The Glenbuchat Image Library
No Contributor Year: 201612 Alexander Walker’s move to Williamstown
Click for Alexander Walker Introduction
By 1880 Alexander Walker had moved to Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts
1880 United States Federal Census
Name Alexander Walker
Birth Year abt 1819
Home in 1880 Williamstown, Berkshire, Massachusetts
Relation to Head of House Self
Marital Status Married
Spouse's Name Jean Walker
Father's Birthplace Scotland
Mother's Birthplace Scotland
Occupation Surveyor & Gardener
Household Members Name Age
Alexander Walker 61
Jean Walker 50
Maggie Walker 21
Charles Walker 16
Alexander Walker 14
George Walker 11
Jessie Walker 8
Alexander Walker purchased a small steading on the Berlin Road, Beechdale Farm, south west of Williamstown. The map above shows the site of Alexander’s home and the modern map shows the present day Berlin Road. There appears to be no sign left of the Walker House. It is interesting to note the neighbouring farm of the Brookman family as Alexander’s daughter Margaret Jane was to marry Charles Brookman.
This passage (from Arthur Latham Perry's Origins in Williamstown: A History, 1894, p. 28) is assumed to refer to Alexander:
“Also the access to Petersburg, whichever road be chosen, is through woods and waste lands and past uncovered cellars and signs of desolation and abandonment; but the Berlin road goes past pretty good farms on either hand, and the last one (the old toll-gate farm) became noted for its productiveness under the ownership of Alexander Walker and the industry of his family, canny Scotch people from Aberdeenshire: the parents married there Aug. 1, 1856. Mr. Walker could handle the fiddle-bow and the surveyor's instruments with about equal facility; but as the lines fell to him in this country in prosy times and non-piping localities, the Scotch reels and strathspeys, of which he was a master and even a successful composer and publisher, slumbered for the most part upon the bridge of his fiddles, of which he invented and perhaps patented a prized improvement.
Nevertheless, his residence at the head of the gorge, where the Fosters had lived for three generations, threw a sort of halo of music and good cheer up and down the valley, and proved to many persons a kind of subtle attraction not only for the Pass, but also for Mount Hopkins beyond it. Even the New York land to the very top of the gap has seen its days of fertility; for Enos Briggs, whose well walled cellar is still conspicuous on the left of the road above the spring, was so successful in the culture of turnips on that side hill during the first two decades of this century, that he long went by the name of "Turnip Briggs " ; and persons were still living in Williamstown in 1885 who remembered clearly seeing this humble vender of vegetables sell his savoury wares along the single village street. It is but fair to add, that the ashes of the heavy hard woods burned on the clearings gave quickness and strength to that soil for a time, of which it was long since deprived. And lastly, no wagon road leads from the Petersburg Pass either north or south, though there is a foot-path running north to the Snow Hole; but from the Berlin Pass a comparatively well-trodden road for common vehicles turns off to the left towards a notable and so frequented objective which will shortly engage our attention for a little.
Two or three other characteristic differences between the Berlin and Petersburg passes will put us into still better possession of the peculiarities of the former. Thus the northern one is exactly in the line of the highest peaks of the Taconics, along its own part of the ridge both north and south; while the southern one is out of range with its nearest summits, being decidedly west and back of these as one approaches from "Williamstown. Moreover, Petersburg is half and half between the two states, the line crossing the very ridge of the Pass; while Berlin is wholly in New York, a full mile west of the line. Then two passable roads converge at the former gap, the one running up Treadwell Hollow, also the usual Petersburg road creeping along the shoulder of the foot-hills ; while there is but one road can take the passenger up to and over the Berlin Pass.”
In Williamstown Alexander settled in his small farm which appears to have been productive. He also continued with his fiddle playing and inventing, as he invented a new bridge for the violin. He also undertook major surveying and produced the map printed below of the town in 1889
He also advertised his services in the local Directory of 1885 and also he was not above a bit of product sponsorship;
Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Mass 1885
WALKER ALEXANDER, r 17, Beechdale farm, landscape gardener, civil engineer, patentee of an improvement on the tone of the violin, composer of music and farmer
The Guilelmensian - 1892 -
June 17, 1890. Gentlemen: The box of Scatter-corns received. It has completely removed two corns ..
Alexander became an established surveyor in Williamstown and surveyed the town and a lot of the countryside around even until after his 80th year.
