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Descendants of Jonathan Stark & Sarah Lacock;

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Appendix: The Stark Families & The Kentucky Emancipation Ministers 

By Clovis LaFleur, June 2010




Page 79



Enacted by the Confederation Congress on July 13, 1787, the Northwest Ordinance established the basic framework of the American territorial system and established the boundaries of a region known as the Northwest Territory. This region was eventually divided into the present States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Ordinance allowed these subsequent divisions a measure of self-government until their populations exceeded sixty thousand; at which time they could then draft a constitution and summit an application for Statehood. Of significance to this discussion was Article VI which prohibited Slavery in the newly formed Northwest Territory north of the Ohio River. The Southwest Ordinance was passed in 1790 and allowed Slavery south of the Ohio River. With the enactment of these Ordinances, Kentucky was allowed to become a Slave State while the eventual States of Ohio and Indiana would become “free” States.

The Kentucky Baptist were of two minds on the issue of slavery  many congregations approving while others disapproved. In these early years in Kentucky, the abolition of slavery was championed by Reverend Joshua Carman and Reverend Josiah Dodge  their Churches becoming members of the Salem Baptist Association  which included Cox Creek Baptist Church (organized in April of 1785). As early as 1789, these two men were outspoken in their opposition to slavery. Were the Stark families sympathetic to this cause?


The Emancipation Ministers

Cox Creek Baptist Church,  Severn's Valley Baptist Church, and Rolling Fork Baptist Church organized the Salem Baptist Association between 1785 and 1790 with these Churches among the first members. Reverend Joshua Carman began as minister of Severn's Valley in 1787, but soon after taking that position, organized the Rolling Fork Church in 1788. He was replaced at Severn's Valley by Josiah Dodge. Both Churches were in the Southwestern part of Nelson County before Kentucky became a State.

In October of 1789, The Rolling Fork Church sent a letter to the Salem Baptist Association which ask the following question: "'Is it lawful in the sight of God for a member of Christ's Church to keep his fellow-creatures in perpetual slavery?" The association replied, "'The Association judge it improper to enter into so important and critical a matter at present." While the answer was unsatisfactory, the Rolling Fork Church continued to address the issue until the congregation withdrew from the Association in 1796.

Josiah Dodge was a member of the congregation at Severn's Valley Baptist Church and no doubt his views of slavery were influenced by his association with Joshua Carman. Dodge was a preacher at Severn's Valley, but his qualifications as a minister were questioned by that church and in 1791, Severn's Valley requested the Salem Association have him examined by competent preachers. The ministers chosen for the examination were James Garrard, William Wood, William Taylor, and Baldwin Clifton. Reverend William Wood of Mason County was the brother-in-law of the Stark brothers married to their sister, Sarah Stark. The examination took place at Cox Creek Baptist Church. These men declared they were satisfied with Josiah Dodge's qualifications and recommended he be ordained. It was most unusual for a Church within an Association to make such a request this request perhaps made because of the Reverend's condemnation of the institution of slavery   for Dodge was among the first Baptist ministers in Kentucky to refuse fellowship to slaveholders.


The Stark Brothers and Slavery

While living in Nelson County, the Stark Brothers were most likely members of one or more of the Churches belonging to the Salem Association and could have been in agreement with the views of Carman and Dodge. Their brother-in-law, William Wood, had recommended Dodge be ordained in 1791, suggesting he may have believed in emancipation, although there was also a shortage of qualified ministers in Kentucky at the time. Elisha Stark  a son of Reverend Abraham Stark  named one of his sons Joshua Carman Stark; and Jonathan J. Stark  a son of James Stark  also named a son Joshua Carman Stark. Giving the name of Joshua to two Stark children would seem to imply these particular Stark families most likely embraced Reverend Carman’s position on the issue of slavery. On examining the 1810 census for Kentucky, none of the families who were descendants of Jonathan Stark and Sarah Lacock were reported to be slaveholders, further suggesting owning slaves may have been contrary to their beliefs.

By 1800, it became obvious Reverends Carman and Dodge could not bring any considerable number of Kentucky Baptist to their view resulting in a decline in their influence within the Kentucky Baptist Associations. Both moved to Ohio between 1800 and 1805, becoming ministers in the Miami Baptist Association in Greene County, Ohio  their primary reason for moving most likely due to the slavery issue. Reverend William Wood continued as pastor of the Limestone Church in Mason County until in 1798, a difficulty arose between him and one of the brethren. The pastor, refusing to make satisfactory concessions, was declared "not one of us." Although Reverend Wood’s initial move to Green County, Ohio may have been prompted by his removal from the Limestone Church, it is also possible he moved to Ohio because of his anti-slavery sentiments.

