One of the early settlers who became a successful stock-raiser on the West Side in Merced County was Joseph S. Sparks. He was born in Kentucky, May 12, 1830, a son of Madison Sparks, a Virginian, who had married Winnie Thomas, who bore eight children, Joseph S. Sparks being the third in order of birth. He was able to get a fair education in the local schools and remained in his native county until he was of age. He had heard of the discovery of gold in California and it so fired his enthusiasm that he decided he would cast in his lot with the pioneers and followed the trend of emigration, crossing the plains in 1852.
Upon his arrival in this state he went to the mines in Placer County and was engaged in mining for many years, meeting with the usual luck of the miner, sometimes meeting with good success and sometimes with reverses, but continuing with the hope that he would find his fortune. In 1867 he went to Chico and engaged in the lumber business for a time, filling contracts for hauling logs to the mills. In 1869 he came down into the San Joaquin Valley, bought 160 acres of land, and the following year added 320 acres near Ingomar, which he fully improved and farmed for many years. He became a successful stockman, noted for breeding and raising fine horses. He operated his farming operations on a large scale and became a valued member of his community.
In Chico, Mr. Sparks married Melissa C. Eachus, who was born in Iowa, and came with her parents to California in 1865. They had six children: David William, deceased; May L., Mrs. Detlefsen; Nellie Bird, deceased; Margaret Russell, wife of H. J. Miller of Oakland; George Madison of San Francisco; and Joseph Spencer, Jr. deceased. Mr. Sparks, who was much beloved by all who knew him, died in 1892. He was an Odd Fellow and a consistent Christian, holding membership in the Methodist Church. After the death of her husband, Mrs. Sparks continued on the home place and in 1901 erected a modern house on the ranch and at the same time conducted the place with the aid of her sons. She now makes her home in Oakland. Mr. and Mrs. Sparks won a host of friends who appreciated their worth as citizens and neighbors.
Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.