed Allen Sparks to Burke County.
Genealogical research in Burke County is greatly handicapped by the courthouse fire there just at the close of the Civil War in 1865. While a few of the County's records were saved, most were destroyed. This writer's inquiry in 1952 addressed to the Clerk of Probate of Burke County regarding Sparks records, prompted the following cryptic response: "NO RECORDS PRIOR TO CIVIL WAR, 1865, DESTROYED BY YANKIES."
As noted earlier, the Sparkses who moved from Surry County to Burke County settled in that part of Burke through which Bear Creek flows, and when Caldwell County was created in 1841, they found themselves in the new county. That Benjamin and Elizabeth's son-in-law had been appointed by the Caldwell County Court to serve as their trustee is proven by the Court's action during its July 1842 session:
Allowance ordered by the Court that the sum of $20.00 be allowed Benjamin Sparks & Elizabeth Sparks and that the County Trustee pay the same to Henry Craig as Trustee for the aforesaid Persons
Henry Craig had been married a decade earlier to Benjamin and Elizabeth's youngest daughter, named Elizabeth.
We have no further record of Benjamin and Elizabeth Sparks in Caldwell County until the 1850 census was taken. Not only was it the first federal census to record the names of all free persons, but also the age, sex, color, place of birth, and occupation of each individual. Other questions asked by the 1850 census taker included the identification of anyone deaf, dumb, blind, or insane, whether one could read and write, if married within the year, etc. Unfortunately, it was not until the 1880 census that relationships were shown among household members to the head.
The so-called "census day" for the 1850 census was set as June 1, 1850, meaning that it was on this day that all census takers were to begin visiting the dwellings in the districts assigned to them to gather the information required to fill out the printed forms ("census schedules") provided to each one. Regardless of the num ber of days required to visit every household assigned to him, the census taker was directed to record the family data as they had existed on June 1st. Thus, one's age was to be given as it had been on June 1st. and if a baby had been born in the family after the "census day," he/she was not to be recorded. Likewise, a deceased family member who had still been living on June 1, 1850, was to be entered. The date on which a census taker completed his "survey" might be in the autumn or even the winter of 1850/51.
A feature included in the 1850 census that can prove significant to a genealogist was the requirement that the census taker enquire in each household whether there had been a death in the family during the year prior to June 1, 1850, i.e., between June 1, 1849, and May 31, 1850. If there had been such a death, the census taker entered that person on the "mortality schedule" of 1850. Not only was the name of the deceased person to be recorded, but also the month in which he/she had died, the cause of his/her death, the number of days of illness before death, the person's age and, if an adult, his/her marital status.
It is in the 1850 Mortality Schedule for Caldwell County, North Carolina, that we learn it was in May 1850 when Benjamin Sparks died there. His age at death was 70; he had been born in North Carolina, and he had died of "fits," although the number of days he had been ill was not provided. Benjamin's marital status when he died was erroneously reported as "widowed." Actually, Elizabeth, his wife, lived until after the census of 1860 was taken. Her age then was reported as 80. Perhaps Benjamin and Elizabeth had been living with different members of their family, and the census taker just assumed that Benjamin was a widower.
Elizabeth, widow of Benjamin, age 70, was shown as a member of a household headed by Sarah Sparks, age 50, in Summer's District of Caldwell County on the 1850 census. In reporting the place of birth for each person in 1850, the census taker was directed to record simply the name of the state for those born in the U. S. The census taker in Summer's District, however, frequently added the name of the county for those born in North Carolina. Sarah's place of birth was given as Surry County, North Carolina. We have not identified her, although we wonder whether she might have been the widow of a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth, or possibly an unmarried daughter. Also living in Sarah's household in 1850 was 26-year-old Elizabeth Sparks, born in Virginia, who was "insane" and 21-year-old Benjamin Sparks, born in Burke County, North Carolina. The birthplace for Elizabeth Sparks, age 70, was given as Maryland. The household of Sarah Sparks immediately followed that of James Sparks, age 48, on page 8 of the 1850 census whom we are certain was a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth. (See below for more on James Sparks.)
