Previous to this [his father’s death in April 1838], a Baptist preacher, whose name was J. T. Bryant, had come to Texas, and was teaching a little school where the old Union Church now stands. Occasionally he preached at private house.
This Union Church was the first Baptist church constituted in the State. By this time we had courts organized as an independent nation. Court was in session at the time, and my wife's oldest brother was on the jury. He came home one Tuesday night very much depressed, and had nothing to say. His wife said to him, “Mr. Whitaker, what is the matter with you?” He said, “Nothing.” Then she said to him, “Has anybody been killed today?” He answered that there had been no fuss in town.
By this time supper was ready, and we all sat down to eat. Whitaker was still so silent that his wife again asked him if anything was the matter, and he assured her that there was not. We finished the meal and all left the table except him. The negro woman came and cleared the things away, and still he remained with his head resting on the table. His wife and children retired for the night, and soon he called her and said, “Saletha, get up and light a candle, and sing a hymn, and let me pray in my family before I die.” He had never made a profession of faith in Christ. His wife got up and sang the hymn, and he knelt in prayer.
The next morning he went back to court, and his wife came to my house and told his mother what had happened. I was in the field ploughing, and they sent for me to take my horse out of the plough and come to the house. I thought, “Well, have the Indians made another raid on us?” I went home, and they told me to go to the schoolhouse and tell Mr. Bryant to dismiss school early, and to send word to the people to come to her house to preaching. She wanted them to come without fail to preach at her house that night. So I went, and called Mr. Bryant out, and delivered the message. He asked if anything special had happened that they had sent for him. I told him that I did not know of anything, for they had told me nothing of what had happened, and I did not care to be questioned so closely by the preacher, although I was really glad of it, for I was under conviction for sin myself, but I did not want anybody to know it.
My mother-in-law was a member of the church, but my wife and I were not, nor had we ever said anything about religion to each other. I made up my mind that I would get close to where the preacher was that night, and see if there was any hope for me. Well, the preacher came, and all that got word were there, and when Whitaker got in sight of his house, and saw so many people there, he was afraid the Indians had killed his family. The preacher had not got more than half through his sermon, when my wife walked up and asked for prayers. I knelt by her. He said he had preached long enough, and if there were any others in the house that desired prayer to come forward. There were some six or eight who came.
Preaching was announced for the next Sabbath, and all who could come were there. A glorious revival was carried on for two or three months, resulting in the immersion of twenty people. We all went into the water at the same time, and Brother Bryant baptized us in twenty-two minutes. There were men there thirty years old who had never seen any one baptized. Some came twenty-five miles to witness it.
Recollections of S. F. Sparks, July 1, 1908, The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, pages 76-78
Sparks Family Association pages