Collection Number: 02300

Collection Title: John Walker Papers, 1824-1867; 1956

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.


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Size 0.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 6 items)
Abstract The John Walker Papers consist of a journal and a genealogical chart documenting the enslaved community and white members of the Walker family, including John Walker, a farmer and journal author, at Chatham Hill in King and Queen County, Va. Chatham Hill depended on the labor of enslaved people to grow cotton, wheat, and silkworms. The journal is particularly rich source for biographical information about the enslaved community, including vital statistics, family relationships, skilled positions held outside the household or fields, and the buying and selling of enslaved people. The journal also provides insight, from the enslaver's perspective, into lived experience of the enslaved through description of activities, relations between enslaved and enslaver, and examples of resistance. The journal also documents Walker's finances relating to plantation income and expenditures; his religious life, including Methodist camp meetings, church business, and preachers; and his legal actions as executor of his father's and of other estates. Also documented is Samuel Thomson's method of botanic medicine, which Walker adopted in the 1830s. The family tree documents the white members of the Walker family from the mid-1660s through the 1950s, but otherwise there is little information about their lives and community.
Creator Walker, John, 1785-1867.
Language English
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Information For Users

Restrictions to Access
No restrictions. Open for research.
Restrictions to Use
Retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], in the John Walker Papers #2300, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alternate Form of Material
All or part of this collection available on microfilm.
Additional microfilm: All or part of this collection is also available on microfilm from University Publications of America as part of the Records of ante-bellum southern plantations from the Revolution through the Civil War, Series J.
Acquisitions Information
Received from J. Henley Walker in 1940. Originals of volumes 3-7 returned to donor in 1943. Family chart received from Mr. and Mrs. J. Henley Walker in 1975.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, the North Carolina Public Records Act (N.C.G.S. § 132 1 et seq.), and Article 7 of the North Carolina State Personnel Act (Privacy of State Employee Personnel Records, N.C.G.S. § 126-22 et seq.). Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill assumes no responsibility.
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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Subject Headings

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.

Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Biographical Information

John Walker (1785-1867), cotton and wheat farmer of King and Queen County, Virginia, was born at Locust Grove, the home of his parents, Humphry (1762-1820) and Frances Temple Walker (1760-1824). As a young man, he lived in Nashville, Tennessee, but returned in 1819 to King and Queen County where he went into trade with Baylor Temple at Walkerton Mills. He took up farming in 1824 at his plantation, Chatham Hill, near Clarkston on the Mattaponi River. Walker grew mostly cotton, wheat, oats, and corn, and raised livestock at Chatham Hill, but supplemented these with a variety of vegetables and peach and apple orchards. In 1840, he also began experimenting with growing silkworms.

In 1829, Walker married Margaret Watkins Shepherd, and together they had seven children, five of whom died in early or late childhood. Two, Watson (1834-1900) and Melville (1846-1904), survived.

Walker was a devout Methodist. He first joined the Church in 1818 in Nashville, and joined Shepherd's Chapel upon his return to King and Queen County in 1819. He served for many years as a steward for the Gloucester and Essex circuits and the Richmond District of the Methodist Church.

In addition to his church activities, Walker held several public positions, including overseer of the poor in 1828 and surveyor of the road in 1831 for King and Queen County. Walker also served as executor for the estates of his father and of Joseph Temple. He died in 1867 at Chatham Hill.

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Scope and Content

The journal of John Walker, a white farmer, is most useful for the study of the enslaved community, plantation finances, and religious life, at Chatham Hill and in and around King and Queen County, Va.

