"The autobiography of David Rhodes Sparks"
as reprinted in
"The Sparks Family Association Quarterly, Whole number 181 of March 1998
David Rhodes Sparks was born in 1823 in Harrison County, Indiana and died in 1907. At the age of 71, about 1893/94, he wrote his autobiography (93 pages written in "long-hand") so his descendants might see what it was like living during the time of his life. In the below exerpt, he tells of some of the "marvels" of science and culture which have come about during his lifetime.
In his own words he states: "And now add to the telegraph the telephone, still but a few years old, and it would seem that human skill and invention has reached its limits . But I do not believe the end is yet. Science is still at work, and the very Throne of the Supreme Being, if we can conceive of such a thing as existing, will be reached."
I can't help thinking that he would be truly "amazed" at the advances that have been made in the 20th century alone since the time of his death.
I think it would be worth while to read the entire article for yourself in the "The Sparks Family Association Quarterly". An application for membership in the association ($10.00 yearly dues) can be found on this site. (Check the "Index of Pages").
In the near future, the entire contents of the "QUARTERLY" will be on line at http://SparksQuarterly.net , but will require membership in the ASSOCIATION in order to access the site.
There are close to 6000 pages of text and pictures which are being scanned and converted to HTML by James J. Sparks and Harold E. Sparks, (me) and I am serving as the Webmaster.
As it is difficult for the boys of today to realize the changes that have taken place within the last fifty years, especially here in the West, I will refer to a few facts . Fifty years ago, we had not a railroad in the state . Chicago, now the third, if not in fact the second, city of the United States, was little more than a country trading post. St. Louis, older and larger, was, nevertheless, insignificant as a city when compared to its present size and population of more than half a million prosperous citizens . Kansas City, now a large and thrifty railroad city, was unknown then, with wild animals and wolves howling about what were to be its streets . I have seen deer and wolves in the fields of our farm, and our Great Prairies were but a wild waste of land, producing millions of tons of fine grass which served no purpose except to rot on the ground and add to the already fertile soil.
Such was the West of fifty years ago; and when we look now upon her vast fields teaming with life, upon her system of railroads almost as great as that of the balance of the world, and upon the chain of large. and prosperous cities stretching across to the Pacific Ocean, we cannot but be overwhelmed at our wondrous growth and prosperity. Although I, myself, have lived to see this change and, to a degree, have labored to bring it about, I feel it is almost incredible that so great a transformation should be wrought within the lifetime of one man. Such a miraculous advance was never witnessed by the human race before, nor is it likely to be seen again in any one lifetime.
Besides the railroads that have worked such wonders, we now have the telegraph, which is more wonderful still, if, Indeed, of less importance . The telegraph seems almost at the door of every house of this great country; nor was a great ocean, three thousand miles in width, a barrier to the magnificent science which created the instrument. Cables plunge into the water on one seacoast and emerge on the other, and, with a flash, as if from God, nations speak to each other across the waters. Commerce is quickened and made more certain, and human thought is carried around the world before I can write one of these lines .
And now add to the telegraph the telephone, still but a few years old, and it would seem that human skill and invention has reached its limits . But I do not believe the end is yet. Science is still at work, and the very Throne of the Supreme Being, if we can conceive of such a thing as existing, will be reached.
With the telephone we stand in our warm, comfortable houses and converse with friends twenty or thirty miles away, our words passing over flooded streams, fields, and forests alike. And not only this, but we recognize the voices that speake Even the child of four years may call up its Papa twenty miles away and recognize the loved voice. The child wonders how it is that he can hear and talk to Father or Mother, and yet not see them. And the child is not alone in this for, to me, the wonder is just as great; not that sound may be conveyed, but that the voice may be known and understood .
I refer to these great advances that those coming after me may better realize what tremendous changes and inventions have taken place within my own time and memory . And in speaking of the wonderful work of science, I cannot refrain from quoting a sentence from one of the most eloquent orators and deepest thinkers America. ever produced, Robert H . Ingersoll. He said : "Science took a teardrop from the brow of toil and converted it into a power that turns the tireless arm of machinery and moves the commerce of the world." I quote from memory and may not use the exact words, but the meaning of this gentle but great thinker is there. What grand words and lofty thought!