John M. (John McAuley) Palmer.

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The maternal line, whose name was Gwin, came later, though at a very
early period, and both lines when the Revolution came were inspired by patriotic
impulses, and contributed their share to its successful termination in independ-
ence. Mr. Sparks' maternal grandfather, John Gwin. with his family, emi-
grated from Pittsylvania county, Virginia, about 1805 and settled on a farm in
Harrison county, Indiana territory, nine miles west of the present city of New
Albany, in that state. Here his father, Baxter Sparks (from the same neighbor-
hood in Virginia) came, and he and the mother (Elizabeth Gwin) were married
in 1807; and at this place the youngest of a family of ten children, sixty-nine
years ago, the subject of this sketch was born.

His father, some four or five years thereafter, disposed of his farm and re-
moved to New Albany, and after residing there two years removed to Illinois
and settled on a farm one mile north of the present town of Staunton, in Macou-
pin county, where the early boyhood and youth of young Sparks were passed,
attending at intervals the log school-houses of that primitive and sparsely set-
tled region. His father, an intelligent, upright man and farmer by occupation,
died in the fall of 1840, and his good mother three and one-half years later, leav-
ing the boy of fifteen years, substantially without means, upon his own resources
to fight the battle of life. The country was wild, the settlers generally poor and
uneducated, and competent teachers and schools very scarce. The prospects,
therefore, for the boy were indeed gloomy. But he possessed certain qualities
which seldom fail of success, indomitable energy, excellent habits and exalted



integrity. He labored as a plough boy in summer at six to eight dollars a
month, and attended the log-house schools in winter, paying his board by doing
farm chores mornings and evenings and Saturdays, and in this way, quick to
learn, and spurred on by necessity, at the age of eighteen years he became the
equal in scholarship to the pioneer teachers of the surrounding neighborhoods,
and though a mere youth was employed, by the good people who had witnessed
his boyhood struggles, as school-teacher, under the old subscription system,
which though by no means lucrative was an advance upon plough-boy wages
and afforded better facilities for study and mental improvement. With the
means thus acquired, in 1847 ne entered McKendree College, one of the earliest
and best of its kind in the west, and as regularly as his means afforded continued
at intervals therein until he graduated in the summer of 1850.

From college he went directly to Carlyle and entered the law office of the
late Chief Justice Breese, of the supreme court, who was then in active law
practice, and between them there was then formed a close personal friendship,
beneficial to both, which ended only with the death of Judge Breese. in 1878.
Mr. Sparks' term as a law student was brief; his excellent habits, good, prac-
tical education and aptness in legal studies so impressed his sagacious preceptor
that he was advised at an early date to merge the student into the lawyer. He
was therefore admitted to the bar and commenced practice at Carlyle, Clinton
county, in 1851, being in the old second judicial circuit, which then embraced
a bench and bar second to none in the west. The home lawyers were Judge
Breese, Hon. Benjamin Bond, a distinguished jurist, R. S. Bond and Daniel
White, well-read, good lawyers; yet in less than two years Mr. Sparks had
the leading docket in the county. It was in the days of "circuit riding," and the
lawyers of the circuit generally attended all the courts. The presiding judge
was the late eminent jurist, Hon. William H. Underwood, while, in addition to
those heretofore mentioned, the leading members of the bar were Governor W.
H. Bissell, Judge Koerner, George Trumbull, J. L. D. Morrison, Robert Morri-
son, Colonel Fouke, Jehu Baker et al., from St. Clair county; "J. & D. Gilles-
pie," "Billings and Parsons," Judge Martin, Levi Davis, Judge Sawyer, David
J. Baker et al., of Madison county; the Omelvenys, of Monroe; P. E. Hosmer
et al., from Washington; James M. Davis and Judge Rice, of Montgomery,
and Judge Dale, of Bond. Among these eminent lawyers young Sparks took
his place to win his way as a lawyer. It is compliment enough to say that he
won it. His professional career was a signal success from the beginning. He
continued in active practice for about twenty-five years, when, elected to con-
gress, and with a competent fortune for a country gentleman, he retired. He
was pre-eminently a jury lawyer. His knowledge of men and earnest manner
in addressing them gained for him in that field the highest rank.

