Monday, November 30, 2015

The Presidents Bush: The Walker Genealogy (Part II)

Walker Skeletons
In Part I of the Bush family's Walker ancestry, we opened up a closet containing skeletons--the bones of the Dorothy Wear Walker's family dating back five generations preceding the birth of her son, George H. W. Bush. Dorothy's father, George Herbert Walker, had been born in St. Louis in 1875 to David Davis Walker, who had then only recently located to Missouri.

Dorothy's paternal grandfather, David Davis Walker, born in 1840 in Bloomington, Illinois, was the youngest son of George E. Walker, whose family history was set out in Part I.

George E. was the first Walker in his line born on American soil--Burlington, N.J., 1797. Both his parents and two elder siblings were born near Bristol, England before the family's relocation to America in 1792. George's father, called "Beau" Walker, was a sea captain and had been lost at sea while shipping slaves from Sierra Leone, Africa, to the West Indies the same year George was born in America. His mother died when he was nine, and his sister, Rosetta, quickly married in 1807 and moved to Cecil County, Maryland. She took George with her, while their brother (called Uncle Tommy by the Scanlan children) appears to have remained in Philadelphia until some time after 1839. All those facts were documented in the previous segment linked above.

Mount Saint Mary's College, 1826
Rosetta (Mrs. James) Scanlan, then a young bride moved the young boy to Sassafras Neck, Cecil County, Maryland, a community located on the most northerly cove of Chesapeake Bay. Rosetta's husband, Dr. James Scanlan, provided George with the semblance of a Jesuit education, sending him 120 miles away to a new school in Emmitsburg, founded by a French priest, Fr. John DuBois, in 1808.[1] John Carroll, America's first Catholic bishop, later Archbishop of Maryland, who purchased the land for Mount St. Mary's in 1793. George's studies at Mount Saint Mary's were for only one term (1811-12) along with some thirty boarders at Emmitsburg, twelve miles southwest of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, approximately 120 miles from Sassafras Neck. Other alumni from the school's early history, including names of men who would become quite famous,included:
The Carroll family in Maryland were not only large shareholders in the old Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, but also clients of Alexander Brown's investment bank in Baltimore. The Brown family's history is being written up in Linda Minor's series at the Minor Musings website.

Harriet Mercer's Family

Indications are that George attended the school only that one term, until he was fifteen. The War of 1812 began that year, and his whereabouts from that time until he he married a Protestant, Harriet Mercer, in 1821, has not been discovered. About his bride's family, however, much is known. She was the youngest of six children born to John and Rebecca (Davis) Mercer, in St. Stephen's Parish  in Earleville, Cecil County, Maryland.

The Mercer family reputedly descend from William Mercer of Aberdeen, Scotland, who served as a soldier in Ireland, where he remained until his death in 1675. Thomas Mercer, William's son or, perhaps, his nephew, came to eastern Maryland in 1671, from which date the family genealogy is documented at St. Stephens Parish, the same church where Thomas Mercer's descendant, Harriet Mercer, married George Walker 150 years later. The Davis and Mercer families had inhabited Sassafras Neck, Maryland, for generations, dating as far back as 1671 for the Davis family and 1703 for the Mercers.[2] The four generations of Mercers leading up to Harriet had seen a large accumulation of land and slaves purchased to work their plantations.

Harriet and Ann's mother, Rebecca Davis, granddaughter of Thomas Davis, Sr. and Rebecca Gregory through their son William Davis (1742-1791), was also a niece of John Davis (1744-1788), who had married Frances Mercer in 1793. Before settling in Maryland (previously part of Chester County, Pennsylvania), the Davis clan had settled in Kennebunk, Maine, from which they relocated to the warmer climate.

Harriet had been only ten years old when her neighbor George, living at the home of his brothe-in-law, Dr. Scanlan, left school at "the Mount," in Emmitsburg and presumably returned home to Sassafras Neck. Since her mother (formerly Rebecca Davis) had died in 1802, Harriet, then only a five-month-old infant, was reared by her father, John Mercer, likely with assistance from his sister, Frances Mercer Davis and her husband, John Davis (1744-1788), who was also Harriet's maternal uncle.

