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Charles Irish Walker
History of the University of Michigan


Charles Irish Walker was born at Butternuts, Otsego County, New York, April 25, 1814, son of Stephen and Lydia (Gardner) Walker. His education was obtained in the district schools, with the exception of one term spent at a select school in Utica, New York.

At sixteen years of age he began teaching in a common school, but soon became interested in mercantile pursuits. In 1836 he removed to Michigan and settled in Grand Rapids. In that year he was a member of the Second Convention of Assent, and in 1840 he was elected a representative in the State Legislature. The following year he went East to complete his law studies, which he had begun several years before.

He did not return to Michigan until 1851, when he entered into partnership with his brother, Edward C. Walker, already a successful attorney in Detroit. This partnership ceased in 1857.

Mr. Walker became very much interested in the early history of Michigan. In 1857 he took a prominent part in the re-organization of the Historical Society of Michigan. In July 1858, on the one hundred and fifty-seventh anniversary of the founding of Detroit, he read an elaborate paper devoted to the Life of Antoine La Motte Cadillac and the First Ten Years of Detroit.

Among his other historical papers are The Early Jesuits in Michigan, Michigan from 1796 to 1805, and The Civil Administration of General Hull. In 1871 he presented a paper before the Historical Society of Wisconsin on The Northwest Territory during the Revolution, which afterward appeared in the collections of that society.

But these studies were merely his avocation; his vocation was his law work, which was very extensive and laborious. He was one of the original Law Faculty of the University of Michigan, and for seventeen years, 1859-1876, he was able to give one day every week to the work of the Department. He again filled this chair for the years 1879-1881, during Professor Wells’s absence, and again in 1886-1887.

On the death of Judge Witherell in 1867, he was appointed Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, but resigned the office after a few months to resume his law practice, which was much more lucrative. He was for many years a member of the Detroit Board of Education and twice president of the Board. When the State Board of Corrections and Charities was first created in 1871 he was made a member and was for some years chairman of the Board.

In 1874 the University of Michigan conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws.

He was twice married: in 1838 to Marry Hinsdale, sister of Judge Mitchell Hinsdale, a pioneer of Kalamazoo County; and in 1865 to Ella Fletcher, daughter of Rev. Dr. Fletcher, of Townshend, Vermont.

He died February 11, 1895.

-- From "History of the University of Michigan" by Burke Aaron Hinsdale. Published by the University of Michigan in 1906.