Like most of the pioneer lawyers, Mr. Sparks was from the beginning of
his career an ardent politician, taking active and efficient part in the conventions
and on the stump for his party, the Democratic. This, with his excellent quali-
fications and high character, led him into official stations. He was appointed by
President Pierce in March, 1853, receiver of public moneys for the United


States land office at Echvardsville, a very responsible and lucrative office for a
man only twenty-four years of age. He discharged its duties with fidelity and
ability, and returning to Carlyle was elected to the house of representatives in
the state legislature from the counties of Bond and Clinton at the November
election, 1856. At the same election he was chosen presidential elector on the
Democratic ticket for the eighth congressional district, the late General John
A. Logan, then a Democrat, being his colleague for the ninth district, it being
the last time the Democratic presidential electors were elected in Illinois for
thirty-six years. He was elected state senator for the fourth senatorial district,
composed of the counties of Bond, Clinton, Fayette, Marion, Perry and Wash-
ington, in June, 1863, the senate then being composed of only twenty-five mem-

In 1874 he was first elected to congress for the sixteenth Illinois district,
then composed of the counties of Bond, Clay. Clinton, Fayette, Marion, Mont-
gomery and Washington. The district was organized as a Republican district
and at the first election therein, in 1872, General Martin, the Republican candi-
date, was elected over the Democratic candidate, Judge Bryan, father of the
distinguished orator and late Democratic candidate for president. In 1874, by
the united voice of his party, Mr. Sparks entered the canvass and defeated the
Republican incumbent, General Martin, by a large majority, and continued to
be elected for four successive congresses by increased majorities until a Repub-
lican legislature reorganized the congressional districts in such manner as to
sever Mr. Sparks from all but two of his old counties. As a prominent Repub-
lican expressed it, "We tackled Sparks for eight years before the people and he
beat us; we then appealed to the legislature and won." But he was tired of con-
gressional life; he had been a diligent, hard-working member, and though he
was compensated for it by the increasing confidence of his people and the high
rank he had attained, he was tired and needed rest. He could have been elected
very easily to congress afterward, but persistently declined it. Continuing,
however, in the ardent support of his party on all occasions, he was strong with
the people and a "power on the hustings."

He was appointed by President Cleveland, March 26, -1885, commissioner
of the general land office, then, next to the cabinet, the most important and diffi-
cult office in the executive government. The public lands had been for years
the prey of unscrupulous speculation and monopoly, "land-grant railroad and
other large corporations," influential "syndicates" and "land-grabbing rings" by
shrewd manipulations were absorbing the public domain and converting to their
uses this heritage of the people, who were entitled to these lands for homes by
honest settlement and cultivation. Against these combinations and fraudulent
rings Mr. Sparks, well qualified by intelligence, experience and integrity, waged
uncompromising warfare. It was a terrible contest, one to test the courage
of the stoutest heart. He battling against the illegal and avaricious demands
of unscrupulous organizations backed by millions of money and powerful influ-
ences "land-grant railroad" and other corporations, "treaty-land grant claim-
ants," large "syndicate combinations," "cattle-ranch rings," "speculative com-


binations," "land-grabbers" and "land sharks" generally, great and small, who
had for years past controlled things pretty much their own way in the land de-
partment. Yet in less than three years of service he rescued and saved to the
public domain many millions of acres and to honest settlers thousands of homes.
He justly earned the title accorded him by the good men of the county as the
"fearless, able and honest commissioner."

