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October 16, 2018

1892 The Most Unusual Death of State Sen. Samuel P. Sparks - Accidental Suicide

Research and writing from Peggy Nuckles, featured contributor! Peggy has had the very interesting Accidental History blog.
There is a street in Warrensburg, Missouri named Sparks Avenue in honor of Samuel P. Sparks, a lawyer, state senator and prominent citizen back in the 1800s. But it is not so much his life, but his unusual death for which he is best remembered. 
On the 14th of May 1892, Sam Sparks bought an Accidental Death Insurance Policy from the National Masonic Accident Association. One night, shortly thereafter, the 48-year-old lawyer got up in the middle of the night, tripped in the darkness and fell face first onto a heating grate in the floor. A sharp piece of metal sticking up from the grate punctured his eye.

Soon infection set in behind his eye and went to his brain, driving him insane. He lingered for several months in this state before taking his own life on Sept. 16, 1892. According to a local newspaper, "...the Senator had been drinking heavily for several days. He laid down on the floor in his night clothes, and, after asking his wife to pray for him, deliberately cut his throat from ear to ear, half severing..." (the rest is unreadable.) His widow, Nannie, tried to collect on the policy, but was told that Sparks didn't die from the accident - he committed suicide.

Nannie took National Masonic to court several times before a sympathetic federal judge ruled that, "his death was the result of a bodily injury, which was effected through external, violent and ACCIDENTAL means..., to wit: the result of a deep gash cut in his throat, with a razor, in his own hands, while he, the said Samuel P. Sparks was insane, mentally deranged and wholly incapable of forming any mental design..."
So it was an accident.

Source: The Sedalia Weekly Bazoo, 20 Sept. 1892 and The Federal Reporter - Vol 79 page 278 and 279.

Here's a little write-up about his first wife Mira.

Close to the entrance of Sunset Hill Cemetery stands a tall, imposing tombstone that tells a story of two young lives that ended much too soon. 

Mira Curtis was the 20-year-old daughter of the Sheriff of Henry county when she married 27-year-old Samuel P. Sparks, the clerk of the neighboring Johnson County on April 6, 1871. 
Nine months and 13 days later she was dead. A small tombstone inches away from hers give evidence of the reason for her death. (Died birthing a child)

A few words and some random letters are visible on the baby's stone, but if the child has a name it is known now only to God. When the main monument was put up, the grieving young husband meant for it to stand forever as evidence of his love for her, but every one's enemy, time, is eroding this neglected structure. Soon all earthly evidence of this story of love, hope, and loss will be gone.

I can't remember where on the Internet I found this biography:

