Memorable Manitobans: John Kerr Sparling (1872-1941)
Born at Montreal, Quebec in 1872, son of Joseph Walter Sparling and Susannah Mary Weir Kerr (1850-1915), he came to Winnipeg in 1888. After receiving BA (1893) and MA (1896) degrees from Wesley College, he went to Yukon in 1898, at the outset of the Klondike Gold Rush, and practiced law, serving also as secretary of the library board from 1903 to 1905.
Returning to Winnipeg in 1906, he entered a law partnership with his brother, Frederick Walter Sparling, and John G. Hossack. Two years later, he became a partner in the firm of Hull, Sparling and Sparling. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1935. Active in municipal affairs, he was a Winnipeg alderman from 1917 to 1922, and chairman of the Police Commission. He later chaired the board of governors of Wesley College (1918 to 1938), a member of the Board of Governors for the Winnipeg General Hospital (1933 to 1937), and served on the Senate of the University of Manitoba.
In 1905, he married Florence Emma May Freeman (1873-1946) at Dawson City, Yukon and they had three children: Ethel Winnifred Sparling (1905-1990), Nora Kerr Sparling (1909-1981, wife of Ronald Birchard), and Joseph Walter Sparling (1912-1996). He was a member of Broadway Methodist Church, was its Sunday School superintendent, and started a Boy Scout troop there in 1912.
He died at his Winnipeg home, 957 Dorchester Avenue, on 19 November 1941 and was buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Eight Manitoba lawyers are appointed as King’s Counsel in honors list,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1935, page 3.
“J. K. Sparling, lawyer, dies suddenly,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 November 1941. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 108]
“J. K. Sparling, K.C., Klondyke lawyer and city pioneer, dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 20 November 1941, page 4.
“Mrs. J. K. Sparling, 40 years here, dies,” Winnipeg Tribune, 18 March 1946, page 7.
Obituary [Ethel Winnifred Sparling], Winnipeg Free Press, 18 July 1990, page 40.
Death registration [Joseph Walter Sparling], British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Linda Dietrick and Lyle Brennen for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 September 2022