When the 1860 census was taken, Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks was living in the household of her son-in-law and youngest daughter, Henry and Elizabeth Craig in Caldwell County, North Carolina. This is our last record pertaining to Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks.
From census and family records, it appears that Benjamin and Elizabeth Sparks were the parents of seven children:
184.108.40.206.1.9.1 Allen Sparks, born ca.1798.
220.127.116.11.1.9.2 An unidentified daughter, born ca.1799.
18.104.22.168.1.9.3 James Sparks, born ca. 1802.
22.214.171.124.1.9.4 (?) William Sparks, born ca.1804.
126.96.36.199.1.9.5 (?) Susannah Sparks, born ca.1806.
188.8.131.52.1.9.6 (?) George Sparks, born ca.1808.
184.108.40.206.1.9.7 Elizabeth Sparks, born October 4, 1812.
220.127.116.11.1.9.1 Allen Sparks was born ca. 1798 in Surry County, North Carolina. Although we have found no specific document identifying Allen as a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Yates) Sparks, we are convinced, based on circumstantial evidence, that he was their eldest son.
A great-grandson of Jeremiah Sparks, the younger brother of Benjamin Sparks, named the Rev. John Yates Sparks with whom the present writer corresponded in 1952, remembered that his grandfather, Matthew Sparks (1813-1892), had been a close friend of Allen Sparks. John Yates Sparks had been born in 1870 and had always lived in Mitchell County, North Carolina. He remembered that he had had numerous conversations with his grandfather and that he, Matthew Sparks, had often spoken of his close friend and relative, Allen Sparks. Allen and Matthew Sparks were first cousins, but there had been another family connection: Matthew's first wife, Elizabeth Buchanan (1820-1877), had been an older sister of Mary Buchanan, the first wife of Allen's son, Wilson Sparks. John Yates Sparks remembered several of Allen's children.
When Allen Sparks made his will on January 19, 1849, he made provision for his wife whom he named as "Basheba Sparks." The spelling of her name was actually Beersheba as shown on the 1850 census of Yancey County, North Carolina, where her age was given as 54 years (thus born ca. 1796) and a native of North Carolina. Her household consisted of four young men named Sparks, sons of her late husband: George Sparks, age 19; Allen Sparks [Jr.], age 17; Reuben Sparks, age 12; and Whitfield Sparks, age 7. We would assume the Beersheba was their mother, as well as the mother of the older six children of Allen. However, when Whitfield Sparks, the youngest of Allen Sparks's children, died on December 4, 1913, and a death certificate was prepared for him, a copy of which was recorded in Mitchell County's Probate Book 1, page 391, the mother of Whitfield was given as Susan Buchanan. If this is true, Allen Sparks must have been married to Beersheba quite late in life, and the four Sparks brothers living with her in 1850 would have been step-sons.
Errors have been made in preparing death certificates on many occasions before and since that for Whitfield Sparks, and this writer is inclined to believe that Beersheba had been Allen's only wife and the mother of all of his children. In support of this belief is that there is also an error on Whitfield's death certificate regarding his date of birth, given as August 10, 1840. His date of birth was given by Whitfield himself before a notary public on May 28, 1812 in his application for a Civil War pension, as April 29, 1842.
Allen Sparks moved from Surry to Burke County after 1810 with his wife and two small children, a boy and a girl, both of whom were marked on the census of 1810 in the "under 10" age category. Benjamin Sparks, whom we are certain was Allen's father, was still in Surry County when the 1820 census was taken, but shortly thereafter he, with his wife, also moved to Burke County, North Carolina. He and Allen followed two of Benjamin's brothers in making this move: William Sparks, Jr. and Jeremiah Sparks.
