Monterey County California Genealogy and History

Monterey County: Biographies


The death of a man of fine character, marked business ability and pronounced public spirit always causes a distinct loss to his community. Such a man was Thomas Walker, who wrought himself firmly into the texture of the financial, social and civic life of Watsonville, to which he came in pioneer times, and in the upbuilding and improvement of this district he bore an important part, leaving behind him not only the memory of a well spent life but also an untarnished name.

Mr. Walker was a native of Greenbush, New York, where he was born June 3, 1818, and in the eastern metropolis he learned the carpenter's trade. Early in the '50s he responded to the call of the west and made the long and arduous journey to California. He located in Watsonville, casting in his lot with its early setlers, and was first employed at his trade. He wisely invested his savings in real estate, becoming the owner of much valuable property in the city, and also purchased a seventy-five acre ranch in the valley. About 1865 he built a substantial house on Main street and in this home his widow resided for many years, recently selling the property. In later life Mr. Walker turned his attention to financial affairs and in 1874 aided in organizing the Bank of Watsonville, serving on the board of directors and also as a member of the finance committee. He was connected with the bank until his death, October 23, 1886. His associates had the utmost confidence in his judgment and integrity and his constructive labors were essential to the upbuilding and success of that institution. He was a member of the first board of trustees of Watsonville and in all of his activities the welfare and advancement of his city and the increase of its prestige was his motive and inspiration. He possessed that high sense of honor which is the vital essence of the gentleman and long acquaintance with him meant stronger friendship, for his life in its various phases stood the test of intimate knowledge and close association.

Mr. Walker's twin brother, James Walker, came to California in later years. He was a talented artist and became widely known as a painter of landscapes, receiving large prices for his work. During the Civil war he made a visit to Washington, D. C, and from personal observation painted a picture of one of the memorable battles of that conflict.

On December 12, 1860, Thomas Walker was united in marriage to Miss Maria Jane Cronk who was born in Ohio. Her parents were Joseph and Mary (Shields) Cronk, the latter a native of Ohio. The former was born in Pennsylvania and came of German stock. Early in the '50s Mr. and Mrs. Cronk started across the plains with their family of three small children, making the long and arduous journey in a wagon drawn by oxen, and two months after their arrival in California both parents passed away. Mrs. Walker was eleven years old when the family came to the Pacific coast and many incidents of the trip are vividly impressed upon her mind. She aided in driving the team of oxen and the Indians whom they met along the route were all of a friendly nature. After the death of her parents she was cared for by a Mr. and Mrs. Sanborn, who had emigrated from Maine to California, and remained in their home until the time of her marriage. She was a pupil in the first school established at Watsonville and has long been a faithful adherent of the Methodist church of this city, which she still attends twice each Sunday. In her younger days she was the possessor of a sweet voice and was the leader of the church choir, in which she sang for many years. She has a deeply religious nature and her life has been filled with good deeds. Mrs. Walker has a keen sense of humor, a retentive memory and her conversation spans the past in interesting reminiscences. She retains the spirit of youth and her physical and mental powers are well preserved. She is the only surviving member of the Cronk family. There were two sons born to Mr. and Mrs. Walker: James F. and Thomas, both deceased.

Source: History of Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, California : cradle of California's history and romance : dating from the planting of the cross of Christendom upon the shores of Monterey Bay by Fr. Junipero Serra, and those intrepid adventurers who accompanied him, down to the present day. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1925, 890 pgs.