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A Stark profile in history


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
July 03, 2020
STARK — The town of Stark, originally named Percy after the first Duke of Northumberland, Hugh Percy, was changed and named after the well known General John Stark. A recent drive through the small town, along with the upcoming holiday piqued some curiosity.

The town was granted in 1774, during the heart of the Revolutionary War. In 1795 it became an incorporated town, then renamed 'Stark' in 1832. A statue of the General can be seen upon entering Stark Village. Stark is best known for coming up with New Hampshire's state motto, 'Live Free or Die.'

Stark was born in Londonderry in 1728 to immigrant parents. His mother from England, his father from Scotland. He served as an officer for the British during the French and Indian War, then became a major general for the Continental Army during the Revolution. Stark married Elizabeth 'Molly" Page, and together they had 11 children.

In 1752, a hunting trip led to the capture of Stark by Abenaki warriors from Canada. One night, attacked his captors, which ended up impressing the chief. With that, Stark was adopted into the tribe. A ransom was eventually paid for the release of he and his friend Amos Eastman.

Stark along with his brother William served under Major Robert Rogers during the French and Indian War. The story of the famous Rogers' Rangers would become widely retold in history books. Stark was ordered to go to Quebec to attack an Abenaki village, but he refused out of respect and returned to the Granite State.

After a hiatus, he returned to military service during the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. Shortly after, he took charge of the 1st NH Regiment. With his army, he made headquarters in Medford, Mass. at the Isaac Royall House. Stark's men provided crucial backup during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

George Washington, took note of Stark's experience and offered him a command in the Continental Army. Stark and his regiment joined Washington's army in New Jersey, in late 1776. Stark, per Washington's request, was to head back to New Hampshire to recruit more men. However, when he returned home, he discovered that Enoch Poor was promoted to Brigadier General. Stark resigned 'in disgust' stating that Poor had no combat experience, however did offer his service in the future, if it was needed. Stark wasn't resigned for long before being offered a commission as brigadier general of the New Hampshire Militia just four months later.

As per the history books, Stark was well aware of the 'limitations' of his soldiers. With that he was able to keep casualties extremely low, while keeping enemy casualties higher. His famous rallying cry, as shown on the statue, says "There they are boys! We beat them today, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow tonight!"

At the age of 81, Stark sent a letter to his fellow soldiers from the Battle of Bennington, in which he wrote, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." That motto became official for NH in 1945.

Stark died at his Derryfield farm in 1822 at the age of 93.

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