Allen Sparks lived in that part of Burke County that became part of Yancey County in 1833, although he obtained a grant of 150 acres from the state of North Carolina on December 28, 1836, that was actually in Burke County, (Grant No. 5818). This tract of land was described in the grant as located "on a branch of Bear Creek." On this same date, however, Allen Sparks also received two other grants from the state for land located in Yancey County, each for 50 acres (Grants Nos. 103 and 108). One of these was described as being on "the waters of Bare [Bear] Creek," and the other "on lower end of Old Road Ridge." From the location of these grants, it would appear that Allen Sparks lived near what was then the dividing line between Burke and Yancey Counties; it would now be the line between Yancey and Mitchell Counties. Mitchell County was created in 1861 from Burke, Caldwell, McDowell, and Watauga Counties.
When the 1830 census of Burke County was taken, Allen Sparks was shown with six children, three boys and three girls. We have not found him on the 1840 census--he was apparently simply missed by the census taker or he and his family were living in someone else's household.
by January 1849, Allen Sparks appears to have become seriously ill, and on January 19, 1849, he made his will. He died later the same year, but we have not learned the month and the day. His tombstone in the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery at Ledger in Mitchell County gives only the year, 1849. He thus died shortly before the death of his father in May 1850.
His will reads as follows:
North Carolina, Yancey County, January 19th, 1849.
As it is appointed unto all men once to die, 1, Allen Sparks, in my proper senses at this time, but feeling myself bound to Eternity in a short time in hopes of a better world through what Jesus has done, I therefore leave the following as my last will and testament.
I therefore choose and appoint Harden Sparks and S. M. Collis as Executors of my will. I design therefore that they shall sell a sufficiency of my loose property to pay my just debts. Then I design that they shall pay my daughter, Nancy Patton, to the amount of fifteen dollars in trade. Then the balance of my loose property and my tract of land where I now live is vested in the hand of my Executors as their right and property for the express purpose of maintaining my wife, Basheba Sparks, her life time, and also for schooling of my four youngest children. And when my youngest son, Whitfield, comes of age I design that my Executors shall sell the above mentioned tract of land and that the amount that it brings be equally divided between my five youngest children, four sons and one daughter, the last to be paid from the production of the land and also my tract of land where my son, James, now lives.[signed] Allen Sparks
The two men whom Allen Sparks chose as executors were a son and a son-in-law. When the 1850 census of Yancey County was taken, Allen Sparks's widow, Beersheba Sparks, was shown as age 54 and head of her household, her husband having died in 1849. Four young men named Sparks were living with her: George, Allen, Reuben, and Whitfield. As noted earlier, we believe that they were sons of Beersheba as well as of Allen Sparks, although, as noted above, they could have been step-sons of Beersheba.
While Allen Sparks did not name all of his children in his will, we believe that we have a complete list based on census records, information provided by John Yates Sparks in 1952, and by two of Allen's descendants. Children of Allen Sparks:
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Hardin J. Sparks (sometimes his name appears as Harden and even Hardy) was born ca. 1818, probably after his parents had moved from Surry to Yancey County. He married Elizabeth Thomas, and they are believed to have had ten children, the first three having been born in North Carolina before Hardin moved his family to Union County, Georgia, in the 1850s. Hardin served in the Confederate Army (23rd Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry). He died January 13, 1888. His and Elizabeth's children are believed to have been the following (according to a descendant, Kenneth Patterson).
