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Family Facts and Legends


Della Welker

(aka: Mary Delphina Welker?)


            The following sketches of family history are such as I gathered from listening to conversations of my mother, and from a few notes written down by Grandmother near the close of her life.  I think the fragments I recall are fairly accurate, however, if we could talk with those gone on, I might be subject to some corrections.

            A few notes are included parenthetically, that seem unrelated to our present knowledge of family relationships, but maybe at some future time they will help in tracing kinship with other branches of the family.

            Andrew Balfour who was born sometime around 1730, and his brother, whose name I think was James, came to America from Scotland some years before the Revolutionary War.  When the attitude of the colonists became more belligerent toward Britain and war seeme imminent, James (?) went back to Scotland saying he did not feel he could take up arms against his sovereign.  Andrew said he believed the American cause was just, so he cast in his lot with the colonists and later became a colonel in the army.  (Revolutionary)

            This Andrew Balfour married Elizabeth Dayton, daughter of Samuel Dayton, whose father, Ralph Dayton, had come to America in 1649 and settled at Hampton, Long Island, where he remained until his death.  Dayton, Ohio is named for a descendant of this family.  (There was a Charles W. Dayton who was at one time postmaster of New York City.  I do not know when he served or how he was related to the family.)  Soon after the Revolutionary War, some Tories came to Colonel Balfour’s door and asked him to come outside.  When he did so, they shot him fatally.  He died March 10, 1792.  He left a son and daughter whose names, it seems were Andrew and Elizabeth.  Andrew was born in October, 1776.

            Tradition says that following the death of her husband, his widow became a postmistress, the first woman in the United States to occupy that position.

            Among the Quakers was a family named Henley.  One of the Henleys had married a Delaware Indian girl.  A son born of this marriage later became the father of a daughter, Mary.  At that time I think they lived in Randolph County, North Carolina.  It was there that young Andrew Balfour, son of Colonel Balfour, in the employ of her father, met Mary Henley.

            When their interest in each other led to their desire for marriage, her father, the half-breed Indian Quaker, objected strenuously because the young man was not a Quaker.  At that time the discipline of the Friends Church forbade marriage of its members with anyone outside of that denomination.  But Mary was unwilling to change their plans.  An earlier incident may have contributed to her disregard of paternal advice.  Her father had objected to her marriage with a former suitor who was a Quaker and Mary had sacrificed her love for him in obedience to her father.

            So, Mary Henley became the bride of Andrew Balfour in December, 1810.  They lived on a 1400 acre plantation in Randolph County, North Carolina.

            Our Grandmother, who was Keziah, the second child born to this couple, often spoke of the wisdom of some of her father’s ideas concerning his children.  They lived in a period of American history, when formal education for girls was not considered important.  They were thought to be sufficiently prepared for their places in society if they were accomplished in home arts such as spinning, weaving, sewing, care of the sick, beautiful handiwork, cooking, housekeeping, exquisite laundering and such.  But her father desired his daughters to get schooling.

            Our Grandmother and, I think, her sister Eliza taught school before marriage and Sarah, the youngest graduated from college.

            Grandfather Balfour also insisted that his children all learn to work, although he was in a very comfortable condition financially.  This was also at a time when the well-to-do were suppose to be ladies and gentlemen of leisure.  His idea was that if they did not need to work, they would better know how to appreciate the ones who worked for them.  His wife, Grandmother Balfour, implemented his idea by seeing that their children did not seek to lean on the labors of each other or even their negro slaves.  If one needlessly asked another to hand him a drink, she would say, “Get it yourself.”

            This Andrew Balfour bought a family of negro slaves, not because he approved of slavery, but to prevent the members of the negro family being sold at auction to different people and therefore causing the family to be scattered.  His intention was to give them their liberty.  But soon a law was enacted that required the former master to be responsible for the actions of freed slaves.  At that time negroes were not recognized as citizens, hence they could not give legal testimony.  A white man could commit a crime and swear the negro did it and the negro and the former master had no recourse.  So Grandfather could not afford to free them.

            About that time the little nation of Liberia in western Africa was set up as a haven for freed slaves.  Just as he was preparing to send his slave family to Liberia, a sickness overtook him, and he died December 31, 1825.

            So Mary Balfour, at the age of 36, was left a widow with four daughters and five sons and a large family of negro slaves.  (Later she did send the negro family to Liberia.) 

The four daughters were Eliza, Keziah, Margaret and Sarah.  The sons were Andrew, John, Nixon, Dayton and Henley.

            Keziah, second daughter of Andrew and Mary Henley Balfour, married Jabez Walker, March 1834.  Samuel Walker was a native of Ireland who migrated to the United States and settled in North Carolina.  These dates are still obscure, but I do know his will was recorded April 24, 1773, in Randolph County, North Carolina.  They had at least two sons I know of, William and Samuel.  It was Samuel who married Nancy Smith, a very devout Christian and a distant relative of the famous Captain John Smith of colonial fame.  The records show that they were married February 13, 1809.  Jabez, our Grandfather, was a son of this marriage.  There were two other sons, Orlendo and Alexander.  Alexander died in his youth.  There were also several daughters.  I know the name of only one daughter, Nellie, the youngest, who married Absolem Dorsett.  The Dorsetts reared a large family of fine people.  Hugh Walker, an uncle of Jabez Walker’s was the father, by his first wife of Bhatma Walker.

