March 23, 2021

Pages 1940-1943
Whole Number 100


William Henry Sparks
(View photograph)

(Editor's note: From time to time we have been publishing abstracts of the pension files of Union soldiers who served in the Civil War. A great many Union soldiers and their widows (sometimes parents and children received Federal pensions for their service and the papers comprising their files in the National Archives in Washington contain fascinating records of both historical and Genealogical significance. We have an index of all the pension files for persons named Sparks that was compiled for us a number of years ago by Carrie Grant Heppen (now deceased). There are over 600 names on this list. For $3.00 it is possible to request that a clerk in the National Archives select and xerox the papers in a given file that appear to the clerk to have genealogical importance. It is also possible to obtain xerox copies of all the papers in a file, but the cost can run from $10.00 to $25.00, depending upon the number. If members of the Association have Sparks ancestors who served in the Civil War on the Union side, we shall be glad to obtain copies ($3.00 search) and publish an abstract in the Quarterly.

Dr. Paul E. Sparks, President of our Association, has obtained a number of these files (selected papers) and has abstracted them for publication. We shall use these as space permits, but it will be many, many years before we can publish all 600. It must be remembered in reading these abstracts that we limited to those papers which a clerk in the National Archives has have been considered genealogically significant. WILLIAM HENRY SPARKS, son of John Thornton and Elizabeth (Launtz) Sparks, was born on February 17, 1839, in Lewis County, Kentucky. He married four times, (1) Josephine Holliday, (2) Octavia Crosby, (3) Jemima Graves, and (4) Elizabeth Carr. He served in Company G, 10th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry. File designation: Inv. Cert. No. 221,322.

On July 16, 1877, William H. Sparks, age 37, a resident of Fearisville, Lewis County, Kentucky, made application for an invalid pension. He stated that he had enlisted in the Union Army on August 9, 1862, at Tollesboro, Kentucky, in Company G, 10th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry, commanded by Col. C. J. Walker, and was discharged at Maysville, Kentucky, on September 17, 1863. While stationed near Covington, Kentucky, in October 1862, he contracted a chronic catarrh of the head because of the severe exposure incidental to the life of a soldier. He was treated by the Regimental Surgeon at a private residence. He said that when he enlisted he was 6 feet tall, had gray eyes, dark hair and a fair complexion, and that he had been a farmer. D. M. Fearis, John Fearis, Thomas A. Mitchel, and Joseph A. Sparks witnessed his signature and the application was sworn to before S. G. Hissis, Lewis County Court Clerk.

The War Department confirmed Sparks's military service on November 17, 1877. He had been enrolled on August 9, 1862, in Company G, 10th Regiment Kentucky Cavalry to serve for one year. He was present for duty until he was mustered out with his company on September 17, 1863. There was no evidence of disability; however, the Regimental hospital records were not on file.

On November 28, 1882, the Bureau of Pensions issued Invalid Certificate No. 221,322 and William H. Sparks was placed on the pension rolls at the rate of $4.00 per month.

On March 2, 1909, Sparks applied for increased pension benefits under the 1907 Act of Congress. He said in this application that he had been born on February 17, 1839, in Mowers Precinct, Lewis County, Kentucky, and had lived in that county all of his life. His post office was Cottageville. J. W. Bell and W. H. Thompson witnessed his signature and the application was sworn to before John K. Dunbar, a notary public of Adams County, Ohio.

William H. Sparks responded to a questionnaire from the Bureau of Pensions in May 1916. He gave his post office as Sand Hill, Kentucky, and stated that his present wife was Elizabeth King (Adkins) Carr whom he had married on May 6, 1916, at Georgetown, Ohio. Prior to this marriage, he stated that he had been married to Josephine M. Holiday on January 11, 1866; she had died on March 10, 1887 at Fearis, Lewis Co., Kentucky. To this first marriage six children had been born: John W. Sparks, born February 25, 1867. Ella E. Sparks, born December 31, 1868. Myrtle Sparks, born August 24, 1873. Edwin M. Sparks, born April 5, 1875. Bertha Sparks, born February 23, 1877. Leslie Sparks, born August 8, 1886.

William H. Sparks died on July 11, 1919, and his daughter, Bertha (Sparks) Parry, made application for reimbursement for the expenses of his last illness and burial. She said that her father had been married four times. The first marriage was to Josephine Holiday; the second was to Octavia Crosby; the third was to Jemima Graves; and the fourth was to Elizabeth Carr. He had been divorced from his second wife, Octavia Crosby, but she had died in 1917.

Mrs. Parry went on to say that her father died at her home at Trinity, Kentucky. He was attended by Dr. Samuel of Maysville, KY, and by Dr. Irvine of Tollesboro, KY. Persons who had helped care for her father included her sister, Myrtle Houston; her niece, Jennie Houston; her brother, J. W. Sparks; and her nephew, Leslie Sparks. She asked for reimbursement in the amount of $243.

On August 14, 1919, Elizabeth K. Sparks, age 76, a resident of Ripley, Ohio, made application for a widow's pension. She said she was a widow of William H. Sparks,whom she had married on May 6, 1916. She had been previously married to John Q. A. Carr in 1857. He was also a Civil War veteran. She appointed E. F. Young of Ripley, Ohio, as her attorney. Nothing was sent to indicate whether this was approved.