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1 Nancy Maria Sparks, born in 1845, died 1900; married Jesse C. Dean;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.2 Stephen A. Sparks, born November 1, 1847; he married Telitha Wise;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.3 Barshiba ["Basha"] M. Sparks, born in March 1850;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.4 Elmira (or Mary Elmira) [ "Polly" ] Sparks, born in 1853, she married William Boyd Conley (born April 11, 1849, died July 18, 1889) ;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.5 Hulda Melissa Sparks, born July 18, 1855, died September 13, 1940, married Donithan Kinsey Cearley in Union County, Georgia, June 15, 1871;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.6 Eliza Ann Sparks born in 1861; she married Dotry Lance;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.7 William A. Sparks born in 1864;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.8 Rosilla Dove Sparks was born February 27, 1867, and died December 7, 1939, she was married on August 6, 1888, to James Alonzo Patterson (born November 30, 1855, died December 5, 1940) a son of William H. Patterson;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.9 Jeremiah Sparks born 1868; and
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.10 James Gracen Sparks was born December 8, 1872; he married Anna Belle Curtis.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Mary ["Polly"] Sparks was born June 10, 1820; she died on January 24, 1894. She was married on October 1, 1839, by Thomas Sparks, a justice of the peace, at the home of her father, to Stephen Morgan Collis. He had been born in Burke County, North Carolina, on January 30, 1818, and died in Mitchell County, North Carolina, on April 10, 1890. He was a Baptist minister of some note; a biographical sketch for him appeared in James Oliver Young's _A Baptist Looks Back (Boone, N. C., 1968). He and Hardin J. Sparks were designated executors by Allen Sparks in his will in 1849. Stephen and Mary (Sparks) Collis were the parents of a daughter named Barsheba ["Basha"] Collis who married Starling Buchanan.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Wilson ["Wilt"] Sparks was born ca. 1822/24; his age was given as 28 on the 1850 census of Yancey County, North Carolina, and as 36 on the 1860 census. His post office address was Spruce Pine. His first wife, Mary ["Polly"], was shown as 26 in 1850 and as 34 in 1860. On the 1880 census her age was given as 56 and she was called by the nickname "Callie." Wilson Sparks married (second) Betsy Hensley, but we believe that all of his children were by his first wife. They were:
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1 William Keith Sparks, born ca.1840, died 1890 in Mitchell County, North Carolina; his wife's name was Mary Jane MNU(1850-1905);
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.2 Susannah ["Susie"] Sparks, born ca.1847; she married Stephen M. Greene (1838-1924) in 1865, a Baptist preacher.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.3 Thomas G. Sparks, born c.1849; he was probably the 11-year-old child on the 1860 census and noted there as "Idiot.";
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.4 Stephen C. Sparks, born ca. 1850, he appears to have died in youth;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.5 Hardin (or Harden) Sparks, born ca.1851; he married Nancy E. Blalock;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.6 Reuben A. Sparks, born December 20, 1854, died December 25, 1895; he married Dolly Elvira Blalock in 1877 in Mitchell County;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.7 John B. Sparks born ca.1855;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.8 Jane M. Sparks born c.1863;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.9 Malissa [ "Lissie" ] Sparks, born ca.1863 ;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.10 Alice Sparks, born ca.1866;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.11 Dosha [or Bashie] M. Sparks; she married C. E. Buchanan in Mitchell County on December 30, 1877.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Nancy Sparks was born ca. 1825. She was mentioned in her father's will as Nancy Patton. Her husband was James Patton, age 39 on the 1860 census of Yancey County, North Carolina, where Nancy's age was given as 34. At that time the children in their household were:
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1 Mary Patton, 14;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.2 Jacob F. Patton, 11;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.3 William E. Patton, 9; and
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.4 Reuben Patton, 6.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Susan ["Duckie"] Sparks was born ca. 1827. She married William Buchanan whose household was shown on the 1860 census of Yancey County, with his age given as 31 and Susan's as 30. The children in their household in 1860 were:
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1 John C. Buchanan, 8 ;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.2 George Buchanan, 6;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.3 Sarah E. Buchanan, 5; and
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.4 --?-- Buchanan, a male, age 2.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 James Sparks was born ca. 1829. He married Jane ["Jennie"] Stemmie who had been born ca. 1827. They were included on the 1850 census of Yancey County, North Carolina, where James was shown as a farmer, age 21, and Jane was 23. They were then the parents of three children, Mary A., age 4 ; John M., age 2 ; and George W., age two months. (George W. Sparks was the gentleman whose photograph appears on the cover of the present issue of the Quarterly.) James Sparks moved with his family sometime after the birth of their fifth child in 1854, to Union County, Georgia, accompanied by his older brother, Hardin J. Sparks. It was there that James Sparks died on April 9, 1870. He and Jane (Stemmie) Sparks were the parents of nine children:
