The story of William Alexander Walker starts in Canada where he was born to parents William George Walker and Margaret Amelia Daly (or O’Daly). Family tradition holds that William was born in Kingston, Ontario, and his death certificate also lists Kingston as his birthplace. But it’s probable that he was actually born in Woodstock as the family was living there at the time. In fact this birth announcement appeared in the Woodstock Monarch on March 23, 1843: “Walker, W.G., and Walker, (boy) 19 March, 1843.”
In the mid-1850’s the Walker family moved to Fordwich, Huron County and settled there. William’s Mother died on June 13, 1864 and is buried in the “Old Sotheran” Cemetery. W.G. Walker remarried on October 1, 1865, a fact that (according to family tradition) angered William and caused him never speak to his Father again.
Meanwhile the Arbuckle family had immigrated from Scotland to Canada and settled in Minto Township, Wellington County which is quite near Fordwich. Just how the families knew each other may never be known, but somehow William met the bonny lass Jeannie Arbuckle who was born near Glasgow Scotland. Jeannie was the daughter of Robert Arbuckle and Jean McNiven. William and Jeannie (or Jane) married on November 26, 1865 per the Marriage Index for Ontario 1858-1869. The index reads:
Birth Place: Canada
Residence: Howick Township
Father: William G.
Mother: Marg Amelia
Spouse: Arbuckle, Jane
Birth Place: Scotland
Residence: Howick Township
Marriage Date: 11/26/1865
There’s some confusion about the marriage year since William and Jeannie’s son George Alexander was born November 27, 1865 just one day after the indexed date. However when Jeannie died in 1907 her obituary stated that she had been married to William for some 44 years which would put the marriage year as 1863.
Be that as it may, Jeannie and William emigrated to the United States c.1867 after son George was born and before their first daughter Margaret A. was born in Missouri c. 1869-1870. Two more daughters were born to the couple in Missouri: Mary Emma, born c. 1872 and Annie J., born c. 1874. The family then moved on to Hancock County Iowa where twins Caroline Alma and Chester A. Walker were born on March 22, 1876. The remaining children were born in Minnesota: Olive Maud, b. February 5, 1878, William Henry, b. October 31, 1879, Charlotte I., b. August 21, 1881, Kathleen W., b. August 16, 1883, Edith Ione, b. February 22, 1889, and Ruth Irene, b. June, 1891.
William was a farmer and had proved up a homestead in Ottertail County Minnesota. The affidavit for his application, dated June 2, 1880 contains this statement:
“I am the head of a family, have declared my intentions to become a citizen of U.S. and I have never heretofore perfected or abandoned an entry made under the Homestead Law and that I filed D.S. Number 2113 for the tract embraced in my application and that I have resided on said tract thereunder since October 27, 1877 and that I wish to claim said time under my Homestead No. 6297 as allowed by commission’s letter May 27, 1878.”
William paid $18.00 to register this entry.
To complete the Homestead transaction the Homestead Proof – Testimony of Claimant document dated November 24, 1882, includes this statement by William:
“Built house in November 1877 and established residence there November 22nd 1877 – log house 24 x 26 ft with celler (sic), shingled roof, 4 doors & 6 windows. Log stable 24 x 24 ft. Dug a well 26 ft deep. 80 yrds fence. 12 acres cleared, broke & cultivated. All worth $600.00.” In answer to the question about the family William answers “Wife & 9 children.”
Final payment on the homestead was $8.00.
On November 24, 1882 William became a citizen of the United States of America. The family lived in Staples, Minnesota for a time where William and Jeannie ran a boardinghouse for teachers, and in 1900 we find the family living in Bemidji. This is where William lived out his years. His beloved Jeannie died in 1907 after surgery and William lived for another 23 years before his death on March 6, 1930. His obituary, from “The Bemidji Sentinel” dated Friday, March 14, 1930:
PIONEER RESIDENT OF BEMIDJI PASSES AWAY
William A. Walker, Who Came Here 33 Years Ago,
Dies Early Thursday Morning
William Alexander Walker, a resident of Bemidji for the past 33 years passed away at 2 a.m. Thursday at his room in the McDermid rooming house at 321 America Avenue where he had made his home for some time. Death was due to the infirmities of old age. Despite his advanced years, Mr. Walker had been comparatively active for years and although he had remained indoors most of the time this winter he was not confined to his bed more than 10 days prior to his death.
Born in Kingston, Ontario, March 19, 1843, Mr. Walker came to Bemidji 33 years ago from Staples. For a number of years he was engaged in farming here, but had been retired from active work for the past 15 years.
He is survived by three sons and eight daughters. The sons are George A. Walker of Bemidji, freight agent for the Minnesota and International Railway, William H. Walker of Oakland, Calif., and Chester A. Walker of Pleasant Valley, Sask.. The daughters are Mrs. M.A. Downs of Bemidji, Mrs. J. Pym of Bellingham, Wash., Mrs. William Leonard and Mrs. Burr Todd of Auburn, Wash., Mrs. O. Upper of Pleasant Valley, Sask., Mrs. Emma Hatton (sic) of Jamestown, N.D. A number of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren also survive. Mrs. Walker died in Bemidji 23 years ago last January and is buried in the family lot in Greenwood cemetery where Mr. Walker was also laid to rest.
Funeral services were held at the M.E. Ibertson funeral parlors Friday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock. Rev. L.P. Warford officiated.
SOURCE: Bemidji Sentinel, March 14, 1930. Walker, William Alexander, obituary.
SOURCE: State of Minnesota, Division of Vital Statistics Certificate of Death #562. William A. Walker. Dated March 6, 1930
SOURCE: Homestead Application # 6297 dated November 24, 1882 and Final Certificate # 3697 dated May 24, 1883 plus several affidavits and other documents in the folder.
SOURCE: Minnesota, Ottertail County, 1880 population schedule, Digital image, Ancestry.com. accessed January 23, 2007.
SOURCE: Minnesota, Beltrami County 1900 population schedule, Digital image, Ancestry.com. Accessed February 23, 2007
SOURCE: Minnesota, Beltrami County 1910 population schedule, Digital image, Ancestry.com. Accessed February 23, 2007.
SOURCE: Bemidji, Minnesota City Directories for the years 1910-1911, 1912-1913, 1914-1915, 1916-1917, 1920-1921, 1924-1925, 1927, 1931-1932 (notation: Walker, Wm. A. died March 6, 1930). Records located in the public library, Bemidji.