Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reverend Newton Pinckney Walker, Esq. - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 7, "Love"

Week 7's theme in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, hosted by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small, is "Love."  I have selected the Reverend Newton Pinckney Walker, Esq. - my paternal 4th great-grandfather - as the subject of this week's post.  Rev. Walker came to mind when contemplating this week's "Love" theme, because he consistently showed a strong love of humankind, especially for some of those people often shunned by mainstream society, as well as a lifelong love of education.  In the research I have done on him, I learned that his peers used words and phrases such as "compassionate," "beloved," "dear friend," and "true philanthropist" to describe him.  He certainly expressed love in many facets of his life.

Portrait from page 89 of History of Spartanburg County by John B. O. Oldham
(Google Books)
My relationship to Newton Pinckney Walker.  My father (living) and I
would be listed below Elizabeth Lee Henderson.

Newton Pinckney Walker was born in November 1816 in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, to Absalom Abraham Walker and Susan (Susannah) Jackson.  On 20 April 1837, he married fellow South Carolina native, Martha Louise Hughston, daughter of Elisha Hughston and Margaret Norman.  They had seven children - four daughters and three sons - between the years 1838 and 1859.

Martha, Rev. Walker's wife, had three siblings who were deaf and who did not have the opportunity to pursue education in South Carolina.  Connecticut housed the closest school for deaf education, and many families were hesitant to send their children so far from home to be educated.  Knowing this, Rev. Walker developed an interest in learning the best methods to instruct and educate the Deaf in hopes of bringing such educational opportunities to South Carolina.

In 1848, he traveled to the Cave Spring, Georgia, where a school for the Deaf had opened on 15 May 1846.  (Reference historical marker photo below.)  At that time, a small log cabin, four pupils, and one teacher made up the school that has grown into today's Georgia School for the Deaf.  He observed O. P. Fannin, teacher at the Cave Spring school, and learned successful techniques for teaching deaf students.

Georgia School for the Deaf Historical Marker
(Photo courtesy of GeorigaInfo, an online Georgia almanac.)

Rev. Walker returned home with the knowledge he gained at the Cave Spring school.  He purchased a hotel by the Cedar Springs, renovated it, and - on 22 January 1849 - opened his private school for the Deaf and Dumb in Cedar Spring, four miles south of Spartanburg, South Carolina, which is the town where I went to college.  (Reference article below.)  The first class had five deaf students, three of which were his wife's relatives, along with a small group of speaking and hearing students.

31 January 1849 Edgefield Advertiser article about N. P. Walker
opening a school for Mutes
(Article from
Word of the new school quickly spread throughout the State, and articles such as those shown below began to appear in newspapers all over South Carolina.  In the first article below, Governor Whitemarsh B. Seabrook and Commissioner T. N. (incorrectly shown below as "P. N.") Dawkins wrote this about Rev. Walker's school:  "We recently visited the school and were much gratified at the progress made by the pupils, and have no hesitation in saying, that their proficiency would compare most favorably with the pupils in any of the common schools of the country; and so far as we are competent to judge, we regard the principal as fully competent to instruct Mutes in the primary branches of their education."  By mid-summer of 1851, South Carolina Governor John Hugh Means had visited the school, and his positive thoughts about it were relayed in his Governor's Message, the transcription of which is shown in the 04 December 1851 Edgefield Advertiser article included here.

20 August 1849 Charleston Courier article about
the opening of the Cedar Springs school.

(Article from
05 December 1849 Sumter Banner article about N. P. Walker's
School for the Deaf an Dumb at Cedar Spring
(Article from
04 December 1851 Edgefield Advertiser's printing of the
"Governor's Message" with the above passage about the
School for the Deaf and Dumb
(Article from

