Shelby County, Indiana
John Crawford Walker
The Daily Republican
Written for the Republican:
Monday, July 20, 1885
Page 2, columns 2-4
Interesting Biography of Dr. John C.
[BY WILLIAM HACKER]
We now come to sketch the life and character of the last of the five original members of our lodge. He is the person to whom more than any other is usually ascribed the title of "Father of the Lodge" and the master spirit of that noble enterprise. This individual has in a previous article been introduced to our readers as the brave little boy of but six years of age who accompanied his heroic mother in her long and perilous journey of more than five hundred miles down the Ohio river to join her long absent husband in his wilderness home. As will be remembered we left him on that auspicious June day, 1793, at the mouth of Loughery Creek inthe arms of a doting father in the first long loving embrace he ever had the privilege of receiving. The parents after their long enforced separation, but now most happily reunited, immediately repaired to their little cabin a few miles up the creek and settled down once more to the enjoyment of domestic life. The question might here arise in the mids of some as to why Walker permitted his wife and little boy to perform alone that long and hazardous journey. Why did he not at least meet them at Fort Washington and accompany them the remainder of their journey. This part of their route at that time was beset with far greateer danger than any of that over which they had aready come by reason that both sides of the river from the Fort down was wholly unprotected and infested with straggling bands of hostile savages ready to pounce upon and massacre any and every unprotected person who might unfortunately fall in their way. The answer to all this may be found in the well known historial fact that at that time the lower Miami and Delaware tribes who inhabited tat portio of our State were much divided in regard to the propriety of a further continuance of the war with the United States. The party opposed to the continuance of the war was led by the celebrated chieftain Mesh-e-un-nough-quoh or "Little Turtle," the greatest warrior perhaps that his tribe had ever produced. It was he that planned the attack and led the Indians against the army under St. Clair and so disastrously defeated him November 4th, 1791.
This chieftain assisted by Captain Wells or Black Snake, the brother-in-law of Little Turtle, and a few of the lesser braves of the Delaware tribes were exerting all their influence in order to prevent their warriors from joining with the other tribes of the northwest in the further prosecution of their war with the whole people. Little Turtle made special efforts to let them know that they would now have quite a different army to contend against than the one led by St. Clair which they had so easily defeated. This army was now led by a commander that they would always find on the alert and could not e taken by surprise as was the former commander, and that if the Indians were brought to an engagement they woud be most certainly defeated and terribly cut to pieces. By such arguments and representations these chies and head men, assited no doubt by Walker who by this time had acquired a considerable influence over the Indians among whom he dwelt, a goodly number of the warrirs of these traibes were induced to remain quietly on their own hunting grounds and refuse to takeany part in the war then going on. Now it will be readily seen that under these circumstances had Walker gone up the river to meet his wife and child even no farther than to Fort Washington these Indians would have taken the alarm, fearing that Walker had gone to report their condition to the :longknives and that soon the army would be down upon them, capture and perhapsmassacre the whole of them. This view of the case would no doubt have caused every one of those peaceably disposed warriors to have fled and joined with the other hostile tribes of the northwest. Fo these prudential reasons it may be readily inferred why Walker judged it best to remain and assist in keeping as many of the Indians quiet as possible and only go to meet his wife and child at the mouth of the creek as he did. How much his good brothers, Little Turtle and Black Snake, had to do in protecting this defenseless mother and child fromthe hostile Indians along the banks of the river as they came down from the Fort or how much the knowledge that Anthony Wayne, the commander of the army about to be led against the Indians of the northwest, was a zealous Freemason had to do in shpaing the course of these friendly chiefs in this particular may never be know. But every intelligent Mason can readily picture this all out for himself in his own mind.
John Crawford Walker, the subject of this sketch, was born in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, on June 2d, 1787. This, as will observed, was but a mont or so after his father had so mysteriously disappeared from that part of the country. The time and circumstances under which he was brought by his mother to the residence of his father on Loughery creek has been given in a previous article of these sketches. Here little John grewup to man's estate, assisting his parents in opening out and cultivating their farm, and thus habits of industry became early instilled into his youthu mind. As they were now located far beyond the line of civilization, the treaty of Greenville not yet having been framed, there was no possibility of receiving an education by the ordinary process of common schools. Rigt here is where the lovely trait in the character of this more than heroic mother appears in such beauty and splendor. Being herself a woman of superior intellect, which had been cultivated with much care in her early life, she cheerfully took upon herself the additional labor of educating her own children, and so thoroughly wasthis motherly duty performed upon her part that al her children, ten in number, were well fitted for the business pursuits of life and prepared to participate in the great work of organizing and raising a new and undeveloped country into a highly prosperous commonwealth. Amid scenes f this character our little hero grew up to mans estate and entered uon business pursuits for himself. His first venture on this line perhaps was to rebuild or enlarge his father's saw-mill, and thus engage in cutting out lumber and shipping it to a southern market. This soon led him to trading up and down the Ohio andMississippi rivers, by which he was enabled even in those early times to turn an honest penny as circumstances offered. Having by these industries acquired some means he attended the land sale at Brookville, in October, 1820, and made purchase of quite a body of land, extending north from what is now Franklin street, in Shelbyville, to a considerable distance beyond Blue river.
