Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Walker, Jonathan

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WALKER, Jonathan, reformer, b. on Cape Cod, Mass., in 1799; d. near Muskegon, Mich., 1 May, 1878. He was captain of a fishing vessel, in his youth, but about 1840 he went to Florida, where he became a railroad-contractor. He was interested in the condition of the slaves, and in 1844 aided several of them in an attempt to make their escape in an open boat from the coast of Florida to the British West Indies. After doubling the capes, he was prostrated by illness, and the crew being ignorant of navigation, they would all have been drowned had they not been rescued by a wrecking-sloop that took Walker to Key West, whence he was sent in irons to Pensacola. On his arrival there he was put in prison, chained to the floor, and deprived of light and proper food. Upon his trial in a U. S. court, he was convicted, sentenced to be heavily fined, put on the pillory, and branded on his right hand with a hot iron with the letters “S. S.,” for “slave-stealer,” a U. S. marshal executing the sentence. He was then remanded to jail, where he was confined eleven months, and released only after the payment of his fine by northern Abolitionists. For the subsequent five years he lectured on slavery in the northern and western states. He removed to Michigan about 1850, where he resided near Muskegon until his death. A monument was erected to his memory on 1 Aug., 1878. He was the subject of John G. Whittier's poem “The Man with the Branded Hand.” See “Rise and Fall of the Slave Power in America,” by Henry Wilson (Boston, 1874).