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Signature of Edward B. Walker Genealogy of Edward B. Walker
1756-1838, Duplin County, North Carolina - Sullivan, Claiborne, Hancock Counties, Tennessee


Joseph Walker (1791-1851)

WorldConnect: Joseph Walkeroffsite link to WorldConnect
Spouse: Mary Tussey
Family Bible: Stolen during Civil War
Photos: No known photos of Joseph; only known photo of Mary included here
Signatures: Both apparently illiterate
Find A Grave: Joseph & Mary
Articles Religion and the Walkers
Walkers in the War of 1812
Wikipedia: Botetort Co., VA
State of Franklin
Sullivan County, TN
Territory South of the Ohio

Joseph's Birth and Early Years

Joseph Walker was born 26 June 1791, a few months before the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Although they lived at the same time, his parents inhabited a very different world than did Mozart. His parents lived in what was then the American frontier in what was called the Territory South of the Ohio, at a place now known as Sullivan County, Tennessee.

Joseph was the oldest child of Edward B. Walker and Jane Horn, who had married the year before at a church on Horse Creek. His parents moved several times, and their exact location when Joseph was born is unknown. However, he was probably born in the vicinity of Jared's Branch on the South Fork of the Holston River or on Reedy Creek on the other side of the Holston.

Joseph might have had a middle name; his father did as well as some of his siblings, but no hint of that middle name has been found.

Key Walker landmarks in Sullivan and Hawkins County, Tennessee. Click a push pin for details. You can also view view this map in Google Maps for more options.
Since Tennessee was still very much the frontier, there were no schools and few if any tutors in the area. Joseph, like some of his older siblings, apparently was not well-educated, because he was not able to sign his name; some of his younger siblings were literate, though, so the Walkers probably took advantage of the schools when they became available.

Not much is known about the Walkers during this early period; many records have been lost in court house fires through the years, and not much paperwork was kept in that era in any event. His parents seemed to have moved around occassionally but were generally in the same neighborhood.

When Joseph was drafted in 1814 to fight in the War of 1812, he was drafted into a Sullivan County unit while his brother Edward, Jr., was drafted into a Hawkins County one. Edward Jr. lived near the Hawkins/Sullivan line; where exactly Joseph lived at that time is unknown. A separate article documents Joseph's service in the War of 1812.

Mary's Birth and Early Years

Mary J. Tussey was the daughter of Jacob Tussey and Jane Shuff and the sister of Mahala Tussey who married Edward Walker, Jr. Her middle name was probably "Jane", but no contemporary record has been found to prove anything but the initial. However, her daughter Anna named twins Joseph and Mary Jane Lewis, suggesting that Mary Tussey's "J." stood for "Jane" as well.

Mary's exact date of birth is unknown; her tombstone states that she was born in 1790, which is reasonably consistent with most other evidence and is probably at least close to the truth. However, as was particularly common at the time, as she got much older, her age became exaggerated in Census records. Family legend, for instance, holds that she was nearly 10 years older than she actually was when she died; in reality, she was probably about 89, an advanced age now and especially then.

She was born in Virginia, probably on the James River in perhaps Botetourt County. She moved with her parents to Jared's Branch in what became Sullivan County, Tennessee, in 1794, where she grew up, and she probably knew Joseph Walker from a young age.

Family legend holds that Mary spoke with a thick accent, called sometimes French but more often Swedish. Although not entirely proven, her Tussey ancestry was probably Swedish, but her mother might well have been German; moreover, her father's side of the family seems possibly to have lived in a German-speaking area of Pennsylvania for two generations, so the whole family may have spoken German; the question remains unresolved.

Marriage, Moving, and Life on Little Sycamore Creek

When Mary applied for a pension related to Joseph's service in the War of 1812, she gave two different dates for their marriage, neither very specific: 1818 and February 1817. Of the two, February 1817 seems more likely since their first child was born in early 1818.

Given that date, both Joseph, about 26, and Mary, about 27, were a bit older than average when they married. No evidence of any kind has surfaced to date suggesting that either was married prior to marrying each other; certainly the possibility exists, though, since marriage records for Sullivan County for that era no longer exist.

Key Walker landmarks in the Mulberry Gap/Little Sycamore area. Click a push pin for more information; you can view this map with Google Maps for more options.
Mary said that they were married in Sullivan County but moved immediately to Claiborne County. The actual deed book entry for the first lot the couple purchased in Claiborne County is apparently lost, but they bought a second lot in 1818 which references that previous lot, so they were there certainly by 1818.

The couple settled just a bit south of the New Salem Church on what is now called Little Sycamore Road although it was considered part of the Mulberry Road at the time and was one part of one of the routes to Cumberland Gap. The area is close to Hoop Creek and Mulberry Creek.

