walk through Kentucky
to portray Thomas Walker
for Locust Grove lecture series
Helen E. McKinney
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (February 2006) Due to the
written records of their epic 1803-1806 expedition, historians have
labeled Lewis & Clark the writingest explorers. But
had it not been for Dr. Thomas Walker and his journaling efforts detailing
his 1750 trip into Kentucky, what was once the West would
have been as unknown as Lewis & Clarks west without this account.
Dr. Thomas Walker;
physician, explorer, surveyer and legal guardian
of Thomas Jefferson.
Dr. Walker was a man of many talents and had numerous
accomplishments in many fields, said Danny Hinton. Hinton is on
the current roster of the Kentucky Humanities Councils Chautauqua
performers as Walker.
Hinton, 58, portrays a slightly older Walker at age 65, during Walkers
survey of what is now the Kentucky-Tennessee state line. He has been
re-enacting since the 1970s, but not until the last 10 years or so did
he take his interest more seriously.
Hinton will portray his persona for the Afternoon Lecture Series at
1 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Locust Grove, the historic home of the Clark and
Croghan families, in Louisville. Light refreshments will be served and
an admission price of $5 is charged, or $3 for Friends of Historic Locust
This is an educational opportunity for the volunteer staff of Locust
Grove and for people in the community, said Program Director Aileen
Novick. Through August 2006, the focus of this years series is
on the early settlement of land in Kentucky, said Novick.
Beginning in September, the focus will shift to Lewis & Clark in
anticipated celebration of the 200-year anniversary date of their 1806
return journey from exploring the Louisiana Purchase territory and their
effort to find an inland water route to the Pacific Ocean.
Having Hinton give a presentation of such an interesting character was
a great way to start the year off, said Novick. Speakers
for the Afternoon Lecture Series usually consist of Chautauqua performers,
authors and researchers of early Kentucky history.
Aware of Walkers journey, Boone and others would later trek into
Kentucky following his route. But Walker considered himself a failure,
said Novick. Walker was not the first man in Kentucky, but the
first one to keep a record of it, said Hinton.
Walker was born on Jan. 25, 1715, in King and Queen County, Va. He attended
the College of William and Mary and studied medicine under Dr. George
Gilmer. At the time of his death on Nov. 9, 1794, he was the fourth
wealthiest citizen of Albemarle County, Va.
The Loyal Land Co. was founded on July 12, 1749, with Walker as a leading
member. The company received a grant of 800,000 acres in what is now
southeastern Kentucky and appointed Walker to lead an expedition to
explore and survey the region in 1750. Two years later, Walker became
head of the Loyal Land Co.
Walker was physician to Thomas Jeffersons father, Peter. Peter
Jefferson had spent much of his life exploring and surveying, and this
fact may have influenced and deepened Walkers love for exploration.
So great was their bond that Jefferson appointed Walker as executor
of his estate before he died and as legal guardian of his son, Thomas,
until age 21.
Personally, I think his greatest contribution was his influence
on Thomas Jefferson, said Hinton.
Walker became Jeffersons guardian when Jefferson was 14 years
old. In his lifetime, Jefferson would become a great supporter of exploration
efforts in an attempt to broaden knowledge of the borders of the United
Walker went on to plan a trip into Kentucky, to what was then the
West, in 1753. His goal was to find an overland passage to the
Pacific Ocean, but he was not able to do so because of the ongoing French
and Indian War of 1754-1763.
Jefferson tried to carry out the same exploration three times
while governor of Virginia but was not successful until the fourth attempt,
in 1803, when he sent Lewis and Clark west, said Hinton. Walker
left behind a detailed account of his trip.
In February 2001, Hinton gave his first performance of Walker at Madison
County, Kentuckys Fort Boonesborough State Park. He will give
another performance at the fort at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 as part of their
Fireside Chats program.
A year before that performance, Hinton had received a call from Bill
Farmer, Living History Coordinator of Fort Boonesborough. Farmer had
wanted someone to travel down to Bell County, Ky., to represent Walkers
party for the 250-year celebration of Walkers trek through the
Cumberland Gap. Hinton was given the honor of portraying Walker.
To prepare, Hinton researched his character thoroughly. Finding himself
drawn to Walker, Hinton decide to do further research.
Since then, his primary sources for information have been Walkers
journal, Daniel Smiths journal of a 1780 surveying trip, numerous
articles from the Filson Club and the Kentucky Historical Society Quarterly.
He also traveled to Charlottesville, Va., and Colonial Williamsburg,
I have always loved American History, said Hinton. I
have found reenacting to be a quality activity that my whole family
For more information, contact Locust Grove
at (502) 897-9845 or visit: www.locustgrove.org.
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