JUDGE JOSHUA J. WALTON. – This eminent jurist and public leader of our state was born April 6, 1838, at Rushville, Illinois. At the age of two years he was taken by his parents to a new home near Springfield, Illinois. After a brief sojourn there another move was made, bringing the family as far west as St. Louis, Missouri; and in 1842 they moved on to Keosauque, Iowa. In 1849 the plains were crossed with ox-teams, on the route via Salt Lake City; and the journey was brought to an end at Frémont, California, a place at the junction of the Feather and Sacramento rivers. Two years later the line of march was resumed; and Yreka was made the objective. The next year a more permanent location was found in the Rogue river valley; and a Donation claim was taken on Wagner creek on the beautiful farm now known as the Beason place. That was at a time when the Rogue river Indians were very troublesome, and quite generally on the warpath. The elder Walton engaged to some extent in mining at Jacksonville and Rich Gulch; and young Joshua, then but a lad of fourteen, also essayed to make his pile by rocking a “Long Tom.” With his father he also used to go on freighting expeditions to procure goods from the Willamette valley for the market at Jacksonville, Yreka, or the mining camps on the Klamath; and his work was to ride the bell animal. While thus occupied he carried his school books, and spent the slow hours in the saddle acquiring the rudiments of an education.
Upon the outbreak of the Indian war in 1853, the family went to the fort at Jacob Wagner’s, and remained until the autumn. By the various scares and indeed great perils of the time, Mrs. Walton had acquired a constant dread of the savages, and, in order to giver her less anxiety, Mr. Walton decided to seek a new location, less isolated and less exposed, and consequently sold his right to Mr. Beason, and made the same year a new home in the Umpqua valley, a few miles west of Oakland, in a little oasis known as Green valley. Among other benefits derived from this change was the advantage of a good school then just started, at which Joshua made rapid progress in his books under the tutelage of Professor J.S. Gilbert, a worthy man and an excellent teacher.
In the fall of 1858 a final removal was made to Eugene City, Oregon. At that beautiful place a permanent home was located; and there Judge Walton resides at the present time. With the exception of a short time spent in the Idaho mines, he has resided there continuously. At that center, which even in the early days boasted much culture and ability, young Walton found opportunities not hitherto enjoyed for the development of his mind, and soon began the study of law under Honorable Riley E. Stratton, then circuit judge of the second judicial district. He also read somewhat with Honorable Stukeley Ellsworth. He was admitted to the bar in 1863, at the September term of the supreme court, in the first class ever examined by that court in open session. The class was large, including in the number some whose names have since become eminent, as C.B. Bellinger, Joseph F. Watson, P.S. Knight and other men of mark.
Soon after completing his studies, Mr. Walton was called upon to occupy public positions, and has spent the greater part of his life in official or other public duties. In 1866 he was elected county judge of Lane county. In 1876 he was appointed to the same position by Governor L.F. Grover, to fill the place made vacant by the resignation of Judge John M. Thompson. In the same year his position was confirmed by election; and he served out a full term. In 1874 he was elected president of the Union University Association, and successfully superintended the erection of the university building at Eugene, and also succeeded in securing the location of the State University at that city. In 1880 he received the nomination for circuit judge of the second judicial district; but the contest resulted in the election of his opponent on the Republican ticket, Honorable Joseph F. Watson.
Judge Walton has been twice married, first to Miss Lizzie Gale, who died in 1873, and secondly, in 1876, to Miss Emma Fisher.