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Posted By: Mona Sarratt Knight (email)
Date: 8/1/2009 at 20:20:33

SOURCE: Biographical and Genealogical History of Appanoose and Monroe Counties, Iowa; Lewis Publishing Co., 1903.

DAVID THORNTON STARK. A visitor to Moravia, Iowa, who calls at a certain farmhouse on a tract of land adjoining the village on the south will get acquainted with samples of the very best afforded by American rural life, and see a specimen of the agricultural development of the United States which is the wonder of the world. The recent owner of this farm was a man who came to Iowa in the year that saw its admission into the Union as a state, and whose career therefore covered the whole of that period which has seen this great commonwealth develop from raw prairie land to leadership in farm products among all the states of the Union. He and his good wife grew up with this western state, and at every step of its progress were found doing their full share toward accomplishing its manifest destiny. Each commenced life poor and knew what it was to work and work hard. Each was one of a large family and compelled by circumstances to do drudgery of the most grinding kind when, under happier auspices, they would have been at school or play. Knowing misfortune and hardships, equally inured to privation and care, they joined hands together when those hands were practically their only reliance, and side by side they struggled and hoped and prayed until fortune at length smiled upon them, with the result that they were able to spend the evening of their lives in one of the happiest homes that is to be found in all the region around.

When David and Edith Stark came from their southern home to Indiana, there was little in the prospect that was pleasing. It was early in the nineteenth century, when the Hoosier state was still enveloped in its massive forests of walnut, oak, and beech, when comparatively little land had been cleared, and when the task before the agricultural pioneer was little less than appalling. But the Starks set resolutely to work like so many others of their courageous compatriots, and somehow or other, by hook or by crook, managed to grub out a living from the reluctant surroundings. In the course of time, the first comers were gathered to their fathers, but a son was left to represent them and perpetuate the family name. When Caleb Stark grew up, he married Rhoda Burney, and lived some years thereafter in his native state, but after repeated discussions around the family fireside, it was decided that they could do better by moving farther west. So, in 1846, the very year in which Iowa was made a state of the Union, this little caravan might have been seen wending their way toward the setting sun to cast their destiny with the new commonwealth just emerging into existence on the banks of the Mississippi. One of this party was David Thornton Stark, who had been born in Scott county, Indiana, in September, 1837, and was consequently at that time only nine years old. With a boy’s freshness and watchfulness, however, he well remembered that trip and often loved to tell about its incidents in after years. In due time the emigrants reached Iowa, and shortly thereafter settled on a farm in Appanoose county, in the vicinity of what is now Walnut City. But within one year after their arrival, a great and what, under the circumstances seemed an irreparable calamity fell upon the little family from the Hoosier state. The father fell sick, and after lingering a short while was carried away in the very prime of life, before he had reached his fortieth year. This blow seemed to be irremediable, but the widow and the little ones braced themselves for the inevitable, and by dint of a desperate struggle managed at last to pull through. Foremost among the little workers who strained every nerve to help his mother was David Thornton, and many a time in later life he told of the hardships of those trying times. He worked hard and he worked late, he worked at home and he worked for others. He found out what it was to be a hired boy for exacting neighbors, who hustled him out of bed to eat breakfast by candle light, then to the barn to feed the stock, later to the field for a hard day’s work, back to the house to do chores, and to bed thoroughly exhausted by the day’s labor. This routine, begun at ten or twelve years of age, went on for some years, his compensation being a mere pittance went to help mother, and David was satisfied. So things ran along until he began to think of marrying, his choice falling upon a neighboring girl of great worth, who also knew what it was to work for a living. Sarah Burrows was the daughter of William and Margaret Burrows, the former of North Carolina, and the latter of Tennessee, who had married early in life and settled in Lee county, Iowa. There were eleven children in this family, nine of whom are yet living, and as they were poor, Sarah had to assist from early girlhood in keeping the wolf from the door. She and David Thornton Stark, therefore, were kindred spirits and knew how to sympathize with each other when, after their marriage, March 10, 1858, they “set up housekeeping” on a rented farm. Their only capital was willing hands, good health, and ambition to succeed, backed by mutual love and confidence in each other. The struggle was a hard one during the years they lived on rented places, but by the closest kind of economy they managed to save some money for a rainy day. With this, Mr. Stark found a chance to buy at a bargain eighty acres of land that was sold at sheriff’s sale, paying half in cash and the rest at the end of the year. This tract, which lay near Walnut City, on the west, proved the starter or nest egg, and from that time on affairs went more smoothly with our worthy friends. Prosperity smiled upon them, and a few years later, Mr. Stark traded his little place for a larger farm lying between Moravia and Iconium. This he afterward disposed of to advantage and purchased the Putnam farm in the same vicinity, which in turn was traded to his son-in-law for three small tracts near Moravia. Those he rented to different parties and retired to Moravia, where he engaged in the stock business and took things more easily for some years. Being at least in easy circumstances, he bought the fine farm adjoining Moravia on the south, and in 1898 built the handsome house in which he and his faithful wife made their home and enjoyed comparative leisure after their arduous lives of labor and self-sacrifice. The venerable father of Mrs. Stark was affectionately cared for by his daughter and son-in-law until his eyes were closed in death, at the age of eighty-three years. Her mother went to live with a daughter in Missouri, where she was tenderly looked after until her earthly pilgrimage was ended, in the sixty-seventh year of her age.

Mrs. Stark has been an active member of the Christian church for more than twenty years, and she and her husband were regarded as pillars and mainstays in the Sunday school and other religious work. None contributed more liberally than he toward the building of churches and spreading the gospel throughout Appanoose county, and his exemplary Christian life is an inspiration for the rising generation. In politics, while never an office seeker, Mr. Stark was always loyal to the principles of the Democratic party and cast his first presidential vote for Stephan A. Douglas, when the “Little Giant” was making his race against Lincoln in the memorable campaign of 1860. A few additional words as to the children of Mr. and Mrs. Stark will fitly close this narrative. Rhoda J., their eldest daughter, married happily Harlan Scott, but died at the early age of thirty-five years after becoming the mother of six children: Mary A., the second daughter, married Noble Main and also has six children; William, the eldest son, has a family consisting of a wife and one child; James has had three children, but lost one by death. This record of Mr. Stark’s prominence in his community and his worthy and useful life of sixty-five years will indicate how deep was the loss to his wife, family, and friends when, on the 26th of January 1903, he was called to his final rest, after a life whose influence will be felt in the future generation.


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