April 23, 2021

Pages 5754-5761
Whole Number 200 JOEL SPARKS (ca.1784-1849)

by Russell E. Bidlack

In the December, 2002, Whole No. 200 issue, an article was devoted to Robert Sparks (ca.1824-1864). We noted that he was a son of Joel and Nancy (Blackburn) Sparks. Joel and Nancy had been married in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1814, their marriage bond having been signed and license issued on July 27, 1814. Joel Sparks was a son of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks. Joel must not be confused, however, with Joel Sparks, also at one time of Wilkes County, but who moved to Missouri before 1850. A son of Matthew and Eunice Sparks, this "other" Joel Sparks died in Bates County, Missouri, ca. 1861.

These two men named Joel Sparks were actually third cousins, once removed, both being descendants of 1.2 William Sparks, immigrant from Hampshire County, England, to Maryland where he died in Queen Annes County in 1709. (See the Quarterly of March 1971, Whole No.73, pp.1371-89 and that of December 1991, Whole No.160, pp.4025-34 for articles devoted to the immigrant, 1.2 William Sparks, died 1709. ) Following is a chart showing the relationship between the two men named Joel Sparks. Both named sons Joel, adding to possible confusion.

1.2 William Sparks, immigrant, died 1709

1.2.1 William Sparks, Jr. (died ca. 1734) [brothers]  1.2.5 Joseph Sparks (died 1749) William Sample Sparks (died ca. 1790 1765) [first cousins] Solomon Sparks (died ca. 1765) William Sparks (died 1800/01) [2nd cousins] John Sparks (died 1840/41) Matthew Sparks (died 1819) [3rd cousins] Joel Sparks (died 1849) Joel Sparks (died 1861)    

[Note: Joel Sparks, died 1861, and Joel Sparks, died 1849, were 3rd cousins, once removed]

In the Quarterly of December 1955, Whole No.12, beginning on page 95, appeared a transcription of the pension application of John Sparks (1753-1740/41). He made application for a pension based on his service in the American Revolution under the Congressional Act of 1832 authorizing such pensions. He appeared on October 31, 1832, before the Wilkes County Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions where the clerk of that court, R. Martin, wrote the application for John to sign. This document, with affidavits signed by Reuben Sparks and Samuel Johnson supporting John's claim of service, was published in full in the issue of the QUARTERY cited above. It begins;

On this 30th day of October 1832 personally appeared in open Court before the Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions of the County of Wilkes & State of North Carolina, now setting, John Sparks, Esquire, a resident of the County of Wilkes & State of North Carolina, aged seventy-nine years, who being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath, make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit the Act of Congress passed June 7th 1832.

That he was born the 25th day of February 1753 in the County of Rowan in the State of North Carolina, where he lived until he removed with his father to what is now Wilkes (then Surry) County, N.C., about the year 1772. He resided in Wilkes until the commencement of the Revolution, and about the year 1775 or 1776 he volunteered himself and entered the service of the United States in Captain Jesse Walton's company of minute men who had volunteered for two years.

In his application, John Sparks described in considerable detail the nature of his service that involved primarily fighting the Indians and the Loyalists, in N. C. He closed his application as follows:

The capture of Lord Cornwallis being considered the closing scene of the war, this Deponent was not again called upon to perform any other service. He has no documentary evidence to prove his service, nor never received a written discharge that he has any recollection of. He refers to Captain Samuel Johnson as a witness who can testify to part of his services. And he also refers to Captain Samuel Johnson & Reuben Sparks as persons to whom he is well acquainted in his neighborhood, and who can testify as to his character for veracity, and their belief of his services. This Deponent has no record of his age, but the information herein given on that subject was derived from his mother many years ago, and he believes it to be correct.

