[1-28-96

]

JOE

WALKER,

PATHFINDE~

TO

THE

PACIFIC

"Joe Walker was known to nearly all the literary travelers. He camped with, guided, saved the skins and scalps of many of them, but was of almost no help when it carne to supplying raw material for legends ... Walker did not like to tell wild stretchers in which he became a half-alligator, half-panther, brotherof-lightning, father-of-thunder champion." --Bil Gilbert, Westering Walker (1983) Man: The Life of Joseph

Joe Walker 220 pounds,

was six-feet

four inches tall, weighed Irving's second-hand

around

and in Washington

report was sombrero, and gold

"dark complexioned, and buckskins

brave in spirit."

He wore a black

trimmed with fur and with wire of silver rode a Spanish

in his later years--and with the six-inch His parents on the West," North American

horse which he goaded spurs. were bent " ••.the On it many regarded Such to

rowels of his gold-embellished carne from Ulster.

"The Scotch-Irish Bil Gilbert,

exclaims

his biographer,

frontier was a hard, brutal place. traits which gentlemanly

of the Scotch-Irish as weaknesses as instinctive

Europeans

turned out to be strengths resistance

and virtues."

to authority--ferocious distrust

loyalty

kin and comrades--and in the frontier and danger-honed The Walkers

an appropriate

of the cerebral, strength

environment reflexes. settled

which rewarded

physical

in what is now Virginia.

Above_walker_

Creek stood the first public building blockhouse.

in the Creek nation--a Walker

After 1750, at least fifteen of the prolific

JOE WALKER,

page 2

1 -28-96

clan were killed a noted gunsmith; Thence Walker

or captured

by the Indians.

One Walker

was

another was famous for his gun-stocks. On December 13, 1798, Joseph Rutherford

to Tennessee.

was born in Roane County,

fifty miles

east of Knoxville. home. He fought was

*

Once again, his father built a fortress-styled the Cherokees--and a veteran relative

by age twenty, his son Joseph Walker Yet he would

of the Indian wars. from Alabama,

tell an incredulous living mean." of the folks

years later, that he preferred are too damned

with the Indians Bil Gilbert nineteenth-century through

"because white people credits East Tennessee westering sometimes migrated movement,"

as "the seedbed sending

countless Coast.

Appalachia,

as far as the Pacific through Missouri,

But often Tennesseans

such as Thomas at Fort

Hart Benton ...and the Walker Osage, Missouri in 1819.

family itself,

arriving

And in 1820 ture.

(or 1821), Joe Walker

left on his first_advenhe

He set out on a hunting

trip to New Mexico--where jail.

and his pals landed or in Washington the promise

in a Mexican

They were sent home, version, released on

Irving's more romantic

they would fight Indians! his brother Joel (b. 1797, in Virginia) Now in 1825,

Back in Missouri, married senator Mary Young,

of the family of Ewing Young.

Thomas Hart Benton was sponsoring

the bill to mark the It passed. So

Santa Fe trail, and treat with the Indians. Joe and Joel

(and brother John) hit the newiapproved'! t.r a Ll ]

*
For over a century, historians posthumously called him Joseph Reddeford Walker, till biographer Bil Gilbert reinstated his correct middle name. Walker's tombstone confirms his birthplace--yet his brother Joel claimed the family didn't come to Tennessee till 1802, which would give Joe Walker a Virginia birthplace. Gilbert affirms Tennessee.

JOE WALKER,
JOG

page 3 of the Indian

1-28-96

WalkGr QVQn signed one

treaties.

Joel to

said "This was the first trip ever made from Missouri Santa Fe." By 1827, he was becoming claiming immersed

in Missour:i:po Ld, tics, seat of Jackson He was its

to have not only chosen the county

County--but

even to have named it Independence. enforcing size.

first sheriff,

the law calmly and fairly, reinforced Public drunkness, coffee, encouraged in part local

by his pretentious by unsafe water event. Walker

and high-priced

was a popular

knew how to round up drunks

and toss them in of Santa Gregg

the log jail.

Finally he let Jacob Gregg--brother

Fe trader and author Josiah --replace him as sheriff.

