For decades at least, Martha
Gillus (Walker) Clarkson
has been considered a daughter of Edward Walker, Jr.,
but recent evidence has shown she could not possibly
be. Was she Mahala's daughter by an unknown earlier
marriage or relationship? Was she adopted? Long-held
beliefs have gone out the window.
In Annie Walker
Burns's 1929 book, Lizzie Click named Martha as
one of the children. Lizzie, of all people, was in a
position to know; not only would Martha have been her
own aunt, for many decades, Lizzie and Martha lived
near each other. In addition, Martha's own daughter
wrote to Annie Walker Burns and remembered Edward, although
I have not yet found a direct statement of parentage
by Martha's daughter.
The 1830 Census shows a female of Martha's age in Edward's
household, and, in 1840, the then-widowed Martha is
shown next to Edward in the Census, living either next
to him or quite possibly in his house on Mulberry Creek.
Martha also named her first child Edward, Edward Hilton
Clarkson to be exact.
Lizzie specifically stated that Martha married two
Clarksons; her marriage to the second is recorded in
Claiborne County, with her "maiden" name at
the time of the marriage shown as Clarkson; the use
of married names in marriage records in Claiborne County
was typical at the time for widows.
Her first marriage, though, predated existing Claiborne
County records, and so her real maiden name has not
been seen on paper as "Walker". Her first
husband was Henry Clarkson, an uncle to her second husband.
Dillis R. Bolton provided the missing evidence proving
the marriage, namely the War of 1812 pension file for
James Lee Clarkson, Henry's father. James served in
the same regiment as Joseph Walker and died during service.
His widow received a pension which was suspended during
the Civil War for widows in southern states. When her
son Fairwix applied on behalf of her estate for the
money due her, statements on the loyalty of all heirs
were included. The statements specifically mention the
children of his deceased brother Henry, namely Edward
H. and Flora A.
Why She's Not Edward's Daughter
Given that Lizzie (Walker) Click is probably an unimpeachable
source on this question, there has been no doubt about
Martha's parentage until recently, when even
more unimpeachable sources were found. Lizzie probably
knew the true story; the wording of her letters to Annie
Walker Burns does not absolutely speak to biological
parentage for each of the children. But unfortunately,
the true story, whatever it was, was not told.
Given all the circumstantial evidence, Martha likely
was raised by the couple although, of course, the person
in the 1830 Census could have been a servant or someone
else in the household. Clearly, though, Martha was close
to the family.
However, Martha is not even mentioned in "brother"
Isaac's copy of Edward's Bible record; neither were
the sons from the second family though, and an oversight
could have been possible although unlikely.
More telling and incontrovertible, though, are the
court records involved in the fights over Edward's estate.
From the record in Hancock County, Edward died intestate.
Even if he had intended to disinherit a child for any
reason, he did not leave a will, so no child could be
disinherited. Within the record, over a span of 12 years,
the heirs were listed several times, and Martha was
never mentioned even once, even though evidence is overwhelming
that Martha was alive the entire time.
There was no oversight in the court records; the children
were mentioned too many times as was the total number
of parts into which the estate was divided, 14. Because
Edward died intestate, all children had to be listed
by law. Martha could not have been his natural daughter.
Had Martha been a natural daughter of Edward's, no
matter who the mother, she still would have been included
in the estate. There are also a number of pieces of
evidence indicate strongly that Edward was only married
There is no evidence that Mahala was married before
she married Edward, but certainly that possibility arises.
She was 23-24 years old when she married Edward, certainly
old enough to have been married previously, had a child,
and lost a husband. Marriage records for that time period
in Sullivan County, where she likely would have been
living, have not survived. Very little documentary evidence
of Mahala exists in any form. Sarah (Crumley) Walker's
pension application is one of the very few documents
to mention Mahala, and there was no reason to have mentioned
any prior marriages by Mahala.
Martha could also have been adopted and not related
to either of them by blood; such arrangements were rarely
documented in that time period, and proof of such parentage
will likely be impossible without DNA testing of female
Another theory would involve Martha being the daughter
of one of Edward's untraced brothers; emerging research
seems to be eliminating that possibility.
My data continues to list Martha with this family;
evidence suggests strongly that she was a part of the
family regardless of her biological heritage. A
biography is available on this site.