Genealogical Information in Letters by Descendants of

John Henry Starr (1812-1875) of Spalding Co., Georgia

The Patriarch

John Henry Starr, born April 9, 1812 in Wilkes County, Georgia, was the fourth child of Benjamin and Charlotte (Pinkston). He grew up on a farm southwest of present-day Washington, Georgia, surrounded by various aunts, uncles and cousins. During the 1820s the residents of Wilkes County engaged in much to and fro movement between their older residences and their "new farms" in Henry/Fayette counties in what was then far western Georgia. As an older son, J. H. may have made a permanent move westward before his parents took that step.

It was in the area now Henry / Fayette County where J. H. met Mary L. Elder, born April 15, 1814 in Clarke  County, Georgia. Although it might have been as neighbors, they likely met at the Inman Methodist Church, "parent congregation" for later County Line. Married June 14, 1831, J. H. and Mary made their home in Union District of western Henry County, but this area fell into Spalding County in 1851.

John Henry was one of the trustees for the newly created County Line Methodist Church. He was a natural for this position. His father Benjamin  kept a room with outside entrance  "always ready for" the circuit riders who often arrived in the middle of the night. Mary's  parents, Joshua and Anna (Gray) Elder donated the tract "where County Line Meeting House now stands."

Fifteen children were born to J. H. and Mary, including one set of twins who died within a month of their birth. Unusual for this period, all the other children lived to adulthood.  Sadly, the youngest was only five when Mary died of cancer March 14, 1864.  Son David E. wrote the eulogy for her which appeared in the Southern Christian Advocate [vol. 27, No. 24, June 16, 1864 p.2.] A portion is copied here:

Mine was a good mother, and it was a struggle to give her up. She embraced and professed religion and joined the M. E. Church in early life. From that time she had a firm and constant purpose to obtain the prize presented by faith in Christ .... For many years she was a constant teacher in the Sabbath school and a member of the "General Bible Class."  She taught her children to love this nursery of the Church. When my father was absent at the hour for family prayer, she would have his place filled by one of her boys, though young in years. She was an affectionate wife, a good mother and kind mistress. Her servants expressed to me, what a deep loss they had sustained. ...  For twelve long months she suffered and endured all the acute and agonizing pain of a very grievous cancer. But she counted this affliction light compared with the glory which should be revealed to her in Christ. .. In her last hour she was happy, and gave us dying testimony of her acceptance with God. All that seemed to trouble her at this time was the absence of her four sons in the army; but to us she left a  rich legacy -- God's blessings -- with this word:  "Tell my boys to meet me in a land of peace and love, where affliction and war will never enter, nor separate us." D. E. Starr.
September 16, 1864 John Henry married his near cousin, Ellen Athay Ogletree, born August 7, 1840. She was the daughter of Thomas Ogletree and Nemisis (Bennett) whose mother, Frances (Pinkston), was a sister of J. H.'s mother, Charlotte.  Thus both descended from the Revolutionary War soldier Shadrach Pinkston who served in the Commander-in-Chief's Guard.  Additionally, the Ogletrees had been friends of the Starrs since the Wilkes County days. Ellen's grandfather, Absalom Ogletree, is buried  among the Starr gravesites in the cemetery of County Line Methodist Church  (see above photo) beside John Henry's father, Benjamin.

John Henry and Ellen had four children before his death October 18, 1875. At the time their youngest was barely one and their oldest just over eight.  The reason for J. H.'s death isn't known, but he was able to attend the wedding at Shiloh (now Sunnyside) of his son, John P. and Alice Griffin, just days before. 

Ellen remained at the home place taking care of her young children.  According to They Followed the Sun (probably written by her son James William) [page 93]:

She was also a good woman and the mother of four children who lived to be grown. She had a hard time, being left a widow with four small children, having never attended to business in a public way and her girlhood being just before and during the Civil War period, deprived her of an education. She was born August 7, 1840. She died from pneumonia and erysipelas on her forehead, going down one side of her face which affected her throat, on January 23, 1888.  She lived and died at the old home estate in Spalding County and the only picture ever made of her was as a corpse. 

For several years descendants gathered at "the old home place" to honor John Henry on the anniversary of his death.  It was his and Ellen's son, James William, who initiated the project which resulted in these letters.

Provenance of the Letters

By 1925 all but four of the children of John Henry Starr were deceased .   His numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the first of the great-great-grandchildren were scattered across the country. The annual fall family reunion at "the old home place" was quietly cancelled due to lack of attendance. Regretting the loss of this last tie with his extended family, James William, or "Uncle Willie" as he was  known to his nieces and nephews, decided to compile a "descendants record." Request 1925.pdf is only one of numerous personal letters he sent, asking relatives for very specific information on their immediate family.  

As is usual in such undertakings, people delayed getting their family information to "Uncle Willie" and the project was stalled for several years.   Towards the end of 1940 Willie renewed his efforts. By March 1941 he had lost his beloved wife and his own health was declining. Willie's son, James Pierce, took up the task, asking the cousins whose data was still missing to send back the information "from memory" if need be.  Sadly, Willie died before the Starr Family Record was completed. To our knowledge, nothing more was done with the letters and unfinished manuscript until the early 1960s. 

