1. "WIDOW WALKER," (2)Of REHOBOTH, MASS.
Her name then disappears. When and from whence she came to New England, and where she died, are not known. There is no record to tell us her age or her character. No trace of her biography is found, save the already noticed facts of her being associated with an adventurous company, most of whom went out from Weymouth into the wilderness, - a company marked for its religious character, (being a majority of the church at W.,) the highly educated and scholarly Rev. Samuel Newman being in some respects the Leader of the enterprise. - Her christian name and that of her husband, are never given. In the early records of the town, she has invariably the touching, sorrowful title of Widow, suggesting the history of blighted hopes, and grief-stricken heart. Perhaps she had one to protect and cherish her when she left her native land, - and burying him in the sea came here alone, - or perhaps together, they had reached these shores, and were struggling in mutual and loyalty to bear the toils, trials and perils incident to the settlement of a new country, - when death snatched him from her fellowship. But the more probable supposition is, that becoming a widow in England, she emigrated, perhaps with her younger son Phillip, after the coming of James and Sarah. Bereft of counsellor and helper, she would naturally follow her children, and seek the sympathy and aid of her brother, or possibly only her brother-in-law, Mr. John Browne. That she did not come with them in 1635, and did not appear till 8 years afterward, favors this theory. James and Sarah, as favorites of their uncle Mr. Browne, and bereft of a father's counsel and support, may have been induced by his encouragements, to try their fortunes in the New World, leaving the mother behind with their younger brother, till they should learn how the experiment would issue. - Old enough to be of service, perhaps they were really indentured as "servants to Jo. Browne," and not merely, as a device to escape the pursuivants of the King in their attempt to get out of England. But these are conjectures merely. The interest of Mr. Browne in his nephew and niece, the two young emigrants of 1635, and the fact of their mother the "widow" being associated with Mr. B. in the settlement of Rehoboth, favors the belief that she was his sister, though he might have manifested the same regard, had she been only the sister of his wife. We may see among the group of pious and brave settlers, not only the godly man who is their religious teacher, but also the form of one, whose sable garments tell us, she is a "Widow." The vision passes quickly before us, and is lost to our sight, awakening sympathy and interest for the woman, who, bereft of the companion of her youth, because a pioneer in founding the church and colony at Rehoboth. She was buried no doubt, in the ancient place of graves in Seekonk, where many of the fathers repose, but no stone marks the spot.
Phillip Walker, afterward Deacon, and whose name first appears in 1653, to whom lands were assigned in 1658, and of whom the record commences, soon after her's ceases, was her son. In the description of his lands in the Proprietors' Records, 48th p., he says, "100 pound commons that was Thos. Pitts', 100 that was the Governor's, half a hundred that was my mother's." It is evident therefore that he was the son of "Widow Walker," for had his "mother" not been a widow, the lands would have been described as those of his father, and furthermore, there was no other person of the name in the Rehoboth Company, who could sustain this relation to him.
James Walker appears in the list of those in 1643 giving in the value of their estates. His name is next to that of the "Widow," and the amount is £50, but it is subjoined that his share is "now John ffitches." He however forfeited his lots to the town in 1644, in accordance with an order enacted by the proprietors in 1643, that those who did not fence their lands, or remove there with their families, should forfeit their lots. His name however, is mentioned in one division of lands afterward, viz, that of 1645. It is probable however, that he never removed to Rehoboth, but concluded to remain in Taunton. Mr. John Browne, whose lots were forfeited at the same date with James Walker's lived in Taunton at the time, and was his "cousin," (uncle.) Thus connected with the "Widow" and Mr. Browne, who was also one of the original Proprietors of Rehoboth, having been the agent of the company, while in Weymouth, and appointed by the Court at Plymouth, to make the purchase of Asameeum the Indian Chief, James Walker very naturally became associated with the settlement. Accordingly neither their names nor that of Mr. Browne is found in the list of the company that went from Weymouth. The strongest reason, however, for concluding he was of "Widow Walker's" family, is found in the fact that when Deacon Phillip died in 1679, James was about 60 years of age, it is beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not only nearly related to Phillip, but was his brother, and accordingly was the son of "Widow Walker."
If we may judge of her worth from the virtues of her sons, and infer that they inherited the spirit and piety of their Pilgrim mother, and that her fidelity entitled her to use the language of the Roman matron respecting the Gracchi, "These are my jewels," then was she a compeer worthy to be associated with the pious and distinguished Mr. Newman and the useful Mr. Browne, leaders in the Rehoboth settlement.
And as "the glory of the fathers is their children," her name is not unhonored, and her character and worth not without their monument.
It is upon this evidence, which, though fragmentary and circumstantial, is nevertheless conclusive, that "WIDOW WALKER" is placed at the head of the Taunton Family, and in respect to them, as well as the more numerous and widely scattered family of Rehoboth, must be honored as "THE MOTHER OF US ALL."
© 2008, Daniel C. Hanks