Monday, March 14, 2011

James Albert Walker (~1859-??)

Have you ever not been able to find someone? Do you have ancestors who seem to have dropped in from Mars and then disappeared just as quickly? This is the story of James Albert Walker and his family, as far as we can tell. The records we have of him only give us a brief 14 year look at his life (1875-1889). But we continue to search, hoping for the day when the lost clue turns up.

James Albert Walker is my wife's great-great grandfather and the brick wall on her Walker line. James first appears in land records from the Bureau of Land Management Global Land Office Records. In August of 1875 James A Walker purchases 153.68 acres of land in what is now Seminole County, Florida, Township 20S, Range 30E, Section 7 (northeast 1/4).

He next appears in our records during the latter half of 1881 on a marriage record.
Marriage License
The State of Florida
To any person legally authorized to solomnize the Rites of Matrimony; Greetings:
These are to license and permit you to join together in the Holy Estate of Matrimony James A Walker and Willie Harris and make return to this office as the law directs to wit within ten days.
Given under my hand and seal of office at Leesburg, Fla this 31st day of August AD 1881 and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and sixth year.
T.J. Iney Clerk of the Circuit Court of Sumter County Florida
J.W. Lees D.C.
State of Florida
County of Sumter
This is to certify that I have joined together the above named parties in the Holy Bonds of Matrimony in persuance of the above License, this First day of September AD 1881.
Wm L Turner
Minister of the Gospel
Recorded this the 22nd day of February AD 18__.
After they were married and started a family James purchases additional lands. In November of 1888 James A Walker purchases 160 acres of land in Lake County, Florida, Township 18S, Range 24E, Section 12 (west 1/4 of northeast 1/4 and east 1/2 of northwest 1/4). This land patent as well as the one from 1875 list James as being from Orange County.

So where did James come from before he purchased these lands and married Willie Harris? By the way, Willie's story is also very interesting and will be a subject of a future ancestory. His birthplace should be easy to determine since the censuses of this time had a good bit of information in them. We could look in the 1880 census, but where was he at that time? Maybe we could look at the 1890 - oh yeah, that is the legendary missing census that everyone needs to fill in all their lost clues. Then there is always the Florida 1885 census. James is listed in the 1885 census married to Willie and with a 1 year old daughter Burtie (Bertha Gertrude). The family is living in Sumter County, Florida. James is listed as being 26 years old, born in Georgia, and his occupation is a farmer. So, based on this, we could deduce that he was born around 1859 somewhere in Georgia but we have not been able to find any records matching this yet.

What about James' family? We know that he eventually had two sons in addition to the daughter. The boys names were Ernest Albert and Maxwell Eugene Walker. Ernest was born 24 December 1886 near Leesburg, Lake County, Florida and Maxwell was born 3 June 1889 in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. I am not real sure why the boys were born so far apart.

Maybe these records shed a little light on what happened:

On 26 June 1889, there was a court order to sell the mortgaged property of James A Walker and Willie M. Walker. A notice was published in the Eustis Lake Region newspaper and the land was sold at the Tavares courthouse on 5 August 1889 to F. A. Teague for the sum of $200. The land consisted of 120 acres located in Township 18S, Range 24E, Section 12 (west 1/2 of northeast 1/4 and northeast 1/4 of northwest 1/4). This appears to be the land James purchased a year earlier in 1888.

There is another court record that indicates that additional lands were sold by the Tax Collector on 5 December 1889 for unpaid taxes for the year 1888. This land consisted of 40 acres in Lake County, Township 18S, Range 24E, Section 12 (southwest 1/4 of northeast 1/4) and was sold to G. McLean and his heirs.

After this we lose James and can't find any further trace of him. Why did he sell this land? Why was his son born in Tennessee? Where does he go? Was he still living in 1890? Did he die? We just don't know. All we know is the family says he abandoned his family or otherwise separated. So what happens to the family? That is another confusing story.

In 1900 we find Ernest Albert Walker, the older of the two boys living with Samuel Seigler in Lake County, Florida. Samuel appears to have been one of Willies' four husbands over her short 45 year lifespan. Maxwell Eugene Walker is also living in Lake County, Florida at the Allsbrook residence. We don't yet know who the Allsbrook's were or why they were caring for Maxwell. We can't find Willie or her daughter Bertie in 1900. One interesting thing that turns up beginning in the 1900 census is that the boys state that their father was born in Alabama. This contradicts the 1885 Florida census. Which one is correct?

By 1910, Bertie has married Berna Walton Coffman in Woodstock, Shenandoah County, Virgina. They are living with his parents and siblings. Ernest is also married and has two children in 1910. We also know that Willie has died at home. She died on 22 December 1909 from burns suffered from the fireplace setting her nightgown on fire. She was with her 4th husband, Andrew Jackson Phares (another interesting story).

After 1910 all of the children relocate to Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida for a period. But what of their father? Where has he been during this time? That is a mystery we will continue to research. Maybe one of these days it will be solved.