(Commerce of the Prairies)

In one wild, undocumented "English trappers author-spy"

story from this period( Walker

by

George Ruxton),

was off leading wiped out chief, his knife

on the Gila River when they supposedly Indians. "succeeded

some hovering since Walker

Last to die was a gigantic in throwing

him, and plunging

no less than seven times into his body, tore off his scalp, and went in pursuit calls Ruxton Walker of the flying savages." novelist.") of 1831, leading (Bil Gilbert

"a nonfiction

returned

to the trail in February

a pack train into the Southwest. versial--and his business plorations scouting enigmatic--Captain ventures ultimately

And he fell in with controB. L. E. Bonneville. failed, Bonneville's While ex-

were of incalcuable

value.

Maybe he was a spy, under the guise of

out the West for the government

JOE WALKER, page 4 private absence, business. though

1-28-96 He was on ostensible military leave-ofpassport (covert on

interestingly, rank.

he obtained Whatever

Walker's

by invoking Manifest

his military

his motives

Destiny?),

Bonneville

left Fort Osage, Missouri, was Joe Walker. in Montana, greedy

May 1, 1832.

One of his lieutenants by Blackfeet

They were attacked their horses repulsed fur-trade government

for

and mules--so Bonneville

with a burst of rifle fire they began acting less and less like a

them.

entrepreneur, assignment.

and more like a man on a clandestine Apparently he wanted the Great Salt wrote in his

Lake explored. famous memoir Pacific Coast.

One of his men,

Zenas Leonard,

that their goal was no less than to reach the The War Department Indian data. rounded the at least had commissioned

Bonneville

to collect

Walker's north

own party left Green River Valley,

side of the Great Salt Lake, then crossed At the Humboldt tricked Walker River,

the barren Bill

desert. Craig,

one of his companions, "head-first

into plunging

into that four to kill

and a half feet of blue mud."

Angry Walker

threatened

him if he ever fooled him again. At some point, the degenerate them, a stunted craving Root Digger Indians followed

race that ate anything

(reptiles,

dried ants),

the white men's equipment of them were hovering

and mounts. about Walker's display

Soon, around band of around

a thousand forty men.

They staged an ominous only edged closer. seized

of target practice--

but the Diggers at Humboldt

Then in early September, before the Diggers

Lake, Walker

the advantage

could rush them--his rest. Washington Walker's

men killed

a few dozen,

then routed biography,

the

Irving,

in his Bonneville defensive

condemned

desperate,

measure.

*

smugly

In a staggering, and hunger, Walker's

three-week

struggle

that included

frostbite

group crossed

the Sierras.

Twenty-four de Voto Joe

of their horses

died; they ate some of them.

Bernard

calls this "the worst passage Walker's spy-glass revealed

in our we s t.e r i.nq.i "

Finally

a meadow

below ...Yosemite

Valley. always group

They were probably

the first white men to see it--Walker The Walker

felt that this was his finest accomplishment. was proud of the "many small streams,

which would shoot out a short distance

from under high snow banks, and after running in deep chasms, precipitate to another." "first" reached themselves

from one lofty precipice another

They also discovered

giant redwoods,

(at least in written

records).

Three days later they words, at

the edge of San Francisco

Bay, in Leonard's

"the end of the Far West." And on November Valley ...watching by Tennessean visible 13, 1833 they camped in the San Joaquin also witnessed stars

the great shower of meteors With maybe

Ewing Young. midnight

200,000 shooting one of Walker's

between

and morning,

men

pulled him out of his blanket

to save him "from the damndest Leonard said they feared

shooting match that was ever seen." they would be "swallowed At Monterey, watching

up in the bowels

of the earth." idyll,

they were treated

to a three-month

the bull-roping, contests

and bear fights, and encoun(who, according to famous

tering theSgan.ish

girls of California

*

Bonneville's exit from active duty was suspicously smooth. He was financed by mostly unnamed New York businessmen. He overstayed his leave-of-absence by two years--yet President Jackson interceded, reinstating him in the army, where the once-obscure officer became a General. If Manifest Destiny had its spokesmen, it apparently had its secret agents. Perhaps Bonneville was helping to win the West under deep cover--"Old Hickory" Jackson was of course the master string-puller.