The Reuben Sparks who, with Samuel Johnson, signed affidavits supporting John Sparks's application, was actually John's son, born in 1799. Following is a list of the 11 children of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks reprinted from page 2272 of the March 1981 issue of the Quarterly, Whole No.113: Levi Sparks, born October 2, 1778, died October 12, 1851; married (first) FNU Walsh; married (second) Sarah Lyon; appeared on the following censuses: 1810 and 1820 of Wilkes County, North Carolina; 1830, 1840, and 1850 censuses of Lawrence County, Kentucky. Robert Sparks, probably born ca. 1782, died ca. 1815; married Margaret Pigg ca. 1804. Mary Sparks, probably born ca. 1782, probably died ca. 1855; married Robert Bauguess, ca. 1801. Joel Sparks, probably born ca. 1784; died in December 1849 in Wilkes County, North Carolina; married Nancy Blackburn in 1814; appeared on the 1820,1830, and 1840 censuses of Wilkes County, and on the 1850 Mortality Schedule of deaths in Wilkes County between June 1, 1849, and May 31, 1850. John Sparks, Jr., probably born ca. 1785, probably died ca. 1865; married Mary Fields, ca. 1815; appeared on the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Dau Sparks of John and Sarah (Shores) Sparks was born ca. 1887. Solomon Sparks, born ca. 1790; probably died ca. 1860; married (first) FNU MNU, ca. 1811; married (second) Judah or Julia A., ca. 1824. Appeared on the 1820 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, and the 1850 census of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Sarah Sparks, born ca. 1792; died after 1860; married William Alexander on March 18, 1820; appeared on the 1850 and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. George Sparks, born November 9, 1796, died May 11, 1879; married (first) a Miss Mainer or Maynard, ca. 1815; married (second) Nancy Short on August 6, 1822; appeared on the 1830 and 1850 censuses of Lawrence County, Kentucky, and on the 1860 census of Carter County, Kentucky. Reuben Sparks, born September 26,1799, died March 9,1878; married Phoebe Blackburn on October 10, 1828; appeared on the 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Colby Sparks, born ca. 1801, died 1869; married Sarah Pruitt on December 28, 1822; appeared on the 1830, 1840, 1850, and 1860 censuses of Wilkes County, North Carolina.

A confusing factor in our early research on John Sparks was that his service in the Revolutionary War, supported by his pension application, had been used by a descendant of an entirely different 36. John Sparks in South Carolina and Georgia to gain membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. This was eventually corrected by the D.A. R. For information regarding the John Sparks of South Carolina, later Georgia, and his family, see the Quarterly of March 1989, Whole No.145, beginning on page 3380. This 36. John Sparks had been born on February 27, 1755, according to his family Bible now in the hands of a descendant. As a young man, he lived in Newberry County, South Carolina. He was related to (probably a son of) 27. Zachariah Sparks. Zachariah Sparks died during the Revolutionary War in Laurens County, South Carolina (see the Quarterly of September 1961, Whole No.35, pp.569-575). 36. John Sparks married Margaret Hampton on 13 Jan1779. In 1795, John and Margaret Sparks moved to Washington County, Georgia, where he died in 1820. They were the parents of 11 children. John Sparks of Wilkes County, North Carolina, and his wife, Sarah (Shores) Sparks, were the parents of 11 children, as were the 36. John and Margaret (Hampton) Sparks of South Carolina and Georgia. As shown in the list of children for John and Sarah given above, their fourth child was Joel Sparks, born ca. 1784, and died in 1849, in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Joel was married in Wilkes County to Nancy Blackburn in 1814. (Their marriage bond was dated July 27, 1814, as we noted at the beginning of this article, page 5754.) Both Joel and Nancy spent the rest of their lives in the Traphill community of Wilkes County where they reared their eight children, including their son, Robert Sparks, subject of the preceding article. It was on September 25, 1849, that Joel made his will. The original, bearing his signature, has been preserved among the court records of Wilkes County now at the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. The original spelling in this document has been retained in this transcription.

[Will of Joel Sparks, September 25, 1849]

I Joel Sparks of the County of Wilkes and State of North Carolina. Being of sound mind and memory, but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existance do make and declare this my last Will and testement in manner and form following that is to say:

First that Executors hearin after named, Shall provide for my body a decent burial suitable to the wishes of my relatives and friends and pay all funeral expenses, together with my just debts howsomeever and to whomsoever owing, out of the money that may first come into his hands as a part or parsel of my estate. Item-- I give and Devise to my Beloved wife Nancy Sparks all my land whare on I now live Containing one hundred and ten acres during her natural life or widowhood. and at the death of my wife or marage I give and Devise said land to my youngest son Hugh Sparks who is a miner seventeen years old the said one hundred and ten acres of Land to have and to hold to him and his heirs in fee simple for evir. Item I give and Devise to my wife Nancy Spark all my stock of every kind to be hers during her natural life or widowhood also all my house hold and kitchen furniture and at her decease or marage I give and Devis the said Stock household and ketchin furniture to my youngest son Hugh Sparks for ever: Now tharefor my will and desire is that my Brother Ruben Sparks is hereby constituted and appointed guardin of my son to have and hold the custody and guardinship of his respective person and estate untill he the said Hugh Sparks arrive at full age of twenty one years.

