Oliver Walker Sparks

OLIVER WALKER SPARKS, one of the prominent and substantial citizens of Columbus, a large mine operator at Peacock City, formerly a member of the city council of Galena, and sheriff of Cherokee County for five years, was born August 5, 1862, at Shelbina, Shelby County, Missouri, and is a son of Samuel and Lydia (Lewis) Sparks.

The Sparks family originated in England, whence came Robert Sparks, the great-grandfather of the subject of this sketch. He settled in Virginia, but removed to Kentucky at a very early day. There on March 30, 1808, was born his son, Henry J. Sparks, who died in 1888, in Missouri, to which State he had moved in 1839. He bought 320 acres of land for $4.50 an acre, and was an extensive grower of tobacco and stock. He married Nancy Thrailkell, daughter of John Thrailkell; she was born in 1804 and died in 1854. Samuel Sparks was the third child of this marriage. He was born in Henry County, Kentucky, about 40 miles from Louisville, July 2, 1835, and in boyhood accompanied his father to Monroe County, Missouri. He served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, from the fall of 1861 to the fall of 1863, as a member of Company A, 8th Missouri Regiment.

Samuel Sparks first married when he was about 21 years of age. He bought a farm near that of his father, and farmed in Cedar County for some years. He moved to Joplin, Missouri, about 1870, and became somewhat interested in mining. In 1878 he went to Leadville, Colorado, where he was engaged for three years in prospecting and making charcoal. In 1881 he came to Galena, Kansas, and for some time was very successful in his mining operations, but an ailment of his eyes rendered it impossible for him to continue in such exhausting work. The trouble increased and from 1888 until 1893 he was almost totally blind, losing the sight of one eye as a result of neuralgia. To his great relief, his sight seemed to be restored until the winter of 1902, since which time he has again been afflicted. He has always been a man of physical activity, and this affliction has been hard to bear. Politically, a stalwart Democrat, he has never consented to accept office.

Samuel Sparks' first wife was Lydia Lewis, whom he married in 1856. She was a daughter of Jesse Lewis, of Monroe County, Missouri. She died in 1862, aged 22 years, leaving four children, of whom the two survivors are Oliver Walker and Mary E., wife of Allen Thompson, of Cripple Creek, Colorado. The second marriage was to Mary C. Adams, who was a daughter of James Adams. She died in 1878, leaving three children, of whom the two survivors are,—Lulie V., wife of Lafayette Roe, of Galena; and Edmund L., of Shawnee township. Both wives were members of the Baptist Church. In 1883, Samuel Sparks was married to Mrs. Mary Ann (Horne) Stanley, who died in 1890. In 1892, he was married to the lady who is his present helpmeet, Mrs. Mary M. Stoops, a daughter of Samuel W. Robinson, of Joplin, Missouri.

The subject of this sketch was eight years old when his parents moved to Joplin, and he has been interested in mining ever since he reached the age of 11 years. Shortly after the family located at Galena, he went to mining in what is known as the Sawyer mines, and was the first man to find mineral on the old Schermerhorn place. These mines have made Galena. For about seven years Mr. Sparks had a lease here, and at the same time was associated with W. Sapp and H. Blackford when mineral was found on "The Lost 40." In the following year they found ore at the "Shelbina," which they worked several years and then sold. With John Murdock, Mr. Sparks owned the famous "Maggie Murphy," and has also owned the noted "Cock Robin" mine. With E. B. Schermerhorn and J. C. Moore, he owned the "Bunco" mines. and with his brother, Edward, the "Bessie Lee." Later with Wesley Best and J. Tutton, he was part owner of the "Miller" and "Gin Hollow" mills and mines, these being considered the best mills in the country. He was also associated with L. H. Winter in the ownership of the "Hot Spot" mine, and a fine mill connected with it. In 1891, Mr. Sparks sunk three shafts in the S. H. & S. Case. which are the best in which he has ever been interested. In June, 1902, the Sparks, Henderson & Sweaney Company was incorporated, with Mr. Sparks as general manager, and he is the main stockholder. This company controls a large territory. In addition to his large mining interests, Mr. Sparks is proprietor of a large retail furniture store in Columbus, the oldest and largest concern of the kind in that city.

Mr. Sparks has long been one of the leading Democratic politicians of the county, and holds the unusual record of being twice elected sheriff, in one year, as he was serving in that capacity at the time the act was passed changing elections to even years. While living at Galena he served four years in the city council. On December 15, 1897, he took up his residence at Columbus, and in the same year was elected sheriff, assumed the duties in the following January, and served five years.

Mr Sparks was first married to Ida May Keller, who was a daughter of Wesley and Lydia (Decamp) Keller. Four children were born to them, the three survivors being,—Dottie, Una and Warren. On June 26, 1903, Mr. Sparks was married to Brosie Newton, who is a daughter of Wallace Newton, of Columbus, and they have one son,—Oliver Wallace.

Fraternally, the subject of this sketch is a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Elks, at Galena; the Odd Fellows, at Empire City. in which he has passed all the chairs; the Rebekahs; the Modern Woodmen of America, at Galena; and the Royal Neighbors.


History of Cherokee County Kansas and its representative citizens, ed. & comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, instructor from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 6-27-97


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