Signature of Edward B. Walker Genealogy of Edward B. Walker
1756-1838, Duplin County, North Carolina - Sullivan, Claiborne, Hancock Counties, Tennessee


Who was Martha (Walker) Clarkson?

For decades at least, Martha Gillus (Walker) Clarksonoffsite link to WorldConnect 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 twice.

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 descendants.

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.

All original material © 2007-9 by Phillip A. Walker or by cited authors. Submissions are welcome. Reuse allowed under limited conditions. Page last modified Sunday, 09-Sep-2018 13:19:36 MDT .