The following is a story about Matilda Arnold Walker. There are comments by Mary Jean Caldwell throughout, and some more information is needed.
Biography of Matilda Arnold Walker
Wife of Henson Walker, Senior. Mother of Henson Walker Jr
Matilda Arnold was the daughter of Thomas Arnold and Mary Frazier. She was born in Maryland, presumably in Prince Georges County, 28 Nov 1799. Her early childhood was spent on her father’s plantation with her parents and baby sister, Cassandra, who was named for her Grandmother Frazier. They were loved and petted by doting parents and admired by the Negro slaves on the plantation. While she was yet a baby a young man by the name of Henson Walker came to help her father with his work. When Matilda was four years old her father died. (Where and when did he die?) Of course she was to young to realize what it was all about. The young man stayed on to help with the work and being apt and dependable, he was made overseer of the slaves. When she was about nine years old her mother married this young hired man. Now Matilda really came to know him and she learned to think a great deal of him.
Two babies, a boy and a girl, came to bless this home. (the first was born five months after they were married, Perry was born 15 Jan 1810 and they were married 9 Sep 1809 in Baltimore.) In 1812 when Matilda was only 13 years old her mother became ill and died (again where and when?), leaving two babies (Mary Ann was born 20 Aug 1811 in Anne Arundel County, the same as Perry.) and two heartbroken little daughters and a bereaved husband. It was a sad day for the little girls to try to help their foster father to care for everything. They loved him dearly and were anxious to do all they could to help him. She must have made a good job of her trying and must have had some good training from her mother for when she was only a little past 15 the foster father married his foster daughter. (Again, where were they married?)
It was 17 Feb 1815 that Matilda became the wife of Henson Walker and now life began in earnest for she must assume the responsibility of wife and mother all at the same time. (Where?) A baby brother and sister were her’s to care for and be a mother to, at so tender an age. But she was determined to do her best and now, instead of helping her father, she would help her husband.
There seems to be some discrepancies as to the places of marriage and death of Matilda’s mother. According to the Michigan History the Walker left Maryland in 1809 but according to the Utah Walker’s History the two children of Henson and Mary were born in Maryland. It the latter statement is true, in all probability, Mary died in her native state. We are assuming that this is true until we are able to find more definite proof to the contrary. At any rate the first child born to Matilda and Henson was on April 8-18, 1816 at Clifton Springs, Ontario, New York, this was John E. Walker. The two babies left for Matilda to care for and which she raised as her own were Perry Gilpin Walker born 15 Jan 1810 and Mary Ann born 20 Aug 1811. Perry was given his Grandmother Walker’s maiden name and Mary Ann was given her mother’s name, Mary. This has been valuable to our generation in trying to follow their genealogies.
The family stayed at Clifton Springs for a short time but the urge to go West (he was leasing the farm they lived on) was with them and thy moved over to Manchester, only a few miles away. There they made a home where their next eight children were born. They were: George W. born 15 May 1817, Henson Jr. born March 13, 1820, Sally Ann born Dec. 4, 1822, Richard born 17 Sep. 1823/4, Emeline born 6 Jan 1826, Thomas Arnold born Jan. 20, 1830. (Need to find birth or christening records. for everyone) Little Emeline passed away 12 Oct. 1829. (Where?) This was a great trial to Matilda. Now they had eight boys and only two girls. The call of the west came again for more and cheaper land to make homes for this crowd of boys.
The family made preparations to go west. Perry, the oldest son, now nearly 25 years old, was to remain behind to care for what they had and as time went by he decided to stay on in Manchester. This he did throughout his life. He never married. He passed away 22 Mar 1874. (Have a copy of his will in New York.)
