Alexander C. Starks
Photo circa 1875

He was the First Elected Sheriff of Rockwall County
Served from 1874 until he was murdered on Sept. 29, 1876

~ He has been Honored for his Sacrifice to Duty ~
His name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall
in Washington, DC on 3 May 2006.
The Inscription is located on Tablet 50-West, Line 25. It reads:

"ALEXANDER C. STARKS - Sheriff Rockwall County, Texas, S.O."

Photo of Tombstone
He is interred at the Old Rockwall Cemetery

Alexander C. Starkes was born in Kentucky on 29 July 1839, the eldest child of Jesse Reuben Starks and Temperance Jane "Tempy" Starks. His father was the son of Kentucky pioneer Reuben Marshall Starks and Janie Payne. Tempy was the daughter of Reuben's cousin, Jesse Starks and Lettice B Pace. His parents married in Calloway Co Ky - 21 Feb 1836.

In 1840 Jesse Starks's young family was listed on the Calloway Co KY Census showing 1 son under 5 - Alexander - himself and Tempy. They were living between his wife's widowed mother, Lettice B Starks, and his parents, Reuben and Janie Starks.

Between 1840 -1850 Alexander's father moved the family to Massac Co IL, where they are enumerated on the 1850 Federal Census. By that time Alexander had siblings, Mary Elizabeth - born 1841, John S - born 1844 and Almarina - born 1848.

By 1860 the Starks family was in Kaufman Co TX. Jesse Starks was a Black Smith and the family had added another sister Tempy J - born 1855, and brother Jesse D - born 1858. According to the Census, Alexander was a Clerk in a Mercantile at that time. As with all young men, Alexander found a sweetheart and in Kaufman County on 13 Sep 1860, he married neighbor, Lenace Mary"Nannie" Lancaster, daughter of Ellis Wilson Lancaster & Elizabeth S Neal. Lenace was born 1842.

At the onset of the war between the states, Alexander and his father, Jesse R, joined the Confederate States Army, enlisting in Co B 5th TX Cavalry, known as Gano's Squadron. His brother, John S Starks, joined Co B 6th TX Cavalry, along with Lenace's brother, George W. Lancaster.

Gano's Cavalry Battalion was organized with two companies during the fall of 1861. Under the command of Col. Richard M. Gano, Lt. Col. J. M. Huffman and Major Theophilus Steele, they were sent to Kentucky as part of the Western Department of the Army of the Mississippi. In September, 1862, it merged into the 3rd and 7th Kentucky Cavalry Regiments. Jesse was transferred into the 3rd regiment and Alexander into the 7th. Gano's Battalion fought at Wilson's Creek, MO - August 10, 1861, Shoal Creek (Caving Banks) and Patriot Hills in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in November and December of 1861, during the Creek Indian uprising.

In one of the battles in late 1862, Jesse R Starks was taken Prisoner by the Union Army and was sent to Camp Douglas, near Chicago IL. Ironically, Jesse's son and Alexander's brother, John S Starks was there. He had been taken prisoner at Elkhorn Tavern at Pea Ridge Arkansas, March 8, 1862.

Both Jesse R and John S Starks died in that prison. John died 15 Feb 1863, and Jesse's date of death is not known. Both men are buried at Oakwood Cemetery for the Confederate Dead in Chicago. Their names are on the bronze plaques on that monument there.

According to family lore, Alexander did not know of the deaths until he returned home to Texas from the war in 1864. He came back to find his Mother in fragil health physically and mentally devastated by the loss of her husband and son. Alexander took up farming to sustain his family, his mother and two youngest siblings, but by 1867 his Mother and sister and brother moved back to Massac Co IL.

Alexander, his wife and two daughters were living on his father's land in Rockwall and were enumerated on the 1870 Kaufman Co TX Census as:
A C Starks 30 KY 600/200 Farmer
Lenis 27 MO
Elizabeth J 4 TX
Martha E 1 TX

In 1871 A C and Lenace had a son they named William Thomas, and in 1873 had another son they named James.

