Everyone knows about Sherlock Holmes but few know about his younger, smarter brother Mycroft. The same is also true for the Stark brothers. Gen. John Stark is honored with a statue in Concord and another in Washington. His name is also given to a town, a park, a mountain and even a county in Ohio. Every New Hampshire license plate is embellished with John Stark’s stirring toast “Live Free of Die.” Few however know his equally brave brother William.
One historian has written that before the Revolutionary War William Stark was “a much greater man than his brother.” Why has William Stark been forgotten while John Stark is famous? Here are the simple answers: William died young; John survived to reach his 94th birthday — and William was on the wrong side of history.
William Stark was born in 1724 in a small house on Stark Road in Derry, the son of emigrants from Northern Ireland. His brother John was born four years later. The DAR monument on Stark Road honors the site as John’s birthplace without mention of William. In 1736, the house burned down and they moved to the other side of town to a spot that was near the Merrimack River. That house was moved in the 1960s to make way for bridge construction and is now at 2000 Elm Street in Manchester.
In the 1750s, William moved to Starktown — now Dunbarton, N.H. — where his house was used as the meeting house for the next 17 years. On the frontier, the Stark brothers soon gained a reputation as skilled hunters and trappers who ranged all over New Hampshire and Quebec. While hunting in 1754, they were ambush by Indians. William managed to escape but his brother was taken prisoner. John was taken to Montreal where he was eventually ransomed for $103 — the price of a pony.