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Christopher "Cristopher Starky" Storkey
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Birth: Aug. 9, 1801
Delaware County
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: Mar. 26, 1877
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA

"From this day on, I own my father's gun
We dug his shallow grave beneath the sun..."

-- "My Father's Gun", by Elton John, from Tumbleweed Connection

Christopher seems to have had no son, but his gun remains in our family.

Even with the spelling of this last name in question right now, Cristopher is definitely part of my family. City death records spell his name "Starky" which echoes the family's probable original spelling of Starky/Starkey. A local historical society has records from this cemetery and they show him as "Storky". This makes sense, in that it seems our Storkey branch switched to this spelling of the name once they came north from Delaware County into Philadelphia. Prior to that they seem to have sometimes been Starkeys, and there's a bunch of them spelled this latter way in Stony Bank Methodist Cemetery. In any case, it seems Chris did not come north til late in his life, and perhaps did not change his surname.

Whatever spelling you choose, this gent is of my line. How he is related has only recently become clear. His memory in our family is preserved by a firearm. He's a hard man to find except for two census listings and a death certificate. He seems to have left a thin trail of his life, perhaps unmarried and with no kids, few records, but by God, he had a gun.

My uncle owns the handsome old muzzle-loading musket given to him by his father. On the lock is metal plating stating "R & WC Biddle", which was a Philadelphia firm that made hardware, knives and gun locks. The American Gunsmith's guide says they made locks from 1847 to 1861, so the lock itself falls into those years. The rest of the piece may have been older and given a new lock, or younger and given an older lock. At any rate, back in those times it wasn't unusual for the barrels to be made along the banks of the Wyomissing (Berks County) and the locks to come from elsewhere.

The story goes that "Uncle Chris" brought the musket "up from down south". No one had been clear on if "down south" was the US south, as in, perhaps Chris brought the musket back from service in the Civil War, or if he brought it up from "down south" in Pennsylvania, as our family had US roots in Delaware and Chester Counties, Glen Mills/Thornbury/Aston. Based on Chris' age shown below, it seems most unlikely he served in the Civil War. Not much is yet known of his life while down there. Chris was a farmer in his younger years. A Delaware County record exists of a civil lawsuit between plaintiff Chris (as "Starkey") and a Thomas, J. Preston that occurred in May 1863.

Wherever the musket came from, it's clear this is our Chris. All the details fit in that he was born in Delaware County, his name is right, and he is buried with the family in Leverington Cemetery. An additional matching detail is that Chris' last address was "Summit Ave. near Township Line". I'm suspecting this today would be Summit at Old Line Road. (This is not too far from Erdenheim Farm, the last vestige of farming in the metro-Philadelphia area, and what a beautiful area it is too.)

My great grandfather William (his nephew, who would have called him Uncle Chris) was born on Summit Avenue in Roxborough. It is he who told his son, my grandpa, that "Uncle Chris" brought the gun. It seems Uncle Chris lived with William's father. The 1870 census shows a 69 year old Christopher in the household which makes him the perfect age.

It is still unclear for certain how Chris connects. That my great grandpa called him "Uncle Chris" suggests he was a brother to my great great grandpa William, but their ages are rather disparate, with Chris born about 1801 and William born about 1824, though they could still be brothers. There is (on the same 1870 census) an Abraham Starkey in Concordville, Delaware County, who was born about 1802 - perhaps another brother, or cousin.

The most workable scenario: In that 1870 census, 69 year old Chris is living with a nephew, and not a brother. The William he is living with is likely the son of Chris' probable brother William who was born in 1794, a much more likely age to have been a brother, just 7 years apart.

Chris' other census listing: in 1860 in Concordville PA, he's age 59 as Chris Starkey, working as a farm laborer with Nathaniel Pratt (a farmer and blacksmith). Unless Chris was just hired labor, perhaps Pratt's wife Susan is Chris' sister. Interestingly, Chris' possible brother Abram or Abraham in 1870 is working with a Henry B. Pratt, very possibly Nathaniel's son.

Below is data from Chris' death certificate:

Cristopher Starky
Death Date: 26 Mar 1877
Death Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Gender: Male
Race: white
Death Age: 76 years
Estimated Birth Year: 1801
Birth Date:
Birthplace: Delaware Co., Pa.
Marital Status: Single
Spouse's Name:
Father's Name:
Father's Birthplace:
Mother's Name:
Mother's Birthplace:
Occupation: Farmer
Street Address: Summit Ave. near Township Line
Place of Residence:
Cemetery: Leverington
Burial Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Burial Date: 29 Mar 1877
Additional Relatives:
Film Number: 2027864
Digital Folder Number: 4058584
Image Number: 466

A city listing of deaths was found in September 2012 confirming the above, but adding two things. Chris' doctor was B. R. Beltz (possibly Butz).

His listed cause of death in city records was "paralysis", the very thing noted on the death certificate of his brother William, who died before him. Medically however, this is not accurate - paralysis is a condition of the body with many possible causes, not a mortal disease. Paralysis might be indicative of a stroke, though it might be more likely to be noted on a death certificate as "apoplexy". One might experience paralysis as a result of multiple sclerosis, spinal injury, even syphilis, which carried a hugely different connotation back in the 1800's when even babies were born with it, than it does today. Botulism (from food or an infection), vitamin deficiency, polio or post-polio syndrome could also be causes of paralisis, as can alcoholism or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). Still, that both brothers experienced paralysis near their ends suggests a possible common cause, which in my mind, points back to a possible stroke.

Chris' stone was noted in a cemetery survey done in 1992 to be in poor condition. I still hold out hope a picture of it might be found.
Leverington Cemetery
Philadelphia County
Pennsylvania, USA
Plot: Lot 4 Section 6 Division C thanks to Donna.
Created by: sr/ks
Record added: Jul 11, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 73186511
Christopher Cristopher Starky Storkey
Added by: sr/ks
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- sr/ks
 Added: Oct. 24, 2012
To Uncle Chris.
- sr/ks
 Added: Jul. 11, 2011

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