Select Starbuck Miscellany

Here are some Starbuck stories and accounts over the years:

The Origin of Starbeck

The name Starbeck in Yorkshire originates from the Norse word stor, meaning big or large, and bekkr, a stream or brook  There is an alternative reading for the suffix "-beck," which is bokki or "river."  The so-called "great river" could have described the nearby river Wharfe, a much bigger river at that time than it is today.

Starbucks in England

While the Starbuck name may have originated in Yorkshire, this is not the place where most Starbucks in England are to be found.  That honor, according the the 1891 English census, fell to the counties of Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire in the middle of the country.  The table below shows the approximate numbers and distribution of the Starbuck name in England at that time.


J&R Starbuck

By 1800 shipowning was an important part of the Starbuck business and the family owned a fleet of colliers, fishing vessels, a Leith smack and at least one Thames barge.  Robert Starbuck had a boatbuilding and repair yard facing the Thames where he constructed some of the famous Gravesend Bawley boats.

A vast loft housed the sailmaking and repairing business, which was so successful that by 1850 "there was hardly a ship on the Thames that failed to carry Starbuck's stores.  They were the chandlers of the district!" Demand was so great that The Slopselling (clothing) and Chandlery side was run in the 19th century by John and Robert Starbuck from No.52 West Street.  They moved to its present site (then numbered 57) in about 1820.

Reader Feedback - Edward Starbuck Sr.

There is no mention on your website about Edward Starbuck Sr. who has born in the year 1584.  He was married to Anne Barns around the year 1603.  Their son Edward Starbuck Jr. who married Katherine Reynolds was the Starbuck from all the Starbucks in the US are descended.  

Is anyone doing research on Edward Starbuck’s Sr’s parents?  It would be fantastic to go farther back in history and actually see when the Starbuck name came into England.  Supposedly it came from William the Conqueror’s time and from Denmark.  

PS. My husband is a direct descendant of Edward Starbuck Sr.  

Rachél Ivarsson Starbuck (

Mary Coffin Starbuck and the Quakers

Throughout the 17th century, English Nantucketers resisted all attempts to establish a church on the island, partly because a woman by the name of Mary Coffin Starbuck forbade it.  It was said that nothing of consequence was done on Nantucket without Mary's approval.  Mary Coffin and Nathaniel Starbuck had been the first English couple to be married on the island, in 1662, and had established a lucrative outpost for trading with the Wampanoag.  Whenever an itinerant minister came to Nantucket looking to establish a congregation, he was firmly rebuffed by Mary Starbuck.

Then, in 1702, Mary succumbed to a charismatic Quaker minister named John Richardson.  Speaking before a group assembled in the Starbucks' living room, Richardson succeeded in moving Mary to tears.  It was Mary Starbuck's conversion to Quakerism that established the unique fusion of spirituality and covetousness that would make possible Nantucket's rise as a whaling port.

For several years, town meetings were frequently held in the “great fore-room” of Mary's home, which became known as “Parliament House.”  John Richardson said of her: “The islanders established her a judge among them, for a little of moment was done without her advice.”  She held religious meetings in her home, being herself a Quaker preacher of power and eloquence.

Quakerism gradually became the dominant religion of Nantucket’s ruling elite and a majority of island residents during the most prosperous days of the whaling industry.  It effectively served as the official faith of the small maritime community that would become the whaling capital of the world.

Starbuck in Moby Dick

In Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Starbuck was the young first mate of the Pequod.  He was a thoughtful man, an intellectual Quaker from Nantucket.

This was how Melville described him:

"Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organization seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.  His far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tended to bend him from the original ruggedness of his nature and open him still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery.

'I will have no man in my boat,' said Starbuck, 'who is not afraid of a whale.'  By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward."

Starbuck in Manitoba

Starbuck is a small town in Manitoba along the La Salle river formed in 1885 when the railroad came through.  There is a long held fable of Starbuck being named after two oxen, Star and Buck, who drowned in the La Salle river (formerly the Stinking river) where the community is now.  However, this story is similar to how Starbuck, Minnesota got its name.  More likely, Starbuck was named after the New York railroad financier, W.H. Starbuck.

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