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1 Mary Ann Sparks, born ca. 1846;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.2 John M. Sparks, born ca. 1848;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.3 George Wesley Sparks, born May 17, 1850;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.4 Albert ["Bert"] G. Sparks, born ca.1853, died in Georgia in January 1940;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.5 James Filmore Sparks, born ca.1854, died ca. 1920; he married Lorina MNU; they later moved to Missouri;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.6 Lively Isabel Sparks, born ca.1858 in Georgia;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.7 Sarah A. Sparks, born ca.1860 ;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.8 William Green (or Green William) Sparks, born ca.1864 ; and
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.9 Amanda J. Sparks, born May 1870.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 George Sparks was born in 1830 and died in 1902 according to his tombstone in the Bear Creek Cemetery at Penland, Mitchell County, North Carolina. He was married twice, first to Judy Thomas who died prior to 1860 and (second) to Elizabeth Hensley (born ca.1840, died July. 13, 1925). Of the eight children known of George Sparks, we believe that the first two were by his first wife, the other six by his second wife. They were:
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.1 Andrew Hunter Sparks, born ca. 1854; he married Martha Elizabeth Freeman in 1872; the Rev. J. Y. Sparks remembered that "Hunter Sparks went west";
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.2 Newton W. Sparks, born ca.1856, married Margaret Willis in 1876 ;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.3 Joseph A. Sparks, born ca. 1858; his wife's name was Caroline MNU;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.4 James Hardie (or Hardie James) Sparks, born 1864;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.5 Stephen M. Sparks, born November 18, 1870, died June 8, 1940;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.6 H. M. Sparks (female), born ca.1873;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.7 M. C. Sparks (female) born ca.1877; and
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.8 N. R. Sparks (female) born ca.1899. There may have been other children of George Sparks.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Allen Sparks [Jr.] born ca.1833. No further record.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Reuben Sparks born 1838, died 1905. He married Mary [ "Polly" ] E. Woody who had been born in 1836 and died in 1905; both were buried in the Bear Creek Cemetery at Penland, Mitchell County, North Carolina. Based on census records, it appears that they were the parents of six children:
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.1 Milly A. Sparks, born ca.1858 ;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.2 James Stephen Sparks (called Stephen on 1880 census), born in March 1860;
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.3 Basha Matilda Sparks, born ca.1864;
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.4 Mary M. Sparks, born ca.1866;
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.5 Nancy Sparks, born April 15, 1873, died November 10, 1949; and
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.6 Hannah Sparks, born ca. 1870.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 Whitfield M. Sparks was identified in Allen Sparks's will as his youngest son; he was born April 23, 1842, and died on September 5, 1914. He was buried in the Bear Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Mitchell County, North Carolina. He married Elizabeth Buchanan who died in 1918 at the age of 76. Whitfield served, first, as a conscript in the Confederate Army, later, as a volunteer in the Union Army. His pension application for the latter service, along with his application for reimbursement for a horse that he claimed to have turned over to a Union officer with the promise of a voucher delivered, has been abstracted and may be found beginning on page 5699 and following of the present issue of the Quarterly.
184.108.40.206.1.9.2 Daughter. From census records, it appears that Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks were the parents of a daughter born ca. 1799 whom we have not succeeded in identifying.
220.127.116.11.1.9.3 James Sparks, son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks, was born ca. 1802 in Surry County, North Carolina. He was one of the males between 16 and 26 enumerated in the household of Benjamin Sparks on the 1820 census of Surry County. James accompanied his parents on their move to Burke County, North Carolina, shortly after the 1820 census was taken. James was head of his own household there when the 1830 was taken; he, himself, was shown on this 1830 census as age 20 to 30. The female in his household who was marked in the
20 to 30 age category was surely his wife, and there were two children, a boy and a girl, both shown as under 5 years.
There was another James Sparks living in Burke County in the 1830s and 1840s, however, who can easily be confused with James, son of Benjamin. Some six years younger, this was James S. Sparks, born ca. 1808. He was a son of James Sparks, [Sr.] and was a second cousin of James, born ca. 1802. (See the Quarterly of June 1998, No. 182, for a sketch of the life of this elder James Sparks beginning on page 4998.) The lines of descent of James Sparks and James S. Sparks from William Sample Sparks were as follows:
William Sample Sparks
Born ca.1705, died after 1764
(See the Quarterly of December 1987, No. 184
December 2000, No. 192.)
