Edward B. Walker said
he was born in 1756 in North Carolina; that statement,
in his pension application, is the only direct evidence
known of his birth. Unfortunately, he did not give an
exact date or name the county where he was born, although
other evidence suggests that he may have been born sometime
after March in that year. His parents are unknown, and
the search continues.
At the time that Edward was born, North Carolina was
still a colony of Great Britain, and King George II
was on the throne. The Carolinas has been established
as a royal colony 86 years before Edward's birth, and
the two states were formally divided in 1712. At first,
North Carolina was settled mostly by religious dissenters
and the poor of Virginia; in fact, North Carolina's
early citizens were often called "the quintessence
of Virginia's discontent." Those early residents
were often squatters who established small farms. Unlike
its Southern neighbors, North Carolina was not dominated
by aristocrats and plantations, and the citizen's sense
of rugged individualism made the colony one of the most
democratic of the original British colonies alongside
Over time, and starting before Edward's birth, other
groups flooded into North Carolina, including the Scotch-Irish,
a group to which many believe Edward's family may have
belonged. The Scotch-Irish were not actually Irish at
all but were Scot Lowlanders, Presbyterians who, years
before, had been forced into northern Ireland. Because
of tensions with the Irish Catholics and oppressive
economic conditions imposed by the British government,
tens of thousands left Ireland and came to the American
colonies in the early 1700s.
At present, nothing is known as to when Edward's family
came to North Carolina or from where; they may have
been there decades before his birth or perhaps only
months. And until specific ancestors can be proven to
connect overseas, the origin of this branch of the family
cannot be known. DNA evidence does suggest, however,
some possibility that the family may have been English
in origin, not Scotch-Irish.
The first 21 years of Edward's life are a blank to
researchers; except for the fact that he was probably
educated as a child since he could read and write, nothing
at all is known not where he lived or who he
might have known. Although he was born in North Carolina
and was in North Carolina when serving in the Revolution,
at present, we cannot even know whether his family was
in the state the entire time.
Jane Horn's origins are even more obscure. She was
born about 1772, and her father's name was Frederick.
There is no evidence to show where she might have been
born. There are a handful of mentions of her father
presumably in some early records, and she might have
been born in southwest Virginia, although that location
is nothing better than wild speculation at the moment.
The American Revolution
The first known facts about Edward's life as an adult
begin shortly after the United States declared its independence
from Great Britain and King George III on July 4, 1776.
The following spring, Edward was living in Duplin County,
North Carolina, when he was drafted to serve his first
term of service in the Revolution.
The details of Edward's service are a little confusing.
Huge numbers of North Carolina records of the period
were destroyed in the 1800s, so piecing together the
complete story is difficult to impossible. According
to Edward's pension, he first served in the spring of
1777 under a Captain Nathan Hill in a regiment commanded
by a Colonel John Ashure. Both are probably mispellings,
and little is known of this company. Edward's pension
was approved, so whatever method the government had
to confirm his service, the government apparently did
confirm it, but no record of that confirmation is included
with the pension.
One other known pension, that of a man named Thomas
Bullard (S.6770) talks of serving in Duplin County under
a Captain Nathan Hall, who at that time, probably 1781,
was attached to Colonel James Kenan. He also speaks
of serving under a captain Hardy Holmes from Duplin
County under a Colonel Ashton, presumably Phillip Ashton,
in 1778 a few months after one of Edward's tours of
duty. "Ashure" could have meant Ashton, or,
additionally, may have been John Ashe, Jr., who had
actually risen to General by then.
Connecting what is known, Nathan Hall probably stood
on the steps of the courthouse in Duplin County and
draft the already-existing local militia into service.
The company marched to Wilmington, North Carolina, where
his unit joined other forces under General Griffith
Rutherford. They served at Wilmington and nearby Brunswick
to prevent a British landing there; ships were offshore
much of the time.
No general engagement occurred, although Edward spoke
of several skirmishes with exchanges of gunfire. The
militia in situations like this did face peril, but,
being short-timers, they often performed manual labor
to allow the more regular troops to rest, such as building
earthworks and moving equipment. They sometimes got
smaller rations than the regular troops as well, although
Edward, in his pension, mentions of none of these things.
After three months, Edward was discharged, and he returned
home to Duplin County. In each of the next two springs,
in 1778 and 1779, Edward was again drafted under the
same captain and went to Wilmington and Brunswick.
Some time after those terms, he stated that he was
drafted to serve under a Captain Harrison or Harris
in the regiment of Colonel Hogan, probably a reference
to Colonel James Hogan. Instead of going to Wilmington,
he was stationed in Halifax, North Carolina, on the
Roanoke River, again for about three months.
Not all of those who lived in the colonies supported
independence, and some, though definitely a minority,
openly opposed it. Probably about a third were loyal
to the British government during the war and were known
as "Loyalists" or often derisively as "Tories"
after the party then in power in Great Britain. The
rebels who fought for independence were known often
as "Patriots" or sometimes "Whigs"
after the largest minority party in Great Britain.
