Matthew B. Sparks, who has the distinction of being one of the oldest practicing attorneys in Jefferson county,
was born in Scottville, Macoupin county, Illinois, on April 17, 1838, being a son of John and Elizabeth (Bradshaw)
Sparks. His father, although born and reared in Virginia, was of English extraction, the paternal great grandfather,
Matthew B. Sparks, a farmer by occupation, being a native of the mother country. His mother, who was born in White
county, Tennessee, was a direct descendant of John Bradshaw, a general in the army of Oliver Cromwell. He was president
of the court that condemned to death Charles the First of England, signing the warrant of execution. Two of John
Bradshaw's sons escaped the wrath of Charles the Second after the restoration by coming to America, and it was
from one of these that Mrs. Sparks was descended. In 1830 together with his wife and family John Sparks came west
to Illinois, locating in Macoupin county where he followed the carpenter's trade and fanning during the remainder
of his active life, passing away near Carlinville, in 1882. The mother survived for several years thereafter, her
demise occurring at Jacksonville, Illinois. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Sparks numbered nine children, as follows:
William and Fannie, both of whom are deceased; Matthew B., our subject; and Nancy, John Byrum, Ryal, Amanda, Emma,
also deceased; and Louisa, the widow of W. H. Hendrickson, ex secretary of state and member of congress from Illinois,
who is now living at Alexander, Illinois.
The first nineteen years of his life Matthew B. Sparks spent under the parental roof, attending the district and
high schools in the vicinity of his home in the acquirement of an education. Upon the completion of the course
therein pursued he came to Iowa, locating in Van Buren county, where for several years he engaged in teaching.
He subsequently went to Scotland county, Missouri, where he continued to teach until the breaking out of the Civil
war. On the 13th of July, 1861, he answered his country's call for troops and went to Memphis, Missouri, where
he enlisted in Company C. Twenty first Missouri Volunteer Infantry. He remained at the front until the 22d of September,
1862, at which time he was discharged at Keokuk. Iowa, on account of disability. He participated in a number of
notable skirmishes and engagements in Missouri during the autumn of 1861 and in the following spring his regiment
was ordered to join General Grant's army at Pittsburg Landing. Their campaign was opened at Shiloh, where his company
met with heavy losses, but twenty seven of their eighty three men surviving that terrible conflict. After he was
mustered out Mr. Sparks came to Batavia, where he again engaged in teaching, devoting his unoccupied hours to the
study of law. He was admitted to the bar in 186 and immediately thereafter opened an office here and engaged in
the practice of his profession, with which he has ever since been identified, being the oldest practicing attorney
in Jefferson county with the exception of Isaac D. Jones of Fairfield.
On the 2d of September, 1858, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Sparks and Miss Sarah J. Killebrew, a daughter
of Captain Finess and Louisa (Evans) Killebrew, the family being of Scotch extraction in the paternal line. Her
father was a native of Tennessee, having been horn near the Kentucky line, while the mother's birthplace was Lexington,
Kentucky. The paternal grandfather, Lawrence Killebrew, was a pioneer Methodist preacher of Pike county, Missouri,
where he was born and reared. He withdrew from the Missouri conference of the Methodist Episcopal church, when
the church divided on the slavery question and went to Illinois, where he spent his latter years, his death occurring
in Winchester, Scott county, that state. In the maternal line Mrs. Sparks is descended from Captain Maberry Evans,
her grandfather, who was a millwright of Kentucky, having been a son of the Revolutionary hero. Captain Finess
Killebrew was a sawmill owner and operator in his native state, whence he removed to Iowa in the late '30s, locating
near Hillsboro, where he engaged in farming. He was commissioned captain in the Iowa State Militia in 1840, which
office he also held during the Black Hawk war. During the Rebellion he lived in Missouri, but when peace was restored
returned to Iowa, purchasing a farm near Libertyville, this county, where both he and his wife passed away in 1866.
Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Killebrew: Murina, who is deceased; Elizabeth, the widow of Loren Rawson,
now living near Parsons, Kansas; Sarah J., now Mrs. Sparks; Maberry, who is deceased; Parthina, who never married
and is now a resident of Parsons, Kansas; and John J., who is also deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Sparks were the parents
of six children.
The family affiliate with the Methodist Episcopal church of which Mrs. Sparks is an earnest member. During his
earlier years Mr. Sparks always voted the straight republican ticket, but he now accords his support to the men
and measures he deems best adapted to subserve the interests of the majority, irrespective of party affiliation.
He has always taken an active and helpful interest in all municipal affairs, and for many years has been a member
of the town council and for ten years he was mayor of Batavia and was president of the school board for a long
period. That he proved to be efficient and loyal to the best interests of his community is attested by the length
of his periods of incumbency in his various public positions. He is one of the highly honored members of the Jefferson
County Bar Association and he also belongs to the George Strong Post of the Grand Army of the Republic of Fairfield.
Mr. Sparks has been one of the factors in the development and upbuilding of Batavia, his time and energy ever having
been liberally contributed toward the promotion and advancement of every movement that promised the betterment
of the intellectual or moral welfare of the town, of which he has been a resident for more than forty six years.
History of Jefferson County, Iowa
A Record of Settlement, Organizatin,
Progress and Achievement
BY: Charles J. Fulton
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Jefferson County, IA
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