Born ca. 1725
|First cousins||James Sparks
|Second Cousins||James S. Sparks
Although most of the records in the Burke County, North Carolina, courthouse in 1865 were destroyed in the fire of that year, a few marriage bonds survived, one of which, dated June 11, 1838, was for James S. Sparks (born ca.1808), to be married to Nancy Largent, with B. S. Gaither serving as bondsman. by 1860, James S. and Nancy (Largent) Sparks had moved to Blount County, Tennessee, where they appeared on the 1860 census (in the "1st District Brick Mill.") To help clarify the distinction between this James S. Sparks (son of James Sparks [ 1768-ca.1835 ] and James Sparks (son of Benjamin), we give here the 1860 census record of the family of James S. Sparks from the census of Blount County, Tennessee, of that year (page 145)
|Sparks,||James S.||(age)||52||b. N. C.||Laborer|
|"||Alice H. M.||"||6mo||Tenn.|
We return now to the James Sparks, born ca. 1802, who was a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks.
As noted earlier, Caldwell County, North Carolina, was created in 1841 from parts of Burke and Wilkes Counties. The part of Burke County that helped to form Caldwell included the area where James Sparks lived, so when the 1850 census was taken, James and his family appeared in that for Caldwell County. Because the 1850 census was designed to include the names of all free Americans living on June 1st of that year, with the age, place of birth, and other specified information for each, we learn that the wife of James was named Nancy. The fact that both James Sparks and James S. Sparks married women whose first name was Nancy adds to likelihood of confusing them. Nancy, wife of James in Caldwell County, however, was about 10 years older (she was 43 in 1850) than Nancy Largent, the wife of James S. Sparks (born ca. 1817, she was 43 in 1860). The entry for James Sparks, son of Benjamin, and family on the 1850 census of Caldwell County was as follows: (We are fortunate that the census taker of Caldwell County in 1850 often recorded the county of birth of persons who had been born in North Carolina: See page 573, Summers' District.)
|Sparks,||James||(age)||48||b. Surry Co. NC||Farmer|
|"||Nancy||"||43||Burke Co. NC|
|"||William||"||12||" " "|
|"||Marcus||"||10||" " "|
|"||Mary||"||6||Caldwell " "|
|Thomas||"||4||" " "|
An "Agricultural Census" was taken for 1850, although that portion of the census was returned to the respective states. That for North Carolina may be found in the North Carolina Archives in Raleigh. The entry for James Sparks provides an interesting view of rural life and monetary values at that time:
1850 Agricultural Census: Caldwell County, North Carolina. James Sparks: 100 acres of improved land, 222 acres of unimproved land; cash value of farm, $200. Value of farming implements and machinery, $6.00. Live stock as of June 1, 1850: 1 horse, 4 milch cows, 14 other cattle, 9 sheep, 27 swine. Value of live stock, $190. Produced during year: 250 bushels of Indian corn, 45 bushels of oats, 150 lbs. of tobacco, 14 lbs. of wool, 2 bushels of peas and beans, 10 bushels of Irish potatoes, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, 100 lbs. of butter, 20 pounds of cheese, 1 ton of hay, 8 lbs. of flax, 2 bushels of flax-seed, 55 lbs. of beeswax & honey. Value of homemade products: $26. Value of animals slaughtered, $32.
The household immediately following that of James Sparks on the population census of Caldwell County for 1850 was headed by Sarah Sparks, age 50, a native of Surry County, North Carolina. Living in her household was Elizabeth Sparks, age 26, born in Virginia and labeled "insane," also Benjamin Sparks, age 21, born in Burke County, North Carolina. Also living in Sarah Sparks's household was Elizabeth Sparks, age 70, born in Maryland. This was surely Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks, widow of Benjamin Sparks. We cannot identify Sarah Sparks, apparently born ca. 1800, but we wonder whether she might have been a widowed daughter-in-law of Benjamin and Elizabeth Sparks, or possibly an unmarried daughter. A decade later, at age 80, Elizabeth was living with her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Henry Craig.
