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Orrin Elliott Walker. A definite and conspicuous place should be given the name of Orrin Elliott Walker on the list of men of Kansas who have not alone helped their own great state to grow but who have also been factors in the movements which have assisted in the development of other commonwealths. Coming to Kansas in 1879 and to Topeka in 1887, Mr. Walker left the Sunflower state in 1893, when he went to officiate in the opening of the Cherokee Strip, in Oklahoma, and in the community he made his home until 1898, when he returned to Topeka, where he now lives in retirement.
Mr. Walker is a native of New York, having been born at the small town of Deposit, in Delaware County, September 22, 1847, a son of Aaron S. and Elizabeth (Hamblet) Walker. On the maternal side, his great-grandfather was Aaron Stiles, who was a soldier of the Continental line during the Revolutionary war, after the close of which he became a Baptist clergyman. One of the five children of his parents, Mr. Walker lost his mother when he was but ten years of age, and was given only a meagre education in the country schools. His father married again, removed in 1870 to Warren, Pennsylvania, and engaged in the business of a building contractor, and it was at that place that Orrin E. Walker learned the stone mason’s trade, serving a three-year apprenticeship. This vocation, however, did not appeal to him and he accepted the position of chief clerk in a general merchandise store at Sheffield, Pennsylvania, where he remained three years, then returning to his old home in the Empire state. He was now prepared to enter business on his own account, and accordingly began buying and shipping stock, gradually increasing the scope of his operations as he added to his capital. In 1879 he shipped to Wabaunsee County, Kansas, 300 head of Short Horn calves, and the success of this venture led to his coming to Kansas. In 1887 he located at Topeka, where he was identified with various lines of enterprise until 1893, the year in which the Cherokee Strip was opened. Mr. Walker, William P. Leach, now of Sulphur Springs, Texas, and I. V. Ladd, who is now a resident of Detroit, Michigan, were appointed by Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith, under President Grover Cleveland, as the board of townsite trustees, September 16, 1893, to prove up the townsite of Newkirk, Oklahoma. No one was to be allotted a claim if it was proved that they had ever been on the Strip previous to the opening. Going on to the Strip on a handcar, the trustees passed the border line, where a great concourse of people had gathered to make the race for lands and townsites, which eventually proved a veritable Marathon. Mr. Walker satisfactorily and efficiently discharged the duties of trustee for two years and was chairman of the board. At the end of this time the office was abolished. He then took up a claim of a quarter-section of land outside the town of Newkirk, on which he proved up, and, after improving, sold in 1898. He then returned to Topeka and purchased the farm which he now owns, in Mission Township, Shawnee County, and established himself as a dairyman. He was successful in this venture and continued to be similarly occupied until 1915, when he rented the farm to his manager and retired from active participation in business affairs. His farm is located at Gage Park. Mr. Walker has taken a great interest in the development of Gage Park and it was largely through him the animals in the park were secured, and many of the animals he himself bought.
Mr. Walker was married January 19, 1873, at Deposit, New York, to Miss Loretta Whitaker. Mr. Walker is a member of the Blue Lodge, Chapter, Thirty-second Degree, Scottish Rite, York Rite and Shrine of Masonry, and he and Mrs. Walker belong to the First Presbyterian Church, in the work of which Mrs. Walker takes an active part, being a member of the various organizations connected with the church. One of Mr. Walker’s greatest friends was the late John Sargent, Sr., and it is his belief that he posesses the last letter written by him before his tragic death, which occurred at Topeka.