JOE WALKER, page 6 trapper

1-28-96. eyes and Irving time

Joe Meek, were "well formed, with languishing In his Bonneville respite apologia, Washington

soft voice"). condemns

this well-earned

as a waste of company

and money~-though brilliant Mexican

he colorfully horsemen

reports

how the stunts of Six of Walker's

awed the Americans. behind

men decided

to stay permanently

in this haven. return

Then with the rest of his men, Walker made a brutal trip to meet with Bonneville. sand and lava of Owens Valley drank the blood. grass and water. themin~ killing Miraculously, Once again, They were so parched

by the rock,

that they bled their mules ...and they found a wooded some Dig~er area with

Indians began hemming attacked--

till Walker and scalping rejoined

and his galloping fourteen Bonneville of them. in July.

trappers

Walker

The odyssey failure.

had been

a pathmaking generously remaining conceals

triumph ...if a fur-finding the magnitude

Bonneville explorations, Irving

acknowledged cordial

of Walker's

and respectful

to him--which

Washington

in his Fr~montesque papers

memoir

of Bonneville.

Having bought Walker New

Bonneville's

for $1000, Irving had to scapegoat financial disasters.

in his book to excuse his hero's Englander Irving

seemed blind to the expedition's new territory any widening

seemingly

latent purpose politicians

of charting opposed

(Northeastern of the United states). leader

mostly

After the Bonneville for the American Arizona, probably

tour, Walker became in 1836. gold--and

a brigade

Fur Company discovering

Next year he was in in 1839 was at Fort trade was falling

Davy Crockett

in Colorado.

Since the beaver

JOE W~LKER,

page 7 were even resorting

1-28-9fi

off, trappers them openly Indians.

to horse stealing,

some of

swiping horses veterans

from the hated British

and hated and

Mountain

like Joe Meek, Kit Carson, Walker

former Missouri thirty-man horses.

lawman Joe Walker protested. tracking down rustlers,

led a stolen

posse,

retrieving

Then in the great push to Oregon guided settlers--as

in the 1840s, Walker "No one living

he also did in California.

was better qualified ornia,"

to act as a guide on the trail to CalifWalker was with Fremont when the

said G. S. stewart.

"Pathfinder"--acting

like a filibuster

in a U.s. Army uniform Lacking the guts

--ran up the U.s. flag in Mexican of his grandiose later. Walker ambition, Fremont

territory. scampered

away a few days was

said that "Fremont, morally coward

and physically,

the most complete woman

I ever knew ..•he was as timid as a an unmerited reproach on the sex."

if it were not casting left--but Fremont awkwardly
,/

Walker Revolt"

went ahead with his "Bear Flag kicking California toward

soon after,

independence. to Walker

The irrepressible

Fremont ""

was always generous for the into himself

in print, with the awe of the amateur He even tried to twist mundane

professional. breathless alongside.

events

adventures,

with Walker at the center--and

By 1844, Walker ,~ent to Fort Bridger, traveller Reverend Edward Parris wrote

Wyoming,

and fellow-

in his diary that on among his own squaws,

the trail Walker

had "returned

to his own wigwam

Indians of the Snake Nations.

It is said he has several

JOE WALKER, whether

page 8 concubines or wives,

1-28-96 I know not." Bil Gilbert

servants,

admits that "polygamy was respectable hoping

among the Snakes,1I while

that his hero Walker only had one woman at a time. was visiting Zuni and Hopi villages, and

In 1850 Walker

that same year he recommended a railroad he operated between

to the California and the U.S.A.

Legislature For a time Then in

San Francisco

a cattle ranch near the Soledad

Mission.

1859 he was guiding incidentally, Indians--and

troops to fight the Mojave more gold. Arizona #

Indians--and he fought

discovered

In New Mexico discovered

in present-day

yet more gold.

