Coke County, Texas

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by Elsie Airaghi


My Texas Roots

My name is Elsie Jo Airaghi. I was born in San Angelo, Texas, to Albert and Ruth (Sparks) Blair more years ago than I care to admit. My father is the son of John David and Eliza Ann (Latham) Blair. My mother is the daughter of Enoch Thomas and Mary Ann “Annie” (Cobb) Sparks. Both sets of my grandparents resided in Coke County.

Ruth Sparks

Ruth Sparks
(taken from a high school picture in Robert Lee)
circa 1934-35

Each year, in June, we took my mother to the Sparks Reunion in Robert Lee. Currently, there are recorded minutes for the past 62 years: however, they had several reunions before minutes were taken. Sadly, none of the children of Annie and Enoch Sparks are alive today; however, their grandchildren plan on continuing the tradition.

Although we moved away from Robert Lee when I was a baby, many of my fondest memories are from there. As kids, we roamed all over town. Our usual path was from Grandma Sparks’ house to my Uncle Buckle’s (Calvin Sparks) and then over to my Uncle A.E.’s and Aunt Elsie Latham’s (whom I’m very proud to be named after). I’m going to deviate for a minute and tell you the story of how I got my name. When my mother came home from the hospital after having my older sister, Aunt Elsie came to New Mexico to care for her and my sister. They’d been home just a short time when the house caught fire. Aunt Elsie was able to get both my Mom and my sister out safely (my Dad was at work). Unfortunately, my sister died a few days later. So, when I was born, as a tribute to a very special aunt, I was named “Elsie.”

Back in the days when we were young, there was a theater in Robert Lee and we’d go to the movies (I remember seeing Shane there). Of course, another of our favorite places was down by the river. (That was long before the dam was built.) On those hot, summer days, the ice cream at Uncle Buckle’s house was always a special treat. I remember thinking everyone in Robert Lee was related to me. The whole town seemed to know who we kids were, to whom we belonged, and “goodies” were available at almost any house. Of course, now that I think about it, most of the town probably was related to us in one way or another through marriage to one of the Sparks, Lathams, or Blairs.

Although I live in Florida, my roots are firmly planted in Texas and I’m proud to say they can be traced all the way back to the Republic of Texas. My Coke County relatives include the Blair, Sparks, Latham, Cobb, and Virdell families. My other Texas roots include the Bybee, Brantley, Huffman, Shackelford, Beard, Braswell, and Carter families. Below, listed in alphabetical order, is a short synopsis on each of these families.

I have been doing genealogy off and on for over 25 years. However, I’ve been able to pursue it more since I retired from Civil Service in 2000. I have an extensive genealogy data base which currently includes over 10,000 names. In addition to those families named above, I also have information on the Lipe, Martin, Reidling, Rudisill, Neff, Abernathy, Vance, Peterson, Bryant, Banks, Gentry, McCann, Freshour, and Gentry families.

If you’re also tracing these families, I’d love to hear from you and am willing to share whatever information I have. Just e-mail Elsie

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1. My Baird line has been traced back to JOHN BAIRD (1709-1783) in Pennsylvania. The Bairds moved down to North Carolina and then to Tennessee where our branch of the family started spelling the name Beard.

2. SAMUEL McCLEARY BAIRD (1804-1870) was born on the Duck River in Tennessee where his family ran a ferry. He died in Dallas, Texas. Samuel was married three times.

Samuel’s first wife was Sarah Norris (1806-1850/60) whom he married about 1827. Soon afterwards, they moved to Illinois. Around 1834/5, they moved back to Tennessee for a short time. Around 1838/9, they decided to move to Arkansas where Sarah died. Their children were Andrew, Isaac Newton, Joseph A., Coleman, Dorcas Emmeline, Naomi, Matilda Jane, Mary C., Nancy L., Samuel D., and James C.

Samuel’s second wife was a widow named Mahala Clausey Stratton. They moved to Dallas, Texas, where she died.

Samuel’s third wife was Sarah Pate and they had one child named Halie.

