An Ancestral blog by Terrell Ledbetter, 6th great grandson of John Walker submitted 2/25/2019
Large caveat: I have seen confusion and much misinformation about John Walker (1728-1796) my 6th great-grandfather. This man’s family immigrated from Ireland. See more at end of this blog as I offer at least four more John Walkers that everyone seems to be mixing up on there trees.
The only truth to the information about John Walker is from the writings of his son Felix and the recorded information in Tryon and Rutherfordton substantiated by Felix. Felix did not insert Rutherford in his father’s name within any of his writings.
I recommend all references to this man be John Walker with the Rutherford not indicated. John Alexander Walker was born in Wigtown, Scotland about 1655 (and was not the son of Rev. George Walker) and his son John Alexander Walker II married a Rutherford. This is not the line of our subject Col. John Walker of an Irish family. I have seen many internet trees that combine the trees of Col. John Walker and John Alexander Walker. Do not get confused by that gross error that is being reported an some internet trees and information.
In the late 1600’s in Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants were killing each other. King James I had long ago imported Scottish protestants into the traditional Ulster Irish Catholic region and now heavy unrest continued to grow. When William of the Dutch House of Orange (champion of the Protestants} claimed the English throne, deposed King James II rallied his Catholic Irish supporters in Northern Ireland resulting in a bloody battle on July 1, 1690. An Anglican Priest from Derry (Londonderry) named George Walker, who was a Williamite, was killed in the Battle of the Boyne that day. This battle was the last time two kings faced each other in battle. George Walker, as acting governor or Londonderry, was a primary force in the hundred day defense of that city just a year before the Battle of the Boyne.
George Walker was from an English family who had studied Divinity at Trinity College in Dublin and decided to stay in Ireland. His father was an Englishman who was also a religous leader. He married Isabella Barkley who was born and lived in Ireland. Isabella’s family was from the Scottish line of Bruce.
George and Isabella lived in a very small village called Donaghmore where he had been the Rector of Donaghmore from 1662 until 1674. George and Isabella had six sons and three daughters with all under nineteen at the time of his death. This had to be a tremendous challenge to that family. George himself was only forty-five at his passing.
picture of George Walker
George Walker’s son, John Walker I (1671-1726), petitioned the House of Commons for reparations and was granted a pension of 200 pounds yearly (roughly the equivalent of $14,000) in today’s dollars. This pension continued during much of King George I reign but was eventually taken away by the Whigs, most likely just before 1720. If this was for his mother or shared among the family, the pension was of little help.
In 1704 an Act was invoked which derived Presbyterians from public office and deprived clergy of legal standings. In addition, England closed Irish cattle, dairy and cloth from foreign markets. To make matters worse, between 1714 and 1719, Northern Ireland suffered from terrible bad harvests.
By this time, John Walker I had had enough. He had his wife (the former Jane Staples) to provide for. With the pension gone, loss of income due to clothing material tariffs, the Irish harvest impact and the continual fighting between religious groups, he was ready to depart. In 1720 John and Jane’s children were from the ages of eighteen to twenty-five years of age. John, wife and some of the children departed Derry in 1720 to the American colonies. No records show the departure port nor port of entry but it was most likely Philadelphia as the family moved a short distance away to the Delaware Colony.
picture of Bohemia Creek which flows to Elk River then the Chesapeake Bay
One of John Walker 1 and Jane Staples children, John Walker II was twenty-three when he immigrated to the Delaware Colony with his mother and father. The entire family settled near Bohemia Creek which is near the Maryland Eastern Shore in a little town called Appaquinimey.
John Walker 1 died on October 10, 1726 and was buried at Backwater Church near the Little Bohemian. There is no history for his wife Jane Staples. I have been to Backwater Church and have seen ancient and decaying tombstones. There is no way to read most of them.
The wife of John Walker II is unknown; His children were Thomas (1722) who died at the age of three, a daughter Hannah (1725-1792) who married Benjamin Grubbs, a daughter Jane (around 1723 until 1787) who married Col. Joseph Curry, and a son (1728) named John III.
Hannah married Benjamin Grubbs in 1749, her second husband (she had a son from that union). Hannah and Benjamin settled in Bullskin Creek in Frederick County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Hannah and Benjamin moved to Craven County, North Carolina where she died in 1792.
Jane married Col. Joseph Curry after 1736 in Delaware but returned to Scotland and had several children. They immigrated back to America and settled near Columbia, South Carolina. Col. Curry was a surveyor as well as a Colonel. His older children were British Loyalist during the Revolutionary War and departed South Carolina after the war.
