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William Marion "Big Bill" Walker
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Birth: 1838
Blount County
Tennessee, USA
Death: Dec. 30, 1919
Blount County
Tennessee, USA

William Marion Walker "Big Bill"

Pioneer Era William Marion Walker married Nancy Caylor in 1859 and moved to the Middle Prong of the Little River, where they became the first settlers in this area. The valley soon became known as Walker Valley. They had seven children, three of whom died as infants and one of whom died as a young child. It has been said that Will, known as Big Will to most, and Nancy read their Bible regularly. Will noted that God had blessed and granted prosperity to David and other men of olden times who chose to have more than one wife. Therefore, in about 1864, Big Will brought into the home a second wife, Mary Ann Moore, sister of Loon Grant Moore (Big Will's son-in-law).

Nancy is said to have cared for Mary Ann and her seven children, all of whom grew to adulthood. It is likely that Nancy learned from Big Will's mother, Aunt Polly, to be midwife for her valley just as Aunt Polly had been for Tuckaleechee. Later Big Will built a cabin for Mary Ann and her children on the west side of the river, near the bridge into Tremont. Later, with no more children in his home, he took a third wife, Mary (called Moll, which was short for Molly) Stinnett. She was the sister of Preacher John Stinnett, Big Will's son-in-law, who was married to his daughter Jane. Moll and Will had twelve children, only one of whom died in infancy. He built a cabin for her and her children downriver near the location of Tremont's sewage lagoon. This brought the total of Will's children to twenty-six by three wives. Since only the children of Nancy could legally bear the name of Walker, the children of each of the other two wives bore their mothers' names. There are many descendants by the common-law wives who come back to the valley and cemetery once a year, the first Sunday in June, for Decoration Day and homecoming.

Big Will was a man of many talents and was well-liked. In a newspaper article, a reporter wrote that when Big Will was seventy-nine and still very active, he could "jump up and clap his heels together twice before he landed." It was said that during the Civil War, when many of his neighbors from Cades Cove were off fighting, Will traveled from house to house and cut firewood for people who had no one at home to do it for them. He was also a good hunter and sharpshooter, made watertight oak buckets, and was a master beekeeper. At one time he had over a hundred "bee gums" (hives made from hollowed out black gum logs) in his yard and more on Thunderhead Prong. He traded the valuable honey in Tuckaleechee (now Townsend). He also built three grist mills on his property used for grinding corn meal.

Lumbe ring Era After World War I, logging companies came into the area, and although Walker Valley was the most accessible valley, Will would not sell. He vowed that he would never sell to the loggers, but did allow splash logging from property upriver which adjoined his. In splash logging, several dams would be constructed along the river. When logs were ready to be moved, the dams were closed. When the water level behind the dam furthest upstream was high enough, that dam was opened. As the rushing water and logs approached the next dam, it too was opened. As more dams were opened, the water level continued to rise, allowing more logs to be carried. By the time the last dam was opened, there was enough water to carry the logs to the mill in Townsend.

In 1918 Will was disabled by a stroke, and Colonel W. B. Townsend of the Little River Lumber Company came to offer to buy the land Will had claimed on the Thunderhead Prong. It is said that Will agreed to the sale but asked that it not be cut. The lumber company bought that ninety-six-acre parcel for $1500, and it was not cut until shortly after Colonel Townsend's death in 1936. Will had had his land surveyed, and in all claimed eight square miles, or 5120 acres of land.

Big Will was eighty years old when he died in 1919. His body was carried across the footlog and down the river to the present-day Townsend "Wye", and from there was carried by a train, provided by Colonel Townsend, to be buried at Bethel Baptist Church in Townsend. Four of his daughters by Moll Stinnett, Dora, Sally, Millie, and Lillie, cared for him during his final illness, and it was to them that he left his valley. They said Big Will wished to be buried in his valley.

Nancy lived two years longer in their cabin, cared for by the four Stinnett sisters. When she died she was buried beside Big Will at Bethel, leaving this valley for the first time since she came here.

After Big Will's death, the Little River Lumber Company completed their deal with the heirs of the valley, which they had been unable to accomplish with Big Will. He loved his valley and did not wish to see the land spoiled as it had been at Elkmont (towards Gatlinburg) and other nearby valleys.

As one hikes the trails in the valley, it may be difficult to imagine it as an area without trees. But if you had been here many years ago, that's what you would have seen: just a few small trees, little wildlife, and muddy streams with eroded banks. The Little River Lumber Company logged the areas around the Middle Prong of the Little River (the river that flows through Tremont) from 1926-1938. The Tremont road follows the route of the logging railroad that once hauled logs from this valley to Townsend. Three miles upriver from the Institute was the logging town of Tremont, named for the trees and the mountains. The town had a general store, a post office, a school, movie house, church, and a hotel. People in the town lived in portable "carshacks" that could be picked up and moved on railroad flatcars as the logging operations moved. During the time that the logging company was in operation, there were about one thousand people living between Walker Valley and the logging town.

