Oh, happy day! Here's a well-documented (mostly) ancestor that had been under my radar to the extent that I didn't even have a folder started for him. Yet, here he is, with well written articles in both The Great Migration Begins and The American Genealogist, as well as a good web page on the John Walker Family Organization website. The only problem is, his parentage may or may not be correct, and the identification of his wife is not certain. Other than those "minor" issues, we know quite a lot about Robert Walker.
The first question, of course, is when was he born and who were his parents? It's believed that he was born in either 1601 or 1607. If the 1607 date is correct, then his parents were Thomas Walker and Margaret Bardsley. Margaret died when Robert was about two, and Thomas died just two years later, so Robert was likely raised by the husband of his step-mother. Somehow, Robert followed the trade of linen weaver or webster that his father had followed. Perhaps his sort of step-father was also a linen weaver. (Webster" appears to mean someone who also made linen thread from flax, perhaps for separate sale, in addition to weaving the material).
Robert came to Massachusetts Bay Colony (Boston) in about 1631 along with his wife, Sarah probably Leager, whom he had married in England. Their origin was "Manchester, Lancashire, England." The John Walker Family Organization website says he came in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet, along with Sarah and "other Puritans." If they were already married, they were newly-weds. Other sources say they married in Boston.
Robert and Sarah had at least 12 children, some of whom died young. In Boston, Robert joined the First Church in 1632 and Sarah in 1634. Robert was made a freeman in 1634. He later became one of the founders of the Old South (Third) Church in 1669. I may have unknowingly walked, or at least driven, by his homesite when I made a quick trip to Boston (not for genealogy purposes) in 1998, because his home was bounded on the north by Boston Common. I was right there!
Robert didn't hold many offices in Boston. He was appointed a cowherd, and served on two grand juries. Also he was a clerk of the market, and a tithing man at Old South church. He wrote his name on only one deed but signed only initials on other documents. Was his hand sore, or hurt, or was he truly just barely literate, one wonders. Sarah consistently signed her name.
Robert had what appears to be a stroke on May 27, 1687 and died two days later. Samuel Sewall is quoted in his Diary as stating "He was a very good Man and conversant among God's New England People from beginning." That's a pretty good legacy, in my opinion.
It's fun to think about Robert and Sarah in very early Boston (which when they arrived was a very small town indeed). And when I read about "Old South Church" in pre-Revolutionary War days, it's exciting to realize that an ancestor helped found that church, 100 years earlier. Oh, I love it when facts come together!
The line of descent is
Robert Walker-Sarah Leager
Jacob Walker-Elizabeth Wheeler
Elizabeth Walker-Luke Hitchcock
Ruth Hitchcock-Jonathan Church
Ruth Church-Stephen Noble
Ruth Noble-Martin Root
Ruth Root-Samual Falley
Clarissa Falley-John Havens Starr
Harriet Starr-John Wilson Knott
Edith Knott-Edward Allen
Richard Allen-Gladys Holbrook