#
During Connor

#

#
fugitive, Daniel Ellis

the Civil War, a Southern in Arizona.

rode with Walker

They found white victims them and their heads fire had been

of the Indians with "hands tied behind hung to within built directly was burned a foot of the ground under each head.

and a little

They were dead and their hair giving them a ghastly appearance

off of their skulls,

as they swung there perfectly Walker's

naked. " cornered the notorious Indian for

Arizona expedition

chief Mang~s Coloradas, the loss of perhaps destroyed). party killing soldiers it during

over six feet tall and responsible wagon trains (robbed,

two government

Connor vividly

describes

some soldiers

in Walker's

and scalping Mangas

Coloradas,

and then "some

dug Mangas', -body out again and took his head and boiled the night, and prepared the skull to send to the museum

in New York." Connor complained to Walker about the dangers of their

JOE WALKER, expedition, foolish

page 9

1-29-96 remarked spring that some other into crazy brains Walker

but "The old gentleman adventure

hair-brained

would

in due time and offer employment

to those who liked it."

also told Connor how the Indians would of their horses, and easily would

sneak in and stab one blade was thin They

"high up where the shoulder when they wanted

cut through,

to kill him."

also fire shots into the heads of horses, know why their horses were shaking in great quantities. went back to California.

and the owners in vain

wouldn't and dying

their heads

Walker

But "~alker Mining

District"

was the first step toward Arizona capital of Prescott

government. close by.

would be located

*

The territorial

#

#

# Costa County near San He was

In 1867 he began living in Contra Francisco, buried dying there peacefully, Cemetary.

October

28, 1876.

at the Alhambra

Long before he had dictated with his self-declared 13, 1833." Said

his own epitaph, greatest Bernard exploit: De Voto:

which culminates

"CAMPED AT YOSEMITE--NOV. "Joe Walker was preparing

the future of his

countrymen." Walker's
,.,.p

name is attached

to Walker

Pass in the Sierras (named by among played
S.

(5,250 ft. above sea level); Walker Fremont); several

Lake in Nevada

and Walker River in California in the West he helped

and Nevada,

places

open.

His brothers

their roles,

too: John Walker

died at the Alamo; Samuel

Walker

died en route to California

in 1849; and Isaac Walker in Arizona.

is said

to have been killed by Mormons

*

he

Walker's. nephew, Joseph Rutherford Walker, Jr., was born in Missouri (1832), and accompanied his uncle on a prospecting expedition in California. He was later an Arizona lawman .. who tracked down some stagecoach robbers with his posse,~~~ich killed one. He died in 1897 near Prescott, Arizona, where
;c:: hl1r;prl_

JOE WALKER,

page 10

#
Tennessee-raised

#

#

# career.

Joel Walker waged his own strong and in June of 1840

He was an early S~ftta Fe trader, was the first American gateway grants Valley Young, January

to carve his name on Independence leading

Rock,

to the Rocky Mountains, to Fort Hall in Oregon, (Idaho).

a wagon train of immito the Willamette relative, Ewing

He progressed

and was hired by his wife's "My daughter Louisa

for $1 a day.

was born in Oregon, of American He

14 1841, the first white child born in Oregon Joel said a year before his death, financial credit from Dr. McLoughlin in 1878.

parents," received

at Fort Vancouver in 1840. He worked drive,

for his farming--but for John Sutter--and probably

moved down to California

then went north to Oregon on a cattle He farmed County,

the famous one with Ewing Young. in Yamhill

in Oregon

for four years, became a justice to California at Monterey blankets

then returned

and took part in the consitutional (1849), representing Sonoma County

convention (" ... taking our

along, being compelled

to sleep where we could and to eat ... "). Joe Walker, and died

eat just when we could get anything He outlived

his more famous brother, on June 25, 1879. at Healdsburg

at age eighty-two Oakmound cemetary

He was buried County,

in the California.

in Sonoma

His 1878 interview limited edition

went unpublished

till 1953, and then in a

of only 197 copies. had "received considerable public

Joel and his wife Barbara attention surviving

for being among the last and most admirable pioneers," wrote Bil Gilbert, "but perhaps

of the less than

JOE WALKER,

page

11 'Captain Uncle Jor # # # # journalist exclaimed: "The been such a celebrity."

they deserved

had not #

Indeed, a rather hyperbolic name of Captain Not really. Captain any Walker

is known in every household

in the state."

But perhaps

he should have been thus remembered. and doggedly determined, as

Joe Walker

was as brave, history.

pioneer

in American