April 15, 2021

Pages 54-58
Whole Number 8


by William Perry Johnson

[Editor's Note: In future issues of The Sparks Quarterly, there will appear periodically the marriage bonds for persons named Sparks which have been preserved for various North Carolina Counties, Our Historian - Genealogist, William Perry Johnson, has prepared the following informative article as an introduction to this series.]

An important source of genealogical data in North Carolina is the marriage bonds. These bonds were originally to be found in the county courthouses, but in recent years most of them have been deposited for safekeeping in the North Carolina State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Marriage bonds were first required in North Carolina by the Act of April 4th, 1741. This act provided that "every clergyman of the Church of England, or for want of such, any lawful Magistrate, within this Government, shall join together in the holy estate of matrimony, such persons who may lawfully enter into such a relation, and have complied with the directions herein after contained. . . . No Minister or Justice of the Peace . . shall celebrate the rites of matrimony . . . without license or thrice publication of the banns as prescribed by the rubric in the book of common prayer." License must be issued by the Clerk of the County Court of the county where the feme shall have her usual residence. The prospective groom, in order to obtain this license, must make a bond with sufficient security in the sum of fifty pounds proclamation money ($250), with condition that there is no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage. This bond guaranteed that both bride and groom were free to marry, i.e., were white and of legal age, or had consent of parent or guardian in case of minority; that neither party was already legally married to a spouse, and so on.

In 1766 the Presbyterian, or dissenting, clergy were permitted to perform the ceremony, as they had been doing, apparently illegally, for quite some time. (The Quakers in North Carolina had been performing their own marriages since before 1680, by first declaring their intentions of marriage in two successive monthly meetings, then becoming man and wife in a ceremony distinctively Quaker.) In 1778 it was enacted that all regular ministers of the gospel of every denomination, "having the cure of souls," and all justices of the peace, are "authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony according to the rites of their respective churches and agreeable to the rules in this act prescribed." Provision was again made for marriage either by license or by banns published three times by any minister of the gospel. The amount of the bond required for license was raised to five hundred pounds lawful money of the State ($2500). In 1836-7 the amount of the bond was changed to $1000. In 1867 the law was changed so that no bond was required, and, from then on, just the marriage license was issued, for a small fee paid to the Clerk of Court. No prevision was ever made for the recording of the marriage bonds or marriage licenses until around 1850, when it was required by law that the Clerk of the Court keep a record of the marriage licenses.

Thus, the prospective groom and his bondsman (usually a close relative or friend of the bride or groom) would therefore travel--sometimes fifty miles or more in days when counties were large and courthouses few and far between--to the courthouse in the county where the prospective bride resided. The groom then applied to the Clerk of Court for a marriage license, which was issued after he had signed a marriage bond, with his bondsman as security. The Clerk of Court often signed the marriage bond as a witness, unless other friends and relatives had accompanied the prospective groom and his bondsman; in which case one of them usually signed as a witness.

Illiterate persons signed their name by mark; in the marriage bonds this is indicated by a small x) The Clerk of Court kept the marriage bond, to be filed in his office, and gave the groom a marriage certificate, or license. Sometimes the very same day, but usually a day or even a week or so later, the prospective bride and groom would take their marriage license to the nearest minister, or if none was available, as was often the case, o the nearest magistrate, who performed the marriage ceremony. Near the middle of the last century, about the time when marriage bonds were no longer required, it was required by law that the minister or magistrate (Justice of the Peace, etc.) who performed the marriage ceremony should place on the marriage license his name and the date of the marriage, and return the paper to the Clerk of Court where it was recorded and filed. This is why many of the marriage records in the 1850's and 1660's have both the date of the marriage license and the date of the marriage. Needless to say, many ministers and magistrates failed to comply with this law, which accounts for further losses of North Carolina marriage records.