Starting in 1854, Rev. Walker pursued legislation to have his school become state-sponsored and, thus, state-funded.  In April 1855, Rev. Walker opened a department for education of the Blind, and my 3rd great-grandfather and the Reverend's son-in-law, James Simmons Henderson, was appointed Principal of the new department.  On 28 November 1855, then Governor James Hopkins Adams was quoted in the Charleston Courier as recommending "the propriety of authorizing the commissioners of the deaf, dumb, and blind, to purchase the establishment, and to place upon it such additional conveniences and buildings as will make it efficient for the number of inmates who are likely to occupy the same."  Though it is hard to imagine that the school's students were viewed by the Governor and others as "inmates," I have learned during my research that - in the mid-1800s - the Deaf, Mute, and Blind were often lumped in with those who were then referred to as "lunatics."  The term "asylum" was typically used for the separate facilities in which these groups of people resided.  Regardless, this recommendation by Governor Adams put the school on the path to surviving financially and then flourishing into the specialized education powerhouse it is today.

Part of the Governor Adams' First Annual Message
as printed in the 28 Nov 1855 edition of the Charleston Courier.

In 1856, the State purchased Cedar Springs Asylum, along with 157 acres of land, and renamed it the South Carolina Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind.  The State also allocated money to build Walker Hall, which remains the school's showcase building, as well as to supplement the per-pupil costs of educating students.
An 1886 engraving of Walker Hall, part of the South Carolina Institution for the
Education of the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind.
Building designed by architect Edward C. Jones and built in 1859.

(Photo courtesy of the Museum of the American Printing
House for the Blind.)
The school thrived and continued to grow after being acquired by the State.  Less than one month before his death, Rev. Walker asked the Charleston Courier to publish the following unusual note about corn brooms made by blind students at the Institution:

Letter from N. P. Walker published in the
12 Oct 1861 edition of the Charleston Courier.
( From

From that note, it seems he tired new ways to challenge and educate his students right up until the time of his death.

On 13 November 1861, the Rev. Newton Pinckney Walker, Esq. passed away suddenly from the measles.  He was laid to rest in Cedar Springs Baptist Cemetery, behind the School for the Deaf and Blind, in Spartanburg County, South Carolina.

Photo of the upper part of Rev. N. Pinckney Walker's tombstone
added to memorial #43720834 by FindAGrave member David ~ Effie.
(Note the sign language across the top of his tombstone says, "Heaven."  Thank you to my 

Aunt Anna for translating!)
Photo of the lower part of Rev. N. Pinckney Walker's tombstone.

Of course, Rev. Walker's legacy has lived on long after his death and inspired continued growth of deaf and blind education in South Carolina.  The South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind (SCSDB), celebrating its 166th anniversary this year, is still the "...state’s only specialized school for students who are deaf or blind...[and] serves students throughout the state through its campus and outreach programs."  Since the mid-1900s, new programs have been incorporated into the institution, such as the aphasiac program developed in 1961 to serve students with multiple handicaps or brain injuries.  In 1978, the United States federal government began to require public schools to “assume responsibility of educating all handicapped students,” and many SCSDB students moved to their home school districts for schooling.  That legislation marked a significant advancement in educational opportunities for deaf and blind students.  A year later, in 1979, The Walker Foundation – which “strives to support SCSDB in every way possible to ensure that its students achieve maximum success through high-quality educational programs, outreach services and partnerships” – was established as a private, non-profit fundraising arm for The South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind.  And, in the late 1980s, SCSDB established a Postsecondary Program, as well as its first permanent Outreach Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

I imagine that Rev. Walker and his family members that helped start the school would be immensely overjoyed to know the far-reaching benefits their early efforts produced on behalf of a population that an 1846 Westminster Review article referred to being " an 'animal state' and...not even possess[ing] 'the dignity of man'."  Surely, the Victorians would be shocked by the many, many highly successful deaf and blind people that have excelled in all walks of life since the mid-1800s.  (I would enjoy being the one to tell them about it.)

©Amy Wood Kelly, 2015 - I am happy to share my genealogical research and writing with others, as well as to help others with their research efforts.  However, please do not reprint this post in full or in part or use excerpts from this post without giving full credit to me, Amy Wood Kelly, as the researcher and author as well as providing the permalink to this post.  Thank you, in advance, for showing respect for my request and the work I put into creating this post.