Location: North River Road
Historic Stark Park is named in honor of New Hampshire’s own hero, General John Stark. General Stark was born in Derry, NH, in 1728. He was kidnapped by the local Abenaki Indians at the young age of twenty four, was forced to run the gauntlet, and was later ransomed for $103. Stark later emerged as a distinguished soldier and indispensable leader in the Revolutionary War by leading the New Hampshire regiments in the famed Battle of Bunker Hill. Unfortunately, Stark was passed over for promotion in the Continental Army due to political enemies. Infuriated with the government, Stark retired from the army for a time and lived with his wife Molly on their farm. However, when the war efforts needed Stark, he was there.
In 1777 General John Stark was given independent command of New Hampshire’s forces at the Battle of Bennington with orders to raise forces for the “annoyance of the enemy.” General Stark’s troops stopped British supplies and troops from connecting with the main army at Saratoga, New York, which led to an American victory later that year. British historian Trevelyan summed it all up when he said, “Bennington proved to be the turning point of the Saratoga campaign, which was the turning point of the war.” It was New Hampshire’s own John Stark that proved a key figure in America’s fight for independence. Stark lived the remainder of his life in Derryfield (modern day Manchester) until his death in 1822 at age 93.
John Stark’s fighting spirit gave words to our state motto in 1809: “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.”
Stark Park is built around the original Stark Burial Plot, on land that was once part of the Stark family farm. This is the resting place of John Stark, his wife, and a few of their children – one can still visit the headstones today. In 1896, this plot of land was expanded to 30 acres and became a neighborhood park and a historic treasure. The “Friends of Stark Park” nonprofit organization is responsible for maintaining the park. In addition to the burial plot, there is a large equestrian statue of the General (dedicated in 1948) and several models of cannons and cannonballs. Recently, the gazebo-style Hecker-Hastings Bandstand was built in 2009, a place where local bands perform concerts year-round (see http://www.friendsofstarkpark.org/ for a schedule of performances). Stark Park also pays tribute to a present-day New Hampshire hero with a memorial bench in memory of Officer Michael L Briggs.
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