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Branded Wisconsin abolitionist to be honored in NY

September 19, 2013
Associated Press

PLYMOUTH, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin abolitionist who was arrested and branded in the 1840s for trying to free slaves will be inducted into a New York-based abolitionist Hall of Fame next month — an honor that his descendants say is long overdue.

Capt. Jonathan Walker lived just south of Plymouth during the Civil War. He was arrested in 1844 while trying to sail seven slaves from Florida to the Bahamas, the Sheboygan Press Media reported ( ).

He was sent to prison for about a year, but the punishment for which he's best remembered was having "SS," for "slave stealer," branded on his right hand.

He'll be inducted into the National Abolitionist Hall of Fame, a museum in Peterboro, N.Y. that honors people who worked to end slavery.

Walker's great-great-granddaughter, Bonnie Wightman Inskeep of Bennett, Colo., said her family was very proud that Walker was part of the abolition movement.

According to a story published in the Sheboygan Daily Press in 1931, Walker was a prominent man who "became known as a great anti-slavery leader."

He was born in 1799 and spent his younger days as the captain of fishing boats. Eventually he became a railroad contractor in Florida, where he was arrested in 1844. He was released about a year later and he moved to Wisconsin.

One of Walker's descendants, along with an author who wrote the definitive biography on Walker, nominated him for consideration into the museum's hall of fame.

"I think it's overdue," John Hoh, Walker's great-great-great-nephew, said of the induction. "Hopefully he gets the recognition he deserves."

The other nominator was Alvin Oickel, the author of "The Man With the Branded Hand."

Gary Wightman, Walker's great-great-grandson, will attend the Oct. 19 induction ceremony with his wife. He said it was a privilege to know that his ancestor would receive such a worthy honor.

"I'm kind of excited about it. I think that's really special," he said.



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