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George Leon Walker and Williston Walker Papers

Call Number: RG 51

Scope and Contents

The diaries and records of Series I and II were received and processed in 1978; the remaining material was added in 1982. The correspondence, diaries, notes and writings of George Leon and Williston Walker form the core of this collection, but significant documentation is also provided by letters of others, papers, and clippings which the Walkers' interest in history led them to collect. Correspondence of William Jennings Bryan and sermons of early New England clergymen Payson Williston and Elisha Williams are among the documents included in the collection. As a member of the Board of Visitors of Andover Theological Seminary and a member of the Prudential Committee of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, George Leon Walker had a personal interest in the controversies which embroiled those bodies in the late 1800's and collected relevant documentation.

The diaries of George Leon Walker in Series I include sixteen volumes of daily entries dating from 1861 to 1896. Also included in this Series are a small notebook describing Walker's trip to England in 1880 and a fragmentary diary of Walker's second wife, Amelia, written in 1898. Walker's diaries provide a detailed and complete account of the daily activities of a New England clergyman during the second half of the nineteenth century and supply extensive biographical information. Walker was interested in national news and politics and reported important events in his diary entries. His comments regarding the Civil War and the slavery issue during the 1860's are of interest, although Walker's location in northern New England precluded personal interaction with the events reported. During the 1890's Walker was particularly interested in national financial news regarding currency and taxes. Newspaper clippings pasted into the diaries deal primarily with unusual local weather conditions or national news events. Local details such as ice-skating conditions and the spring arrival of the Baltimore orioles are also documented. Daily weather conditions are consistently reported in Walker's personal entries.

The diaries of George Leon Walker also provide biographical information about his son, Williston. Williston Walker wrote the entries in his father's diary from August to October, 1896, following his father's debilitating stroke.

The miscellaneous records of Series II primarily relate to George Leon Walker, supplementing the biographical overview provided by his diaries. They include:

  1. - Records of sermons preached: Two volumes record the sermons preached by Walker from 1857 to 1896, indicating the date, location and text preached on.
  2. - Pastoral records: One record book documents the marriages (1858-1882), funerals (1857-1884) and baptisms (1858-1879) performed by Walker. The date of the ceremony and names of individuals involved are provided, as well as the age of the deceased in the case of funerals and an indication of adult or infant baptism. Another small volume includes a marriage service written out by Walker followed by a record of marriages performed from 1858 to 1896 (which in part duplicates the records noted above).
  3. - In May of 1886 Walker entered into a notebook a list of all books and pictures which he owned.
  4. - Another small notebook contains "a record of the account of the N. B. Williston and Co. Carriage Shop with the First National Bank," (1870-1878). This copy of the original was made by young Williston Walker and its "accuracy attested to" by his father.
  5. - A day book for a store in Amherst, Massachusetts records business transacted in January of 1883.
  6. - A collection of early accounts of benefactions, sermons, and other material relating to or by Rev. Joseph Fish, Pastor of the Second Congregational Church of Stonington completes the Series.

Prominent correspondents of the Walkers in Series III include Lyman Abbott, Leonard Bacon, Henry Ward Beecher, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, Timothy Dwight, George Park Fisher, Washington Gladden, Mark Hopkins, Dwight L. Moody, Theodore Thornton Munger, Noah Porter, Julius Seelye, and Newman Smyth. A number of letters in the Series relate to the controversy surrounding the applications for missionary service under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.M.) of A. J. Covell and Charles Harbutt in 1887. These letters are an excellent source of documentation regarding the questions of doctrinal orthodoxy that concerned the Board during this era.

The writings, addresses and sermons of Series IV are primarily those of Williston Walker and their contents reflect his interests. Also included in the Series are fifty-three manuscript sermons of Payson Williston, Pastor of the church in Easthampton, Massachusetts from 1789 to 1833, and a 1722 manuscript sermon of Rev. Elisha Williams who was Rector of Yale College from 1726 to 1739.