3. NAOMI BEARD (1837-1887) was born in Tennessee and died in Johnson County, Texas. She was married twice. Her first husband was Richard Braswell (see Braswell family) who was killed in the Civil War. He second husband was Thomas Sparks (see Sparks family).

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1. GEORGE BLAIR (about 1760-1832) is my earliest known Blair. He arrived in St Clair County, Illinois in 1796 where he married a widow named Mary Murdock (about 1770-1823) in 1799. He was a hotel owner. A Blair relative in a letter of 4 July 1936 stated “My great-great-grandfather came from Scotland. He served in the Revolutionary War under George Washington in battle at Delaware River, crossed river at night.” We aren’t sure whether this statement pertained to George Blair or William Blair (either George’s father or brother) who came to Illinois with George.

George Blair is important in the history of St Clair County, Illinois, since he donated the land for them to build a county seat and layout a square. Because of his donation, he was given the honor of naming the town and the streets around the square. That town is Belleville, Illinois, located about 35 miles east of St Louis, Missouri.

George and Mary Blair had three children—James, Sarah/Sally, and Polly. George’s step-children were John and Jenny Murdock.

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2. JAMES BLAIR (1800-1878) was born in St Clair County, Illinois, and died in Texas (probably Denton County). He was a farmer.

James was married twice. His first wife was Martha Bonham (1800-1831) who died leaving him with six small children—Polly, Eliza, George W., Emaline, John, and William J.

James’ second wife was Nancy Brantley (see Brantley family) whom he married in 1832. While in Illinois, James was in business with his father. He purchased several acres of public domain land which he sold before moving to Texas.

James and Nancy moved from Illinois to Clarksville, Red River County, Texas, arriving on 25 December 1837. James had received 1280 acres for his service in the Indian Wars in Illinois. In the 1827 Winoba Indian War, he served as a lieutenant in a company of Illinois volunteers commanded by Captain Samuel Rogers, his brother-in-law. In the 1832 Blackhawk War, he served as a private in the First Regiment, Whiteside’s Brigade, Illinois Mounted Militia Volunteers. After moving to Texas, James served as a captain in a regiment of volunteers “in the service of the Republic of Texas.” He also furnished beef to the Republic of Texas forces along with his brother-in-law, Josiah Brantley. In their later years, James and Nancy Blair lived in Palo Pinto County with their son, James, and his family.

James and Nancy Blair’s children were James M., Elizabeth, Sarah Jane, Samuel R., Elias Barton, and Frances Marion. They also raised James’ oldest daughter’s (Polly) four children after she and her husband died from cholera. When James made the trip from Texas to Illinois to pick up his grandchildren, he kept a daily journal which is interesting reading.

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3. ELIAS BARTON BLAIR (1841-1726) was born in Red River County, Texas, and was a farmer. He married Eliza Ellen Brantley (see Brantley family) in 1864 in Red River County.

Between 1870/80, the Blairs moved to Hamilton County, Texas, and about 1890, they moved to Brown County, Texas, when Eliza died. Elias then moved to Throckmorton, Texas, where he lived with his son until his death.

Elias and his brothers—John, James, Samuel, and Francis—served in Company K (known as the Savannah Blues), Alexander’s Regiment, Texas Brigade of the Confederate Army. Elias was captured by the federal forces at Yellow Bayou, Louisiana, and imprisoned in New Orleans. He was “exchanged” at Red River Landing on 22 July 1864 and had to walk home. Elias received a pension from the State of Texas for his service in the Civil War.

Elias and Ellen Blair’s children were Jessie M., Eliza Jane, Benjamin Franklin, James B. Henry, John David, Ettie L., and Ollie Belle.

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4. JOHN DAVID BLAIR (1885-1932) was born in Texas (probably Hamilton County). John was a farmer, blacksmith, and worked in road construction with his father-in-law, William “Bill” Latham. John’s blacksmith shop was located in Robert Lee. I remember passing it as a young girl. The building was really run down but the sign was still hanging and you could read his name.