Harriet's fifteen-year-old sister, Ann, had married 24-year-old physician David Davis, brother of Rev. Henry Lyon Davis, rector of the St. Stephen's Parish Episcopal Church in Cecil County, but became a pregnant widow in 1814, due to the untimely death of her husband. Ann gave birth to David Davis (junior) shortly thereafter. Harriet no doubt helped Ann look after the baby, who grew up to become an attorney in Illinois, appointed to the Supreme Court by Abraham Lincoln. Rev. Davis was later named principal of Maryland's first university, St. John's College: (chapter III sets out his tenure at this historic institution). Ann Mercer Davis was remarried in 1820 to a Baltimore publisher, Franklin Betts.

John Mercer's death in 1820 left Harriet an heiress, but her newly acquired estate was in trust overseen by her elder brother, William Davis Mercer, her legal guardian, appointed in a codicil to John Mercer's Will, which provided that all the real and personal estate that he had
"willed and devised to his daughter Harriet, shall go to his son William D. Mercer, and held by him until Harriet shall arrive to the age of twenty-one years.
William Davis Mercer operated one or more of the plantations he himself had inherited from their father and, from time to time, he hired a broker to sell some of his slaves in Louisiana. In 1832 a lawsuit had been filed against his slave broker (Warfield), who had purchased the slave in issue from Mercer before selling her on the auction block, along with other slaves actually owned by Mercer.

Harriet's inheritance consisted of a 321-acre farm, which her new husband, George E. Walker attempted to cultivate. This farm was part of what was called the "Chew's Resurvey," mentioned in the papers of Benjamin Chew, Jr., in particular letters to and from his brother-in-law, Edward Tilghman, regarding loans owed by Mercer against the property. Chew, Sr. had moved to Philadelphia in 1754, set up a highly lucrative legal practice, and "owned an elegant town house on South 3rd Street. Here, he attended St. Peter’s [Episcopal] Church and associated with many influential people in the city. He became involved in other business interests, including iron works and land speculation." The Walker family, as mentioned in Part I, attended St. Augustine's Catholic Church, which was burned in May 1844, followed by more riots which occurred in July. Thomas Walker decided to move west also after that.

