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Historical Character        Joseph Walker
<> Mountain man
<> Explorer
<> Wagon Trian Scout
<> Trail Blazer & Guide



John and Katherine started the Walker’s on their western movement in 1700 by moving from southern Scotland to Ulster in Ireland. They were considered to be lowland Scotts and were rebelious Presbyterians, this part of Scotland was the last part of Europe to come out of the “Dark Ages” and thus still had a poor standard of living. Both were natives of Wigton, a community in the southwestern lowlands of Scotland, which by the time the Walker’s reached adulthood was so depressed that people were it’s chief export.

Living in Ulster was recognized by the Walker’s as futile, as they were living in “unfortunate economic, political and religious circumstances”. In the late summer of 1728 John and Katherine Walker arrived on the Chesapeak Bay in Maryland with three daughters and five sons. Along with the Walkers siblings there were two nephews, and a son-in-law John Campbell, who had married the eldest daughter, Elizabeth.

The family almost immediately set out for Pennsylvania, John, his 5 nearly grown sons, 2 nephews and his son-in law, worked as freemen and did not have to work as indentured servants as the majority of the Scotts-Irish did. During this period they picked up the trade of blacksmithing and the art of making rifles.

During the 1720’s the price of land in western Pennsylvania skyrocketed, so in 1732 John Walker then in his 60’s, started west into the Cumberland Gap in Pennsylvania coming out into the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. (together known as the Great Valley) Staying south of the Iroquois empire to the North, the Shawnee to the West, and the Cherokee’s to the South, and having passed the last settlements around the trading post forts on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, the Walkers came to the Maury River, a tributary of the James, lying between the present day communities of Staunton and Lexington.

There they met up with Jack Hayes one of the original explorers of the Appalacian Territory and a fellow Scottish kinsman. Hayes directed the Walkers to a splendid empty valley which lay below Jump Mountain. The valley was well watered by a stream that flowed down to the Maury and was set with a series of open meadows, natural pastures for deer, elk, and buffalo.

In one of the meadows was a good natural spring which took John Walker’s fancy and he decided to end his quest that had started in Wigton. One of his sons was later to recall that he found the climate milder, the soil fertile, and everything attractive. They cleared off a portion of land, erected a log cabin and then he headed back to Pennsylvania to bring the family to the frontier.

John Walker never returned to the Appalachian frontier. He died in 1734 and was buried in Chester County, Pennsylvania as was his wife Katherine who died shortly thereafter.

By 1739 their sons, John, James, Samuel, Alexander and Joseph and their 2 nephews, John and Alexander, and 2 sons-in- law, John Campbell and James Moore (who married Jane Walker) had all moved their wives and children to the property below Jump Mountain. Along the way they brought other Ulster families with them, Toomys, Pattersons, Poages, Mc Clellans and Houstons, who if they were not already, soon would become relatives.

Spreading out from the original cabin site, they made a settlement which for a time was probably the westernmost in Virginia and therefore in any of the English speaking colonies. They named the stream running through the clearings, Walker Creek. Soon the place and the vigorous, remarkably reproductive clan itself, became known along the frontier as the Creek Nation.

When my father and his siblings were kids GrandDad Walker admonished his youngsters not to mention their Native American heritage.   In those days, not so far removed from the indian wars, it was easy enough to be ostracized for having other than caucasian heritage.   Bigotry abounded.   By the time I came along it was not of a concern as to what your ethnical makeup was.  Now, it is not only OK it promuglates braggin rights!  Shoot!  I reckon I’m cross between a gunny sack and a barbwire fence!  

To realize the greatness of a person, one should look at that person’s humility.  Seeing Joe Walker as the person he must have been is to simply view his tombstone.  It is known that, prior to his death, while living on his nephew’s Contra Costa County ranch near today’s Martinez, California, Joe Walker laid out that which he hoped to be remembered.  No aggrandizement!  Simplicity at it’s barest.

Once a traveler, part of a wagon train heading west, asked the fort’s proctor, “What trail might I find Captain Walker traveling on?”  William Bent, the fort’s founder, said, “Walker don’t follow trails, he makes ’em!”

Joe Walker’s grandfather, Samuel Rutherford Walker was born in County Cork, the largest and most southern county in Ireland.   His father, Joseph Walker was born in Virginia.  Joseph Rutherford Walker was born in Roan County, Tennessee near where the city of Knoxville now stands.   In December of 1798 not much was there in the way of civilization.

Joseph Walker was born in Tennessee on 13th December, 1798. He moved to Missouri in 1818 and two years later was involved in taking trade goods to Santa Fe. He was imprisoned by the Spanish authorities in New Mexico but was released to help fight against the Pawnees.

Walker returned home to Missouri and in 1827 he was elected the first sheriff of Jackson County. He served two terms but eventually left because of the low pay. Walker was involved in buying and selling horses until he was recruited by Captain Benjamin Bonneville as field commander of an expedition to the West. Bonneville's party spent two seasons trapping beavers on the Salmon River.

In 1833 Bonneville suggested to Walker that he should take a party of men to California. The beaver appeared to be decline in the Rocky Mountains and it was thought that new trapping opportunities would be found in this unexplored territory.

Walker and his party of forty men left Green River on 20th August, 1833. Each man took four horses. One to ride and three to carry supplies. This included 60 pounds of dried meat per man. When he reached Salt Lake he met with local Bannock Indians to discover the best route west. After these consultations Walker decided to follow the Humboldt River into Nevada. In September, 1833, around 800 Digger Indians surrounded Walker's party. They had never seen guns before and after 39 had been killed they decided to retreat.

Soon afterwards they reached the Sierra Nevada mountains. The climb was difficult and with a shortage of food, several men argued that they should be allowed to go back. Walker insisted that they should continue and after killing and eating some of the horses, they came out of the Sierra after three weeks. Soon afterwards they became the first Americans to explore the Yosemite Valley.

While in California Walker and his men experienced their first earthquake. They also discovered the giant redwood trees. At the end of November the party reached the coast and saw the Pacific for the first time. Walker now headed southward toward Monterey. They were well received by the Spaniards and they spent the next three months building up their strength. Six of the party enjoyed it so much that they got permission from Walker to stay in California.

The Spanish authorities offered Walker a 50 square-mile tract of land if he agreed to stay on and bring in fifty families to settle in Monterey. Walker refused the offer and on 14th February, 1834, Walker's party headed east. At the base of the Sierra he turned south in search of a easier crossing than the one he used on the westward trip. He found it and it was later named the Walker Pass.

Once again the Nevada desert caused the party problems. They ran out of water and a large number of animals died of thirst. To survive the men were forced to drink the blood of these dead animals. In the Humboldt Sink the Diggers once again attacked Walker's party. A battle took place in June and 14 Diggers were killed. The party, without the loss of any men during the journey, arrived at Bear River on 12th July, 1834. One of the members, Zenas Leonard, wrote that the government should take control of California as soon as possible: "for we have good reason to suppose that the territory west of the mountain will some day be equally as important to a nation as that on the east."

In 1835 Walker became brigade leader of the American Fur Company. However, with the decline in the fur trade, Walker became involved in horse and mule trading trips. He also guided wagon trains to California and explored the Mono Lake area.

Joseph Walker died on his Contra Costa County ranch in California on 13th November, 1872

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