William was probably born about 1766 in Orange County, NC. His paternal grandparents (John Walker III = Ann Houston) had moved there from what is now Rockbridge Co VA, sometime about 1756. About 1771 the family moved to Castles Woods, in modern Russell County, VA. Williams father, John IV, appears in various records in SW VA after this date, and it is presumed that he came to that area with his father.
In 1777 an Indian raid on the Castles Woods settlement occurred. William was captured during this raid, along with his aunt Ann Cowan Walker. His uncle Samuel Walker (?-1777) was killed during this attack. This event is well documented with eyewitness accounts and other confirming records. Connelly, 1899 provides a version prevailing among the Wyandot, and collected from interviews with his son Governor William Walker, and others. According to this tradition, William was plowing a field with his uncle when they were attacked. His uncle was killed, and he was captured.
Other accounts of the same event (notably by a Mrs. Scott (see XXXXX), indicate that Samuel Walker was killed while escorting his sister Ann Walker Cowan, across a field going form Cowan's Fort to Moore's Fort in Castles Wood, and that William was captured separately. While there are some differences between the two stories, they are clearly the same story, albeit with different understandings of the same events. Given that Mrs. Scott could only tell us what was generally believed about the capture of Ann and William, and William knew at first hand what had occurred to him at least, it seems likely that his version of the story is more apt to be accurate in details. In otherwords, it is likely that he and his uncle Samuel Walker were plowing a field, probably near Moore's Fort, when they were attacked, and that Ann was captured independently, but at the same time, under circumstances that were not clear to the survivors, and are certainly not clear to us. Perhaps Ann was taken at home, or perhaps she was heading toward Moore's Fort. No version of the story seems to have survived to tell us what she herself experienced.
One thing the two stories do agree on, is that both Ann and William were captured separately, and that their captors met up to take them both north. Somewhere on the Ohio River they were separated, with Ann taken by one group, while William by another. Ann would be eventually released after the end of the Revolution, while William would be sold to the Wyandot, and eventually became a member of their tribe. Williams life with the Wyandot is well described in Thelma Marsh's 1974 work Moccasin Trails to the Cross:
- Young William was taken from Greenbrier County, Virginia and brought to the Delaware settlement on the Whetstone Creek, now Delaware, Ohio. Here he was adopted into a family who treated him very well. It is not known just how long he remained with this family, but probably four or five years. The Delawares and the Wyandotts met in a large body at Detroit. Here a white man by the name of Adam Brown saw Walker and recognized him. He had known his family in Virginia, for Brown had been captured by the Wyandotts after he was a grown man, and had been adopted into the Wyandott Tribe. Brown decided to ransom young Walker from the Delawares. This took considerable time in negotiations, and some stretching of customary proceedings, but it was done. The family he had lived with was to get valuable presents from the King's store-blankets, clothes, guns, ammunition, etc. William Walker made his home with Adam Brown from then on until his marriage to Catherine Rankin.
The reference to his capture in Greenbriar County, VA, requires some discussion. In his Journal, William Walker, Jr discusses the history of his father, and states that he was captured in Greenbriar County. This is repeated in White 1902, and is consistent with the information provided by Marsh. There is little doubt that this reflects what William said to his family, and that he thought he was captured in Greenbriar County. There is solid evidence that Williams family was actually in Washingotn County Virginia (now Russell County), at the time of this event. Mrs. Scott confirm this in her eyewitness account, identifying both William and Ann by name, and describing with reasonable accuracy their relation to the the Walker and Cowan families. She is mute about Williams eventual fate, but she recollects seeing Ann after her release some years later. In addition, we know that Ann's borther (and William's uncle, Samuel Walker, did in fact die about this time, as his estate is probated in the Washington County courts the following year. Finally, the fact that William Jr's story matches up in most particulars with that told by Mrs. Scott also helps confirm that the event occurred in Southwest Virginia.
That said, we have to ask why did William think he was captured in Greenbriar County? The answer to that lies with his benefactor among the Wyandots, Adam Brown. William Jr tells us [that
- While his party attended a council at Detroit...[about 1782, based on the statement that William was with the Delaware for at least four to five years] these Delawares there met with a large body of Wyandotts, among which was an adopted white man named Adam Brown, who, when a man grown, had been captured by the Wyandotts in Dunmore's war in Greenbrier County, adopted and was married, was influential and respected by the tribe. The youth attracted his attention and a conversation in English ensued, the latter not having entirely forgotten his native language. Brown, finding out where he was from, and knowing his family, determined upon ransoming him. Negotiations for this purpose were opened.
One possibility is that Brown was simply mistaken about knowing Williams family in Greenbriar. But since William was only 11 at the time of his capture, it may well be that he himself did not know where he had been taken. As a result, he simply assumed that Brown knew his parents from Greenbriar, and accepted that as the basis for his capture there.
|DOB:||c1766||DOB based on datum that he was about 11 years of age at the time of his capture. He is believed to have been captured in 1777. See White, 1902|
|POB:||Orange Co NC||His grandparents were in Orange Co NC from about 1756 to about 1770. Assuming his father was living near his grandparents, it is assumed that William was born in Orange County. White 1902 and Wyandotte tradition gives his POB as Greenbriar Co, modern WV. This seems to be based on Williams account to his son, but has been traced to a confusion. William was ransomed by a white trader who had been captured as an adult in Greenbriar Co and adopted into the Wyandotte tribe. The trader, Adam Brown, told William that he thought he knew his parents from Greenbriar, and William apparently assumed that he had been captured there. The events of Williams capture are well documented with primary eyewitness accounts; there is no question that he was taken in Southwest Virginia, where his parents were living in 1777. See overview above.|
|DOD:||January 22, 1824||Connelley, 1899|
|POD:||Upper Sandusky, OH||Connelley, 1899|
|Burial:||"Old Indian Burial Ground" above the Harrison Smith Park||Likely place of burial fide Marsh, Thelma R., 1974|
|Spouse:||Catherine Rankin (1771-1844)||Connelley, 1899|
|DOM:||c1788||based on DOB of their first child in October, 1789|
|POM:||Upper Sandusky, OH||Inferred from Connelley, 1899|
|Father:||John Walker IV (c1740-c1817) aka "Indian Killer"|
|Mother:||"Miss Long"||per White 1902.|
|William Walker (1800-1874)||March 5, 1800||Governor Walker of the Indian territories|
- Thelma R. Marsh, 1974. Moccasin Trails to the Cross: A history of the Mission to the Wyandott Indians on the Sandusky Plains; published by John Stewart United Methodist Church, Upper Sandusky, OH.
- Connelley, William E. (edit.), 1899. The Provisional Government Of Nebraska Territory And The Journals Of William Walker, Provisional Governor Of Nebraska Territory.
A good summary of the history of William Walker is provided in the following article on the Wyandot site
The Emigrant Tribes: Wyandot, Delaware & Shawnee: A Chronology, See Hancks, Larry, c1995 for reference.