Samuel P. entered Chapel Hill college where he continued about one year when the war broke out, and he enlisted in the 5th Missouri cavalry, commanded by Col. Sigel, and served three years, afterwards on a non-commissioned regimental staff, and was in many hotly contested battles, in the Price raid of 1864. He was mustered out of service in May, 1865, and returned home and taught a term of school. In the following fall entered McKendre college, Lebanon, Ill., where he continued to pursue his studies for five years and graduated in the full college classical course in June, 1870. He then returned home and in the fall of the same year was elected to the office of county clerk of Johnson county. In 1874 he entered The St. Louis Law School and graduated in the spring of 1875. Returning home he commenced the practice of law and soon gained the reputation as a trustworthy lawyer. Mr. Sparks’ second marriage occurred April 8, 1874, to Miss Nannie R. Cunningham, daughter of Capt. Anderson Cunningham Little Rock Ark. Mr. Sparks owns a handsome suburban brick residence just north of the city limits. He and his family the attend Episcopal church, where his wife is a leading member. In politics he is a true democrat. In business he is prompt and attentive and among his friends, social, kind and benevolent.
Samuel Preston Sparks, 1870, Co.B, 5th Mo. Vol.I nf., University of Missouri
Samuel Preston Sparks, born January 1, 1844, In Surry County, North Carolina, and died in Warrensburg, Missouri, on September 16, 1892,
SAMUEL PRESTON SPARKS,  son of William W. and Lucretia C. (Pryor) Sparks, was born on January 1, 1844, in Surry County, North Carolina. He married (1st) Myra Curtis on April 6, 1871, in Henry County, Missouri, and (2nd) Nannie Rebecca Cunningham on April 8, 1874, at Little Rock, Arkansas. He served in Companies B and H, 5th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry. He died on September 16, 1892. File Designation: Wid. Cert. No. 397,351.
 On December 5, 1892, Nannie R. Sparks, aged 38, a resident of Warrensburg, Missouri, made a declaration for a Widow's Pension under the provisions of the 1890 Act of Congress. She said she was a widow of Samuel Preston Sparks who had enlisted on March 15, 1862, at Lexington, Missouri, as a private in Company H, 5th Regiment Missouri State Militia and had served until he was mustered out with his company on May 13, 1865. He died on September 16, 1892. She was married to Sparks on April 8, 1874, at Little Rock, Arkansas, by the Rev. Thos. B. Lee. Sparks had been previously married to Myra Curtis on April 6, 1871, but she had died on January 19, 1872. The only child of Samuel Sparks under the age of sixteen was Bayard P. Sparks who was born on December 16, 1889. Mrs. Sparks appointed S. J. Burnett of Warrensburg, Missouri, as her attorney, and the declaration was sworn to before W. S. Hornbuckle and J. W. McFarland.
A week later, Dr. Francis C. Smith, M.D., made an affidavit that he was the attending physician when Bayard Sparks, son of Samuel P. Sparks, was born on December 16, 1889. Shortly thereafter, Henry Neill, aged 65, and O.D. Williams, aged 67, both residents of Warrensburg, Missouri, swore that they had known Nannie R. Sparks for over twenty years and that she had been married only one time and that was to Samuel P. Sparks. She and Sparks had lived together as man and wife until his death on September 16, 1892.
William E. Crissey, aged 53, of Warrensburg, Missouri, made an affidavit on behalf of the application of Nannie R. Sparks on April 6, 1893. He said that he was an abstractor of titles, a notary public, and a general loan agent. During the past 25 years, he had been intimately acquainted with Samuel P. Sparks. He knew Sparks's first wife, Myra Curtis, who had died some years ago and whose body was interred in the Warrensburg Cemetery. He also knew Nannie R. Sparks, now the widow of Samuel P. Sparks. Nannie now owned a tract of land 100 by 300 feet with a dwelling, her home, worth about $3,000, but which had an encumbrance of about $1,500. She had no income and was dependent upon her own labor. Since the death of her husband, she had not remarried or had she abandoned the support of her child.
Two days later, the Recorder of Johnson County, Missouri, John C. Rivers, certified that there was a record in his office of the marriage of Sam'l. P. Sparks, of Warrensburg, Missouri, and Miss Myra Curtis of Henry County, Missouri, on April 6, 1871. They had been married by the Rev. J. S. Newcomb, Pastor of the M.E. Church. A short time later, the assistant rector of Christ Church, South, Little Rock, Arkansas, certified that, according to the rites of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, Samuel Preston Sparks and Nannie Rebecca Cunningham had been married in his church on April 8, 1874.
On the same day, Green B. Lannom, aged 67, a resident of Warrensburg, testified that he was the sexton of the Warrensburg Cemetery at the time of the death of Myra, first wife of Samuel P. Sparks, and that he was present and assisted at her burial. He said that the inscription on the marble stone which marked her grave read as follows: "Sacred to the memory of Mira, dearly beloved wife of Samuel P. Sparks, died Jan. 19, 1872, aged 31 years 4 months."
In the meantime, on August 31, 1893, the War Department had sent the Commissioner of Pensions the military and medical history of Samuel P. Sparks. He had been enrolled as a private on March 15, 1862, in Company B, 13th Regiment Missouri State Militia Cavalry and was transferred (through reorganization to Company B, 5th Regiment Missouri State Militia. He was mustered out with his detachment on April 27, 1865. At the time of his enlistment, he had been 19 years of age; he was 5 ft. 9 in. tall; he had a dark complexion, black eyes and black hair; he had been born in Surry County, North Carolina; and he was a farmer. He was present for duty with the following exceptions: August 24, 1862, on scout; December 31, 1863 to February 28, 1865, detailed as a hospital steward at Waynes ville, Missouri; June 11, 1862, hospitalized with scabies; April 1, 1865, hospitalized for bronchitus ; April 16, 1865, to May 5, 1865, "int. fever."

