Stephen King Family History
Stephen Edwin King, a best-selling American writer and story-teller, was born on September 21st, 1947 to Donald and Nellie Ruth King in Portland, Maine.
He was a surprise addition to the family as his mother had been told that she would never have children (Stephen’s elder brother Dave had been adopted). In 1950 when Stephen was two, his father – a door-to-door salesman for Electrolux at the time – left the house for a pack of cigarettes and never returned. Stephen never saw him again.
Nellie Ruth brought up little Stevie as a hard-working single mom. As Stephen described it in his 2000 memoir On Writing, they moved around a lot in his early years, first to Wisconsin and then to Connecticut (close to Nellie Ruth’s married sisters there), before returning to Maine in 1958.
Stephen was a voracious reader in his youth, with a taste ranging from comic books to the weird, macabre and horror fiction. He started writing when he was six or seven, at first copying panels out of comic books and making up his own stories.
His mother encouraged him. In 1960 when he was thirteen, he submitted his first story for publication to the science fiction magazine Spacemen. It was rejected. Five years later his first published story – I Was a Teenage Grave Robber – appeared in Comics Review.
He met his wife Tabitha in 1969 when he was at college. She had come from the same working-class Maine background as he did. She proved to be a rock in his life. When after his early book success Stephen succumbed to alcohol and drugs abuse, she pulled him through.
It was not until 1973 that Stephen’s fourth written novel Carrie was accepted for publication by Doubleday. It sold well. Further books established his reputation with the American public as a master of horror. His book sales have totaled 350 million and are rising.
Today Stephen King, together possibly with John Grisham, ranks at the top of the American fiction writer best-seller lists – Stephen for his scary fiction and John for his legal thrillers. Stephen’s popularity is such that his home in Bangor, Maine has been described as an unofficial tourist attraction.
Stephen’s Paternal Line
Stephen had been told by his mother that his father Donald was Scots Irish. But that was about all he knew. Donald had deserted his family in Maine when Stephen was just two.
His father then moved to New York. Later Donald flew to Brazil where he married and brought back to America a new wife in 1952. Stephen never knew them. Unknown to him his father Donald died in 1980 while his step-mother Helen lived on until 2022.
Stephen’s paternal forebears were in fact Scots Irish, although their name was Pollock not King.
James Pollock, born in 1762, had emigrated from Ireland to Pennsylvania around 1788. He was a Methodist minister in Juniata county, Pennsylvania for forty-two years. His tombstone read:
“Sacred to the memory of Rev. James Pollock who died on January 22nd 1848 aged about 86 years. He was a native of Ireland who lived 60 years in this country – 42 of which he professed Christianity, the doctrine and the practice of which he exemplified in his walk through life.”
The Pollock line in America from him went as follows:
- James Pollock (1782-1843), grew up in Pennsylvania
- John Pollock (1825-1907), born in Ohio
- David Pollock (1858-1938), born in Wisconsin
- William Pollock (1888-1918), born in Indiana
Their passage through America went from Pennsylvania to Ohio and then onto Indiana.
In 1918 William Pollock and his wife Helen were living in Peru, Indiana and William was working as an engineer for the Lake Erie railroad. However, in that year the Spanish flu was circulating and William died from it at the tender age of thirty. Afterwards his widow Helen moved into lodgings in Peru with her young children. She remarried in 1923 and moved to Chicago.
Donald, William’s son and Stephen’s father, was just four at the time of his father’s death. When he grew up, he joined the Navy. Sometime in the 1930’s he changed his name from Pollock to King. Why did he do this? Did he feel no connection to his dead father or to his mother who had since remarried? There are no clues.
Donald’s career with the US Merchant Marines lasted until 1956. Afterwards he served as a port captain and marine maintenance supervisor in Brazil, Venezuela and the Gulf of Mexico.
Stephen’s Maternal Pillsbury Line
Stephen’s mother was born Nellie Ruth Pillsbury. These Pillsburys were early English settlers in America.
William Pillsbury from Leek in Staffordshire had been first recorded in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1641. In June of that year, according to court documents, William and his wife-to-be Dorothy, indentured servants, were caught having pre-marital relations in their master’s house. Both were whipped. William and Dorothy later moved to Newbury.
From two of their sons – Moses and Job – came two Pillsbury lines of note.
Micajah Pillsbury of the Moses line had migrated north to New Hampshire in the 1790’s. Two generations later, John Sargent Pillsbury moved to Minnesota where he set up with his nephew the famous Pillsbury baking company.
