Robert Lee Sparks & Ebber Sloan Bostic
Robert Lee Sparks was born 4 April 1889 in the Shiloh community of Rutherford County, NC. He was the sixth of eight surviving children of James Lewis Sparks (16 June 1861 – 28 January 1938) and Cassa Dorinda Clementine Spake (25 March 1854-16 March 1911). Six other children were born to his parents but, because Clementine was a carrier for hemophilia, many died at an early age.
Ebber Sloan Bostic was born 10 January 1901 in the Gosher community of Cherokee County, SC. She was the fourth of ten children born to Boswell Josiah Clinton Bostic, Sr. (6 May 1874 – 26 April 1915) and Julia Elizabeth McDaniel (10 November 1874-12 March 1923). When Ebber Bostic’s father died of pneumonia in 1915, the family was living in Trough Shoals, SC, in Spartanburg County. Clint, Sr. had left farming in the Gosher community of Cherokee County and had accepted employment in the mills at Trough Shoals (changed to Pacolet Mills in 1930). Shortly after her husband’s death, Julia Bostic moved with her family of ten children (daughter Annie was only one month old when Clint, Sr. died) to Mill Springs, NC. Julie’s father, Thomas Clingman McDaniel, was living there at the time. After a few months in Mill Springs, the Bostic family moved to Cliffside, NC, in Rutherford County.
It was at Cliffside that Robert Lee Sparks and Ebber Sloan Bostic met, fell in love, and were married. He was thirty-one and she was nineteen. They were married on 26 December 1920, at the home of Rev. W. T. Tate in Caroleen, NC. Rev. Will Tate was the husband of Dovie Melissa Sparks, Robert’s sister. Rev. Tate performed the ceremony and witnesses were E. L. Burgess, Henry Roberts, and Marvin Sparks. After their marriage, Robert and Ebber continued to live in Cliffside, where eleven children were born to them.
Robert worked as a loom fixer and a part-time barber. He later opened his own barber shop where he worked until two days prior to his death in 1952, never missing a day of work for any reason. He was very active in Cliffside Baptist Church for many years, serving as a Sunday School teacher and deacon. He often attended classes at Gardner-Webb College to increase his knowledge of the bible. Many people have commented that he was the finest bible teacher they ever heard teach. Pastors have commented that often they would drop by his shop to receive insight for sermon preparation. Small in stature (5′ 5″ with dark brown eyes and black curly hair), Robert never met a stranger. He was as comfortable talking to a bank president as he was talking to a close friend. Never at a loss for words, he instilled honesty and integrity in his children. Always hospitable to strangers, his home was always open to individuals with no place to sleep at night. A “home away from home” for them was 24 Reservoir Street.
Unfortunately, Robert developed a problem with alcohol, which caused him to drop out of his church activities for many years. One year before his death from cancer in 1952, he made a recommitment to the Lord and Cliffside Baptist Church. Knowing that he had cancer, he did not reveal this to his family. He continued to work full-time at his shop until two days before his death at Rutherford County Hospital. He is buried beside his wife and first-born child, George Houston, in the Sparks burial plot at Cliffside.
Ebber Bostic Sparks was a housewife and mother, devoted to her family. She labored without complaining and always put her husband, children, and friends before herself. One friend quoted Robert, in response to the question of how he was able to make a living for such a large family, “I make the money and take it home to Ebber. She makes the living.” Ebber took great pride in her yard and flowers and won the award one year for having the most beautiful yard in Cliffside. She ministered to the sick in the community and often provided daily meals for individuals over extended periods of time. After her youngest was in school, she accepted employment with the Haynes Mills and continued to work there after Robert’s death until her retirement. She learned to drive and bought her own car after age sixty. When Ebber”s daughter, Julia Clementine, married in 1961 Ebber was left alone for the first time in the residence at 24 Reservoir Street. She had given birth to eleven children, had buried George Houston, her first-born, at age three, and had buried her husband. She had always had someone to serve and she had a difficult time coping. As depression set in she went to live for a short time with her daughter, Barbara Mills, in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Barbara arranged for her to have consultation with a doctor at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. The doctor’s expertise restored her confidence. She returned to her house at 24 Reservoir Street in Cliffside, which had been home for so many years. Her daughter, Mavorine Jenkins, and her husband moved in with her for a while.
Then Ebber closed the doors at 24 Reservoir Street for the last time, closing in years of memories of laughter, tears, struggles, victories which come with rearing ten children. She visited in the homes of different children for a while before settling in Charlotte, North Carolina, first with daughter, Virginia Godfrey, and her family; then with daughter, Elizabeth Earls, and her family. During the course of her life, Ebber suffered two heart attacks in mid-life from which she recovered. She carefully watched her diet and exercised regularly.
While she always acknowledged Christ and lived an exemplary life, she experienced Him with added vigor during her early seventies. She attended services regularly in Charlotte until an inherited deafness prevented her from being able to take part. This deafness was a real concern to her and would sometimes cause her to withdraw rather than admit she could not hear.
When she was unable to be active physically, Ebber used her hands to crochet afghans for everyone who would accept one. Hundreds of her afghans can be found today in the possession of family members, doctors, and acquaintances.
In 1992 Ebber was visiting her daughter, Mavorine Jenkins, in Spindale, North Carolina, when she had to be hospitalized with heart failure. She recovered and remained with Mavorine where her children, whom she had cared for so faithfully, were given the opportunity to care for her. She never became old enough to use a cane, never became too old to be concerned about her appearance, and never lost her sense of humor. On 6 December 1994, Ebber Bostic Sparks died peacefully at age ninety-three at Rutherford County Hospital. She had suffered a stroke a week earlier from which she did not regain consciousness. She was buried at the Cliffside cemetery beside her husband, Robert Lee, and her son, George Houston.
From Some of the Ancestors and Descendents of Robert Lee Sparks and Ebber Sloan Bostic by Jimmy Louis Sparks, 1999