Other people they knew, including Mary's sister Ruth, had lived or were still living in the general area starting no later than 1802. Other Walkers and Tusseys settled the area at the same time as or at least close to the same time as Joseph and Mary, in an area ranging roughly from where Joseph lived to where Edward Jr. lived on Mulberry Gap Road and also around Hoop Creek and what is now known as Rebel Hollow Road.

Mary (Tussey) Walker, courtesy Fay (Walker) Barnard. Click for larger version.

Today, the land is easy to find, as the couple are buried on it, but there are no structures still standing that they might have used. Family legend holds that Joseph homesteaded his land, but, in fact, he purchased most of it and obtained a small amount through the survey process that was commonly used in the era to obtain land.

The couple settled about 10 miles from the town of Tazewell, amidst many relatives and friends. In earlier times, the road where they lived was a section of one of several major roads that eventually reached Cumberland Gap, though the Gap was already becoming less important when the Walkers settled there.

The whole area stretching from Mulberry Gap down to Walkers Ford on the Clinch River and beyond is one long, narrow valley, where farmers owned generally small parcels, cultivating rocky hillsides. Joseph's brother, Edward Jr., seems to have specialized in pigs, as livestock living in those hills was probably among the better uses for the land; at the moment, any specialty that Joseph may have had as a farmer is unknown.

At one point in the early 1840s, Joseph donated land for a church to be built. He was probably raised Methodist, and a separate article documents religion of the earliest known Walkers of our family. His brother Jonathan was a Methodist preacher and part of the committee building the church. The deed was recorded, but whether the church was actually built was unknown; the Holston Conference has no obvious record for it, but many churches came and went in the era with no extant records.


Joseph and Mary had seven known children, each of whom has his or her own article on this site. The 1830 Census suggests that they may also have had another daughter born in the late 1820s, but, if that person listed was their daughter, she did not live long enough to marry or inherit Joseph's property when he died in 1851. All of the children were presumably born at the farm on Little Sycamore Creek.

Their known children were Jonathan T., Samuel, Jacob, Isaac, Sarah, Anna, and Elihu.

Joseph's Untimely Death

Joseph died at the age of 59 on 7 January 1851 in an accident involving a tree he was cutting down. The exact details have been lost. He was buried in the cemetery on the farm where his son Jonathan and Jonathan's wife had been buried. Although buried underground, a rock vault covers the grave, a style that only seems to have been used in the area in the 1840s and early 1850s. The inscription has been recarved, but the original is legible enough to confirm the accuracy.

When Joseph died, he apparently had been the administrator of the estates of both of his parents, as Mary (Tussey) Walker inherited that responsibility. Her role is mentioned in the attempt of Jane (Horn) Walker to obtain a pension, although the paperwork was misfiled. Two of their children were still unmarried, Anna and Elihu, but both were grown. However, Mary was also left to raise her two grandchildren, Sterling and Mary Jane, children of her oldest son Jonathan.

Jacob Walker, the couple's third son, purchased the property rights from the other siblings, and Mary, under her dower right, continued to live on the property until her own death many years later.

The Civil War

Joseph and his brother, Edward Walker, Jr., were the only two known slaveholders among their siblings. In 1850, Joseph owned a man, a woman, and a young girl; in 1860, Mary owned a man named Henry of about the same age as the man in the 1850 Census. What became of them is not known.

Although many of the Walkers fought for the Union, Joseph's son Isaac sided with the Confederacy, and two grandchildren, sons of Sarah (Walker) and Eldridge Campbell did as well. Isaac's unit was apparently intended to be a short-term home guard of sorts that eventually was called up for the duration. Both the Campbell boys died, apparently of disease, during the war.

The sympathies of the rest of Mary's family and Mary herself are unknown. As with everyone else in the area, her sympathies probably did not matter all that much, since troops and raiders from both sides were frequently in the area. The family hid food and valuables in the vaults where Joseph and son Jonathan were buried, but even the family Bible was stolen at one point.

Mary's Death

After the Civil War, Mary continued to live on the land and can be found there in 1870 with her grandson Sterling's family; she likely lived with them until she died. According to the Mortality Schedule of the 1880 Census, she died sometime in the month of September in 1879. She was buried next to her husband, and a grave marker was added much later. What it might have replaced is unknown.

Joseph's Land

As with most farms in the area, the land was split up through inheritance. A substantial amount of it, though, near the cemetery, apparently was passed down through their daughter, Anna, and her husband John Lewis, to their oldest son Joseph Lewis, to his only son Robert White Lewis, to his middle son James Henry Lewis, and then to their son, John Joseph Lewis, known as Joe, and his wife Jewel (White).

That plot of land remained in the hands of descendants of Joseph and Mary (Tussey) Walker from about 1818 until sometime in the 2000s. Joe died in 2002, and sometime between then and when Jewel died recently in 2009, she sold the farm.

All original material © 2007-9 by Phillip A. Walker or by cited authors. Submissions are welcome. Reuse allowed under limited conditions. Page last modified Wednesday, 14-Dec-2011 04:20:19 MST .