Dr. Comfort Starr
Colonist and Ancestor of Floyd Starr
The Starr story begins with this venturesome Dissenter, Dr. Comfort Starr. He was baptized on July 16, 1589, in St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church in Cranbrook, County of Kent. After establishing his practice of medicine, bebecame a parishioner of the Church of St. Mary in nearby Ashford, where he served as warden from 1631 to 1632. But in 1635,increasingly disturbed by the “papal elements” remaining in the Anglican Church, he sailed from Sandwich with his wifeElizabeth, three children, and two servants to seek a more congenial spiritual climate in the New World.
Dr. Starr was forty-six years of age when he and his family arrived at the infant Massachusetts Bay Colony. A man of medicine was most welcome to a community beset by manifold ailments, and soon he was “settled in the northerly part of the town called Boston” and permitted “to cut hey [sic] on the grounds of Captain Standish and William Alden.” Some nine years later he moved his practice into the city, where his name appeared frequently as a witness on wills and as the administrator of estates. When he died at the age of seventy on January 2, 1659, his own estate marked him a man of means who served well as the worthy founder of the Starr line in America. In his honor, the baptismal font in the Chapel-in-the-Woods at the Commonwealth is an exact replica of the one at St. Dunstan’s in England.
The Starr name also figured prominently in the annals of early colonial education. On amemorial plaque in St. Dunstan’s Church in England, dedicated on July 15, 1909, by the Archbishop ofCanterbury, Dr. Comfort Starr is cited as “One of the earliest Benefactors of Harvard, the first College in America.” Moreover, his son and namesake is listed at Harvard as “one of seven Incorporators” of that institution. Upon the occasion of the Commonwealth’s 40th anniversary in 1953, the Secretary to Harvard University, David M. Little, addressed a congratulatory letter toFloyd Starr in which he commented:
It is noteworthy that the direct descendant of Comfort Starr (the son), Tutor in Harvard College from 1648 to 1650, and Fellow in the latter year, should be active in the education of young people nearly three centuries later. Let me offer my felicitations and good wishes.
With so auspicious a past and so fruitful a present, the Starr record in education appears to be slight between those two extremes. No other figure of national staturearose until the present time. Seemingly content with a modest self-sufficiency, successive generations made their way westward into the Midwest of Ohio, the Southwest of Texas, and the Far West ofCalifornia as farmers and entrepreneurs.
Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.