Jerusha Ingram Walker
We do not have a journal from the hand of Jerusha; we cannot know her daily thoughts. However, we can piece together a puzzle that tells of her strength in adversity, determination against the odds and satisfaction with her lot in life. Jerusha Ingram (Walker); first female to ever live in Athens, Texas, was born in Alabama. The youngest daughter of Mary Katherine Thompson (Cotton) Ingram and Joseph Gaston Ingram, Jerusha, was born on June, 22, 1836, after her parents had separated.
Jerusha's mother, Mary Katherine lost her first husband between 1820 and 1824, leaving her with 2 small children. Mary Katherine's father, Washington Thompson, died in 1824 in Greene County, Alabama. Then, December 6, 1825, Mary Katherine and Joseph Gaston Ingram were married also in Greene County, Alabama. Probably, after their separation in 1835, Mary Katherine moved home with her mother and siblings who were still living in Marengo County in 1830.1
Much speculation exists as to the separation of Jerusha's parents. Divorce was not common, especially with Mary Katherine expecting a baby and the added fact that Joseph Ingram was a Methodist preacher. Various descendents of the third wife, Eleander Cornelia Tyler and Joseph Ingram tell a chilling story of attempted murder carried out by Mary Katherine.
"And the story goes: Grandpa Ingram believed that Mary Katherine tried to poison him. One can only assume that there were problems existing in the marriage, or why else would he even become suspicious. The story, as related to me, was that Joseph Gaston Ingram sat down for a meal prepared by his wife and began to eat. The children, however, were forbidden by Mary Katherine, to even taste the food. Becoming alarmed that the food was poisoned, Grandpa grabbed the lard bucket and began to consume handfuls of lard, to counteract the poison. Either the lard bucket saved him or there was no murder plot, for he lived to the ripe old age of 94 years. We will never know. The results, however, were that they separated a short while later." 2
Mary Katherine and Joseph Ingram had 5 children before Jerusha was born. Jerusha's oldest brother was Charles W., followed by Joseph E., then Robert J. She had two older sisters; Charity and Nancy. All of her siblings and Jerusha herself, would eventually settled in the brand new state of Texas.
In 1836, when Jerusha was born, the Indian lands in Alabama and Mississippi were opened to the white settlers. The Trail of Tears was taking place. Even "friendly" Indians were being forced to the Oklahoma Territory. On March 6, 1836, Texas proclaimed its independence from Mexico. Just days before her birth, on June 15, 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state of the United States. Jerusha was certainly born during a time of much turmoil and a time of much history.
Jerusha's uncle (brother of Mary Katherine), Etheldred J. Thompson, was living at home during the 1830 census. He was a teenager around fourteen years of age. In all probability he was still living at home when Jerusha was born six years later. He would have been 20 years old and single. Most agree that Mary Katherine Ingram died in 1838. Jerusha would have been 2 years old and, probably, in the home of her grandmother and her Uncle Etheldred J. Thompson. Why Etheldred was chosen as the best to care for this tiny baby girl is not known. There were other choices to be sure.
Mary Katherine had two children by her previous marriage. One, a son, Washington Cotton, married a few months before Jerusha was born and a daughter, Mary, who had been married several years, when Jerusha was born. Mary Katherine had married brothers and sisters living nearby, and, of course, Joseph Gaston Ingram, lived nearby. Yet, this baby was raised by a young, single man, Uncle Etheldred J. Thompson.
On December 29, 1845, the nation of Texas joined the United States of America, becoming the 28th state. Nine year old, Jerusha Ingram, with her Uncle Etheldred J. Thompson and probably her Uncle John P. Thompson and his family moved to Texas. In 1846, both Etheldred J. Thompson and John P. Thompson are found on the tax record for Panola County, Texas.3
Then, early 1848, Etheldred and 14 year old, Jerusha Ingram moved to a brand new community in Henderson County. When they arrived in Athens, there was one tiny, log structure in the town, it wasn't even known as "Athens", yet. Jerusha was the first female to live there.4 Etheldred Thompson served as postmaster of Athens beginning December 8, 1855. 5
Also in 1848, Elizabeth Holland arrived with her 3 sons and daughter, Dulcina Holland. They came from Marengo County, Alabama, the same place where Jerusha Ingram was born. Dulcina is said to have named the city of Athens.6 In the 1850 Census for Athens, Henderson County, Texas, E. J. Thompson, J. B. Looker, Jerusha Ingram, Wallerburg? Scott, Elizabeth Holland, John T. Holland, D. T. Holland and Dulcina A. Holland are found living in the same household.7
Etheldred is now what we would call a "confirmed bachelor" that has single handedly raised a 15 year old young lady. One cannot help but speculate as to the reasons for his marriage in 1851 to then 17 year old Dulcina Holland. Did he feel that Jerusha needed "girl company"? Did he fall madly in love? Was it a marriage of convenience? As far as we know, there were no children.
A short time later a young carpenter, William Davidson Walker, arrived in Athens. The Deen Hotel is attributed to Mr. Walker's fine workmanship.8 William Walker was a carpenter by trade. Jerusha and William Walker were married in February of 1859 Their first born, Etheldred D. Walker, was born in December of that year.
Etheldred Thompson, Dulcina (Holland) Thompson, William D. Walker, Jerusha (Ingram) Walker and Jerusha's older brother, Joseph Etheldred Ingram were all living at Deen's Hotel in 1860. All, but Joseph Etheldred Ingram were working at the hotel.9
By the 1860 census the total population of Henderson County was 4,595: 3,478 whites, 1,116 slaves, and one free black.10 Heartache also arrived in the 1860's as the war between the North and the South reaches deep into the very heart of the sons and daughters of Texas.
In 1861, Etheldred Thompson, now about 45, joined the military. In four short weeks he would be dead, never making it to the battlefield, never leaving the military camp in Dallas.11 His little namesake, Etheldred Walker, was the same age Jerusha had been when he held her in his arms after her mother had died.
About 1863, Jerusha and William's second son, William P. Walker was born, following on March 17, 1865 , their third son, Allen G. Walker. Then on September 2, 1866, Jerusha first born son, Etheldred D. Walker died. He is buried at Athens City Cemetery Old Section.12
Daughter, Nellie, was born around 1867, then their last child, Jackie Walker was born about 1870. Jackie Walker was 18 when her father died. William Davidson Walker died January 13, 1885 and is buried at Athens City Cemetery, Old Section.
Jerusha was born under the cloud of a dark family rift. She not only survived; but overcame the difficulties in her life. Her siblings that had remained in the home of her father, made their way to Texas, settling in or near Athens, Texas. She had a husband, her children, her brothers and sisters and the memory of an Uncle who had loved her as his own.
Jerusha (Ingram) Walker lived 26 years and 1 month after the death of her husband. She is buried at Athens City Cemetery in the Old Section. 12
1 1830 US Federal Census, Marengo County, Alabama, Roll 2, Page 353.
2 Records of Yvonne Davis, descendent of Joseph Gaston Ingram.
3 1846 Panola County, Texas Tax list index 1840-1849.
4 An Antebellum History, Henderson County, TX 1846-1861. Kenneth Wayne Howell
7 1850 US Federal Census, Athens, Henderson County, Texas, Roll M432_911, page 123-124
9 1860 US Federal Census, Athens, Henderson County, Texas, Roll M653_1297, page 18
10 Handbook of Texas Online, "HENDERSON COUNTY,"
*Picture of Jerusha Ingram Walker was published in An Antebellum History, Henderson County, TX 1846-1861
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