The Stark Family in Starkville, Mississippi
Elizabeth Jane Stark, the last owner and resident of this home, was known as Betsy to all those who knew and loved her. She was born and lived her entire life at 400 Greensboro Street in Starkville Mississippi and, following in the footsteps of her parents, Christopher Randolph Stark and Annie Edwina Reynolds Stark, loved to learn about and research her family ties to Starkville and the state that stretched back through many generations. In a family history book she researched, wrote, and lovingly shared with her family, "Aunt Betsy" shared some of the Stark family history that had roots in Mississippi before it was even a state. Much of this information below comes from her research.
The Stark family has been represented in Oktibbeha County almost continually since the area was first settled by Americans. The Starks came from Scotland and originally settled in Virginia around 1680. Several generations later, Colonel Robert Stark commanded a regiment of local militia in the Revolutionary War and served for the most part in South Carolina. After the war, he moved his family first to South Carolina, and then to Natchez, at that time part of the Spanish territory of North Florida. Shortly thereafter, the Spanish governor granted him title to 2,000 acres near Woodville, in the southwest corner of the state. When that area became part of the United States in 1799, Robert's son, Horatio Stark, was commissioned in the U.S. Army and stationed for several years at Fort Adams, just outside Woodville. During his army service during the years 1800 to 1815, Horatio often traveled to the Starkville area on missions to the local Choctaw tribes. Another relative, Bellfield Stark, probably a cousin of Horatio, and his wife Margaret with their large family were included in the 1840 and 1850 census in Oktibbeha County. Bellfield was listed as a farmer owning 1,000 acres. Margaret is buried in Starkville and Elizabeth Stark (probably their daughter) was on the rolls of the Starkville Methodist Church in 1859. We do not know when or why this branch of the family disappeared from the Starkville area during the next thirty years, but in 1890 Theodore Osborn Stark, son of Colonel Horatio Stark mentioned above, returned with his family to the county. As a young man, he had studied law and settled in New Orleans around 1830, where he established his legal practice. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he was appointed a colonel in the Louisiana militia and later served on the staff of General Richard Taylor. Soon after the war, he married Dora Lambeth Stark, a much younger woman who came from a large landowning family in Bunkie, LA. The family of Theodore and Dora included a daughter, Theodora (who married Charles Edgar Gay of Starkville in 1900), and four sons-Horatio Osborn, William Lambeth, Christopher Randolph (who built the Stark home), and Wilkinson Stark. In 1890, Dora Lambeth Stark, anxious to provide a good education for her children, and concerned by the temptations of New Orleans, moved her family to Starkville, where Mississippi A&M had recently been founded. They settled in a home at the intersection of Greensboro Street and Whitfield Street.
Annie Reynolds Stark was born and raised just down the street at the Reynolds home at 404 Greensboro Street, daughter of William Henry Reynolds and Eliza Jane Buntin Reynolds. W. H. Reynolds was born in Georgia but moved west as a young boy with his family first to Starkville around 1850 and then to Arkansas. After his service in the Confederate Army, W.H. returned to Starkville, where he and Eliza married. W.H. became a justice of the peace and one of the largest landowners in Oktibbeha County. He was one of a group of prominent Oktibbeha county citizens who donated both land and money to help establish the land grant college that is today Mississippi State University. After Annie Reynolds and Christopher Randolph Stark married in 1907 and began to raise their young family, her father, W.H. Reynolds, gave them a few acres next door to the Reynolds home on a rise of land at the corner of Greensboro and Raymond Streets. The home was completed in 1913 and C.R. and Annie raised their four children there: Christopher Randolph, Jr., Theodore Osborn, William Reynolds, and Betsy Stark. It has been a happy center and sanctuary for several generations of Starks, Reynolds, and countless relatives and friends for over a century. The last inhabitant of the house was Betsy Stark, who was born in the home in 1916, and other than her time in college at MSCW and several years teaching in Vicksburg, lived her entire life in the family home on Greensboro Street. She worked at Mississippi State for many years and was very active in Starkville civic and cultural activities. Betsy never married and died last October at the age of 103.
The question is often asked: was Starkville named after the Starks? The marker on the highway coming into town, and now on Wikipedia and the Starkville website, state that Starkville was named in honor of General John Stark, a Revolutionary War hero who was a native of New Hampshire and who had never visited Mississippi. Our family in Starkville has generally felt that while that may be true, it seemed more likely that it may have been named for a Stark like Horatio or Bellfield, who spent much of their lives in the state and had strong ties to the area. Certainly the Starks have left a lasting mark on Starkville, as C. R. Stark was a beloved professor at Mississippi State for over fifty years, and Betsy, who was heavily involved in many civic and community organizations, gave a large donation for the 2004 addition to the Starkville Public Library that is named in honor of her parents, Christopher Randolph and Annie Reynolds Stark.
Written by Jim Stark and Ann Robinson