Its First Hundred Years
Uncle Bob was the son of Samuel Doke Nelson, one of three commissioners appointed to select a county seat site, who brought his family from Tennessee in 1850 and homesteaded on Swan Creek in the southeast part of the county, when Bob was a young boy. Samuel Nelson was killed on the steps of his cabin by Bushwhackers during the Civil War while he was at home on furlough for the birth of his child. Bob, 16 years old then, after burying his father, enlisted in the Union Army, giving his age as 18. After two years of service he returned to the homestead. The family had no clock but Bob could tell time accurately by the sun, moon and stars. Arising long before dawn he would milk the cow, feed other animals and chickens, cut wood, and walk five miles to a timber stand where he would split 100 rails then walk the five miles back to his home in time to do the evening chores.
In 1914 he announced his candidacy for probate judge. He was 73 years old at the time yet he campaigned over the entire county on foot. Since manhood he had never shaved or cut his hair. His hair was worn in two long braids hanging over the front of his shoulders. He wore rough garb and high boots. He said that the long hair and beard protected him from the cold. He was married first to Louverna Wright, the only surviving child of this marriage is a daughter, Siloamma, who married Abraham Shipman. After his wife's death he married a second time in 1876. Two children of this union survive, a son Minda of Ava and Mrs. Florence James of Springfield.
From about 1884 Sparta's growth was in fair proportion to the actual needs of the surrounding area and hence generally solid and permanent. As surfaced highways replaced the railroad, accessibility to markets was never interrupted.
Banks have come and gone, following national trends toward consolidation. Sparta's first bank was chartered in 1899. Joel T. Morris was its first cashier and W. M. Roberts the first president. Mr. Roberts was later succeeded by Tom Dye. The first bank had no competition for 19 years. In 1918