John Pinkston Starr John Pinkston Starr

John Pinkston Starr (1849-1909)

Compiled and copyrighted January 2013 by Linda Sparks Starr

John Pinkston Starr, born 27 August 1849 in what is now Spalding County, Georgia, to John Henry and Mary (Elder) Starr, was the tenth of fourteen children (one set of twins). His mother died spring 1864 and his father married again that fall. Four half-siblings arrived in the next ten years. Additionally, several cousins lived nearby, all providing John with many diversions.
Only twelve years old in 1861, John could only stand and watch as his older brothers and numerous cousins plus a few uncles marched off to war. Life for him that first year or two probably was changed only by the chores now expected of him; many once assigned to older siblings were now his.  His name doesn’t appear on any list of soldiers found in the Georgia State Archives; but his granddaughter, Alice (Starr) Schisler, was insistent his beard covered a hole in his cheek from a bullet wound received in combat.  An archivist concluded he probably served near the end of the conflict during the fighting around Atlanta. By then the Confederate Army was conscripting anyone who could hold a rifle, but weren’t taking time to add names to muster rolls.

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Martha Alice Griffin [name as given in both the J.P. Starr and Wm. Griffin Bible records] was born 7 January 1853, the seventh of eleven children of William and Martha (Ogletree) Griffin.  (Her father was not the Baptist minister of same name and also resident of the area.) When very young, she joined the M.E. Church South at County Line Church. [per obituary that gives her name Alice E. (Griffin) Starr]  This is the church founded by John’s father, both his grandfathers, and other family members and neighbors.  Thus John and Alice knew each other all their lives.  However, it was Shiloh Methodist Church in Sunnyside, Georgia, where she married John P. Starr  10 October 1875.  The name Shiloh was later changed to Sunnyside Methodist. All Dock’s children and the first four of his grandchildren, were baptized in this church during his lifetime.


An example that genealogical tidbits are found in unlikely places is the April 1925 letter from John’s half-brother, William “Willie” Starr, to Alice’s brother, W. B. Griffin.  Willie wanted corroboration of the Starr-Griffin marriage date provided by their son, Harry Starr.  Willie noted that Harry thought his parents wed the 25th of October “but I don’t think this is correct as my father died the 18th of October 1875 and I remember going with him to Dock and Alyce’s wedding at Shiloh.”  Willie thus gives us John’s nickname, “Dock,” and the fact John Henry attended the wedding.  This latter knowledge is important, for only eight days after the nuptials Willie and Dock’s father died.


Even though John Henry Starr (1812-1875) left a young widow and four small children, his will gave land to all but two of his seventeen children.  John’s portion was 50 acres adjoining William Griffin plus $900. The amount of land was less than others received, but few received land AND money.  Georgia was still struggling to overcome the devastation of the War, and cash was in short supply. It seems likely the money was intended for John’s medical studies.

Dock and Alice’s only child,  Harry (no middle name),  was born 26 September 1876 in Sunnyside.  Alice reportedly [per her obituary] was still a picture of health but she had already been infected with tuberculosis.  She lost one sister to “consumption” in the fall of 1876, then another sister, followed quickly by their mother, before the end of 1877.  Early in 1878 Dock moved his family to Florida where he hoped the change in climate would reverse, or at least slow, the progression of her disease. It was to no avail. Alice died in Sanford, Florida 25 March 1878.

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2 For Dock and his young son there was no reason to remain in Florida, but there were several reasons to return to Georgia. Harry’s maternal Aunt Mary (Griffin) Tucker gladly took charge of Harry, now a toddler,  allowing John to concentrate on his medical studies in Atlanta. Mary’s son, Adolphus Tucker, was born the day John and Alice married.  Thus the two boys, so close in age, were more like twins than cousins.  According to AMA records Dr. John Pinkston Starr received his medical degree from the Atlanta Medical College in 1879.

Dock’s granddaughter, Alice (Starr) Schisler, repeatedly stated he studied medicine in Philadelphia.  The assumption became he received his degree from a Philadelphia Medical College.  John P. was in Philadelphia February 1876, but as noted above he didn’t receive his degree there. Perhaps he was training in some specialty?  A small Victorian-era valentine card, tucked between two larger papers and thus easily overlooked, was found after Alice Schisler’s death.  She had mentioned the valentine several times but thought it “lost with some of Helen’s things.”  The note on the reverse side was probably written by Mary Tucker:  “To Harry This valentine was sent by your father to your mother in 1876 when he was in Philadelphia this 1882.”

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Dock set up his medical practice in Sunnyside, Georgia.  Sunnyside was a small community and most medical doctors in this era had a business on the side that helped support their families. He opened a general store. Between managing the store and delivering babies or tending the ill, Dock had little time for his growing son.  This was fine with Harry and Adolphus  who had the run of two houses and perhaps the store as well.  Dock’s days were presumably busy but in time he decided to fill the void in his life by remarrying. On 14 June 1885 he wed Katie Orr in Sunnyside.

