March 19, 2019

Pages 251-260
Whole Number 20

JOHN SPARKS (1750-1825)

by Russell E. Bidlack

On April 17, 1818, 45. John Sparks, a resident of the town of Easton, Washington County, New York, applied for a pension based on his service during the Revolutionary War. In order to qualify for a pension under the law of 1818, a veteran not only had to prove that he had served in the War, but also that he was in real need of financial assistance. It was not required, however, that he give his birthplace nor a record of his activity following the War. It would appear that. John Sparks belonged to the rather large Sparks family of Salem County, New Jersey, for he stated that it was 'in the town of Salem in West New Jersey' that he enlisted in Dec, 1775. (in the September, 1956, issue of The Sparks Quarterly, pp. 157-59, the pension papers of another member of the Salem County family were printed. This pensioner was also named John Sparks (born ca. 1757, died 1826), and was probably a relative of the above John Sparks.)

The only statement regarding the parentage of John Sparks (1750-1825) to appear in his papers was that made by W. B. Graves in 1851 that 'his father also rendered some service.' (see page 258)

In addition to the pension papers of John Sparks, there are many documents in his file pertaining to applications of his widow, Lovina (Brewster) Sparks. Furthermore, in one of her applications she enclosed the pages from the family Bible which contained the records of the family. These remained in the pension file and from them it has been possible to compile a rather complete record of John Sparks's family. (Photocopies of these appear on pages 259-60.)

The signatures of John Sparks on his application are clear and legible. He spelled his name 'Sparks,' but Lovina always signed as Lovina 'Sparkes.' For the sake of consistency, the name has been copied as 'Sparks' in each of these records.

45. John Sparks was born March 24, 1750. He was married on June 10, 1786, to Lovina Brewster who was born August 9, 1769. (She appears to have been commonly called 'Vina,' and sometimes her name was copied as 'Covina' in the records.) John Sparks was thirty-six years old when he married Lovina Brewster, and she was nineteen years his junior. On his application of June 2, 1820, John Sparks stated that he was the father of fourteen children, although the births of only eleven were recorded in the Bible. Perhaps the other three died in infancy and were not recorded, or perhaps John Sparks was the father of three children by a previous marriage.

According to these Bible records, John and Lovina (Brewster) Sparks were the parents of the following children:

45.1 Dameris Sparks born April 8, 1790; married September 4, 1821.
45.2 Rachel Sparks, born June 11, 1793; married December 11, -----.
45.3 Thankful Carren Sparks, born February 28, 1796; married July 20, 1812.
45.4 Elisha B. Sparks, born March 25, 1798; married September 1820.
45.5 Ozias Sparks, born July 29, 1800; married Wilthe [?] B. Burnett, March 22, 1829
45.6 William B. Sparks, born March 11, 1803; married Rachel Hine [?] July 31, 1828.
45.7 Sary Mariah Sparks, born July 24, 1805; married Abel Brewster, May 19, 1826.
45.8 John Sparks, Jr., born August 22, 1810; married Nancy Ackaman, December, 1829.
45.9 Harriet A. Sparks, born November 1, 1812; married Joseph Fuller, July, 1837.
45.10 Charlotte A. Sparks, born November 1, 1812; married Isaac Blodget, January 1, 1830.
45.11 Abraham Sparks, born July 28, 1814; died November 1, 1814.

In addition to the births of the children of John and Lovina Sparks, six other births were recorded in the Bible. These were apparently grandchildren. Since three of these have the surname Standley, it would appear that either Rachel or Thankful married FNU Standley.

45.x.1 Ozias S. Standley, born October 11, 1828
45.x.2 Thomas Standley, born October 29, 1833
45.x.3 Jane Standley,
45.x.4 Elizabeth L. Sparks, born April 20, 1831  

John Sparks was still living in Washington County, New York, when he died in 1825. In 1838 a law was enacted by Congress under which widows of soldiers of the Revolution could apply for a pension. Lovina Sparks applied in 1840. At that time she was living in Potter County, Pennsylvania, as were her sons, Ozias Sparks and William B. Sparks. When the 1850 census was taken, Lovina was listed as living with her son John and his family in Clara Township, Potter County. Her son William B. Sparks was living nearby with his family in Sharon Township. There were no Sparkses living in Washington County, New York, in 1850 according to the census.