Mr. Sparks resigned his office November 16, 1887, induced thereto simply
by a disagreement with the secretary of the interior, who then and now has ap-
pellate jurisdiction in contested cases coming from the general land office. In
the adjustment of certain railroad land-grant cases the commissioner charged
with, and having the jurisdiction thereof, disallowed such parts of the claims as
in his judgment were unjust and clearly inadmissible under the laws and de-
cisions of the supreme court. On appeal to the secretary of the interior his rul-
ings were reversed and the claims allowed. As the commissioner felt that this
was a ruinous error and thwarted all his efforts to protect the public lands from
absorption and spoliation by the unjust and illegal demands of these corpor-
ations, he applied to the secretary by a letter, unanswerable in legal argument,
for a reconsideration of the cases. This led finally to an estrangement between
the two officials and such friction in the department that the commissioner, well
worn with the arduous labors of the office, resigned it. His resignation created
much excitement at the time and was met by great regret by the good men of
all parties, but was joyfully welcomed by the despoilers and land-grabbing
rings, whose business he had so "ruthlessly disturbed." The president, in a re-
luctant acceptance of the resignation, in an official autograph letter to Mr.
Sparks, used this language: "I desire to heartily acknowledge the value of
your services in the improved administration of the land department which has
been reached, and to assure you of my appreciation of the rugged and unyield-
ing integrity which has characterized your official conduct." And, showing the
general feeling, we quote extracts from speeches in congress by eminent men
as follows: The late Judge Holman, of Indiana, popularly known as "father of
the house," and "watch-dog of the treasury," then chairman of the committee
on public lands, and for years noted as the best-posted man on public lands in
the United States, on June 21, 1888, in a speech in congress on an appropriation
for the general land office, said:

The judgment of the country, Mr. Chairman, is, I think, that in the employment of
its officers and agents this administration has been, as a rule, singularly fortunate. What-
ever else may be said about the administration of Grover Cleveland, I think that all men
of both political parties throughout the country accord to his administration an honor-
able purpose and a desire to secure to the people the blessings of good government. And
I feel sure, sir, that the public judgment, in reviewing the multitude of men who have
held offices under this administration, and the services rendered by each, if it selected
one who had rendered a service of special and enduring value to the people, reflected
especial honor on the government, whose integrity rose above all question, who left the
public service with the regrets of millions of people, that public judgment would without
hesitation designate General Sparks, of the state of Illinois [applause], so recently at the
head of the great bureau of the public lands.


I need not stand here, sir, to defend General Sparks. If any man of this period
has established himself in the confidence of the people of this country for rugged integrity
and firmness of character, of exalted devotion to the public service, that man is the late
commissioner of the general land office. [Renewed applause.] Mr. Chairman, the sun
does not shine upon a man of purer heart, more sterling integrity, or of a higher sense
of honor and duty than General Sparks, of Illinois. It is not necessary, sir, I repeat,
to vindicate General Sparks. He is vindicated by all men who esteem high qualities and
honorable and valuable public services. The only charge that ever has been or can be
made against General Sparks as an officer of the government, was that he was too
strongly devoted to his duties and too intensely abhorred injustice and fraud.

Mr. Chairman, men from both sides of this chamber, something unknown in our
past experience in this body, and perhaps in the history of congress, Democrats and
Republicans as well, impressed with the high value of the services General Sparks had
rendered to the country, urged that his resignation should not be accepted, notwith-
standing the embarrassment which they realized arose from General Sparks' conflict
of opinion, on questions of the administration of the land laws, with the head of the
department, and requested in the public interest alone that the people should have the
benefit of his services. Let another instance be found in our time in the history of this
body where its members, in appreciation of the service of a man who had served on
this floor with distinguished honor and credit, both to his state and himself, impressed
with the value of his services in public station under the administration, had appealed,
without regard to political differences, for his remaining in office, notwithstanding the
embarrassment to the public service of a conflict of opinion between the head of a great
bureau and the chief of the department.

The condition of that, the greatest of the bureaus of the government, the general
land office, charged with the interests of our public domain, the existence of countless
organized schemes of wealth and corporate power to rob the people and obtain by fraud
the lands which should be their future homes, demanded the presence of such a man
as General Sparks. He left the service of the United States with the regrets of the
whole people who loved honor and purity in public office, and with the regrets of the
chief magistrate of the country. All coming time will appreciate the value of General
Sparks' services and hold him in high esteem.

