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BIOGRAPHY: Rev. John Wesley Starr August 7, 1809

This biography is also in the book Biographies of Notable and Not-So-Notable: Alabama Pioneers (Volume 1) AND SOME SOUTHERN STARR FAMILIES Compiled Genealogy Records, Notes, Biographies, Census & Sources 



(1808 – 1870)


The history of John Wesley Starr was recorded in the Green County Democrat in 1956. Sadly, his gravesite had been abandoned until my gr-uncle Daniel Snead Cottingham found it in the woods while searching for our Cottingham cemetery. Rev. Wesley Starr, his wife Hannah, and a few of his children are buried a few feet from my Cottingham relatives.

This cemetery is on private property and needs a good deal of care. Cottingham ancestors in Bibb County have tried to maintain it throughout the years.

Rev. John Wesley Starr, was born August 7, 1808, in Wilkes County, Georgia, the son of Joshua (b. October 17, 1778, MD) and Fenton (Melear) Starr (b. Aug. 15, 1777). Joshua Starr moved to Wilkes County, Georgia with his parents when he was around seven or eight years old. The first permanent Methodist church in Georgia was established on Mulberry Fork in Wilkes County before 1800. This was in the area of Starr’s Hill, the settlement of where Joshua resided. Joshua was a Methodist minister and all five of his sons who grew to maturity became ministers and took the Methodist doctrine to Alabama and on to Texas.

“John Wesley Starr became a traveling Methodist preacher. He joined the Georgia Conference in 1826 when he was 20 years old. His first work was Troup Circuit in that state, just across the line from West Point.”

The Newspaper article is from the Green County Democrat, Thursday, 23 Feb 1956 edition. (Contributed by Ouida Starr Woodson of Camden, Alabama)

“Heroes of the Cross–Methodist History” by F. S. Mosley

History of John Wesley Starr

Born August 7, 1806

Wilkes County, Georgia

Died Feb. 2, 1870

Bibb County, Alabama

“In a lonely spot in an old field two or three miles west of  Wesley Chapel, about ten miles Northwest of Centreville, Bibb County, Ala., lie the mortal remains of one Rev. John Wesley Starr, who was one of the Builders of Alabama Methodism, a true soldier of the Cross. To forget our debt to the early circuit riders is to make ourselves unworthy heirs of our great legacy. John Wesley Starr bore the honored name of the founder of Methodism, indicating the esteem in which John Wesley was held by his father, Joshua Starr of Wilkes County, Ga., where John Wesley Starr was born on Aug. 7, 1806. In 1820 John joined the church, and on Sept. 17, 1830 was licensed to preach in Georgia by Rev. Andrew Hamill and joined the Georgia Conference Jan. 2, 1833.

He served LaGrange, Talbotton, Zebulon, Thomaston and Madison Circuits in Georgia before transferring to the Alabama Conference in Dec. 1839, and served Irwinton (Eufaula), Montgomery District (four years), LaFayette (two years), Crawford, Oak Bowery Institute as Agent, Crawford again, Talladega, Lafayette again (two years), Summerfield District (four years), Greensboro, Randolph Circuit in Bibb County, Bibb County Iron Works, Mahans and superannuated 1866, and died in Bibb County, Ala. Feb. 2, 1870.

John Wesley Starr was married Dec. 23, 1824, near Washington, Ga. to Hannah Miller, daughter of John Paul Miller and Elizabeth Shiptrine, who was born Nov. 6, 1808 and died Feb. 16, 1891, at the home of son Dr. Lucius Ernest Starr at Camden, Alabama. Thirteen children were born to John Wesley and Hannah Miller Starr and their descendants are both numerous and useful citizens, many of them being leaders in church and state today. Below is given brief references to some of these descendants.

John Wesley Starr’s first child was Elizabeth Fenton Starr (1826-1862) who married 1848 James Andrew Ray and was mother of David Lorenzo Ray, Elizabeth (Mrs. Wilson Arnold), Emma Lillius (married William R. Byers and A. J. Aderhold, John Ray and Catherine Elizabeth (married 1879 Edward Brooks Mackey). Mrs. E. W. Mcary of Orville faithful member of that church and one of the finest members I ever had as a pastor, is a daughter of the Arnolds (?). Mrs. Warren Webster Barnes, Washington D.C. is a daughter of the Byers.