Following are the families of 45.6 William B. Sparks and 45.8 John Sparks, Jr., as given in the 1850 census of Potter County, Pennsylvania:

p. 274 Sparks, 45.6 William B. M 46 Farmer $150 New York (birthplace)
      "      Rachel F 32       "       "
      "      45.6.1 Benjamin M 18 Laborer   PA
      "      45.6.2 Sarah F 15       "
      "      45.6.3 Andrew M 13       "
      "      45.6.4 Nancy F 10       "
      "      45.6.5 Abel M 8       "
      "      45.6.6 Rachel F 5       "
      "      45.6.7 William M 1     New York [error?]
p. 265 Sparks, 45.8 John M 39 Farmer $500 New York 
      "      45.8.1 Naoma F 27       "      "
      "      45.8.2 Henrietta F 20       "      "
      "      45.8.3 James E. M 18       "      "
      "      45.8.4 Jorace H. M 13     PA
      "      45.8.5 Riley M 6        "
      "      45.8.6 Lovina J. F 3        "
      "      45.8.7 Henry N. M 1        "
      "      45.8.8 Lovina F 79     New York

A Lydia E. Sparks, age 14, born in New York, was living with the family of Ira and Folly Ellis in Harrison Township. She was probably a daughter of John Sparks, Jr., and was 'working out' at the time the census was taken. The birthplace of William, one-year-old son of 45.6 William B. Sparks, was given as 'New York'; it would seem probable that this was an error and that he, like the rest of the children, was born in Pennsylvania.


(Editor's Note: In copying these documents, capitalization and punctuation have been modernized for the sake of clarity, but no changes have been made in spelling or content. Several minor documents and certificates which contain no data of interest have been omitted. John Sparks was granted a pension of $96.00 per annum, effective September 4, 1818. Lovina Sparks was granted a pension of $36.00 per annum, effective March 4, 1836; this was increased to $96.00 per annum in 1852. The file number for these documents in the National Archives is W.19,391.)

State of New York
Washington County SS          Greenwich, April 17, 1818.

John Sparks, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith that he was a soldier of the Revolutionary Army of the United States of America on the Continental establishment.

That he enlisted as such soldier in the month of Dec, 1775, in the town of Salem in West New Jersey, under Capt. David Duboies & in Col. Newcomb's Regiment for the term and period of nine months; that he marched with the said Capt. Duboies and with Sd. company to Philadelphia, where he was mustered & joined the regiment; that he continued then untill the spring following when he marched in said regiment & in Genl. Hurd's Brigade to Staton Island, retreated from thence & marched to New York, thence to Long Island & that after this, & on the landing of the British at said Long Island, he, with the American troops, retreated again & marched to Flatbush & fighting on said retreat; thence left the Island & went to New York; thence to Kings Bridge at Fort Washington, where the Army made a stand--had a warm action with the enemy--repulsed the enemy three times. That after this & leaving a respectable force at said Fort, your deponent with the remainder of the Army marched to what was called the English Neighborhood in New Jersey, passing up by the way of Fishkill & crossing the North River. That after this, Fort Lee being taken, he retreated, crossed the river and lay at Correll's Ferry where he continued until December when he marched to Trenton, engaged the enemy, took nine hundred Hessions, arms &c.; went from there to Lancaster where he received his discharge, having served out three months more than the time of his enlistment. And your deponent further saith his said discharge was verbal, not written.