The Stark families had an association with these men over the years and may well have been Kentucky Baptist emancipationist. It is quite possible that when the anti-slavery questions were again introduced in the Baptists Associations from 1805 to 1807  and rejected in it’s finality by those bodies  many members of these associations decided they could not live with neighbors who owned slaves and moved across the Ohio River into the Northwest Territory. Most certainly, it was at about this time the Stark families   descendants of Jonathan Stark and Sarah Lacock began to migrate into the Indiana Territory. Most had moved to these regions north of the Ohio River by 1820, a distance of only 25 to 50 miles from their homes in Kentucky.



Spencer, John H., A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885. 2 Volumes. (Cincinnati: J. R. Baumes, 1886). Volume 1, pages 67 & 68; pages 162 & 163;  pages 187 & 188; and pages 283 & 284. [Scroll down for excerpts from Volume 1 relative to Joshua Carman, Josiah Dodge, John Sutton, and William Wood.]



Page 80


Excerpts From "A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1768 to 1885."

Following are relevant excerpts from "A History of Kentucky Baptists from 1769 to 1885." By John H. Spencer (Published in Cincinnati by J. R. Baumes, 1886). Consists of two volumes. All of the following quotes are from Volume 1.

Reverend Joshua Carman

In 1787, Joshua Carman became pastor of Severn’s Valley Baptist and soon afterwards became pastor of the Rolling Forks Church, organized in 1788. In J. H. Spencer‘s “A History of Kentucky Baptist,” can be found these comments ( Volume 1, pages 162 & 163):


"Rolling Fork Church was located in the southern part of Nelson County. It was constituted in 1788, and united with the Salem Association the same year. It was probably gathered by Joshua Carman, an enthusiastic Emancipationist. This church sent with its letter to the Association (in October, 1789), the year after it obtained admission into that body, the following query: 'Is it lawful in the sight of God for a member of Christ's Church to keep his fellow-creatures in perpetual slavery?' (Answer) 'The Association judge it improper to enter into so important and critical a matter at present.' This answer was unsatisfactory. The church continued to agitate the subject of slavery, till, in 1796, it withdrew from the Association.

JOSHUA CARMAN, who appears to have been the founder and first pastor of Rolling Fork, was probably a native of Western Pennsylvania. He was among the early settlers of Nelson County, Kentucky. For a number of years he was an active minister in the bounds of Salem Association, and was several times appointed to preach the introductory sermon before that body. He was regarded a man of good ability, and was much beloved by the brethren. But, becoming fanatical on the subject of slavery, he induced Rolling Fork church to withdraw from the Association, in 1796, and declare non-fellowship with all slave-holders. He attempted to draw off Cedar Creek church, of which, according to tradition, he was pastor at that time. But, failing in this attempt, he collected the disaffected members from that church, Cox's Creek and Lick Creek, and, with the assistance of Josiah Dodge, constituted an Emancipation church, about six miles north-west of Bardstown. This church soon withered away, and Rolling Fork church returned to Salem Association. The exact date of constituting this Emancipation church, or the name it bore, is not now known, but it is supposed to have been the first organization of the kind in Kentucky. Mr. Carman, finding himself unable to bring any considerable number of Baptists to his views, moved to eastern Ohio (1801), where it is said he raised up a respectable church, and preached to it till the Lord took him away.”


According to Spencer, Joshua Carman was the first minister of a Church organized April 27, 1794 on or near Elk Creek . Spencer presented the following brief history of this Church (pages 283 & 284).


“ELK CREEK church is the oldest in Spencer county, and the oldest in Long Run Association, except Cedar Creek, at first known as Chenowiths Run. It was gathered by Joshua Morris, then pastor of Brashears Creek church in Shelby county, and was constituted of ten members, April 27, 1794. It was at first called Buck Creek and was received into Salem Association the same year it was constituted. It soon afterwards took the name of Buck & Elk -- perhaps in consequence of the removal of its location, and the constituting of another church in 1799, in an adjoining neighborhood, which took the name of Buck Creek. Salem Association met with Buck & Elk church in 1798. Joshua Carman appears to have been its first pastor. In 1803, Buck & Elk, with 23 other churches, formed Long Run Association. At that time it was the largest church in the new fraternity, except Buck Creek, and contained 149 members. In 1823, it changed its name to Elk Creek. This name is derived from a small tributary of Salt River, on which the church is located.“


These events occurred while the Stark families were living on Cox Creek and later on Elk Creek. What is the relevance of Joshua Carman to the Stark Families? Elisha Stark  a son of Reverend Abraham Stark  named one of his sons Joshua Carman Stark; and Jonathan J. Stark  a son of James Stark  also named a son Joshua Carman Stark. Giving the name of Joshua to two Stark children would seem to imply these particular Stark families most likely embraced Reverend Carman’s position on the issue of slavery.


