James Benjamin Stark

On this day, 13 September 1852, James Benjamin Stark passed away. He was my 4th great-grandfather.

James Benjamin Stark was born on 26 November 1775, in Newberry County, South Carolina, to parents Jeremiah Stark and Mary King.

In 1777, brother Thomas Theodore Stark was born in Newberry County, South Carolina.

Approximately a year later, on 4 February  1778, sister Naomi Pennington Stark was born in Newberry County, South Carolina

Sadly, tragedy would strike the Stark family, when in 1778, baby Thomas Theodore Stark died.

Soon thereafter, in 1779, baby Naomi Pennington Stark also died.

Despite the heartache, the Stark Family must have felt, joy prevailed when sister Phoebe Hearst Stark was born on 20 August 1780, in Newberry County, South Carolina.

Three years later, sister Leah Stark was welcomed on 20 April 1783, in Newberry County, South Carolina.

Five years later, in 1785, another sister, Charity Stark, was born in Newberry County, South Carolina.

On 15 March 1788, the Stark Family of Newberry County, South Carolina welcomed another girl, Rachel Stark, to their fold.

She was followed by sister Lydia Pennington Stark, who was born on 8 February 1791, in Newberry County, South Carolina. Unfortunately, Lydia Pennington Stark died in her first year in 1792.

Three years later, on 8 February 1795, sister Mary Pennington Stark was born in Newberry County, South Carolina.

James Benjamin Stark’s youngest sibling was another girl, Ruth Stark, who was born on 10 March 1798, in Pendleton, Anderson County, South Carolina. Unfortunately, Ruth died in her first year in 1799.

By this time, James Benjamin Stark was a grown man. Circa 1800, he married Rebecca Gary, daughter of Thomas Gary and Uriah Newman, both deceased.

On 4 August 1800, the James Stark Family was residing in Pendleton, Anderson County, South Carolina. Living in the household was one free white male under the age of 10, one free white male age 16 to 26 (James), one free white female age 16 to 26 (Rebecca), and one slave.

On 13 May 1801, son Thomas Geary Stark was born in Pendleton, Anderson County, South Carolina.

On 10 December 1802, son Charles Stark was born in Pendleton, Anderson County, South Carolina. (He was my 3rd great-grandfather.)

On 1 November 1803, son Isaac Stark was born in Pendleton, Anderson County, South Carolina.

Daughter Polly Stark arrived in 1806.

At some point either before or after Polly’s birth, the Stark Family moved from South Carolina to Tennessee, because daughter Rebecca Betsy Stark was born in 1809 in Robertson County, Tennessee.

A few years later, in 1813, son James Kingery Stark was born in Robertson County, Tennessee.

Within two years of James Kingery Stark’s birth, the Stark Family left Tennessee for Missouri, because, on 24 April 1815, son Jesse Stark was born in Columbia, Boone County, Missouri.

On May 8, 1820, the United States Congress passed legislation, providing for the admission of Maine as a free state along with Missouri as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power between the north and the south. As part of the compromise, slavery was prohibited North of the 36°30′ parallel, excluding Missouri. This legislation was known as the Missouri Compromise.

A little over a year later, the Missouri Territory was admitted as the 24th state of the United States of America on 10 August 1821. Alexander McNair was Missouri’s first governor.

Moniteau County Courthouse

Governor Alexander McNair appointed three men to serve as the first county judges for Cole County, Missouri. One of those judges was James Benjamin Stark. The opening term of the circuit court was held 15 January 1821, at the home of John English. The initial term of the county court was held at the same place during the following April, During that session, Marion was designated as the county seat.

Meanwhile, back in South Carolina, sadness descended on the Starks, when James’ father Jeremiah Stark, died on 18 May 1824, in Abbeville, Abbeville County, South Carolina.

James Benjamin Stark continued to move forward with his life. On 1 April 1831, he purchased 80 acres in what would become Moniteau County, Missouri.

Soon thereafter, his mother Mary (King) passed away on 28 July 1831, in Abbeville, Abbeville County, South Carolina.

On 10 January 1840, James Benjamin Stark purchased an additional 40 acres in what would become Moniteau County, Missouri.

Tragedy struck the Stark Family, when son James Kingery Stark died in 1842, in Cole County, Missouri. Three years later, in 1845, daughter Polly (Stark) Nichols passed away.

