By Marty Curtin LaBenne, Sallie Cotter Andrews and Marcella Monroe
Mary Williams is recorded in Wyandot history as being “one of the most handsome and accomplished ladies of the Wyandot nation.” She was born on April 1, 1830, in Canada, along the Detroit River near old Fort Malden. She was of the Big Turtle Clan and her Wyandot name was Mianza.
According to the Aubrey Buser files, Mary and was educated in Cincinnati by the Nicholas Longworth of Cincinnati, an attorney, banker, philanthropist, and the “Father of the American Wine Industry.” Exactly how Mary became associated with Mr. Longworth is not known. However, in a Harper’s Weekly article published March 7, 1863, following his death, the association of Mr. Longworth with Joel Williams is given. In the early 1800s, Mr. Longworth received two copper stills in lieu of a legal payment. The stills were in the safekeeping of Joel Williams, a tavern owner in Cincinnati, who did not want to give them up. Instead, Mr. Williams traded some land to Mr. Longworth and kept the stills himself. The land proved to be very valuable and became the basis of Mr. Longworth’s great fortune. Mary’s father was Nicholas Williams, “a Dutchman from York State,” according to B. N. O. Walker. Perhaps Joel Williams and Mary’s father, Nicholas Williams, were related.
In 1813, Mr. Longworth planted his vineyard along the banks of the Ohio. By 1820, he was serious about producing sparking Catawba wine. In the 1830s he distributed his wine throughout the United States and Europe. His product was so noteworthy that the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem dedicated to Nicholas Longworth entitled “Ode to Catawba Wine.” In 1850, Mr. Longworth’s taxes were rated higher than any other man in the United States except William B. Astor. Mr. Longworth became a generous philanthropist giving only to causes that helped the utterly destitute and those from whom everyone else would turn away. Mr. Longworth died in 1863 at the age of 80, twenty years after Mary had left Ohio for Kansas.
Isaiah Walker, who would become Mary Williams’ husband, was born on July 29, 1826. His Wyandot name was Tow-hosh-rah. He lived in the Moravian Mission house built for the Stockbridge Indians in Muncie Town, Ohio. Isaiah was the son of Isaac Walker, the brother of Gov. William Walker. Isaiah had a notable family history. His grandfather, William Walker, was born in 1770 and was captured by a war party of the Delaware in 1781. William was forced to run the gauntlet and was then adopted into a good Delaware family and treated well. A few years later, in about 1785, William was adopted into the Wyandot tribe by Adam Brown, himself also a Wyandot adoptee. William married a Wyandot woman, Catherine, who had French ancestry and had been educated in Pittsburg at a Catholic convent. She spoke English, French, Wyandot, Shawnee, Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomie with ease and fluency. Catherine and her mother had moved to Brownstown before 1803, and that is where Catherine met William Walker, Isaiah’s grandfather.
In 1843, Mary and her parents removed west to Kansas with the Ohio Wyandots. Nicholas Williams is listed on the “Muster Roll of the Wyandott Indians Who Departed Upper Sandusky, Ohio,” as being from Canada with two adults being over 25 years of age, and one child. On October 19, 1852, Mary Williams is listed as receiving her annuity payment of $32 as an individual woman (age 22). Isaiah Walker is also listed on the same report as receiving his annuity payment of $32 as a single man (age 26). Isaiah and Mary were married on Feb. 13, 1853, at 4 p.m. at the house of Silas Armstrong.
In the winter of 1856 and 1857 in Kansas, Isaiah was one of the men who “laid off the town” which was heavily wooded; he was one of the organizers of the Wyandot Town Company. In 1858, Isaiah Walker erected a fine brick residence there which he later sold to Gen. D. E. Cornell when he and his family moved from Kansas to Indian Territory. Their new home was near Seneca, Missouri.
One day in 1886, Isaiah was drawing some water from a well in his stable yard when the board across the mouth of the well on which he was standing broke, letting him fall into the well. The injuries he sustained in the fall caused his death. He died on June 9, 1886. Mary died on April 23, 1915. Both are buried in the Walker Cemetery on Highway 60 near Wyandotte, OK.
Mary and Isaiah Walker had eight children. Their daughter, Alice Rebecca, married William Joseph Boone of Virginia. He was the great-great grandson of Samuel Boone who was the younger brother of the famous Daniel Boone. Alice and William’s daughter, Cecile Boone Wallace, lived in Wyandotte, OK, with Artie and Harold Nesvold. Mary and Isaiah Walker’s youngest child was Bertrand N. Oliver (B.N.O.) Walker (born Sept. 4, 1870 and died on June 29, 1927, at the age of 56 years). He was a leader among the Wyandots and other tribes in the area. His Wyandotte name was Hen-toh. B.N.O. was a teacher and worked in Indian Government Service. He was also a poet, writer, “benefactor and friend to the Indians and was their trusted adviser and confidant.” Mary’s basket is a treasure, today holding many stories of the Wyandotte people and American history.