April 29, 2021

Pages 177-182
Whole Number 16


(Editor's Note: We believe that the following pension papers of Matthew Sparks (1759-1841) are among the most interesting of those which have been published thus far in the Quarterly, for in his application Matthew Sparks goes into considerable detail regarding his experiences in the Revolution.

According to his own statement, Matthew Sparks was born January 20, 1759, in Rowan County, North Carolina. He died on August 14, 1841, in Clinton County, Illinois. Records gathered by the officers of the Association over a period of several years reveal that the father of Matthew Sparks was also named Matthew; in order to distinguish between father and son in this preliminary sketch, the father will be referred to as Matthew Sparks the Elder. Matthew Sparks the Elder and his wife Sarah (whose maiden name is said by descendants to have been Thompson) is believed to have migrated from Maryland to North Carolina ca. 1758. The earliest record of Matthew Sparks the Elder in Rowan County found thus far is a deed dated April 4, 1761, by which be purchased 372 acres of land from Sir John Carteret, Earl of Granville.

In a future issue of the Quarterly we plan to publish several very interesting documents pertaining to Matthew Sparks the Elder and his children. We are anxious to obtain as much information on this family as possible before publishing these documents and, for that reason, give below a list of the children of Matthew Sparks the Elder. Anyone having data on any of these children is requested to write to the Editor, Russell S. Bidlack, 1131 Granger Ave., Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Children of Matthew Sparks the Elder and his wife Sarah John Sparks, born in 1755 Matthew Sparks, born January 20, 1759 William Sparks, born April 3, 1761 Eady Sparks, born ca. 1763 Ann Sparks, ca. 1766 James Sparks, born April 14, 1768 Absolom Sparks, ca. 1771 Jesse Sparks, born July 23, 1773 Nathan Sparks, born October 23, 1775 Bailey Sparks, born May 3, 1778 Isaac Sparks, born July 15, 1780 Hardy Sparks, born May 23, 1783 in Wilkes County, North Carolina; see Whole No. 152

The order of birth of the above children is not known; only the three birth dates given have thus far been determined definitely. Isaac Sparks gave his age on the 1860 census of Carroll County, Tennessee, as 80 years, which would place his date of birth in or near the year 1780.

Of these children of Matthew Sparks the Elder, it is known that Jesse Sparks settled in Hickman County, Tennessee, although when he died in 1858 he was living in Perry County, Tennessee. Jesse married twice and was the father of eighteen children--a record of these children will be given in a later issue of the Quarterly. Isaac Sparks, as was stated above, was living in Carroll County, Tennessee, in 1860. Bailey Sparks was living in Carroll County in 1831. Hardy Sparks was living in Hickman County, Tennessee, as late as 1835 when he signed as witness to a deed. Nathan Sparks and Absolom Sparks, sons of Matthew Sparks the Elder, seem to have married sisters, daughters of Benjamin Elsberry of Wilkes County, Georgia. The will of Benjamin Elsberry was probated in 1792 and when his estate was finally settled in 1808, Absolom and Nathan Sparks both received shares. Also, in the marriage records of Oglethorpe County, Georgia, there is a record of the marriage of Nathan Sparks and Sally Elsberry on May 10, 1800. Nathan eventually settled in Wilson County, Tenn., and was postmaster of a town named Sparks in that county in the 1830's. Absolom Sparks settled in Arkansas; he was living in Miller County in 1825 and in Pope County in 1830.

It will be noted that William Sparks, born April 3, 1761, also served in the Revolution and applied for a pension. His pension papers were published in the June, 1954, Whole No. 6, pp. 36-39, issue of the Quarterly; readers will be interested in comparing the statements made by William with those of his brother Matthew.

From the pension papers of Matthew Sparks and William Sparks, it is apparent that their father, Matthew Sparks the Elder, moved from Rowan County, N.C., to Wilkes County, N.C., with his family before the Revolution, settling on New River near the present town of Jefferson in Ashe County. (Ashe County was cut off from Wilkes County in 1799 and the land on which Matthew Sparks the Elder had lived became part of Ashe County.) Apparently several of the sons served in the Revolution (note that William refers to his brother John as having been a lieutenant). Family tradition indicates that all of the sons of Matthew Sparks the Elder had red hair.

