In 1774, Stark was originally granted with the name of "Piercy" but was renamed "Stark" in 1832, after General John Stark who wrote the words that became New Hampshire's motto "Live Free or Die".
On August 14, 1774, the land now known as the town of Stark was established as the town of Piercy via a grant from King George III to a group of 78 grantees. The grant of 24,496 acres was subject to several conditions including creating roads, preserving large pine trees for ships masts, creation of 1-acre lots near the center of town, payment of an annual proclamation tax, planting and cultivation of at least 10% of the land granted as farmland and the growing hemp or flax if the soil permits.
Little was done for the next few years due to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the fighting that followed. In 1779 there was a meeting of the grantees and they decided to cut a road from the Connecticut River in Northumberland to the center of Stark and a tax of $12.00 was assessed on each grantee to cover expenses. Some of the grantees began to lose interest in the town and sold their shares to settle in other places.
In 1783, an agreement with nine men was made for each of them to clear 5 acres of land by fall and to cultivate that land during the following summer. In exchange for their labor, each man would receive 120 acres of uplands with 10 acres of interval land (alongside the river).
In 1787 there was an agreement made to build a saw and grist mill in exchange for 220 acres of uplands and 30 acres of interval land.
During this time, there is no written record of a road being constructed but in 1789 there was a vote to assess the grantees $12.00 per share to complete the road.
King George III who reigned from 1760 to 1820
On May 10, 1791, the settlers in town petitioned the General Court that they be incorporated as a township. This request was granted on January 9, 1795 when a bill was passed by the House of Representatives, enacted by the Senate and approved by Governor J. T. Gilman that this petition took the desired effect. The town held its first meeting on January 26, 1795 and elected their first Town Moderator, Town Clerk and Selectmen.
By the early 1800’s, the town’s name had been shortened to Percy. The town’s boundary lines were changed several times to facilitate the ability of settlers to vote.
On June 21, 1832, a tract of land at the southeastern tip of Stratford was annexed to Percy due to the geography of the area. It was closer and easier for the settlers in this area to vote at Percy instead of crossing over the mountains to vote in Stratford.
On December 21, 1832, 5,000 acres of land known as Winslow’s Location that was mentioned in the original Piercy grant settled to some extent, but not incorporated so it was annexed to Percy since that was the closest town.
On December 28, 1832, a bill was passed to change the town name of Percy to Stark in honor of General John Stark who had died 10 years earlier.
On December 4, 1840 some of the land at the southwestern corner of Stark was annexed to Lancaster and Northumberland again to facilitate voting for those settlers.
In 1852, the railroad came through Stark and reached Groveton as part of a plan to connect Portland Maine to Montreal Quebec. The next 70 years were boom years for Stark with logging being done, mills being built and finished lumber being shipped out via the railroad. By the 1930’s, the timber was gone and farming again became the predominant occupation in the area.
An early map of Stark NH with some of the additions and subtractions of lots with surrounding towns.
The town of Stark was named after General John Stark who fought in several significant battles during the French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution.
During the revolutionary war, he and his men fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill, the Invasion of Canada, the Battle of Trenton, the Battle of Princeton and the Battle of Bennington. Without the efforts of him and his men, the outcome of the Revolutionary War may have been very different.
John Stark has several notable quotes, but the his most infamous quote which inspired the New Hampshire State slogan came from a letter to a group of fellow veterans in response to an invitation to commemorate the Battle of Bennington. He was not well enough to travel so he wrote a letter that ended with:
" I am now the friend of the equal rights of men, of representative democracy, of republicanism and the Declaration of Independence, the great charter of our national rights; and of course the friend of the indissoluble union and Constitution of the states. I am the enemy of all foreign influence, for all foreign influence is the influence of tyranny. This is the only chosen spot of liberty-this is the only republic on earth." "Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils."
Statue of General John Stark in the center of Stark, NH
Plaque at the bottom of the statue of General John Stark and one of his famous quotes from the battle of Bennington, VT
Funding for the park where the statute is displayed was provided by the Stark Improvement Fund
There are also several great books that have been written about John Stark that are well worth reading. For a quick summary of his military career, click on the link below to be connected to the John Stark Wikipedia page.
The above information was reproduced from various chapters of “The History of Stark New Hampshire” published in 1974.