"[Editor's Note: Joseph Sparks, who died in 1749 in Frederick County, Maryland, was a son of William and Mary ( ----- )
Sparks who migrated to the Colony of Maryland from Hampshire County, England, about 1663.There, William Sparks died in Queen Annes County in 1709. His biographical record was published in the QUARTERLY of March 1971, Whole No. 73, on pages 1381-1389, and included the text of his will. Named as sons in his will were William Sparks, Jr., John Sparks, George Sparks, and Joseph Sparks, the latter being described as "underage."
"Subsequent to the publication of the article about William Sparks (died 1709), an article dealing with his son, John Sparks, appeared in the December 1974 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 88, pages 1699-1704.This was followed by an article containing information regarding William Sparks, Jr., eldest son of William Sparks (died 1709), which was published in the QUARTERLY of December 1989, Whole No. 148, pages3484-3486. Here, we present an account of the life of Joseph Sparks, youngest son of William Sparks, Sr. who died in 1709.]
"Joseph Sparks, son of William and Mary ( ----- ) Sparks, was born about 1690 in Talbot County, Maryland. He was not "of age" (that is, age21 years) when his father made his will on June 21, 1709, in Queen Annes County. From his father, he inherited (along with his brother, William Sparks, Jr.) a share of two tracts of land in Queen Annes County called "Hills Adventure" and "Sparks Outlet." The inherited tracts, located on Island Creek, were also to be shared with another brother, John Sparks, if he (John) became dispossessed of another legacy of land left to him by his father. In addition, the will specified that in the event that Joseph Sparks died before coming of age, his share of the land was to go to his brother, William Sparks, Jr. Joseph was also given one yearling heifer under the terms of his father's will.
"The legacy of land (referred to in the paragraph, above) which William Sparks, Sr. had given by his will to his son, John Sparks, was a249-acre tract called "Highgate" or more completely "Harden & Highgate." William Sparks, Sr. had purchased the land on February 2, 1707, from John and Elizabeth Hamer for 22,000 pounds of tobacco; however, there seemed to have been doubt as to whether Hamer had the right to sell this land. In the event that it was found that Hamer had no right to sell it, William Sparks asked his heirs to return the land to Hamer and then for them to make provision for John to share equally in the land which he(William, Sr.) had given to his sons, William, Jr. and Joseph.
"Apparently the title to "Harden & Highgate" was not clear, and on March 15, 1716, William Sparks, Jr. and John Sparks returned the land to Hamer. It also seems apparent that in the exchange of the various tracts of land, Joseph Sparks was given a portion (100 acres) of a 250-acretract of land called "Sparks Choice" to replace his equity in the two tracts of land ("Sparks Outlet" and "Hills Adventure") willed to him and his brother, William, Jr., by their father.
"Three years later, on March 21, 1719, Joseph Sparks (designated in the deed as "planter") sold his share (100 acres) of "Sparks Choice" to Augustine Thompson. The consideration was 3,000 pounds of tobacco. John Whittington and James Earle witnessed the transaction, and Joseph Sparks conveyed the land by signing the deed by mark. Since he conveyed the land by himself, it seems obvious that he had no wife at that time.(Augustine Thompson was mentioned a number of times in land transactions of the Sparks brothers; he was obviously a neighbor and a fellow member of St. Lukels Parish Church in Queen Annes County. The parish register shows his marriage to Elizabeth Ball on November 17, 1729. He died thereon February 26, 1738, according to the register.)
"We have found no record pertaining to Joseph Sparks during the period from 1719 to 1738. From the estimated ages of some of his children, we assume that he was married about 1725, probably when he was about 35years old. His wife's name was Mary, but we have not learned her maiden name. Apparently, she and Joseph continued to live in Queen Annes County after their marriage, and it was there that a son, William Sparks, was born to them on April 27, 1738. He was baptized on June 4, 1738, according to an early register of St. Luke's Parish in Queen Annes County. (There is a possibility that Mary was the second wife of Joseph Sparks. This possibility will be discussed more fully later in this article.)
"Joseph Sparks had a nephew, William Sample Sparks, who was a son(probably the eldest son) of Joseph's brother, William Sparks, Jr. There were only a few years difference in the ages of Joseph and William Sample Sparks, probably ten at the most, and there appears to have been a close personal friendship as well as the family relationship between them. This bond apparently was handed down to other members of their families whose lives also became entwined for several generations.