I do hereby constitute and appoint my trusty friend Ruben Sparks my lawful executor to all intents and purposes to excute this my last Will and testament according to the true intent and meaning of the same and every part and every caues thereof--hereby revoking and declaring utterly void all other Wills and testaments by me made heretofore. In witness whareof I the said Joel Sparks do hereunto set my hand and seale September this 25 day of A.D. 1849

[signed] Joel Sparks (Seal)

signed sealed published and declared by the Joel Sparks to be his last Will and Testament in presents of us, who do at his request in his presents and in the presents of each other, do subscribe our names as Witnesses thereto.

[signed] George W. Sparks Jt.

Lewis W. Sparks

Below is a Photocopy of the Final Sentence of Joel Sparks's Will, With His Signature

(In script…. In witness "whereof I the said Joel Sparks do hereunto set my hand and seale September this 25 day of A.D. 1849) Reuben (or Ruben) Sparks, brother of Joel whom he named as executor of his estate, had been born on September 26, 1799; he died on March 9, 1878. He was thus some 15 years younger than Joel; he was married in Wilkes County in 1828 to Phoebe Blackburn, and they were the parents of five children: George Washington Sparks, born October 11, 1829; he married Elizabeth E. Johnson; Lewis Williams Sparks, born 1831; Sarah Sparks, born 1837; John Sparks, born 1841; and William C. Sparks, born 1843.

The two oldest sons of Reuben Sparks served as witnesses for their uncle, Joel Sparks, when he signed his will in 1849. George W. Sparks and his younger brother, John Sparks, joined the Confederate Army and both were killed during the Civil War. The son William C. Sparks joined the Union Army. For more information on the family of Reuben and Phoebe, see the Quarterly of December 1955, Whole No.12, pp.103-04. Photographs of this couple appeared on the cover of this December 1955 Quarterly.

When the 1850 census was taken, for which census takers were instructed to list all free persons living on June 1, 1850, a "Mortality Schedule" was also compiled of residents of each county who had died during the previous year, i.e., between June 2, 1849, and May 31, 1850. The "Mortality Schedule" for Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1850 included Joel Sparks, who had died during the month of "December 1849 from Dropsy, age 64."

On the 1850 census of Wilkes County, Nancy Sparks, widow of Joel, was shown as 59 years old; Joel's farm, now owned by Nancy, was valued on the census at $600. Living with her was her son, Hugh Sparks, age 17, "Farmer." Nancy's brother-in-law, Reuben Sparks, age 50, and his wife and 5 children, were enumerated on the 1850 census just above Nancy, suggesting that their farms probably adjoined. Reuben's land was valued at $800. Joel and Nancy (Blackburn) Sparks were the parents of nine children: Richmond Sparks was born ca. 1815. He was married ca. 1835 in Wilkes County to Sarah Privett Sarah Durham (Correction from the Annals of Tazewell County Virginia). It was to Richmond Sparks that his brother, Robert Sparks, wrote his letter of April 28, 1864 (see page 5749). Shortly after the Civil War ended, Richmond Sparks moved his family to Tazewell County, Virginia. Both Richmond and Sarah were still living in Tazewell County when the 1880 census was taken. He was then 67 and Sarah was 62.

Richmond Sparks was probably influenced in deciding to move to Tazewell County by members of the family of Jonas Sparks who had gone there from North Carolina in 1848. Jonas was a son of Reuben and Cassa ["Cassie"] Sparks, Reuben (1755-1840) being a brother of John Sparks (1753-1840/41), the Revolutionary War pensioner. Jonas and Joel Sparks were thus first cousins. (See the Quarterly of September 1967, Whole No.59, pp.1082-89, for a record of the family of Reuben, including his son, Jonas.)

A 2-volume work entitled Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia by John N. Harman, published between 1922 and 1925, includes a record of the children of Richmond and Sarah ["Sallie"] Sparks. With this and information from census records, we are able to identify them as follows: Hugh Sparks, born ca. 1836; he was married three times: first to Mary Hankins, daughter of Robert Hankins; (second) to Patsy Hankins, also a daughter of Robert Hankins; and (third) to Mary Ellen (Harman) Whitt. We do not have dates of Hugh's marriages, but by one or more of them, based on the 1880 census of Tazewell County, he appears to have had the following children: Sarah Sparks, born ca. 1861; Susan Sparks, born ca. 1863; Elizabeth Sparks, born ca. 1865; William Sparks, born ca. 1868; Rufus Sparks, born ca. 1870; Robert Sparks, born ca. 1873; Martha Sparks, born ca. 1874; Hugh Sparks, Jr., born ca. 1876; and Moses Sparks, born ca. 1879.