(Editor's Note: William Henry Sparks was the grandfather of Pete Sparks (P.O. Box 716, Starke, Florida, 32091) whose photograph and autobiographical sketch appeared in the Quarterly of December 1966 (Whole No. 56). It was Pete Sparks who provided the photograph of his grandfather that appears on this issue of the Quarterly. He believes that the father of William Henry Sparks was named John Alice Sparks, but official records in Lewis County, Kentucky, give his name as John Thornton Sparks. John Thornton Sparks was born ca. 1809 and died sometime in 1849. A sketch of his life appeared in the Quarterly of June 1970 (V. X, No. 2; Whole No. 70, pp. 1319-20). We believe that the parents of John Thornton Sparks sere George and Rachel (McClenahan) Sparks of Bourbon, Fleming, and Lewis Counties, KY. John Thornton Sparks married Elizabeth Launtz and they had ten children (see p. 1320 of the Quarterly). William Henry Sparks, born February 17, 1839, was their 7th child.

Pete Sparks remembers that the full name of the oldest son of William Henry and Josephine M. (Holiday) Sparks was John William Sparks (born February 25, 1867), but he was always called Will or Willie. The daughter listed as Ella E. Sparks in the pension file (born December 31, 1858), was Ellen Eugene; she died unmarried while still a "school girl." The daughter Myrtle (born August 21, 1873) married Walter Houston and they lived in Portsmouth, Ohio, for many years. The son Edwin (born Auril 5, 1875) had the middle name McMasters; he married Mildred Wilson, daughter of Samuel and Alice Wilson, and they were the parents of Pete Sparks (originally named Percival Wilson Sparks, born February 21, 1901), Alice Maria Sparks, and Leslie McKinley Sparks. The daughter of William Henry Sparks named Bertha (born February 23, 1877) was married twice but had no children, according to Pete Sparks.

Before the Civil War, according to Pete Sparks, William Henry Sparks worked with a crewof men who would ride a raft of tan bark down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and then on down to New Orleans. There the tan bark was sold. Then they could walk back home through the woods. After one trip, William Henry Sparks remained in the deep South and got a job working for a man who supplied wood for fuel for the steamships plying the Mississippi River. He was there when the Civil War broke out. The last river boat to be permitted to run back North offered to bring him back, but he said that he could not leave - - his boss had left him in charge of the business and, furthermore, the man owed him his wages. Later, however, he started back to Kentucky through the woods and when he reached the outposts of the Southern Army, he gave himself up and asked to be permitted to pass through the lines. In exchange for free passage through the ranks, he offered to recruit his friends for the Southern Army when he got home. He was permitted to pass through on his promise, but when he got back to Kentucky he enlisted in the Union Army as his pension application indicates.

After the war was over, according to Pete Sparks, William Henry Sparks, whom friends and neighbors called "Bill Henry," raised trotting horses along with tobacco, corn, and other small crops. As noted in the pension papers, his first wife, Josephine M. Holiday, died on March 10, 1887. He subsequently married three more times, but had no children by any wife except his first. He died at the home of his daughter, Bertha Sparks Parry, in Trinity, Kentucky, on July 11, 1919. Pete Sparks has noted that the several communities mentioned above, Fearis, Sand Hill, and Trinity, are within a radius of five miles of each other. "The post office address is Trinity, and a rural mail carrier covers the other villages," according to Pete Sparks, "and old Bill Henry's sister was Postmistress for several years when I was a boy going to school. The school was at Sand Hill, and there were other school houses in Cottageville, Fearis, etc., all within walking distance."

Pete Sparks relates that his father, Edwin McMasters Sparks, "taught school one year at Tollesboro and lived in Sand Hill; he walked nine miles each way, each day. He was supposed to have gotten a house to rent, but the deal fell through." Regarding his grandfather, Pete recalls: "Bill Henry lived in a valley, Bill Henry's brother, Thornton Sparks, lived on top of the hill (Mowery Precinct), and each Sunday Thornton would drive past Bill Henry's house on his way to church. Old Bill Henry would be sitting on his front porch. Thornton would say 'Good morning, Will'; Bill Henry would nod his head and grunt. They might not see each other for another week, when the same exchange would take place."

Pete Sparks's father, Edwin McMasters Sparks, was killed by a train when Pete was only two years old, and his mother then returned to the home of her parents, Samuel and Alice Wilson. Pete relates that "the Wilsons at one time owned ten square miles in that area, given them by George Washington, and my mother's mother always felt the Wilsons were better than the Sparkses. Like the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Wilsons lived in the river bottom, the land was more tillable, and they were more prosperous than the Sparkses who lived in the hills where grazing land was about all they had. Old Bill Henry had a flat area on top of the hill back of his house, where he had a race track, to work out his harness horses. The center of the track was the vegetable garden and one of my earliest recollections was riding; in my Uncle Willie's lap, riding, around the track, and waving to the twins (daughters of Myrtle Sparks Houston) who would be pickin pole beans, or whatever, in the garden."