Meanwhile Jonathan Pillsbury of the Job line headed for Scarborough, Maine. That was where he married his second wife in 1808 and died in 1833. He was the ancestor of Stephen’s mother Nellie Ruth Pillsbury.
The line from Jonathan to Nellie Ruth Pillsbury in Scarborough, Maine ran as follows:
- Charles Pillsbury (1810-1893)
- Howard Pillsbury (1849-1926)
- Guy Pillsbury (1876-1965)
- and Nellie Ruth Pillsbury (1913-1973).
Charles’s sons Edwin and Oliver both fought on the Union side during the Civil War. Edwin was a captain in Company C, 12th Maine Infantry. Oliver later became a church minister.
One generation later in the early 1900’s, Guy Pillsbury – son of a younger brother Howard – was a carpenter by trade in Scarborough. He and his wife Nellie had five daughters before their last child, Guy a boy, was born in 1923. Sadly Guy was to have a short life, dying in 1947 at the age of twenty-four.
Nellie Ruth was the third-born of their five daughters. It was said of her that she was a hard worker and that she wanted to stand on her own two feet. As a single mother after her husband’s desertion, life was difficult for her. But she continued to wear her wedding ring to deflect any questions about her marital status. She cared for her parents (looking after them when they were old) and held down menial jobs in order to support her family.
Stephen King’s Family Tree
- Paternal Pollock Line
- William Pollock (1888-1918) from Indiana m. Helen (Hattie) Bowden (1897-1968) in 1913 (after William’s death Helen remarried Viktor Szczepanski in 1923)
- – Donald Pollock later King (1914-1980)
- – Betty Louise Pollock (1916-1991) m. Howard Butler
- Donald King formerly Pollock from Indiana m. Nellie Ruth Pillsbury (1913-1973) in Scarborough, Maine in 1939, separated in 1950; rem. Helen Costa (1926-2022) from Brazil who came to America in 1952
- – David (Dave) King (1945-2021), adopted, m. Linda Hovey
- – Stephen King (b. 1947)
- – plus five children with Helen Costa
- Maternal Pillsbury Line
- Charles Pillsbury (1810-1893) from Scarborough, Maine m. Eunice Waterhouse (1810-1890) in Maine in 1832
- – Captain Edwin Pillsbury (1833-1878) m. Julia Carter
- – George Pillsbury (1834-1887) m. Statira Staples
- – Emeline Pillsbury (1839-1909) m. William Richardson
- – Francis Pillsbury (1841-1915) m. Lydia Ilsley
- – Martha Pillsbury (1843-1887) m. Melville Milliken
- – Rev. Oliver Pillsbury (1846-1933) m. Susan Maxwell
- – Howard Pillsbury (1849-1926)
- – Charles Pillsbury (1851-1919) m. Ella Farnsworth
- Howard Pillsbury m. Celia Foss (1854-1924) in Maine in 1872
- – Elfleda Pillsbury (1872-1924) m. Eugene Plummer and Walter Briggs
- – Guy Pillsbury (1876-1965)
- – Ralph Pillsbury (1880-1960) m. Mabel Waterhouse
- – Susan (Susie) Pillsbury (1883-1929)
- – Mildred Pillsbury (1887-1984) m. Leslie Graffam
- Guy Pillsbury m. Nellie Fogg (1877-1963) in Maine in 1902
- – Mary Pillsbury (1908-1978) m. Frederick Donahue
- – Lois Pillsbury (1910-1979) m. Frederick Story
- – Nellie Ruth Pillsbury (1913-1973)
- – Carolyn (Cal) Pillsbury (1916-1973) m. Carl Weimer
- – Ethelyn Pillsbury (1916-1997) m. Oren Flaws
- – Guy Pillsbury (1923-1947)
- Nellie Ruth Pillsbury m. Donald King (1914-1980) in Scarborough, Maine in 1939, separated in 1950
- – David (Dave) King (1945-2021), adopted, m. Linda Hovey
- – Stephen King (b. 1947)
- Stephen King m. Tabitha Spruce (b. 1949) in Maine in 1971
- – Naomi King (b. 1970), church minister, m. Rev. Dr Thandeka
- – Joseph (Joe) King (b. 1972). writer. m. Leonora Legrand and Gillian Redfearn
- – Owen King (b. 1977), writer, m. Kelly Braffet
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