John Wesley Starr’s second child was Joshua F. Starr (1828-1856) who is buried in what used to be Methodist Holy Ground at Summerfield, Ala. He married 1852 in Talladega, Adaline M. Faire, and left one daughter, Matilda Ann Starr (1852-1921) who married William Jabe Jones and moved to Texas.

John Wesley Starr’s third child was his namesake, John Wesley Starr, Jr., born October 22, 1830 He joined the Alabama Conference in Jan. of 1852 and was assigned to Wesley Chapel (now St. Francis Street Church, Mobile, Ala.) and was pastor there when he died Sept. 20, 1853 of yellow fever, while sticking to his post of duty during an epidemic. A large monument now stands in Magnolia Cemetery, Mobile, honoring the memory of the three martyrs, Augustus H. Powell, Jacob S. Hughes, and John Wesley Starr, Jr., who died the same month of yellow fever.

The fourth child, Sarah Matthews Starr (Dec. 10, 1831- July 18, 1879) married in1 855 at Summerfield, Jacob S. Hansberger and was mother of Mary Catherine (who married Rev. Leander Cotton Calhoun of Alabama Conference 1845-1925), Hannah Elizabeth (who married George Nelson Cooper and was mother of Rev. George Nelson Cooper, Tarrant City), Mrs. Russell Potts; and William Ernest Hansberger (father of Mrs. Frank Chester Smith of Birmingham).

The fifth child, Martha Ann C. Starr died in infancy.

The sixth child, James Wesley Starr (1835-1902) married 1890 Adele Tholozon Bright and had two daughters, Hannah and Elizabeth ( Mrs. A. E. Thayer of Laurel, Miss).

Rev. John Wesley Starr’s seventh Emory Parks Starr, died in infancy.

His eighth child was Dr. Lucius Ernest Starr (March 12, 1838-March 15, 1913) who married 1879 Mary Eloisa Tepper and lived at Camden. His children were Samuel Ernest (who married Bertha Ernestine Smith of Montgomery); Mary Turner (who married Joseph Powell Primm of Camden); and John Paul Starr (who married Lois Eevelyn Arnold), who lived at Camden and had an oil painting of his grandfather, John Wesley Starr.

The ninth child, Mary Francis Starr, (Feb. 4, 1840-August 21, 1919) married 1870 Rev. William Maltbie Winn, (Jun 28, 1847- Nov. 13, 1924), who was educated at Summerfield and Greensboro, Alabama, and joined the Alabama Conference (Mobile Division) in 1869 and served Randolph Circuit, Brush Creek, Whistler, Rembert Hills and Grand Bay Circuit, and superannuated 1880, but in 1884 entered the North George Conference and was a member at his death. One of his sons is Elisha Starr Winn Presbyterian, Fitzgerald, Ga., who has presented the Alabama Conference Historical Society copies of the 1773-1828 and the 1829-1839 Minutes of the Methodist Episcopal Church Annual Conferences, in memory of his father and mother, Rev. and Mrs. William Maltbie Winn, and his grandfather John Wesley Starr. Rev. Archelus Hughes Mitchell 1807-1903 of the Georgia and Alabama Conferences was great uncle of Rev. Elisha Starr Winn, whose son, Rev. William M. Winn, was pastor of Midway-Ocee Methodist Charge, Atlanta.

The tenth child of Rev. J. W. Starr, Wilbur Fisk Starr named for the Bishop by the name, died in the Civil War in 1864, age 22.

The eleventh child was Elbert Soule Starr 1845-1908, who was mayor of Selma 1889-1891 and member of State Legislature 1903-1907, and who married Sallie Ann Bennett and had Estelle who married John William Butterly, who had Rev. Elbert Soule Butterly, Bessemer and Dorothy, wife of Spencer T. Kimbrough both of the North Alabama Conference.

