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Walker diary gives insight into Westfield brick, stone construction

BeeLines

November 28, 2012
By MARYBELLE BEIGH - WESTFIELD HISTORIAN (westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net) , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

As is often the case, while researching a totally unrelated topic, an item is found that leads to more exciting discoveries about the history of Westfield.

In the photos and files about Barcelona history that were donated to the Westfield Historian a few years ago by Hayden Hanks, photos of two men were found. Turning over the first one of a handsome bearded, well-dressed gentleman, the name "Thomas Walker" was noted, and thoughts of the Barcelona Inn, formerly called the Walker Inn and Groat's Inn, came to mind. The second photo was of a younger, also well-dressed man sporting a mustache and was labeled "Edward William Walker, Sr." with the following additional information, "Learned the brick & stone laying masonry trade from his Father Tomas [sic] Walker. He worked with his father on many of the buildings in Wfld. He also continued this trade after his fathers [sic] death."

Several other documents relating to the Walker family were also in the files from Hanks, some of which made more references to their masonry activities. Recalling Hanks had also provided access to a photocopy of an 1867 diary of Thomas Walker, this document was located. With the copied book was a handwritten list made by Hanks of some of the people Thomas Walker worked for as noted in his "Daily Book" 1867. Many of the entries in the document are highlighted in yellow, and it turns out these are the entries that make reference to the people and buildings for whom and on which Walker worked, or in which bricks or brick yards are mentioned.

Article Photos

Submitted photos
Thomas Walker, pictured at left, and his son Edward William Walker, Sr., pictured at right, were involved in the brick and stone laying masonry trade in Westfield in the 1800’s.

After leafing through about half of the Walker diary, several highlighted entries caught attention as they referred to the P Church and EP Church in Westfield. These would be the Presbyterian and Episcopal churches, and the entries described brickwork done on these two buildings. These are of particular interest at this time, since St. Peter's Episcopal Church is on the Holly Tour this year, and a brief history mentions the various additions to the still extant church building that first started as a "box" structure in 1831. Walker's contribution was the addition of the bell tower and extending the building to include the current front entrance and vestibule.

The entire 1867 Walker Daily Activities Book is being transcribed. Following are several interesting highlights from the diary. The months of January and February, being quite cold and stormy - snow, winds, sub-freezing temps - an oft-recurring word is "idle" at the beginning of most days' entries. Also, Thomas Walker having some recurring health problems, he often mentions being "indisposed" or sick. There are a number of well-known names from the areas of Westfield, Barcelona and nearby communities including Monroe, Rockwell, Prendergast, Breads, Covey, Beadle, Kelly and Hungerford to name a few. In February, Walker and his helpers are working for S. Johnson and Huddleson, setting copper in Brewery.

Near the end of February, on Wednesday the 27th, is the first mention of a church job, "Gave Sunderlin order on church folk for his bill of Lime 40$ Rock." In early March, on Wednesday the 6th, an entry notes, "George got wood from B. Yard." This would be the brickyard property in Barcelona shown on the 1867 Map in a recent BeeLines about Bricks and Brick-making in Westfield. On March 8 was an entry, "Went to Fredonia - Bid on job at N. School." Fredonia Normal School became SUNY Fredonia.

Fact Box

The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union Street, in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., or by appointment. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457, and the email mail address is westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net.

Starting on Monday, March 11, Walker started working on a project at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield, but does not mention further work there until March 27 and 28. The next day, Saturday, March 30, Walker attends the funeral of E.S. Barger, another historic Westfield person.

Friday, April 5, Walker exclaims, "the R.R. Bridge across Cattaraugus Creek went off last night," a concern because the following day Walker had to take the train to his farm which was on the other side of the creek, so had to get off and walk from the bridge.

By Saturday, April 13, Walker began work on the E.P. Church - St. Peter's Episcopal Church - in Westfield, and continued on the following Monday, April 15, Tuesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 17. He then returned to a major project working on the L Prendergast Barn for the remainder of April, apparently completing that project on May 2. That same day, Barden - one of Walker's assistants - drew a load of lath, lime and brick to the job at the Episcopal Church, and on Saturday, April 4, Walker worked at plastering the bell tower at the church.

On Sunday, May 19, 1867, Walker writes he, "went to the Harbour - Sextus Hungerford's funeral." At the end of May, Walker is planting grape vines on his farm and then assisting a neighbor planting grape roots. Starting in June, Walker works at the brickyard almost every day, except for two final days of work at the Episcopal Church, June 3 and 4.

In July, Thomas Walker began work on the Fredonia Normal School building project, and the second half of his 1867 diary is mostly dedicated to describing that job. Thomas Walker's son, Edward, also joins him on that project. Edward Walker has a biographical sketch in the "History of Chautauqua County and Its People," Volume III, page 631, published in 1921.

 
 

 

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