John married Eliza Ann Latham (see Latham family) on 30 July 1910 in San Saba, Texas. The Blairs homesteaded in Eastland, Texas, but soon left there and moved to the Del Rio/Laredo area. In the early 1930s, they moved back to the Valley View Community (near Robert Lee), Texas. In 1932, both John and Eliza caught Typhoid Fever. Eliza nursed my father (Albert, who survived) and my grandfather (who died) before she caught the fever and died.

John and Eliza Blair’s children are Albert Marion (married Ruth Sparks), Annie Viola (married Chester Webb), J.B. (died at age 17), Orby Edward (married Vera Mae Adams), Luella Lee (died at age 14), Warren Clifton (died young), Lee Roy (died at age 6), Mary Dell (married George McAndrews), Willie Mae (married Larry Lane), and Ellen Pearl (married Willard Smith).

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5. ALBERT MARION BLAIR (1911–1999) was born in San Saba, Texas, and died in Phoenix, Arizona. He married Ruth Hamilton Sparks (see Sparks family) on 20 June 1936 in Robert Lee. When my father died, they were 12 days short of being married 63 years.

My parents met after my father started working for my grandfather, Enoch Sparks. Soon after my parents were married, Grandpa Sparks died and Grandma sold the ranch. My Dad drove a truck for my Uncle A.E. Latham for awhile. When they were expecting me, Dad worked as a ranch hand on Frank Purcell’s ranch near Robert Lee. A few years later, he started doing road construction work and we moved quite a bit.

When I started school, my folks decided it was time to settle in one place. So, Dad went to work for the government at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, and we lived in Tularosa and, later, Alamogordo. While working at Holloman, Dad took parts, supplies, etc, out to a “secret site” in the New Mexico desert where they eventually tested the ATOMIC BOMB. I was young but I vividly remember that night. The sky lit up bright as the sun at high noon.

In 1955, we moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where Dad worked at the Caterpillar Proving Grounds and Mother worked for Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph. They eventually both retired and stayed in Phoenix where they are both buried.

Albert and Ruth Blair’s children are Annie Ruth (deceased), Elsie Jo, and Alberta Maurine.

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1. My Brantleys are descended from EDWARD BRANTLEY (1622-1688). He arrived in America when he was just 16 years old.

2. JOSIAH C. BRANTLEY (about 1770-1855) was born in North Carolina and died in Red River County, Texas. He was a farmer. Josiah married a woman named Nancy LNU about 1794 in North Carolina. The Brantleys moved to Logan County, Kentucky, about 1809 and, from there, to Greene County, Illinois, around 1825. About 1840, they sold their land in Illinois and moved to Texas. Josiah served as a private in the War of 1812 for which he received a land warrant.

Josiah and Nancy Brantley’s children were James, Temperance, Henry, Martha, Nancy, Elizabeth, and Josiah Jr.

2A. HENRY BRANTLEY (1800-1869) was born in Northhhampton County, North Carolina, and died in Red River County, Texas. Henry was a farmer.

Henry married Agnes Chipman (1813-1888) in 1832. She was born in Barren County, Kentucky, and died in Hunt County, Texas. It is believed Agnes is a descendent of John Chipman who arrived at Plymouth on the Mayflower; however, this has not been proven.

In 1832, Henry served as a private in Captain Summers Company of Foot Soldiers attached to the Brigade of Mounted Volunteers in the Blackhawk War and received bounty land in Texas for his service. Henry and Agnes arrived in Red River County, Republic of Texas, about 1837 with the Blairs. (Henry was James Blair’s brother-in-law.) After Henry died, Agnes filed for a widow’s pension but it was disapproved.

Henry and Agnes’ sons—Ebenzer, John, Thomas, and Josiah Jr--fought in the Confederate Army serving in the same Company of Savannah Blues as their Blair cousins.

Henry and Agnes Brantley’s children were Mary or Polly, Ebenezer, John H., George, Thomas, Isbella, Josiah, Jackson, Eliza Ellen, Robert, Adarian Jane, James B., Elizabeth, Sarah, Emma, Ultimus, and Georgia.

2B. NANCY BRANTLEY (1806-1881) was born in Northhampton County, North Carolina, and died in Denton County, Texas. She was the daughter of Josiah and the sister of Henry Brantley above. She married James Blair (see Blair family) in Illinois in 1932.