[Personal disclaimer:  I’ve not personally researched Katie Orr’s life nor that of her children; what appears here comes from Harry’s side of the family. Understandably there was tension between Harry and his stepmother, if only because there was so little difference in their ages. At the time of the marriage, Katie was 16 and Harry 9 years old.  After Harry’s move to Oklahoma and Dock’s death, several years went by with no contact between the two families. Willie’s 1925 request for family information opened the door and we have Harry's account. After Katie’s death in 1934 the surviving half-siblings enjoyed visits over the next several years in each others’ homes. In 1975 my husband, his parents and I were privileged to meet Uncle [to Harry's children] Henry and “Miss Bettina” in their son’s Macon, Georgia,  home.]

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Smithville, OK, 1947, left to right: Harry, Nellie, Ella Mae and Henry     /     Harry, Nellie, Pauline, Ella Mae, Bettina, Alice and Henry
Pauline is Harry's wife. Bettina is Henry's wife. Alice is the eldest daughter of Harry and Pauline.

k Information on how Dock and Katie met did not come down through Harry’s side of the family. Dock was 36 years old and Katie sixteen when they married  14 June 1885 at Sunnyside. According to Harry’s son, Jack:  “From this time forward Harry lived with the Tuckers full time.”  Later on Harry was sent to a prep or high school in Calhoun, Georgia noted for having one of the best math teachers in Georgia. Removing one party is one way to ease tension in a household; but this turned out to be the best thing that happened to Harry.  He used the math skills learned in Calhoun through his entire working years, plus he met his future wife in the bargain.

Dock and Katie had four children in nine years:   John Henry “Henry” born 23 January 1886;  Nellie Elsie 23 May 1887 (or 1888); Robert Carlisle “Carl” 7 May 1889 and  Myrle Amelia  born 7 January 1894. We owe a debt of gratitude to Henry for his efforts in compiling family information.

Spalding County land records reflect  John P. Starr had interest in several small tracts of land, and most included a mortgage.  My guess is the lease to farm these tracts barely covered the mortgage payment.  In this period it was common for people to pay bills at trading stores and doctor’s offices with chickens, eggs, fruit or vegetables. An occasional payment of a hind-quarter of beef or pork might have made its way to the store shelf or Starr table. Though times were difficult for most everyone, this family probably lived as well as their neighbors.  They may have worried about paying bills, but were always able to do so.

After graduation Harry traveled to Texas to visit family. While there he was stricken by war fever and enlisted for service in the Spanish American War.  After his enlistment ended, he returned to Sunnyside where he caught up with his various friends and cousins.  But he hadn't forgotten the girl he had left in Calhoun He and Pauline Rankin married November 1900.  By September 1901 they were living in Sunnyside for Dock delivered his first grandchild that day. Named for her two grandmothers, Alice Margaret Starr always enjoyed sharing her many Georgia memories. Although probably not connected to Harry’s return to Sunnyside, it was about this time Dock and Katie’s eldest son, Henry, then fifteen, “ran away to the big city” (Atlanta) as he related in a 1976 newspaper article on the occasion of his 69th wedding anniversary.
Katie T. (Orr) Starr       

In this photo, Harry (in uniform) poses
with four of his cousins.
Top left: Dolphus Tucker, who grew up with Harry;
Center: Ed Elder;
Top right: _______ Malair/Melear;
Bottom right: Jack Moore.
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Dock and Harry agreed to share responsibility for the store. Presumably, Harry would oversee the store's day to day operation and Dock provided advice and any extra money needed when ordering inventory. Store profits were perhaps divided between the two rapidly growing families.  Harry’s next three children were born in Sunnyside, all reportedly delivered by their grandfather.  Dock and Katie’s youngest daughter and fifth child, Ella Mae, was born 30 April 1905. By that time Harry and Pauline had three children and a fourth would soon arrive.

Harry and Pauline were not happy with the overall situation and knew it was up to them to change things. According to Alice (Starr) Schisler, they moved to Calhoun when she was four and one-half years old (or late fall 1905 after the birth of Pauline Estelle.  At the urging of one brother-in-law, Harry tried his hand as a salesman or “drummer” as salesmen were then called. Neither he nor Pauline liked his absence from home for days at a time.  Sometime in 1906 they took Pauline’s brother’s advice and moved west to what was then Indian Territory.  Her parents were totally against the move; we failed to ask Alice if she knew what Dock thought about it.

Around 7 p.m. Friday evening  25 June 1909 Dock died of a heart attack while milking the family cow.  He was 59 years old and his youngest daughter was only four.  Funeral services were the next afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Sunny Side Methodist Church. He was buried in the adjoining church cemetery.

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Dock’s estate records show the widow Katie Starr struggled to pay monthly bills plus setting “something” aside towards payment of the numerous loans on those small tracts of land he’d purchased as investments. Katie Theresa (Orr) Starr died 4 May 1934 and is buried next to her husband.

