4: The Third Generation; Children of William Stark (Senior)
Christopher Stark Family In
Wyoming Valley, Pennsylvania
Comment: Much of
this history of the Wyoming Valley Massacre uses excerpts from, "History:
Local Part III - Luzerne County, PA; Lackawanna County, PA; Wyoming County,
PA." The Stark Family participation in the Wyoming Valley settlement and
subsequent massacre comes from, "The Aaron Stark Family, Seven
Generations", by Charles R. Stark, published in 1927
and the Helen Stark Article in the Stark Family Association Newsletter, 1927, entitled, "Christopher Stark's Migration to New York and Pennsylvania."
November 5, 1768, the British government signed the Fort Stanwich
Treaty, which established a diagonal line across Pennsylvania and
opened up territory east of the line for settlement which included the
Wyoming Valley. On the same day, the representatives of the "Six
Indian Nations" deeded all of the land in the province to Thomas
and Richard Penn. Pennsylvania interpreted this to mean all of the
land including the Wyoming Valley. The Connecticut Susquehanna Company
was determined to occupy the region and sent forty men to the area.
They arrived February 6, 1769 and were promptly arrested for trespass
by Sheriff Jenning of Northampton County, Pennsylvania and Captain
Amos Ogden who had established a trading post at Mill Creek. They were
placed in the Easton jail, but some escaped while the rest were
released on bail.
June of 1769, Thomas Walsworth, brother-in-law of Christopher Stark,
Sr., was among two hundred and sixty men to arrive with Major John
Durkee. They erected Fort Durkee on the eastern bank of the
Susquehanna and named their town Wilkes-Barre. A Pennsylvania force
led by Colonel Turbutt Francis invaded the Wyoming Valley in July with
considerable fanfare demanding the surrender of Fort Durkee. The
Yankees declined the Colonel's courteous offer and the good Colonel
returned to Pennsylvania with silent drums and trailing banners. By
September 12, 1769, Christopher, Jr., Aaron, James, and William had
arrived at the Fort. In November, Sheriff Jennings and Captain Ogden,
with a large force of Pennsylvanians, captured Major Durkee and drove
the Connecticut Yankees from the valley and destroyed the settlement.
of the Stark family regrouped in Dutchess County to plan their next
move. Captain Zebulon Butler assumed command of the Yankees in January
of 1770 and recruited Lazarus Steward and the Paxtang Rangers to the
Yankee cause. He compensated the Rangers with the grant of Hanover
Township. The Paxtang Rangers had been outlawed by Pennsylvania and
with prices on their heads had openly defied Pennsylvania authority
for years. The Rangers arrived in the Valley in February of 1770 and
drove the Pennamites from the Valley. Christopher Stark, Jr. and his
brother Aaron returned to the Valley again in June of 1770 to again
take possession of the families shares of land.
Ogden regained temporary possession of his trading post but was forced
to surrender in April. Construction then began on the celebrated Forty
Fort in Kingston Township west of the Susquehanna. Captain Ogden
returned in the fall with a large force and captured Fort Durkee. At
this change of fortunes in the settlement, Christopher Stark, Jr.
returned to Dutchess County to the Beekman Patent and made no further
attempts to settle in the Wyoming Valley. The Yankees recaptured Fort
Durkee in January of 1771 and the Pennamites then erected Fort Wyoming
nearby. The Yankees then laid siege to Fort Wyoming in July and the
First Yankee-Pennamite War ended on August 20, 1771, with the
capitulation of Fort Wyoming.
September of 1771, James Stark wrote from Pawling Precinct (Pawling
was set-off from Beekman's Precinct in 1768) to Captain Zebulon
Butler, commanding the Yankee forces in the Valley, "I have hired
the bearer thereof, Timothy Pearce, to go on the same right for two
months. At the end of two months, I will come and take possession of
it myself." On October 23, Aaron Stark arrived to claim his share
and October 31, James Stark arrived to claim his share. Early in 1772,
James returned to Dutchess County to collect his family, brother
Daniel, father Christopher, Sr. and mother Joanna. They returned to
the Valley in early spring of 1772. Pawling Precinct deed records show
William Stark sold 200 acres (Half share in the Susquehanna Company)
to his father-in-law, Henry Carey, May 20, 1773. By the end of 1772,
the families of Aaron Stark and James Stark had taken up residence in
the Wyoming Valley along with their brother Daniel, father Christopher
Stark, Sr. and mother Joanna Walworth. In June of 1773, William
Stark and his family along with his in-laws had moved to the Valley.
fifteen years of blood letting, destruction and rebuilding of
settlements, Indian massacres, and exodus and return, the Yankees of
Connecticut were finally in control of the region. They now turned
their attention to clearing the land and building small farms,
building new forts and strengthening old ones and beginning to create
communities and fit places for people to live. Little by little, the
settlers began to venture further from the stockades believing the
questions between them and Pennsylvania had been permanently resolved.