The family moved on until they found what they felt was the place for them in Oceola Township, Livingston, Michigan. They took up 80 acres of land and began to make a home. The first home was little more than a shelter. It consisted of one large room, 15 X 15 feet, made of rough logs with a dirt floor and roof, a slab door, and a chimney made of sticks. Under these conditions the family of eleven lived for a year. They all worked hard; they cleared the land, plowed and planted, for the family must be fed while they worked and much credit must be given to Mother Walker who found something to satisfy the appetites of this bunch of growing children and hard working men.
At the end of the first year they built a better home, again a log house for there was nothing else to use but it was larger and the logs had been stripped of their bark. It seemed good to the mother, especially, to get into this better home with more room. It was here on 3 June 1836/37 that their last child, (can this be verified? In the county history she is listed as the first white child born in the county.) A baby girl was born. They named her Cassie Ann. These were really pioneer times. Everything they had must be made in the home, but thy were happy in their work. Their home was their castle and they had the joy of seeing their honest efforts rewarded.
When they left New York some of their neighbors and friends came with them. They were spread out over much territory but when the first necessities were provided there were other things to think about. There must be schools and church to help round out their community life. All these the people must provide for themselves. They learned to do by doing and whatever had to be done, they all learned to do it.
The boys in the family soon began to plan for the future. Each took up his own tract of land and began to make a home. Soon they began to marry and leave the home nest. The families located within a radius of a few miles of the family home, which had been improved and added to, to suit the need of the family. Finally a nice frame house was built that added comfort and a great deal of pleasure to the mother as well as other members of the household.
About this time the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made their way into this part of the state. Various members of the family heard what they had to say but it appealed to only one of this large family. Up until now nothing had ever come into their lives to separate them or cause any break or disunion, but now it was upon them as Henson, one of the older sons accepted this new religion. It was very unpopular in the neighborhood. They could not condemn him; they were too broadminded for that. They would only hope and pray that he would see the error of his way before it was too late.
Dark clouds were beginning to gather as they so often do as time goes by. On Nov 20, 1853 the husband and father, Henson Sr., passed away leaving his widow with only two children at home to comfort and sustain her. Lewis, the youngest boy, was married soon after his father’s death and Cassie, the baby of the family, remained at home with her mother until 3 Feb 1858 when she too was married. Matilda now had time to spend with her children and grandchildren and do some of the things she had longed to do during her busy life. She was only 54 years old when her husband died, being twelve years younger than he.
On Aug 14, 1863, Lewis passed away leaving his widow and three small children, two girls and a boy. This was a great sorrow to the mother but it was greatly increase when a week later, Aug 21, Richard’s wife passed away leaving five small children. Lewis’s wife and her babies looked to her parents, as also did Richard in his grief turn to his mother. She went to his home and tried to assume the responsibility that had fallen on her shoulders. She stayed with the family until her son married again on Sept 4, 1865. This time he married a young widow whose husband was killed in the Civil War. Grandma felt she was not needed here any longer so she went back to her own home. While she had been with the family all this time she had become so closely attached to the children, it was a great trial to be separated from them. The feeling was mutual. The children loved their Grandmother very much because of her kind sympathetic nature and were much anxious to have her with them than the new stepmother. Neither Grandma nor the children could see any good reason to bring a new member into the family when they were getting along so well together. The new mother was of Scotch decent and they seemed to be afraid of trouble but their fears were never realized as they had expected.
The next 26 years of her life was spent with her children comforting them when in sorrow, rejoicing with then when fortune smiled upon them. When Grandma was young she was very pretty, round and plump. Her hair was on the reddish brown order, her features round and regular. But age with its cares and sorrows made her thin and gaunt looking. She passed away Feb 1, 1891 at the ripe old age of 92, (have obit from paper titled “Almost a Centurion) going to a well-earned reward. She was laid to rest by the side of her husband and near her children in the Old Riddle Cemetery, (listed in the obit) the first burial grounds in Oceola Township where she had spent 56 years of her life. She was a grand old pioneer lady, bequeathing to her posterity many noble traits of character. God bless her memory forever and may her name always be revered.