Thus, about the only source of marriage records in North Carolina before 1650 is the marriage bonds, which cover the period from 1741 to 1667. Very few marriage bonds, however, have been preserved in North Carolina for the years prior to the American Revolution, and they are often sparse for many decades after that. There are several reasons for this lack of marriage bonds in North Carolina. Perhaps the primary reason is a financial one--few families were wealthy enough to post the bond required. One cynic has remarked that only the proud or the rich flaunted their marriage bonds. Another reason is that not only were many of the county officials in colonial days extremely lax in enforcing the marriage laws, but when their small offices became crowded, they often had a "house cleaning," simply taking out and burning all old, out—dated, and, to them, useless and worthless court records. Many marriage bonds perished in this way. Others were lost in courthouse fires; some of them were destroyed during the War between the States. It is estimated that less than one third of all marriages in North Carolina were performed by license, the bulk being performed by banns, which required no license and hence no bond. And perhaps less than half of the bonds are extant today. Therefore, the lack of a marriage bond is no proof that an ancestor did not marry in North Carolina.

Pages 54-55
Whole Number 4


Copied from the Originals by William Perry Johnson

[Editor's Note: Surry County, North Carolina, from which the following bonds were taken, was formed in 1770 from Rowan County. In 1777 the County of Wilkes was cut off from Surry, and in 1789 the County of Stokes was likewise cut off from Surry. In 1850 Surry was again divided, with Yadkin County being set apart. Parts of Surry County were annexed to Alleghany County in 1870 and in 1875. Dobson is the county seat of Surry County today. Since Mr. Johnson copied these bonds they have been placed in the Archives in Raleigh.]

Following is a full copy of the marriage bond, dated 1812, for Reuben Johnson (son of Charles and Susannah (Sparks) Johnson) of Surry County, North Carolina. It is inserted here as a typical example of a North Carolina marriage bond of that period.

"State of North Carolina,

Surry County.

"Know all men by these presents, That we Reuben Johnson and Elisha Chappel are held and firmly bound unto William Hawkins, Governor, or his Successors in office, in the full sum of Five Hundred Pounds current Money, to be paid to the said Governor, his successors or Assigns, for the which payment well and truly to be made and done, we bind ourselves, our Heirs, Executors and Administrators jointly and severally, firmly by these presents, sealed with our seals, and dated this 23d day of May A.D. 1812.

"The Condition of the above Obligation is such, that whereas the above bounden Reuben Johnson hath made application for a License for a Marriage to be celebrated between him and Mary Harvil of the County aforesaid:——Now, in case it shall not appear hereafter, that there is any lawful cause or impediment to obstruct the said Marriage, then the above Obligation to be void, otherwise to remain in full force and virtue.

Signed, Sealed and Delivered in the Presence of [s], Reuben Johnson [s] Elisha Chappel"

Alexander x Smith married Nancy Sparks, July 22, 1796. Bondsman: Joseph Smith.
Benjamin x Sparks married Eliza. Hicks, January 18, 1797. Bondsman: John Allen.
William West married Margarett Sparks, January 4, 1799. Bondsman: Joseph Smith.
Henry Bray married Sarah Sparks, May 14, 1803. Bondsman: Stephen Mankins.
Mathew x Sparks married Sarah Elmore, February 20, 1808. Bondsman: Wm. West.
Wiley x Craft married Aagatha Sparks, January 28, 1812. Bondsman: Allen x Sisk.
William x Sparks married Elizabeth Gentry, January 4, 1813. Bondsman: Wiley Craft.
Joseph Sparks married Martha Edwards, January 28, 1815. Bondsman: Richard Gentry.
William Sparks married Lethey Speer, August 1, 1816. Bondsman: Thomas x Arnold. Jonathan Sparks married Rachel Swaim, November 26, 1817. Bondsman: Wm. Sparks.