1772 to 1774 the settlers lived in relative peace, not being a part of
Connecticut or Pennsylvania. The Connecticut authorities, not
supporting the Susquehanna Company settlers during the final three
years of conflict between the Yankees and Pennamites, now seemed to
conclude the people had proved their ability to hold the Wyoming
Valley and backed them in their ownership of land in the valley.
Connecticut passed an act in January, 1774, which created the town of
Westmoreland, which extended from the 41st degree of North Latitude to
the New York line and from the Delaware River to fifteen miles west of
the Susquehanna River which was then annexed to Litchfield County,
Connecticut. Within this town, the districts of Wilkes-Barre, Hanover,
Plymouth, Kingston, Pittston, North, Lackaway, and East were created.
In 1774, the total inhabitants of Westmoreland were counted at 1,922
men, women, and children and considered large enough to become a
separate county. It subsequently became the county of Westmoreland,
Connecticut defined as embracing 60 x 120 miles.
four years of peace was broken, in December 1775, when Colonel
Plunkett invaded Westmoreland with six hundred Pennsylvania militia.
Colonel Zebulon Butler posted his regiment behind a natural rampart of
rocks above Nanticoke Falls on the west side of the river. The Paxtang
Rangers, granted Hanover for their help during the earlier
hostilities, occupied the east side and protected the Yankee flank.
Plunkett advanced on the morning of December 25 and thus began the
Battle of Rampart Rocks. The battle raged all Christmas day. The
Pennamites suffered severe casualties and broke and fled shortly
before dark. Yankee losses were slight. But, by now the Revolutionary
War had begun and several actions had already occurred by December of
1775. The battle of Lexington had taken place in August and Bunker
Hill was fought in June. Yet, here we find Connecticut and
Pennsylvania renewing hostilities over the Wyoming Valley. Soon after
this , these differences were put aside for the good of the colonies,
but would resume again after the war.
those researching the Christopher Stark, Sr. family, the creation of
Westmoreland County is important in understanding the organization of
Connecticut participants in the Revolutionary War. While the Wyoming
Valley is today within the bounds of the State of Pennsylvania,
fighting men living in this area before the Revolutionary War were
considered members of the Connecticut militia. Therefore, many members
of Christopher, Sr.'s family will show on the rolls of the Connecticut
Militia, not the Pennsylvania Militia.
settlements were becoming alarmed, for they had received word the
British, under Col. John Butler (his command was mostly Canadians and
Indians) was at Oswego, and now the people of the valley were
convinced the savages were in alliance with the British. On August 23,
1776, the United States Congress, at the urgent request of Col.
Zebulon Butler, resolved to station two companies at Westmoreland for
the defense of the inhabitants. Robert Durkee and Samuel Ransom were
elected Captains of these companies and given the authority to recruit
soldiers from Westmoreland County. James Stark joined Captain Samuel
Ransom's company September 17, 1776. Their purpose was to defend
Westmoreland County from Indian attacks and the British.
as history tells us, Washington was retreating after the British
General Howe captured New York. His 3,000 men were forced to keep
moving through New Jersey and crossed the Delaware River December 8th
causing Congress to immediately take measures to move from
Philadelphia to Baltimore. Before moving however, the Congress
"resolved" on December 12, that the two companies raised in
the town of Westmoreland, be ordered to join George Washington, with
all possible expedition. Ransom and Durkee promptly obeyed and were
with Washington by the end of 1776, leaving Westmoreland defenseless.
These companies were placed under the command of General Dickinson and
first saw battle January 27, 1777, at the battle of Millstone. July
20, 1777, James Stark died in camp from a small pox epidemic which
struck the command. His body was returned to Westmoreland and he was
buried at the Upper Wilkes-Barre Township in the old burying
1777, Christopher Stark, Sr. died of natural causes. His will dated
1777, provides for his son, James to receive his homestead with the
proviso that he should take care not only of his mother, but of his
grandmother, also. James had an oldest son named James, Jr. born
December 12, 1760. Could this be the James named in the will and he is
to provide for his mother, Elizabeth Carey, and grandmother, Joanna
Walworth? It is related by Carey descendants that James, Jr.'s
grandmother Carey was deceased several years prior to 1777. Because
Jame, Sr. and Christopher, Sr. died so close in time, this is perhaps
the James mentioned in the will.
of an invasion from the North into the Valley became apparent and
Congress, on March 17, 1778, authorized Westmoreland County,
Connecticut to raise a company for the defense of the town. Aaron
Stark, his son Aaron, Jr., William, and Daniel, were recruited and
joined this company . By May, the settlements were frantic and
appealed to Congress to return their men to the defense of the valley,
but the authorities continued to hold these men to support General
Zebulon Butler assumed command of the Westmoreland defenders at Forty
Fort June 29, after British Col. John Butler invaded the Valley on
that day. The British troops, consisting of about 250 of Butlers
Rangers and an equal number of Indians quickly captured Fort Jenkins
and then Fort Wintermoot. Under the command of Col. Zebulon Butler at
Forty Fort were 230 enrolled men, seventy old people, boys, civil
magistrates, and other volunteers, the bulk of able bodied fighting
men having been sent to reinforce General Washington. Among the
defenders at Forty Fort were Aaron Stark, son of Christopher Stark,
Sr., his son of the same name, Daniel Stark, the youngest son of
Christopher, Sr., and James Stark, Jr. oldest son of James Stark, Sr.