In the summer of 1821 he erected a little log cabin near where the residence of Mr. William E. Teal is now situated. To this little cabin, in perhaps February 1822,small and uninviting as it was, he brought his family and located in a dense forest many miles from any other habitation, yet it was his own ad he felt proud o it. He now turned his attention to the improvement of his property. Finding himself the owner of valuable water power he set about improving it, and soon had a saw and flouring mills in successful operation, being the first mills of the kind ever erected in the county. The race he then dug and the mills he erected, though several times rebuilt, enlarged and improved since, are still in successful operation, and are perhaps the larest manufacturing enterprise that has ever been started up in our county. A few years further along in life, having become largely interested in business enterprises up near the lake in Laporte county, in the fall of 1839 he removed with his family to that part of our State, and located there again in the woods on a tract of land some three miles east of Michigan City. He soon afterwards became the principal proprietor of what is now the populous and flourishing city of Laporte. This was perhaps an unfortunate move for him. The strong northerly winds which usually prevail up near the lake and in that prairie country were evidently too severe for him in his advanced years. From this or from some unknown cause, almost immediately after his removal to that part of the State his usual robust heath began to fail, and he gradually declined until in the fall of 1844, when he sunk in to the grave at the age of a little past fifty-seven years. Thus was terminated a most useful life many years before the vigor of manhood should have given any signs of decay. More than likely, had he remained in the southern portion of our State amidst the mighty forests where he would have been sheltered from the bleak winds so constanty prevailing in the more northern portions of our country, many years of useful life would doubtless have been added to his earthly career.
Be this as it may however his whole life, cut short as it may have been, was a most eventful one. He was always in the advance of civilization, manfully grappling with the deprivations of frontier life putting forth every energy possible in order to ameliorate the adversities which all emigrants to a new country must necessarily endure. Here was a noble work, a grand work most successfully performed. How much the present prosperous condition of our now highly cultivated and productive county may b directly the result of the enterprise and indomitablecourage and perseverance of such noble pioneers as John C. Walker and others of his associates of these early times may never be known. This much, however, is known and toour shame be it said the toil, labor and deprivaiton they had necessarily to pass through is not now appreciated by the citizens of our county as they should be and perhaps are now rarely thought of by any one. At the organization of our county into a civil jurisdiction, Mr. Walker took a deep interest, and from 1824 to 1828 he filed the office of Sheriff of the county most acceptable. In 1835-6 he served a term in the lower branch of the Legislature, and from 1836 to 1830 he was in the State Senate. How well he represented his constituency at this important eopch of our country's history, the journal of those sessions of the Ligislature will abundantly testify. All that need now be said upon that point is that during these sessions of our Legislature the laws were formulated whichinaugurated that wonderful system of internal improvements which has raised Indiana to the proud posiiton of one of the first and most prosperous States of our national union. In all these schemes of legislation Walker took an active part, and to hi equally with any other member of the Legislature is due the credit of its final grand results.
Written for the Republican:
Monday, July 27, 1885
Page 2, columns 2-4
Continuation of the Life and Times of
Dr. John C. Walker, Sr.
