Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Presidents Bush: The Walker Genealogy (Part I)

George E. Walker, from Slave Trader's Son
to Jesuit-Educated Farmer

We all are aware that John Newton wrote the lyrics to the hymn "Amazing Grace" to the tune of an African slave tune he heard when he was captain of a slave-trading ship. However, few of us have heard that the first of Presidents George H. W. and George Walker Bush's ancestors on their Walker genealogical line to move to America was also a slave trader--Captain Thomas "Beau" Walker from Clifton, a suburb of Bristol in Gloucestershire, England. Captain Walker married Catherine McClellan (or McLelland) in 1785, and their first two children were born there in Bristol.

Beau, a ship captain engaged in trade from the Bristol port to the West Indies, in 1792 moved his wife and two children to America and applied for citizenship, buying land in New Jersey in 1795--a move which occurred the year following the historic slave revolt in Saint Domingue (Haiti) in 1791. America had only recently won its independence from Britain, the thirteen colonies having ratified the new Constitution in 1789.

At that time slaves were being imported at the New Jersey port at Perth Amboy and sold to Dutch farmers in the Passaic and Raritan river valleys, who "had a long history of slave ownership." Burlington, New Jersey's port at Camden saw fewer slaves being brought to the county because of the Quaker influence across the river in Pennsylvania. In 1797, however, the same year Catherine gave birth to their third child, George, Captain Walker was lost at sea while engaged in bringing slaves from the Sierra Leone coast, according to research published at Slate, which attempted to confirm that Thomas Walker and Beau Walker were, in fact, one and the same man as mentioned October 24, 1797, in Life and Letters of Zachary Macaulay:
Slave ship in British trade
You have heard of the noted Beau Walker, an English Slave-Trader of these parts. He arrived at the Isles Du Los [off present-day Guinea] lately in an American Brig being bound to Cape Mount [in present-day northwest Liberia] for slaves. He had scarce arrived at the last place, when exercising his usual barbarities on his officers & crew, they were provoked to conspire against him. As he lay on one of the hencoops a seaman came up & struck him on the breast with a handspike, but the blow being ill directed, did not produce its intended effect and Walker springing up would soon have sacrificed the mutineer to his fury, had not a boy at the helm, pulling a pistol from his breast, shot him dead on the spot. His body was immediately thrown overboard. Thus ended Walker’s career, an end worthy of such a life. The vessel left Cape Mount, and it is supposed has gone for the Brazils or South Seas. There could not possibly have been a more inhuman monster than this Walker. Many a poor seaman has been brought by him to an untimely end.
If the verification of Walker's identity is true, it sounds as though the infant George was better off for having lost his father, at least in Macaulay's estimation of the "inhuman monster" of a man called Beau Walker. Had he not died when he did, history may have been changed forever. For whatever reason, his death led the widow Catherine Walker to relocate across the river to Philadelphia.

George's mother (Beau's widow) is recorded as being married in 1801 to her second husband, Robert Hodgson, in Philadelphia, about 30 miles from Burlington, N.J., in the historic Christ Episcopal Church. The service was performed by assistant rector Dr. James Abercrombie. When Catherine died in 1806, she left behind three children: 
  • Rosetta, born in Clifton, Gloucestershire,  in 1785, was 21 when her mother died;
  • Thomas McLellan Walker, born in England in 1787, became the man of the family, sometimes known as "Uncle Tommy"; and
  • George E. Walker, born an American citizen in Burlington, N.J. in 1797, was ten years younger than his brother and twelve years younger than his sister, and a mere nine years of age when his mother died.
George's Catholic Upbringing by Scanlans

Within a year after Catherine's death in 1806, Rosetta met Dr. James Scanlan, a physician, who appears to have been in Philadelphia visiting his uncle, Dr. William Matthews, Jr., brother of the former Susannah Matthews, who had died in 1792. The Matthews family, who were also related by marriage to Kitty Knight, is mentioned in the Cecil County Historical County Bulletin No. 31, dated May 22, 1967 at page 159:
Susannah Matthews Scanlan's brother, Dr. William Matthews' estate

Scanlan was in Philadelphia, visiting his mother's brother, Dr. William Matthews (1735-1808), whose death occurred only a year after James' marriage to Rosetta Walker. Many of the papers relating to lands owned by Dr. Matthews (Bohemia Manor, Vulcan's Rest, and Worsell Manor), adjoining St. Xavier's mission in Old Bohemia, were donated to Georgetown University archives. About the mission land's history, as quoted from a book by Myndie Burgoyne, Haunted Eastern Shore: Ghostly Tales from East of the Chesapeake (Haunted America), who wrote:
Fr. Mansel sailed up the Chesapeake and up the Bohemia and obtained land between two branches of the Bohemia River.  There he founded his mission and named the tract of land St. Xavier.  On a high piece of ground, he built a chapel and log cabin. He named that St. Francis Xavier - after the most famous Jesuit missionary. In 1774 Fr. Thomas Pulton founded a Jesuit Academy on the property for educating young men. John Carroll attended the Academy around 1747, and went on to found Georgetown University.  He later became the bishop of the first established Diocese in the Colonies – Baltimore – making him the first American Catholic Bishop.