General Weaver, late Populist candidate for the presidency, then a mem-
ber of congress from Iowa, said:

In the moment reserved to me I want to say that I hope this committee will make
ample appropriation to enable the interior department to protect the residue of the
public domain from fraudulent entries. I want to say one other thing in defense of the
late commissioner of the general land office, General Sparks, of Illinois. A more con-
scientious and able public servant never occupied that position. Very few have ever occu-
pied any position in this government who were abler than he. Not only that, but I
want to say here that if this administration has made a mistake it was in allowing General
Sparks to retire from that bureau. With his magnificent courage and his incorruptible
honesty he was fighting a continent of thieves almost unsupported, single-handed, and

Hon. William McAdoo, of New Jersey, late assistant secretary of the navy,
then in congress, used this language:

Mr. Chairman, in the brief time allowed me I want to say a few words in answer
to the eloquence which has been poured out here in denunciation of what is called
the spy system inaugurated under General Sparks. General Sparks himself needs no


vindication. If there ever was an aggressively honest man in a public office, if there
ever was an upright, fearless, unselfish man determined to do his whole duty to the
people of the United States against monstrous combinations of capitalists and rail-
roads, against land-sharks, land-thieves and land-grabbers, cattle rings and alien free-
booters, that man was William Andrew Jackson Sparks, an honest man and a sterling

And ex-Speaker Samuel J. Randall, of Pennsylvania, and many others
joined in similar pertinent expressions.

Having resided in Carlyle, Illinois, for forty-five years, Mr. Sparks within
the last year, on account of the long-continued illness of Mrs. Sparks, and for
better medical attendance, purchased a home in St. Louis, Missouri, where,
with a competent income, he is now living, and where, retired from all active
business pursuits, he will doubtless spend his declining years.

He was married April 16, 1855, at Edwardsville, Illinois, to Miss Julia Par-
ker, a native of that city, whom the hosts of Illinois' prominent men who have
shared the hospitality of their elegant home at Carlyle will remember as a deli-
cate lady of rare personal charms and wifely accomplishments. After forty-three
years of wedded happiness they are "lovers still." They have had no children
of their own, but have reared and educated a number of young relatives and
have thus always had quite a family. Mrs. Alexander, widow of the late Colonel
G. C. Alexander, a sister of Mrs. Sparks, has for nearly a quarter of a century
made her home with them. Mr. Sparks, though not a communicant, has strong
leanings toward the Catholic church, while his wife and other members of his
family are devout members of that church.

Harvey P. Buxton was admitted to the bar in 1855, having studied law in
the office of A. N. Harrington, of Geneva, Illinois. He located at Carlyle in 1857.
Later on, in 1863, Darius Kingsbury located here and entered into partner-
ship with Hon. William A. J. Sparks. He was admitted in November, 1860,
was a native of Indiana, and studied law with Judge Daly, of Edwardsville.
This partnership continued about two years. He was state's attorney for two
consecutive terms; was also master in chancery and city attorney.

Gustave Van Hoorebeke. Illinois numbers among her adopted sons many
who have attained eminence in their chosen walks of life and have conferred
honor and dignity upon the state. To this class belongs Mr. Van Hoorebeke,
who was born in the city of Genth, Belgium, on the 2d of February, 1838. His
parents, Emanuel and Collette Van Hoorebeke, also were natives of the same
country, where the father carried on mercantile pursuits. The paternal grand-
father served as a captain in the army of Napoleon Bonaparte, and a medal
which was given him by the Emperor is now in the possession of our subject.
The latter was also a cousin of Emile Van Hoorebeke, who was minister of the
interior under King Leopold I, of Belgium. Thus from a family of considerable
prominence in Belgium is Gustave Van Hoorebeke descended. In August,
1850, his father left the city of Genth, and in company with his. family sailed for
America, taking up his residence in St. Louis, Missouri, where our subject at
once entered St. Louis University. He there pursued his studies until the close



of the school year of 1853, when the family removed to Coles county, Missouri,
settling near Jefferson City. He there assisted his father in farming until 1855,
when the family became residents of Franklin county, Kansas, the common-
wealth being still under territorial government. After two years they returned
to St. Louis, Missouri, and in February, 1858, located in Clinton county, Illi-