Widow Certificate No. 397,351 was issued to Nannie R. Sparks, and she was placed upon the pension roll.

On January 16, 1929, Nannie R. Sparks wrote the following letter to the Commissioner of Pensions: "This coming April 1929, I will be 75 years old, God willing. Born April 30, 1854. Married to Samuel P. Sparks April 8, 1874. Samuel P. Sparks died September 16, 1892. This is the Bible record. My pension voucher was made out so many years ago, I don't know how correct it is. Does this not entitle me to an increase in pension next April? Im now receiving $30 per month. [signed] Nannie R. Sparks, 761 W. 180th St., Apt. 68, New York City."
The last document (in chronological order) from the "selected papers" in the pension file for Nannie R. Sparks provided by the National Archives is a memorandum dated June 6, 1936, authorizing the suspension of her pension payments of $40 per month, pending the verification of her death which apparently occurred prior to April 30, 1936.
[Editor's Note: A biographical sketch of the life of Samuel P. Sparks appears on pp. 732-33 of THE HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, published in Kansas City in 1881, and describes him as "prominent in the legal profession." His father was William W. Sparks who had come to Missouri in 1844 from Surry County, North Carolina. He was a farmer; he died on February 16, 1876. Because only children under 16 could benefit from a Civil War pension, only Bayard P. Sparks was mentioned in this application as a child of Samuel P. Sparks. From other sources, it is known that he and his second wife, Nannie Rebecca, also had three other children: Leonard F. Sparks, born about 1875; Russell C. Sparks, born about 1878; and Mary V. Sparks. Samuel Preston Sparks was a grandson of Joel Sparks, Sr. who had served in the War of 1812 from Surry County, North Carolina. As a resident of Bates County, Missouri, in 1855, Joel Sparks, Sr. had applied for bounty land based on his service in the War of 1812. (See the QUARTERLY of September 1961, Vol. XI, Whole No. 35, pp. 579-580 for the papers supporting Joel's application.) A correction should be noted, however, in the editor's note on page 580. While the name of Joel's father was given correctly as Matthew, his grandfather's name was given incorrectly as William Sample Sparks. This should have been simply William Sparks. William Sparks was born about 1728 in Queen Annes County, Maryland, married a woman named Ann -----, moved to Frederick County, Maryland in the late 1840s, then to North Carolina in 1764, and died in Surry County, North Carolina, in the spring of 1802. It was William Sparks's father who was named William Sample Sparks.]

October 15, 2018

1832 May 7 Jeremiah Vardaman Cockrell raised born at Warrensuburg - CSA Commander of and Wounded at the Battle of Long Jack MO - Son Founded the SMU School of Law

Col. Jeremiah Varadaman Cockrell, CSA,
born at Warrensburg MO
Jeremiah Vardaman Cockrell, also known as Vard Cockrell, (May 7, 1832 – March 18, 1915) was a U.S. Representative from Texas, after having served as a field commander in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Jeremiah Cockrell was born near Warrensburg, Missouri, to Joseph Cockrell (the sheriff of Johnson County) and Nancy (Ellis) Cockrell. He attended the common schools and Chapel Hill College in Lafayette County, Missouri. He was the older brother of Francis Marion Cockrell, who also served as a Confederate officer and later as a US Senator from Missouri. As a young man, Cockrell went to California during the Gold Rush, where he was a miner and a merchant near the Bear River. Cockrell returned to Missouri in 1853, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits, studied law, and, for a time, was a minister in the Methodist Church. 
Battle of Lone Jack, Col. Jeremiah Cockrell, CSA
 When the Civil War began Cockrell entered the Missouri State Guard and Confederate States Army as a lieutenant and served throughout the Civil War, in which he attained the rank of colonel.

