JAMES WALKER, a man of more than ordinary enterprise and ability, stands among the foremost of the enlightened and progressive farmers and stock-raisers of this county, who have been instrumental in raising it to its present high position as a great and rich agricultural centre. He has an extensive and well-appointed farm in Scottville Township, which is considered one of the finest stock farms in this part of the State.
Mr. Walker is a native born citizen of this State, his birth taking place November 4, 1833, in the pioneer home of his parents in Mt. Era Township, Greene County, a half mile northeast of the town of Athens. John Walker, his father, was a native of Nelson County, Ky., born there January 15, 1804. He was a son of Joseph Walker, who was born in Maryland and was a descendant of one of three brothers who came from Scotland to this country in Colonial times. The grandfather of our subject was a pioneer of Nelson County, Ky., where he bought a tract of land in the primeval forest three miles from the present site of Bardstown. He evolved a good farm from the wilderness and made his home upon it until his demise. The maiden name of his wife was Coons.
The father of our subject was reared and married in his native county and dwelt there until 1829. In that year he became a pioneer of this State, coming here with his wife and the two children that had been born to them in their old home. He was the fortunate possessor of a horse, which, with his household goods, constituted all his wealth. He hired transportation for his family and belongings and came here on horseback. He located on a tract of wild land eight miles east of Jacksonville, Morgan County, and for two years lived in the house that he built on the place. At the expiration of that time he sold that property and bought one hundred and twenty acres of Government land in Mt. Era Township. He built a log house on the place, riving the boards to cover the roof and splitting puncheon for the floor, and in that dwelling his son, of whom we write, was born. The surrounding country bore but little indication of its present development, as the inhabitants were few and had made but little headway against the forces of nature in redeeming it from its primeval state. There were no railways for years and the settlers had to go to Alton and St. Louis to market their produce and obtain supplies. At one time Mr. Walker took three loads of wheat to St. Louis and sold his grain at thirty-seven and one half cents a bushel. The people lived principally on the products of the farm and wild game, which was very plentiful. They were also clad in homespun made by the women. The mother of our subject was expert in carding, spinning and weaving and her deft hands made all the cloth used in the family. None but the most primitive machinery was in use and the grain, which was cut with a sickle or cradle, was tramped out by horses or oxen instead of being threshed.
Mr. Walker resided on his homestead in Greene county until 1866, when he disposed of his property in that section and removed to Woodson County, Kan. he was dissatisfied with that part of the country, however, and without even unloading his goods he returned to this State and took up his residence in the village of Scottville, which remained his dwelling place until his death, May 15, 1884, at a venerable age. The maiden name of his first wife, the mother of our subject was Nancy Hall and she was a native of Nelson County, Ky. She died on the home farm February 15, 1838. Five of her children grew to maturity, namely: Henry H., Nathaniel, Jane, James and Sarah. Mr. Walker's second wife was Elizabeth Sears. She died November 15, 1857. Four children were born of that union, as follows: Mary, Samuel, Isabella and Christina. the maiden name of Mr. Walker's last wife was Martha Powell, and she was a native of Scottville Township, a daughter of one of its pioneer families.
James Walker passed his youth in his native county and was educated in its public schools. He lived with his parents until 1852 and on February 10, of that year he started on a momentous journey to the distant shores of the Pacific Ocean to join the army of gold seekers in California. he went down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, where he embarked on a vessel bound for the Isthmus of Panama. But the good ship encountered a heavy gale, by which it was dismasted and it had to put into Balize for repairs. Forty of its passengers, including our subject, left the vessel with the intention of crossing Central America to Acapulco, but found on inquire tat the distance was nearly a thousand miles and the route was through a country inhabited by hostile savages. they then changed their plans and hiring a caravan of mules, crossed a narrower portion of Central America to Sausonate, where they embarked on a sailing vessel, and seventy-eight days later arrived in San Francisco, one hundred and sixty-eight days from the time of our subject's leaving home. he went directly to Eldorado County and actively engaged in mining there for some years. His thoughts, however, were never long absent from the old home and friends of his youth, and finally tiring of the rough life of the camp, he started on his return to his native State, April 12, 1855, embarking at San Francisco on the mail steamer "Golden Age." But, as on his way out, his passage was not destined to be a smooth one, as the steamer was badly wrecked when within two hundred and ten miles of Panama. Fortunately other vessels came to their rescue and he and his fellow passengers were landed safely at Panama. He pursued his journey across the Isthmus by rail, having to pay fifty cents a mile. Then he sailed for New York and in due time arrived amid the familiar scenes of his boyhood.
In 1856 Mr. Walker came to Scottville Township and bought the farm that he still owns and occupies. he has been very successful as a farmer and from time to time has purchased other land until he has seven hundred and five acres of valuable realty in his possession. He has disposed of some of this, but he still has four hundred and eighty acres adjacent to the village of Scottville, which is conceded to form one of the best arranged and most desirable stock farms in the county.
Mr. Walker was happily married January 4, 1858, to Miss China Minerva Owens and their home is not only attractive in itself, but on account of the genuine comfort and hospitality of which it is the index. They have five children living: Nancy A., wife of Samuel E. Hittisk; Dora A., wife of A. C. Ogge; Fanny, wife of S. C. Hankins; James A. and Vena G. The chief sorrow of the wedded life of our subject and his wife has been in the death of their son, Eugene E., at the age of sixteen years.
Mr. Walker is distinguished by a clear and vigorous intellect, marked force and decision of character and other high attributes that give him weight and influence in the community; and he is known to be a man of honor and unswerving integrity. He has an aptitude for affairs and his enterprise and public spirit place him among the leaders in carrying out any plan that will be of benefit to the county. He was prominent in the scheme for building the Baltimore & Ohio Railway, which proved to be a very unfortunate venture, for the company failed and our subject was the loser by $25,000. It, however, served to bring out his honesty in a stronger light, as he faced the situation with characteristic courage, energy and enterprise, and now, after eight years of labor, coupled with economy and judicious management, he has paid every dollar of that indebtedness, mostly from his farm, and begins to see the dawn of a brighter day in his finances.
In his political beliefs Mr. Walker is a genuine Republican. He is prominent in social circles as a member of various organizations. He belongs to Panther Creek Grange, No. 818, is connected with the Golden Band Alliance, No. 64; he joined the Masonic fraternity in 1864 and is a member of Scottville Lodge, No. 426; and also of Greenfield Chapter, R.A.M.