This collection documents the 19th-century personal, business, and genealogical papers of the Walker family. In the late 1830s, most of the family moved west from New England to Illinois, and were founding citizens of Belvidere, Illinois.
Colonel Joel Walker, Jr. (1780-1855), the father of many of the Walkers represented in this collection, was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He owned a shop in Peacham, Vermont, and in 1805 married Alice Houghton (1781-1874), of Keene, New Hampshire. They had seven children: Caroline Peck, Juliette M. Gilman, Joel Hamilton, Houghton Chester, Francis, George, and Lucius. In 1839, he and much of his family moved from New England to Belvidere, Illinois. He helped found a Presbyterian Church in Belvidere and in 1845 became the chairman of a committee of Boone County citizens, a group that lobbied for a railroad to pass through the town.
Caroline Walker Peck (1806-1877) married Ebenezer Peck; they had one son named Charles F. Ebenezer, who had a law practice in Springfield, Illinois, and by 1864 was a judge for the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C.
Juliette M. Walker (1808-1895) married William H. Gilman (1807-c.1877), in 1834. They had three children who lived to adulthood: Helen A. Peck, W.H. Gilman, and Kate M. Sager. In 1837, they moved to Belvidere, Illinois. They lived in Chicago from 1840 to 1842 before returning to Belvidere for good. William Gilman was born in New Hampshire and studied law with Judge Peck in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He practiced law until his death in 1877.
Joel Hamilton Walker (1813-1849) traveled to Illinois with his brothers Houghton and Francis in 1836. He served as a soldier in the Mexican War under Colonel E. D. Baker but became sick and was discharged. He joined his family in Belvidere, Illinois, to recuperate, but never recovered and died in 1849.
Houghton Chester Walker (1815-1890) was an entrepreneur and public official in Illinois. From 1829 to 1833, Houghton worked at his father's store in Peacham. He spent a few years living in Brooklyn, New York, before traveling with his brothers to Illinois in 1836. By January 1837, he and his brother Francis had established a mercantile business in Sycamore, Illinois. The business failed in August of that year and he moved to Belvidere, Illinois. From 1838 to 1839, Houghton served as sheriff of Boone County and in 1840, he and his father opened a commerce business. William H. Gilman bought Joel Walker's share of the business in 1841 and Houghton's share in 1842. Houghton briefly partnered with B.F. Lawrence running the American Hotel between Chicago and Galena, but left the hotel business a year later. In 1843, he married Emeline Augusta Frost (1822-1910), a native of Hull, Quebec, who traveled to Belvidere to visit her cousin, William H. Gilman, in 1842. Houghton and Emeline had two sons: Francis Houghton (1844-1930) and Charles Frost Walker (b. 1846). Over the next 14 years, Houghton managed general stores by himself or with various partners: William Smith, 1844-1847; N.C. Amsden, 1847-1851; no partner, 1851-1853 (sold the store to F.B. Hamlin & Son); and Amsden, 1855-1858. Houghton invested in the Farmers’ Bank with William Gilman in 1859, and in 1861 he opened a dry goods store in Belvidere. His son Francis became a partner in the mid-1860s, and in 1887, Houghton Walker retired from business.
Francis Walker (1818-1844) was born in Peacham, Vermont, and traveled to Illinois in 1836. He lived in Chicago from 1838 until at least 1841, and in 1839 purchased a plot of Chicago land from the government on the site that had been Fort Dearborn. He died in 1844.
George Walker (1820-1864) joined his family in Belvidere in 1839. In 1843, he moved to Springfield, Illinois, to study law under his brother-in-law Ebenezer Peck. From 1847 to 1858, George worked as editor of the Illinois State Register. He was a tax collector during the Civil War.
Lucius C. Walker (1823-1862) was a member of the first Minnesota State Legislature, and served in the House of Representatives in 1861. In 1862, he was appointed Chippewa agent at St. Paul, Minnesota. While serving as an agent, he faced hostility from a gang of Indian traders with interests in selling liquor. He suffered a fatal gunshot wound in 1862, but reports were unclear as to whether or not his death was murder or suicide.
Reverend William Walker (1808-1897) was born in Vershire, Vermont, to Judith Sanborn and Aaron Walker (b. 1773), brother of Joel Walker, Jr. William graduated from Andover Theological Seminary in 1841, and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1842. Shortly after, he left for Gaboon (now Gabon), Africa, where he served as a missionary until 1871. From 1879 to 1883, he acted as an agent for the Presbyterian Board and was a United States vice-commercial agent in Gaboon. After leaving Gaboon, he settled in Milton, Wisconsin, where he died in 1897.