(On this date, October 7, 2013, the Osborne County Hall of Fame is pleased to present to the world for the first time anywhere the third of the five members of the new OCHF Class of 2013)
Thomas Marshall Walker was born on a farm in Owen County, Kentucky, August 15, 1846. His family became identified with Kentucky when it was a new western state. His grandfather, William B. Walker, was born in England and came to this country with an older brother. In Kentucky William located at Lexington, and became superintendent of the cloth manufacturing plant in which Henry Clay was financially interested. William had learned the trade of weaver at Manchester, England.
Thomas was the fifth in a family of seven children born to Delville and Lucinda (Sparks) Walker, both of whom were natives of Kentucky. Delville Walker was a prosperous farmer. On the slavery issue he took a firm stand on the side of abolition and became one of the early members of the Republican Party.
Thomas spent his boyhood on a Kentucky farm until he was fourteen. One story maintains that and he had only the advantages of a country school, while another states that he was educated by a private teacher. Upon leaving home he joined an older brother in Shelby County, Kentucky, and while there had further advantages of school attendance for six months. Like many successful Americans Thomas’ beginning in commercial life was of the humblest. Working in a store at wages of $10 a month, sweeping the floor, building fires, and performing numberless other duties, he gained by that apprenticeship a knowledge of business which came to flower in later years in Kansas. After three years Thomas became associated with his brother in a general store and tobacco warehouse, where he remained five years. With this experience as the foundation, and such capital and credit as his work enabled him to acquire, he then set up in business in Kentucky as a general merchant on his own account. Thomas finally removed to Louisville, Kentucky, and became member of the firm of Reed & Walker, wholesale produce and provisions. The business was in a fair way to prosperity but after three years Thomas found his health so undermined that he concluded to follow professional advice and seek new opportunities in the West.
When twenty-five years of age Thomas went to Colorado. He left there in 1876 and went to St. Louis, Missouri, and three years later arrived within the borders of Kansas in 1879. He traveled by railroad as far as Hays City and then drove across the country to what was known as “Bull City,” a locality named after Hiram C. Bull, a famous Kansan who subsequently came to tragic end when gored by his pet elk. The Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific Railroad was just being extended to Bull City, and that point was considered a favorable location for business and had already attracted about 100 inhabitants when Thomas joined his fortunes with the town. Bull City is now the town of Alton in Osborne County. Thomas set up in business as a general merchant and attempted to supply all the varied demands of a frontier community. He proved equal to the situation, and the store he conducted at Alton proved the foundation of his success. Thomas later served as Alton mayor and was the principal resident of Alton in the years after the death of Hiram Bull. In Osborne County during the lean years that followed his early settlement there he showed the quality of his public spirit and his practical charity by extending credit to many who were absolutely dependent upon their crops for a livelihood, and when weather conditions prevented the harvest such people would have touched the extremities of misery but for his intervention. Thomas also began investing in land and became the owner of very large cattle ranches in Osborne, Rooks, and Graham Counties in Kansas, and was also one of the first men to plant alfalfa in the western part of the state.
From merchandising and farming Thomas’ participation in banking followed almost naturally. In 1884 he embarked in the banking business by founding the Bull City Bank. In 1889 Thomas bought the First National Bank of Osborne, Kansas, and served as its president for fifteen years, when he sold the institution.
In 1885 Thomas married Carrie Nixon, a daughter of John and Matilda (McConnell) Nixon, Smith County farmers. Carrie was born, reared and educated in Chicago, Illinois, and was a lady of culture and refinement who also possessed good business qualifications. Two children graced their union: Thomas Delville, who died at the age of eighteen; and Henrie O., later the wife of William A. Carlisle and engaged with him in the lumber business in Washington, Kansas.
After moving to Atchison, Kansas in 1901 Thomas acquired the interests of Mr. Fox in the McPike & Fox Drug Company. That same year he was voted treasurer and a member of the board of directors of the McPike Drug Company of Kansas City, Missouri. In 1917 he bought the controlling interest in the McPike Drug Company, and became its president. In 1903 Thomas bought an interest in and was made president of the Savings Bank of Atchison, the oldest state bank in the state. From 1907 until his death he served as director of the Commerce Trust Company of Kansas City, Missouri, having been one of its charter members and organizers. He also served as president of the Globe Surety Company of Kansas City and as a director of the Thomas Trust Company, also of Kansas City. Thomas was also president of the First National Bank of Hoxie, Kansas, of the Citizens State Bank of Selden, and numerous other financial interests.
From the time he cast his first vote, Thomas was a stanch adherent of the Republican Party and worked in its interests, but considered himself to be never tied by party allegiance in local elections, as he believed in putting the man with the best qualifications into office, regardless of party, and thus securing the best local government. Thomas was active in both the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks fraternal organizations, and held chairs in both lodges.
In 1930 Thomas came across a famous relic from his days in Bull City/Alton, Kansas, and took it upon himself to save a valuable piece of Osborne County history. The following account of the incident was related by Alton resident Orville Grant Guttery in his book Tales of a Town Named Bull City (Ad Astra Publishing, 2011, ppgs. 40-41).
* * * * *
“A few years after the Elk killed the three men at Bull City, and while T. M. Walker had a drug store [in Atchison, Kansas], a traveling man from a drug house came into his store and said ‘T. M., there is a man in [Muscotah] who has a drug store and he has bought more than he can pay for. I wish you would go over and buy him out.’ The traveling man and T. M. knew each other well; he said he would go and look over the store.
“He bought it, [accepted] the invoice and paid for the goods, then said to the man in charge (the owner), ‘You go ahead and run this store and when you get any money you pay me what I have in it and it is yours,’ for which the man was thankful.
“As they were looking Mr. Walker saw a pair of elk horns and spoke about them, and the man said ‘those horns have a history – they are the ones taken from the elk that killed those men at Bull City.’ T. M. said, ‘I want to buy them.’ The man said, ‘You can have them.’ T. M. said, ‘I will pay for them.’ He gave $5.00 for them.
“I thought for many years I would like to have the horns from the Elk, but had no idea they were in existence. Some years ago a statement was made that T. M. Walker had the horns. I wrote him and he said he had the horns and would send them to us, and when we were ready to dedicate the [Bull] monument at the [Sumner] cemetery I asked Charles E. Williams to write Walker and ask about the horns. He crated them and expressed them to C. E. Williams, prepaid. The invoice read: ‘Shipped from Atchison, Kansas Way Bill and No. 6134 3/6 Dated 3/8/30 Shipper W. W. Blair. Weight 190 Lbs. Freight $3.88 paid.’”
These very same elk horns can be seen today in the Osborne County Courthouse in Osborne, Kansas.
* * * * *
After a long and prosperous life Thomas Marshall Walker passed away at the age of 94 on July 6, 1931 in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri. He was laid to rest in the Mount Moriah Cemetery at Kansas City.
Genealogical and Biographical Record of North-Eastern Kansas. Lewis Publishing Company. Chicago: 1900. 750 Pages. Transcribed 2008 by Penny R. Harrell.
Pages 584-585 from Volume III, Part 1 of Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc.. . . with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago: 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed by Kita Redden, student from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, 1-28-1999.