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From Our Past XII

Faces from Gurley's Past - Part 3

The Walkers of Gurley

At one time, the John Gurley Family owned most of the land throughout the Gurley area. As time went on, Capt. Frank Gurley became the largest land owner in the town. Little is known or said about Capt. Elijah F. Walker (1843-1907), who became the second largest land owner in the area. These two Confederate veterans became great friends and over the years, were involved in many different business enterprises together.

Elijah Froman Walker was born near High Bridge, Kentucky May 9, 1843. He was the grandson of James Buckner Walker and Lucy Alexander (married 1819) and son of Mose Alexander Walker and Louisa Froman (married 1840). His mother's roots are traced back to Samuel Frye who came over from England to the Massachusetts Colony in 1636.

Elijah Walker moved to Missouri at the age of fourteen (in 1857). When the Civil War broke out, the state of Missouri was a strongly divided state but he chose the Southern side and enlisted in the Eighth Missouri Regiment, Company E under Confederate Generals Marmaduke and Price. His Regiment saw action in much of the Western campaigns and at one time during the war, he passed through North Alabama and the Gurley area. He liked the area so much that at the end of the war, he moved to North Alabama and settled in the Gurley area. He worked at odd jobs and started purchasing land little at a time.

A young Elijah F. Walker soon after the Civil War
A young Elijah F. Walker
soon after the Civil War
Within a couple of years he met a young lady named Matilda Ellen Gurley (1851-1931) who was the daughter of William Rutledge Gurley. W. R. Gurley was the son of John Gurley and brother of Capt. Frank B. Gurley.

Elijah and Matilda were married on September 3, 1870 in Gurley. Elijah Walker would be involved in many ventures throughout his life. Besides involvement in many land deals and farming, he would be involved with lumber, land surveying, and the Gurleys and Paint Rock Valley Railroad that was a great dream for the area, but never got built. In 1874, he built a white frame house that still stands today on Gate Street. Based on Gurley historical records, this house is either first or second oldest house in Gurley.

Capt. Elijah Walker would be elected and served in the state legislature as a Representative for Madison County 1888-1889. Knowing he would not stay in Montgomery long, he left his family in Gurley and rented temporary lodging in the state capital. In the several letters he wrote Matilda from Montgomery, he spoke of his longing for home and how much he missed his family and friends back in Gurley. Although politics was not his interest, when he came home, he served two years as Madison County Commissioner. Capt. Walker was heavily involved in the town of Gurley and was a big influence in helping to rebuild the town during Gurley's history of fires.

Elijah Froman Walker and Matilda Gurley Walker
Elijah Froman Walker and Matilda Gurley Walker
(Click on the picture to view it full size)
Capt. Elijah Walker and his family were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and heavily involved with church affairs. He was a very religious man throughout his life, devoted to his church and family. He also kept up with some of his old Confederate war buddies through letters. In such a letter dated January 29, 1889, from a former comrade, I. N. Smith of Missouri, he wrote:

"Your letter brought back to my fond recollection of things that transpired more than a quarter century ago, when you and I were young. How well I remember the dangers and hardships to which we were constantly exposed. Men, with a cause less dear to them, never could have endured what we with many thousands of others did."

Capt. Elijah Walker and Matilda would have four children, all born in the house he built. The oldest was Franklin Thomas (1873-1959), William Alexander (1875-1934), Ruby Matilda (1890-1972), and Clara Louise (1892-1933).

Franklin Thomas Walker would marry Mattie Sage who died at age 26. His second wife was Mary Francis Brown who lived to be 70 years old. Frank Walker worked for the Pullman Car Company of Chattanooga and eventually The Southern Railway for many years. He would have no children.

William Alexander married Margaret Eloise Patterson, of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, in 1898. William worked for the Red Gulf Cedar Company and Eagle Pencil Mill in Gurley and later moved to Humboldt, Tennessee where he opened a hardware store. He later moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where he lived his final days until his death in 1934. He became heavily involved with the Scottish Rite Masons and became a Deputy Grand Master with this organization. His wife Margaret (Maggie) would live to the grand old age of 97 and died in 1971. Both William and Margaret are buried in the Gurley cemetery.