And your deponent further saith that after this & in the month of June, as he believes, he enlisted at Boston under Capt. John Manly as a marine on board the Frigate Hancock of thirty-six guns; that he immediately sailed with the said crew on a cruise; that they were out about nine days when they espied the British fleet of Gravesport consisting of eleven sail; that they lay to and as the British came up the said Frigate attacked them, boarded and secured their crews & sent them into port; that one of the said vessels was a brig loaded with arms, &c.; and your deponent further saith that after this, on the same day, our said Frigate came up with the British convoy, a fifty gun ship, the Rainbow, commanded by Capt. John Hill; that the sd. Frigate had an engagement with the said ship, fought five glasses, when she struck, but before the men were secured an English twenty gun sloop of war came up & gave us action. We then in turn were obliged to strike to her & surrender as prisoners of war. That your deponent was then taken with the sd. Capt. Manly's crew to Hallifax, thence to Quebeck in the ship Hine [or Fline ?] of twenty guns, put in irons in jail where they remained sixteen months. After this your deponent, with the said crew, were carried to England, taken before the Mayor & condemned to be hung. That after this he, with the said crew, were carried to Plymouth and confined in Mill Prison where they were held in sd. confinement untill after the Peace, when your deponent, with the said crew, were set at liberty; and that after this your deponent worked his passage home to America on board the ship Nancy which was a Scotch ship. And your deponent further saith that he is now sixty-six years old & that from his reduced situation in life he is in need of assistance from his country for support. And that he now lives in the town of Easton, County of Washington and State of New York; and that he has no other evidence now in his power of his said service.
                                                                                                                                                   [signed] John Sparks

State of New York
Washington County SS Greenwich, 17th April 1818.

       Then personally appeared before me John Sparks, the signer of the above declara' tion or affidavit, and made oath that the same was true. And I hereby certify that it does fully appear to my satisfaction that the said John Sparks did so serve as stated in his said affidavit against the common enemy in the Revolutionary War, and he is in my opinion a proper subject for a pension under the 'Law of the United States providing for persons engaged in the Land ar~1 Naval service of the same in the Revolutionary War.' And I now transmit the proceedings & testimony taken & had before me to the Secretary for the Department of War pursuant to the aforementioned Act of Congress.
                                                                                                                                [signed] Jonathan Sprague
[Note: This document is followed by a certificate signed by D. Shepherd, Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Washington County, dated April 23, 1818, certifying that Jonathan Sprague was a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in and for the County of Washington.]

[Note: From the following record it appears that the application of John Sparks was at first rejected because his name could not be found in the rolls. After receipt of this letter his name was apparently found on the roll of Capt. Manley who was second in command of American naval forces during the Revolution.]

Hon. J. C. Calhoun, Esquire.
               The case of John Sparks was returned from the Department for further evidence of service and discharge, he not appearing on the Rolls. by perusing his declaration in order to obtain a pension, you will perceive his case interesting & his service long and wretched. He still thinks he can be traced on the Rolls of his land service, or more particularly on the Roll of Capt. Manley of the Hancock crew. The important service of Capt. Manley & crew to the government at the time, and their common & general suffering in prison in Plymouth, has been proverbial, & the individual names at the time was notorious in the U. States. He feels that he has complied with the law allowing pensions & if he fails he fails with the utmost regret as his family is large, he entirely destitute of property, & worn out [from] age & Infirmity. Therefore, in his behalf, I must interest you to cause further search of the Rolls in his case, & from the facts of his service so generally known, perhaps it may be an
exception to the common rule.

                                                                                                                           I am Sir, with much respect your
State of New York                                                                                                        obt. servt. &c.
Washington County   SS                                                                                                        [Signed] John C. Walker.
       Greenwich, 13th August 1818.

[Note: The application of John Sparks was finally approved, but it was then neccessary for him to prove that he was actually in need of assistance.]

District of New York
Washington County.
       On the 2nd day of June, 1820, personally appeared in open court, being a court of record for the said County . . . John Sparks, aged seventy years, resident in Easton in said County, being first duly sworn according to law, doth on his oath declare that he served in the Revolutionary War as follows: in the Marine Corps under Capt. John Manly, ship Hancock, taken prisoner with Capt. Manly & kept prisoner till after the War when he was released in England, as stated in his original declaration dated 17th April 1818, appears by his pension certificate number 3004 dated 25th September 1818.

And I do solemnly swear that I was a resident citizen of the United States on the 18th day of March 1818, & that I have not since that time by gift, sale or in any manner desposed of my property or any part thereof with interest thereby so to diminish it as to bring myself within the provisions of an Act of Congress entitled 'An Act to Provide for Certain Persons Engaged in the Land & Naval Service of the United States in the Revolutionary War' passed on the 18th day of March 1818, & that I have not, nor has any person in trust for me, any property or securities, contracts, or debts due to me nor have I any income other than what is contained in the schedule hereto annexed & by me subscribed, viz.:

1 cow 6 spoons 1 chair
1 yearling heifer 10 knives & forks 1 chest
1 calf  1 two-quart tin pail  1 little wheel
3 plates 1 tea kittle 1 great wheel
1 pewter platter 1 spiner  1 axe
1 pewter tea pot  1 pot  2 hoes
2 milk pails 1 wash bowl 1 shovel
1 churn Tongs  1 reel

My necessary clothing & bedding excepted, [no] income now but my pension.