3. ELIZA ELLEN BRANTLEY (1846-1907) was born in Red River County, Texas, and died in San Saba County, Texas. She married Elias Barton Blair (see Blair family), who was the son of Nancy Brantley above. Eliza and Elias were first cousins.

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1. My Braswell line can be traced back to EDMUND BRACEWELL (1510-1583) in England. The first of our ancestors to come to America was REVEREND ROBERT BRACEWELL (1611-1673) who arrived in Virginia at age 28. The Braswells soon followed the same migration path as most of our other relatives going through North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and ending up in Texas.

2. RICHARD BRASWELL (1832-1862) was born in Georgia. He was the son of Merrit Braswell (1809-1861). Richard married Naomi Beard (see Beard family) on 1 January 1954 in Arkansas.

Richard was in the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Corinth in Mississippi. Since I’ve been unable to locate his war records, I don’t know whether he was a Union or Confederate soldier.

Richard and Naomi Braswell’s children were Sarah Ann, Samuel Merrit, and Dorcas.

3. SARAH BRASWELL (1865-after 1878) was born in Arkansas, probably Quachita County and died in Texas, possibly Bosque County. She married Samuel Jackson Sparks (see Sparks family), her step-brother, about 1867/8 in Texas.

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1. My Bybee ancestry has been traced back to WILLIAM BIBBY who was born about 1598 in England. He immigrated to Virginia in 1620. His descendant, JOHN BYBEE (II) (1706-1784), served as a private in the Revolutionary War and was with General George Washington at Valley Forge. He was given a land grant for his service. JOHN BYBEE (III) (1739-1819) served as a 4th Sergeant in the War of 1812.

2. JOHN BYBEE (IV) (1801-1886) was born in Barren County, Kentucky, and died in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. John was married three times.

John and his first wife, Catherine Welch (1796-1864) came to Texas in 1851 with their daughter and son-in-law (David and Elizabeth Huffman). They settled in Williamson County where Catherine died. John then married Elizabeth Cox (1800-1877), a widow. John third wife was Piety Joiner. John & Catherine Bybee’s children were Elizabeth Catherine, Buford/Bluford, Martha Jane, Mary Ann, William Jefferson,and Amanda. John and Piety Bybee’s child was John L.

3. ELIZABETH CATHARINE BYBEE (1821-1918) was born in Barren County, Kentucky, and died in Leakey, Real County, Texas. She married David Edward Huffman (see Huffman family) about 1838 in Pulaski County, Missouri.

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1. My Carter family has been illusive. We know DAVID CARTER (1795–after 1860) was probably born in Tennessee and that he married a woman named Jane LNU (1800-after 1860). The Carters are shown in the 1850 Rusk County, Texas, Census and the 1860 Brown County, Texas, Census. However, we’ve been unable to find any information on them prior to 1850 and after 1860.

David and Jane Carter’s known children are Eliza Ann, Susan, Robert, Sarah, and Permelia.

2. ELIZA ANN CARTER (1831-1915) was born in Rusk County, Tennessee, and died in Brown County, Texas. She married Theophilus “Thomas” Latham (see Latham family) on 30 August 1854 in Henderson County, Texas.

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1. ALEXANDER COBB (1772-1854) was born in South Carolina and was the father of our earliest Texas Cobb. He married Elizabeth Ruth Banks about 1802. The Cobbs moved from South Carolina to Bibb County, Alabama, about 1812 where they lived the rest of their lives. They had planned on going to Texas, but, when Alexander arrived “at a point 12 miles west of what is now Clanton, on top of a high hill. . .he said ‘here we rest.’” Alexander’s farm grew and he became a very wealthy man.

Alexander and Elizabeth’s children were Telitha, John S. Allen, Mary, William Pickney, James Jackson, Priscilla, Charles Banks, Levi Banks, Elizabeth, and Rebecca Underwood (Alexander’s adopted daughter).

2. JOHN S. ALLEN COBB (1811-189?) was born in Abbeville County, South Carolina, and was a farmer. He was married three times.