            I regret the meager knowledge of the Walker ancestry, for I think some of our richest heritage came from that source.

            Soon after Keziah Balfour and Jabez Walker married, they moved to Adams County, Illinois, at that time a newly developing frontier.  Later her mother and brothers and sisters settled in Illinois.

            After the birth of four daughters and two sons, the Jabez Walker family moved to Schuyler County, Illinois, where two other daughters were born.

            Their industry and careful management brought satisfying rewards.  The farm became well stocked.  The older children were nearing adulthood and the house held stocks of choice linens, bedding and such other commodities as would be needed for the setting up of their new homes.  But one day while all were away from home, the house was destroyed by fire, a total loss.  With gratitude that there was no loss of life, they set about replacing their losses.  But later, cholera swept them clean of a large bunch of fine hogs, ready for market.

            Farm land in Illinois was, at that time, commanding high prices, so Grandfather Jabez Walker decided to buy land farther west where cheap land was still to be had.  He said he did not want their children to be renters on land belonging to their well-to-do kin folks.  Accordingly he bought farms in Davies County, Missouri, between Gallatin and Kidder, and in Linn County, Kansas Territory.

            By that time Eliza Jane had married William Huff and Mary Elvira had married John Thomas McCrady (McCready).

            In 1858, Jane and William Huff started west by wagon with Kansas Territory as their destination, when Irene (Rena) was only three weeks old.  Many others were going west too, and soon a wagon train was formed.  Common hopes and adventures built up friendships quickly.  Food was borrowed and sometimes drinks were exchanged.

            Kansas Territory then extended to and included Pikes Peak.  Thrilling stories of gold were being brought back from the Pikes Peak country and some of the adventure-loving young men, among them, Bill Huff, thought it would be a grand adventure to go there.  Jane tried to hold him to their original plan to settle in eastern Kansas.  But he did not share her caution as to what would become of her and their baby if misfortune happened to him in the wild frontier.  When she saw her pleadings were ineffective, she took from his pocket one night as he slept, enough money to take her home to Illinois.  Then wrapping her baby for the trip, she started back over the trail alone in the darkness, toward the crossing on the Missouri River and the railroad terminus where Kansas City now is.

            When morning came and Jane and the baby were no where to be found in the camp, Bill surmised what had happened.  He mounted a horse and took the back track.  At length he overtook her trudging along.  After some conference they compromised by her consenting to return with him and by his promise to settle in Eastern Kansas.

            The Jabez Walker family moved to their farm in Linn County, Kansas Territory in 1859.  The country was on the verge of Civil War and soon was an actuality.  The elder son, Samuel, enlisted in the Union Army.

            Those were trying times. 1860 was a year of drought.  Our “recessions” of recent times with insurances and relief agencies are mild compared to the utter self reliance and dogged industry exacted of those pioneers whose difficulties were intensified by the worries of a war.  Under hard work and other stresses Jabez Walker fell victim to malaria fever, and died in August of 1862.

            Facing the burdens of widowhood, war, crop failures and national recession, Keziah Balfour remained on the farm and carried on with her characteristic courage and industry with the help of the younger children while they were growing up.  When Samuel returned from military service, he married Louisa Day, and settled on the 80 acre farm which his father bought and designed for him.

            When all were grown and all on their own, except the younger son, Andrew Nixon and the youngest daughter, Margaret Amanda, Grandmother Keziah yielded to the persuasion of some of her married children to rent the farm and spend some time with them.  This she did, not knowing she would never be in her own home again.

            Since Grandma Keziah Balfour Walker is our earliest common ancestor known and remembered by those still living, it seems fitting to give space here to a well deserved tribute to her.

            Because of family conditions and the customs of that era, it seemed necessary for her to live among her children, but that arrangement was not of her choosing.  Although an independent thinker, and of a self-confident nature, she adjusted to the self-effacement of being homeless in the homes of others.  Ours were pioneer homes with noisy children and many problems.  Without complaint, she contributed physically, financially and spiritually to the full extent of her ability, and kept remarkably free from fault-finding, gossip or self-pity.

            It is to our grandmother we owe much of our early teaching about God.  His all-seeing eye, His presence everywhere, His all-powerfulness, His understanding all about us.  She admonished mindful of Him when we awakened in the morning, and to think over our doings when evening came and if we had done wrong to ask God to forgive us.

            She lived a humble, unglamorous Christian life often speaking of God’s faithfulness to her, and in her very late years, heeding the counsel from a dream, which she took as a warning as she said “To look well to her wedding garment, to see that it was spotless, and not to depend on past experiences.”

            She followed our fortunes into the newly settled Cherokee Strip of Oklahoma Territory.  After ninety years of much living, she went out of this life, July 14, 1904, in the same calm faith in which she had lived.

            The early 1900s found the Huffs mostly settled in Eastern Kansas, as were the Samuel Walkers;  the Cutlers were in and near Des Moines, Iowa and the McCradys, the Andrew Walkers, Luzena Walker and the Welkers in Northern Oklahoma.

            In the years that have followed, many dear to us have finished their courses.  We cherish and revere the memories of them.  Others have come to enter life’s activities.  We welcome them and hold high hopes of their contributions to our family.  There have been new adventures and new problems, new loves and losses, high endeavors with their triumphs and disappointments.  “Blest be the tie that binds.”  May it be a binding in Christian Love!

            With deep affection for all, I lay down my pen for others to take up theirs and add succeeding chapters. 

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