|Birth: ||Dec. 13, 1798|
|Death: ||Oct. 27, 1876|
Contra Costa County
1st white man to cross Sierra Nevada Mountains as scout for John C. Fremont. Walker Lake and Walker Pass thru which thousands of immigrants passed on way to CA. gold rush are named for him. lst white man to discover Yosemite 11/13/1833. Married Shoshone woman. Father of Joseph R. Walker. Son of Joseph and Mary Rutherford Walker. He was brother of Joel Walker; Mary Thornton Walker 1st non-missionary white woman to cross Rockies; Samuel S. Walker who died on way to CA., Issac F. Walker who was killed by in AZ. by a religious group; and Jacob Walker who died at the Alamo in TX. He was a cousin to explorer Merriwether Lewis and grandson of explorer Dr. Thomas Walker and Mildred (Lewis) Thornton Walker of Virgina.
"Joseph Rutherford Walker, fur trapper, hunter, trail blazer, explorer, military guide, cattleman, miner, and sheriff. Capt. Joe Walker was one of the most interesting men that lived during the 1800s. Hubert Howe Bancroft was quoted as saying . . ."Captain Joe Walker was one of the bravest and most skilled of the mountain men; none was better acquainted than he with the geography or the native tribes of the Great Basin; and he was withal less boastful and pretentious than most of his class."
"I was strongly impressed by the simple and upright character of Capt. Walker, and his mountain comrades spoke in the highest praise of his ability. Fremont, Kit Carson, Bill Williams, Alex Godey, Vincenthaler, Ferguson, and others, all agreed in saying that as a mountain man, Captain Walker had no superior." These were the words of Lafayette Bunnell, the man that named Yosemite Valley. Bunnell met with Captain Walker on numerous occasions in the 1850s to discuss Walker's route over the Sierra Nevada Mountains into the San Joaquin Valley.
Daniel Conner was a member of the Walker party during the Arizona adventure and wrote down all his experiences. Conner's later writing's were responsible for shedding light on the Mangas Coloradas affair at Fort McLean. Conner's also had very strong feeling about Joseph R. Walker and shared them:
"I was with him [Walker] two years of his last explorations of our mountain country under the most desperate hardships and still I could never see any change in him. Always cool, firm, and dignified. "I never heard him tell any wonderful story. He was too reticent about his certainly bleak and wild experiences and he was never given to saying foolish things under any circumstance. Brave, truthful, he was as kindly as a child, yet occasionally he was ever austere. I was but a boy and he kept me out of dangerous places without letting me know it or even know how it was done. ". . . my greatest concern is the fear that his character will never be known as well as it ought to be. His services have been great and unostentatious, unremunerated and but little understood. Modesty was his greatest fault."
"Uncle Joe," as Walker was sometimes called, started his adventurous career at fifteen when he and his brother Joel Walker joined Colonel John Brown's mounted riflemen to serve under Andrew Jackson in the Indians Wars of 1812-15. Walker was present when his kinsman Sam Houston climbed the log fortification to breech the Red Sticks stronghold. By the age of twenty Walker was already roaming the country side hunting and trapping. In 1819, Joe and his family moved to the farthest corner of the frontier to take up land at what was known as Fort Osage. By 1820 Walker was again off to the Rocky Mountains.
Walker played an increasing roll in developing the Santa Fe Trail, and possibly was with Becknell's party when they took wagons to Santa Fe. Walker was with Stephen Cooper and his brother Joel Walker when they arrived at Santa Fe. In 1825 President James Monroe signed a bill providing $30,000 to survey a wagon road to Santa Fe, and Joseph Walker was hired as a guide and hunter for the party. In June 1827, Walker was appointed as the first sheriff of Jackson County. Joe Walker served two terms as sheriff and would have seen the reward notice for young Kit Carson when he ran away from home. Walker's kinsman Ewing Young took Kit under his wing and Kit developed into a first rate mountain man. In 1830 Walker met Captain Benjamin Bonneville and was hired as the chief guide for the largest beaver hunting party to leave for the Rockies. In 1833, Walker guided the famous Bonneville expedition into California.
In California Walker was offered seven square miles of land by the Governor José Figueroa. Walker, however, refused the offer and left California in the spring, crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountain by what was called Walker Pass. Many assumed it was the pass Walker had led Edward Kern through during frémont's 1845-46 Expedition. Kern however mentions Walker's northern pass in his notes, and years later Walker confirmed he used the northern pass in 1834. During the 1840s Walker was all over the Rocky Mountains leading hunting parties.