"One of the first indications of a close friendship between Joseph and William Sample is shown by their departures from Queen Annes County. William Sample Sparks left the county prior to 1736, as related by Dr.Russell E. Bidlack on page 3487 of the December 1989 issue of the QUARTERLY. Joseph followed his nephew some time after the birth of his(Joseph's) son in 1738. He probably used a ferry at Kent Island to cross Chesapeake Bay to the community of Annapolis and then moved westward, with the aid of a horse-drawn cart, to the general area of Pipe Creeks(Big and Little) where he settled near his nephew. (See the map of this area in Frederick County, Maryland, on page 3488 of the QUARTERLY of December 1989.)
"Joseph Sparks died in the spring of 1749. He was a relatively young man and was probably stricken suddenly since he apparently had no opportunity to make a will. He left his wife, Mary, with a household of children, probably ranging in ages from a few years to adulthood.
"The Frederick County Court appointed Mary Sparks, widow of Joseph, to be administratrix of his estate and designated two neighbors, Joseph Wood and William Carmack, to take an inventory of his property. As recorded on pages 22-23 of the Frederick County Inventory Book A, No. 1, the inventory amounted to nearly 85 pounds. It was presented to the court on June 21, 1749, by Mary Sparks. A transcription follows:
Inventory of Joseph Sparks - Frederick County, Maryland, 1749 Liber A #1 Folio 22-23
An inventory of the Goods and Chattels Rights and Credits of Joseph Sparks, Late of Frederick County, Deceased, viz:
£ S d
To his Wearing Apparil @@ 1 10 0
To Cash Received for furr belonging to ye Deceased @@ 1 2 4
Total 84 19 10
Appraised by us the Subscribers this first day of May 1749,
Witness our hands--
[signed] Jos. Wood
11 William Carmack
Creditors Duvalt X Young Creditor to the state of
Joseph Sparks one pound and for
[signed] Osborn Sprigg
Kinn William Sample Sparks his mark +
Rachell Sparks her mark \
"On the 21st of June 1749, Mary Sparks admrx of Joseph Sparks, late of Frederick County Deceased, made Oath on the Holy Evangelists of Almighty God that the within Inventory is a Just and perfect one of all and Singular the Goods and Chattels of the said Deceased that came to her hands and possession at the time of the making thereof; that what hath since or shall hereafter come to her hands possession or knowledge, she will return in an Additional Inventory; that she knows of no concealment of any part or parcel thereof by any person or persons whomsoever; that if she shall hereafter discover any concealment or suspect any to be, she will acquaint the Commissary General for the time being or his Deputy with such discovery or Cause of Suspicion that it may be enquired into; and that she will well and Truly give an Account of all and Every Part of the Deceaseds Personal Estate that shall come to her hands, posession or knowledge.
Sworn before me, [signed] John Darnall, Depy Comy Fredk County.
Account of Joseph Sparks -- Frederick County, Maryland, 1749
Liber 24 Folio 214
The account of Mary Sparks admintx of Joseph Sparks, Decd. The said Accountant chargeth herself Debtor with the amount of her Decd Husbands Estate as pr Inventory amounting to in Current money And humbly prays allowance for the following payments & disbursements pr
Payd Mr. Dudley Digges for his father John Digges as Pounds Shill. Pence pr acct proved & Receipt appears the acct not proved in time but she knows it to be justly due 1 8 1
Payd David Young as pr receipt appears and acct proved 1 0 4
Payd Osborn Sprigg Sheriff as pr acct proved & receipt appears Tobo 563 lbs. which at 12 s 6 per centum is at 4 shillings cash 3 14 4
Payd Robert Gorman pr receipt appears & she declares to be just due 0 8 0
Payd Daniel Brook as pr account proved & receipt appears 0 2 6
Payd Jos. Wood for appraising her husbands Estate as pr receipt 0 5 0
Payd William Carmack for Do as pr receipt 0 5 0
Payd John Hamilton as pr receipt & she declares to be justly due 0 7 0
To Drawing & stating this account 0 5 0
To my Commission on 7 pds. 15 sh. 3 pence 0 14 1
8 9 4
"Nov. 20th 1749. Came the above named Mary Sparks admintx afsd before me the subscriber Deputy Comsary the County afsd & made oath on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God that the above account is just & true which after examination is passed & allowed pr me.
[signed] John Darnall, DeptyComy.