In 1873 Rockwall became a county and the first election for county officials was held in July 1874. Alexander ran for Sheriff of the new county and won the election. He had a new occupation.

On 12 Jul 1875 the couple had another son, Oscar G Starks.

During the fall of 1875, while performing his duties as Sheriff, Starks became involved in an altercation with a man named William Cannon, whom Starks shot and killed. Starks was removed from his duties as Sheriff, arrested and charge with Cannon's death. However, he was cleared of the charges by a grand jury and by the fall of 1876 was awaiting his re-instatement as Sheriff, making his living as a land broker and farmer.
It was during this time he was murdered.

On 30 Sept 1876, A C Starks was found dead in the East Fork bottoms.

~~~~~~ The Crime ~~~~~~

Galveston Daily News - 3 Oct 1876
Murder of Ex-Sheriff Stark, of Rockwall County
[Special Telegram to the Galveston News]
"Lawrence, October 2, 1876.
A.C. Starke, Sheriff of Rockwall county, was assassinated Friday afternoon, under the following circumstances: A stranger came into Rockwall and requested to be shown a tract of land for sale near there, which Starke went to show him. The stranger was armed with a shotgun. A short time after they started Starke was found dead with a load of buckshot in his head, and the stranger gone. As yet there is no clue to the stranger's identity, and no cause can be assigned for the commission of the crime."

And in the beginning, the crime went unsolved:

Galveston Daily News - 13 Oct 1876
Rockwall County:
"No clue has yet been found to the murderer of A.C. Starke, former sheriff of Rockwall county."

It took a year, but a break came in the case.

~~~~~~ The Motive & Evidence~~~~~~

Galveston Daily News
1 Mar 1877

Rockwall County.
Last November, one year ago, a party of young men were drunk in the town of Rockwall. Sheriff Starks approached them and asked them to keep quiet, upon which a difficulty occurred, resulting in the death of Wm. Cannon, for which Sheriff Starke was arrested and placed under a $1500 bond. Matters stood in this shape until about the middle of last September, no good feeling existing between Starks and young Cannon's relatives.
About this time there appeared in Rockwall a stranger, wearing green eye-glasses, who for some time did nothing but loiter around the town. He pretended to be in search of a location, and was desirous of purchasing land. These statements, which at the time were believed, came to the ears of Starks, who had a tract of land for sale, and he approached the stranger and proposed to sell. Some conversation ensued, when it was agreed that the two would, next day, take a look at the land, which lay about two miles from town.
Starks and the stranger left the town for the farm, and the next seen of Starks he was lying dead in the East Fork bottom, while the stranger had disappeared. No trace could be found of the stranger, and it was generally supposed he had committed the crime, but for what reason no one could surmise.
A few days since the sheriff of Rockwall county received a letter from the sheriff of Lee county, stating that a man answering the description of the supposed murderer had been arrested in the little town of Giddings. Parties who had seen the man in Rockwall were at once sent to Giddings for the purpose of identification, and on being confronted with the prisoner, without hesitation pronounced him to be the man who wore the green eye-glasses in Rockwall, who left the town in company with Starks, and who is generally supposed to be his murderer. He will be taken to Rockwall for trial.