John’s first marriage was to Mary Rigdon in Bibb County, Alabama. They had 13 children—Elizabeth, William, Sarah, Nancy, James, Lucinda, Frances, Jasper, Thomas, Jane, John, Charles, and Joseph.

After Mary died, John married Elizabeth McCaskill in 1849 in Bibb County. They moved to Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, where John owned about 120 acres. Their son, Calvin, was born there in 1858 and, apparently, Elizabeth died either in childbirth or soon thereafter.

In 1860, John married Rebecca Ann Gentry (1828-1901), a half-cousin, in Natchitoches Parish. By 1870, the Cobbs had moved to Caldwell County, Texas, and then to Kerr County, Texas, by 1880. By 1890, they were in Midland, Texas, where John died between 1890 and 1900. Rebecca then moved to Roswell, New Mexico, with her son, Allen, where she died. John and Rebecca had two children—Allen and a girl who died young.

3. ALLEN MONROE COBB (1861-1919) was born in Bellville, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, and died near Prescott, Arizona. He married Suzanne “Susie” Shackelford1864-1947) (see Shackelford family) in 1883 in Kerrville, Texas.

Allen and Susie were living in Midland, Texas, in 1900. Living next door to them was Enoch Sparks who married their daughter Mary Ann. Allen moved his family to Roswell, New Mexico, in 1901 and, eventually, to Prescott, Arizona. In Prescott, he was in the trucking business with his youngest son. In 1919, he died in a trucking accident on Yarnell Hill when his brakes failed. After his death, Susie moved to Bakersfield, California, where she lived with her oldest daughter.

Allen and Susie Cobb’s children are Iva Lee, Mary Ann “Annie”, John Benton, Calvin Monroe (married Abbie Sparks, daughter of Matthew Marion and Almeda Sparks), Thomas Edward, Elizabeth Katherine, Frances Allen, Jocie Mae, Mattie Viola, and William Franklin.

4. MARY ANN “ANNIE” COBB (1885–1967) was born in Kerr County, Texas, and died in Leakey, Kerr County.. She married Enoch Thomas Sparks (see Sparks family) on 15 December 1900 in Roswell, New Mexico.

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1. The Huffman line has been traced back to HENRICH HOFMANN who was born about 1505 in Eisern, Germany. Our first Huffman ancestor to arrive in America was JOHANNES HENRICH “HENRY” HOFMANN. He migrated to America in 1739 settling in the Germanna Colony in Virgina where he is shown as Henry Huffmann. From Vrginia, the Huffmans migrated to Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Missouri before coming to Texas.

2. DAVID EDWARD HUFFMAN (1818-1884) was born in Indiana, probably Floyd County, and died in Leakey, Texas. He was a farmer and physician.

David married Elizabeth Bybee (1821-after 1880) (see Bybee family) about 1838 in Pulaski County, Missouri. They made the move to Lampasas County, Texas, about 1850. From there, they moved to Coryell County, Texas, and finally to Leakey where David died from a snake bite.

David and Elizabeth Huffman’s children are Catherine Elizabeth, Jesse, Jacob Freshour, John Bybee, Jarred Banks, Rutha, Hannah, David Edward, Louiza, Eveline, and Martha.

2. CATHERINE ELIZABETH HUFFMAN 1841-1918) was born in Missouri and died in Leakey, Texas. She married Thomas Benton Shackelford (see Shackelford family) on 19 September 1857 in Lampasas County, Texas.

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1. My Latham line has been extremely difficult to trace. We know THEOPHILUS “THOMAS” LATHAM was born in Texas about 1830 and died in 1896. We’ve not been able to determine his parentage. Thomas was a farmer.

Thomas married Eliza Ann Carter (1831-1915) (see Carter family) on 30 August 1854 in Henderson, Rusk County, Texas. In 1860, the Lathams were in Upshur County, Texas. By 1870, they’d moved to Collin County, Texas. Then in 1884, Thomas and Eliza received a land grant of 160 acres in Brown County, Texas, (near Brownwood) where they remained until moving to Coke County in the early 1890's. Thomas served as a private in the Confederate Amy in Company F, Clark’s Regiment, Texas Infantry. He enlisted in Pittsburg, Texas (now in Camp County), for 3 years on 26 July 1862 but was discharged on 22 April 1863 with a Surgeons' Certificate of Disability.