"The older children of the large family of Joseph Sparks had reached maturity by the time of their father's death, and some of them were married and had already begun to establish families of their own.
They had also heard stories of the cheap, fertile lands available to setters in the western sections of the American colonies where no quitrents were charged. It is obvious that they were impatient for a final settlement and distribution of their share of their father's personal estate. Apparently their impatience was expressed to the Frederick County Court in the spring or early summer of 1750. When the Court convened at its regular August term, the justices approved the following memorandum:
"August 1750. Page 64. Memorandum this day tow it:
"The twenty-second day of August Anno Dom Seventeen Hundred and Fifty: Mary Sparks, Col. Henry Munday and Thomas Wilson (Toms Creek) of Frederick County entered into and executed a certain writing obligatory in One Hundred and Fifty Three Pounds, one Shilling, current money, to be paid unto Solomon, Joseph, Charles, Jonas, Jonathan, William, George, Merum, Mary, Ann, Rebecca and Sarah Sparks on Condition that the above bounden Mary Sparks, or some person on her behalf, shall and do well and truly satisfy and pay unto the above named Solomon, Joseph, Charles, Jonas, Jonathan, William, George, Merum, Mary, Ann, Rebecca and Sarah Sparks, their executors, administrators, assigns or lawful guardian or guardians their respective parts or portions of Joseph Sparks, deceased, his estate according to Acts of Assembly in such cases made and provided.
"[It should be noted in the above document that the figure of 153pounds and one shilling current money referred to the amount of the bond agreed to by Mary Sparks, Col. Munday, and Thomas Wilson to assure compliance with this court order; this was not the amount of Joseph Sparks's estate.]
"The apparent impatience of at least some of Joseph Sparks's children to obtain their share of their father's estate may only suggest that they were making immediate plans to leave Frederick County. On the other hand, their action could suggest some sort of alienation between them and Mary Sparks, Joseph's widow. One wonders whether, perhaps, Mary could have been a second wife and thus the step-mother of Joseph's oldest children. We know that there was a considerable spread in the ages of Joseph's children, with the son named William (who had been baptized in Queen Annes County in 1738) only about 11 years old when his father died. Might the reason Joseph had no wife to co-sign his deed in 1719have been that he was even then a widower?
"A widow left with small children was not usually required to distribute immediately her late husband's estate among his heirs in instances where he had left no will. Furthermore, there was not a great deal to divide among twelve children. Joseph owned no land at the time of his death, and the estimated value of his personal property came to only 84 pounds, 19 shillings, and 10 pence. The payment of debts and the costs of probating the estate (8 pounds, 9 shillings, and 4 pence)further reduced this total to 76 pounds, 10 shillings, and 6 pence. In the absence of a will, the law provided that a widow should receive one third of her late husband's estate. Assuming that there had been a public sale and that the articles inventoried brought the amounts estimated to be their value by the appraisers of the estate, this would have left slightly over 51 pounds in "current money" to be divided by 12, resulting in 4 pounds and 5 shillings per child. When, for example, we compare this figure with the appraised value of Joseph's mare and two-year-old colt, which was 24 pounds, we realize how relatively little only 4 pounds and 5 shillings could purchase. Considering, also, in what a difficult strait this distribution must have left Mary, we can find, perhaps, the children's action to be more understandable if Mary were their stepmother rather than their mother. There is also the possibility, of course, that the older children of Joseph Sparks expected his widow to marry again rather soon. We have no information regarding a second marriage of Mary Sparks, but we are aware that youthful widows did often marry a second time rather quickly.
"The two men appointed to prepare the inventory of the estate left by Joseph Sparks (Joseph Wood and William Carmack) were chosen from among his neighbors, as was the custom. To perform such service, it was not only necessary that they be men who were known to be good judges of property values, but they also had to be able to write in a clear hand. Wood and Carmack were each paid five shillings for their service on this occasion.
"Joseph Wood, whose wife's name was Mary, was known as "Joseph Wood of Linganore" to distinguish him from another Frederick County resident known as "Joseph Wood of Israells Creek." Joseph Wood of Linganore had acquired a tract of land in 1748 which he named "Wood's Lot." It was located a half-mile from present day Unionville according to PIONEERS OF OLD MONOCACY, THE EARLY SETTLEMENT OF FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND,1721-1743, by Grace L. Tracey and John P. Dern, published in 1987. It is noted on page 103 of this book that "some of the buildings built by Wood [on "Wood's Lot"] were still standing in 1956, on Wilbur Baker's farm.11At a meeting of the Frederick County Court in November 1751, "Joseph Wood of Linganore was appointed overseer of the Middle Part of the Road from Thomas Beatty's to Baltimore." (See p. 88 of THIS WAS THE LIFE, EXCERPTS FROM THE JUDGMENT RECORDS OF FREDERICK COUNTY, MARYLAND, 1748-1765, by Millard Rice, 1979.)
