52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 7:
Unusual Source
Family Finds Charter Oak

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 had 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.


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]


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.


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.


  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
  4. “Herman Husband: A Story of His Life”; by Lazenby, Mary Elinor; United States: Old Neighborhoods Press, 1940. pages 127-134
  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


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