After a ceremony at St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in historic old town Philadelphia, James took his new wife and her youngest brother, George E. Walker, to Sassafras Neck, an area located between two branches of the Bohemia River, in Cecil County, Maryland.
Read Biographical & Historical Memoirs of Mississippi

Dr. Scanlan, a dedicated Catholic, saw to it that young George had a proper Catholic education by sending him in 1811 at the age of fourteen to  Mount Saint Mary's Jesuit school, in Emmitsburg, Maryland. There Rosetta gave birth to their first child, James William Scanlan in 1809, whose birth had been followed by three daughters (Mary, Catherine or Kate, and Rosetta Ann). Finally, in 1821 another son, Edward Barto Scanlan, was born only four years before Dr. James Scanlan died in in 1825.

The  widow, Rosetta Walker Scanlan, who had by then resided in Maryland for eighteen years, chose to return to Philadelphia, where her eldest son was beginning medical studies at Jefferson Medical College (now called Sidney Kimmel Medical College), in the area where Rosetta's brother Thomas Walker lived.

Yale graduate Dr. George McClellan,[1] who studied surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, had founded Jefferson in 1824 as part of a college near the western state line. Once James Scanlan's medical studies were completed, he moved to Mississippi to practice medicine, reportedly dying in Thibodaux, Louisiana in 1838. Rosetta's youngest son, Edward Barto Scanlan, also ended up in the deep south, seemingly disconnected from his uncle, George E. Walker, and the rest of the Scanlan family.

George Walker's Nieces--Mary Scanlan Stokes
and Kate Scanlan Minahan 
and Great-Niece, Agnes La Roche

Rosetta's eldest daughter, Mary Scanlan, was ardently courted in 1839 by William Axton Stokes, son of merchant Charles Stokes, whose devout Catholic family was on Philadelphia's Social Register. The original papers describing their courtship, as donated to Villanova, indicate that Mary Scanlan lived in Philadelphia with her uncle, a Mr. Walker, who could only have been Rosetta's brother, Thomas Walker.[2] One genealogist reveals research indicating Thomas was a bank clerk and living at 181 S. 9th Street in Philadelphia before he relocated to Bloomington, Illinois, reconnecting with younger brother, George E. Walker. The 9th Street location is adjacent to the medical school which Mary's brother, James W. Scanlan, attended at the same time. Other genealogy reports show that "Uncle Tommy" was buried in the David Davis plot in the Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington in 1870.

William Stokes in 1839 was already an attorney, later becoming chief counsel for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He moved to Western Pennsylvania soon after Mary Scanlan Stokes died in childbirth in 1849, only two years after the death of her mother (Rosetta Walker Scanlan). Her widowed husband was quickly remarried to a woman named Nancy and, during the civil war, received a Major's commission.[3]

Soon after the war, Stokes resumed his position with the railroad, but in about 1870 he returned to Philadelphia. The body of his wife Mary, originally buried at the now defunct new St. Mary's cemetery, was moved at some point to Vault No. 12 at St. John's Churchyard, apparently by daughter Catherine (Kate) Scanlan. William Stokes' brother, Dr. Thomas P. J. Stokes, who had studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania during the 1840's, died at age 41 in 1856 and was also interred in this vault. Agnes Stokes La Roche's remains also reside there since her death in 1904.

Uncle Tommy is also mentioned in a letter, part of a collection at Illinois Wesleyan University, from Catherine Scanlan Minahan to Judge David Davis' son, George Perrin Davis (who will be discussed in Part II), asking for help for her nephew Tom, son of Edward Barto Scanlan. Kate (shown in the 1850 census as a 35-year-old single woman in Greenburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, keeping house for her recently widowed brother-in-law) in order to help a recent widower, Daniel F. Minahan, take care of his infant son born in 1853, married him and continued to live in Western Pennsylvania until at least 1870. Minahan was a civil engineer and railroad contractor, as well as author of several mathematical works, and was said to have "laid out the first road between Latrobe, Pa., and Chicago." Kate is referred to in a biography of his son, Thomas Boromea Minahan, as  "his stepmother, a talented Southerner," who helped him to become
proficient in classics, history, orations and poetry, subsequently attending a parochial school. He was graduated at St. John's College, Fordham, N. Y., in 1876, with the degree A.B., carrying the honors of his class, and in 1902 Fordham University gave him the degree LL.D.
René de la Roche
Mary and William's daughter, Agnes Stokes, grew up to marry in 1873 Dr. C. Percy La Roche, son of René de la Roche, who obtained a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1820, after first working as an accountant for a shipping firm and then serving in the War of 1812. Percy's father's biography states that he served thirteen years on the Board of Health of Philadelphia and that he spent twenty years as a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. He also boasted membership in numerous other medical societies and charitable organizations. He married in 1824 Mary Jane Ellis, daughter of Colonel (Judge) John Ellis of Natchez, Mississippi, and died in 1872. Percy's biography mentions that he had been educated at St. Mary's in Baltimore until 1852, thereafter attending Georgetown in Washington, D.C., then studied medicine at the University of Philadelphia. He did his medical residency at St. Joseph's in Philadelphia in vaccines.

