Thomas Walker, Jr.

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Portrait of Dr. Thomas Walker. Reproduced from Appalachian History.

Thomas Walker, Jr. (January 25, 1715 - November 9, 1794) was a physician, planter and explorer in colonial Virginia who served multiple terms in the Virginia General Assembly, and whose descendants also had political careers. His home was at Castle Hill. The site of the City of Charlottesville was a part of the Castle Hill estate.[1] Related by marriage to George Washington; he served as a guardian of young Thomas Jefferson, administrator of the estate of TJ's father, Peter Jefferson, whom he attended in his last illness.

Biography

Thomas Walker was born in King and Queen County in 1715, the son of Dr. Thomas Walker, Sr. and Susanna Peachy Walker. He studied medicine at William and Mary and was one of the most prominent physicians in Albemarle County.

In 1741, he married Mildred Thornton Meriwether, the widow of Nicholas Meriwether II, and through her, obtained the property known as “Castle Hill,” an estate of 15,000 acres. In the 1742 Personal Property Tax List of Albemarle County, Thomas Walker is listed as having 86 slaves, 93 cattle, 22 cattle, and two carriages.

In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Walker explored portions of Southwest Virginia and into Kentucky in 1748 and again in 1750, naming the Cumberland Mountains and River after the Duke of Cumberland's recent victory at the Battle of Culloden and being reputed to have led the first expedition that ever traversed the mountains. Walker's Mountains and Walker's Creek on the confines of Giles and Pulaski Counties were originally named after him.

Map depicting Walker's 1750 expedition across the mountains. Reproduced from Virginia Places.

He served as commissary of Virginia troops under General Braddock during the French and Indian War and was later asked to negotiate with Native Americans from New York and Pennsylvania. He was successively elected to the House of Burgesses for Hanover County, Louisa County, and Albemarle County (Albemarle and Louisa Counties were formed from parts of Hanover County) and surveyed the Virginia-North Carolina border in 1778, determining the precise boundary between the two states.[2]

Dr. Walker was a trustee for Albemarle County in 1763, charged with the task of selling lots in the new county seat of Charlottesville. He was appointed a guardian to the young Thomas Jefferson after the death of his father, Peter Jefferson (Anderson, p. 222-223; The Magazine of Albemarle County History, Vol. 52, p. 40). Both men became stockholders in the recently-created Albemarle Furnace Company in 1771, with Walker making an initial investment of £300 sterling.

Walker died on November 9, 1794 at his home at Castle Hill, with his body subsequently being buried in the Walker Family Cemetery in Cismont. The Commonwealth of Kentucky built a replica of the cabin that Walker's expedition had originally constructed within the confines of the state; it is named the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site. Thomas Walker High School in Lee County is named after the man.

Thomas Walker, “Petition on Behalf of William Beck,” (1779)

Context: The following was a petition that Thomas Walker brought to the Virginia state legislature in 1779 (in the middle of the revolutionary war) concerning an enslaved man Walker had purchased named William Beck. As the petition notes, Walker had served during the war with the Continental Army.[3]

That Whereas William Beck Mullato Slave formerly the property of Major Thos. Meriwether & purchased by said Thos. Walker Junr. of his heirs for the sum of Seventy pound has during his servitude behaved in a most exemplary manner, while with him, under Colo Charles Lewis in several Campaigns to the northward & having paid the said Thos. Walker Junr. the (first) purchace, fully expecting his freedom for the same, your petitioner does therefore most humbly request your hon. house would declare the said William Beck to be free. . . .[3]

Descendants

Historical marker commemorating the site where Walker's 1750 expedition descended from the mountains in Whitley County, Kentucky. Reproduced from Our Family Tree.

Walker's wife, Mildred Thornton Meriwether (1721-1778), was the widow of Nicholas Meriwether (1699-1739), a man of great wealth and much older than she was. Upon his death, she inherited a large amount of land. Two years later, she married Dr. Thomas Walker. They had twelve children. Their eldest daughter, Mary, married Nicholas Lewis, who had inherited “The Farm” from his grandfather, Nicholas Meriwether II. Their eldest son, John, inherited “Belvoir”. John also served as an aide to Gen. Washington during the Revolution, was a member of the House of Burgesses, and later served as a U. S. Senator. Their daughter Lucy married Dr. George Gilmer, a prominent physician of Pen Park, whilst another daughter of theirs named Elizabeth married Rev. Matthew Maury, a well-respected minister and educator (Patricia Zontine, April 2009). Furthermore, Walker's daughters Susan and Peachy married a child and grandchild respectively of Colonel Joshua Fry.

Amélie Rives Troubetzkoy was a descendant of Dr. Walker.


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References

  1. Web. 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Charlottesville, staff, Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911, retrieved July 28, 2019.
  2. Web. Albemarle County in Virginia, C.J. Carrier Company, 1901
  3. 3.0 3.1 Web. Merrimack College - US History, 2323, retrieved Sept. 9, 2023.