|Circa 1835 Robert Walker Barn|
In the previous post about the Little Baltimore Walkers, it was stated that that description was adopted in the early 1800's to differentiate that family from another set of Walkers already living in Mill Creek Hundred. These Walkers had been in place in the area near the Mermaid Tavern (just north of Milltown) for a while, but just how long is not quite clear. I've yet to find other, definitive proof, but it seems at least one family may have been here before 1750. There is a mention in the letter attached to the Mermaid's National Register form of a James Walker receiving a liquor license there in 1746 (he didn't own it, but may have operated it). Also, this page (about 3/4 of the way down) notes that a James Walker purchased 250 acres of James Robinson's land in 1762. My hypothesis is that this James Walker is the patriarch of the Walkers in the area, but I have not yet found concrete proof of him.
The oldest Walker I can talk about for sure is a man I think might have been the older James' son, and also named James Walker (1744-1796). This James was reportedly a carpenter, as well as being a Revolutionary War veteran who fought in the nearby Battle of Brandywine. He and wife Ann had eight children, three of whom were boys: Robert (1771-1853), John (1776-1837), and James (1778-1832). (There are a few other Walkers in MCH in the 1800 census who I can't place within the family, including a David and a Samuel. I also thought I had seen a reference to a John who could have been the same generation as this James, and may have been a brother. These other Walkers could have been his children.) One of James' sons -- John -- is actually the one through whom I
John Walker (1776-1837) was James' second son, and owned a beautiful farm that was relatively recently lost. Some readers may remember the house and barn seen below, sitting up the hill near the bottom of Stoney Batter Road. The property was owned in the late 1700's by a Dr. Robert Bines, and then, I think, by his son Robert. There was no date on the house, but the barn had a datestone of 1803, and tax records imply that the house was probably not older than that. A DelDOT report says that the datestone had the initials "HB" on it, which they guess to be Henry Brackin, but I wonder if it might not have been "RB" for Robert Bines. In either case, the house was probably built about the same time.
|John Walker Farm|
Not long after, and definitely before 1816, the property was purchased by John Walker. I hope to have more information about this property at a later time. There was a Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) done of it in the 1980's, I think, but the data pages are not yet posted online. You can see pictures of the house and the barn now, and as soon as I see the data pages posted I'll write more about this farm. It does appear, though, that after John's death the farm went to his son James, who then sold it sometime between 1860 and 1868 to J. Gregg. The house and barn, although they appeared to be in good condition when the pictures were taken, disappeared sometime between 1992 and 1996. If anyone knows or recalls why, please let us know. It looks like the property is owned by a development company now, so perhaps they were demolished for a building project that never materialized.
Another Walker property, the only one I can be sure has a structure built by a member of the family, is located just a bit west, on the other side of Limestone Road. In the middle of the Linden Knoll Condominiums off of Skyline Drive sits the circa 1835 frame barn built by Robert Walker (its picture is at the top of the post). If the 1835 date is accurate, then it was most likely built by the Robert Walker born in 1771. It seems, though, that after his death the farm was taken over by his son, also Robert Walker (1818-1867).* Robert, Jr. and his wife Sarah had eleven children, and with the exception of one son, I believe the rest stayed in the area. After Robert, Jr.'s death in 1867, Sarah remained on the farm, aided by several of her still fairly young sons. The property is shown as "Mrs. Walker" on the 1881 map of the area, but by 1893 it's listed as "L. Walker". This was the couple's youngest son, Leslie (1859-1945), who eventually took over the farm himself.
Another of the sons, James Henry Walker (1844-1934), moved off of the farm, but not very far. It was he who bought the Aaron Klair farm from Klair's son Egbert, sometime in the 1870's. This property is the adjoining farm to the west, pretty much just down the hill from his father's farm.
|Aaron Klair House, owned by James H. Walker|
I'll go into a bit more detail in a follow-up post, but the upshot is that the Walkers that owned the Mermaid for the bulk of the 19th Century appear not to be the same line as the others that were already here, but I have to believe they were somehow related. However, in 1895 James Henry Walker did purchase the Mermaid, perhaps putting the property back into the bloodline of the man who operated it a century and a half before. The descendants of James Henry Walker still own the property today.
The story of the Walker families in Mill Creek Hundred is certainly a winding and complex one, and one that is far from completely told. Hopefully this post has not succeeded in confusing the issue further, and maybe at some point we'll be able to sort out the details of their formidable family tree.
Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
- As you can see, the Walkers were fond of reusing certain names, like James, John, and Robert. Just one of the things that makes tracking them a challenge.
- The Walkers were of Scotch-Irish descent, and like most of their background in the area were Presbyterians. The majority of these Walkers attended and were eventually interred at Red Clay Creek Presbyterian Church, although a few are at White Clay Creek.