Harwich Port, Massachusetts - Home of the Walkers

In this 1858 map, the Walker homestead is shown as "M. Walker" at the right.


Salt Water Pond, now Wychmere Harbor, from about 1900. The home of the Walkers is at top left.


Harwich Port, about 1891

This is from the period when a group of investors bought up the property around Salt Water Pond and began developing the area for wealthy summer visitors.


The Walker House, Harwich Port, Present Day


This chart shows some of the Harwich Burgesses who were lost at sea.  In addition to those shown here, the youngest son of Henry M. Walker, Henry M. Walker, Jr., was lost at sea in September, 1891, when the fishing schooner he was on went down in a gale somewhere off Newfoundland.   Henry M. Walker and Frederick B. Walker were not lost at sea. 


Some of the Walkers of Harwich

Walker's Key was inspired mostly by the lives of Henry M. Walker and his son, Frederick B. Walker, who relocated with their families to Tampa Bay in the 1890s and got into some serious trouble.  But some of the events in the novel were inspired by the activities of some close relatives.   Henry's father's cousin, Jonathan Walker, really was known as "the man with the branded hand" after he was caught trying to rescue slaves from a Pensacola plantation in the 1830s.  Henry's own cousin, Alonzo Tripp, really did get into some trouble for fabricating a part of a letter to prove that a schooner owned by their grandfather, Jeremiah Walker, was captured and destroyed by a French privateer in 1798.  As far as I know, such a thing never happened.  Their grandfather, Jeremiah, was seriously chastised by a judge for his reprehensible behavior when the case of the recapture of the Dove, an American ship captured by the British in 1814, went to  trial.  Later, around 1829, he and some other property owners really did get together to try to convert Salt Water Pond into a harbor.  That venture fell apart in 1832, when Theophilus Burgess, a cousin of Henry's mother, harpooned a small whale on a trip to Russia and was pulled overboard to his death.  You see, truth really is stranger than fiction, or at least equally strange.

More info about Pilgrim Congregational Church and Jonathan Walker