Following the Revolution, Matthew Sparks the Elder and most of his sons moved to Georgia, settling eventually near the present city of Athens in what is now Clark County, then Franklin County. Here the family and other settlers built SPARKS FORT as protection against the Creek Indians. For a number of years the Creek Indians, under their famous chief, Alexander McGillivray, were an almost daily menace. In November, 1793, Matthew Sparks the Elder was killed by the Indians. The family gradually scattered, a number of the sons settling in Tennessee as was indicated above. Sarah Sparks, widow of Matthew Sparks the Elder, was living as late as September, 1828, in Tennessee. According to a letter written by a granddaughter in 1899, Sarah Sparks is buried in 'Old Pleasant Grove.'

In spite of the detailed pension application of Matthew Sparks (son of Matthew the Elder) little has been learned regarding his descendants. In a letter written by his niece, Bettie C. (Sparks) Smith (daughter of Bailey Sparks), in 1899, appears the following statement: 'When I was a child old Uncle Mathew Sparks made his home with his brother, Isaac, but spent much of his time with Father and Mamma.'

From this it would appear that Matthew was a widower during his old age. It is known that Matthew had three daughters living in Clinton County, Illinois, and that was the reason he moved from Tennessee to Illinois in 1840. His son-in-law, William Steele, certified on December 31, 1842, that he had gone to Tennessee in October, 1840, and moved Matthew Sparks to Illinois. These three daughters were: Jane Sparks, wife of William Steele; Hannah Sparks, wife of FNU Arnett; and Margaret ["Peggy"] Sparks, wife of Nathan Arnett.

Matthew Sparks, it will be noted, mentioned a son in his pension application who had moved from Illinois to Georgia, but he did not give his name. In 1825 Matthew and his brother Absolom were among a group of 'inhabitants of that part of Miller County, in the Territory of Arkansas, ceded and confirmed to the Choctaw Nation of Indians by treaty in 1825' who signed a petition protesting this action, saying that it would result in their being driven from 'the farms and improvements we have laboured for years to make.' Besides Matthew Sparks and Absolom Sparks, there were three other persons named Sparks who signed this petition: Wilobe Sparks, Absolom Sparks, Jr., and Elsberry Sparks. These three were sons of Absolom Sparks. (See page 124 of the March, 1956, issue of the Quarterly where 'Willaba Sparks' was a resident of Limestone County, Texas, in 1850.)

Revolutionary War Pension Papers of Matthew Sparks (1759-1841)

Copied by Russell S. Bidlack

(Note: In the following copy of these documents, capitalization and punctuation have been modernized for the sake of clarity, but no changes have been made in spelling or content. The file number given to the application papers of Matthew Sparks in The National Archives is S.31,385. The pension was approved and Matthew Sparks received $22.66 per annum.)

   Declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832.
        State of Tennessee) SS
        Carroll County )

On this 14th day of September A.D. 1332 personally appeared in open Court, before the worshipful Henry Wright, Wilson Lightfoot, & Saml. Ingram, Justices of the Court of Pleas and quarter Sessions, now setting, Matthew Sparks, a resident of said County and State, aged aged [sic] about seventy-four years, who being first duly sworn, according to law, doth on his oath, make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of an Act of Congress passed June 7, 1832, states:

That he was born in Rowan County, near Salisbury in the State of North Carolina, on the 20th day of January A.D. 1759, and there lived with his father until he was between fourteen and sixteen years old, when he removed, with the other members of the family, to New River in Wilkes County in the State aforesaid, and there this Declarent resided until three or four years after the close of the Revolutionary War; at which time this Declarant removed to Wilkes County in the State of Georgia; after residing in this latter place about two years, this Declarant removed to the frontier part of the State last mentioned in what, as well as this Declarant now recollects, was then Franklin County. Here this Declarant, with his father and other settlers, erected a fort which was then and probably still is called Sparks Fort. In this neighborhood this Declarant's father was killed by the Indians.