Walker also made a number of return trips to California and established a good business in buying horses and trading them in the mountains. In 1843 Walker guided the Chiles party into California and safety to Gilroy's rancho. Walker then made his way to pueblo de Los Angeles and purchased horses to sell in the Rookies. At Mountain Meadows, Walker came upon fremont and guided him back to Bent's Fort. frémont convinced Walker to be his chief guide for his up coming expedition and Walker agreed to meet frémont the next year near Bear River. Walker was with frémont, Kern and the others at the Hawks Peak affair and soon after asked for his leave. Again Walker went to Los Angeles to purchase horses and mules, and this time he delivered the herd to the Army at Bents Fort in present day Colorado.
With all the excitement during the gold rush in California in 1849-50, Walker, together with a couple of nephews, traded supplies and animals with the miners in the hills. In the early part of the 1850s, Walker again was moved to explore unknown regions. He set out with a few men and explored the southwest corner of what became Utah. Not liking the country with its twisting steep canyons, Walker doubled back to the Virgin River and crossed the Colorado into what later became known as Arizona territory. Moving east along the great canyon, Walker finally reached an area with a number of ruins, possibly those near Sunset Crater [Flagstaff area]. Leaving the ruins Walker visited the Moquis Indians [Hopi] on their mesa and then continued on to Santa Fe where he offered his services to the Army as Guide. The Army refused on the grounds that they had already hired three men as guides. Walker apparently give the survey party landmarks to look for, because in reading the reports they traveled back over some of the same ground and discovered the petrified forest and ruins.
Walker left New Mexico and traveled by the southern route and arrived in Los Angeles to purchase cattle and horses. With William Garman, Walker discovered Priest Valley and named it. The Valley however was known as Walker Valley until the early 1870s. In 1853 Walker had a cattle rancho near his friend Julius Martin's in the Gilroy area. At this time Walker was asked to testify before the Senate Committee on Public Lands as to the best route for a railroad to the east. Returning to Gilroy, Walker moved his rancho to an area near Walker Peak, approximately 25 miles nearly due east of Mission Soledad. In 1858 Walker was again on the trail, looking for gold with George Lount, and was attacked by Indians near the head waters of the Mojave River. The party returned to Los Angeles for medical attention, Walker was then hired by the Army as a guide for the Mojave expedition along with William Goodyear. Col. Hoffman expedition, upon reaching the Colorado River, is attacked by the Mojave and retreats back to Los Angeles. Col. Hoffman reported to General Clarke, and a second expedition was formed and Walker was again chosen as the chief guide to lead the Expedition against the Mohave Indians up the Colorado River from Fort Yuma.
After returning to California Walker put together a group of miners to go to the new mines at Mono Lake. The following year Walker formed the famous Arizona Expedition. During this period the civil war broke out in New Mexico as Walker and his men reached Santa Fe. During the Confederate invasion of New Mexico, Walker remained in the mountains near Fort Union awaiting the return of his men that had volunteered to fight for the Union. When the Confederates were driven out of New Mexico, Walker took his men to Colorado, and formed what became known as the Walker Prospecting and Mining Company. The Walker Party then left Pueblo Colorado and moved back into New Mexico and eventually we're involved in the capture of Mangas Coloradas. From the Pinos Altos area, Walker guided his men to Tucson, and then to the area that became known as Prescott, where they found rich mines. Walker and his men held the county until the Governor's party arrived and claimed the area as the Territory of Arizona. In 1867 Walker retired to his nephew's "Manzanita" ranch at Walnut Creek to live out his life.
Captain Joe Walker is buried in the Alhambra Pioneer Cemetery near Martinez, CA. The peaceful, oak-studded, cemetery overlooks the Bay of Suisun just inside the Straight of Carquinez, near the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers."
From The Travels of Capt. Joseph R. Walker
by G. Andrew Miller
Joseph Walker (1758 - 1810)
Susannah Willis Walker (1770 - 1822)
Jane Patterson Walker McClellan (1791 - 1824)*
Joel P. Walker (1797 - 1879)*
Joseph Rutherford Walker (1798 - 1876)
Samuel S Walker (1800 - 1852)*
Contra Costa County
Created by: Kaaren Crail Vining
Record added: Sep 10, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 5755541