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John Brisben Walker

Charleston Daily Mail
July 8, 1931


Active Career of J.B. Walker Ends

Man Who Backed Development of City’s West Side Dies at the Age of 84

John Brisben Walker, 84 year old, original backer of the West Side expansion in Charleston, one-time soldier in China, manufacturer, journalist, and pioneer of the West, died Tuesday at his Brooklyn home in New York, according to Associated Press dispatches. His widow, who had been his third wife, Mrs. Iris Calderhead Walker, and nine children survive.

Mr. Walker was born on the Monongahela river, in Pennsylvania, in 1847, a grandson of General S. G. Krepps and Major John Walker, the first commissioners appointed for the improvement of the western rivers.

Following a schooling at Georgetown collect he entered West Point in 1865, and in 1868 resigned to go to China under appointment from Anson Burlingame, ambassador extraordinary, to the court of Pekin. Mr. Walker accompanied J. Ross Browne, United States minister plentipotentiary, to the East and returned several years later to Charleston, in the Valley which he later termed “The Great Kanawha.”

Promoted West Side

Mr. Walker became interested in various enterprises in the city, including the ownership of about 2,000 acres of land embracing nearly all o f that portion west of the Elk river, where West Charleston now stands. There he named streets and promoted the subdivision. In that section also he built a large mill for woodworking and engaged in several other manufacturing enterprises.

In 1872, while he was a resident of Charleston, he received the unanimous nomination of the Republican party for congress in the third West Virginia district, but was defeated. In the panic of 1873 he lost his property.

A position of preparing articles on mineral and manufacturing industries of the West was offered to him by Murat Halstead, and he wrote a series of articles for the Cincinnati Commercial. Soon afterward he was offered the managing editorship of the Washington Daily Chronicle, then the leading daily of the national capitol. For three years he remained in the journalistic field.

Mr. Walker then was appointed a commissioner of the United States agriculture department and was commissioned to visit Colorado in examining the country in regard to irrigation. This examination resulted according to Atkinson and Gibbens’ “Prominent Men of West Virginia,”. In an appropriation by congress for artesian wells and other improvements, “the good results from which are no showing in the general development of the arid regions of the West.”

Mr. Walker remained 10 years in Colorado, building up the Berkley farm which eventually became the largest alfalfa farm in that state. It harvested nearly 3,000 tons annually and contained nearly 200 miles of main and lateral ditches.

In 1888 Mr. Walker returned East and became the editor of the Cosmopolitan magazine, which he later sold to William Randolph Hearst. His first marriage was in 1870 to Miss Emily Strother, the daughter of General David Hunt Strother. They had six sons and one daughter.

Received Degree

In November 1870, Governor Stevenson appointed Mr. Walker a commissioner to the convention at Indianapolis which was held in the interest of Immigration to the states represented. He was chairman of the committee on resolution at the first Ohio River Improvement convention. At the centennial year of the University of Georgetown, D.C., In 1888, the degree of doctor of philosophy was conferred upon him.

According to the Associated Press while Mr. Walker was out West he devised a system of reclaiming the Platte river valley, and railroads paid him a reputed profit of $900,000 on a $100,000 investment. He also was the first president of the Automobile Manufactures association.

Mr. Walker’s old home in Charleston was near Virginia and Ohio Avenue.


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