Mary Walker

Mary Walker was the first American-born woman to enter the Sacramento Valley. She was forty years old when she, her husband Joel P. Walker, her unmarried sister Martha Young, and the couple’s four surviving children ranging in age from two to fourteen years old, migrated to Oregon in 1840 from Osage County, Missouri. Traveling west with a party of fur trappers and missionaries, they were the first non-missionary family to make this overland journey, although they were unable to bring their wagons beyond Fort Hall in modern Idaho.  After many hardships they arrived in Oregon in the late summer of 1840, and on January 14, 1841, their daughter Louisa—Mary’s seventh child—was born near present-day Salem.  A few months later the Walker family joined a company led by Lieutenant George Foster of Commodore Charles Wilkes’s expedition, to travel overland from Fort Vancouver into California. They arrived at Sutter’s Fort October 22, 1841, when Sutter’s trading post as yet had no walls. The family returned to Oregon the following spring but, lured by the Gold Rush, came back to California in 1848. Mary Walker died in 1856 and is buried in Oak Mound Cemetery in Healdsburg, Sonoma County. March is National Women’s History Month.

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