John Walker II died in 1742. He was described as a simple, honest farmer.
To minimize any confusion, the Walkers all named John can be categorized as:
John Walker I (son of Irish Clergy}
John Walker II (Bohemia River Farmer)
John Walker III (Rutherford County Patriot)
John Walker III born in 1728 is the subject of the blog and his story begins now. It has been recorded that his date of birth was January 15, 1728 but a picture of his tombstone shows a different date of May 10, 1728. The tombstone appears to have been a replacement; was the replacement correct?
John Walker had been apprenticed out to a cooper by his father at an early age as was accustomed in those days to afford a young man a means of making a successful way in the world. John’s father died in 1742 when young John was barely fourteen. Once free from the apprenticeship, John set out on his own adventure and moved up along the south branch of the Potomac River in Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia). It must be assumed that he was able to begin in the cooper trade.
picture of south fork of Potomac River
In Hampshire County, John met Elizabeth Watson from a good English family (her maternal third great-grandmother was Dutch) and they were married in 1751. Some trees indicate that the young couple had their first child and only daughter, Rachael, later that year. But in fact, Rachael was born in Paris, Virginia which was fifty miles to the east from Hampshire County. Some DNA comparisons will probably have to be made to determine the father of Rachael. Records indicate Rachael’s father was a John Walker, but her mother was named Ann and therefore not Elizabeth Watson. It is easy to see how some trees link Rachael to our Col. John Walker. You have to be so careful not to link bad information. The fact that the Col. John Walker family moved to North Carolina in 1755 and Rachael was married in Virginia in 1767 tends to argue strongly against Rachael being from the Col. John Walker tree.
John and Elizabeth’s confirmed children were: Felix 1753-1828, John 1755-1780 ; Rueben 1757-1836, William Daniel 1760-1841; Thomas 1762-1810; Joseph 1765, George 1768-1778; and Jacob 1771-1842.
I find it remarkable that there were eight boys. George was killed by Indians at the age of ten. It has been stated on some sites that son John was lost at war in South Carolina in 1780 at age twenty-five. Felix confirmed the death of John as having been lost in the siege at Charleston. Also Lt. William Walker testified in his application for Revolutionary War Pension that he lost a brother John in the battle at Charleston in 1780,
The Wiki tree for the John Alexander Walker shows Col. John Walker and Elizabeth Watson having ten sons. Here again, this is incorrect as someone has combined the trees for two Walkers. For one, the first son on that Wiki tree has a son John born in 1748, three years before Col. John Walker was married. And the Wiki tree lists two other sons named John. Unfortunately many people are blindly using the information as fact.
It should be noted that Felix, in his many writings, did not mention having a sister, yet one transcript indicates that he said his father had seven sons and a daughter. He then corrected himself and added an eighth son, William, that he had forgotten. Felix also stated that his mother was from a good Irish family when her family was actually fourth generation Virginians originally from England and Netherlands. It doesn’t seem that Felix had clear recollection at that point.
John Walker III became a hunter of the first order and regionally famous in that area and something he did for food his entire life. There was an abundance of black bears, wild turkeys and white-tailed deer as well as an infrequent Virginia Bison who migrated through from the north. The country was wild although Virginia had grown to about 220,000 people by that time.
France and England contested lands west of the Alleghany Mountains. In 1753 Major George Washington started the French & Indian War by killing a French diplomat during a mission to inform the French Commander in the Ohio Valley that French forces were on land claimed by Virginia and the British Empire. In 1754, Washington began clearing a road through the wilderness to the Ohio River. There was a skirmish at Jumonville Glenn. Fort Necessity was built but surrendered during the first battle of the war.
in 1755, General Edward Braddock arrived. John Walker joined with George Washington to fight with Braddock. On September 9, 1755, Braddock was defeated near the Monongahela River. After the defeat, the Indians (Shawnee, Delaware and Mingo} mounted raids and attacks in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Many settlers were killed or taken captive around the New River, Draper’s Meadow, Augusta County and Greenbrier. John Walker rightly and timely moved his wife, Felix and John out of harms way and moved to a new countryside in North Carolina.
Being a cooper, it is assumed that John Walker had one or more wagons and if so, he must have loaded up as much necessities as he could and brought livestock and family down the Great Wagon Road running from Philadelphia to Big Lick, Virginia and then down to the Wachovia settlement. He stopped and set up a homestead on the Lee Creek east of Lincolnton, North Carolina.