  "Through the summer of 1862, the Union militias battled the Confederate recruiters for control of the state. Some of the more successful Confederate recruiters were MSG Col. Jeremiah Cockrell, who raised a large force in the Jackson County area, and MSG Brig. Gen. Jeff Thompson, who commanded a brigade-size force in southeast Missouri."  Atlas of Prices Missouri Expedition

Col. Cockrell was the CSA commander at the 1862 Battle of Lone Jack, Missouri. He was later wounded so severely in 1864 that he could not return to field duty. At the close of the war, Cockrell settled with his family first at Dallas and then Sherman, Grayson County Texas, where he practiced law. He became Chief Justice of Grayson County, Texas, in 1872 and served as delegate to the Democratic state conventions in 1878 and 1880. He and his family moved from the North Texas to Abilene, Jones County, Texas where he was appointed judge of the Thirty-ninth judicial district court in 1885. He was elected to the position in 1886 and re-elected in 1890. In 1892, Cockrell was elected as a Democrat to the US Congress, where he served until 1897. He returned to engage in farming and stock raising in Jones County. Cockrell died in Abilene, Texas, on March 18, 1915 at the age of 82. He is interred in the Masonic Cemetery. His son, Joseph E. Cockrell, founded the Southern Methodist University School of Law.

Born 7 May 1832 Warrensburg, Johnson County, Missouri
Died 18 Mar 1915 Abilene, Jones County, Texas
Buried Masonic Cemetery Abilene, Jones County, Texas
Father Joseph Cockrell, b. 8 Jun 1784, Russell County, Virginia
Mother Nancy Ellis, b. 1 Jan 1803, Floyd County, Kentucky d. 23 Nov 1883, Johnson County, Missouri
Married 8 Jan 1818 Floyd County, Kentucky d. 3 Apr 1837, Johnson County, Missouri

October 11, 2018

1944 February 21 2nd Lt. (Lt. Col.) Robert "Bob" Brockman Shot Down Over Germany - Warrensburg, MO Resident

LT COL Robert "Bob" O. Brockman

WWII - 448th BG, 714th B Sq
Co-Pilot, B-24 #42-7768 'The Proud Wanderlost'
Shot down over Munster, Germany - Held as prisoner of war.
POW Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany

B-24 Liberator
On 21 February 1944, his plane B-24 #42-7768 'The Proud Wanderlost' was attacked by FW-190s. The target was an Airdrome in Munster, Germany. Exploding 20mm shells killed the Right Waist Gunner Sgt Robert Yarnell and he went down with the plane. The attack also wounded the Radio Operator Sgt Guy Padgett. Sgt Loyd was killed when he fell from the aircraft without a parachute. Loyd's remains were recovered, but it appears that Yarnell's were not. The rest of the crew survived but were taken as POWs to Dulag Luft in Frankfurt, Germany for interrogation, and then to Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany. Some were later moved to other camps. The airplane crashed in the woods in just inside occupied Holland.

The crew members were~

1st LT Clair W Cline, Pilot S/N O-746302 MN - POW Stalag Luft 1 Cline - Prison Camp Violin    Gravesite

