Collection ID: MS 955

Collection context


Starr, Peter, 1744-1829
Sermons of Peter Starr, together with the sermons of his predecessor in Kent (now Warren), Connecticut, Sylvanus Osborn, and of two relatives by marriage, John Keep and John Stevens. Three-fourths of the papers are by Peter Starr. During the Revolutionary War Starr shifted his loyalty, and the sermons provide biblical justification on both sides. John Keep was a chaplain during the war and a number of his camp sermons are in the collection.
8 Linear Feet


Acquisition information:

Transferred to Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale Divinity School Library in 1952 and 1979.

The Peter Starr Papers were transferred to Manuscripts and Archives from the Yale Divinity School Library in 1952. Additional sermons of Peter Starr were transferred to the papers from the Sermons, Addresses and Discourses Collection of the Archives and Manuscripts division of the Divinity Library in 1979.

Rules or conventions:
translation missing: en.enumerations.resource_finding_aid_description_rules.Finding aid created in accordance with Manuscripts and Archives Processing Manual
Scope and Content:

Series I, PETER STARR SERMONS, contains sermons written by Peter Starr between 1769 and 1829. The sermons are arranged chronologically except where no date was discernable. The undated items are arranged by biblical texts, either Old or New Testament. Undated funeral sermons and fragments of sermons are grouped together. There are a few items that are not sermons: a journal dated 1771, notes taken for preparing sermons, and minutes of church meetings. The sermons prior to and during the Revolution reveal Starr's shift of loyalty, with biblical justifications for each side of the conflict at different times.

Series II, SYLVANUS OSBORN SERMONS, is arranged chronologically, from 1758 to 1770, with undated sermons at the end.

Series III, JOHN KEEP SERMONS, contains sermons written between 1770 and 1783. They are arranged chronologically with undated items at the end.

Series IV, JOHN STEVENS SERMONS, contains sermons written between 1780 and 1793. They are arranged chronologically according to numerical notation on the documents, with undated items at the end.

Series V, MISCELLANEOUS SERMONS, contains undated and unidentified sermons. These sermons may have been written by individuals included in the other series or by other ministers whom Peter Starr knew. Positive identification has not been possible.

Note: For additional papers concerning the family of Peter Starr, see the Starr Family Papers in the Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. These are primarily papers of the children of Peter Starr and members of other families related by marriage.

The Robbins Family Papers also contain sermons and other papers of the family of Peter Starr's first wife. The Joseph Bellamy Papers, MS. Group No. 609, contain correspondence, sermons, and other papers of Peter Starr's teacher, Joseph Bellamy.

Biographical / Historical:

PETER STARR (1744-1829)

Peter Starr was born in September, 1744, the youngest child of Samuel and Abigail (Dibble) Starr, of Danbury, Connecticut, and grandson of Captain Josiah and Rebekah Starr, also of Danbury. His father died soon after his birth, and his mother married Joseph Waller of New Milford (now Brookfield), Connecticut, in 1748.

In 1764, Peter Starr graduated from Yale. He taught school for three and a half years and studied theology with the Reverend Daniel Brinsmade (Yale 1745) of the Judea Society (Washington, Connecticut), and the Reverend Joseph Bellamy (Yale 1735) of Bethlehem, Connecticut.

Starr was licensed to preach by the Fairfield East Association of Ministers in 1769 and went to the East Greenwich Society in Kent (now the town of Warren), where Sylvanus Osborn was the minister. Osborn died in May, 1771, and Peter Starr was installed as pastor on May 18, 1772. He remained in this position for 57 years. In May, 1825, he was joined by the Reverend Hart Talcott, whose installation sermon is in the papers.

Peter Starr married Sarah Robbins, fourth daughter of the Reverend Philemon Robbins of Branford, on December 24, 1772. They had seven sons and two daughters. Sarah Robbins Starr died on July 7, 1809. Peter Starr then married Phebe Stevens, widow of the Reverend John Stevens (Yale 1779) of New Marlboro, Massachusetts. Phebe Stevens Starr died in 1832.

Peter Starr died at his home in Warren on July 17, 1829, at 85 years of age, the oldest Congregational clergyman in the state.

SYLVANUS OSBORN (ca. 1733-1771)

Sylvanus Osborn was pastor of the Church of the East Greenwich Society in Kent (now Warren), Connecticut, where Peter Starr began his ministerial duties in 1769. Reverend Osborn graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1754.

He married Abigail Noble, second daughter of Stephen and Sarah (Ferris) Noble of Kent. He died in 1771, and Peter Starr was installed as pastor in September of 1771.

Reverend Osborn's widow married Jeremiah Day, Sr., on October 7, 1772. She died in 1810.

JOHN KEEP (1749-1784)

John Keep was born on March 10, 1749, the younger son of Samuel and Sarah (Colton) Keep of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. His mother was the daughter of William and Hannah (Terry) Bement of Enfield, Massachusetts. John Keep's father died in 1761, and his mother married John Hale of Longmeadow in 1762.

John Keep studied theology with his pastor, Reverend Dr. Stephen Williams (Harvard College, 1713), graduated from Yale in 1769, and was licensed to preach by the Hampden Association of Ministers in January, 1771.

On March 4, 1772, John Keep was called to the Congregational Church in Sheffield (Berkshire County), Massachusetts, where he was ordained on June 10, 1772. He married Hannah Rebekah Robbins, the fifth daughter of Reverend Philemon Robbins of Branford, Connecticut, on March 2, 1775. He remained at Sheffield until his death on September 3, 1784. During the Revolutionary War, he was a chaplain to Captain Jonathan Smith's regiment, and there are a number of his camp sermons in this collection. John Keep was noted for his pulpit oratory.

John and Hannah Keep had no children. Reverend John Keep (Yale 1802) was a nephew. After John Keep's death, his widow married the Honorable Jahleel Woodbridge (Princeton College, 1761), of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who died in August, 1796. Hannah Keep Woodbridge died on February 9, 1799, at the home of her sister Sarah, the wife of Reverend Peter Starr.

JOHN STEVENS (1750-1792)

John Stevens was born in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1750. He graduated from Yale in 1779 and was licensed to preach by the Litchfield South Association of Ministers in 1780. He was called to the Congregational Church of the New Concord Society in Chatham (Columbia County), New York, and was ordained on May 13, 1781.

Stevens married Phebe Warner, eldest child of Lemuel and Sarah (Gaylord) Warner of New Milford, Connecticut, in 1781. He was dismissed from Chatham in 1793 and began to organize a new mission in New Marlborough, South Parish, where he was officially installed on October 22, 1794. Here he remained until his death on January 6, 1799.

His widow Phebe married Peter Starr on October 24, 1810.

Bibliography: Biographical information obtained from Franklin Bowditch Dexter, Yale Biographies and Annals


Arranged in five series: I. Peter Starr Sermons. II. Sylvanus Osborn Sermons. III. John Keep Sermons. IV. John Stevens Sermons. V. Miscellaneous Sermons.


Sterling Memorial Library
Yale Campus
New Haven, CT, USA
(203) 432-1735