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In all the walks of life Captain Joel M. Walker has so acquitted himself as to be regarded as a most valued and honorable citizen, and as a representative business man and a leader ni political circles he well deserves mention among the prominent residents of Idaho. Through the civil war he loyally served his country upon the field of battle, and has ever discharged his duties of citizenship with marked promptness and fidelity. It is pleasing indulgence to write the biography of a man who has been so prominent in the civil and military affairs of the nation as has Captain Walker. This country has brought forth many heroes, statesmen, financiers and brilliant men in all spheres of life. Its annals teem with the records of good lives and noble deeds. Most of our noblest and best men are “selfmade,” and a worthy representative of that class is the subject of this review, who deserves prominent mention in this volume by reason of his broad sympathies and public spirit. He has left the imprint of his individuality on each place in which, for any length of time, he ever resided, and Kendrick owes much of its advancement to his efforts. His patriotism is clearly shown by his quick response to the call to arms, when his country was in need, and today he is numbered among the loyal and progressive residents of Moscow.
Captain Walker is a native of Ohio, his birth having occurred in Pickaway County, November 8, 1835. He is a representative of an old Virginian family, and from the Old Dominion his paternal grandfather removed to Ohio in 1805. Thomas Armstrong Walker, the father of the Captain, was born in that year and was given his mother’s maiden name, Armstrong. She belonged to an equally old Virginian family, and of the Walker family. Mrs. James K. Polk was a member. In 1840 Thomas A. Walker removed with his family to Iowa, where he resided until 1882, when he went with his son to southern Kansas, where his death occurred in 1888, at the age of eighty-three years. In their religious faith both he and his wife were Presbyterians. Mr. Walker was a man of marked ability and wide influence and held a number of positions of public trust. During the administration of President Polk he served as postmaster of Fort Madison, Iowa, and was register of the land office at Des Moines during the presidency of Franklin Pierce and a portion of President Buchanan’s administration. His wife died at an early age, leaving two children, but the Captain is the only one now living. The father afterward married again and had a family by the second union.
In the common schools Captain Walker acquired his preliminary education, which was supplemented by a course in the Denmark Academy, a Congregational school, at Denmark, Lee County, Iowa. When only four years of age he was taken to the Hawkeye state by his father, and for many years made his home within its borders. After leaving school he spent some time in his father’s office and then read law under the direction of Finch & Crocker, the latter being the distinguished General Crocker. He was admitted to practice in the district courts before he was twenty-one years of age, and when twenty-two years of age was licensed to practice in the Supreme Court, but the great civil war was inaugurated and interfered with his professional labors. President Lincoln issued his call for troops and Captain Walker and a friend enlisted two hundred men, from among whom they chose one hundred to form Company B, of the Twenty-third Iowa Volunteers. Mr. Walker was offered the captaincy of the company, but declined because he had no military knowledge, and his friend was then given command, while he was elected first lieutenant. With that rank he went to the front, serving first in Missouri against the guerrillas. The first engagement of importance in which he participated was the Vicksburg campaign, and his regiment was the first to cross the Mississippi river, April 30, 1863. They were under fire throughout the entire night and were in the battle the next day. They were also in the battle of Champion Hill, May 16, and led the charge on the enemy’s works at Black River Bridge, where three thousand Confederate soldiers were taken prisoners, and the colonel and several other officers and men were killed. After this battle the regiment to which Captain Walker belonged was detailed by General Grant to take the prisoners to Memphis, Tennessee, and place them in charge of the federal authorities there. When they had returned to Vicksburg a colored regiment was attacked by Texans and when hard pressed broke. The Twenty-third Iowa was then thrown in and stood the brunt of the fight. It was a desperate, almost hand-to-hand, encounter, but finally victory perched on the banner of the Union forces. After the surrender of Vicksburg the regiment was ordered to New Orleans, under General Banks, and with him they made the march through Louisiana and into the border of Texas, where they spent the winter of 1863-4. By this time their ranks had become very much depleted, and in the spring Captain Walker was ordered on recruiting service in order to fill up the thinned-out columns. When that task was completed Captain Walker received an appointment on the staff of General Crocker, who had been appointed governor of Arizona. They made their way across the plains to New Mexico and the Captain remained on the Governor’s staff until the close of the war, in 1865. Soon after entering active service in the Union army he was promoted to the rank of captain, and led his company in all the engagements until he was appointed staff officer. He rejoined his regiment at Mobile, Alabama, in June 1865, and they were again sent to Texas, where he was appointed assistant provost marshal, and paroled many of General Kirby Smith’s men. The regiment was mustered out in August 1866, and Captain Walker immediately returned to his home.
Not long after this he was appointed by President Johnson to the position of United States marshal for the state of Iowa, and when his term expired he engaged in farming in the central portion of that state, having a large stock ranch, whereon he engaged extensively in the raising of blooded cattle, owning many of the best in Iowa. In 1882 he sold out and removed to southern Kansas, hoping that a change of climate would benefit his impaired health. He engaged in loaning money in Howard, that state, and there remained for eight years, after which he spent three months in the sanitarium at Battle Creek, Michigan. In August 1890, still in search of health, he took up his abode in Kendrick, Idaho, and established the Bank of Kendrick, opening it for business in October, of that year. He conducted it successfully until 1892, when he sold out to the First National Bank of Moscow. He had erected the bank building, which was the first brick structure in the town, and was prominent in advancing the interests of the town. He is still connected with business affairs there, he and his family owning all of the stock of the Lincoln Hardware & Implement Company, of Kendrick. They have a large store, carry a complete line of goods and do an extensive business. In connection with his son-in-law, Captain Walker is interested in a book and stationery store in Moscow.
Not only has he won prominence in military circles and prosperity in business life, but he is also recognized as a leader in political circles, being a stanch advocate of the Democratic Party. He is not an office-seeker in the usually accepted sense of the term, yet has been honored by his fellow citizens with positions of public trust. While in Polk County, Iowa, he was elected and served for two terms on the board of county supervisors, notwithstanding the district was largely Republican. He was also twice candidate for the state legislature and was once candidate for lieutenant governor, facts which indicate his high standing in Democratic circles. Since coming to Latah County he has been the candidate for state senator. He was for two years chairman of the Democratic state central committee of Iowa. He was a member of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ national convention, which met at Philadelphia, in 1866. He has always attended the state conventions of his party, wherever he has resided, and has exerted great influence in the affairs and deliberations of those organizations.
In October 1857, Captain Walker was united in marriage to Miss Idie Marshall, a native of Iowa and a representative of a Kentucky family. Their union was blessed with three children, of whom two are living: Eliza Marshall, now the wife of J. R. Hall, of Moscow; and India, wife of James M. Pierce, of Kendrick. Both sons-in-law are associated with Captain Walker in business. After six years of happy married life Mrs. Walker was called to her final rest, and in 1865 the Captain married Miss Lou Ramsay, a native of Iowa. They have one son, Ramsay M. who is now in charge of the large hardware business in Kendrick. Captain Walker and his wife have also reared two bright girls, the daughters of his half-sister, who died during their infancy. They were reared as members of the Walker household and both are now comfortably settled in homes of their own. They are Louise, wife of R. C. Sinclair; and Bessie W., wife of Robert Snyder, both residents of Kendrick. Mrs. Walker departed this life July 4, 1892, and her death was deeply mourned by her many friends. The Captain has since resided with his daughters, in Kendrick and Moscow, and is one of the most highly esteemed residents of this section of the state. He has been true to all the duties of life, meeting fully every obligation resting upon him, and his honorable career has gained him the respect, confidence and warm regard of all with whom he has been brought in contact.