Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Allen line: John Starr 1743-1824, one of our Revolutionary War heroes

There is quite a bit of information on line about John Starr, but one is mostly a repeat of another, so that there really isn't a lot of new information about him.  This post is a hodgepodge of the online sources, so that I have pretty much everything in one place.  I have a great deal of admiration for John, based on the decisions he made in his life, his willingness to serve his country, (actually it probably started out being willing to serve his state), and his determination to overcome a serious war wound and move on with his life.

John Starr was born in 1743 in Groton, New London, Connecticut, the son of Thomas Starr and Jerusha Street.  His early occupation isn't known to me, but the Starrs were largely ship builders or otherwise connected to the sea, so it is possible this is what John did as a young man. John Starr's father, Thomas, died in 1759, when John was only 16 so he was left to make his own way in the world. For John, his way lead to Nova Scotia.  Again, we don't know what he did there but it is possible that he was still involved in the sea, although he also seems to have owned land. 

We do know that he married Mary Sharp in 1773 while he was there.  She was the daughter of Matthew and Margaret Sharp, and it appears they came from Ireland and Mary was born there.  The Sharps were in Amherst, Cumberland, Nova Scotia by 1770.   Mary was already 33, and three years older than John, when they were married, so this was past the time to have 10 or 15 children.  John and Mary had 6 known children. They were John in 1774, Joseph in 1776, Mary in 1782, Hannah in 1785, Rachel in 1787 and Eunice in 1791.  John was born in Nova Scotia, Joseph's birth location is unknown, and the other children were born in Connecticut. 

John Starr was in a predicament in 1776.  He lived with his family in Nova Scotia, but the War for Independence was already brewing, and John knew where his heart and his loyalties lay. While he was making plans to move South, back to Connecticut, there was a military action and he had to leave immediately, leaving his young family behind.  I give a lot of credit to Mary, who joined him with her boy or boys just as soon as she could. She had already uprooted her life once, to immigrate from Ireland to Nova Scotia, and now she was moving again, in the midst of war and political upheavals that she thought she had left behind her. 

I have not been able to locate John as a soldier until the Battle of Fort Griswold (also known as the Battle of Groton Heights, and as the Fort Griswold massacre) in September of 1781. Fort Griswold was manned by just a handful of militia, and those others of the militia who reached the Fort upon the arrival of a British fleet of 32 ships.  The so called raid was conducted by Benedict Arnold, by this time on the side of the British.  The Americans fought bravely but they were severely out-manned and under-gunned. Some refer to this as a massacre rather than a battle because many of those who were wounded and many who tried to surrender were simply murdered.  It was not the finest hour of the British victors.

John was somewhat fortunate in this battle, in that he was wounded but he escaped the massacre.  His injury was to his elbow, which was mangled and left his right arm useless and painful for the rest of his life. 

Following the war, John and Mary stayed in Groton.  Meanwhile, there were various acts of Congress that gave land to people who were deprived of their homes and livelihood, and in 1806 John was awarded 304 acres in Franklin County, Ohio range 22, township 5, section 5. The city of Columbus, Ohio is built on this land now. This was land that Congress set aside for non-resident proprietors for refugees, and was not based on John's war record.  Some sources say that John went to Ohio in 1806 but if he did, it was only for a short time.

 John and Mary made a 7 week journey by wagon from Connecticut to Franklin County, Ohio in 1812. Most of their children came with them, although Joseph chose a career on the seas.  I have a hard time imagining this.  At the age of  69, with a useless right arm, John chose to go to Ohio in hopes of making a better life for his children, and Mary went, too.  A 7 week trip in a wagon would be bad enough, but when they got to their land, it was frontier country.  There were only a few neighbors and they were miles away. This was in the early part of the war of 1812, so there would have been Native Americans in the area, perhaps plotting against the early settlers.  There were wild animals and swamps and all the things that would put fear in our hearts, but the Starrs, father and adult children, went to work to build two log cabins to see them through the winter, and started to clear their land.   We don't know whether frame homes were later built, or whether John stayed in the log cabin for the rest of his life. The trip and the hard work of frontier life were too much for Mary, and she died just five months after arriving at her new home. 

John lived and worked for another 12 years, dying of one of the fevers that swept the area in 1824.  He and his family are believed to be buried in Green Lawn cemetery, in Columbus. 

This was a strongly Presbyterian family, but I haven't been able to determine whether the Presbyterian influence was from the Starrs, or the Sharps, or both.  I would like to know more about that, and I would certainly like to know more about Mary's parents, Matthew and Margaret (maiden name unknown) Sharp. I'd also like to know whether John was indeed involved in the ship building industry.  John is one of the ancestors that I think about each Fourth of July, and maybe this year, you can, too. 

Our line is:

John Starr-Mary Sharp
John Starr-Betsy Havens
John Havens Starr-Clarissa Falley
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard/Edith/Tessora/Corinne/Vernon Allen
Their children, grand children, and great grandchildren