Logs were removed from the high country using a device called a skidder. There were two types of skidders. Ground skidders were V-shaped troughs that were raised a few feet off the ground. When logs were ready to be sent down to the tracks, they were put into the skidder. A rope or cable was tied to one end of the log(s), and the other end of the rope was attached to mules or oxen. These animals would then pull the logs from the mountains down to the tracks. The logs were then loaded onto flatcars and taken to the mill in Townsend. Overhead skidders consisted of a crane-like machine which moved on rails, and metal cables. After the cables were attached to a large tree or stump as far as one mile away from the tracks, logs could be "reeled" back to the skidder using pulleys and a large "J" hook.

In this part of the park, many spurline sections of railroad branched out far into the mountains and hollows to provide access to the timber. In areas like these, a specialized engine known as a Shay engine was used to haul the logs back down into the valley. Unlike conventional engines, a Shay engine was able to travel the steep grades and sharp turns that were common in the mountains.

When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established, the Little River Lumber Company sold its holdings to the park. Although the Little River Lumber Company land was the first land purchased for the national park, it was the last accepted for such use because of continued cutting. After a long legal battle and years of negotiation, the Middle Prong and its tributaries were finally included in the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Many relics remain to remind us that the logging company was here. If you have a sharp eye, while hiking some trails here at Tremont you may see skidder cables, pieces of railroad tracks, train parts, foundations of buildings, old railroad beds, or manways (trails used by loggers to get from one place to another). This area has only had since 1938 to recover, but if you look around, today's forest is a testimony to the power of nature to reclaim its own if given the opportunity to do so. The establishment of the park gave the forest that chance.

Natio nal Park Era The history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the many aspects that make it unique. This was the first park ever to come from private land owned by citizens. In the late 1920s the area that is now the park was being logged at a rapid pace. A couple from Knoxville named Davis had been out west visiting Yellowstone, and began to wonder why there was not a national park in the East. They in turn generated interest among people from Tennessee and North Carolina in turning this area into a national park. In 1926 Congress passed an act that provided for the establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park.

It would not be an easy task to convince the people of the mountains to sell their homes and farms, nor to obtain the money to buy the land. The first money came from a group of school children. A total of five million dollars was raised by the people of North Carolina and Tennessee, and most of the land was bought with this money. The Rockefeller family gave the next five million dollars, pledged to match that raised by the states, and in 1934 the land was deeded to the federal government. In 1936 Congress voted to make this a national park, and finally, in 1940, the park was dedicated by F. D. Roosevelt as the twenty-second national park in the United States. Because a highway over the mountains ran through the proposed park, the enabling legislation for the park included a clause that no tolls could be charged for using the road. This is still true today, and the Smokies are one of the few parks that does not charge admission.

By 1938, all developments of Little River Lumber Company had been moved out of the valley. The National Park Service, having purchased 77,000 acres from Little River Lumber Company, destroyed all the buildings except for the area which had been given by Colonel Townsend to be used by the Girl Scouts as Camp Margaret Townsend (now Tremont).

In 1933-1934 the government built a Civilian Conservation Corps camp about four miles above the location of the former Tremont Lumber Village site which was named the Tremont CCC Camp, the second location to use the name Tremont. This camp was in operation for about eight years. The boys located there built and maintained trails in this area of the park and helped establish and maintain picnic areas, campgrounds, and trails in other parts of the park. When the camp was closed, the government again dismantled all buildings. The foundations, however, can still be seen. 
Family links: 
  Mary Ann Myers Walker (1824 - 1897)
  Nancy Louisa Caylor Walker (1840 - 1922)*
  Mary A Moore (1849 - 1920)*
  William Marion Walker (1838 - 1919)
  Annie H Walker (1843 - 1884)*
  Rhoda Walker Shields (1846 - 1918)*
*Calculated relationship
Bethel Baptist Cemetery
Blount County
Tennessee, USA
Maintained by: Pat & Mac Hancock
Originally Created by: SusanC
Record added: Sep 14, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 58659975
William Marion Big Bill Walker
Added by: John Gwin
William Marion Big Bill Walker
Added by: Pat & Mac Hancock
William Marion Big Bill Walker
Added by: SusanC
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- L.L. Scott
 Added: Mar. 7, 2014
RIP - "Big Bill"
- Pat & Mac Hancock
 Added: May. 25, 2011

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