Reverend Josiah Dodge

When Joshua Carman left Severn’s Valley Baptist Church in 1788 to become the pastor of Rolling Fork Church, he was replaced by Josiah Dodge. Spencer had these remarks concerning Reverend Dodge (pages 187 & 188):


“JOSIAH DODGE was among the first preachers in Kentucky, who refused to fellowship slaveholders. He was set apart to the ministry, at Severns Valley church in Hardin county. Joshua Carman, a brief sketch of whose life has been given, was called to the care of that church in 1787. He was a zealous emancipationist, and under his ministry, doubtless, Mr. Dodge imbibed his sentiments on that subject. Mr. Carman preached but a short time to this church. When he resigned, Josiah Dodge became its preacher, being a licentiate. In 1791, Severns Valley church sent Mr. Dodge to Salem Association, at Cox's Creek, with a request that the Association would appoint competent preachers to examine him, with respect to his ministerial qualifications. For this purpose the Association appointed James Garrard (afterward governor of Kentucky), William Wood of Mason county, William Taylor and Baldwin Clifton. These brethren reported that they were entirely satisfied with his qualifications. The Association "resolved that brother Josiah Dodge be ordained." This was a singular proceeding for a Baptist Association. But the scarcity of ministers, at that time, rendered it expedient. The Association was careful to state in their minutes that their action in this case was at the request of the church of which Mr. Dodge was a member.”


Reverend William Wood of Mason County was the brother-in-law of the Stark brothers married to their sister, Sarah Stark.



Page 81


Reverend John Sutton

John Sutton arrived in Kentucky in 1790 and settled in Woodford County. Spencer had the following comments related to the life of Reverend Sutton (pages 187 & 188). 


“JOHN SUTTON was the next preacher who agitated the subject of emancipation with any considerable effect, in Kentucky. He was a native of New Jersey. In early life he went to Nova Scotia as a missionary. He was in that province, as early as 1763. After remaining there till 1769, he started to return to New Jersey. But on his way, he visited Newport, Rhode Island. Here he accepted an invitation to preach to the first church in that town. After remaining there six months, he went on his journey to New Jersey. After his arrival, he was called to succeed Samuel Heaton in the pastoral care of Cape May church.

Here again, his stay was brief. After this he spent a brief period in Virginia, and was pastor a short time, of Salem church located 36 miles south-west of Philadelphia. Then he spent a time in the Redstone country (southwestern part of Pennsylvania), from whence he came to Kentucky. He settled in Woodford county, and became a member of Clear Creek church, not far from the year 1790. Here he commenced a warfare against slavery, and became so turbulent that he was arraigned before the church for his abuse of the brethren. But having won Carter Tarrant, pastor of Hillsboro' and Clear Creek churches, to his views, they led off a faction from each of these bodies and formed New Hope church of "Baptists Friends of Humanity." This was the first abolition church within the bounds of Elkhorn Association.”


Sutton moved to the Redstone Country from New Jersey at about the same time as Reverend Henry Crossley, the same minister who was a witness to the Joseph Lacock Will in New Jersey in 1760. Therefore, Sutton was well known to the Stark family.


Reverend William Wood

Living in Reverend Wood’s home was the mother of the Stark Brothers, Sarah (Lacock) Stark, spouse of Jonathan Stark [the elder]. Early in 1785, Reverend Wood organized the Limestone Baptist Church in Washington in Mason County at the request of Simon Kenton who promised William good land for a cheap price. Spencer wrote the following about Reverend William Wood and Limestone Baptist Church (pages 67 & 68):


WILLIAM WOOD appears to have been a man of culture and considerable ability. He was among the early settlers of Mason county, and was probably from New York. He purchased a thousand acres of land on which the town of Washington in Mason county now stands, and, in 1785, he and Arthur Fox laid off that town. The same year, he gathered Washington church, to which he ministered as pastor till 1798. In this year complaint was made against him in the church, on account of some business transactions. Failing to give satisfaction to the church, he was excluded from its fellowship. After this we hear no more of him….

LIMESTONE CHURCH (now Washington) was another body of the kind organized on the soil of Kentucky in 1785. It was gathered by William Wood. It was constituted of nine members whose names were as follows: "William Wood, Sarah Wood, James Turner, John Smith, Luther Calvin, Priscilla Calvin, Sarah Starks, Charles Tuel, and Sarah Tuel."1 The church was located at or near the present town of Washington in Mason county. This was the oldest settlement in this region of the State. It is claimed that Simon Kenton raised a crop of corn here, in 1775, the same year that Boonesboro and Harrodsburg were settled, and the town of Washington was laid off ten years later, by Elder William Wood and a man of the name of Arthur Fox.





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Other than that work created by other acknowledged contributors or sources, the articles presented were authored and edited by Clovis LaFleur and the genealogical data presented in this publication was derived and compiled by  Pauline Stark Moore; Copyright © 2003. All rights are reserved. The use of any material on these pages by others will be discouraged if the named contributors, sources, or Clovis LaFleur & Pauline Stark Moore have not been acknowledged.


This publication and the data presented is the work of Clovis LaFleur & Pauline Stark Moore. However, some of the content presented has been derived from the research and publicly available information of others and may not have been verified. You are responsible for the validation of all data and sources reported and should not presume the material presented is correct or complete.


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