Rev. John Wesley Starr’s twelfth child, William Henry Stephen Starr died young.

The thirteenth child, Catherine “Kittie” H. D. Starr (April 20, 1850 – July 23, 1866) who died at the age of sixteen. (Her grave is near John Wesley Starr and his wife, Hannah in the Cottingham cemetery).

One can hardly estimate the debt we owe to Rev. John Wesley Starr and his descendants, and the least we can do is to preserve the memory of these Heroes of the Cross, these early Circuit Riders, who had so little, but gave so much, and left us our wonderful warm-hearted Methodist Church, which today continues to bless and lift mankind. May we in turn, play our part as well as they did and be worthy of the “well done” from the lips of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

Another biography from Minutes of the Methodist Mobile Conference follows: (Contributed by Ouida Starr Woodson of Camden, Alabama)

“Minutes of the Mobile Conference”, taken from Methodist Church Records, pg. 37-38.  This excerpt is typed as it is published in the above work.

Rev. John Wesley Starr, the subject of this memoir, was born in Wilkes County, Ga., August 7th 1806.  He was the subject of religious impressions at an early period of his life, and at 14 years of age, he professed religion, and attached himself to the M. E. Church, of which he was, ever after, a consistent and working member.  In December 1824 he married a Miss Hannah Miller, with whom he lived very happily for forty-five years. In 1825 he was appointed Class leader by Rev. John Hunter, in which capacity he served the Church with great faithfulness and acceptability for three years, when he was licensed to exhort by Rev. Wm. Steagall.  He continued to labor as an exhorter for two years, when the Church called upon him to preach, and being impressed that this was his duty, he was accordingly licensed to preach by Rev. Andrew Hamill, September 17th, 1830.  He continued to work for the Church, as a local preacher for three years, when in 1833, he was admitted into the Ga. Conference, at its session at LaGrange of that year.   The notes which have been furnished me give the following condensed outline of his work as a traveling preacher:  In ’33 he traveled the LaGrange ct.–’34 Tolberten ct.–’35 Zubulon ct.–’36 ordained Deacon by Bishop Andrew and sent to Thomaston ct.–’37 Madison ct.  At the close of ’37 he was ordained Elder by Bishop Morris and sent to Madison ct.–In ’39 he was transferred to the Alabama Conference and sent to Eufaula, (then called Ironton) where he continued for two years, ’41 and ’42.  In ’43 and ’44 he was on the Montgomery dist.–In ’45 and ’46 LaFayette ct.–’47 Crawford ct.–In ’48 he was superannuated.–In ’49 he was the agent for the Oak Bowery Female Institute.–’50 Crawford ct.–’51 Talladega ct.–’52 and ’53 LaFayette ct.–’54 and ’55 Summerfield station.–’56 Tuscaloosa dist.–’57, ’58, ’59 and ’60 Summerfield dist.–’61 Greenville dist.–’62 Randolph ct.–’63, ’64 and ’65 Bibb Iron Works. In ’66 he was superannuated, in which relation he remained until his death, which took place at his home in Bibb county on February 24, 1870.

The writer of this memoir was intimately acquainted with brother Starr for many years of his life, and he would call attention to what he conceived to be the most striking features in his character.  He was a man of very limited education–indeed, so poorly qualified was he in this respect, that even at the time of his joining the Conference, it was thought by some to be very doubtful whether he could ever succeed. But by devotion to his books and to his work he became a very successful preacher. Nor was his influence confined to the ignorant, for we have heard some of the best-educated people of Alabama speak with admiration of his power as a preacher. Brother Starr was devoted to the church and was an uncompromising Methodist He was ever a friend to his brethren in the ministry. He made it a point in life to govern his family, and his children have grown up useful and influential members of society.