A more detailed reporting of the surveying is noted below:
“The normal scheme on which these lots were to be laid as a village centre is plain enough both from what was actually done, and from the later testimony of some of the original proprietors ; namely, to lay out on both sides of a main street fifteen rods wide, extending from Green River at the east, one and three-eighths miles to Buxton Brook at the west, sixty-three house lots, each lot thirteen and one- third rods wide on the street, and running back from it 120 rods, thus making each lot contain just ten acres. The odd number of the lots (63) made a strict rectangle of them impossible ; and the actual encroachment of the Green River on the southeast corner of the general plot, as that was then located, threw live lots more on to the north side of the street than on the south side. Sixty-three lots were laid out on the prescribed street, but they are both wider and deeper than the normal plan allowed for. Instead of a uniform depth on both sides of 120 rods, Alexander Walker, a Scotch surveyor of some attainments and reputation, for a long time now (1892) a citizen of Williamstown, after repeated and variously diversified measurements, finds the thirty-four lots on the north side of Main Street each 125 rods deep, and the corresponding twenty-nine lots on the south side, each 129.5 rods deep. The normal plat would have been 255 rods north and south and 420 rods east and west.
The actual plat is irregular for two probable reasons: (1) The Green River cuts off a considerable corner on the south side towards the east, and (2) The surveyors of that time are known to have made large allowances in their measurements for " slag " or slack; that is, the chain could not be carried straight and held taut on account of trees and other impediments in the line being measured, and accordingly the chain was reckoned short, and more land given to the rod.
The actual width of the lots, according to Walker, is very nearly 13.75 rods each, instead of the normal 13.33 rods each; which is an increase very nearly in proportion to the increase in the depth of the lots from 120 rods to 125 on the north side of the street. Nothing known to the present writer accounts for the still greater depth, beyond the normal of the fewer house lots on the south side of the Main Street. In those days lands were abundant, and consequently cheap; and all of the after lots surveyed in West Hoosac now overrun in the same way, and probably for the same reason, their original and prescribed dimensions.
Mr. Walker makes the bearing of the Main Street N. 61° 55' W. In this direction, accordingly, the actual plat was extended, as between the two streams mentioned a moment ago, over four eminences, the summits of each of which are very nearly 100 feet above the Hoosac River, flowing north of the village plat at an average distance of perhaps three-quarters of a mile from its northerly line.
The Main Street bisects the plat the longer way, and is itself bisected the other way by a continuous North and South Street, whose bearing is S. 29° 30' W. or N. 29° 30' E. The broad space at the intersection of these streets was originally called " The Square,'^ and is now called “The Field Park." It constitutes the third of the eminences but just now referred to, and was occupied for a century by two Congregational meeting-houses in succession. The first two “Inns “of the village adjoined upon it, as do also the two present hotels. It was designed to be, it has always been, and is likely per- haps ever to continue, the technical centre of the village; but a strong competitor for this position, certainly in point of business and places of assembly and residence, have latterly become the two more easterly eminences and the shallow valley between them. Into this valley came the new meeting-house in 1809, after its immediate predecessor was burned on the old site in 1866 ; and about the same time was built, in the same valley, the principal school building for the village, accommodating also the High School of the town.”
An Aberdeen newspaper report of 1898 (shown above) gives us an update of Alexander’s situation in the USA sent in by one of his old apprentices. It includes reference to a local US paper the North Adams Transcript
The article above introduced the name of the ‘North Adams Transcript’ which was a newspaper of the Williamstown area in Alexander’s time. A search of the newspapers archives revealed many references to Alexander Walker in a short period of time. Below are shown some of the articles involving Alexander Walker.
It seems that Alexander continued with his habits that were present when he was in Scotland. His name regularly appeared in the local pape,r especially in relation to his surveying activities. He also wrote to the paper in the example below on the Town’s water system. He was involved in many community activities including the local Caledonian Societies Highland Games and was happy to write in about interesting subjects, in this case an antique watch.
Advertisement in the Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Mass 1885
WALKER ALEXANDER, r 17, Beechdale farm, landscape gardener, civil engineer, patentee of an improvement on the tone of the violin, composer of music and farmer
Product endorsement in The Guilelmensian - 1892 -
June 17, 1890. Gentlemen : The box of Scatter-corns received. It has completely removed two corns ..
