William Stark was solidly on the patriot side and soon applied for command of an army to protect the northern border and capture the city of Quebec. Because of his experiences in the French and Indian War there was no one who more qualified for that position then Stark. The New Hampshire government saw fit however to award the command to a politically connected soldier who had formerly been one of Stark’s lieutenants. This act of disrespect and idiocy infuriated William Stark. He rode to the British line and became a colonel in the king’s army. This action was very upsetting to his brother, patriot Gen. John Stark. When hearing about his brother leaving the state, John Stark said that leaving was “the best thing he ever did!”
During the war William Stark served in the defense of New York City. The government of New Hampshire confiscated all of his property consisting of thousands of acres of farm and forest land. The date of his death is not known with any exactness. Some reports say he died falling from a horse during a polo match during the war. The sources however, do not agree on the year of his death. From five different books I find that Col. William Stark died in 1776, 1777, 1781, 1782 and 1817. Maybe if I keep researching I’ll find a report that he’s presently living in a Derry nursing home, age 289.
If the state had given William Stark his well deserved commission in 1776, maybe he’d have stayed loyal to the patriot cause. He would likely have served with distinction and might well have come out of the Revolutionary War as a bigger hero then his brother John. If that had happen we might have a quotation by William Stark on our license plates. If the British had won the Revolutionary War, John Stark would probably be called a traitor and William Stark a man of honor. Twenty years ago, the portraits of William and John Stark in the New Hampshire Room in the Derry Library were given by my family and Topper Hamblet.
Rick Holmes is the official town historian of Derry. His office hours at the Municipal Center are Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. Several of his books on local history are available at Mack’s Apples and Derry’s libraries.