It was in February, 1862, that Gustave Van Hoorebeke took up his resi-
dence in Carlyle, Illinois, and began the study of law in the office of Benjamin
Bond, under whose thorough instruction he mastered the fundamental princi-
ples of the science of jurisprudence, and was admitted to the bar in August,
1863. He then entered into partnership with his former preceptor, which con-
nection was terminated in 1865, after which Mr. Van Hoorebeke was alone for
several years. In July, 1874, he removed to Denver, Colorado, where he formed
a partnership with General Bela M. Hughes, one of the leading lawyers of that
city, but owing to the ill health of his wife he was forced to leave the west in
October of the same year, and returned to Carlyle, where he has since practiced
with excellent success. He has been elected to several official positions, has
served as assessor, collector, city clerk and city attorney, and in June, 1885, was
appointed United States district attorney for the southern district of Illinois,
which office he held until July i, 1889, when he resigned.

In Clinton county, Illinois, in 1858, Mr. Van Hoorebeke married Miss Ann
E. Phillips. His second wife was Helen Owen, of Liberty, Missouri, and on
the 3d of May, 1877, he married Cora B. Cook, of Evansville, Indiana. By
his first marriage he had two sons, Charles and William, who are married and
reside in Colorado; and 'by the third union he has three living children: Eu-
gene, L. Harold and Vivian, all at home.

Mr. Van Hoorebeke became a charter member of the Ancient Order of
United Workmen in 1885. By nature he is studious, his tastes are scholarly,
and his extensive reading has made him a man of broad general information.
He is deeply interested in all that pertains to the welfare and improvement of
his county and state and gives to all measures for the public good the support
'of a progressive, public-spirited citizen. Although rather retiring by nature,
his friends know him as a most kindly, companionable man. and with him
friendship is inviolable. In his profession he has won a very creditable and hon-
orable success. In the law, more than in any other profession, does success de-
pend upon individual merit and labor. The able lawyer is he who has a mind
well trained in the severest school of reason, who is accurate in analysis, logical
in argument and entrenched behind a bulwark of legal knowledge which ren-
ders his position almost unassailable. Such are the qualities which characterize
the professional career of Mr. Van Hoorebeke, and the public and the bar ac-
cord him a foremost .place among the lawyers of southern Illinois.

In 1872 or 187-? M. P. Murray, who studied law with Mr. Van Hoorebeke,
was admitted to .the bar." He was state's attorney for sixteen consecutive years.
In 1873 or 1874 Robert Andrews was admitted to the bar. He also studied law
with Mr. Van Hoorebeke. He and Murray entered into a partnership, which


lasted until 1885, when Andrews was appointed law clerk in the general land
office, at Washington, under the Hon. William A. J. Sparks. He now lives
there and practices his profession.

Thomas E. Ford, who also studied law with Mr. Van Hoorebeke, was ad-
mitted in 1876 and later on entered into partnership with his preceptor, an as-
sociation which continued nearly twenty years. Mr. Ford was state senator from
the forty-second district, was master in chancery, city attorney and is now
state's attorney.

William White and Robert C. Lamb were admitted about 1880 and formed
a co-partnership. Some ten years ago Mr. White removed to Denver, Col-
orado, where he now practices his profession. Mr. Lamb is still here.

John J. McGaffigan was admitted in May, 1886, read law with Murray &
Andrews, was city attorney for several years, and is now master in chancery.

Porter W. Brown was admitted about ten years ago and was master in
chancery for two consecutive terms. Walter S. Louden was admitted in No-
vember, 1890, formed a co-partnership with Mr. Van Hoorebeke in January,
1897, and is president of the court of claims commission. Hugh Murray, at
present a member of the Illinois legislature, studied law with his father, and is
now practicing in Chicago. James McHale read law with M. P. Murray, was
admitted in 1892, and was at one time sheriff of the county. He practices here
and in East St. Louis.

Barney O'Neil read law "with M. P. Murray, was admitted in 1896 and is
now a resident of Alton, Illinois, where he practices his profession. Risdon
Moore and George A. Beattie were also admitted to the bar, but neither of them

Online LibraryJohn M. (John McAuley) PalmerThe bench and the bar of Illinois : Historical and reminiscent (Volume v.2) → online text (page 26 of 83)