The North Adams Transcript: August 2, 1897
William Mann and son of New York will be the guests of Alexander Walker a few days about the middle of this month. They will be here to attend the games to be had by the Caledonian club of North Adams August 14. Mr. Mann's son is only 11 years old, but is a very expert dancer of Scottish dances, as will be remembered by those who attended Clan Mclntyre's celebration in North Adams last winter, when the boy was present and astonished all by his wonderful dancing. All who saw him at that time will be glad to know that he is coming again and without doubt his dancing will be n feature of the entertainment August 14.
The North Adams Transcript: April 17, 1897
Williamstown. Grading the Grounds
The grounds about St. Patrick's parsonage and church are to be graded. The work will be done under the supervision of Alexander Walker, who has been busy a day or two taking the levels. The dirt to be placed on the parsonage grounds
The North Adams Transcript: May 15, 1897
George Walker, the well-known strawberry grower, met with a serious misfortune Thursday night. His farm at Hem- look Brook is the one formerly owned and occupied for many years by the late Nathan Worthy. Mr. Walker went upstairs about 9 o'clock with a kerosene lantern to look for some old paint brushes. Over the kitchen there was no floor, and, making a misstep, Mr Walker broke through the ceiling. He caught the joists and did not fall to the floor below, but the lantern was smashed and in an instant the kitchen garret was all ablaze. Mr, Walker hastened down stairs and aroused his mother, who had retired for the night. The fire spread so rapidly it was useless try to save the house and there was time to remove but little of the contents. Besides the house a bam and woodshed were burned, but the stock and hay barn, being some 15 rods distant, escaped. Mr. Walker's father, Alexander Walker, lost a lot of valuable maps and charts and a considerable part of a valuable library. The buildings were insured for $2500. The loss is especially severe on Mr. Walker coming, wit does, so close to the strawberry season, when it is necessary for him to board a large number of pickers.
The North Adams Transcript: September 22, 1897
Alexander Walker has an implement of his own invention which would seem to be worth patenting. It is a common hoe with one side boat around at nearly a right angle, and it is used in trimming the edges of walks. The bent side shaves the turf like a plough cutter and the other part cleans up very neatly the stuff that is cut away. The implement does its work perfectly and Mr. Walker considers it a valuable part of his gardening outfit.
The North Adams Transcript: December 17, 1897
An Old Timepiece.
Alexander Walker has a watch which he has carried for 52 years and it is still doing good service. It is an English chain lever in a small, open-face silver case, and was purchased by Mr, Walker in Scotland in October, 1845. This was 25 years before he came to the United States He has carried the watch continually from the time he bought it and it has always been and is still a reliable timepiece. When the watch was new the case was handsomely engraved, but it is now as smooth as a mirror, every particle of the engraving having long since worn off. There are probably very few watches in the country that have been carried such a length of time.
On the inside of the case Mr. Walker baa posted a paper on which is written: "I have carried this watch since 1845” Mr. Walker himself is as well preserved as the watch. He is in his 80th year, but in looks and actions he would easily pass for a man 15 years younger. There are few men of his age who would be equal to the task of mountain surveying, but Mr. Walker is good for it and his flagman and chairmen will not suffer from the lack of exercise.
The North Adams Transcript 14 Feb 1898
(Follow up of the article above which appeared in the Aberdeen Paper)
The Transcript item found its way across the water and into the columns of the Aberdeen Journal, and in this way it came to the notice of many who knew Mr. Walker in Scotland in the old days before he came to America. The writers were greatly pleased to learn that Mr. Walker is hale and hearty at 80 and expressed for himself and family the highest regards. The letters gave Mr. Walker great pleasure, showing, as they did, that in spite of the lapse of many years, auld acquaintances had not been forgot. Mr. Walker has also received a facsimile of the first number of the Aberdeen Journal, which was published January 5, 1747. It was a four-page, three-column sheet, the columns being a little over a foot long. It was a creditable publication for its day, but the Journal of the present time is an altogether different affair,
North Adams Transcript: Fri. Apr. 29, 1898
(Mr Bullocks property can be seen on the lower right of the map of Williamstown 1896)
Alexander Walker has set a large number of Scotch and Austrian pines for J. W. Bullock on the cobble west of the village and about his cottage on the road. It is understood that Mr. Bullock intends to build a line residence near the cobble in the not distant future.