Quote from the pilot, 1stLT Cline - "In February 1944 I was a U.S. Air Corps pilot flying a B-24 bomber over Germany when antiaircraft fire hit our tail section and we lost all controls. We bailed out and on landing I found myself in a field in occupied Holland, just across the border from Germany. We were surrounded by villagers asking for chocolate and cigarettes. Then an elderly uniformed German with a pistol in an unsteady hand marched me to an interrogation center. From there I and other prisoners were shipped to Stalag Luft I, a prison camp for captured Allied airmen. The camp was a dismal place. We lived in rough wooden barracks, sleeping on bunks with straw-filled burlap sacks on wooden slats. Rations were meager; if it hadn't been for the Red Cross care packages, we would have starved.  But the worst affliction was our uncertainty. Not knowing when the war would  end or what would happen (we had heard rumors of prisoners being killed)  left us with a constant gnawing worry. And since the Geneva Convention ruled  that officers were not allowed to be used for labor, we had little to keep  us occupied. What resulted was a wearying combination of apprehension and boredom. Men coped in various ways: Some played bridge all day, others dug escape tunnels (to no avail), some read tattered paperbacks."

2nd LT Robert O Brockman, Co-Pilot S/N O-687671 MO - POW Stalag Luft 1  Gravesite

2nd LT Ted (NMI) Strain, Bombardier S/N O-686204 OK – POW Stalag Luft 1
1st LT Adin Simms Batson, Navigator S/N O-687924 MD – POW Stalag Luft 1 Gravesite
SSGT Ira H Loyd, Gunner S/N 36431449 Eagletown, McCurtan Co, OK - KIA
TSGT Lim L Teong, S/N 36603262 IL – POW Stalag Luft 3
SSGT Robert H Yarnell, Waist Gunner S/N 35668792 Jessamine Co, KY - KIA Gravesite
SSGT Albert Giliotti, Gunner S/N 32717371 NY – POW Stalag Luft 4
SSGT Hubert A Hunt, Gunner S/N 38321373 KS – POW Stalag Luft 4 Gravesite

TSGT Guy T Padgett, Radio Operator S/N 14029257 Rutherford Co, NC – POW Stalag Luft 4

Stalag Luft 1
In late April, 1945 as the war in Europe was nearing its end,  the Russians were approaching from the east and the British and Americans from the West in a race to get to Hitler's headquarters in Berlin.  Stalag Luft I was north of Berlin, so it was unsure at first which of the Allied fronts would reach them first.  As the reports came in and the fighting got closer and closer to Barth, they soon realized that the Russians would be the ones liberating them.  They soon began to hear the heavy cannon fire sounds of the Russian artillery getting closer and closer to them.
At night the POWs would lay in their darkened barracks and there would be  shouts of "Come On Joe" (for Joseph Stalin - the Russian leader) coming from all over the camp.   At this time it became apparent to the German Commandant and the guards at Stalag Luft I that  the Russians were at their doorstep and they must make a move. So they approached the Senior Allied POW Officer of the camp,  Col. Hub Zemke, and told him to prepare his fellow prisoners to march in an effort to escape the approaching Russians.  Col. Zemke refused to do so.  
He informed the Commandant that even though there were over 200 of them with guns, that there were 9,000 POWs and they were prepared to fight rather than march.  He told the commandant that he realized this may cause high losses among the POWs but ultimately they would overcome the Germans and with the Russian allies so close he knew this was an acceptable risk.  