It should be noted that the First Bank of the United States was established at

The Slave Plantations in Sassafras Neck

Archives in Maryland indicate that only a year after Harriet married George Walker, a mortgage on the Frisby Farm was the subject of a foreclosure lawsuit filed by Philadelphia banker, Benjamin Chew:
CHANCERY COURT (Chancery Papers) 1822/02/01
7162: Benjamin Chew vs. William Davis, George Walker, Harriett Walker, and William D. Mercer. CE. Mortgage foreclosure on Frisby Farm [see p. 340 at link], Frisbys Prime Choice. Recorded (Chancery Record) 123, p. 756. Accession No: 17,898-7162-1/2. MSA S512-7195   1/37/4/
The same Frisby Farm or Prime Choice had been the subject of a lease in 1752 from a Bristol, England, man (Loyalist, associated with Benjamin Franklin) named Daniel Cheston to Harriet Mercer's uncle, John Veazey, husband of her father's older sister Rebecca:
Deed Book VII, P. 468. Lease. Daniel Cheston of Bristol but late of Kent Co., Maryland, merchant, and Francina Augustina his wife and daughter of the late Arriana Jennings, wife of the Honorable Edmond Jennings, esq., of Annapolis, for 5 shillings, to John Veazey of Cecil Co., 373 acres, part of 2 tracts of land lying between Sassafras and Bohemia Rivers in Cecil Co. called Frisby's Farm or Frisby's Prime Choice, by Scotchman's Creek, by Thomas Davis' land called the Level and by a tract called King's Aim. Made 31 Aug 1752. Wit: Thos, Luntley, Jno. Hope. Rec: 20 Jan 1752. M's. Bordley, Clerk.
It appears, however, that the land described above was part of Harriet's inheritance, devised in 1764 to her grandfather William Davis by his father Thomas Davis, who had purchased it from Daniel Cheston:
Source: S986 Abbreviation: Will Title: Will for Thomas Davis (1698-1763) ... To my wife, Rebecca Davis, her choice of all my horses, & for life, 1/2 the lands bequeathed to my son Thomas Davis excl. her 1/3 the lands I bequeath to my sons William, Joseph, & John Davis. CONT To my son Thomas Davis, the part of The Levell on the N side a br. of Back Crk. below my dw. house, 6 3/4a of Frisbys Prime Choice, & 25 2/4a of Frisbys Farm I bought of Mr. Daniel Cheston. CONT To my sons William & Joseph Davis, equ. div., the part of The Levell on the S side a br. of Back Crk., Tullys Lot 12a, Rattle Snake Neck 100a, Kings Delight 69a, Marys Jointure 57a, & Cockatrice, 20a on Rattle Snake Point. CONT To my son John Davis, 55a of Frisbys Farm, & if he d. s. p., equ. div., to my sons William & Joseph Davis. CONT To my son William Davis, Pew #9 in St. Stephens Ch., to my son Joseph Davis, Pew #25 in sd. ch. CONT Extrs: my sd. wife & my son William Davis. CONT Witn: Jno. Ward, Matthias Hendrickson, Benjamin Cox. CONT 23 July 1763, sworn to by all 3 witn.
In the fall of 1838 George and Harriet Walker traveled by wagon to Blooming Grove, McLean County, Illinois. David Davis, Harriet's nephew, was there practicing law with Abraham Lincoln. The Walkers' youngest son would be born in Illinois in 1840 and named David Davis Walker in honor of that same nephew, whose own history is related below.

David Davis' Maryland Roots

In 1815, a few months after his father had died, David Davis, Jr. was born to Ann Mercer Davis; five years later she married Franklin Betts. Young David would then be bounced back and forth between his mother, now Mrs. Betts, and his uncle, Rev. Henry Lyon Davis, who had moved to Annapolis to become president of St. John's College. Marcy Brant's excellent article reveals information about an early court case involving disputes between Davis and Betts over which man would be the better guardian for the boy. Years after the legal battles, Rev. Davis' son, Henry Winter Davis, only two years younger than David Jr., boarded with his cousin at Kenyon College in Ohio, and both subsequently were educated as lawyers.

David entered Kenyon in 1826, graduated in 1832, then entered the legal office of Henry W. Bishop in Lenox, Massachusetts to study law.[3] David was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1836, practicing law in McLean County while showing an interest in Whig politics. The Walker family moved to that county two years later and resumed their farming.

Henry Winter Davis
Henry Winter Davis would remain in Maryland, locating in Baltimore and running for Congress as a Know-Nothing. He would later join the Radical Republicans. According to the Lehrman Institute website, Henry Davis was
a combative, volatile and brash chameleon who changed religion with the philosophical winds and parties with the political seasons [and] ... became a thorn in President Lincoln's side.
In fact President Lincoln was once quoted by Noah Brooks as saying: "I've been told that insanity is hereditary in his family, and I think we will admit the plea in his case." The year after losing his Congressional seat in the election of 1864, Henry W. Davis died in Baltimore.

Walker family
It was in Lenox (in the western part of Massachusetts) that David Davis met his future wife, Sarah Woodruff Walker, daughter of William Perrin Walker, a noted judge from a family dating back to Revolutionary War days, with no obvious relationship to George E. Walker. The judge would not allow his daughter to marry until 1838—after the proposed bridegroom had completed law school in New Haven and set up a law practice in Bloomington, Illinois. The couple’s first son was named George Perrin Davis after Sarah’s brother.[4]  

