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Home Features Original Walker Cemetery at Indian Fork is becoming increasingly difficult to reach

Original Walker Cemetery at Indian Fork is becoming increasingly difficult to reach

The Walker Cemetery is located on a ridge above Indian Fork Creek, a couple of miles from Brimstone Road | Ben Garrett/IH

Located far up Indian Fork Creek, near the base of Griffith Mountain, the Walker Cemetery is almost three miles from what is today the “main road” at Brimstone. It might as well be 10. Or 20.

There was a time, not too many years ago, when you could get all the way to the top of the ridge where the Walker Cemetery is located in a two-wheel-drive vehicle. That was during the peak of the most recent round of logging operations along Indian Fork, and not too terribly long after the last strip mining operations on the lowest ridges above the creek had ended. 

Today, though, the trip to Walker Cemetery requires four-wheel-drive, and it really isn’t suitable for a highway vehicle; you really need an ATV or side-by-side to make the trip. 

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This is the upper Walker Cemetery, not to be confused with the lower Walker Cemetery, which was the subject of this page two months ago. The lower Walker Cemetery is home to only three graves — Daniel Walker; his wife, Almira Goad; and their daughter, Minnie Hughett — and is much more easily accessed, though a four-wheel-drive is required to reach it, too.

The original headstone of Samuel Walker, the first of the Walker family in Scott County, who moved to Brimstone from North Carolina in 1857. His descendants have since placed a more modern headstone beside the original stone | Ben Garrett/IH

The upper Walker Cemetery is less than a mile away, as the crow flies, and consists of many more graves — though many of them are marked by fieldstones that were either not inscribed or that have since become illegible. But the road getting there has deteriorated quickly since the extraction of natural resources from the area ended.

Walker Cemetery is located across the valley from the Monster Pond, which was once among the better-known landmarks on the south end of Scott County. The Monster Pond is located in an abandoned strip mine towards the bottom of Lowe Mountain’s western slopes. 

These days, the only people who venture this far into the mountains are off-road enthusiasts who are riding the trails of Brimstone Recreation. The land that includes and surrounds the upper Walker Cemetery is a part of the Lyme Timber Company property that is leased by Brimstone Recreation. The road leading to the foot of the hill below Walker Cemetery is a public road, owned by Scott County, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. There are no houses anywhere around, and no landowners who need access to their property. So, the road is left to the ATV riders, the eroding powers of Indian Fork Creek’s floodwaters, and the dense undergrowth that now chokes the road from either side.

There was a time, though, when the Walker farm stretched almost all the way up this valley. It was that way from the time that Samuel (1818-1907) and Mary Ann Elizabeth Hutson (1818-1910) moved into this valley nearly 200 years ago.’

Samuel and Mary Ann Walker moved from North Carolina to Brimstone’s Indian Fork Creek in 1857.

Sam and Mary Ann were born just about six weeks apart in 1818, both in North Carolina. In those days, the earliest white settlers were just beginning to arrive in Scott County, settling first in places like No Business and Smokey, and later along Brimstone Creek. But it wasn’t until early 1857 when the 36-year-old couple and their three children arrived at Indian Fork after first moving from North Carolina to Cocke County in East Tennessee.

It was the Walkers’ oldest son, Daniel, who is buried — along with his wife and daughter — in the lower Walker Cemetery, overlooking part of the old Walker farm. Shortly after the Walkers arrived at Indian Fork, their fourth child, Joseph Samuel, was born in April 1857. Sam and Mary Ann had two more children after Joe: Mike, born in 1859, and Sarah, born in 1863. Between Dan and Joe were Billy, born in 1849, Mary Elizabeth, born in 1851, and Tom, born in 1855.

Sam Walker was a veteran of the Indian War. He served under the command of Capt. W.L. Connelly as part of Company C, a regiment of volunteers from Burke County, N.C., and participated in the 1838 removal of 15,000 Cherokee Indians from their native lands in Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Alabama to Fort Emory along the Hiwassee River.

Ironically, the Indian removal was ordered and commanded by Major Gen. Winfield Scott — for whom Scott County was named 11 years later, and about eight years before Sam and Mary Ann moved here.

The Walker family migrated to the American colonies from Ireland in the early 18th century. Sam Walker’s great-grandfather, John Walker, sailed into Philadelphia in 1720 and settled in Delaware. Sam Walker’s grandfather, Col. John Walker, served under Gen. George Washington in the British army and later served in the Revolutionary War, as did all of his sons, including Thomas William Walker, Sam Walker’s father.

Mary Goad Walker was buried in the Walker Cemetery alongside two of her children who died at a young age: 12-year-old Samuel and 4-year-old Martha | Ben Garrett/IH

Later in life, Sam was approved for an $8 monthly pension for his service in the Indian War.

When Sam died in 1907, and Mary Ann in 1910, they weren’t the first to be buried on the ridge near their farm. The first recorded burial at the Walker Cemetery — though there were probably earlier burials; many of the original stones weren’t transcribed — was Sam and Mary Ann’s young granddaughter, Martha, who died in April 1885, exactly two weeks before her fifth birthday.

Martha was the daughter of Michael Walker, Sam and Mary Ann’s youngest son, and Mary Polly Goad Walker. Another of Michael and Mary’s children, 12-year-old Samuel, was buried in the cemetery when he died in 1890. Mary was also buried there when she died in 1899. Following her death, Michael left Indian Fork and moved to Texas. 

Martha’s mother, Mary Polly Goad Walker, is also buried in the cemetery. She died in 1899. Following her death, her husband, Mike — Sam and Mary Ann’s youngest son — moved to Texas. 

In 1898, Emily Sexton Walker, Sam and Mary Ann’s daughter-in-law and the wife of Tom, was buried at the cemetery when she died at the age of 45.

In 1903, Almira Robbins Walker — who married Joe, Sam and Mary Ann’s son who was born just months after their arrival at Indian Fork in 1857 — died at the age of 36 and was buried at the cemetery. Joe, who was a preacher, was also buried at the cemetery when he died in 1937. Their young son, John Sedley, who was only a year old when he died in February 1893, was buried there, as well.

Among other graves at the Walker Cemetery are James Roland Kesterson, who married Elizabeth Walker and died in 1900; William Marshall Henry, the 18-year-old son of James and Kizzie Goad Henry who died in 1912; and Doffice Lee Griffith, the infant daughter of Lawrence and Oasie Hill Griffith who died in 1954. Her headstone was later moved to the Lone Mountain Cemetery, though her body was not moved.

Like most of the old, out-of-the-way cemeteries in Scott County, the Walker Cemetery at Indian Fork has a lot of stories to tell. It’s sad, in a way, to stop amid an ATV ride and ponder at the history of this now mostly forgotten cemetery. It is the resting place of Indian Fork’s most prominent family. Today, it’s disappearing into the forest growth — much like the farm Sam and Mary Ann once carved into this valley. On a typical weekend, dozens — and sometimes hundreds — of off-road riders venture up this valley, the sounds of their engines drifting up from the creek bottom to the headstones hidden in the forest, without pausing to think about the lives that were once fledged here.

This story is the June 2021 installment of Our Back Yard, presented by First National Bank of Oneida on the first week of each month as part of the Independent Herald’s Back Page Features series. A print version of this article can be found on Page 9 of the June 3, 2021 edition of the IH.
Independent Herald
Contact the Independent Herald at newsroom@ihoneida.com. Follow us on Twitter, @indherald.
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