John Russell married Nancy Sparks, September 11, 1824. Bondsman: Joel H. Burch.
George Sparks, Jr. married Fany Lindsey, December 1, 1829. Bondsman: Charles x Johnson, Jr.
Allen Redding married Sarah Sparks, November 11, 1833. Bondsman: Wm. Redding.
Thomas Holcomb married Susan Sparks, October 9, 1835. Bondsman: Leroy Holcomb.
James x Morrison married Sally Sparks, November 13, 1836. Bondsman: Henry x Waldridge.
Athanasious Sparks married Sally Brinegar, April 12, 1837. Bondsman: Moses Austill. [he signs as Athe Sparks. WPJ]
Thomas x Sparks married Catherine Swaim, February 28, 1837. Bondsman: William Z. x Sparks.
Francis Wood married Nancy Sparks, January 4, 1838. Bondsman: Minchin Goss.
Wm Sparks married Mary Benge, September 5, 1844. Bondsman: George Sparks.
Joel Pardew married Janetty Sparks, October 30, 1845. Bondsman: Wm. Holcomb.
James Sparks married Lethee Ann Bryan, October 29, 1846. Bondsman: Francis Wood.
Daniel Richardson married Jane Sparks, August 3, 1862. Bondsman: Isaac Lundy.


Copied by William Perry Johnson

[Editors Note: Wilkes County was formed in 1777 from Surry and the District of Washington. A large number of changes in the boundaries of Wilkes County have been made through the years, many of which it is unnecessary to mention here. It is of interest that this section was considered a part of Tennessee prior to the Revolutionary War, and actually called "Tennessee." The major changes in the boundaries of Wilkes County include the formation of Ashe County from Wilkes in 1799 and the formation of Caldwell County from part of Wilkes in 1841. For a complete record of these changes see The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663—1943, by David Leroy Corbitt, Raleigh, State Department of Archives and History, 1950. The county seat of Wilkes County today is Wilkesboro.]

John Sparks married Mary Parmely, August 14, 1781. Bondsman: James Bunyard.
John Johnson married Peggey Sparks, January 17, 1782. Bondsman: Adoniram Allen.
Vim x Gibson married Margaret Sparks, April 29, 1782. Bondsman: William Wilcockson.
Jacob Davis married Lizzey Sparks, May 21, 1782. Bondsman: Benjamin Allen.
Charles x Johnson married Susana Sparks, March 2, 1784. Bondsman: John x Bolin.
James x Denney married Hannah Sparks, November 23, 1784. Bondsman: George x Denney.
Matthew Durham married Mary Sparkes, December 28, 1801. Bondsman: Cahles (sic.) Sparkes.
Francis Kirby, Jr. married Mary Sparks, August 30, 1813.
Joel Sparks married Nancy Blackborn, July 27, 1814. Bondsman: Claborn Waddill.
Samuel x Sparks married Mary Alvey, October 22, 1814. Bondsman: Wiseman x Alvey.
George Sparks married Elizabeth Armstrong, October 24, 1814. Bondsman: Westley x Armstrong.
Hardy Sparks married Susannah Brown, January 5, 1815. Bondsman: James Sparks.
Emaniel x Baugess married Amelia Sparkes, September 26, 1817. Bondsman: Joseph x Spicer.

Jonas Sparks married Mary Brown, September 1817. Bondsman: John x Brown.
William x Allexander married Sary Sparkes, March 1820. Bondsman: James Johnson.
William R. Sparks married Salley Wilcockson, March 1821. Bondsman: Reuben Sparks.
Joseph x Sparks married Sabry Demnit, February 4, 1822. Bondsman: Joseph x Brown.
Colbea Sparks married Sarah Pruitt, dau. of John Pruitt, December 28, 1822. Bondsman: Claborn x Wadle.
Wiley Gentry married Matilda Sparks, October 12, 1825. Bondsman: William R. Sparks.
Benjamin Hall married Sarah Sparks, January 16, 1828. Bondsman: Daniel Brown.
William x Sparks married Salley Jinnings, September 1828. Bondsman: William R. Sparks.
Reubin Sparks married Phoeby Blackburn, October10, 1828. Bondsman: Eli Blackburn.
William Frasier married Temperance Sparks, February 4, 1832. Bondsman: P(eter) Dowell.
George Chambers married Bilenda Sparks, June 6, 1833. Bondsman: Henry Chambers.

