Biography of Alexander Stalker
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In the days of the early development of south-eastern Idaho Alexander Stalker came to the state, and is therefore numbered among its pioneer settlers, but he has not only witnessed the changes that have since occurred, for in all that has tended to the development, progress and advancement of the section he has ever borne his part, and may therefore well be called one of the founders of his county and town. In later years he has been somewhat prominent in political affairs, and at all times he has been a loyal citizen, deeply interested in everything pertaining to the welfare of the community.
A native of bonnie Scotland, Mr. Stalker was born November 21, 1829, and is of Scotch lineage, his parents, Robert and Janet (Tansh) Stalker, having also been natives of that land. They were married in Scotland and six children were born to them there. Their son Alexander preceded them to America, in 1848, and three years later the father, mother and three children, also crossed the Atlantic, taking up their abode on the boundary line between Monroe and Orleans counties, New York, about twenty miles from Rochester. There the father engaged in farming, but in Scotland he had been a merchant. After a time he returned to Scotland, disposed of his houses and other property there, and again became a resident of New York, whence he subsequently removed to Kansas. His wife and sons took passage on the Northern Indiana, and when crossing the lake the ship took fire and was burned to the water’s edge, but the passengers were saved. Mr. Stalker and his family located near Fort Scott, Kansas, where he died at the age of sixty-five years, the mother surviving twenty years and passing away in 1895, at the age of eighty-six.
Alexander Stalker acquired a good English education, attending the public schools of Scotland until fourteen years of age. He afterward learned the cabinetmaker and shipbuilder’s trades, and after coming to America located in St. Louis, Missouri, where he engaged in boat building. He also followed the same business in Kentucky. In Scotland, when but eighteen years of age, he was converted to the faith of the Latter Day Saints, and in 1850 he crossed the plains to Utah, driving a team for a Mr. Johnson, who died at Fort Kearney, while en route to the west. Mr. Stalker continued on to Salt Lake City, and there worked in a sawmill for Dr. Richards, who was one of President Brigham Young’s first counselors. Subsequently he engaged in erecting houses and was also employed on the construction of the state house at Fillmore. Later he worked in a cabinet shop, until the spring of 1853, and in the meantime, in 1851, he was married to Miss Ortencia H. Smith, a daughter of Warren Smith, who was killed in Missouri by a mob.
Having promised his father and the family that he would visit them when they came to America, Mr. Stalker returned to the east in 1853 and remained with his relatives until March 4, 1854, when he started with a two-horse team from New York. He had a light wagon, containing a few dishes and needful articles, and alone he made the perilous journey across the country. When he reached Shell creek he camped near a company of California emigrants, who invited him to join their party and to turn his horses out with theirs, but he declined the invitation and tied his horses to either end of a long rope, which he then fastened, near the middle, to a stake. He then lay down to rest at the stake for the night, and in the darkness, several times hearing noises, he pulled his horses up to him by means of the rope and so kept them in safety. In the morning it was found that the Indians had stolen all the horses belonging to the California emigrants. When he arrived at Coup Fork many teams were there to be ferried across and the ferryman was charging five dollars a team. Mr. Stalker did not have the money, but he learned that if he went farther up the stream he could ford, and consequently drove about twenty miles to a place where a few tracks turned into the water. He unhooked one of his horses and rode in to look for a crossing, but had only proceeded a short distance when his horse sank and with difficulty was extricated. He then decided that if he drove up the stream in a diagonal way he could reach the opposite bank, and so hitching his horses he made the trial and was nearly across when one of the horses fell struggling in the quicksand. Mr. Stalker then jumped in, unhitched the horses and got them out to the bank, but looking up the river he saw a large company of Indians in war paint. Knowing something of their habits he decided instantly that his best course was to put on a bold front so he motioned to the Indians to come and help him get the wagon out. They had a long rope, and with their aid the wagon was secured, after which he gave them each a cracker from his scanty store and proceeded on his way unmolested by the Indians, who were in search of another party of red men. Mr. Stalker’s method was to travel most of the day, but before dark he would stop, build a fire and prepare his supper, after which he would move on a mile or two and spend the night in as sheltered a place as he could find. At length he completed the journey in safety, and in the fall he located at American Forks, about thirty miles from Salt Lake, where he followed farming and also worked at his trade. In 1852 he was in the Indian fight in Skull valley, where twelve Indians were killed, and participated in other engagements with the red men in the early history of the country.
In the spring of 1860 Mr. Stalker left American Forks, and on the 14th of April arrived in the Cache valley, being one of the first settlers of Idaho. That district, however, was then thought to be a part of Utah. About fifty families came first and built their log houses in the form of a hollow square, the rear of the houses forming a part of the fort. Openings were made at each Corner of the square and for three years a guard was maintained at each place both night and day. The settlers also made a ditch to convey water to their land, and in this way they made the desert a favored garden spot in the midst of which .1 beautiful town, with numerous pleasant homes, has been built. By his thrift and industry Mr. Stalker has prospered. He became the pioneer small-fruit grower of the valley, first cultivating blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currants, and successfully demonstrating the adaptability of the soil for horticultural purposes. He has since planted a fine orchard of apple, pear and plum trees. He became the owner of two hundred acres of land, but has since sold a portion of it retaining possession of a valuable tract of eighty acres. He also has a good residence in Franklin.
The home of Mr. and Mrs. Stalker was blessed with fourteen children, eleven of whom are living, namely, Alexander: Amanda: Janet, wife of Louis Hook: Warren; Wallace: Ortencia Anna; James; Alvira, wife of John D. Ellis; Sardinus S.; Willard; Theresa D., a teacher; Alma S; Elizabeth, wife of Ambrose Shorten, and Joseph, who is still with his parents. The family is one highly respected in the community.
Mr. Stalker is a stalwart Republican, and on that ticket was elected to the eighth session of the territorial legislature. He was also journal clerk for the session of forty days, and was a member of the Idaho territorial council. When elected to the latter office his connection with the Latter Day Saints was terminated. Since then he has not been a church member, but retains his faith in Christ, and adheres in a degree to the belief of the Presbyterian Church, in which he was reared.