John Walker papers, 1824-1867; 1956.

Creator: Walker, John, 1785-1867.
Collection number: 2300
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Abstract: John Walker was a cotton and wheat planter and silkworm grower of King and Queen County, Va. The son of Humphry and Frances (Temple) Walker, John married Margaret Watkins Shepherd in 1829, and had two surviving children, Watson (1834-1900) and Melville (1846-1904). Walker was an active member of the Methodist Church and held several public offices, including overseer of the poor and surveyor of roads for King and Queen County. The collection includes a journal, 1824-1867, kept by Walker for his Chatham Hill plantation, and a Walker family genealogical chart. The journal documents religious life, plantation finances, and slavery in and around King and Queen County. Information appears on camp meetings, church business, and Methodist preachers. Also documented are Walker’s income and expenditures from cotton and wheat planting and his silkworm business, and his legal actions as executor of his father’s and of other estates. The journal is particularly rich as a source on slave genealogy, activities, and slave/owner relations, as it often records vital statistics, family relationships, and the purchase and sale of slaves. Several entries provide information on slaves holding skilled positions outside the household or fields. Entries also provide many examples of slave resistance. Also documented is Samuel Thomson’s method of botanic medicine, which Walker adopted in the 1830s. Little information appears on family or community life. The family tree documents the Walker family from the mid-1660s through the 1950s.

Repository: Southern Historical Collection

Collection Highlights: This collection is a source of slave genealogy, activities, and slave/owner relationship; it documents slave births, illnesses, marriages, medical treatments, purchases and sales, and describes the hierarchical nature of slavery in Tidewater Virginia (1832- 1837). In the plantation journals, Walker mentions skilled slaves and discusses several examples of slave resistance, including escape, stealing food, arson (21 March 1826) and poisoning owners (13 November 1832 and 30 April 1836). The journal also records Walker’s punishment of slaves and describes the death of a slave from venereal disease and Walker’s subsequent order to whip several slaves on the charge that they had acted as procurers of slave women for a local brothel catering to white men (2 July 1834).

Materials from this collection have been digitized are available online. Click here to link to the finding aid for this collection and to access the digitized content.