William Williams family collection  1808-1851 (bulk 1819-1851)
full text File Size: 13 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Walker family papers (1962 items) contain the 19th-century letters and documents of the Walker family of Vermont, Illinois, and Minnesota. The bulk of the collection documents Houghton Walker's business activities; other topics include the Mexican War, the Civil War, migration and settlement in Illinois and Wisconsin, Indian affairs, and Presbyterianism.

The Correspondence series (248 items) consists of three subseries: Walker Family letters, Peck Family letters, and Miscellaneous letters.

The Walker Family letters subseries (199 items) comprise the bulk of the Correspondence series. The various Walker brothers wrote often about business, land sales, financial distress, and business affairs. Lucius and Houghton both discussed their experiences traveling west from Vermont. Lucius, an Indian agent, mentioned his role in Indian affairs, and described the process of writing the Minnesota constitution in the 1850s. Emeline Walker’s letters typically relate to her religious faith and activities in the Presbyterian Church. Reverend William Walker discussed his experiences in Gaboon, and described the climate, food, homes, lifestyles of the Gabonese people, missionary work, and conflicts with the French government (between 1844 and 1882).

Items of note include:

  • Houghton Walker, 1840: Letter describing witnessing an execution
  • Joel Hamilton Walker, August 16-26, 1846, September 1, 1846 and March 24, 1847: Letters concerning his service in the Mexican War, describing his regiment's movements, fights in the camp with bowie knives, a riot among fellow troops, and available food
  • Lucius C. Walker, August 1857: Letter discussing constitution writing in Minnesota
  • Emeline Walker, August 3, 1862: Letter describing hearing "Douglas the colored barber" lecture on the war; she thought he spoke better on the topic than any white man in the area could
  • William Walker, January 18. 1868: Letter containing comments on contemporary politics in the United States
  • William Walker, April 10, 1882: Letter containing a history of William Walker's forty-year service as a missionary in Gaboon

The Peck Family letters (42 items) consist of the letters of Caroline Walker Peck, her husband Ebenezer, and their children Charles F, Peck and Sarah Wright, covering from the 1850s to the 1880s. These contain news on family and money issues, and document the business relationship between Charles and his uncle Houghton Walker.

The Miscellaneous letters subseries (7 items) contains letters to and from people outside the Walker and Peck families (1860-1905).

The Colonel Joel Walker Diary series (4 items) consists of a weather diary that contains daily temperature data and occasional notes on agricultural and day-to-day family activities (1837-1855). Also present are manuscript and typed copies of the diary, along with a list of excerpts of the non-weather information. Of note are the entries describing Walker's journey from Buffalo, New York, to Belvidere, Illinois.

The Documents and Financial Papers series (1,633 items) contains the business, financial, property, and estate records of the Walker family. Family members represented include Colonel Joel Walker, Joel Hamilton Walker, Francis Walker, George Walker, Francis H. Walker, Houghton C. Walker, Lucius C. Walker, Alice Houghton Walker, and Emeline August Frost Walker. However, the bulk of the series documents Joel Walker and Houghton Walker's business activities. Included are letters to merchants in the Midwest and New York, invoices, receipts, freight bills, orders, stock notes, promissory notes, treasury reports, insurance applications and policies, legal documents, estate papers, and cemetery and coffin bills. Many of the freight bills are for shipments on the Chicago & North-Western Railway Co.

Items of interest:

  • Houghton Walker, 1853-1859: Boone County Mutual Insurance Company records, which contain lists of policy-holders’ belongings with descriptions of their homes
  • Houghton Walker, 1859-1861: Bankruptcy papers for Alexander Neely, in which Houghton Walker was named as receiver
  • George Walker, 1860: Bill from [O']Doul's Restaurant in Springfield, Illinois, documenting nine months of food purchases

The Miscellaneous Materials series (77 items) is comprised of eight subseries, including photographs, scrapbooks, family papers, and genealogical material.

The Photographs subseries (2 items) contains aerial perspectives of Belvidere, Illinois, taken by W. A. Eddy in 1905 with the aid of a kite.

The Walker Scrapbook subseries (1 item) consists of a 33-page disbound volume of newspaper clippings, letters, and other ephemera. The clippings largely concern family members' obituaries and news on the Presbyterian Church in Belvidere, Illinois. Also of note are two newspaper articles written by Francis Houghton Walker in 1916, criticizing the portrayal of historical figures, especially Thaddeus Stevens in The Birth of a Nation. Also of interest are newspaper announcements for the silver wedding anniversary of Houghton and Emeline Walker, along with a list of gifts given to the couple on the occasion of the celebration.

The series contains subseries for miscellaneous items related to the following family members: Colonel Joel Walker, George Walker, Emeline August Frost Walker, Houghton C. Walker, and Francis H. Walker. The bulk of the materials are newspaper clippings that mention family members, calling cards, and fragments of writing. Of note are surveying documents of Joel and Houghton C. Walker, Emeline Walker's notes on missionaries in Africa and religious writings, and a note from Francis H. Walker on seeing Halley's Comet.

The Genealogical Materials subseries (24 items) contains records of the Walker and Houghton families collected by Francis H. Walker, along with two typed transcripts of the material. Also present are letters and genealogical notes compiled by Harry Leslie Walker and John B. Walker in the second half of the 20th century. These trace the Walker family back to the 17th century.

Show all series level scope and content notes