Author Bertram Wyatt-Brown did not mention the fact that the La Roche family had also used the name "de la Roche, and his gave Percy's father's name as Dr. René Marc Marie LaRoche, leading to some confusion, since he was often known simply as "Dr. René de la Roche." Percy's grandfather, another René, had owned a plantation in St. Domingo (Haiti), the destruction of which in the slave revolt of 1791 prompted him to relocate to Philadelphia until his death in 1820, and to continue the practice of medicine for which he had prepared himself in France. 

The second Dr. René La Roche (or de la Roche), Agnes Stokes' father-in-law, drew close to Dr. Samuel D. Brown, founder of a secret medical fraternity in 1819 at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, which had among its aims promoting "harmony of the profession," and creating "a powerful underground force in medical politics." When Dr. Brown died in 1830, René de la Roche became his "ardent eulogist," according to a satirical paper prepared by Dr. Chauncey Depew Leake, read to the Wisconsin Medical History Seminar in 1921.

Called Kappa Lambda Society of Aesculapius, this secret fraternity established branches in numerous other cities, and Dr. De la Roche, along with Franklin Bache and other members in Philadelphia, in 1826 began publication of the North American Medical and Surgical Journal, which mentioned Dr. Brown's Kappa Lambda and its desire to inculcate a "higher standard of excellence" in the medical profession. The new Jefferson Medical school founded by George McClellan in that same year occurred within the prestigious era of Kappa Lambda Association. However, after publishing only twelve volumes of the journal, the Association was dissolved in 1836. These same forces, however, after attack and defeat in 1831, resurrected the same ideas into a new group formed in 1847 called the American Medical Association.

It should be recalled that Haiti, known in those days as Santo Domingo, or Saint Domingue by the French, was the same island to which Beau Walker smuggled slaves from Sierra Leone. Had Captain Beau Walker sold such "cargo to the De La Roche family? Only further research can say.
Click to enlarge.


[1]  Brief research did not indicate that he had any family relationship with Catherine McClellan Walker.

[2] Possibly incorrectly transcribed as "J.W." instead of T.W., Mary's uncle's conduct was considered by William A. Stokes as either tawdry, rude, or strange, and was more specifically described in the journal as follows:
On Monday 9 Sep 1839, I called on Mr Walker by consent of Mary and had a long interview. At times during the conversation he was very much excited and at other times calm. He said that the family had deceived him and treated him as a fool and a puppet that Mary & Kitty [probably Catherine Scanlan, also known as Kate] had positively denied there was any ground for suspicion, that they must have know that this declaration was false-- that we were in no [�] adapted for each other & more particularly that our [�] and feelings are at variance and that our religious views were dissimilar -- he said that I had no idea of the pertinacious bigotry of the Catholics -- that if I am thought of the matter seriously as I probably would I would be violently opposed to Mary's religion and that my profession was one in which I could not expect to make money for some years and that Mary was far from being a young girl and that it was inexpedient that at her age She should be embarrassed by any engagement. However others had [�] that I had behaved with honor &c &c. I defended the family and the whole matter to my best ability and he finally said that though he would not oppose he would not approve the matter -- that he should always be glad to see me or a friend and would me with politeness. I left him & in the afternoon communicated the whole matter to Mary.

[3] Although Stokes had in 1847 helped author a political treatise about the writ of habeas corpus with Edward Ingersoll, a man who supported the Confederacy's legal arguments and who did not agree with Chief Justice Taney's Supreme Court opinion in the case of Ex Parte Merryman, he did not totally agree with Ingersoll. A son of Charles Jared Ingersoll, in 1865, while speaking in favor of the states' right to secede, the younger Ingersoll had been beaten, arrested and jailed on a charge of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Four years earlier, Major Stokes, in contrast, had delivered a speech at the Union Convention in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in September, 1861, in which he denied the right of secession, which he called a "union for disunion" at page 7. Edward Ingersoll's name, curiously enough, also appears amidst the petty bickering and medical intrigue central to the politics that surrounded the formation of Jefferson Medical College in 1826, notably regarding the dismissal of Francis S. Beattie, professor of midwifery, who subsequently sued the faculty and the trustees of the Jefferson Medical College. The Ingersolls, father and son, at various times were trustees of the college at Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, which had sponsored the medical school.

(To Be Continued)

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