Thomas and Eliza Latham’s children were Mary Pricilla, James W., Lucy Jane, Harriett F., Sarah Margaret, and William Carter “Bill.”

2. WILLIAM CARTER “BILL” LATHAM (1867-1942) was born in Texas, and died in Robert Lee, Texas.

Bill’s first wife was Mary Elizabeth Virdell (see Virdell family), whom he married on 21 July 1891 in Katemacy, Texas. The Lathams moved to the Valley View Community in Coke County, Texas, about 1891. “The 100 acres, they had purchased didn’t produce much of a living. So, since Bill was a mule skinner, he operated a freight service between San Angelo and Robert Lee while Elizabeth and children stayed on the farm. The round trip took about 4 days.” He often took his grandson, Albert (my father), with him. Later, Bill drove a mule team while doing highway construction with his son-in-law, John Blair. His grandson, Albert Blair, often helped out.

Bill and Mary Latham’s children were Eliza Ann “Lizzie” (married John David Blair), Arilious Eula “A.E.” (married Elsie Summers), LaMittye (married Mert Purcell), Lillie Lee (married Oliver Lawrence Pittman), Evie Gertrude (married Julius Franklin Kaeding), Wriley Dewitt (married Lois Stewart), and John Willie “Jay” (married Alene Corley)

Bill’s second wife was Wilma Rasco whom he married on 3 September 1929.

3. ELIZA ANN “LIZZIE” LATHAM (1893-1932) was born in the Valley View Community of Coke County, Texas. She married John David Blair (see Blair family) on 30 July 1910 in San Saba, Texas. They both died of typhoid fever in 1932.

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1. THOMAS BENTON SHACKELFORD (1835-1916) was born in Kentucky and was a farmer. As of this date, we’ve not been able to determine his parentage.

Thomas married Katherine Elizabeth “Katie” Huffman (1841-1918) (see Huffman family) on 19 September 1857 in Lampasas County, Texas. The Shackelfords lived in Lampasas, Coryell, Medina and Kerr Counties in Texas before settling in Leakey, Texas, in the mid-1850s. They remained in Leakey until their deaths.

Thomas served as a private in the Confederate Army in Company F, Madison’s Regiment, Texas Calvary. After Thomas died, his wife received a widow’s pension from the State of Texas.

Thomas and Katherine Shackelford’s children are William Jefferson, Mary Elizabeth, David Edward, Suzanna Ellen, Thomas Benton, Dicia Ann, Hannah, and John Bybee.

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1. My Sparks lineage can be traced back to THOMAS SPARKS (1615-after 1685) in England. About 1673, his son, RICHARD SPARKS (1659-after 1689), arrived in Maryland. The family migrated from Maryland to Virginia. North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and, finally, to Texas.

2. THOMAS SPARKS (1813-1904) was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina. He lived in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and California before coming to Texas. Thomas raised and sold horses. He was also a circuit rider, Baptist preacher. Thomas was married three times and had four sets of children.

Thomas married his first wife, Jane Abernathy (1817-1852), in Jefferson County (near Birmingham), Alabama. In early 1842, Thomas and Jane moved to Ponotoc County, Mississippi, with Thomas’ brother, Peterson, and Jane’s parents (David Edward and Ruth (Vance) Abernathy). About 1851, they moved to Arkansas where Jane died. Their children (Thomas’ first set) were Richard O.P., David E., William J., Samuel Jackson “Jack”, Joshua W., Sarah A.R.M., and Liza J.

After Jane died, Thomas married Elvira Atkinson, about 1854, in Arkansas. They traveled to California during the gold rush. Sometime after 1859, they moved to Jack County, Texas, where Elvira died. Their children (Thomas’ second set) were John H., Thomas H.J., Matthew Marion, Mark N., and Cordelia Malda.