My family consists of myself, whom am able to labor most of the time, and my wife, Vina, aged fifty-two, Ozias Sparks, aged 19; Maria Sparks, aged 14, weakly, unable to do much; John Sparks, Junr., aged 10 years; Angeline and Cordelia, aged 8 years. [Note: Angeline and Cordelia were the twins whose names were recorded in the family Bible as 'Harriet A.' and 'Charlotte A.] The whole number of my children is fourteen. I have, before receiving my pension, been obliged several times to obtain relief from the town.
                                                                                                                                       [signed] John Sparks
Subscribed & sworn this 2nd day
of June, 1820, in open court.

                   [signed] D. Shepherd, Cik.

I Daniel Shepherd, Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas in & for the County of Washington do hereby certify that the foregoing oath and the schedule thereto annexed are truly copied. And I further certify that it is the opinion of the said Court that the total amount in value of the property exhibited in the foresaid schedule is twenty- five dollars and seventy cents. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of the said Court on the second day of June, 1820.

[signed] D. Shepherd, C. Clerk.

[Note: John Sparks died on March 14, 1825. In 1838 Congress passed an act to aid widows of soldiers of the Revolution. On May 25, 1840, Lovina Sparks, widow of John Sparks, made her application for a pension.]

State of Pennsylvania,
Potter County. SS
On this twenty-fifth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty, personally appeared before the Honorable the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas now holding a Court in and for the said County, Lovina Sparks, a resident of Hebrun Township in the County of Potter, aged seventy-one years, who being first duly sworn according to law doth on her oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the provisions made by the Act of Congress passed July 7th 1838 entitled 'An Act Granting Half Pay and Pensions to Certain Widows.'

That she is the widow of John Sparks who was a soldier in the Army of the United States in the Revolution, and that the said John Sparks was a pensioner and drew a pension as a soldier up to the time of his death the fourteenth of March, one thousand eight hundred & twenty-five. She further declares that she married the said John Sparks on the tenth day of June in the year seventeen hundred and eighty-six; that her husband, the aforesaid John Sparks, died on the fourteenth day of March eighteen hundred and twenty-five. That she was not married to him prior to his leaving the service, but the marriage took place previous to the first of January seventeen hundred and ninety-four, viz, at the time above stated.

                                                                                                                           [signed] Lovina Sparks

Sworn and subscribed on the day
& year above written, before:

                   [signed] Timothy Ives, Jr.
                                                                       Associate Judges.
                    Senica Freeman

[Note: This is followed by a certificate signed by Isaac Strait, Prothonotary, certifying to the correctness of the above signatures.]

Potter County. SS

       Personally appeared before me, Ezra L. Graves, Esquire, one of the Justices of the Peace of the County of Potter and State of Pennsylvania, Ozias Sparks and Wm. B. Sparks of the township of Hebrum in said County, who, after being duly affirmed according to law, saith that the Claimant, Lovina Sparks, is the identical widow of John Sparks who served in the army of the Revolutionary War who received a pension therefore and the said John Sparks received his pension under the New York agency and that he, the said John Sparks, resided in the Town of Easton and County of Washington and State of New York at the time he first received his pension.

                                                                                                                                       [signed] Ozias Sparks

Affirmed and subscribed,                                                                                                              Wm. B. Sparks
July 2d 1840, before me
                                       [signed] Ezra L. Graves, J.P.

[Note: This is followed by the usual certificate attesting Graves's signature, signed by Isaac Strait.]