"William Carmack (1716-1776), the other neighbor who helped prepare the inventory, was a son of Cornelius Carmack who had died in 1748, just a year before Joseph Sparks's death. This family had come to Frederick County from Cecil County, Maryland, prior to 1742. William Carmack's wife's name was Jane. They were living where the town of Liberty now stands when he helped prepare the inventory of Joseph Sparks's property in 1749. (See pp. 103-04 of PIONEERS OF OLD MONOCACY.)
"It was a requirement in the Province of Maryland that the inventory of an estate be signed not only by the men making the inventory, but also by the two major creditors of the estate and by two "kinn" of the deceased. The "kinn" were supposed to be the closest relatives who were not heirs to the estate, brothers and sisters, as well as brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, often performing this service. No brothers or sisters were living near Joseph Sparks when he died, however, so a nephew, William Sample Sparks, signed as "kinn," as did also a Rachell Sparks. We believe that Rachell was the wife of William Sample Sparks. Both signed by mark. Joseph's father, William Sparks (died 1709), always signed his name by mark, as did Joseph and his brothers and most of their children. This does not necessarily mean, however, that they could not read. It is interesting to note that among the possessions of Joseph Sparks were three books, even though both he and Mary signed their names by mark.
"The two chief creditors of Joseph Sparks who signed the inventory were Duvalt Young and Osborn Sprigg. Young signed by mark, which means that someone else wrote his name. Because in the final settling of debt sowed by Joseph's estate, Young's name appears as "David Young," we believe that David was his correct name, not "Duvalt," and that he was the David Young identified in PIONEERS OF OLD MONOCACY as one of the early German settlers in Frederick County (p. 350). Why Joseph Sparks owed David Young 1 pound and 4 pence is not known.
"Osborn Sprigg, the other chief creditor, was identified as "Sheriff" when Mary Sparks paid the 3 pounds, 14 shillings, and 4 pence owed tohim. (Tobacco being the chief medium of exchange in colonial Maryland, through documents proving ownership of tobacco stored in warehouses, itis interesting to note that this amount of current money was equivalent to 563 pounds of tobacco.) Osborn Sprigg, son of Thomas, Jr. and Margaret(Mariarte) Sprigg, first acquired a land grant in 1734 in that part of Prince Georges County that was cut off to form Frederick County in 1748.Sprigg was never a resident of Frederick County, but continued to live in that part of Prince Georges County which remained after Frederick was created in 1748. In 1745, he was one of four men elected to represent Prince Georges County in the General Assembly of Maryland. (See THEMARYLAND GAZETTE of April 26, 1748. ) By 1748, he had become High Sheriff of Prince Georges County, which accounts for his title as used by Mary Sparks in paying her husband's debt to him.
"Osborn Sprigg owned several tracts of land in Frederick County and was thus an absentee landlord. At a meeting of the Frederick County Court in November 1749, the Court contracted with Sprigg "to keep a ferry at the mouth of Monocacy until the end of next November Court." The Court agreed to pay him 7,200 pounds of tobacco for this service. We can besure, however, that he engaged someone to operate the ferry for him. It was in November 1749 that Mary Sparks paid Osborn Sprigg the amount owed him by her deceased husband, and it was then also that he agreed to operate the ferry at the mouth of the Monocacy River. On January 5,1750, however, he died. His widow, Rachel Sprigg, was appointed administratrix of his estate. (See THE MARYLAND GAZETTE of January 10,1750, and April 11, 1750.)
"Although Joseph Sparks owned no land in Frederick County, the inventory of his personal estate reveals that he owned a considerable amount of livestock, consisting of cattle, horses, sheep, and swine, along with some basic farming machinery. We can only conclude that he occupied land owned by someone else, doubtless paying rent for its use.(In Colonial Maryland, all land was owned by the Lord Proprietor and, although grants were made by his office to individuals, persons obtaining such grants were not only required to pay "caution money" at the time of the acquisition, but also an annual quitrent. When the land was sold to another party, an "alienation flne" was assessed. Such land could be inherited, but in the absence of heirs, it reverted to the Lord Proprietor.)