The German command evidently realized that the end of Germany was near and so he accepted this decision by Col. Zemke.  The German command then informed Col. Zemke that he and the guards would be leaving the camp at midnight that night (April 30, 1945).  Col. Zemke had made plans in case such a scenario arose to take over the camp,  as it was evident to him that as Senior Allied Officer he would be responsible for of the safe return of the POWs to Allied control.  He had already organized a group of hand selected men which he called the "Field Force" to help him keep the camp in order until they were all safely back in Allied hands. 
So when the POWs at Stalag Luft I awoke on May 1, 1945 they looked around and noticed that all the Germans were gone and now there were POWs with armbands that said "FF" manning the guard towers.  Col. Zemke explained that the POWs could not just start leaving the camp on their own, as there was a war going on all around them and they could be shot.  He felt it best to keep the camp secure in an effort to protect the POWs.  (You can imagine not many of the POWs liked this idea, they were tired of being imprisoned behind barbed wire!)  
Col. Zemke sent a scouting party out to meet the approaching Russians to inform them that there was a POW camp of Allies located in the area, so the Russians would not be shelling them!  Later in the day the Russian commander entered Stalag Luft I and meet with Col. Zemke and the British Senior Officer.  The Russian commander did not like the idea of the Allied POWs still being behind barbed wire, so he ordered that Col. Zemke have the fences torn down.  Zemke refused at first, but was later convinced (some say by force, with a gun) to tear down the fences.  The POWs enthusiastically tore them down.   Many POWs then left camp and went into Barth and the surrounding areas.  Some of them (approximately 700) took off on their own to make their way to the approaching British lines (my Dad being one of those!).  In the ensuing confusion of a war still in progress all around them some of the POWs were accidentally killed.
It was the 2nd White Russian Front of the Red Army that entered Barth on May 1, 1945 and liberated the prisoners of war at Stalag Luft I.   After the fences were down the Russians then learning of the meager food supply the POWs  had been existing on soon rounded up several hundred cows and herded them into the camp for the hungry POWs to slaughter and eat.  This they did immediately.   At night they entertained the POWs with their "USO" type variety show that traveled with them.   There was much joy and celebration among the newly freed POWs and the Russian soldiers.

The tensions were building between Russia and the Allies and the fate of the POWs was uncertain until the 8th Air Force flew into Barth and rescued the POWs in a massive airlift called "Operation Revival".   The Russians had liberated the camp on May 1 and on May 12,13 & 14, 1945 approximately 9,000 prisoners of war at Stalag Luft I were flown out of Barth, Germany and back into Allied control.  Royal Air Force POWs were flown back to England and the American POWs were flown to Camp Lucky Strike in Le Havre, France, where they were processed and waited for a liberty ship to return to the states.
Stalag Luft 1

Stalag Luft 1

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Stalag Luft 1

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Stalag Luft 1
Stalag Luft 1
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Stalag Luft 1

Stalag Luft 1

A B-24 Hit by Flak

CREW #49-Aircraft #42-7768
2nd. Lt. Clair W. ClineP07463022nd. 
Lt. Robert O. BrockmanCP06876711st. 
Lt. Adin S. BatsonN06879242nd.
Lt. Ted StrainB0686204
Sgt. Lin L. TeingE3660326
Cpl. Maurice M. TaylorR35724736
Sgt. Ira H. LoydAE36431449
Sgt. Hubert A. HuntAR38321373
Sgt. Robert H. YarnellG35668792
Sgt. Albert GiliottiAG32717371
Passengers 1st. 
Lt. Carl T. Yast0570876
T/Sgt. Herbert S. Chrzan16027847
S/Sgt. Lloyd S. Brewer37263834
Cpl. Ralph C. Erskine, Jr.34770116

8th Air Force
Targets: Bramsche, Diepholz, Handorf, Gütersloh, Lippstadt, and Werl, Germany (Airfields)
8AF Bombers Launched: 861
8AF Bombers Effective: 762
8AF Fighters Launched: 679
8AF Bombers MIA: 16
8AF Bombers DBR: 7
8AF Bombers Abort: 99
8AF Fighters MIA: 5
8AF Fighters DBR: 3
8AF Abort Rate: 11%
8AF Loss Rate: 3%
Note: Due to poor weather, only Diepholz is bombed as briefed.

Flying a B-24

LtCol Robert O. Brockman, Warrensburg, MO

Robert O. Brockman Receives Army Air Forces Commission, June 30, 1943

Howard Brockman Funeral Thursday 

Funeral services for Howard E. Brockman, former Moberly man who died at midnight Tuesday at a hospital in Aurora, Ill., will be conducted Thursday afternoon at one o'clock from the residence of Mrs. Brockman's parents, Mr. and Mrs. O. H. Fort, 701 South Williams street. The services will be conducted by the Rev. R. S. Kenaton, pastor of the Fourth Street Methodist Church.

Bob's father, was a plant manager, and died at the age of 38 in Aurora, Illinois.