Beginning in 1758, the Cherokee Indians began to raid settlements in North and South Carolina. In 1761, John Walker joined a force of over 2,400 men under Col. James Grant, a Scot, to subdue middle and upper towns of the Cherokee. This force was mainly British Regulars and is considered the large fight against the French/Indians in Cherokee lands. Fifteen Cherokee towns and fifteen thousand acres of crops were destroyed. After four months on the trail, John Walker was able to return home. At that time John moved again, to Crowder’s Creek near Kings Mountain. Hunting was terrific and the family was able to raise ample livestock. By this time, John and Elizabeth had eight children. He stayed at Crowder’s Creek until 1768 when the game for food had dissipated.
Now he purchased 400 acres for a Spanish gold doubloon from a fellow hunter named Moses Moore The beginning of his plantation was located at the mouth of the Second Broad River in Rutherford, County. The location conjectured was 0.8 miles from the mouth of Cane Creek and 1.5 miles from Brittain Church (35.42595; -81.88303). The county seat of Rutherford after 1779 was nearby Gilbert Town. The family stayed here until all the children were grown. By 1768 the boys were now getting old enough to help doing the harder work. Apparently John’s wealth increased enough to build a fine house which was called a plantation by others of the day.
signers of the Tryon Declaration of August 14, 1775. Note the first name.
John Walker was the chairman of the Tryon Association, a group of courageous patriots, who met in Lincoln County and signed the Tryon Declaration. The Tryon Resolves were a brief declaration by citizens of Tryon County in North Carolina in the early stages of the American Revolution where the county vowed resistance to coercive actions by Great Britain against the American colonies. Most of the resolve involved obtaining gun powder and lead from Charleston. This resolution was a year ahead of John Adams and committee of the Continental Congress that selected Thomas Jefferson to draft a Declaration of Independence. During the summer of 1775, John Walker was the existing Colonel over the Tryon Regiment of Militia.
John Walker was a member of the first public convention held in North Carolina in Hillsboro in July, 1775 on the revolution of the American states.
On September 1, 1775, John Walker was commissioned as a Captain under Col. James Moore in the 1st NC Regiment which was provincial troops. On November 28, 1775, the unit was placed as Continental. Captain John Walker led his company at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge on February 26, 1776 and the Breach Inlet Naval Battle in South Carolina on June 26, 1776.
Then a few months later on April 26, 1777, John Walker was commissioned a Major under Col. Thomas Clark in the 1st North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Line. He fought the Battle of Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777 and Germantown, Pennsylvania on October 4, 1777.
On December 11, 1777, Major Walker resigned from the Continental Army for reasons of health and returned home. He was not refused because he was to be fifty years old in one month. Apparently that was considered an advanced age in those times.
Six of John’s sons fought in the Revolutionary War: Felix, John, Thomas, William Daniel, James, and Joseph. Only Lt. William Walker fought in the near-to-home Battle of Kings Mountain. I have reviewed J. D. Lewis’ excellent work called “The Known Patriots of the Battle of Kings Mountain October 7, 1780” and confirmed this to be true.
Lt. William Walker fought under Captain Richard Singleton and Col. Andrew Hampton of the Rutherford County Militia. Interestingly, Lt. William Walker, my 5th g-grandfather fought alongside another of my ancestors, Captain George Ledbetter (4th g-grandfather). Here there is some mystery: Was the Lt. William Walker who fought for Col Hampton the same William Daniel Walker, Col. John’s son? And most importantly, was Daniel Walker (1776-1827) the son of William Daniel Walker. It is strongly believed that this was the case, but DNA evidence is needed. If you can provide information, please comment.
Prior to the Battle of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780, Captain James Chitwood, a well-known Rutherford County Torie, established a garrison around John Walker’s plantation while Surgeon Uzal Johnson worked on wounded Torie Major James Dunlap who had been wounded at the battle at Cane Creek. Previously the British Commander, the infamous Patrick Ferguson, made the Walker Plantation his headquarters. John Walker was away. Ferguson imprisoned Elizabeth Walker in her own cellar to prevent the rebel Whigs from attacking and burning his new quarters.
During Wednesday, the eleventh, four days after the Battle of Kings Mountain, the Continental Forces (over-mountain men) marched twelve miles, and encamped at Colonel John Walker’s, according to Allaire’s Diary. Colonel Walker, one of the prominent Whig leaders of the country, resided some five miles north-east of Gilbert Town, on the east side of Cane creek, half a mile above its mouth, and a mile below the present Brittain church.