"It seems probable that Joseph Sparks had lived on and cultivated land in Frederick County which belonged to Osborn Sprigg, paying him annual rent, which would, then, explain the fact that Sprigg was one of the chief creditors of Joseph Sparks (in the amount of 563 pounds of tobacco, or 3 pounds, 14 shillings, and 4 pence).
"Perhaps there is a similar explanation for Joseph Sparks's debt to John Digges. As seen in her account of expenditures for the estate, Mary Sparks made a payment from her husband's estate in the amount of 1 pound,8 shillings, and 1 pence to "Mr. Dudley Digges for his father John Digges."
"John Digges was both a land investor and a land speculator in Western Maryland. As described in PIONEERS OF OLD MONOCACY (p. 42), Digges "was a man of somewhat doubtful honor"; he sold land on occasion to which he did not have a legal title. As a grandson of Governor Edward Digges of Virginia, John Digges had obtained warrants for thousands of acres of land which he claimed entitled him to most of northern and western Maryland. In 1732, the Maryland Assembly was informed that Digges claimed all the vacant land on the Monocacy and its branches. John Digges died not long after Mary Sparks paid his son, Dudley, the amount owed by Joseph Sparks. The legal tangles left by John Digges continued to embroil his family in disputes, however, and "in 1752 Dudley Digges was killed in a battle between contesting groups."
"We have not succeeded in identifying Robert Gorman, Daniel Brook, and John Hamilton to whom Mary Sparks paid small amounts from Joseph's estate. They were probably workman from the area who performed such services as digging Joseph's grave and providing a coffin.
"The children of Joseph Sparks were probably not named in the Memorandum reproduced on pages 3557-58 in the exact order of their births, although we feel fairly certain that Solomon and Joseph were among the oldest of the family. We have found no further record pertaining to any of the five daughters; however, we have been able to follow the lives of all of the seven sons for several years after the settlement of their father's estate. As noted earlier, no further record has been found of Mary Sparks, widow of Joseph.
Following are the references to Joseph's sons as recorded in THE SPARKSQUARTERLY:
1. Solomon Sparks married Sarah ------ and they went to Rowan County, North Carolina. See the December 1955 and the December 1989 issues of the QUARTERLY, Whole Nos. 12 and 148, respectively.
2. Joseph Sparks married Mary McDaniel, and they lived in Frederick County, Maryland, until about 1800 when he went to Bedford County, Pennsylvania. See the March 1955 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 9; the December 1960 issue, Whole No. 32; the September 1961 issue, Whole No. 35; the September 1986 issue, Whole No. 135; and the December 1986 issue, Whole No. 136.
3. Charles Sparks married Margaret ------ and they went to Bedford County, Pennsylvania, then on to Washington County. See the June 1963issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 42.
4. George Sparks married Mary ------ and they went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. See the June 1963 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 42.
5. Jonas Sparks married a woman whose name we have not learned, and they went to Rowan County, North Carolina. See the March 1964 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 45.
6. Jonathan Sparks probably went to Rowan County, North Carolina, and was probably the Jonathan Sparks who entered land there in 1761.
7. William Sparks married Martha Moore, and they went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. See the June 1963 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 42; the March 1984 issue, Whole No. 125; and the June 1984 issue, Whole No. 126.
"Col. Henry Munday who, with Thomas Wilson, entered into the August1750 obligation of Mary Sparks to divide her husband's estate among his heirs, had obtained his first grants of land in the Monocacy Valley in1738 near the mouth of Pipe Creek where it flows into the Monocacy River.(See the map on page 3488 of the December 1989 issue of the QUARTERLY, Whole No. 148.) When Frederick County was separated from its parent, Prince Georges County, in 1748, Munday was chosen to be one of the five justices to manage the legal affairs of the new county. He was also an officer in the Maryland Militia. Munday died early in 1751. (See P. 333of PIONEERS OF OLD MONOCACY.)
"Thomas Wilson, the other individual named in 1750 to assure that each heir of Joseph Sparks received his/her proper share of the estate, was identified as a resident of Tom's Creek. Tom's Creek flows into the Monocacy River a short distance above the mouth of Pipe Creek. He was appointed one of Frederick County's 21 constables in November 1753.