The journal is a particularly rich source for biographical information about the enslaved community, including vital statistics, family relationships, skilled positions held outside the household or fields, and the buying and selling of enslaved people. The range of employments include field workers; house servants; a cooper, Daniel, whom Walker hired out to shops in Richmond; and a doctor, Lewis, of King William City and enslaved by John Steverson, whom Walker hired to treat the people he enslaved in 1833 and 1834. The journal also provides insight, from the enslaver's perspective, into the lived experience of the enslaved through description of activities, relations between enslaved and enslaver, and examples of resistance, including frequent attempts at self-emancipation and stealing of food. Of note are entries for 21 March 1826, reporting that a local doctor's enslaved people had burned down his house; 13 November 1832, noting that one of Reverend Hezekiah McLelland's enslaved people had poisoned the minister to death; and 30 April 1836, claiming that a an enslaved woman, Sillar, had poisoned Walker's son, as well as an enslaved girl. In retaliation for their resistance, Walker often had his enslaved people whipped or sold. Walker also administered punishment to enslaved people for other transgressions. On 2 July 1834, angry at the death of one of his enslaved people from venereal disease, he had several enslaved people whipped on the charge that they had acted as procurers of enslaved women for a local brothel catering to white men. There are also several entries between 1837 and 1839 concerning the treatment of an enslaved boy, William, for scufola, first in the Thomsonian Infirmary in Richmond, later by a Thomsonian doctor, Dr. George K. Hooper of Richmond, and finally by an Elliott Chiles of Chesterfield County.

The journal documents Walker's finances thoroughly, including his income and expenditures for cotton, wheat, and silkworm businesses. Some information, principally notes on suits filed and fees paid, appears on Walker's legal actions as executor of his father's and Joseph Temple's estates.

Religious life is documented in descriptions of camp meetings, church business, and Methodist preachers. Often the movements of preachers on their circuits can be traced from the entries. Walker also provided some insight into the race and gender of converts at camp meetings.

Another topic receiving considerable attention is Samuel Thomson's method of Botanic Family Medicine, which Walker adopted in the 1830s.

Only a few entries appear on the public offices Walker held in King and Queen County or on his family life. Family information is limited to some discussion of disputes between relatives and occasional mentions of his attendance at camp meetings with his wife and children and of household tasks his wife completed.

Originals appear for the first two volumes only. Typed transcriptions appear for the first two and one half volumes. All seven volumes appear on microfilm.

Also included is a family tree that documents the white Walker family of King and Queen County from the mid 1660s through the 1950s.

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Contents list

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series Quick Links

expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 1. Original Volumes, 1824-1837.

2 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Originals of the first two of seven volumes of a journal kept by John Walker for his Chatham Hill plantation in King and Queen County, Virginia. The first volume (88 p.) covers the period from 28 March 1824, when Walker first moved to Chatham Hill, to 17 April 1832. The second volume (262 p.) covers the period from 9 April 1832 to 28 March 1837. The bulk of the entries in both volumes concern Walker's farming activities, his relations with neighboring planters, the people he enslaved, his religious activities, and his financial and legal affairs.

The journal is a particularly rich source for biographical information about the enslaved community, including vital statistics, family relationships, skilled positions held outside the household or fields, and the buying and selling of enslaved people. The range of employments include field workers; house servants; a cooper, Daniel, whom Walker hired out to shops in Richmond; and a doctor, Lewis, of King William City and enslaved by John Steverson, whom Walker hired to treat the people he enslaved in 1833 and 1834. The journal also provides insight, from the enslaver's perspective, into the lived experience of the enslaved through description of activities, relations between enslaved and enslaver, and examples of resistance, including frequent attempts at self-emancipation and stealing of food. Of note are entries for 21 March 1826, reporting that a local doctor's enslaved people had burned down his house; 13 November 1832, noting that one of Reverend Hezekiah McLelland's enslaved people had poisoned the minister to death; and 30 April 1836, claiming that a an enslaved woman, Sillar, had poisoned Walker's son, as well as an enslaved girl. In retaliation for their resistance, Walker often had his enslaved people whipped or sold. Walker also administered punishment to enslaved people for other transgressions. On 2 July 1834, angry at the death of one of his enslaved people from venereal disease, he had several enslaved people whipped on the charge that they had acted as procurers of enslaved women for a local brothel catering to white men.