[Note: A number of documents in the file of John and Lovina Sparks are omitted here because they add nothing to our knowledge of this family. On September 9, 1840, Crosby W. Ellis wrote to the Commissioner of Pensions on behalf of Lovina Sparks asking why she was not entitled to $96.00 per annum, the amount which her husband had received, instead of $36.00 per annum which she had been granted. On June 6, 1843, Lovina Sparks, then seventy-four years old, made a new application for a pension under the provisions of a new law passed on March 3, 1843. On March 4, 1848, Lovina Sparks appointed Charles Wise of Philadelphia to be her lawful attorney in the collecting of her pension. This power of attorney was witnessed by W. B. Graves and John Sparks. On December 8, 1848, Lovina Sparks, then seventy-nine years old and a resident of Clara Township, Potter County, Pennsylvania, made a new application for a pension under the provisions of an Act of Congress passed February 2, 1848. The following letter is perhaps of sufficient interest to quote in its entirety.]

                                                                                                                                   Clara, Potter Co., Pa.
                                                                                                                                   Jany. 2d 1851.

To the Commissioner of Pensions:

 There is in this vicinity some persons that are interested in the bounty land law of last session of Congress. One is an old man who served as he says some 8 or 10 mo. in the War of the Revolution, but I think 5 mos. only, 4 at one time and 1 at another are found on record. His discharge is lost. The other services were rendered at sundry times, as guard of the military stores at Fredericksburgh, on alarm parties, &c. &c. He also stood as minute man a considerable length of time. His father also served, at one time one month and afterwards, having lost his health to do duty in the ranks was employed as conductor of teams for considerable time, I am not advised how long, I think 2 or 3 mos., finding his own horse, &c. Neither of these men, father or son, ever recd. a pension. Is not this man (Isaac Phillips) entitled to something in his own right and also in right of his father?

There is a widow (Lovina Sparks, widow of John Sparks, deceased) who is a Revolutionary pensioner. She now receives a pension of $36.00 per annum on account of sea service of her husband. He served also on land and before his death, which was in 1825 or 6, received $96.00 a year on account of land service. His father also rendered some service. Now what I wish to know is what these persons are entitled to and what they must do to obtain it. They are both old persons and in need of anything that may be due them. From some years acquaintance with them I have no hesitation in saying that I think any statements they may make are entirely reliable.

I shall esteem it a personal favor to receive any papers, documents or copies of acts in relation to pensions that it may be convenient for you to forward to me and your early attention to the above queries will much oblige
                                                                                                                                         Yours Respy.

                                                                                                                                         [signed] W. B. Graves.

[Note: On March 12, 1851, Lovina Sparks, still a resident of Potter County, PA, made application for a pension in the same amount as her husband had received, $96.00. In February, 1852, Lovina Sparks moved with her son to Erie County, New York, as the following document reveals.]

State of New York,
County of Erie.

On this 13th day of May A.D. 1853, before me the subscriber, a Justice of the Peace in and for the said county, personally appeared Lovina Sparks and made oath in due form of law that she is the identical person who as the widow of John Sparks, deceased (who was a seaman in the Revolutionary War) is a pensioner of the United States under Act of February 2d, 1848, at the rate of $96 per annum upon the Roll of the Pennsylvania Agency at Philadelphia. That she has lately removed from the State of Pennsylvania and now resides in the State of New York, where she intends to remain, and wishes her pension to be made payable at Albany, NY, in future. That the following are her reasons for removing from Pennsylvania to New York, viz: That she lived with her son in the State of Pennsylvania and that her son moved into the State of New York in February, 1852, and she moved or came with him.

Sworn and subscribed before me the                                                                            [signed] Lovina Sparks
day & year first above written, & I
certify that I am not interested.
                                   [signed] James C. Paul, Justice of the Peace.

[Note: The above is followed by a certificate attesting that Paul was a Justice of the Peace, signed by William Andrew, Clerk of the Erie County Court. The last document in the file is a letter dated May 25, 1853, signed by E. C. Dale, Pension Agent in Philadelphia, addressed to L. N. Waldo, Commissioner of Pensions, stating that he was transferring Lovina Sparks's account to the agent in Albany. How long Lovina Sparks lived after 1853 is unknown.]

[NOTE: Pages 259 and 260 of Whole No. 20 consist of copies of two pages entitled FAMILY RECORD. These pages are referred to on the cover page of Whole No. 20 (page 252, paragraph 3) as being from the family bible of Lovina (Brewster) Sparks.]