[BY WILLIAM HACKER]
Our Brother John C. Walker was made a Mason in Rising Sun Lodge No.6, at Rising Sun, Indiana, on October 7th, 1818. Passed January 6th, 1819, and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason March 10th of that year. The principles and teachings of Masonry were so in accord with the bent of his own mind and temperament that he at once conceived a warm attachment to the order. Consequently he was ever after found at the post of duty ready to perform whatever part of the work that might be assiged him. At the organization of the Lodge here in Shelbyville, on January 7th, 1825, he accepted the office of Secretary, at that time the most important as well as responsible position in the Lodge. For as the records made up during the first term would have to be sent up, examined and passed upon by a committee of the Grand Lodge, any one can readily see the importance of having the best and most accurate business member of the Lodge to perform that duty. It is hardly necessary here to say that the records he then made upon examination by the committee were fully approved by them and concurred in by the Grand Lodge. Brother Walker continued in the discharge of these duties until May 1826, when he was advanced to the station of Junior Warden. For 1828 he was Senior Warden, and in December of that year he was advanced tothe office of W. Master. For the three succeeding years he was Steward of the Lodge which at that time was a most resonsible as well as laborious position to fill. As the Lodge had no particular location, but had the right to meet at any point in the county as the members might judge for the best, it was the special business of the Stewart[sic] always to look for an secure a place for the next meeting, giving timely notice thereof to the members. All can readily see the amount of labor as well as difficulty that must have attended the performance of these duties. To the credit of Brother Walker be it said that he never made a failure, for when he could do no better he would open his own private residence for the accommodation of the Lodge. For the year 1832 our zealous brother was at the Secretary's desk faithfully performing the duties of that station once more.
The time having now arrived when his interests in Laporte county began to assume rather large proportions and requiring much of his time looking after those investments, he evidently had to decline further official duties in the Lodge. However, in July 1835, he is again Secretary, where he remained until he finally changed his residence to Laporte county. As Brother Walker never called for a demit from the Lodge here and the Lodge at Laporte having been organized some two years before he became a residente of that jurisdiction, consequently he remained a member in regular standing of Lafayette Lodge, No.28, up to the time of his death. In 1830 he represented the Lodge in the Grand Lodge and was at that session elected Grand Treasurer. In 1833 and again in 1834 he was the representative of the Lodge and for each year he was re-elected to the same office. In 1835 he was again the representative but declined another election. In all these years of service in the Grand Lodge he acquitted himself most acceptably, always serving on important committees, and as Treasurer faithfully accounting for whatever came into his hands. After his removal to Laports county in 1839, his general health declining so rapidly, and as his residence for the first three years was some fifteen miles from the location of the Lodge at Laporte it is supposed that he never had the opportunity of even visiting the Lodge at that place. So when he left Shelbyville with his family in 1839 that ended his Masonic labors. To Brother Walker is usually assigned the title of Father of our Lodge and rightfully so, too, as we think, first because of the well known zeal and care he always manifest for the welfare and perpetuity of the Loge. Again Brother Abel C. Pepper who, as Grand Master, issued the warrant for the organization of the Lodge, was Brother Walker's preceptor in Masonry, taught him his first lessons and thus laid the foundation for the zeal and usefulness he ever manifested for the order. This naturally caused a warm and sincere attachment between them that was never interrupted for a moment during their natural lives. From this we may readily see the source from whence originated those extraordinary favors granted to the Lodge at its organization. Had the Grand Master required the usual number of petitioners before issuing the warrant for the Lodge, it would of necessity have postponed the organization for at least two years.
Had he required that the lodge should have a location at some particular point in the county more than five years perhaps would have passed before a suitable place could have been obtained and the lodge organized. The confidence which Brother Walker had inspired in the mind of the Brand Master accomplished all this and later along in life even after Brother Walker had passed away Brother Pepper was known often to express himself that in granting these special favors upon the belief in the integrity of Brother Walker, he had not been deceived. As to the humane and benevolent character of Brother Walkermuch might be said. One instance illustrative of this will be given and let that suffice. At an early period in the history of our county when but a small portion of the land had been brought under cultivation and perhaps not any more grain produced than would barely supply bread for the inhabitants there came a time when the growing crops, small as they were, were almost entirely destroyed by the army worm literally sweeping small grain, grass &c. out of existence. In many places the fruit and forest trees were stripped as bare as by the frosts of December. Later on in the season came a host of squirrels traveling from the west. From whence they came or whither they went no one knows, but the like of which has never been seen either since or before. They were literally like the frogs of Egypt for multitude. "They covered the land" and although they may not hae got into the kneading troughs yet they did come "into the houses and into the bed-chambers" and many a good house-wife with her broomstick was enabled right upon her own floor to secure squirrel meat sufficient for many a hearty meal for the family and work-hands. These pestilential marauders came just as the fall crops began to ripen and before leaving they about consumed all that the army worms had left. A few of the settlers, perhaps not to exceed half a dozen in the whole county, like Walker in the bottom north of town, were able to hire the boys and others out of employment about town to assist in protecting their growing crops. By this means they succeeded in securing a tolerable crop of fall grain from total destruction. Before the winter season was half over it was said that these few individuals had all the surplus grain there was then left in Shelby county.
