52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 7:
Unusual Source

An Unusual Source

While researching a 5th great grandfather, William Sparks (1740 – 1788), I discovered him in an unusual source. [1] There he was in a 250 year old diary. Although the diary was lost to a fire years ago, many of the entries have been transcribed and included in history books published in the 19th century. This unusual source was made more unusual because the diarist was a historical figure I had never before heard of, Herman Husband. [2]

Who Was Herman Husband?

In brief, Herman Husband (1724-1795) was best known for his involvement in two tax resistance movements during the 18th century. The first was the Regulator Rebellion in North Carolina during the 1760’s. Second, the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania during the 1790’s. In between these events he lived on the western frontier of Pennsylvania and was a near neighbor and friend of my 5th great grandfather, William Sparks. This is a simplification, to learn more about Herman Husband access the sources I list here.

Diary of Herman Husband

Herman Husband kept a diary of his writings, sermons, and daily events during most of his adult life. His diary was part of the holdings of the Somerset County Historical Society for many years. The diary entries are referenced in several books published by the Society, Pennsylvania and North Carolina institutions. Unfortunately the original diary was lost to a fire. But, many of the most important entries have been preserved in various 19th century publications. [3] A later publication, from 1940, worth note is a biography of Herman Husband that includes the entries featuring my ancestor. [4]

Beaver Dam
Beaver Damage

William Sparks, 1740 – 1788

William Sparks was most likely born in Maryland. The details of how he came to live in western Pennsylvania by 1767 are unknown. The location of the Sparks cabin can be approximated using the histories written from Husband’s diary. It was north of Somerset, Pennsylvania probably in the vicinity of Coxes Creek and I-70.

From Husband’s diary entries I discovered several interesting details about my 5th great grandfather William Sparks. There are descriptions of the Sparks cabin, which included a potato patch, venison hams hung from the ridge pole of the roof, and he kept a hoe, an axe, steel traps and a rifle. Also, William Sparks is described as a trapper, he killed beaver to sell the fur. It seems William Sparks only stayed at this remote cabin during beaver season, which was wintertime. He then spent the remaining time with his wife and her family in the Juniata River valley, about 60 miles northeast of his cabin on the other side of the Allegheny Mountains.

Friendship

From the diary entries, it’s obvious these men became good friends. Herman Husband basically just showed up at the Sparks’ cabin in late 1771. He was running from the law and looking to stay with an old friend named Isaac Cox, another trapper. But, instead he found the Sparks cabin and, although he eventually met with his old friend, it seems he spent most of his time with Sparks. The diary entries describe him assisting Sparks with work on the potato patch and cabin. He also made maps and surveys of the area, eventually purchasing land for himself.

By fall of 1772, Husband had a cabin and small farm plot and he brought his wife and children to live on a permanent basis. This event provides a glimpse of my ancestor’s character. When the family arrived, Sparks had a fire going and prepared them a meal of fresh venison. How kind! Soon after this, William Sparks brought his wife and child, as well. He also brought some cattle and began homesteading in earnest.

Diary Entry Somerset Desc

A quote from Herman Husband’s diary describing the land around the cabins.

The diary of Herman Husband has been a wealth of information about my ancestor William Sparks during the brief period of their friendship. Like many friendships, these two friends parted ways. Husband’s diary reports the death of Rachel Sparks’ mother that demanded the family return across the mountains. Sparks sold his cabin to Husband (114£ PA money) and never returned to the area. Husband was no longer a wanted man, but decided to stay on and became a successful land speculator.

Wm Sparks Land Grant

What Happened Next

I have to rely on traditional sources for the rest of William’s story. Once the Sparks’ settled their family business, they relocated further west to Westmoreland County. William Sparks became a captain with the local militia and served in that position during the American Revolution. [5] He entered two land grants for his military service in Fayette County, south of Westmoreland. [6] And it’s on one of these homesteads that he died in 1788. His will divides the land among his sons, including my ancestor Isaac Sparks (1768-1834). [7]

Conclusion

It is very satisfying to find a preserved description of an ancestor and their daily life. The usual sources are vital records for birth, marriage, and death. But, it is the unusual sources that often give life to those who are long gone.

EPILOGUE

While researching Herman Husband I discovered something else to my delight. His son Isaac Husband (1771-1858) married Nancy Ann King (1779-1858). [8,9] Nancy was a daughter of my maternal 5th great grandfather, Phillip King (1748-1818). It’s fascinating to discover this one person in Colonial Pennsylvania connects a paternal line to a maternal line.

SOURCES:

  1. Profile for William Sparks, “Osborn” family tree, Ancestry.com; https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/13493206/person/1764546338/facts
  2. Entry for Herman Husband, Wikipedia.org; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herman_Husband
  3. History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania: With Genealogical and Personal History”; United States: Walworth, 1906, pages 83-105
    https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=eQYjAQAAIAAJ&hl=en
  4. “Herman Husband: A Story of His Life”; by Lazenby, Mary Elinor; United States: Old Neighborhoods Press, 1940. pages 127-134
    https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=-BM-AAAAIAAJ&hl=en
  5. Entry for William Sparks; Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, The National Archives, Pub: M246, Catalog id: 602384, Record grp: 93, Roll: 0084. Accessed online at Fold3.com, https://www.fold3.com/image/14565563
  6. Entry for William Sparks, 300 acres, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, U.S., Land Warrants and Applications, 1733-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: Warrant Applications, 1733-1952. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania State Archives.
  7. Wills No 1, Vol 1-3 1784-1833, Fayette County, page 53, Pennsylvania, U.S., [database on-line] Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993, page 32 of 651. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts.
  8. Online memorial for Nancy King Husband; FindAGrave.com; Accessed online:  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/23045965/nancy-anna-husband
  9. Online memorial for Isaac Husband; FindAGrave.com; Accessed online: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/23045973/isaac-toscape-husband

Frank Takeo Flucawa

Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

Sarah Smith: Challenge

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846

Laferre to LaFara: Unusual Name

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 3: Unusual Name
The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 8: Family Photo
For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one in particular I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 11: Large Family
My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 16: Out of Place
I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.

Immigrant Ancestors, Fresh Start

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week1: Fresh Start.
The varied reasons my European ancestors immigrated to North America for a fresh start.

William and Uva Lafara: Favorite Photo

I have many favorite photos among my collection of family artifacts. Currently, my favorite photo is of two little children from 1916 who were a complete mystery to me until last spring.

Close to Home

My grandparents. Earl and Pearl, met at church, close to home, in 1914,

So Far Away

My great-uncle Frank immigrated to the United States from Japan in 1905 to further his education, so far away

Same Name

I get excited when I discover an ancestor with the same name as a friend, or co-worker, or neighbor. Maybe we are related!