All told, some 50,000 Americans fought for the British,
and these forces had a significant influence in many
places, including much of North Carolina. Loyalists
generated significant terror among the population, and
many revolutionaries stayed close to home in order to
protect their families and property. On the other hand,
many who supported the King, even those who did not
fight, sometimes found their land and other property
taken by a suspicious population.
Tories sometimes controlled parts of North Carolina
and were sporadically active for some time. The British
finally captured Charleston in 1780, and a large army
under Lord Cornwallis invaded North Carolina. On 7 October
1780, Americans at Kings Mountain decisively defeated
the British, and Cornwallis retreated to the vicinity
of Wilmington. Though the timing is unknown, Edward
volunteered several times to go on scouting parties
against the Tories. In one engagement, Edward was wounded
twice in the head with a sword, and he carried those
scars for the rest of his life. He was also captured
when he was wounded, but he soon escaped.
James More, a friend of Edward's who served with Edward
at times during the war, said years later that he " Remembers
well to have heard it spoken of in the army that the
said Edward Walker was a verry valliant soldier and
a true whig [patriot] and more particularly when the
army was stationed at Wilmington North Carolina when
the present applicant [Edward] was verry highly spoken
of as a soldier "
Moving To Sullivan County, Tennessee
Some time after the war, probably in the late 1780s,
Edward moved to Tennessee; whether he lived anywhere
else in the interim is unknown, nor is it known who
moved with him. There is no evidence that he married
before his one known marriage, to Jane Horn, but given
his experiences and their ages at their marriage, certainly
the possibility for an earlier marriage arises.
Why did he move, and why did he pick Sullivan County?
Until more is known of this period in his life, speculation
is the only avenue available. the government had banned
settlement west of the Alleghenies, but the ban was
often ignored; after the war especially, people flooded
west into Tennessee, Kentucky, and other such places.
A substantial portion of Duplin County's population
seems to have left in the decade after the war.
Edward himself seems to have decided to stay where
the Wilderness Road to Kentucky met the Great Wagon
Road from the north. It was there in Sullivan County
where he presumably met and soon married Jane Horn.
They were married about the first of May in 1790 at
a church on Horse Creek by a Baptist minister named
Murrell was a frontier preacher of some note. Jane
was quite clear that the couple was married in a church,
with the banns of marriage being posted for three consecutive
Sundays before the marriage. She was less clear about
the exact date, always saying "about the first",
not "on the first". She also indicated that
the church had "gone to destruction". The
actual church may have been long forgotten, but may
have been the Double Springs Baptist Church, one of
several where Murrell preached for over 30 years. While
Double Springs is still an active church, church history
suggests that it may have burned about 1809.
For a while, the family seems to have lived around
the area of Horse Creek/Jared's Branch/Falling Water,
with Jane stating that, at one point, they also lived
on Reedy Creek across from Long Island in Kingsport.
Edward also mentioned living in Russell County, Virginia,
for some period of time; his name does appear on tax
rolls there from 1800 to 1802, but whether the person
named was him or not is unknown. There have been no
land records found for this period in his life.
Sometime before 1813, Edward moved to Bays Mountain
to a location described as being on the road from Jonesborough
to Armstrong's Ford on the middle ridge of the mountain.
The exact location is unknown but is thought to have
been on or near Blair's Gap Road just over the Sullivan/Hawkins
County border near the old Dunkard Church.
Living near the intersection of major migration routes,
they had contact with people from all over, and while
there were still some trouble with Native Americans
at times, most of the trouble subsided quickly, although
a granddaughter claimed that Edward moved to Bays Mountain
specifically to "see Indians coming from all sides"
About their daily lives, little is known. What is known
of the people in this part of Tennessee in general at
this time is that their existence was dedicated to survival.
Those living on the frontier had no time to be idle
and no access to luxuries though the standard of living
quickly improved after the turn of the century.
The authors of Tennessee: A Short History [Stanley
J. Folmsbee, Robert E. Corlew, Enoch L. Mitchell, 1969,
pp. 115-116] give a good description of the living conditions
of a typical family at that time in East Tennessee.
A family would live in a one-room log cabin with a loft
where the boys would sleep. The cabin would have a large
fireplace needed both for heat and for cooking.
The floor usually consisted of either dirt or of logs
split in two with the flat side up; later, planks were
used. Since nails were not readily available, the roof
was usually made with long, white oak clapboards held
in place by ridgepoles and by wooden pegs. Doors and
windows were sawed out of the walls, and the windows
were covered by glazed paper and wooden shutters.
Early settlers typically had very little furniture,
none of it fancy. Early beds were simply pieces of wood
attached to the wall with wooden pegs; mattresses consisted
of bed ticks filled with straw or pine needles covered
with animal skins. A large clapboard on wooden legs
served as a table, and chairs were short sections of
tree trunks. Spoons were whittled from animal horns
or from wood. Gourds were often used for many purposes,
and clothing hung from antlers or from pegs on the wall.
Food was surprisingly varied at the time. Though corn
was almost always served in one form or another, vegetables,
fruits, nuts, maple sugar, and honey were often available.
At first, pioneers ate wild animals for the most part,
but, as herds increased, domestic animals were eaten.
