History of the Restoration Movement

Harry Lelon Starling


Life Of Harry Starling

His hunger and thirst for knowledge and understanding was never satisfied in the life of Harry Starling and his interest in education was always saturated with spiritual emphasis.

A school teacher from the age of eighteen, his love for young people was always evident until his death. His school work and his church wo rk always gave first place to the young.

Typhoid fever in 1912, along with a polio attack as a youth, seemed to set the pace for a difficult life. With the resulting debts followed by the depression, it seemed that to complete his education was never to be his. However, he never lost hope and he was instrumental in beginning a Christian school at Commissary, a rural community near Paragould, Arkansas.

Harry Lelon Starling was born October 28, 1899, near Ravenden Arkansas, in Lawrence County, the son of J.S. (Jake) and Julia Starling.

At the age of eleven he was baptized into Christ at Starlings Spring now know as Wautauga near Ravenden, Arkansas. He was baptized, it is believed, by brother Joe H. Blue.

In 1921 he was married to Dollie Ratliff also a resident of the Ravenden community and they soon moved to Imboden, Arkansas. It was there that their first son, Ralph, was born.

With the large and pressing debts incurred by the long illness of typhoid, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1926. There, Harry went to work at the Chevrolet Company in the parts department.

During the years in St. Louis his interest in the Lord's work flourished and he was instrumental in establishing several congregations in the St. Louis area.

The church in Granite City, Illinois was one such work. The street cars each Sunday morning he met with two ladies home and succeeded in building a successful congregation in City. This was in 1927.

Later, he was successful in beginning a new work on Union Avenue. This was a most rewarding work for a period of time and later moved from the location on Union Avenue. It is thought by one source this may well have been the beginning of the West End church that has been of considerable influence in the St. Louis area for many years.

An attempt to establish the church in Overland was made during these years but with no success.

All was going well until the depression hit, Numerous jobs were held for a period of time but it was more and more difficult to make a living for a family of five. Many close friends had been made during these years in St, Louis and among them was the Shewmaker family. It was while accompanying Glover and Clover Shewmaker on a visit to the Croft College community in Arkansas that Harry preached his first sermon in 1927. The group was enroute to St. Louis following their visit to Croft and stopped for services⎯the place forgotten⎯and Harry was prevailed on to preach the sermon with the Shewmakers taking other parts in the service. They had planned to proceed immediately on their journey so that they might arrive in St. Louis before night fall. But, when the invitation was extended three girls responded to be baptized that afternoon and so they had to postpone their departure.

From the Shewmaker connections it was learned that Croft College was in dire need of a teacher. The teacher in Harry responded to this opportunity and encouraged by economics the Starling family moved to Croft College, twelve miles west of Paragould, Arkansas in July, 1932. Harry was the last effort to keep Croft College alive. While the school continued for a couple of years it was destined to die. Nonetheless it had made a great contribution to the cause of religious education.

While the efforts at Croft College had come to a close, Harry was not to quit. In a nearby community of Commissary, a school was in existence and was in need of a teacher. Arrangements were made and Harry began teaching school there. Not content with only academic subjects, he included Bible courses in the curriculum. Before long arrangements had been made with Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas to accept and grant credit for the Bible work done at the Commissary school.

These were years of hard work. He not only taught school but share-cropped each year with brother George Derrin. One term of school was taught at Evening Shade, Northwest of Stanford where he had 81 students enrolled from the first through the eighth grades and he was the sale teacher.

The desire for more education continued to plague him. So in 1941 he moved the family to Searcy to enroll in Harding College. He attended Harding and provided for his family by teaching school, raising strawberries and running a small dairy.

In 1946, with the encouragement of Dean L. C. Sears, Harry began preaching full-time with the church in Licking, Missouri for $25.00 per week and furnished his own house and utilities.

After two years in Licking he was invited to work with the Rowemont church (now State Street) in East St, Louis. After four and one half years, assisted by Monroe. Hawley and a ten-dollar donation to pay the rent in the Philharmonic Hall for one Sunday, the church in Belleville, Ill. began. Then to Carbondale, assisted by the West End church in St. Louis, to establish the church where a few were already struggling. After one year the church was self-supporting. Then to St. Charles, Missouri, for a similar work of helping a small struggling group to get on their feet. After a new building was begun, a challenge was offered in Melbourne, Florida. It was here that he not only served as an evangelist but also as an elder, a role that fitted so well his natural disposition.

After three years in Florida, some health problems seemed to say that it would be wise to return to the old home grounds. So, work was begun with the church in Owensville, Missouri, west of St. Louis. During his short tenure at Owensville, his ability in evangelism was again demonstrated by establishing the church in nearby Cuba, Missouri.

While at Owensville, a diseased liver finally took its toll and after four weeks of illness, he passed away on September 30, 1961. Funeral services were conducted in St. Louis with Hobart Ashby officiating. Burial was in Lura Hills (sic)(should be Laurel Hills-sdh) Cemetery, St. Louis.

So concluded the work of a man whose kind and lovable character was felt by many and whose work was never among the noble or mighty l but whose work was of calming, strengthening and lasting influence where ever he went. Many a storm was calmed, many a sore healed and many a schism restored by his understanding, longsuffering and wisdom.

He had three children: Ralph, a preacher of the gospel, J. W. and Imogene both of the St. Louis area and both active in the Lord's church.

⎯ Arkansas Angels, Boyd E. Morgan, College Bookstore & Press, Paragould, Arkansas, 1967, pages 146-248
NOTE: The above article was written in 1967.

Directions To The Grave of H.L. Starling

Harry L. Starling and Dottie M. Starling are buried in Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens in Saint Louis, Missouri. Take Exit 5 off I-170 and head SW on St. Charles Rock Road (Hwy. 180). Head about two miles and turn left on Pennsylvania Ave. Go through to main entrance and head toward the back where the office is located. In front of the office, look to the right. The Starlings are buried under some trees to the right of the office.

GPS Location
N38º 41.122’ x WO90º 18.615’
Grave Faces South – Acc. 17’
Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens
2000 Pennsylvania Ave
Saint Louis , MO 63133-1314
United States
Phone: (314) 725-7800

Special Thanks To Wayne Kilpatrick and Tom L. Childers for providing photos of the grave markers on this page. I visited the grave of Harry & Dollie Starling in June, 2009 while on a 3000 mile, one-week journey of the Restoration Movement in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana & Kentucky

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