Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Walker Family Papers, 1832-1910; bulk 1838-1880

Finding aid created by
Amanda Lenter, April 2003, and Philip Heslip, May 2011

Summary Information
Title: Walker family papers
Creator: Walker family
Inclusive dates: 1832-1910
Bulk dates: 1838-1880
Extent: 2.25 linear feet
The Walker family papers (1,962 items) contain the 19th-century letters and documents of the Walker family of Vermont, Illinois, and Minnesota. The bulk of the papers relate to Houghton Walker's mercantile businesses in Illinois. Other topics covered include the Civil War, the Mexican War, migration and settlement in Illinois and Wisconsin, Indian affairs, and religion.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1937, 1982, 2003. M-364, M-2018, M-4277.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.


Preferred Citation:

Walker Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is organized into four series and various subseries:

  • Series I: Correspondence
    • Subseries I: Walker Family
    • Subseries II: Peck Family
    • Subseries III: Miscellaneous Letters
  • Series II: Colonel Joel Walker Diary
  • Series III: Documents and Financial Papers
    • Subseries I: Col. Joel Walker
    • Subseries II: Joel Hamilton Walker
    • Subseries III: Francis Walker
    • Subseries IV: George Walker
    • Subseries V: Francis H. Walker
    • Subseries VI: Houghton C. Walker
    • Subseries VII: Lucius C. Walker
    • Subseries VIII: Alice Houghton Walker
    • Subseries IX: Emeline August Frost Walker
    • Subseries X: Miscellaneous Documents
  • Series IV: Miscellaneous
    • Subseries I: Photographs
    • Subseries II: Walker Family Scrapbook
    • Subseries III: Col. Joel Walker material
    • Subseries IV: George Walker material
    • Subseries V: Emeline August Frost Walker material
    • Subseries VI: Houghton C. Walker material
    • Subseries VII: Francis H. Walker material
    • Subseries VIII: Genealogical Materials

The Walker Family papers originally arrived in bundles of letters and documents. The original bundles were kept together and the materials within them have been ordered chronologically.


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.

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.

Subject Terms

    • Belvidere (Ill.)
    • Chicago and North Western Railway Company.
    • Gaboon Mission.
    • Mexican War, 1846-1848.
    • Minnesota. Constitution (1857)
    • Ojibwa Indians.
    • Presbyterian Church.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Belvidere (Ill.)
    • Collins, Charles B.
    • Gilman, William, b. 1807.
    • Hamlin, N.B.
    • Neely, Alexander.
    • Peck, Caroline Walker, 1806-1877.
    • Peck, Charles.
    • Peck, Ebenezer.
    • Walker, Alice Houghton, 1781-1874.
    • Walker, Charles Frost, b. 1846.
    • Walker, Emeline Augusta Frost, 1822-1910.
    • Walker, Francis, 1818-1844.
    • Walker, Francis Houghton, b. 1844.
    • Walker, George, 1820-1864.
    • Walker, Houghton Chester, 1815-1890.
    • Walker, Joel, Jr., 1780-1855.
    • Walker, Joel Hamilton, 1813-1849.
    • Walker, Juliette, 1808-1895.
    • Walker, Lucius, 1823-1862.
    • Walker, William, 1808-1897.
    • Wright, Sarah Peck.
    Genre Terms:
    • Accounts.
    • Diaries.
    • Financial records.
    • Insurance policies.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Photographs.
    • Prayer books.
    • Receipts (financial records)
    • Scrapbooks.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Correspondence [series]
    Walker Family Correspondence [subseries]
    Box   1 Folder   1
    Francis Walker,  1838-1839
    Folders   2-3  
    William Walker,  1844-1889
    Folder   4  
    Joel Hamilton Walker,  1846-1849
    Folders   5-8  
    George Walker,  1850-1864
    Folders   9-12  
    Lucius C. Walker,  1852-1862
    Folders   13-22  
    Houghton C. Walker,  1839-1887
    Folder   23  
    Alice Houghton Walker,  1857-1871
    Folders   24-26  
    Emeline Augusta Frost Walker,  1861-1904
    Peck Family Correspondence [subseries]
    Folders   27-29  
    Ebenezer Peck,  1837-1859
    Folder   30  
    Caroline Walker Peck,  undated
    Folder   31  
    Charles F. Peck,  1858-1886
    Miscellaneous Correspondence [subseries]
    Folder   32  
    Colonel Joel Walker Diary [series]
    Folder   33  
    Diary,  1837-1855
    Folders   34-38  
    Colonel Joel Walker Diary Manuscript copy,  1837-1855
    Folders   39-44  
    Colonel Joel Walker Diary Typescript,  1837-1855
    Folders   45  
    Colonel Joel Walker Diary Excerpts,  1837-1855
    Documents and Financial Papers [series]
    Box   2 Folders   1-6
    Colonel Joel Walker,  1832-1875
    Folder   7  
    Joel Hamilton Walker,  1833-1849
    Folder   8  
    Francis Walker,  1838-1840
    Folders   9-17  
    George Walker Documents and Financial Papers,  1842-1874
    Folder   18  
    Francis H. Walker,  1865-1910
    Folders   19-42  
    Houghton C. Walker Documents and Financial Papers: Amsden and Walker,  1848-1857
    Box   3 Folders   1-11
    Houghton C. Walker Documents and Financial Papers: Amsden and Walker,  1857
    Folders   12-36  
    Houghton C. Walker Documents and Financial Papers: Boone County Mutual Insurance Company,  1848-1865
    Box   4 Folders   1-30
    Houghton C. Walker Documents and Financial Papers: Boone County Mutual Insurance Company,  1834-1890
    Folder   31  
    Lucius C. Walker,  1854-1859
    Folders   32-33  
    Alice Houghton Walker,  1855-1874
    Folders   34-36  
    Emeline August Frost Walker,  1910-1929
    Folder   37  
    Miscellaneous Documents,  1839-1870
    Miscellaneous Material [series]
    Box   5 Folder   1
    Photographs,  1905
    Folders   2-5  
    Walker Family Scrapbook,  19th century-1961
    Folder   6  
    Colonel Joel Walker,  19th century-August 1961
    Folder   7  
    George Walker,  1861
    Folders   8-10  
    Emeline August Frost Walker, receipts, news clippings, prayer books, Sunday school ledger, religious and other writings,  1861-1894
    Folder   11  
    Houghton C. Walker,  1868-1883
    Folder   12  
    Francis H. Walker,  1910
    Folders   13-18  
    Genealogical Materials,  19th-20th centuries
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Walker Family Papers Organization by Primary Contributors