Hampton x Hollaway married Mary Sparkes, February 1, 1834. Bondsman: Wm M. Forester. Solomon Sparks, Jr. married Malinda Ann Caudill, April 1, 1835. Bondsman: Hampton x Holdaway.
James Hankes married Lewsinda Sparkes, January 13, 1838. Bondsman: Meredith Lyon.
Solomon Sparkes married Marey Day, January 30, 1838. Bondsman: C(h)apman Lewis.
Silas x Perdue married Malinday Sparkes, February 23, 1838. Bondsman: James Sale.
Merideth Lion married Melindia Sparks, August 23, 1838. Bondsman: Jacob Lyon.
Vim R(usal) Sparkes, April 12, 1839. Bondsman: Sam'l x Sparkes.
Joseph Sparkes married Marey Gray, September 20, 1842. Bondsman: George Chambers.
Daniel Sparkes married Mary L. Walker, February 16, 1843. Bondsman: W(illia)m Vannoy.
James E. Crysel married Elizabeth Sparkes, June 5, 1843. Bondsman: John Land.
Joel Sparks married Miry Lane, September 5, 1844. Bondsman: S(aml) K. Hartin.
Robert Sparks 1845. Bondsman: Joel x Sparks.
Roubin Sparkes married Belinda Gray, January 5, 1846. Bondsman: Joseph x Sparkes.

Jacob Lyon married Malindy Sparkes, June 6, 1846. Bondsman: James Durham.
Joel Sparkes married Charloty Durham, June 21, 1846. Bondsman: James Durham.
James Durham married Mity Sparks, August 15, 1846. Bondsman: Merideth Lyon.
Jesse P. Adams married Jincey Sparkes, October 29, 1846. Bondsman: Reuben Spearkes.
Joel Sparks married Mary Shatley, November 23, 1846. Bondsman: John x Shatley.
Williford Privett, Jr. married Huldah Sparkes, November 22, 1848. Bondsman: Thomas L. Kelly.
Alexander x Sparkes married Mary M. Bryan, June 12, 1849. Bondsman: Francis Wood.
James Sparkes married Carlotte Dickerson, January 14, 1850. Bondsman: Isiah Field.
John Durham bonded Sally Sparks, November 20, 1851. Bondsman: James Durham. Married 21 December 1851 by James McAnn, J.P.
Noah Sparkes married Rachiel M. McBride, December 4, 1851. by D. Swaim.
Joseph N. Goforth married Mary Sparks, October 21, 1852. Bondsman: Samuel S. Goforth.
Samiel x Sparkes married Salley Ellis, October 26, 1852. Bondsman: William x Redding.
George W. Sparks married Elizabeth E. Johnson, October 17, 1855. Bondsman: Lcander Johnson.
B. C. Hutchinson married Jane Sparks, April 10, 1858. Bondsman: E. M. Hutchinson.
Amos x Ladd bonded Sary Sparkes - September 8, 1859. Bondsman: Aaron Ladd. Married September 9, 1859 by John Brown, J.P.
James H. Billings married Arrena R. Sparks, August 5, 1350. Married by John Gentry.
Ruben x Sparks married Elizabeth J. Billings, April 12, 1862. Bondsman: Daniel Billings.

Pages 106-107
Whole Number 12

Copied by William Perry Johnson

(Editor's note: For a discussion of North Carolina marriage bonds, see Mr. Johnson's article on pages 54 and 55 of the December, 1954, issue of The Sparks Quarterly, Whole No. 8)

Henry Bryan married Elizabeth Sparks, February 11, 1786. Bondsman: Thos. Enochs.
Jonas x Sparks married Mary Eakle, September 5, 1786. Bondsman: Peter Little.
Jesse Caton married Ester Sparks, January 20, 1787. Bondsman: Charles Caton.
Jonas x Sparks married Anney Katon, October 15, 1796. Bondsman: John Hill.
Christian Stipe married Esther Sparks, December 19, 1806. Bondsman: C(harles) F. Bagge.
Joseph Sparks married Febey Hinkle, January 28, 1811. Bondsman: Jesse Walker.
Ephram Sparks married Sarah Douthit, August 10, 1811. Bondsman: James E. Brown,
Benjamin Dulin married Elizabeth Sparks, December 9, 1815, Bondsman: David x Call.
Daniel x Fults married Jamima Sparks, September 2, 1816. Bondsman: James x Orreil.