A dairy of a Colonial Militiaman Anthony Allaire is as follows:
“Wednesday, 13th [September, 1780, enroute to Pleasant Gardens & Davidson’s]. Got in motion about eight o’clock in the morning and continued countermarching to a Rebel Col. Walker’s plantation where we met Capt. Ryerson and Lieut. Fletcher with the remainder of the American Volunteers and militia. Here we took up our ground, very much fatigued with our enterprise.
Thursday, 14th. Lay still at Col. Walker’s. The poor, deluded people of this Province begin to be sensible of their error, and come in very fast. Maj. Ferguson, with thirty American Volunteers, and three hundred militia, got in motion at six o’clock, and marched to the head of Cane creek, and halted at one Wilson’s.
Friday, 15th. Capt. DePeyster and I, who remained at Col. Walker’s with the remainder of the American Volunteers and militia, got in motion at six o’clock in the morning, and marched twelve miles to one Bowman’s, near the head of Cane creek, and halted. This creek is so amazingly crooked that we were obliged to cross it nineteen times in marching four miles.”
The Continental Militia victors captured the Torie Captain James Chitwood and hanged him with eight others on October 14.
After the Revolutionary War things quietened down on the Walker Plantation.
In early 1775, John Walker and son Felix set out to Kentucky with Colonel Richard Henderson to obtain a treaty with the Chrerokee with regard to purchase of land in Kentucky from the Cherokee. John Walker, Felix and the Colonel met Indian Chief Atticullaculta.
In 1779 he was appointed justice of the peace in the new county of Rutherford, and the first session of the Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions was held at his home near the mouth of Cane Creek. The legislature of 1784 named him one of the commissioners of the Morgan District for disposing of confiscated Tory property. It also designated him one of the commissioners in that district “for the purpose of erecting a court house, prison and stocks in the County of Burke, for the use of said district, and for levying a tax to complete the same.” Other duties of the commissioners consisted of laying out and establishing a town in Burke County by the name of Morgansborough (now Morganton).
In 1787, John Walker and remaining family moved about ten miles to the mouth of the Green River within Rutherford County. He lived there until he died on January 25, 1796 at the age of sixty-eight. Elizabeth left his property to youngest son Jacob who most assuredly took care of his mother. Elizabeth Watson Walker died on Easter Sunday in April, 1808 at the age of seventy-five and was buried next to John on the family buried site at the old plantation.
The Daughters of the American Revolution erected a marker for John Walker on the site of his plantation.
John Walker III was a cornerstone of the beginning of the republic. But Elizabeth Watson Walker–what a strong and incredible woman she was to bring up eight boys/young men during Indian uprisings, the French & Indian War and the Revolutionary War with her husband absent home for much of it.
John and Elizabeth’s son, Lt. William Daniel Walker. is my 5th great-grandfather. Lineage: George Walker; John Walker I; John Walker II; John Walker III; Lt. William Daniel Walker; Daniel Walker Jr.; Jonathan Young Walker; James Washington Walker; Albert Washington Walker; and Bertha Lillian Walker (Reese)
Many trees and “Find a Grave” web information incorrectly inserts John Rutherford Walker when this is most likely not true. You have to be very careful here to document the correct Walker for your tree. The picture widely distributed as John Rutherford Walker was actually a senator from Virginia.
The John Walkers:
- My 6th great-grandfather Col. John Walker (1728-1796) discussed at length above.
- John Walker (born 1748 in Dan River, Pittsylvania County, Virginia). He married Ucilla Covington and had ten children. He lived three miles from Col. John Walker in Rutherford County, North Carolina.
- John Rutherford Walker (Dec 30 1829 Burke County, N.C. – May 29, 1923). He married Drucilla Ward. His children were John Bunyon Walker (1869-1890) and Lucy Ann Walker Bean (1871-1970).
- John Alexander Walker III (March 17, 1707 in Ireland – Killed by Indians in Rockbridge, Virginia in the fall of 1778. His mother was Katherine Jane Rutherford. John Alexander Walker III was called “Gunmaker” Walker and John Rutherford Walker.
- Senator John Walker or also called Col. John Walker (Feb 13, 1744 Cobham, Virginia- Dec 2, 1809 Madison Mills, Virginia). Was an Aide de Camp to Gen. George Washington in 1777. Was a Senator in Virginia and was succeeded by James Monroe. The picture of Sen. John Walker is often wrongfully entitled John Rutherford Walker
As you can see, most the trees and information on the internet mixes all these gentlemen up. You must be extra careful to identify your specific grandfather.
Terrell Ledbetter February 25, 2019, revised September 11, 2019