About this time there came along two gentlemen speculators who, hearing of Walker's supply of corn, proposed to take the whole of it and allow him seventy-five cents a bushel when the usual price of corn at that time rated only from twenty to twenty-five cents. Here was a tempting offer that most persons in the days in which we now live would have hesitated but little to accept. Not so, however, with our good Brother Walker who well knowing the great scarcity of grain throughout the county and comprehending the game these specuators intended to play utterly refused to let them have a pound at any price, and gently hinted to them that perhaps they had as well be getting out of the county with as little delay as possible. Walker told them if their scheme of intended speculation should become known to a few of the citizens "they might find themselves dangling from the limb of that tree," pointing to a leaning sycamore on the bank of theriver. Of course they mounted their horsesand took themselves off in a hurry. Right here, be it said to the credit of these generous-hearted frontiersmen who had thus secured a little surplus, that they generously dealt it out to their destitute neighbors as they had need of it and in no instance would they receive more than twenty-five cents a bushel for any of it. A large amount of this they felt impelled to let go on credit and trust tothe honesty of the purchaser for future payment. Let it be recorded as a perpetual memorial to the honesty of those destitue settlers in our county that not in a single instance did one of them fail to meet the demand and make payment according to promise. Thus was many a destitute family of our county sustained and perhaps saved fromstarvation during the remainder of that long and severe winter. Truly if there was ever a new country on earth that was first settled by honest, sympathizing, square-dealing pioneer people then Shelby county, Indiana, was that favored location. Brother Walker always maintained a high regard and veneration for his parents, especially for his mother. After his removal to this county he never failed to visit his parents several times each year when if there was anything to be had or done that would add to the comfort or enjoyment of his mother, she would be sure to get it.
After her death his father, being so crippled up with rheumatism and stiffness of joints be reason of the great exposures he had passed through in early life, concluded to give up house-keeping and live around among his children, spending a month or two with one and then going to another. In thus moving about he had necessarily in these early times to travel mostly on horseback and as his children had scattered over the country and lived so far apart it would at times require seveal days to accomplish the journey. On such ossasions the old man would sometimes forget himself especially when he could have a pleasant country tavern to put up at and meet a few of the old revolutionary soldiers and Indian fighters. Then they would have a grand old time together fighting their battles over, chasing the Indians from the frontier, relating scenes of the war and thrilling adventures on the frontiers. In this manner at times a week or two would slip away and then there would be a tavern bill to settle. These were uniformly made out and forwarded here for John C. Walker to settle which he cheerfully compliedwith esteeming ita great priilege to thus add to the enjoyment and pleasure of his venerable parent. This relieving the old man's mind from the cares and troubles of life with the privilege of seeking for home comforts and enjoyments when and where he might see proper no doubt added an additional ten years to his natural life.
Hon. John C. Walker, M.D. --- The Walkers were of Scotch-Irish stock, and emigrated to Pennsylvania early in the seventeenth century. Benjamin Walker, a veteran soldier of the Revolution, at the close of the war returned to his home, on the Susquehanna, near Harrisburg. In some trouble with the Indians his father was captured, murdered, and, it was said, burned at the stake. Peace having been restored, a band of Indians encamped near the town, and one night tow of them were overheard by Benjamin Walker relating the circumstance of the
murder of his father. When the Indians departed he and his brother
followed, overtook them, and after a desperate encounter killed both. The
fight began near a high bank overlooking the river, Benjamin and his adversary
rolling into the water below, where he succeeded in drowning the latter.
This affair having occurred in time of peace, Benjamin Walker was outlawed by
proclamation of the Governor, and with his wife (a Miss Crawford) and
several small children embarked in canoes on the Ohio River and ultimately
reached Dearborn County, Ind. He secured property, established a saw- and
later a grist-mill. At his home, on Laughery Creek, he was frequently
visited by Daniel Boone, the celebrated hunter. He reared a
large family of children, among whom was John C. Walker, a
prominent citizen and member of the State Senate, who married Frances
Allen, of Virginia, and resided for a period of years at Shelbyville,
Ind. He was a large contractor in the building of the Michigan pike road,
and with the land-scrip in which the contractors were paid purchased large
tracts in La Porte and adjoining counties. At one time he was said to be
the largest land-owner in the State.