Thomas’ third wife was Naomi (Beard/Baird) Braswell (see Baird and Braswell families), a widow with three children (Thomas’ third set)—Sarah Ann, Samuel, and Dorcas Braswell. About 1868, Thomas moved his family to Johnson County, Texas, (near Cleburne) to escape the Indians. Naomi died there and, in 1894, Thomas leased 640 acres in Edith, Coke County, Texas. His first annual rental fee was $19.20. In 1896, he was given a 5-year lease and was charged $.03 an acre per annum. Apparently, he eventually bought the land since his children inherited it. His grandson, Enoch Sparks, bought some of the land from his aunts and uncles.

In 1836, Thomas served as a private in the 4th Regiment of the Alabama Mounted Volunteers, which was commanded by General Winfred Scott, during the Creek Nation Indian War. (This was a part of the Trail of Tears.) In 1855, Thomas received a land warrant of 120 acres for his service. He filed for a pension in 1894 and received $8.00 a month.

Thomas and Naomi Sparks children (Thomas’ fourth set) were James Monroe, Naomi Abigail, Mary Anna, and Joseph Frank.

3. SAMUEL JACKSON “JACK” SPARKS (1842-1933) was born in Pontotoc County, Mississippi, and was a farmer. He married Sarah Ann Braswell (see Braswell family), his step-sister, about 1867.

Jack served 4 years in the Confederate Army in the Company 4, 34th Regiment. He enlisted in Palo Pinto County, Texas, in 1861. He was stationed at Ft Davis to subdue the Indians, as well as in Arkansas and Louisiana. He later received a pension for his service.

By 1880, Jack and Sarah were living in Eastland County, Texas. After Sarah died, Jack lived with his son, Enoch, in Robert Lee, Texas.

Jack and Sarah Sparks’ children were Malda, Dorcas, Enoch Thomas, Mildred, Naomi, Sarah, and Isabelle.

4. ENOCH THOMAS SPARKS (1876-1936) was born in Texas (probably Palo Pinto County). He spent most of his childhood around Midland, Texas, where he drove cattle for a man named Kincaid. Enoch was married twice.

Enoch’s first wife was a woman named Lucindy LNU. They were married in 1896 and divorced approximately 2 years later. Their daughter was named Belva.

Enoch’s second wife was Mary Ann “Annie” Cobb (see Cobb family) whom he married on 15 December 1900 in Roswell, New Mexico. After they were married, Enoch and Annie moved to Robert Lee where Enoch became a prominent land owner, farmer, politician, cotton buyer, and cotton gin owner. He also put in the first public water works in Robert Lee.

Enoch Sparks and Annie Cobb

Enoch Sparks and Annie Cobb
engagement picture - 1900

The following article concerning Enoch and his friend, A.E. Latham (my great uncle on my father’s side) was published in the Frontier Times Magazine.

“Every farmer in the western half of Coke County, from Edith, Sanco, and Silver, brought their cotton to the gins at Robert Lee. The bales had to be hauled to the railroad at Bronte and, every morning, a half dozen wagons pulled into the yard to load. Five bales to the team was considered a good load over the unpaved road.” “One morning, A. E. Latham came into the yard with an old Ford truck with solid, rubber tires. He asked for a load of five bales just like the teams. The teamsters all laughed, saying that they would pull him through the deep sand and up the hills. A. E didn’t pay any attention to their ribbing. He waited until all of them had pulled their bales up to the derrick with ‘Old Ball,’ a sorrel stallion which Enoch furnished to pull the cotton up to the derrick and then lift with a block and tackle onto the wagons. When they had all pulled out, A. E. loaded his five bales and drove out on the road to Bronte.”

“The wagons only made one trip per day over the 26-mile round trip. About 10:00 o’clock, A. E. pulled back into the yard for another load and, this time, he asked for seven bales. He made four loads that day, each time adding a bale or two until he was hauling 10 bales. That ended the cotton hauling for the wagons.”

Enoch Sparks and Annie at the Sparks Cotton Gin

Enoch Sparks and daughter Annie Lee(on left)
at the Sparks Cotton Gin in Robert Lee
circa 1908 - 1909

Enoch built the first “hot tub” in Robert Lee to be used by his daughter, Ruth. She had been stricken with polio as a small child and the doctor said it would be good therapy for her. While the rest of the family did their chores, Ruth’s grandfather (Jack) babysat her. If she crawled too far away, he’d reach over with his cane and pull her back.