David Davis’s maternal aunt, Harriet Mercer Walker, wife of George E. Walker, had four surviving children in Cecil County, Maryland before their move "out west" to southern Illinois in 1838. The background on these sons was given by Roger Hughes, "Degrees of Separation," Illinois Times, April 4, 2007:
  • John Mercer Walker (1822-1888)--John Mercer Walker, the firstborn, served in the Mexican War at Santa Fe. Soon after, he caught “gold fever” and went overland to California in 1849. His first cousin, Circuit Judge David Davis of Bloomington, helped stake his adventure. John stayed in the Sacramento Valley and farmed 160 acres in Yolo County for more than two decades before returning to Illinois to manage a Davis farm near Maroa. He retired sometime around 1883 and lived with the Davis family in their Clover Lawn mansion at Bloomington until he died in 1888, at age 65.
  • Thomas S. Walker (1825-45)--Thomas S. Walker died in 1845, at age 19. Nothing else is known about him, except that he is buried in the pioneer Woodlawn (Rhodes) Cemetery in rural Bloomington Township.
  • George W. Walker (1832-96)--George W. Walker married Mary Lilly and farmed for the rest of his life near other Lilly family members in Tazewell County’s Mackinaw Township. They had five children and also reared a son of a Walker brother who died tragically in an 1876 farm accident. Mary’s parents built and operated the Lilly Inn, where lawyers such as Abraham Lincoln sometimes stopped in when Davis was holding court in Tazewell County. Letters in the David Davis Papers — archived at various locations, including Springfield — affirm that George lived and worked for extended periods at the David and Sarah Davis home in Bloomington while growing up. Family members relate that George often took care of the Davis horses. He was being paid about $12 a month by Davis in 1852. George occasionally drove the judge’s carriage when Davis was riding his judicial circuit. According to family lore, Lincoln is believed to have ridden along with them at least once — and maybe more often. George died in 1896, at age 63.
  • Edward Scanlan (1835-1876)--Edward S. “Ned” Walker also was regularly found at the Davis home in Bloomington during the 1840s and 1850s, the same years in which Lincoln would drop by to visit the judge. Ned returned from Civil War service in the spring of 1865, several months after the death of his father, and took charge of the family farm at Blooming Grove. He married Sarah Bay of Bloomington. His mother Harriet lived with them until her death, in 1869. Ned died in 1876, at age 40, when he accidentally fell to his death in a farm well. Sarah and her three young children soon left the farm that had been in the Walker family for about four decades.
After the move to Illinois, three more children would be born to them:
  • David Davis Walker (1840-1918)--David Davis Walker was born in 1840. Letters in the David Davis Papers show that with the assistance — and at the insistence — of the judge, D.D. Walker attended the Beloit College preparatory school in Wisconsin for two years. Young Walker then journeyed to St. Louis in 1857, soon after his schooling, for employment as a clerk in the wholesale dry-goods firm of Crow, McCreery & Co. Wayman Crow founded the business in 1835. He was a longtime friend of Davis and partnered with the judge in various land transactions across the Midwest. D.D. Walker quickly learned the dry-goods business. He had his own company by the 1880s and was living exceptionally well — though sometimes in poor health — in St. Louis. Around the turn of the century, his six children were marrying into some of the most influential St. Louis families, such as Lambert, Filley, Papin and Wear. He and wife Martha had a summer home at Kennebunkport, Maine, and a winter home at Santa Barbara, California.... D.D. Walker died at Kennebunkport in 1918, at age 78.
  • Rosetta Walker (1842-1919)--Rosetta Walker had 10 children with husband Thomas LeRoy Ijams. They farmed in the LeRoy area in DeWitt County. She died in 1919, at age 77. Like her siblings, Rose sometimes lived away from the family farm during her younger years, helping out at the always-busy Davis family home at Bloomington.
  • Sarah Davis Walker (1845-1915)--Sarah Davis Walker began occasionally living with the Davis family as early as 1853, when she was about 8 years old. Sarah married Samuel Raley in the mid-1860s. They farmed and had four children. The Raleys first lived in Illinois, near LeRoy, then in Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Sarah died in 1915, probably in Wharton County, Texas, at age 70.
David Davis Walker