On 20 August 1850, the Starks still resided in Moniteau County, Missouri. Living in the home were James, age 74, and his wife Rebecca, age 71. James was listed as a farmer, whose real estate was valued at $300. Also enumerated at that address were Peter Stark, age 37, a farmer whose real estate was valued at $100; Benjamin Stark, age 35, a laborer; Lucinda Stark, age 31; and Mary Stark, age 4. Both Peter and Benjamin were listed as black, while Lucinda and Mary were listed as mulatto.

How these four Starks were related to James Stark is uncertain. However, what is known is that they were all free persons of color because they were listed by name on the 1850 Census.

Unfortunately, being a free person of color in the state of Missouri during the 1800s was not easy. In the 1830s, the Missouri legislature declared that any free Negro residing in any Missouri county must obtain a license from the county court. However, the license was good only in the county in which it was administered. If a free black moved from one county to another in Missouri, he or she had to submit proof of freedom to the county clerk upon request. In order to obtain a license, the free black must first post a bond which would be sacrificed if the court decided he or she had become a menace to society.

Despite the hostile treatment free blacks received, many white Missourians continued to free their slaves during the mid-1800s. Two motives which entered into the act of liberating a slave were financial consideration and sentiment. No sacrifice was too great for some slaves to gain their freedom. Some worked extra hours as hired hands and saved their meager earnings to buy themselves. Freedom payments depended upon sex, age, health, and skills possessed by the slave. Free blacks also purchased the freedom of their loved ones still held in bondage. Sometimes, masters freed their slaves for more sentimental reasons. A large number of slaves who were freed in Missouri were related by blood to the slave owner.

Enslaved individuals were enumerated in the 1850 U.S. Census Slave Schedule. James Stark appears on this document, having one 61-year black women as a slave. It also appears that he had manumitted two people prior to that census. The process of manumission, or freeing, of slaves in Missouri was a difficult one, made even harder in the 1850s. It was a long, sometimes costly, process. Non-sympathetic neighbors and family could make the lives of both the slaveholder and those he wanted to free very difficult. Consequently, many slave owners opted to free their slaves through their last will and testament.

And this is exactly what James Stark “officially” did with his final former slave. Two years after this census, James Benjamin Stark died on 13 September 1852, in Moniteau County, Missouri. He was buried in Dooley Cemetery, in Eldon, Miller County, Missouri.

His last will and testament, dated 4 June 1844 (six years prior to the 1850 Census) is as follows:

First, It is my will and desire that my funeral expenses and all my just debts be fully paid.

Secondly, I give, devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Rebecca Stark in lieu of her dower the farm on which I now live containing about one hundred and nineteen acres, and all the personal estate of which I am or shall be possessed of whatsoever nature or kind it may be except what is herein after disposed of. The said land and personal estate shall be held by my said wife only during her widowhood. She shall take such of the personal estate in kind as she dispose and the rest and residue which she may not desire to keep shall be disposed of by my executors herein after named the proceeds of which shall be for the use of my said wife during her widowhood: Immediately after the death of wife without marrying after her marriage my executors herein after named shall dispose of all my estate and distribute the proceeds equally amongst my children, and where any of my children have died or may hereafter die, the children of such children shall be entitled to their due and fair such portion: Any money my executors may have in their hands arising from the sale of property First above proceeds shall be disposed of in like manner as the proceeds of the sale of the property after the death of my wife unmarried, or II her marriage: my land is included in the word estate of my property.

Thirdly: It is my will and desire that my slave Lucinda be free, and I do hereby fully freely emancipate and set free the said slave and her increase as I have already done by deed, and which I do hereby again do, not thereby intending to affect or impair any rights which may be confirmed by the deed of emancipation heretofore made: And it is my request that none of my children shall ever disturb Lucinda in the enjoyment of her freedom and if respect for a father’s memory or his wishes can influence them, I am sure it will not be done: I give to the said Negro Lucinda one horse to be delivered to her at my death, worth not less than thirty-five dollars, and also one cow and calf.

I hereby nominate and appoint Thomas G. Stark, Isaac Stark my sons and Jeremiah Vernon my son-in-law executors of this my last will and testament hereby solemnly revoking all former wills and declaring this to be my only last will and testament. In testimony whereof I have here unto set my hand and seal this fourth day o~ June in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-four.

Categories: Everyday People, On This Day, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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