George Garner was apprehended, taken to Rockwall and incarcerated in the Rockwall County Jail.

~~~~~~ The Culprit ~~~~~~

George Garner was born 1847 in TN, the son of Richard & Margaret Garner. In 1860 he was living with his family in Pemiscot MO, but by 1866 was in Washington Co TX, where he married 12 Feb 1867 to Martha McKeown, daughter of James McKeown & Mary Ann Dickey. She was born 1845 in Texas.

On the 1870 Washington Co TX Census, living in the town of Evergreen, two households from Martha Starks:
George W Garner 22 TN Farmer
Martha 27 TX wife
Genora 4 TX daughter
William 1 TX son

At his trial he was found guilty of Alexander Starks' murder.

Galveston Daily News 1 June 1877
Rockwall County: "George Garner, the murderer of ex-Sheriff Starks, was convicted of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hanged on the 15th of June."

Galveston Daily News 6 June 1877 Rockwall County: "Garner, the murderer confined in Rockwall jail, refuses food, and declares his intention to starve to death."

The stress of the situation had to be tremendous on both families, but the affect it had on Martha Garner proved to be more than a curious one.

Martha visited her husband in jail during his incarceration and trial, but the night before his scheduled execution she carried out a plot that she, or both she and her husband, contrived. Suicide.

It was reported thus:
Lawrence Times (from Terrell Star)- 21 Jun 1877
"George W Garner murdered Sheriff A C Starks. Garner was being held in the Rockwall county jail for the crime, awaiting execution. Garner's wife procured some poison, visited her husband in the jail and they both were found dead there hours later, though evidence indicated she had a broken neck."

Was the plan for them both to drink the poison? Was it Martha's plan to poison her husband? Did George Garner lead his wife to believe they would commit suicide together, only to kill her and then himself? No one will ever know.

Garner & wife were both buried in the same pauper's grave in Rockwall Cemetery, ironically not far from A C Starks' grave. However, her family exhumed her remains and reinterred them at Giddings in Lee County a few years later. In all probability George Garner's remains are still in that unmarked grave.

~~~~~~ The True Motive ~~~~~~

Galveston Daily News 29 Jan 1879
Capture of Emberry Cannon
Charged with Procuring the Murder of Sheriff Stark, of Rockwall County.
[Special Telegram to the News.]
"Dallas, Jan. 28.-- The sheriff of Wood county passed through Terrell to-day enroute to Rockwall county, having in charge Emberry Cannon, arrested near Hawkins, and charged with procuring the murder of sheriff Stark of Rockwall county. Garner was sentenced to be hung for the crime on the 15th of June, '77.
The night previous to the day of execution his wife was admitted and allowed to pass the night with him. Next morning both were found dead in the cell, victims of morphine suicides. The wife conveyed the poison to the cell in a vial in her mouth, thus eluding the vigilance of the guards. Garner left a written confession, stating that he had led a life of crime, and vowing that he had been lured by Emberry Cannon to do the deed for which he was convicted. Mrs. Garner was an important witness against her husband's father and mother who are also charged with contriving the murder. The day following the suicide E. Cannon fled the country."

~~~~~~ The Aftermath ~~~~~~

The deaths of George and Martha Garner left four orphaned Garner children: Jenore - born 1867, William Green - born 1869, Adora - born 1873 and Susan Ann - born 1875. On the 1880 Texas Census they were living with Martha's parents in Lee Co TX.

Lenace Starks had the hardest burden to bear. Ironically, her youngest son, Oscar died 17 Nov 1876 and was buried in the Rockwall Cemetery, just 45 days after his father was interred there. Lenace was left to raise four children. On the 1880 Rockwall Co TX Census she is listed:
Nanny Starks 38 MO Farmer
Elizabeth 14
Martha 11
William 9
James 7

It is not know what happened to Lenace Starks, nor daughter Martha. Daughter Elizabeth,"Bettie" married in Rockwall on 23 Aug 1885 to R J Jackson. James lived his life in Rockwall, dying 2 Mar 1934 and is buried at the Parker Cemetery in Rockwall County. William married and remained in Rockwall, dying in 1944. He and his wife are buried near A C Starks.

Emberry Cannon was never convicted for his part in the murder. He lived the remainder of his life in Rockwall County.

There is no evidence that anyone was ever held responsible for the murder of A.C.Starks.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall

If you have info on Alexander C. Stark,
or his family, please contact us.

Thanks to Justin Sanders for his submissions to this page.