compiled by Columbian staff in 1989
When Marshall Rowe Sparks died in 1946, he was called the dean of Vancouver's businessmen and the last of the pioneer merchants. He was still going to his job on Main street after about six decades. Sparks, founder of the store now known as Sparks Home furnishings, was a native of Iowa who migrated to Vancouver with his family in 1874.
His parents were Edwin and Priscilla Sparks. The father was a brick mason and served as Clark County assessor.
As a youth, Marshall Sparks worked as an apprentice to G.H. Daniels, and bought out the store owner's stock after Daniels death in 1890. Sparks business involved plumbing and tinsmithing, and he later added hardware. About 1911 he constructed a new building on lower Main street.
Sparks was in the contracting business and installed many Vancouver sewer lines. He also provided much of the piping for the area's prune dryers.
The Sparks sons, L. Clay, Harry W. and M. Rene, also were in business in the area for a long time. They had started helping in their father's store. One early family business was Sparks Supply Co., dealing in autos and auto supplies.
At the time of M.R. Sparks' death at age 86, the Sparks hardware was at 607 Main St.
Sparks' brother, Walter, had preceeded the family to Vancouver in 1873. Walter Sparks taught school, and in 1890-91 attended Willamette University. He was admitted to the bar in Washington state and practiced in Vancouver. Sparks served as a police judge, Clark County prosecutor, Washington state legislator and Vancouver city clerk.