and Elizabeth Carey.
on the morning of July 3, Col. John Butler sent messengers to Forty
Fort demanding a surrender. Col. Zebulon Butler immediately called a
council of war and asked if he should parley with the enemy for delay
until reinforcements should arrive. Many believed they could execute a
surprise attack on the British troops who had bivouacked at Fort
Wintermoot. The latter strategy prevailed. This would prove to be a
fatal error in judgment.
forces of Brant and Col. John Butler were at Wintermoot's Fort,
opposite Pittston. The little band, on the afternoon of July 3rd,
numbering about 350 of the sturdiest remaining settlers, under the
command of Colonel Zebulon Butler, left the fort amid the prayers of
dear and devoted kindred. Old men, whose hands were tremulous and
unsteady; young ones, unskilled in years--marched side by side to the
place of conflict. Among the 350 were Aaron Stark, Sr. his son Aaron
Stark, Jr. and Daniel Stark. So great the emergency at this time, so
much to be won or lost by the coming battle, that none remained in the
fort save women and children.
rapidly up the west bank of the river, the Yankee Colonel Z. Butler
cautiously led his forces within half a mile of Wintermoot's. Here he
halted a few minutes, and sent forward two volunteers to reconnoiter
the position and strength of the enemy. They were promptly fired upon
by the British for their Indian Scouts had already apprised them of
the Yankees departure from Forty Fort. The British Colonel J. Butler
promptly formed his forces into line of battle; the Provincials and
Tories being placed in front toward the river, while to his right was
concealed a large number of Indians.
four in the afternoon the battle began; Col. Z. Butler ordered his men
to fire, and at each discharge to advance a step. As the Yankees
advanced, pouring in their platoon fires with great vivacity, the
British line gave way. At this time, the Indians engaged the
Connecticut Troops from their left flank. For half an hour the battle
raged with each side giving and taking fire from the other. However,
it became apparent the Connecticut force was vastly out numbered.
Orders were given by the Connecticut forces for one Company to wheel
back, so as to form an angle with the main line, and thus present
their front instead of flank to the Indians on their left. On the
attempt the savages rushed in with horrid yells. Utter confusion now
prevailed on the left. Seeing the disorder, and his own men beginning
to give way, Col. Z. Butler threw himself between the fires of the
opposing ranks and rode up and down the line in the most reckless
exposure. "Don't leave me, my children, and the victory is
ours." But it was too late.
it was seen that defeat had come, the confusion became general. Some
fought bravely in the hopeless conflict, others fled in wild disorder
down the valley toward Forty Fort or Wilkes-Barre without their guns,
pursued by Indians whose belts were soon reeking with warm scalps.
Another group of Indians moved in behind the fleeing forces, cutting
off their retreat to Forty Fort. All was lost and the fleeing
Connecticut men were forced to run for the river, in hopes of reaching
Wilkes-Barre Fort on the other side.
group of men including Aaron, Sr., Aaron, Jr. and Daniel, ran for
their lives and hid in driftwood along the banks of the river. The
Indians searched and towards night fall, found Aaron, Sr. and Daniel.
They were tomahawked and scalped before the eyes of Aaron, Jr. who
remained concealed and was not detected by the Indians. Aaron, Jr.
then fled to the home of his grandfather, Christopher Stark, Sr.
before eventually escaping the battle and making it back to Dutchess
Sr.'s wife had taken refuge at Forty Fort. After the Fort was taken by
the British, she along with some other women and children were allowed
to leave unmolested and they made their way back to Dutchess County,
she with five of her children. On the night of July 3rd, William Stark
and his family made their way to Wilkes-Barre Fort from which they
along with others, started for the Delaware River and finally back to
Stark's widow, Elizabeth Carey, on hearing about the massacre, took
her small children with her into the corn fields and hid. After the
Indians had passed she made her way back to her home to find all of
the buildings destroyed. She gathered what belongings she could find
and made her way on foot to Dutchess County. When she arrived at her
sister's home, she was a picture of misery and destitution. She never
rallied from the death of her husband a year earlier and then the
massacre which destroyed her home. She passed away August 12, 1778,
probably her spirit broken, another belated victim of the massacre.
Elizabeth Carey's oldest son James was serving in Captain Simon
Spalding's Company and received a musket ball in one of his legs and
was one of the last to leave the Valley, eventually arriving safely in
massacre had finally dislodged the Christopher Stark, Sr. family from
the Wyoming Valley. After so many attempts to settle, the painful
memories and horrors of that day were too much for this family to
attempt to return to the Valley. Only William and his family would
return for awhile, but then leave by 1790 and return to Orange County,
New York. Most surviving members of the family would settle in or near
Dutchess County until the end of the Revolutionary War.