He was remarkable for his devotion to the long established usages of Methodism. He was constant in his attendance upon class meeting and the love feast constituted a most important part of his quarterly meeting exercises. We conclude this notice by an extract from an account of his death written by Rev. Dr. Mitchell

Brother Starr was a great sufferer in the latter part of his life. The sickness of which he died was dropsy of the chest, a most painful and distressing disease. When I last visited him he had just passed through one of these severe paroxysms, which he and all his friends present supposed would be his last, and he said to me with great emphasis: “Brother, I have just been down into the cold stream of death, and after wading around through the waters for some time, yet without fear, I found myself suddenly returning to the same shore which I had left, and I confess to you that I was really sorry for it, for I had rather have gone over at once, but I have come back for some purpose, and here I am to await the good pleasure of my Heavenly Father.” Furthermore, “he said, tell my brethren of the Conference I shall see them no more, and say to them for me, as my last dying testimony, that the old-fashioned doctrine of holiness, as taught by our fathers, is true; it is the doctrine of the Bible, and tell them for me to preach it to the people, but that they need not preach it unless they believe it and love it.” He desired me further, to make known to the church what he considered an important event and incident in his life.  At a certain time in the course of the administration of discipline, he came in open conflict with that worldly liberal view of the subject which claims for young people especially, large license in the way of worldly pleasures, and the pressure from the church, from parents, yes, and from preachers, was so great he backed down and yielded the point and thought his ministry in the early part of his life had at times been attended with great power and unction of the Spirit, he never afterwards had the same power and influence over a congregation.

E. L Loveless

J. Bancroft

A. Dawling

W. A. Edwards

J. S. Moore


Letter from John Wesley Starr, Sr. to John Wesley Starr, Jr.


Oak Bowery, Ala

May 11, 1852


Dear Son,

Your very kind letter of the 6 came to hand on the 10 Inst, and its contents considered. In reply, I say 1st that I know of no place here at present where you can get employment. There are many friends here that would be glad to have you connected with our schools, but at present, there is no vacancy. And I say in the 2nd place that Forsyth is a good place and if the school will pay, I think you had as well take it for the present. We want you at home, but not to your loss.

3rd, I say I do very much desire that you should attend commencement and close up your college course with a speech, but then the expense is too much for you have at present and I think unless you have a good prospect for a school  ahead you had better decline the honor, though you know the influence of such things better than I do. So do as you think best. If you do not get a school in Georgia I think you would do well to come home. At our commencement as everybody will be here and you might strike a streak of light in some direction. If you can come home with the Bishop, I will give you ten or fourteen dollars to have expenses and take you back to commencement in July. We are glad to hear of Aunts improvement. All well and now I must close as I have to preach today at Newhope and it is now 9 o cl, all well. May the light of God guide you into all truths and give you success in all things.

Your Father and Mother to their son Jack.

I think you had better get your diploma.

Letter postmarked Oak Bowery, Ala, May 12, 1852

Addressed to J.W. Starr, Jr., Emory, Oxford, Georgia



  1. Cottingham Cemetery Bibb County, Alabama
  2. Letter From Lucius Ernest Starr
  3. “Heroes of the Cross: History of John Wesley Starr” by F. S. Moseley, AL Christian Advocate, page 10, 13 DEC 1955 issue.
  4. Obituary in THE SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE, Vol. 33 No. 16, April 22, 1870, page 64
  5. The Bible record records children’s births, deaths and marriages -Old southern Bible records: transcriptions of births, deaths, and marriages …By Memory Lee Alldredge Lester
  6. Find A Grave Memorial# 41500206 # 41500122 # 44044167 # 48202559 #75910054 # 41500206 #41498113 #41497979 #54529604 #54529604 #54529525 #53441891 #54659386 #54659366 #23855780 # 23855721 #41500267

This biography as well as many others can be found in 

Biographies of Notable and Not-so-Notable Alabama Pioneers Vol. I


 SOME SOUTHERN STARR FAMILIES Compiled Genealogy Records, Notes, Biographies, Census & Sources 

Biographies of Notable and Not-So-Notable: Alabama Pioneers (Volume 1)

SOME SOUTHERN STARR FAMILIES Compiled Genealogy Records, Notes, Biographies, Census

Biographies of Notable and Not-So-Notable: Alabama Pioneers (Volume 1) (Paperback)

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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