Where Enoch became ill with acute appendicitis, Annie and their son, Bill took him to San Angelo where he died of a ruptured appendix. Because the Colorado River between San Angelo and Robert Lee was flooding, they had to bring his body across the river by boat. Their other children, who were home in Robert Lee, heard about his death over the radio. (Click here for the obituary of Enoch Sparks)

After Enoch’s death, Annie sold all but a small section of the land. She built a small rock house on that land where she lived until she died. She always had a yard full of beautiful flowers.

My grandfather died just a couple of months after my parents were married so I never knew him. However, he must have been a very special person from all the wonderful things I’ve heard about him. I did know my grandmother and I adored her. To me, she was the perfect lady with a regal bearing and a heart bigger than the state of Texas. She had numerous grandchildren but she made each one of us feel as though we were her favorite.

Enoch and Annie Sparks’ children are Belva (spouse unknown), Homer (died at 17 months), Annie Lee (married Curtis Stewart), Susie Belle (died at age 12), Allen Jackson (married Lena Mae Cobb), William Marvin “Bill” (married Wilma Atkins), Enoch Curtis “Jake” (married Vivian Woods), Clifford E. (died at age 2), Mabel Agnes (married Garvis Swanson), Calvin Lafayette “Buckle” (married Cova Cowley), Ruth Hamilton (married Albert Blair), Sam Braswell (married Ruby Sims and Billie Melberth), Geraldine “Dean” (married Elias Creech and Jack Horner), and Ruby Jo (married Harvey Hulse).

5. RUTH HAMILTON SPARKS was born in Robert Lee, Texas and died in Phoenix, Arizona. She married Albert Marion Blair (see Blair family) on 20 June 1936 in Robert Lee.

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1. THOMAS WILLIAM VIRDELL (1802-1855) was born in South Carolina and died in Polk County, Arkansas. He was a farmer.

Thomas married Loduska Clarentine Johnson (1812-after 1880) about 1838 in Tennessee. They traveled to Louisiana about 1846 and were in Arkansas by 1850 where Thomas died. Their children were Martin V., Thomas L., Diana Louisiana “Annie”, and John Ellison.

After Thomas’ death, Loduska married Pleasant M. Nichols, a widower with five children. The children of Pleasant Nichols and his first wife (name unknown) were Mary, Lafayette, Albert, Susan, and Monroe. The children of Pleasant M. Nichols and Lodusky Johnson Nichols were Prissila Palestine, Sarah Adaline "Addie", Palmyra Marie, and Charlotte T. "Lottie". They moved to Travis County, Texas, between 1870 and 1880 where Loduska died.

2. JOHN ELLISON VIRDELL (1850-1917) was born in Polk County, Arkansas, and died in Voca, Texas. He was a farmer. John was married twice. John’s first marriage was to Susan Ellen Martin (1847-1890) on 13 July 1847 in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was born in Little Rock and died in Sanco, Coke County, Texas. Susan was the daughter of John Miller and Lavina (Reidling) Martin of Sebastian County, Arkansas.

Between 1875 and 1877, the Virdells traveled with some of Susan’s family in a covered wagon from Arkansas to Texas to escape the Indians. John and Susan made stops in Kileen, Belton, San Saba, and Mason, Texas. In the summer of 1888, they moved to Horse Creek (near Sanco), where Susan died. Their children were Lavina Ellen, John Thomas, Mary Elizabeth, Wesley Martin, William Madison, James Miller, Elijah Francis, Henry Franklin, Nancy Helen, Wiley C., Robert Marion, and Walter.

John sold his land in Coke County in 1891 and moved to Menard, Texas, where he married Mary Connor. Their children were Hardy, Sercy, Johnny, Jessie, and William.

3. MARY ELIZABETH VIRDELL (1871-1923) was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and died in Coke County, Texas. She married William Carter “Bill” Latham (see Latham family) on 21 July 1891 in Katemacy, Mason County, Texas.

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