Most of Walker's agricultural entries concern the weather and planting, harvesting, and marketing his crops. He frequently mentioned conflicts with neighbors over damage done to his crops by unfenced livestock and by fox hunters trespassing on his land.

A substantial amount of information also appears on the activities of Methodists in and around King and Queen County. Walker frequently listed preachers active at Shepherd's Chapel, especially the Reverends Lewis Skidmore, Hezekiah McLelland, William H. Starr, George W. Nolley, Moses Brock, Frank Scott, J. P. Gregory, and Richard R. Corbin. Other Methodist preachers he mentioned include Reverend Philip Long of Shiloh Meeting House in Caroline County, J. McDonald and James M. Lewis of the Essex Circuit, and David Fisher of Coles Chapel in King and Queen County. Walker often attended camp meetings at Shiloh Meeting House and Coles Chapel, as well as at Powels Chapel in King William City, Whit's Chapel and St. John's Chapel in Caroline County, Logan Chapel in Essex City, and other locations. He usually noted the size of meetings, those preaching, and the number of converts; he sometimes recorded the names and race of converts.

Entries of note are one for 3 May 1832, mentioning Reverend William H. Starr's founding of a Sunday School at Shepherd's Chapel; one for 30 July 1832, describing a conflict between Reverend Starr and a Reverend Duvall, a Baptist Campbellite, over Starr's administering the eucharist to Methodist Sempleites and Baptist Campbellites together; and one for 12 April 1834, mentioning the formation of the Essex Circuit.

Walker made frequent entries on his financial and legal transactions, including mention of notes and bills paid, crops sold, items bought, monies owed him, monies donated to the church and to missionaries, and taxes and court fees paid. The volumes also contain other financial information. Several copies of business letters, interspersed with the entries, discuss food and farm supplies Walker ordered to be shipped from Norfolk by James H. Johnston; the manufacture of a wheat thresher for him by J. Parker of Richmond in 1837; the terms of hire for Daniel to Richmond coopers John A. Pilcher between 1833 and 1836 and Silas Wyatt in 1837; and the management of his stock in the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad Company in 1834 and following years. In addition, accounts appear at the beginning and end of the second volume. The first 3 pages of accounts, dated 1833 and 1834, are mostly with farm workers and weavers, and those at the end detail expenses and income between 1833 and 1837. Walker itemized amounts spent for sundries, food, and medicines; midwives', doctors', and attorneys' fees; wages to farm hands; donations to missionaries; and miscellaneous expenditures, and recorded income from the sale of enslaved people, corn, and livestock and from railroad stock dividends. Also appearing at the end of the second volume are recipes, home cures, and a list of important events recorded in the volume. The list seems to have been added by a later reader of the journal rather than by Walker.

Miscellaneous entries of interest in the two volumes are several between 1834 and 1837 concerning Walker's adoption of Samuel Thomson's method of botanic family medicine (see especially 7 June 1834; 21 November 1835; and 4 February 1837) to treat his own family and the people he enslaved, and several between 1834 and 1837 concerning members of the Walker family migrating to Alabama (see 23 October 1834 and 15 March 1837). A number of entries also appear on Walker's actions as executor of his father's and Joseph Temple's estates.

Folder 1

Plantation Journal, 1824-1832 #02300, Series: "1. Original Volumes, 1824-1837." Folder 1

Folder 2

Plantation Journal, 1832-1837 (accounts 1833-1837) #02300, Series: "1. Original Volumes, 1824-1837." Folder 2

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 2. Typed Transcriptions, 1824-1840.

3 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Typed transcriptions of the first two and one-half volumes of John Walker's plantation journal. The transcription of the first volume contains 109 pages, and that of the second volume contains 339 pages.

The partial (158 p.) transcription of the third volume covers the period between 1 April 1837 and 21 March 1840, and contains some accounts for renovations at Shepherd's Chapel in 1838, 1843, and 1844 and a brief list of family births and deaths and important events between 1837 and 1844. Topics appearing in this volume are very similar to those in the first two volumes, concerning mostly plantation activities, enslaved people, church affairs, and Walker's financial and legal activities.