Frank Thomas Walker
Frank Thomas Walker
William Alexander Walker I and Margaret P. Walker
William Alexander Walker I and Margaret P. Walker
(Click on the picture to view it full size)

Ruby Matilda Walker would marry James David Lawler, a local Real Estate Broker, in 1910 and when her sister Clara died in 1933, they would move back and spend the rest of their lives in the Walker frame house on Gate Street in Gurley. Ruby and J. D. would have one daughter, Berniece Lawler, who never married and spent her entire life in this same house. She passed away in 2000.

The second daughter, Clara Walker, also never married and also spent her life in this same house.

William and Margaret would have three children, Gladys Celeste, Mabel Lorine, and William Alexander Walker II. While all were born and raised in Gurley, all three would leave Gurley and reside elsewhere. Mabel would marry an FBI agent and reside in Bethesda, Maryland. Gladys would marry Henry D. Given of Gurley and reside there until his untimely death in 1933. She would move to Knoxville, Tennessee with her mother and father and never remarry. William A. Walker II, the youngest, would move to Humboldt, Tennessee with his parents then to Knoxville where he would meet and marry Mary Elizabeth Parsons of Knoxville. William and Mary would have two sons, William Alexander Walker III (this writer) and Robert P. Walker. Robert would marry twice and have two daughters, Jennifer (Jenny) from his first marriage to Nancy Willson of Knoxville and Jill, his adopted daughter from his second and current marriage to Victoria Pless of Clinton, Tennessee. William III would would marry Diane Hudson of Cullman, Alabama and have two daughters, Laurie Ann, and Shannon Elizabeth Walker and one son, Scott Alexander Walker. These five children would be the only great great grandchildren to Capt. Elija F. Walker of Gurley.

As it turns out, with the exception of one grandchild, Berniece Lawler, who never married and had no children, all of the grand and great (plus) grandchildren of Elijah and Matilda Walker would come from their oldest son's (William Alexander Walker I) side of the family. His son, William A. Walker II would have two sons, William A. Walker III and Robert P. Walker. William A. Walker III's oldest daughter Laurie would marry Dr. Timothy Scott Maughon of Atlanta, GA and have two children Timothy Scott Maughon Jr. (Ty) and Ansley Nicole of Duluth, GA. His second daughter Shannon would marry Chad Grube from Tidewater Virginia and have two sons, Charles (Chaz) and Hunter Grube. William's son Scott, would marry Kristin Klein of Philadelphia, PA and have a son, Hayden Alexander and a daughter, Kayla. Hayden Alexander Walker is the eighth generation of "Walker" men traceable back to Capt. Elijah Walker's grandfather James Buckner Walker. Robert P. Walker's daughter, Jenny would marry Brian Ford and have three sons, Ethan, Preston, and Lucas Ford.

Hayden and Kayla Walker, Ty and Ansley Maughon, Chaz and Hunter Grube, and Ethan, Preston and Lucas Ford would be Capt. Elijah Walker's nine great, great, great Grandchildren. To date (2010), this is as far as Elijah F. Walker's bloodline chain ascends.

Walker family on porch of house in Gurley - Photo taken Aug. 2. 1898
Walker family on porch of house in Gurley - Photo taken Aug. 2. 1898
(Click on the picture to view it full size)

Of interest is the pine tree to the extreme front right of the house photo. This tree was planted by Capt. Walker when the house was built in 1874. The tree was twenty four years old when the photo was taken in 1898.

At the right is a photo of the tree today. Today this tree is at least one hundred thirty years old and probably one of the oldest pine trees in the state. It is huge and appears to still be in excellent health. Probably one of the oldest pine trees in the state of Alabama

The following photos show the Will Walker family of Gurley when they lived in the Walker house across from the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. This house has been pictured in From Our Past IX and XVIII.

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The photo on the left pictures Margaret (Maggie) Walker and son William A. Jr. It was taken in 1919 when William was twelve years old. The photo at right is William with his new bicycle at about the same age. It is interesting that so many young boys wore ties in those days.

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The photo at left is William A. Walker Sr. and son William Jr. taken about 1927 and at right is the Walker family at William Jr's wedding in 1933. L to R: Mabel, William Sr., Margaret, William Jr. and Gladys. All but Margaret were born in Gurley and graduated from Madison County High School.