The W.H. Stark family employed a number of servants during the forty plus years they lived in the House. Most of the servants lived in the community in their own homes. Some of them lived either in the House or in the servant’s quarters on the property. A number of the servants worked in the greenhouses and gardens on the House grounds. Gardening and flowers were very important to the family, and the family spent more on yard help than household help.
Here are a few of the servants you might learn about during a visit:
George and Barbara Grinstead were both born in England and came to work for the Starks early in the history of the House. George was the head gardener and Barbara had household duties. They raised their nine children while living on the second floor of the Carriage House on the Stark property. In 1932, W.H. and Miriam Stark bought them a house as a Christmas present.
Ollie Drake was the nurse for the Starks from 1932 until their deaths in 1936. She lived in an apartment on the third floor and even hosted parties in the House. After she left the House, she married John O’Grady and eventually moved to Mission, Texas. She was so beloved by the community that an elementary school in Mission is named in her honor.
Sadie Holland was the cook for the Stark family in the 1930s. She was known as Momma Sadie in her neighborhood. She was quoted as saying, her favorite meal was “a bit of meat, maybe stew meat with rice and gravy.” Sadie lived to be 104 years old, and was believed to be the oldest person in the county at the time of her death.
Leona Brooks Batchan was the second floor maid for the family. She was an activist in the black community of Orange. She traveled with the Stark family to their ranch in Rand, Colorado. Leona helped place the furniture in the House after the restoration was completed in 1981.