Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Jenkins Sparks a Genealogist Challenge

One of the good things about Mondays, perhaps one of the only good things, is the weekly column by Phil Jenkins in the Ottawa Citizen. A local writer and musician his columns often have historical themes.

This Monday, under the title "The story of a great walking race endures" he wrote of a challenge issued in June 1873 and taken up by Robert Sparks, a land surveyor and member of the Ottawa founding family after which Sparks Street gets its name. Sparks triumphed over Fred Pace, a recent English immigrant. Read the story at

Jenkins mentions that Pace left for Alberta and he's not sure what happened to Robert Sparks. He asks "is there a genealogist in the house?"


The last name and occupation rang a bell. A few years ago I had an interest in weather related disasters. I read about two Sparks brothers, surveyors, drowned in the sinking of the Asia, 14 September 1882, near Byng Inlet, Georgian Bay. The Asia, with nearly 100 casualties, was one of the wrecks during a major storm.

I sent an answer by 8 AM. A follow-up is promised in next Monday's column.


Anonymous said...

What fun to know the answer to the genealogical challenge!

Anne S.

Ellen Conrad said...

It was a very interesting article! Thanks for the link. You were able to answer his genealogy question in such a timely manner...should impress all who read. Funny how previous research can come in handy, eh?
Just wondering, from the article and I quote, "The first 16 miles were through swampy forest on a corduroy road..." what a corduroy road IS? Anyone have an idea about it?

JDR said...

According to Wikipedia "A corduroy road or log road is a type of road made by placing sand-covered logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area..."

MelMcL said...

Corduroy Roads were the earliest form of roads built to traverse much of Canada's swampy land. There were plenty of cedar trees after all. A good historical example is the Bobcaygeon Road in Ontario. My father (also a surveyor) retraced a great deal of it over his career. Portions of this road were 'corduroy' and my father found old blazes (a surveyor's mark in the trunks of trees) and the old logs still buried in the muck of the swamp. The early marks of the surveyors and the road established the points for the land development.

DHope said...

Robert Sparks was the son of George Sparks of Gloucester and his wife Sarah Ann Welsh, born in 1839. He and his brother Frederick both died on the sinking of the "Asia" in 1882. He left a wife and children to mourn his loss, as well as other brothers and sisters.