Robert Walker Linen Weaver and Sarah

My 10x Great Grandparents, Robert Walker and Sarah were the immigrants for this line of the family. Not much is known pre-America but Robert is thought to be born around 1606 and Sarah around 1610 and they were married before they came over.
They were part of the Winthrop fleet in 1630 and their names can be found on the passenger list as Robert Walker from Manchester and his wife Sarah. They then settled in Boston. Robert was a linen weaver and they had a home across from the Boston Common. Robert joined the First Church in 1632 and was made a freeman in 1634. In a map from 1648, the Walker’s had property next to the Common in Boston. This property is near the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets in Boston.

Sarah is thought to be a daughter of Jacob Leager whose son Jacob, is also a linen weaver and living near the Walker’s in Boston as can be seen in the map above. Perhaps Robert was an apprentice of Jabob’s father and then married his daughter. Another curious thing is that Jacob Leager in Boston, died in 1652 and his will named Elishua, Jacob, and Joseph Walker(3 of the 12 children of Robert and Sarah) to receive money if his daughter’s died before they were eligible to get their inheritance. Jacob and Joseph were also linen weavers but I don’t understand why only those three were named in the will. The third reason Sarah may be a Leager is that Robert and Sarah named a son Jacob.

They had 12 children all born in Boston, MA: Elishua 1635/36, Zechariah 1637, John 1639, Sarah 1641, Jacob 1643/44, Joseph 1646, Thomas 1649 (twin), Mary 1649 (twin), Timothy 1650, Eliakim 1652, Mary 1654, and John Walker 1656.

In 1669, Robert and Sarah broke away from the church and joined the Third Church in Boston which is known as the Old South Church. They were one of 28 founders of this historic church. Rebuilt in 1729, this is the church where many pre revolution meeting occurred and where Samuel Adams signaled to the Sons of Liberty to dump the tea into the harbor. Some of the notable members of the church include Phyllis Wheatley, Samuel Sewall, and Benjamin Franklin. There are several mentions of Robert and Sarah Walker in a book about the church. The women would write letters to the elders and there is one with signatures. One letter requesting admittance to the church on October 13, 1674 reveals Sarah Walker’s signature.

Sarah Walker signature 1674

Other activities Robert was involved in include: Official cow keeper 1639, Clerk of the market 1663, and Tithingman 1676. I had never heard of a tithingman before so looked it up. It seems that this man would carry a stick with a rabbit foot on one end and a fox tail on the other. He would walk around the church waking people up during the service or keeping the kids in order by using the stick. He would also turn the hour glass and when 3 hours were up, the reverend would end the service.


Sarah ran a dame school which was set up to teach young children to read. She taught 3 of the children of Judge Samuel Sewall. He is known for being a judge for the Salem Witch Trials. Sarah is mentioned in Judge Sewall’s diary as Dame Walker. He wanted his daughters to be proficient readers. Also, there was a Massachusetts School Law of 1642 that required children were educated in reading and religion.

From Wikipedia New England Dame School in Colonial Times

Robert Walker died 29 May 1687. In the diary of Judge Samuel Sewall, there is an entry regarding Robert’s death dated 27 May between 5 and 6: “Father Walker is taken with a Lethargy as was shutting up his shop to goe to their private Meeting. His left side was chiefly struck with a kind of Palsy. His speech came to him something between 6. and 7. He told me there was plenty of Lavander in the Town where he was Prentice. He overheard some discourse about the May-Pole, and told what the manner was in England to dance about it with Music, and that ’twas to be feared such practices would be here. Told me he had been liable to be overtaken with Sleep for three-score years, and that ’twas his Burden which he something insisted on. Had a blistering plaster to his neck, Drops of Lavander in ‘s mouth and his neck chaf’d with Oly of Amber.” Two days later his diary reveals: “Sabbath. Dame Walker desires me to pray with her husband, which I do and write two notes, one for our House and one for the Old. Sam. Carries the first. Between 12. and one Robert Walker dies, about a quarter after Twelve. He was a very good Man, and conversant among God’s New England People from the beginning. About one, several great guns were fired.” Based on the description, it appears Robert had a stroke and died 2 days later. Finally, another entry from the diary dated Tuesday 31 May 1687: Goodmn Walker is buried, Capt Eliot, Frary, Hill, Deacon Allen, Mr Blake, Pain, Bearers; Mr Saunderson, Goodmn Serch lead the Widow, Gov Bradstreet, Mr Cook, Mr Addington with the chief guest were our house. Burial over about at 4 aclock.” I have been unable to find his place of burial.

Robert died intestate but there is an inventory of his estate date 16 August 1687. There are a lot of lines dedicated to his weaving business, some books, and the usual household items.

Sarah died 21 December 1695 in Boston, MA. There was an even longer account of her death in Judge Swell’s diary. A few excerpts include: “Dec 20 Dame Walker very restless; said she was past all food now, had quite lost her appetite.: Later in the text: “Afternoon Dec 20: Mehetibel said she heard her grandmother say How long Lord, how long? Come Lord Jesus!” Then, “Seventh day Dec 21 between 8 and 9 I went to see Dame Walker and found her very weak and much alter’d.” He went on describing that he prayed for her and shortly after he left was summoned back and Sarah was dead by about 10. Below is the description of the funeral from his diary:

She was buried just about sunset. Judge Sewell wrote to her son, Rev Zechariah Walker, who lived in Stratford, CT, to inform him of Sarah’s passing. He wrote that “some recompense should be given Mehitabel and Mary for their faithful and laborious attendance to their grandmother.” There is no followup on this letter and I haven’t been able to find any probate for Sarah to know if her granddaughters received anything.

I haven’t found where either Robert or Sarah Walker are buried.

My ancestral line:

Robert Walker and Sarah their son,

Joseph Walker and Abigail Prudden their daughter.

Abigail Walker married John Bostwick their son,

Joseph Bostwick married Rebekah Wheeler their son,

Joseph Bostwick married Bette Hurd their son,

David Bostwick married Currence Hard their son,

Jabez Bostwick married Freelove Frisbee their son,

Jabez Bostwick married Sarah Jane Chase their son,

John Day Bostwick married Ida Shelby their son,

Charles Bostwick married Alpha Wilkins their daughter,

Florence Bostwick -my grandmother


Pierce, Robert, The Records of the First Church in Boston 1630-1686 Volume 1 published 1961.

Andrews, H. Franklin List of freemen, Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1630 to 1691 : with freeman’s oath, the first paper printed in New England 1906.

Map of the Town of Boston 1648. Drawn by Samuel Clough 10 April 1919, Massachusetts historical Society. Robert Walker New England, The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1635

Hill, Hamilton Andrews History of the Old South Church (Third Church) Boston, 1669-1884 Publish 1890.

Geraldine J. Clifford Those Good Gertrudes: A Social History of Women Teachers in America

Wikipedia Image Dame School page. Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991

Sewall, Samuel Diary of Samuel Sewall. 1674-1729. v. 1 [-3] Publish Data 1878-82


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