Land of Opportunity: Family’s Journey Begins With Obscure Name Change

Staid British have a way with names, and one family owes its colonial success to obscure Norse word.


| Good Old Days



Our family’s journey to the land of opportunity begins with a name change. For a supposedly staid people, the British have a way with names. Starbuck is a prime example. The origin is obscure. Some say it comes from an ancient Norse word meaning "great man." Others claim it is a derivative of "Starbeck," a swamp in Nottinghamshire, England. In either case, the first Starbuck seems to have been one Richard Johnson, who, in the 14th century, felt there were too many sons of John for comfort. Not wanting to be one of the crowd, he elected to strike out on his own ... as a Starbuck.

In 1636, Edward Starbuck, with his wife, Katherine, and two small children left Leicestershire, England, for the colonial area that is now known as Dover, New Hampshire.

Around 1640, Edward was appointed a "wearesman," or official river fisherman. Wearesmen were required to supply the town and its church from their catches. He also served in the Massachusetts Legislature from 1643 to 1646. In 1647, having received permission to erect a sawmill, Edward went into the lumber business.

In 1659, at odds with the Puritans over the age at which baptism should be performed – an Anabaptist, he preferred baptism of adults, not children – Edward began looking for new horizons to conquer. This quest took him and other Alto, Wisconsin, dissidents by open boat to Nantucket, an island 18 miles off Cape Cod. After spending the winter there, Edward traveled to Dover and returned with his family and 10 other families. He built a house at the head of Hummock Pond, on land deeded to him by the Indians. That deed is the oldest original Nantucket document still in existence today.

Sara Hewitt Riola
Lakewood, New Jersey


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community. 





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