After residing at this place two or three years, this Declarant removed to Greenville District in the State of South Carolina, where he resided seven or eight years, when he removed to Jackson County in the State of Georgia. Here this Deponant resided 6 or 7 years, when he removed to Livingston County in the State of Kentucky about the year 1807 or 1808, where he resided about two years; from thence again removed into the Territory of Illinois, and the County of St. Clair, about the year 1810. He here settled on Silver Creek, within 8 or 10 miles of the town of Belleville and remained about 5 years. He then removed down on a Creek called Muddy in said Territory, where he resided 2 years. About the year 1817, Declarant states, he again removed over into Arkansas Territory, where tie settled on White River and remained about 2 years; from thence he went to Arkansas River about 40 or 50 miles above Little Rook, in the aforesaid Territory, where he lived 2 years; then removed from there to the Saline on the waters of Ouachita within 25 miles of Little Rook, where he again settled, and resided until the 2d day of August last, when he removed into this County. This Declarant states that he entered the service of the United States and served as herein stated.

When this Declarant was 17 or 18 years old, as well as he can recollect in the year 1776 or 77, he joined a company raised by drafting, commanded by Captain John Beverly, and served a tour of 3 months. We marched from Wilkes County, North Carolina, where the company was raised, and ranged through the lower and sandy part of North Carolina in search of the Tories, to intimadate and keep them down in that part of the State. On this tour, we found no parties of Tories embodied, but we took several individuals. I remember particularly that we took a Tory captain by the name of Jackson, a black-smith, whom we hung; our company took two others, names not recollected, and sent them to headquarters of the corps. The company of which I was a member were Mounted Rangers. The corps to which I belonged consisted of several companies of rangers, and two or three foot and was commanded by Col. FNU Isacks, given name not recollected, of North Carolina. I do not remember any major, or adjutant, nor the names of any other captains, except Captain FNU Isbel who commanded, as well as I recollect, a company of foot-men. At the end of our term of service we were marched back to our County by our officers, and there directed to go to our respective homes, without receiving any written discharge. In the fall of a certain year, I do not recollect what year, nor do I remember how long after my return from my first tour, but not more than one or two years, I was again drafted into the service, in a company commanded by Captain Samuel Johnson, and Elisha Reynolds, Lieutenant. This corps consisted exclusively of three or four companies of footmen, and was commanded by Major FNU Hargrove of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Godfrey Isacks was one of the captains.

We were drafted for 3 months and were marched through pretty much the same country as on my first tour, and for the same purpose. I remember it was a particular object of the expedition to go into a part of North Carolina where the Scotch very much abounded. We came to a part of the country where the main American Army, commanded by I do not recollect whom, had recently passed, and found ourselves in great want of the means of subsistence. After being marched about through the sandy parts of North Carolina two months without meeting with any parties of Tories or having any engagement, we were marched back to our own County having learned there was more occasion for us there than where we had been. Not long after we reached home we were dismissed by our officers without receiving any formal discharge.

In addition to these two tours of service performed by me, I will state that Col. Benjamin Cleveland, who lived on the Yadkin, Wilkes County, North Carolina, early in the Revolutionary War, by his personal influence, formed an Association or Company of Minute Men, to go against Tories whenever called on. Of this company I was a member and performed under him many tours of duty from one to three weeks at a time, amounting in all to at least 3 months. We invaribly went out as mounted gun-men or rangers. We ranged principally on the mountains and New River. On these excursions, I remember, we took two parties of Tories, one consisting of 15, the other of 10 or 12 men. They had been engaged in plundering neighborhoods. Some of these we hung, shot others, and others we took across the Virginia line, we delivered to the Virginians. On another occasion, learning that a party of Hessian dragoons and Tories to the number of 12 or 15, passing up New River plundering and pillaging the country, we assembled and overtook them at the house of our Militia Captain (Paul Patrick) whom they had under guard and where they were regaling themselves on the best the house afforded. We surprised them, killed 2 & wounded 2 whom we took prisoners, together with one other. One of the wounded prisoners was a Hessian, and lived. His name was John Meisenner. He joined our side and was one of the men who served with me under Capt. Beverly.

