Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Starling Gunn Article by Tom Henderson (1956)

The Reidsville Review
19 April 1956

"Echoes From the Corridors of Time"
By Tom Henderson

I wish I had written this! I do not know who wrote it, but he was a scholar.

Seldom have I read such a beautiful pen-picture of a Revolutionary War soldier who was born almost 200 years ago. His old homestead and his family burial ground are just a mile, as the crow flies, from my own home. On several occasions I have crawled through the honeysuckles, locust trees and bramble briars, to copy the inscription on his tombstone. He is the soldier who "fired the first cannon at Yorktown." I knew personally two of his sons - and all of their children.

He was the great-grandfather of the former Miss Lillie Pinnix who married "Cap" Carey Howard King, of "Gentleman's Ridge" or "Rock Academy School," nearby "Hogan's Creek" and "Killquick," the Caswell couple which last week celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. She was born almost in eyesight of my home - where now resides Mrs. Mary (Slade) Hodges, widow of Lynwood Fielding Hodges, who died last year.

This record, preserved for all time on film and in a "Miscellaneous Records" in the fire-proof office of the Register of Deeds of Caswell, is but another evidence of the invaluable services, beyond the call of duty, of Register John Burch Blaylock.

Sterling (Starling) Gunn

The following newspaper notice of death is posted in front part of Book HH, in the Caswell County Registry.

Another Patriot of the Revolution is Gone!

Died, in Caswell, on the 13th of August, Sterling (Starling) Gunn; Mr. Gunn was born in Notoway County, Virginia, the 9th day of May, 1764, and at an early age joined the American Army, and rendered the services of a true and brave soldier until peace was declared. - He was under command of Marquis Lafayette at the surrender of Cornwallis, and assisted in placing and firing the first gun upon the British at Yorktown. For his good services and conduct he was rendered by a command in his company. - Having passed some of his best years as a soldier, in striving to obtain the unmeasured blessing of freedom, he ever seemed to feel that it was a high obligation upon him to exercise all the privileges and perform all the duties of a citizen. He rarely if ever failed to go to the polls to express his choice of views by his vote, and though of such an advanced age, yet at our last elections his venerable person was to be seen at the ballot box exercising that right which is as powerful in the preservation of liberty as the cartridge box was in securing it.

Kind in his manner, and playful in his disposition, all who approached him felt their attachment deepened and their reverence heightened for the gray-haired soldier and patriarch.

For fifty years he was a pious and exemplary member of the Methodist Church, and his whole life was in harmony with his holy profession, so was his death a perfect manifestation of the Divine feelings that dwelt within him. He saw the shadow of the wing of death falling upon him, yet it produced no alarm; no fear as to consequences. On the contrary he seemed to feel no sting in the pains of death, that the triumph of the grave was no victory.

The venerable authors of our liberties are fast passing away! But one other remains in our midst, and the unchangeable laws of life and death show to us that in all probability the gates of the grave will soon open to receive him.

As they drop one by one into the tomb, we all might well pause from busy life and drop a tear to their memories, as a small token of gratitude for the rich inheritance they won for us by their valor, and preserved for us by their prudence.

Recorded here on July 10, 1946
John Burch Blaylock
Register of Deeds
Caswell County, N. C.

The children of Starling Gunn as recorded in his Will, were:

Betsy B., Richard B. Thomas, Patsy, Daniel, Susana, Asa, Polly, Barbary, John, Dr. Allen, and James (grandfather of Mrs. "Cap" King.) His daughter, Betsy, married Col. Joseph Pinnix, of an old Caswell family and a Confederate officer. When he came to our home, he would call for an eating fork, plunk it a time or so, and "hist" the hymn "Amazing Grace" in deep and rich bass.


1. A couple of fairly obvious typographical errors were corrected in the foregoing.

2. Gunn family researchers show Starling Gunn as born in Brunswick County, Virginia.

3. The thirteen children of Starling Gunn (1764-1852) and Mary Elizabeth Hooper Gunn (1768-1843) generally are recognized as: Elizabeth Burnett (Bettie) Gunn; Richard Burnett Gunn; Thomas Gunn; Martha Hooper (Patsy) Gunn; Daniel Gunn; Susannah Gunn; Jesse Asa Gunn; Mary (Polly) Gunn; Starling Hooper Gunn; Barbara (Barbary) Gunn; John G. Gunn; Allen M. Gunn, M.D.; and James D. Gunn. For more on the family of Starling Gunn see Searching for Roots.

4. Lynwood Fielding Hodges (1876-1954) married Mary Elizabeth Slade (1888-1979), and they had seven children.

5. In 1887, Cary Howard (Cap) King (1864-1959) married Mary Lillie Pinnix (1867-1957), and they had eight children.

6. John Burch Blaylock (1909-1995) was Caswell County Register of Deeds from December 1934 to June 1976. In addition to his formal duties as Register of Deeds, Burch Blaylock assembled Caswell County genealogical and historical records into what is known as the Burch Blaylock Collection, which is housed in the Caswell County Register of Deeds Office at the new courthouse in Yanceyville, North Carolina. The materials in the collection can be searched by the person's name in the card catalogue. Copies can be made for a reasonable charge.

7. The foregoing Tom Henderson newspaper article kindly was shared by Thomas Hilton Gunn, a descendant of Starling Gunn. The article had been clipped by Tom Gunn's mother and kept in the family for over half a century.


Starling Gunn (1764-1852)

(click on thumbnail for larger image)


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