Biography of Joseph R. Walker
Utah Biographies





JOSEPH ROBINSON WALKER
Joseph Robinson Walker, deceased, merchant and banker, Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the most prominent business men of the State, was a native of Veadon, a small place near Leeds, Yorkshire, England, being born there August 29, 1836. The family line is traced back as far as 1700. Matthew Walker, his father, married Mercy Long, and followed the vocation of a merchant in England until the spring of 1850, when he brought his whole family, four sons and two daughters to America.

Landing at New Orleans the party ascended the Mississippi River to St. Louis, and settled there. the head of the family going at once into business. In 1851 during the scourge of cholera, the father and two daughters were carried off by the disease. Joseph R. had received a good practical education for a boy before leaving his native land, and gave promise of being of great assistance to his father at the store in St. Louis, when the death of the father proved a terrible blow to the family and interrupted their plans. All four of the boys, however, secured positions in fancy goods and notion stores, Joseph R. going into one on Broadway, where he held a place as a bright, active and efficient young clerk for two years. At that time the fertile regions beyond the plains were attracting much attention, and during that period the mother and her boys discussed repeatedly the advisability of moving out to the then new Western country, In April, 1852, the decision was made. All their household effects were disposed of, a strong and specially made wagon was bought, and the family took the long and fatiguing journey over the plains and mountains to Salt Lake City, Utah, where they arrived without serious accident, in September, 1852, Upon their arrival the entire worldly possessions of the family amounted to a small sum of money; four oxen, an Indian pony, which had been bought from the Indians en route, in exchange for a rifle and some powder, and a steer obtained the same way from a trader for a keg of powder, The oxen were soon traded for an adobe house and lot, where the family lived for several months, and then leashed a log house on the spot where they subsequently build their magnificent residences, Provisions were dear in Salt Lake in 1853, flour rising to $20 per hundred pounds, and the Indian pony was traded for 800 pounds of that commodity, but only half the bargain price was paid, 400 pounds.

Until 1856, Joseph R, and his brothers worked during the winter in hauling wood from the mountains, Meanwhile, however, the Indians had begun to attack the settlements and were killing a great many people, and among the volunteers who enlisted to help protct the inhabitants of the farming regions near Salt Lake, was Joseph R. Walker. When the excitement had apparently subsided, thirteen men, Mr. Walker among the number were detailed to drive a herd of cattle into Salt Lake City, a distance of eighty miles, The first night out they took proper precautions against surprise at night by Indians, and the result proved their wisdom. The stockade was attacked during the night by the Indians, who made several furious assaults in an effort to stampede the cattle and horses, The foe was beaten off, however, with a loss of five or six of their number, and without having damaged the stockade, but two horses and twenty cattle were shot and one of the men in the detail was wounded,

The trading instincts of Mr. Walker prompted him early in his career in Utah, to obtain a mule team, a wagon, and a stock of dry goods and notions, all on credit, and to begin business on his own account. His early training then proved of value to him, and this, combined with unusual talent and address, made him successful from the start, The entire outfit was paid for in the first few Months, and from that time forward his progress was rapid, In 1856 Mr. Walker started for California, and in 1857 settled in Carson Valley as clerk for a trader. and later built a store at Gold Canon, in a placer mining camp named Johnstown, near the afterwards famous Comstock lode, Here he found occupation and profit in a large trade and the exchange of goods to miners for gold dust,

In August, 1858, Mr. Walker returned to Utah, General Albert Sidney Johnston had established a camp of United States troops at Camp Floyd, about fifty miles from Salt Lake, and Mr. Walker, repairing to that point, served as a clerk with the army long enough to find out what the situation was, and then with his three brothers, opened a store at Camp Floyd with a general supply of dry goods, groceries, cigars and tobacco, and such other articles as could be sold to the soldiers, all bought in Salt Lake on credit, at sixty per cent, advance on first cost and thirty cents more per pound added for freight. The first year the brothers made a profit of $20,000, Meanwhile, in Salt Lake, in 1859, the Walker brothers had opened a large general store and bank, and this business has been carried on successfully to the present day, although the four Walker brothers dissolved partnership in 1884. As at Camp Floyd, banking has always been carried on in connection with the general merchandising business,

Illustrative of the difficulties Utah merchants labored under in the early times, it is stated that, when in 1864 Mr. Walker went to New Vork City and bought a stock of goods worth $250,000, he had to pay fifteen to twenty cents a pound for freight and found that it was impossible to get insurance on the stock while it was in transit, and When' the goods were unloaded in Utah, they had cost him $350,000, Mr. Walker was always a merchant and hanker, but was later largely interested in real estate in Utah and California, and in mining enterprises in both States, The first stamp mill in Utah was built by the Walker brothers in the Ophir District.

In addition to being a member of the immense Walker Bros, Dry Goods Company, Joseph B, Walker was a member of Walker Bros., Bankers, and president of the Alice Gold & Silver Mining Company, at Walkerville Mont., and extensively interested in mines and other enterprises, While he derived great pleasure front the management of large interests, he was a lover of home and family, He contributed liberally to worthy objects, and promoted all measures calculated to advance the welfare of the community in which he lived. He was a strong genial, capable man. untiring in labor, alert to opportunity, a man of ideas and always sound in counsel, He was not a politician, but a business man, but took the lively interest in public affair which every American citizen must feel, He died in the early evening of January 6th, 1901, Two years after the death of Mr. Walker, the heirs sold their interest in Walker Bros,' Bank, and acquired control of Walker Bros, Dry Goods Company.

From:
Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States
1847 - 1909
Utah Idaho Nevada
Published by: The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City, Utah 1909


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