We have reason to believe that James Sparks may have moved with family members to Texas. A descendant of James and Nancy's son Marcus, shown as 10 years of age on the 1850 census of Caldwell County, North Carolina, was born June 13, 1840; he died on 3 February 1899, in Collins County, Texas, and was buried on the family farm near Farmersville, Texas. His wife, Mary L. Sparks, had been born in 1844; she died in 1919 according to her tombstone in a cemetery near Spearman in Hansford County, Texas.
18.104.22.168.1.9.4 (?) William Sparks, probably a son of Benjamin, was born ca. 1804.
22.214.171.124.1.9.5 (?) Susannah Sparks, daughter of Benjamin Sparks, was born ca. 1806 in Surry County, North Carolina. She appears to have been the Susannah Sparks who married John Gouge, born in 1791, He was a son of John and Elizabeth (Hoppes) Gouge who were living in tsurke County, North Carolina, in 1810. John and Susannah Gouge moved to Tennessee.
126.96.36.199.1.9.6 (?) George Sparks, probably a son of Benjamin, was born ca. 1808.
188.8.131.52.1.9.7 Elizabeth Sparks, born October 4, 1812, is believed to have been the youngest child of Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks. She was married in Burke County, North Carolina, ca. 1833 to Henry Craig. He had been born in Burke County, North Carolina, on September 10, 1804. As we have noted earlier, it appears that Henry Craig served as trustee for Benjamin and Elizabeth Sparks in their old age in Caldwell County, North Carolina, and when the 1860 census was taken, Elizabeth, age 80, widow of Benjamin, was living in the family of Henry Craig. Both Henry and Elizabeth (Sparks) Craig died in 1881, Henry on May 11th and Elizabeth on December 10th. Their graves are in a small cemetery that was included in a 1940 survey of cemeteries in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Located near the town of Lenoir, the Henry Craig Cemetery was described as follows: "Location--Leave highway #18 near Gamewell School on R.F.D. #3 and go to the Ben King Farm. Condition, fair." Seven gravestones were copied pertaining to persons named Bentley, Clark, and Craig. Those with the name Craig were copied as follows
Elizabeth Craig, died December 10, 1881. Age 69 yrs. 2 mo. 6 da. Wife of Henry Craig.
Henry Craig, died May 11, 1881. Age 76 yrs. 7 mos. 1 da.
M. J. Craig, died March 13, 1878. Age 2 yrs. 7 mo. 18 da.
We wonder whether 2-year-old M. J. Craig may have been a grandchild of Henry and Elizabeth (Sparks) Craig.
From census records, it appears that Henry and Elizabeth (Sparks) Craig were the parents of ten children:
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 William Craig, born ca. 1835.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Sarah Eveline Craig, born April 15, 1836. She was married in Caldwell County, North Carolina, on February 17, 1859, to Noah J. Bentley. He was born in 1834 in Wilkes County, North Carolina, and died on or about September 1, 1864, at Point Lookout, Maryland.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 James Craig, born ca. 1839.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Susan Craig, born ca. 1841.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Myra Craig, born ca. 1842.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 John Craig, born ca. 1844.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Mary Craig, born ca. 1846.
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124 Clarissa Craig, born ca. 1848.
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52 Nancy Craig, born ca. 1851.
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11 Martha Craig, born ca. 1853.
Information regarding Henry and Elizabeth (Sparks) Craig has been provided to us by Margie M. Bertie of Titusville, Florida, a descendant of their daughter, Sarah Eveline Craig. Mrs. Bertie is a great-great-granddaughter of their daughter, Mary E. Bentley (1864-1919) and her husband, Julius Adam Prestwood (1858-1906).
Your editor will welcome any additional information that any reader might provide regarding Benjamin and Elizabeth (Hicks) Sparks and their descendants.