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Children born to Dr. John Pinkston and Katie Starr:

John Henry Starr (1886-1977) and Miss Bettina Marie Sylvestro

According to the 1976 newspaper account published at the time of their 69th anniversary:  “John Henry Starr was just a poor, 15 year old Georgia farm boy when he ran away to the big city. [Atlanta]  He found a job running elevators ... In 1906 Starr came to Macon to help install elevators in the new Grand Opera House building ... He met darkly attractive Bettina Silvestro, the daughter of Italian immigrants who ran a general store at the corner of Mulberry and Second Streets.”  They married 22 December 1907 in Macon.

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The Macon Telegraph 16 February 1909 issue reports J. H. Starr  was injured while repairing the elevator at the Empire Store on Third Street.  His upper torso was inside the elevator shaft, when miscommunication with workers above sent the elevator’s heavy weight balance into a rapid descent. A fellow worker grabbed Starr  which kept him from falling to the basement. Starr was taken to the home of his mother-in-law where a physician dressed his injuries. Although badly bruised about the head and shoulders, he was reported resting easy that evening.

John Henry Starr founded the Starr Electric Company in Macon which his two sons took over when he semi-retired.  We have fond memories of meeting in 1975 Uncle Henry and "Miss Bettina" – as he referred to her.  During our visit, she sat in a dining chair, her back never once touching the chairback. What made this more amazing was she’d gotten out of her sick bed, dressed as if going out, and then sat thusly throughout our visit. Oh, the questions we now wish we’d asked Uncle Henry that day!

Nellie Elsie Starr 1888-1967 and John Frank Kenner

They were married 16 July 1910 in Atlanta, Georgia by Presbyterian minister Rev. D. H. Ogden.  They had four children.  They were living in  Hopewell, Virginia at the time of her death.  The obituary from the Hopewell Newspaper, 18 September 1967 issue, says in part:  Mrs. Nellie E. Kenner, 80, died early today in a Richmond hospital following a period of declining health.... she was a member of First Methodist church and a life member of the Virginia Conference, Woman’s Society of Christian Service.  She was past president of the Hopewell Rebeckah Lodge 56, a member of Pythian Sisters and a member of Daughters of America.  Besides her husband she is survived by three daughters ... one sister, one brother, 8 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.  She is buried in Appomattox Cemetery. Click here for additional information recorded by Nellie.

Robert Carlisle “Carl” Starr 1889-1961 and Anna Thelma Orcutt

In a letter from Gladys (Starr) Campbell Sunday 23 December (year not given):  “Carl lived in Tulsa and when he retired, moved to Lake Ft. Gibson and is buried in that area. He came to Smithville several times. He was head of Otis Elevator Co. in Tulsa and Helen worked for him for awhile.“  Carl married Anna Thelma Orcutt 24 April 1920 at Sherman, Texas.  No issue.

Carl and Anna
Photographed at Carl's funeral: niece Helen (Starr) Wade, brother Henry Starr, nephew Harry Starr Jr., and niece Alice Starr.

Two obituaries for him differ in a few details.  One obit says he arrived in Tulsa in 1925 and  worked as a mechanic. After working for the Otis Elevator Co., he formed his own company.  One obit says it was Shephard Elevator Co. and the other obit says Starr Elevator Co. which became Harper Elevator Service Co.  Both agree that Carl and Anna settled in Texas after his retirement in 1948, but one does mention Ft. Gibson in passing.  Several postcards of various places in Texas sent by Carl to Harry and Pauline survive.  Even though Carl died at Uvalde, Texas, his funeral was held at the Coweta (Oklahoma) Methodist Church and he was buried in the Coweta Cemetery.  One obituary adds he was a cousin of Tulsa World Sunday Magazine columnist Fred Starr.  (They were distant cousins.) It also states his widow, "Ann", was a granddaughter of Alvin T. Hodge, Judge, in the Creek Nation.  They are buried at Coweta on land her family once owned.   

In this document Anna’s mother is discussed with mention of her eldest daughter Anna Starr:

For biographical information about Alvin T.  Hodge  and others:

Myrle Amelia Starr 1894-1934 and Henry Arnold Weems

Myrle Starr and Henry Arnold “Arnie” Weems were married in Atlanta, George 20 March 1910 by the Rev. Schafer.  Tragically, Myrle Starr,  Arnold  and their daughter Anne Elsie Weems were killed in a car-train accident 25 March 1934 near Hampton, Georgia.  According to newspaper accounts, they had just visited her mother in Sunnyside “who is on her deathbed” and were going to Hampton to visit Arnold’s brother.  Arnold was a yard conductor for the Georgia Railroad. Two children survived.

Ella Mae Starr 1905 - after 1976 and Edwin Julian

Little is known about this couple other than that they lived in Johnson City, Tennessee and she was alive in spring 1976. [letter from Uncle Henry Starr to Helen (Starr) Wade.]

Siblings Ella Mae, Henry and Nellie on steps of Katie's home in Sunnyside

Linda Sparks Starr    copyright (c)  2013