Of note are entries concerning Reverend Henry B. Cowles and his family, who boarded with Walker in 1837; several entries between 1837 and 1839 concerning the treatment of an enslaved boy, William, for scufola, first in the Thomsonian Infirmary in Richmond, later by a Thomsonian doctor, Dr. George K. Hooper of Richmond, and finally by an Elliott Chiles of Chesterfield County; and several entries pertaining to church affairs. On 11 August 1838, Walker described the laying of the cornerstone of a new Methodist church on the county line, and, on 24 October 1838, he noted that the new brick Shepherd's Chapel had been completed.

Several copies of business letters appear among the entries, written by Walker to James Johnston of Norfolk, ordering supplies; to his attorney in Richmond, concerning his railroad stock; and to agents in Richmond, concerning the hire of Daniel to cooper Silas Wyatt.

On 18 January 1840, Walker noted that Robert D. Edwards had come to live with him to work as an overseer and experiment with the raising of silkworms.

A note of interest at the beginning of the volume remarks on the construction of Walkerton Mill on the Mattaponi River between 1799 and 1800.

Folder 3

Typed Transcription, Plantation Journal, 1824-1832 #02300, Series: "2. Typed Transcriptions, 1824-1840." Folder 3

Folder 4

Typed Transcription, Plantation Journal, 1832-1837 #02300, Series: "2. Typed Transcriptions, 1824-1840." Folder 4

Folder 5

Typed Transcription, Plantation Journal (partial), 1837-1840 (accounts and notes, 1837-1844) #02300, Series: "2. Typed Transcriptions, 1824-1840." Folder 5

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 3. Microfilm, 1824-1867.

4 items.

Arrangement: chronological.

Microfilm of all seven volumes of Walker's plantation journal. The first two volumes (Reel 1) are described in Series 1. The third volume (see Series 2 for partial transcript) is dated 1 April 1837 through 23 November 1841, and is contained on Reel 2. The remainder of the volumes microfilmed cover the following time periods:

Fourth volume: 4 December 1844-1 March 1851 (Reel 3)

Fifth volume: 4 March 1851-15 August 1857 (Reel 3)

Sixth volume: 15 August 1857-10 June 1860 (Reel 4)

Seventh volume: 16 June 1860-22 September 1866 (Reel 4)

The originals of volumes 3-7 were returned to the donor in 1943.

Folder 6

M-2300/1-4 #02300, Series: "3. Microfilm, 1824-1867." Folder 6

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expand/collapse Expand/collapse Series 4. Walker Genealogical Chart, circa 1956.

1 item

Genealogical chart of the Walker family of King and Queen County, Virginia, compiled by J. Henley Walker Senior (born 1875), grandson of John Walker. The chart traces the descendants of Thomas Walker (born 1689), son of Lieutenant Colonel John Walker. The margins contain additional information on the Walkers of King and Queen County, the Thomas Walker Bible, and other Walker family records.

Folder 7

Walker Genealogical Chart, circa 1956 #02300, Series: "4. Walker Genealogical Chart, circa 1956." Folder 7

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Processing Information

Processed by: Jill D. Snider, August 1991

Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008

Conscious Editing Work by: Nancy Kaiser, July 2020. Updated abstract, subject headings, biographical note, scope and content note, and container list.

Since August 2017, we have added ethnic and racial identities for individuals and families represented in collections. To determine identity, we rely on self-identification; other information supplied to the repository by collection creators or sources; public records, press accounts, and secondary sources; and contextual information in the collection materials. Omissions of ethnic and racial identities in finding aids created or updated after August 2017 are an indication of insufficient information to make an educated guess or an individual's preference for identity information to be excluded from description. When we have misidentified, please let us know at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu.

Includes originals of the first two volumes of the journal, typed transcriptions of the first two and one-half volumes, and microfilm of all seven volumes.

This collection was rehoused under the sponsorship of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Preservation, Washington, D.C., 1990-1992.

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