The notes of Series V are primarily those of Williston Walker. They include narrative notes for lectures Walker delivered as Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale.

The final Series represents a collection of manuscript and printed documents collected by George Leon and Williston Walker on subjects of interest to them.


  • 1722-1979


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. Diaries of George Leon Walker
  2. II. Miscellaneous Records
  3. III. Correspondence
  4. IV. Writings, Addresses, Sermons
  5. V. Notes
  6. VI. Personal Items and Memorabilia


4 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Correspondence, diaries, notes and writings of George Leon and Williston Walker form the core of the collection and provide extensive biographical information. They detail the activities of a typical New England clergyman during the second half of the 19th century and provide information on national news, political events, the Civil War, slavery, financial news on currency and taxes, and daily weather conditions. Also included are records of sermons preached and pastoral records. George Leon Walker (1830-1900) was a Congregational clergyman in Portland, Maine (1858-1867), New Haven, Connecticut (1868-1873), and Hartford, Connecticut (1879-1892). He was a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and served on the commission to prepare the Congregational creed. His son, Williston Walker (1860-1922) was professor of history/church history at Bryn Mawr College (1888-1889), Hartford Theological Seminary (1889-1901) and Yale University (1901-1922). He also served as a trustee of Amherst College (1896-1922), acting dean of Yale Graduate School (1916-1917) and provost of Yale University (1919-1922).

Biographical / Historical

Chronology of George Leon Walker

1830 April 30
Born in Rutland, VT. Walker studied law in Boston before studying theology with his father, Charles Walker.
Post-graduate student at Andover Theological Seminary.
Honorary M.A., Middlebury College.
1858 September
Married Maria Williston who became the mother of his two sons, Williston and Charles.
Pastor at State St. Church, Portland, Maine
Maria Williston Walker died.
Forced to resign his pastorate due to illness, but continued to preach occasionally throughout New England.
Pastor of the First Church in New Haven, CT
1869 July
Son Charles died.
D.D., Yale University.
1870 September
Married Amelia R. Lamed.
Forced to resign his pastorate due to illness, Walker traveled to Europe and preached fairly regularly at various places throughout New York and New England, often at Brattleboro, VT.
Acting Pastor of the Centre Church, Brattleboro, VT
Appointed a corporate member of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
Pastor of the First Church in Hartford, CT. Illness caused his resignation in 1892 but he continued to preach occasionally through 1896.
Trip to England.
On the commission to prepare the Congregational creed.
Appointed fellow of Yale University.
Member, Board of Visitors, Andover Theological Seminary.
Trip to England.
1896 August
Suffered a paralytic stroke.
1900 March 14
  1. History of the First Church in Hartford (1884)
  2. Thomas Hooker, Preacher, Founder, Democrat (1891)
  3. Some Aspects of the Religious Life of New England (1897)

Biographical information taken from: Who Was Who in America (Vol. 1, 1897-1942); Andover Theological Seminary, General Catalogue, 1808-1909; Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.

Chronology of Williston Walker

1860 Jul 1
Born in Portland, Maine, son of George Leon and Maria Williston Walker
B.A., Amherst College
B.D., Hartford Theological Seminary
Married Alice Mather
D.Phil., University of Leipzig
Associate professor of history, Bryn Mawr College
Associate professor of church history, Hartford Theological Seminary
Professor of Germanic and Western Church history, Hartford Theological Seminary
Trustee of Amherst College; secretary of corporation from 1901
Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History, Yale University
Acting dean of Yale Graduate School
Provost of Yale University
1922 March 9

Walker served as president of the American Society of Church History and of the New Haven Colony Historical Society. He was a member of several other organizations concerned with the history of the colonial period. Walker published several books relating to Congregational Church history in New England and broader topics.

Biographical information taken from: Dictionary of American Biography, XIX, pp. 366-367.

Guide to the George Leon Walker and Williston Walker Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
1978, 1982, 1990, 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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