Hugh's sister, Susan Sparks, age 34, was listed as a member of his household when the 1880 census was taken. Tacie (or "Tassy") Sparks was born ca. 1839. She married Joseph H. Porter according to Harman's Annals... John Tyler Sparks was born ca. 1841. According to Harman's Annals, he was married on July 7, 1867, to Elizabeth Sparks, born in 1851, died in 1920, daughter of Joshua William (ca.1830-1902) and Cynthia (Hankins) Sparks. John T. Sparks's household was listed on the 1880 census of Tazewell County, in Jeffersonville District. His age there was given as 34 and Elizabeth's as 29, with the following children, although three of these (see below) seem not to have been their own: Cynthia Sparks, age 12; Sarah Sparks, age 9; Lucie Sparks, age 1 month.

William Sparks, age 6
Sarah Sparks, age 4
Rebecca Sparks, age 2

(In this list, William, age 6; Sarah, age 2, and Rebecca, age 2, were shown as "NR", "Not Related to Head of Household".) Joel Sparks was born ca. 1843. He married Lydia Hankins, daughter of Carter Hankins according to Harman's Annals...He was doubtless the Joel Sparks listed on the 1880 census of Tazewell County, Jefferson District, age 39, with wife Lydia, age 35. Their children were listed on this census as follows: Nancy E. Sparks, age 8; Mary S. Sparks, age 4; Frankie Sparks, age 2; and Joel Sparks, [Jr.], age 1 month. Susanna ["Susan"] Sparks was born ca. 1846. She was living with her brother, Hugh Sparks, when the 1880 census of Tazewell County was taken. Harman in his Annals, stated that Susan had been married to Finley May Happy. Rufus Sparks was born ca. 1848. His name appeared in his parents' household on the 1860 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, but he was not listed as a son of Richmond Sparks in Harman's Annals. Nancy Sparks was born ca. 1850. She married Charlie Hunt according to Harman's Annals. Lillie Sparks was listed as a daughter of Richmond and Sarah (Privett) Sparks by Harman in his Annals, and that she married James Whitaker. On the 1860 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, a daughter of Richmond and Sarah was listed named Sarah, age 4, thus born ca. 1856. Might she and the Lillie named by Harman have been the same person? William B. Sparks was born ca. 1858. According to Harman's Annals, he married Sarah Christian. A William Sparks was listed on the 1880 census of Tazewell County, Virginia, age 20, with wife, Sarah, age 24, and children: Rosabell Sparks, age 1 Hugh Sparks, age 1 month.

Also living in William's household in 1880 were Richmond Sparks, age 68, and Sarah Sparks, age 62, both born in North Carolina. They were doubtless his parents. Dau Sparks was born ca. 1820; she probably died young. Malinda Sparks was born ca. 1824. She was married in 1846 to Jacob Lyon (later spelled Lyons). Their Wilkes County, North Carolina, marriage bond was dated June 6, 1846, with James Durham serving as bondsman for Jacob. Malinda's name was spelled "Malindy" on the bond. They were living in Elkin-Surry Township of Wilkes County when the 1860 census was taken, adjoining Malinda's mother, judging from the sequence of households on that census, Nancy's age was given as 70 and she was still living with her son, Hugh Sparks. The age of Jacob J. Lyons was given as 47 and that of Malinda as 36. Their children in 1860 were, according to the census: Nancy L. Lyons, age 9, born ca. 1851; Gabriel M. Lyons, age 7, born ca. 1853; Hiram Lyons, age 3, born ca. 1857; and Ira W. Lyons, age 1 year, born ca. 1859.

Also living in this household in 1860 was Frances Lyons, age 72. Perhaps she was the mother of Jacob Lyons. Nancy Sparks was born ca. 1825 and married Meredith Lyon (or Lyons). When the 1850 census was taken of Wilkes County, North Carolina, their household then consisted of Meredith Lyons, age 35, and Nancy, age 25, with the following children: Emily Lyons, age 13, born ca. 1837; Hanson Lyons, age 25(??), born ca. 1825; Mary Lyons, age 8, born ca. 1842; Thomas Lyons, age 6, born ca. 1844; Nancy Lyons, age 5, born ca. 1845; John Lyons, age 2, born ca. 1848; and Joshua Lyons, age 1 year, born ca. 1849.

Nancy Sparks must have been the second wife of Meredith Lyons because, at age 25 in 1850, she could scarcely have been the mother of 13-year-old Emily and 11-year-old Hanson; she was probably the mother of the five younger children. Nancy (Sparks) Lyons headed her own household when the 1860 census was taken of Traphill Township in Wilkes County. Robert Sparks, born in 1824 or 1825, was the writer of the letter to his wife, Susan, and that to his brother, Richmond, transcribed on pages 5748-50 of Whole No. 200, before his execution on April 28, 1864.

