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DeWitt Clinton Walker, In Pursuit of Education

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DeWitt Clinton Walker, In Pursuit of Education
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8/22/2020 12:21:37 PM
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Robert Underhill
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DeWitt Clinton Walker was born in the Chippenhook section of Clarendon in 1812 to Lewis Merritt Walker (1781 - 1863) and Sarah (Gates) Walker (1780 - 1841), the 5th of their 6 children. The Walkers were a very prominent family in town and numerous mentions can be found in our website entries.  Three in particular are:

- The Walker Homestead Fire found in the Events collection.  This is likely the home DeWitt grew up in.  

- Lewis Walker House found in the Homes collection.  This was likely DeWitt's brother's home.

- Elmira Clarinda Walker Embroidery found in the Artifacts collection.  Elmira was Dewitt's sister.

In 1837 he married Adaline Ketchum (1811 - 1870) and together they had 8 children, the oldest 5 surviving to adulthood.  DeWitt's extremely successful career as a public official, businessman and founder of the town of Capac, MI got its start with his perseverance in acquiring a first class education. 

From the book "Memorial of the Walkers of the Old Plymouth Colony" by James Bradford Richmond Walker published in 1861 we have the following account:

About the age of 16 years, he determined in his own mind, to obtain a liberal education; but his parents wishing to keep both their sons upon the old homestead, were much opposed to it, and would not accede to his wishes for several yrs.  They however afforded him, as they did their other children, the opportunities of a good academic education.  Unknown to his parents, he commenced the study of the Greek and Latin languages, while at the Castleton Academy, and made sufficient progress to enable him to pursue them without a teacher.  On learning that he was engaged in such studies, his father took him home, and told him that he had better learn the art of farming.  To this, he submitted cheerfully, and continued to labor on the farm for some time, but in the meanwhile pursued his studies, late every evening, and every rainy day.  In the Winter, he taught school, and husbanded his money like a miser.  In the month of Aug. 1829, the day when the haying was finished, his father gave his workmen an extra treat, as was then usual on such occasions.  Calling them together, for this purpose, he found that this son was absent, and inquiring where he was, was told, that he was at his room studying Latin.  The son was sent for, and asked what good he supposed his Latin would ever do him.  He replied, “I thought I could prepare myself to enter Coll. by the time I should be 21 yrs. old.”  The father then asked, how he expected to defray the expenses of a Collegiate education.  To this he promptly answered, “by economy and industry,” and then told him how much money had had laid up for the purpose, and that when this was exhausted, he could suspend his studies for a while, and obtain more by teaching.  Musing a moment, his father said, “If you are resolved on obtaining an education, the quicker you are about it, the better,” and, added, “Tell your mother to have your clothes ready, and I will take you to the Castleton Academy to-morrow morning.”  He did so, and the next morning, at 4 o’clock, was on his way to C.  In Aug 1830, he entered Coll. at Middlebury, VT., and was graduated in Aug. 1834.  He studied Law with John Pierpoint, Esq., at Vergennes, VT, adapting his studies to the course pursued in the Law Department of Yale Coll.  The next yr., he entered the Law School at New Haven, Ct., and by close application, was able to recite and keep up with both the Junior and Senior Classes, at the same time, and thus completed a two year’s course in one year, and was examined and admitted as an Attorney and Counsellor at Law, in N.H., in July, 1836.  Spending a few weeks with his parents at home, to recruit, and receiving and declining several very favorable overtures to go into partnership with old and established lawyers in his native State, he determined to seek his fortunes in the West; and after traveling in the Western States about 2 months, finally located in Romeo, Mich.  In 1837, while on a visit to the East, the people of the County, unsolicited and unknown to him, petitioned the Governor [of Michigan], and obtained his appointment as Prosecuting Attorney of Macomb Co. for the term of 2 yrs.  In the Autumn of 1839, he was unanimously nominated by the County Convention, upon the 1st ballot, as candidate for Rep. to the State Legislature, and was triumphantly elected.  He was then chosen Senator for 2 yrs., and in 1843 and ’45, Representative again.  In 1850, he was a member of the Convention to revise the State Constitution.  He was appointed one of the Regents of the State University, in 1844, and succeeded in obtaining the establishment of a Branch of the University at Romeo, and was President of the Branch, until its discontinuance in 1853.  The Dickenson Institute was then established in its place, and new buildings erected.  He is one of the Trustees and its President.

As an Attorney at Law, he never advises, nor engages, in a suit, unless morally certain, that the cause is a just one.  He has the reputation of being an honest lawyer, and has secured a large and lucrative practice, and is an extensive landholder.

March 4, 1857, he removed to a place in the woods, in St. Clair Co., on the Port Huron & Milwaukie R. R., and laid out a town, which he named “Capac”, from Manco Capac, the first of the Peruvian Incas.  He is now principally employed in extensive lumbering operations, and in developing the growth of his new town.

DeWitt's town did prosper and he lived there until his death at 92.  He was buried in Capac. From an account of his funeral in the Aug. 19, 1904 Daily Herald (Port Huron, MI):

At a meeting of the St. Clair County Pioneer society, held at Library hall Thursday evening the following memorial expressions upon the death of the Hon. D.C. Walker, of Capac, were adopted, ordered printed and secretary instructed to forward copy to the family of deceased.

"In the demise of the Hon. Dewitt C. Walker, of Capac, the Pioneer society of St. Clair county has lost one of the most honored and most venerated members.

"He was a man of great energy of character, highly esteemed by all his relations in life, of whom no ill could justly be said.  A true friend, faithful to all his obligations, without fear or reproach.

'This society most deeply mourns his loss and will keep his memory in sacred trust."

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