Martinez Historical Society

Cemetery Tour of Martinez


cptwalkerCaptain Joseph Walker

Captain Joseph Walker was a pioneer, trailblazer, explorer, and mountain man. At the age of 21, he helped to build Independence, Missouri, which he named. He was elected that town's first sheriff. He served under Andrew Jackson fighting the Creek Indians, and at various times rode with Kit Carson, Jim Bridger and Sam Houston. In 1833-34 he followed the Humboldt River and crossed the Sierra Nevada into California. He and his crew were the first Europeans to cross the Sierra from east to west, and he was the first white man to see Yosemite Valley. He led the first wagon train of immigrants into California. Walker warned the Donner Party about trying to cross the Sierras so late in the year. He was dismissed by them as an "ignorant Missouri pike." In 1846, he was with Fremont at Hawk's Peak when Fremont stood off the Mexicans and then lost his nerve and retreated. Walker quit Fremont in utter disgust and never had a good word to say about him after that. He exclaimed, "He (Fremont) was the greatest moral and physical coward I ever met". Adding, "I would call him a woman, if it weren't a slur to the sex." At age 65, he led a party of miners into Arizona, capturing the Apache Chief Mangas. U.S Troops took Mangas away from Walker and murdered him. Walker never led any white men anywhere after that. That was Walker's last expedition. He retired to his nephew James’ ranch on Mt. Diablo. He was an honorable, kind and courageous man. Walker River, Walker Pass, and Walker Lake are all named for him.