Meat was preserved by salting or by stringing it over
a slow fire to dry.
Early pioneers usually dressed much like the Indians
of the area. Hunting shirts made of dressed deerskin
reached halfway down the thighs, fitting loosely and
fringed at the bottom. Pants were made of similar material,
and moccasins were made from either dressed buckskin
or buffalo hide. Leggings, which protected against briars
and snakes, were wide strips of deerskin wrapped around
the ankles. Women wore dresses of linsey, which was
a coarse cloth made from linen and wool or cotton and
wool, or osnaburg, a coarse, heavy cloth originally
made from linen and also used for making sacks; dresses
were usually dyed in various colors. Jewelry was practically
Farming implements were rudimentary at best, and settlers
made their own implements and other supplies, including
soap and candles. Plows were usually made of wood at
first, except for an iron point bolted on known as a
"bull tongue;" iron plowshares came soon afterward.
Hoes and harrows were also used. Grain was cut with
a reap hook or cradle and was separated from the straw
with a flail or by the hooves of horses.
The people of the frontier were isolated from the rest
of the country to a great degree; in fact, that isolation
did not begin to end until the coming of the railroads
mostly after the Civil War. While newspapers were started
in some areas such as Rogersville and Knoxville over
time, news traveled slowly, especially international
news. In upper East Tennessee, mountains and untamed
rivers hindered communication and trade for decades.
This Spartan existence is probably very much like the
experience of Edward and Jane, their family, and most
of the early settlers in the area. Education, in particular,
was a problem. Although at least one of the younger
children, Jonathan, was able to read and write, most
were not. At the time that the Walkers settled in what
would become Tennessee, there simply were no schools
and few if any tutors available.
Settling on Mulberry Creek
As usual with this family, land records are sparse,
and not enough exist to determine exactly when the family
began its move to Mulberry Creek in what was then Claiborne
County and whether they all moved at once. Apparently
around 1816 or 1817, the couple, with some if not most
of their children, moved to the area of Mulberry Creek
and Little Sycamore Valley; exactly where Jane and Edward
themselves lived is unknown, although they have have
lived in the still-existing home of Edward Jr. for a
while, and they seem to have lived with son Jonathan
who was probably a short distance away at the intersection
with Rebel Hollow Road.
People who visit the area today are struck by its beauty
but also its extreme isolation. Modern travelers would
tend to believe that the Walkers sought that isolation
in moving from the growing community near Kingsport.
In fact, at the time they moved to Claiborne County,
the area was not isolated at all.
A thriving community had formed at Mulberry Gap at
least by 1803, and people that the Walkers must have
known settled the area no later than 1802. John Jones,
a Revolutionary War veteran, had moved from the Jared's
Branch area in Sullivan County to Hoop Creek in Claiborne
County by then, and his wife was Mary Fitzpatrick, sister
to James Fitzpatrick who married a Tussey sister as
did two of Edward Walker's sons; in fact, one of this
couple's sons, Thomas Fitzspatrick Jones, married one
of Edward's daughters after the Walkers had moved to
Claiborne County. And there were others in the area.
So the Walkers did not move to a place where they knew
no one, nor was the area as isolated as it now seems.
The Mulberry Gap Road, which once encompassed also what
is now called Little Sycamore Road, was a heavily-traveled
path to Kentucky and Virginia, with easy road and river
access to major markets in the region. Over time, the
importance of Cumberland Gap diminished, and new roads
and different settlement patterns caused the Mulberry
area to be bypassed.
Son Jonathan wrote in the pension application that
he had lived with his parents all but two years of his
life but gave no details of the two years. Edward was
probably ill for several of his later years; when he
gave his pension deposition in 1832, he said he was
"so old and infirm that he cannot attend court
with out greatly injurying of his health and [he stated]
that he is afflicted with a disease he is advised by
his Doctor caled the dropsy which has so completely
unmanned him that he has scarcely any use of himself."
The term "dropsy" dates to an era where symptoms
themselves were called the disease without an understanding
of the underlying cause. Dropsy, for instance, was used
to refer to most any sort of fluid buildup in the body;
however, it most often referred to what is now known
as congestive heart failure. The disease was somewhat
treatable even at that time with a drug still used sometimes
today, digitalis; Edward's treatment from his doctor
is unknown. This 1832 statement tends to indicate that
Edward was ill for the last years of his life, but exceptions
about courthouse attendance were often made for older
citizens, so the amount of his impairment cannot be
judged. He lived for six more years after this statement.
Edward died on Sunday, 26 August 1838. His place of
burial is unknown; a large number of graves from that
era in that area were never marked. The likelihood of
identifying his grave today is quite slim, although
with the discovery of Edward Jr.'s grave in 2005, the
possibility does still exist.
After Edward's death, Jane did receive his final pension
payment and applied for a widow's pension, which was
never granted. That long story can be found with the
Jane continued to live in the area, although with whom
is unknown, until at least early 1845 and perhaps as
late as about 1850. As with Edward, her place of burial
is unknown, although Tim Walker has identified a good
possibility in the cemetery across the street from Edward