Justice David Davis
David Davis soon became a circuit judge, traveling with Abraham Lincoln, and he has been credited with being the brains behind achieving Lincoln’s election to the Presidency. He accompanied Lincoln to Washington for the inauguration and remained there for a time, possibly helping in the transition, before returning to Illinois to resume his position as Circuit Judge. Shortly after his return, he was appointed chairman of a Western Commission in St. Louis, to investigate claims against the War Department and Union General John C. Fremont with regard to military preparedness. In October 1862, President Lincoln appointed his friend to be a Justice on the Supreme Court.

David Davis residence in Bloomington
David D. Walker arrived in St. Louis in 1857 after studying at Beloit College Academy in Wisconsin for several years. Judge Davis sent his only son, George Perrin Davis, who was two years younger than his cousin, D.D. Walker, to Beloit at about the same time Walker was there. George P. Davis received further education at Illinois Wesleyan, of which his father was an incorporator and trustee. With a partner, Wells Colton, Davis in 1836 bought the law practice of Jesse W. Fell, and in 1843 he also acquired Fell's mansion on the south side of Bloomington, called "Clover Lawn," which has come to be known as the David Davis Mansion.

A decade later Fell and Davis witnessed the groundbreaking of the Illinois Central Railroad in the northern part of the city. This is the railroad which would decades later be reorganized by E. H. Harriman--thus serving to rescue the investments of Bloomington's wealthy citizens who had retained their stock.

According to the Roger Hughes article cited above:
Even after his death, on June 26, 1886, Judge David Davis continued to assist the less successful of his Walker cousins — just as he had regularly helped them and their parents across earlier decades of the 19th century. Decatur’s Daily Review newspaper reported on Aug. 4, 1886, that the will of the late circuit judge, Supreme Court justice and U.S. senator had been “offered for probate” and that it included “comfortable support for his poor relations. . . . ” Among the “poor relations” were all but two — D.D. and George W. — of his Walker cousins. He provided lifetime annual legacies for some of them and one-time bequests for others. Also, he gave “my horse ‘Whoodlebug’ and my Washington buggy” to John Mercer Walker. Shortly before the judge died, D.D. Walker visited Clover Lawn to pay respects to a first cousin who had, about three decades earlier, helped put Lincoln in the White House even as he was also giving the young Walker a life-changing jump-start to future personal and family success.

[1] The revolution in France following America's revolutionary war caused the Catholic priest to flee to the United States in the 1790's. Eventually he settled in Maryland, where he was assisted by Fr. Simon Gabriel Bruté, in setting up Mount Saint Mary's school at Emmitsburg. Bruté taught there 1812-34, later became the first bishop of Vincennes, Indiana. 

[2] The Mercer family's roots in Cecil County were deep, and they can be traced as far back as the birth of Robert Mercer, Sr. there in 1703 to the Scottish-born Thomas Mercer, who married a widow, Elizabeth Barnes MacGregor (born in Cecil County in 1666). Thomas left four sons: Robert, William, Thomas, Jr., and John.

[3] Bishop was a close friend of Berkshire County Clerk Charles Sedgwick, of a prominent family living in Massachusetts and Connecticut whose first American ancestor, Robert Sedwick, arrived in 1635 and was appointed governor of Jamaica by Oliver Cromwell in 1655. The intermarried Sedgwick, Dwight and Ellery families were notable in the Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale. 

[4] Marcy J. Brant, “David Davis,” Illinois History, Volume 46, Number 2 (February 1993); Davis entry in American Biographical Library.]


rodohu13 said...

VERY impressed with your Walker-and-related research and narratives!

Are you also aware of the de La Roche connections to the Vatican? For example, my research show that Dr. Percy de La Roche, of Philadelphia, was private chamberlain in the Vatican to Pope Leo XIII.

You can contact me at: rogerdhughes1(at)

Also see (although I'm betting you already have):




Roger Hughes
Bloomington-Normal, Illinois


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