The North Adams Transcript 6 Aug 1898
The Scottish Games. Champion Dancer, Judges Appointed.
This afternoon a letter was received from William Johnston of Toronto, Can., written from Milwaukee, Wis., where he is contesting today, that he would surely be present at the Barnes at Zylonite. He Is the champion Scottish dance of the world and he comes on the pressing invitation of his old friend and former antagonist, H. Whitlaw of this city. Last year Mr. Johnston made a great record for himself at the games here and his old friends and his new friends that he met here then are waiting to give him a royal welcome. In addition a special Highland reel has been added to the program in which Johnston, the champion, and F. H. Whitlaw, the ex- champion, will be seen together on the boards, making a singular attraction for those who enjoy the spectacular dancing of ancient Scotia. Much interest is manifested over a putting the shot contest between the members of the Caledonian club, for which already three entries have been received, viz., Frank Butchart, James Hirritt, Jr., and F. H. Whitlaw
The committee in charge has appointed as judges of the dancing and piping, Alexander Walker of Williamstoun, the well-known Scottish violinist arid critic, George Kerr, ex-chief of the Renfrew Caledonians and Hugh Gillies, ex-chief of the Scottish clans of this city.
The North Adams Transcript: October 19, 1898
Water Question :The Present and Prospective Supply of Williamstown. Careful Measurements Taken.
Many Springs Available When Needed: Their Location, Outflow and Temperature.
The Supply Can Be Easily Doubled.
Fire and water are said to be good servants, but bad masters. The animal kingdom requires a supply of both these elements less or more but the vegetable kingdom can get along without the fire if it has a reasonable supply of water. By the solemn warnings and citations that the active and energetic superintendent of the Willliamstown Water company Charles G Sanford gives the people every time the springs jet more than ordinarily low, to not waste the water, and sometimes a shut-off to considerable extent at night, we have been made anxious to know the real state of matters regarding the amount of the present supply and that more can be had if wanted at elevations above the present reservoir at the northern base of Greylock mountain. The village of Williamstown is increasing in population very fast and it is well to know how the water supply may be increased at a reasonable expense. October 13 was 'mountain day' with the Williams students. Although we are not attending college we thought it a good thing to have a 'mountain day' too and to earn business in connection with pleasure. We made up our mind to ascertain the amount of the present water supply and also what more might be available when such may be required by an increase of population. We took measurements of the various springs by 3 am, damming them up and making the stream pass through a four inch pipe into a three gallon measure and noting how many seconds it required to fill the vessel. By this process we could ascertain to a fraction how much the spring ran in a minute an hour or a day. We also took the temperatures of the springs which are remarkable, although springs higher up the mountain would be found at a temperature of 40 to 48 degrees. The following figures show the amount of the present supply as measured October 13. Paul’s Brook, temperature, 52 degrees 35,660 gallons per day, this is less in dry time in summer; Sherman spring as appropriated when first reservoir was built temperature 48 degrees 129,600 gallons. Present total daily supply 165,250 gallons. The following below gives the amount of outflow daily of other springs that are located all within one half mile of the reservoir and from 110 to 270 feet above the level of the reservoir. Swamp spring in the Sherman pasture;, temperature 49 degrees, 28,800 gallons, large spring in a ravine in the Sherman pasture; temperature 45 degrees 69,120 gallons, springs on land of Abner Towne; consisting one of four different issues within 100 yards of each other and 270 feet above reservoir, 53 gallons total, 151 657 gallons, average temperature 45 degrees. It will thus be seen that the water supply of Williamstown could easily be increased to nearly double the present amount. It may be some time before an additional supply will be really needed but it is reassuring to know that there is plenty of water to supply double our present population that can be obtained in the immediate neighbourhood of the reservoirs and well above is level
The North Adams Transcript: November 3, 1898
The article by Alexander Walker on the town's present and prospective water supply, which recently appeared in The Transcript, was read with much interest and satisfaction by the people of the village. It showed that there is within easy reach a supply of good water sufficient for a much larger population, which is a good thing- to know, as builders of residences do not like to locate where there is any danger of shortage of water for protection from fire and other purposes. Mr. Walker did the community a valuable service when he made his investigations and report.
13. Death of Alexander Walker
Picture added on 11 July 2016 at 16:00
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