Page 161
Whole Number 15


In the December, 1955, Whole No. 12, issue of the Quarterly, nine marriage bonds from Rowan County, North Carolina, were listed, as copied by William Perry Johnson. The following three bonds should also have been included--these three were found by Joy Sparks, one of our charter members.

Cornelious Sparks married Susannah Stephens, December 14, 1812. Bondsman: Abraham March.
Joseph Sparks married Polley Cole, December 14, 1814. Bondsman: Jesse Walker.
Joseph Sparks married Polley Call, August 28, 1823. Bondsman: Fielding Slater.

Page 241
Whole Number 19

Copied by William Perry Johnson

Hartwell Blalook bonded Cassey Sparks, August 14, 1817. Bondsman: Abraham Crabtree.
William Dollar bonded Jane Sparks, May 22, 1838. Bondsmen: W, McCauley, George Browning.
Christopher Lynn bonded Candis Sparks, September 12, 1839. Bondsmen: Thomas Christian, A. Cheek.
Burrell Robarts bonded Mary Ann Sparks, November 26, 1849. Bondsman: Christopher Lynn.

Page 4826-4827
Whole Number 178


Hanner Becknell bonded Shadrick Standley, 7---- 1800; Bondsman, Samuel Anderson; Witness, Wm. B. Lenoir.
Benj. Becknal bonded Rebecca Lewis, September 10, 1813; Bondsman, J. Waugh; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Nancy Bechnail bonded James Lunsford, December 5, 1815; Bondsman, William Brown; Witness, R. Martin, CIk.
Lewis Bechnell bonded Jane Felts, July 12, 1819; Bondsman, Henry Cook; Witness, Mary Martin.
Pleasent Becknal bonded Mary Campble, February 27, 1821; Bondsman, Reuben Standley; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Seneth Becknal bonded Noah Brown, April 18, 1823; Bondsman, John W. Fergerson; Witness, W. W. Martin.
Meriday Becknall bonded Rebeccah Stanley, December 18, 1823; Bondsman, William Nance; Witness, R. Martin, Clk.
Ruth Bicknall bonded Thos. Marlow, February 1, 1825; Bondsman, Shadrack Stan ley; Witness, R. Martin, CIk.
Elizabeth Bicknall bonded Zadock Bell, February 6, 1827; Bondsman, William Bell; [No witness]
Merril Becknail bonded Sarah Lewis, August 11, 1829; Bondsman, Reuben Standley; Witness: R. Martin, Clk.
Dolly Becknold bonded Shepherd Lunsford, August 15, 1834; Bondsman: Daniel Rash; Witness, Wm. Mastin, C.C.C.
Larkin J. Bicknell bonded Marinda Hammons, December 29, 1834; Bondsman, J. S. Bryan; Witness, Wm. Mastin, C.C.C.
Hily Becknel bonded George Tiliman, February 16, 1838; Bondsman, Andrew J Southur; Witness, D. Gray.
Mary Bicknell bonded Joel Brown, August 30, 1852; Bondsman, Wesley Felts; Witness, John Brown.
Benjamin E. Becknell bonded Sarah Hardin, January 14, 1853; Witness, W. Martin, Married January 18, 1853 by R. W. Wooton, J.P.
Manda M. Becknell bonded William E. Mastin, March 15, 1856; Witness, John Brown, Dpty.

[Editor's Note: Readers are reminded that a marriage bond was usually obtained several days prior to the marriage; there are even instances where the marriage never took place. In copying these marriage bonds, William Perry Johnson carefully transcribed each name as it was spelled on the bond. These bonds illustrate the variety of ways the name Bicknell could be spelled.]