Sometime in that decade Pierce's widow, Bennie Lee, gave the letters to Helen (Starr) Wade of Dallas. Helen was the granddaughter of Willie's half-brother, Dr. John. We suspect the letters were given to Helen in anticipation for their use towards the larger Starr-family genealogy.   Helen perhaps had learned of Willie's project from family letters that came into her possession after the death of her father. She may have asked Bennie for them; or, Bennie may have offered them after learning about the then "in the works" Starr genealogy project.

Thus the provenance for the letters is:  the writer to James William Starr; to his son James Pierce Starr; to Helen (Starr) Wade; and at her death in 1980, the letters came to Gerald and Linda Starr.

Realizing the value to descendants of viewing the actual handwriting (as opposed to a typed or published transcription) pdf images of the original letters are posted here along with a short narrative for each of John Henry's children.  The letter writer is identified when possible. However, when the genealogical data was submitted on separate pages, the accompanying letter and envelope is missing. 

Sometimes only one person provided the data for all the descendants; other times several passed along the same information. Informants didn't always agree on dates or even spelling of names. Regrettably, some pages are missing; what you see is what we have with the following exceptions:    For privacy sake we didn't scan pages containing specific birth dates for individuals likely to still be alive. 

They Followed the Sun, published 1971, is a far larger Starr Family Record than envisioned by James William and he died before that project began. Even so, he deserves credit for collecting the descendant line from John Henry (1812-1875).

The Children

(Click on a name to go to a narrative that includes links to relevant items from the letters.)

 John Henry Starr and Mary (Elder)
                                         Order of birth       Name and Date of Birth                           
  1   Joshua Howard;  July 10, 1832
  2   Rev. David Elder;  April 5, 1835
  3   Charlotte A.;  May 10, 1836
  4   Benjamin Hartwell;  October 7, 1837  
  5   Martha Elizabeth;  August 28, 1839 [1838]
  6   Nancy Ellen;  December 24, 1841
  7   Mary;  December 15, 1839 [1843]
  8   Henry Clay;  July 29, 1846
  9   Samuel Silas;  November 7, 1847
 10   Dr. John Pinkston;  August 27, 1849
 11-12   Twins born "about" 1851 
 13   Hilyard Blanton;  May 15, 1854
 14   Acy Floyd;  July 4, 1855
 15   Rosa Linsey;  October 13, 1858
John Henry Starr and Ellen Atha (Ogletree)
 16   James William;  August 22, 1867
 17   Joseph Tenth;  December 25, 1869 [1870?]
 18   Elijah Eleventh;  June (or January) 1, 1872
 19   Rachel Rebecca;  August 20, 1874

Oral Tradition

This section is devoted to comments within letters that offer clues for further research or insight into the extended family group as it was in 1925.

Tidbits.pdf  consists of three letters written in 1925 by James William Starr.  (Markers direct the reader to the portion of the letter thought most newsworthy.) In the first, after commenting there are only four brothers left of the group of 17, Willie travels down memory lane with Mary Wilson. Although they are uncle and niece, he is the younger of the two. The second letter, addressed to a descendant from his Grandfather's brother Elijah Starr, has Willie's explanation of his relationship to other family members she has met. In many ways the third letter, to his niece  and Texas resident Minnie Parker, is the most interesting for it mentions where several family members were living in 1925.

James William Starr wrote a short history of the family, History.pdf   presumably for inclusion in his family records. A portion of this narrative appears in They Followed the Sun.

Traditionally, the list of children for Henry Starr (1752-1821) and Mary ( ? ) is:  Joshua, "John Elijah", Silas, "Benjamin  Franklin", Asa D., Samuel Steele, Amelia and Caleb. No contemporary Georgia Court or Church record has been found for Caleb and Amelia. Neither is there a contemporary record for the double names: "John Elijah" and  "Benjamin Franklin." Additionally, there is an "Elizabeth Starr" who marries in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1812. No one can place her into a family. All that said, Elijah's descendant gives his name as "John Elijah."   Elijah.pdf    And Henry Clay Starr, in his compilation of the children of Benjamin and Charlotte (Pinkston) Starr at Family.pdf gives Benjamin's name as "Benjamin Franklin." 

Records.pdf  is a longer (and typewritten) list of descendants, beginning with Benjamin and Charlotte, but following up only with the descendants of John Henry (1812-1875). The typist is possibly Helen (Starr) Wade; but the marginal notes isn't  her handwriting. Another possibility is this was compiled for Willie's book and perhaps it is Pierce's handwritten notes along the margin. Page 4 is missing and then everything after page 6. 

The above letter from Elijah's descendant mentions five brothers from Ireland. (a.k.a. Pennsylvania Irish Quaker Starrs.) We also have another "brothers from Ireland" tale, but in this one there are only two brothers. It is found in the first letter within the file John Henry April 1925.pdf   He continues: one married an Indian and the other didn't. He identifies his father, Dr. John  P. Starr, as the one who told him that particular story. The Indian line is surely the Cherokee Starrs "founded" by Caleb Starr and Nannie Harlan; presumably "the other didnt" line is Henry's.  IF Caleb descends from the Quaker Starrs, as most researchers think, DNA has proven both these traditions are erroneous.