    • Alice Houghton Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folder 23; 1857-1871, 7 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 4, Folders 32-33; 1855-1874, 22 items)
    • Emeline Augusta Frost Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 24-26; 1861-1904, 13 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 4, Folders 34-36; 1910-1929, 19 items)
      • Miscellaneous (Box 5, Folders 8-10; 1861-1894, approx. 34 items)
    • Francis Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folder 1; 1838-1839, 3 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 2, Folder 8; 1838-1840, 3 items)
    • Francis Houghton Walker
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 2, Folder 18; 1865-1910, 6 items)
      • Miscellaneous (Box 5, Folder 12; 1910, 2 items)
    • George Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 5-8; 1850-1864, 40 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 2, Folders 9-17; 1842-1874, 99 items)
      • Miscellaneous (Box 5, Folder 7; 1861, 3 items)
    • Houghton C. Walker
      • Correspondence: M.G. Leonard, C.B. Collins, N.B. Hamlin, etc. (Box 1, Folders 13-22; 1839-1887, 93 items)
      • Amsden and Walker Documents (Box 2, Folders 19-42. Box 3, Folders 1-7; 1848-1857, 456 items)
      • Boone County Mutual Insurance Company Documents (Box 3, Folders 12-36; 1851-1862, 327 items)
      • Freight Bills and Receipts (Box 4, Folders 1-18; 1863-1877, 357 items)
      • H.C. Walker and Co. Documents (Box 4, Folders 19-25; 1869-1874, 87 items)
      • Other Documents (Box 4, Folders 26-30; 1834-1890, 71 items)
      • Miscellaneous (Box 5, Folder 11; 1868-1883, 5 items)
    • Colonel Joel Walker
      • Diary: original, ms. copy, typescript, excerpts (Box 1, Folders 33-45; 1837-1855, 1 item)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 2, Folders 1-6; 1832-1875, 88 items)
      • Miscellaneous (Box 5, Folder 6; 19th century-August 1961, 6 items)
    • Joel Hamilton Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folder 4; 1846-1849, 4 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 2, Folder 7; 1833-1849, 3 items)
    • Lucius C. Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 9-12; 1852-1862, 31 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 4, Folder 31; 1854-1859, 14 items)
    • William Walker
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 2-3; 1844-1889, 9 items)
    • Peck Family
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folders 27-31; 1837-1886, 42 items)
    • Miscellaneous
      • Correspondence (Box 1, Folder 32; 1860-1905, 7 items)
      • Documents and Financial Papers (Box 4, Folder 37; 1839-1870, 17 items)
      • Scrapbook and Photographs (Box 5, Folders 1-5; 19th century-1961, 3 items)
      • Genealogical Materials (Box 5, Folders 13-18; 19th-20th centuries, 24 items)
    Alternate Locations

    The following item is located in the Clements Library Books Division:

    Belvidere Illustrated: Historical, Descriptive, and Biographical. Belvidere, Ill.: Daily Republican, 1896.