William Sparks was son of Matthew Sparks and Sarah Thompson. He was born on April 3, 1761, in Rowan County, North Carolina.[ii] He removed to Georgia, Mississippi Territory, and finally to Texas. He died in 1848.
In Mississippi William Sparks was first a member of the Silver Creek Baptist Church. With William Stamps, he represented “Silver Creek, east of Pearl” at the Mississippi Baptist Association.[iii] In 1819, Sparks and his wife Polly became constituting members the Bethany Church at White Sandy Creek, Lawrence County, Mississippi. Two acres of their land “were deeded to the Bethany Baptist Church as a gift on May 17, 1823.” On November 21, 1830, the Bethany Church conference minutes states, “Brother William Sparks, beloved deacon, and his wife applied for a letter of demission.”[iv] It is not clear (to me) where William Sparks next became a member, since he did not move to Texas until 1836.
The dismission from Bethany Baptist Church cites William Sparks as a “beloved deacon.” Stephen F. Sparks wrote of his grandfather, “As far back as I remember he served as a deacon in the Baptist Church…”[v]
In Texas Sparks apparently served as deacon of two Baptist churches – first the Hopewell Baptist Church at Cook Settlement in the Douglass area of Nacogdoches County. The Hopewell Church was constituted September of 1837 under the authority of Daniel Parker’s Pilgrim Church, and was the sight of the organization of the Union Baptist Association in 1840. It is at the least a reasonable conclusion that this is the same William Sparks. His son-in-law James Simmons seems to have continued affiliation with the Predestinarian Baptists.[vi]
Saturday September 30th 1837 The Church met and in order proseded to business.
1st. Elder Daniel Parker, Reported, That on the Seventeenth day of September 1837, He exercised the authority vested in him by this Church In Constituting a Church. Said Church is Constituted on the East side of the Angeleney river in Brother Cook.s settlement. On Eight members five mailes and three feemails, one Deacon Wm. Sparks and on the same articals of Faith that this Church is constituted, acknowledging her relationship to and with said Pilgrim Church of Regular Predistinaran Baptist.[vii]
Later Deacon Sparks was a member of the Union Baptist Church, organized in the Sparks Settlement by Isaac Reed and Robert G. Gibson in May of 1836. The Union Church was the site of the organization of the Sabine Baptist Association in November of 1843. Sparks served there in that capacity until Saturday before the first Lord’s day in April 1844, when the church met in conference and “Brother Wm. Sparks petitioned the Church to release him from the duties of deacon, as he was too old and infirm to attend to them any longer, Granted.”
Deacon William Sparks’s church affiliations in Mississippi provide an intriguing sidelight to A. J. Holt’s concern that New Yorker David Lewis introduced feet washing into the Union Baptist Church. In 1810 the Mississippi Association decided in its favor. “This query, ‘Is the washing of the saints’ feet a Christian duty or not?’ was answered in the affirmative.”[viii] To make a finer point, the Bethany Church in Lawrence County practiced feet washing during Sparks’s tenure there.
Saturday the 18th of January, 1823
The subject of washing of feet was taken up and agreed to comply with the ordinance annually...
Saturday before the 3rd Sunday in June, 1830
Resolved that this Church furnish herself with the vessels, towels, and etc., necessary for the washing the saints’ feet, and appointed Brother George Granberry to procure them with instructions to procure pewter basins, if possible, and if not, then tin basins.[ix]
“William Sparks was undoubtedly a deeply religious man.” His faith may be somewhat traced through his church connections in Mississippi and Texas. The Daughters of the American Revolution recognized him for his service in the American Revolution. May Texas Baptists recognize him for his service in the Lord’s army.
[ii] In answering regarding his pension application for Revolutionary War service, Sparks said he “was born within one mile of the town of Salsbury…”
[iii] Some writers have mistaken this for the present Mississippi Baptist Convention, which was not formed until 1836. The Mississippi Baptist Association was organized in 1807. See Abstract History of the Mississippi Baptist Association for One Hundred Years, by T. C. Schilling and A Complete History of Mississippi Baptists, by Leavell & Bailey. William Sparks probably knew my wife’s ancestor, Elder Jesse Crawford.
[iv] In his pension application, William Sparks swore that he lived near Athens, Georgia “till the year 1811 when he removed to Laurence County, Mississippi, thence to Holmes County in that State where he lived till March 1836, when he removed to this County and vicinity [Nacogdoches County, Texas] where he has ever since resided.” One Sparks family genealogist wrote, “Since Holmes County was not formed until 1833, he probably went to that portion of Yazoo County which became Holmes County.” (The Sparks Quarterly, Vol. XXXIII, No. 2 (Whole No. 130a), June 1985).
[vi] “James and Edith Simmons moved to Collin County in 1859 settling near Forest Gove where they helped to organize the Old Orchard Gap Primitive Baptist Church and James Simmons was its first minister.” From a book titled Collin County: Pioneering in North Texas. On the other hand, Newman’s History of the Primitive Baptists in Texas, Oklahoma and Indian Territory does not mention James Simmons relative to organizing this church.