Jenny Wiley

Introduction: By Harold Sparks

I first heard the story of an ancestor named Jenny Wiley when I was a boy of about eight or ten. We lived on a small farm in southern Ohio. Sometimes after supper was over in the evening (“dinner” was the mid-day meal), Dad would go sit on the front porch and light up his pipe. Maybe a neighbor would be walking down the road and would stop by to talk. Many times the topic turned to days gone by, and I’d be sitting in the swing, taking in every word.

Dad and the visitor would swap stories about different subjects. Some times it would be about Uncle Dick Hager who had served in the confederate army or another uncle on the Sparks side who had been in the Union army. Maybe about how, when they should happen to both be present at family gatherings, the two of them would sit on the opposite ends of the porch and fight the Civil War all over again, shaking their canes at each other and calling each other names. Both of them were rather elderly but could probably have done some damage with those canes if they had been close enough. Fortunately the other family members always made sure to keep enough distance between them to prevent their harming each other.

Anyway, on such an evening as this, Dad told the story of Jenny Wiley. He told it to me probably more then any one else present, because he was proud of his heritage and wanted me to be also. It was repeated many times after that, maybe with some new twist each time until I wondered if it wasn’t just a story he liked to tell, and it never really happened at all. I'm sorry I doubted him because it was years later when I started to research my family background that I found that not only did it really happen, but she really was an ancestor of ours. As it happens, she was my fourth great grandmother.

This branch of the family ancestry starts with my great Grandmother Pricie Smith who married William Green Sparks. The reasearch was done by Nancy.

If you can fill in any blanks for us, or help extend the tree further please help us. Our goal is to make as much of the genealogy of any of the lines we feature, available to the public without cost. We can't pay you for it, but we won't charge you or anyone else for access to it either.

The ancestral tree is shown below:

And the Descendant tree from Jenny's father Hezekiah Sellards, down to me. I hope everyone realizes by this time that a tree which applies to me also applies to my cousin and "cohort in crime", Nancy Sparks Morrison with the exception that her father is a brother to my father. Her parents are William Frank Sparks and Shirley Evelyn Mayo.


Background for the Jenny Wiley Story

In addition to the stories told to me by my father about Jenny Wiley I have also had the benefit of reading about her from several books, magazines and pamphlets. Parts of the story were gleaned from articles as they appeared in "The Sandy Valley Heritage", a quarlerly booklet of a newsletter type with articles about early life in Eastern Kentucky, and a booklet named "Jenny Wiley", by Henry P. Scalf which I picked up at a little bookstore in Paintsville, Ky.

Portions of two books not in my possession, called "Harmon's Station", and another called "Appalachian Crossroads", by Clayton Cox contained the Jenny Wiley story. There was also an article from "The Huntington Herald Dispatch". This was an interview of my Great Aunt Mary (Sparks) Stump, a sister to my Grandfather, Alie Sparks. The article was written by Doris Miller and printed November 6, 1959. Aunt Mary would have been 76 years old at the time.

I vaguely remember Aunt Mary because sometimes on the way to or from a visit to my grandparents, dad would make a stop for a short visit with her. This would have been in the mid to late thirties. As I recall she was quite simply a female version of my grandfather Aile in looks.

In addition to the fact that Jenny was an ancestor, I feel very close to this story because a good portion of it took place in an area where I grew up. The Shawnee Indian village mentioned in the Jenny Wiley story was located at a point on the Ohio River at the mouth of the "Big" Scioto River, so named by the locals because there was a "Little" Scioto River which entered the Ohio about eight miles upstream. The city of Portsmouth, Ohio, where I was born, now stands on this very spot at the mouth of the Scioto River. The little farm on which I was raised was about two miles north of the river and seven miles northeast of Portsmouth.

During the depression years my parents had to "break up housekeeping", store their furniture and go to live for a while with my Ison grandparents on their farm on "Smith Branch", Kentucky. The farm was located in the hills of Kentucky in Greenup County not more than a mile or two south of the Ohio River and about half way between South Portsmouth and Ashland. I can just imagine that it was somewhere near here that the indians who had captured Jenny Wiley, camped and hid from those who were looking for her, while they waited for the swollen Ohio River to go down to enable them to make the crossing into Ohio.

I still have relatives living in Ashland, Kentucky. It is just east of there that the Big Sandy River flows into the Ohio from between Kentucky and West Virginia. Much of the saga took place in this area and to the south of there.

As a boy, I used to fish and swim in the Ohio River close to the mouth of the "Little" Scioto River . The Ohio river was about a Half mile wide at this point. I shouldn't tell this on myself, but one of our favorite things to do in the summer was to swim across to the Kentucky side, "confiscate" a watermelon and float back across the river on it before indulging in the feast. Needless to say we had about a mile to walk back along the riverbank to get back to our clothes and such. My closest friend was Ralph Schisler. I guess you might say that the two of us were sort of like an "Ohio River Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn".

(I probably shouldn't have told that on Ralph. He later became a preacher. I'm not sure his congregation would have appreciated that part of the tale! He is now retired, and "Mr. Music" spends his time playing and teaching others to play the "Appalachian Mountian Dulcimer", the only truly "native" American musical instrument.)

And now for the story: 

Click Page Two for

The Jenny Wiley Story

Search the entire Web Site

|| To The Top || To The Index ||