He was an
incorporator, with John Hendricks, of Shelbyville, George
H. Dunn, and John Test, of Lawrenceburg, and others, of the
first railroad built in Indiana, the Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis, chartered
Feb. 2, 1832. A condition of the charter was that the work should be under
way within three years. The difficulties and delays incident to so great
an enterprise at that early day seemed to threaten a forfeiture of the charter,
to avert which John C. Walker threw up a grade, laid ties, and put down rails of
hewn timber for a mile and a quarter from Shelbyville, and with a wooden car
drawn by horses opened the road for passenger travel on the 4th of July,
1834. "Walker's Railroad" is still remembered by many only
with his family to La Porte, Ind., in 1836, and died ten years later. The
children of Mr. and Mrs. Walker were William, James
(deceased), and Benjamin, of Chicago; Mrs. McCoy,
of California; Mrs. Cummins and Mrs. Holcombe,
of Indianapolis; Mrs. Teal (deceased), of Shelbyville, Ind.; Mrs.
Ludlow and Mrs. Garland Rose (both deceased), of La
Porte, Ind.; and the subject of this sketch, Dr. John C. Walker,
who was born in Shelbyville, Ind., on the 11th of February, 1828. He was
educated by his brother-in-law, Professor F. P. Cummins, an eminent
teacher and minister. He possessed a strong and active intellect, was a
good student and diligent reader, and, though his regular studies were
interrupted by an injury to his eyes, he acquired a large store of information
and varied accomplishments.
Early in his
career he purchased the La Porte Times, which, as editor and
proprietor, he made the most influential paper in Northern Indiana. It was
the first paper in the State, perhaps in the country, to antagonize the methods
and dogmas of the Know-Nothing party, then becoming powerful for evil. Its
editor was soon recognized as a man of mark. He was elected to the
Legislature of 1853, and took a high rank in that body. One of his reports
was publiched in full by State Superintendent Larrabee in his edition of the
school laws, with the following introductory note: "In order to
explain in the best manner possible the act of March 4, 1853, amending the
school law, I would call attention to the following clear, concise, and
beautiful report made to the House of Representatives by Mr. John C. Walker, of
La Porte, chairman of the Committee on Education." He was then
twenty-three years of age. In March, 1855, he purchased, with Charles
Cottom, now of the New Albany Ledger, the Indianapolis
Sentinel, which he edited for nearly a year, making it, though at a
heavy loss financially, a powerful party organ. In 1856 he was nominated
for Lieutenant-Governor on the ticket with the eloquent Willard,
but being under the constitutional age he was obliged to withdraw. A.
A. Hammond, who was substituted in his place, became Governor of Indiana by
the untimely death of Governor Willard. Resuming control of the La
Porte Times, he was chosen by his party, in 1858, to make the race for
Congress against Schuyler Colfax, then editor of the South Bend Tribune.
This contest resulting unfavorably, he began preparing for the notable campaign
of 1860, in which he played a distinguished and honorable part, supporting with
vigor and success, and against powerful opponents, the Douglas wing of the
Col. John C.
Walker was a War Democrat, and took the first opportunity to enter the service
of the Union. He was elected to command the Thirty-fifth Indiana
Volunteers by the captains of the regiment in the fall of 1861, and with it went
to the field early in the winter thereafter. For a while he was stationed
near Bardstown, Ky., where he soon established a high character among his
brother-officers and the people of that town and neighborhood. He was,
while there, and as early as Jan. 17, 1862, a member of a board for the
examination of officers touching their qualifications and fitness for the
service, and in that capacity evinced a large knowledge of tactics and the
details of the military art. He displayed great ability as a drill-officer
and disciplinarian, and brought his regiment rapidly to a high state of
efficiency in all soldierly qualities. From Bardstown he was ordered
farther South, and in the spring and summer of 1862 was employed constantly in
active service in Tennessee, marching over much of that great State. His
last service was performed without orders from any superior, but under the
highest instincts and most chivalric sense of soldierly honor, in marching with
his regiment forty miles to Murfreesborough when that place was about to be
attacked. For this gallant act he "received the formal and written
approval of Gen. Buell." He was soon after stricken down with typhoid
fever and his health never very robust, required relaxation and rest. His
commanding officer, under these circumstances, gave him leave to return to
Indiana. He did so, and while at his home, at La Porte, Governor Morton,
without the slightest intimation of any fault in his career as an officer or
offense at his presence at home, procured his dismissal or discharge from the
army. Not for disloyalty, not for incompetence, not for cowardice was this
done. He was the very beau ideal of a soldier, and a thousand
men perhaps yet live in Indiana who can say that no Bayard .... [my copy ends
Contributed by Phyllis Miller Fleming
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