This Applicant knows of no person by whom he can prove his service.

He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension, or annuity, except the present, and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state.

[signed] Matthew Sparks

Sworn to and subscribed
the day and year aforesaid

[signed] Edward Gwin, Clerk

And the said Court do hereby declare their opinion after the investigation of the matter, and after putting the interrogatories prescribed by the War Department, that the above named Applicant was a Revolutionary soldier as he states. And the Court further certifies that it appears to them that Bailey Sparks and William Brigance, who have signed the preceding certificate are residents of the county and state aforesaid and are credible persons, and that their statement is entitled to credit.

[signed] Saml. Ingram, Chairman of
Carroll County Court.
Henry Wright
Wilson Lightfoot.

Whereupon the said Court propounded the following interrogatories to the said Matthew Sparks on the occasion of his application for a pension as having been one of the Militia of North Carolina in the Revolutionary War.

Question 1. Where and in what year were you born?
I was born in Rowan County near Salisbury in the State of N. Carolina, on the 20th of January 1759.
Question 2. Have you any record of your age; and if so where is it?
I have none with me. My son took the Bible containing it when he moved from Illinois to Georgia.
Question 3. Where were you living when called into service; where have you lived since the Revolutionary War, and where do you now live?
I was living, when called into service, in Wilkes County, North Carolina; the balance the Applicant answered in his declaration.
Question 4.  How were you called into service; were you drafted, did you volunteer, or were you a substitute?
Answered in the declaration.
Question 5 State the names of some of the regular officers who were with the troops when you served: Such continental and militia regiments as you can recall &c, and the general circumstances of your service.
Answered as in declaration.
Question 6. Did you ever receive a discharge from the service; and if so, by whom was it given and what has become of it?
Answered as in declaration.
Question 7. State the names of persons to whom you are known in your present neighborhood, and who can testify as to your character for veracity and their belief of your services as a soldier of the Revolution.
I have but lately come to this country and therefore have but few acquaintances here. I can only mention my brother, Bailey Sparks, & Mr. William Brigance who know my general reputation as a soldier of the Revolution.

State of Tennessee)SS
Carroll County )

I, Edward Gwin, Clerk of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in and for said County and State aforesaid, do hereby certify that the foregoing contains the original proceedings of the said Court in the matter of the application of Matthew Sparks, for a pension.
 In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand and affix the Seal of said Court at office in Huntingdon this 12th day of September A.D. 1832.

[signed] Edward Gwin, Clerk.

Application for a Transfer.

County of Henry: SS

On this nineteenth day of September, 1840, before me, the subscriber, a Justice of the Peace for the said County of Henry, personally appeared Matthew Sparks, who, on his oath, declares that he is the same person who formerly belonged to the company commanded by Captains Beverly & Samuel Johnson in the Regiments commanded by Colonels Isaacks & Cleveland, in the service of the United States; that his name was placed on the pension roll of the State of Tennessee at Jackson, from whence he has lately removed; that he now resides in the State of Illinois where he intends to remain, and wishes his pension to be there payable, in future. The following are his reasons for removing from Carroll County, Tennessee, to Clinton County, Illinois--Viz--He has three daughters living there & he has made an arrangement to live with one of them. Paris, Tennessee, September 19, 1840.

[signed] Mathew Sparks

Sworn to and subscribed before me,
the day & year aforesaid

[signed] I. S. Rainey.

State of Tennessee)
Henry County )

Personally appeared before me Isaac Rainey, one of the acting Justices of the Peace for said County, Terence Cooney, and made oath that the person who signed the written affidavit purporting to be signed by Matthew Sparks, was the identical Matthew Sparks described in said affidavit and who has heretofore been upon the pension roll of the State of Tennessee.

[signed] T. Cooney.

[Note: There follow two unimportant certificates, one signed by I. S. Rainey, Justice of the Peace, dated November 13, 1840, which certifies the signature of T. Cooney, and the other signed by William Porter, Clerk of the County Court of Henry County, dated November 13, 1840, which certifies the signature of I. S. Rainey.]