When the 1860 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, was taken, Robert Sparks and his family were enumerated in household #749 in Traphill Township. Robert was shown as 34 years old and Susan as 33. See page 5753 of this issue of the Quarterly for a list of their children. The household following that of Robert Sparks on the 1860 census was that of George Sparks, age 29, with wife Elizabeth, age 31. and three children.

George Sparks was a first cousin of Robert, being a son of Reuben and Phoebe (Blackburn) Sparks. Joel Sparks, Robert's father, and Reuben Sparks were brothers.

The household immediately before that of Robert in 1860 was headed by a widow named Susanna Evans, while that preceding her was headed by James P. Sparks. Joel Sparks, Jr. was born ca. 1826. He was married in 1846 to Charlotte Durham (marriage bond dated June 21, 1846, with James Durham as Joel's bondsman). Charlotte, whose name was spelled "Charloty" on the marriage bond, was a daughter of John Durham. In the latter's will probated in Wilkes County in July 1863, she was identified as one of his "four daughters...Charlette wife of Joel Sparks".

This Joel Sparks, Jr. should not be confused with the Joel Sparks, Jr., born in May 1824, son of Joel Sparks, Sr. and a grandson of Matthew and Eunice Sparks. (See the Quarterly of June 2000, Whole No.190, pp.5363-67, for information on the Joel Sparks, Sr., son of Matthew and Eunice, including page 5366 for this Joel's son, Joel Sparks, Jr. 1824-1862. This Joel, Jr. was married in Wilkes County to Almyra Lane in 1844 and thereafter moved to Missouri. ) He volunteered to serve in the Missouri Militia at the beginning of the Civil War and was mortally wounded as a Union soldier during the Battle of Lone Jack in Jackson County, Missouri, on August 16, 1862.

When the 1860 census of Wilkes County, North Carolina, was taken, Joel Sparks, Jr., son of Joel and Nancy (Blackburn) Sparks, and his family were enumerated in Traphill Township. His age was given as 36 and Charlotte's as 34. Their nine children shown on that census were: Caroline Sparks, 14, born ca. 1846; George W. Sparks, 12, born ca. 1848; Nancy Sparks, 10, born ca. 1850; Andrew J. Sparks, 9 born, ca. 1851; Julia Sparks, 7, born ca. 1853; Martha Sparks, 5, born ca. 1855; Livia Sparks, 3, born ca. 1857; Joel Sparks, 2, born ca. 1858; and Mary J. Sparks, 11 months, born ca. 1859.

The household of Richmond Sparks, Joel, Jr.'s uncle, was enumerated immediately following that of Joel, Jr. Mittie Sparks was born ca. 1828. She was married in 1846 to James Durham (marriage bond dated August 15, 1846, with Meredith Lyon as James's bondsman). James Durham was a son of John Durham whose will was probated in Wilkes County in July 1863. James Durham died in Wilkes County in 1887 or 1888, his will being probated there at the March 1888 term of the Wilkes County Court. Written some 8 years before his death, his will mentioned his wife, Milly, ("Mittie" apparently being a nickname), and a grandson named Thomas N. Durham. He also mentioned Susan Durham and Lura Jane Durham, who were probably granddaughters. When the 1860 census of Traphill Township in Wilkes County was taken, James, age 37, and Mittie (Sparks) Durham, age 32, were shown with two children: Thomas Durham, age 13, born ca. 1847; and Mary Durham, age 9, born ca. ca. 1851.

His son, J. S. Lyon (who was designated to be his executor), was mentioned.

His sisters(???), Charlotte Lyon and Susan Lyon, were married, respectively, to Joel Sparks, Jr. and Robert Sparks, also in 1846. Hugh Sparks, youngest child of Joel and Nancy (Blackburn) Sparks, was born ca. 1833. In his will, transcribed earlier, Joel had named his 17 year-old son as heir to his land and personal property following the death or re-marriage of his wife, Nancy. Hugh was shown on both the 1850 and the 1860 censuses of Wilkes County as living with his mother. On September 27, 1862, Hugh Sparks, age 30, enlisted in the Confederate Army and was enrolled in Company C of the 13th North Carolina Infantry Regiment. He was captured by the Union Army on May 6, 1864, during the Battle of the Wilderness. He was taken to the Union Prisoner of War Camp at Elmira, New York, where he died of chronic diarrhea on September 11, 1864.

[Editor's Note: As seen in the above record of this branch of the Sparks family, there are numerous gaps in our information. Should this article come to the attention of a reader having additional information, or corrections, your Editor would be pleased to hear from you.]