The precise origin of the name of “Walker,” and even the earliest days of its first foundations are somewhat obscured by history. Apparently there was a Walker Station, located along Walker Creek on the old Smoky Hill Trail, for some years before anything resembling a town was begun. Perhaps the name was adopted in honor of Robert J. Walker, a Territorial Governor of Kansas in l857-8, or for one of the many explorers or military officers who also bore the name.
A military post, Fort Fletcher, was established on October 11, 1865, at a location about five miles south of the present site of Walker. It had been named in honor of Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, of Missouri. In May, 1867, because of difficulty with floods, as well as the distance from the railroad, Fort Fletcher was abandoned and a new post was established 15 miles to the northwest, Fort Hays. Traces of the foundations of a hotel, hospital, baking ovens, and markers still remain, in addition to the remains of a tree in which the wife of General Custer is said to have sought refuge from a flood. The site of Fort Fletcher is now owned by the great-grandson of one of the early settlers and serves as Fort Fletcher Camp Grounds.
With the completion of the railroad in 1867, the Kansas Pacific Railway began to run a train, mixed passenger and freight, each direction daily, with an occasional extra, as far as the end of the track at Sheridan, near the Colorado state line. The trains were protected from Indian attacks by armed railroad workers. This fast, convenient, and relatively safe means of transportation helped to increase the rate of growth of the area.
During the early 1870’s many English settlers located in the Walker-Victoria vicinity. In 1872, a small group of colonists from Ohio settled south of the present town of Walker; being unfamiliar with land that had never been tilled, and in an area where it never seemed to rain at the right time, they were not interested in agriculture and devoted their efforts to establishing a town. In May, 1873, a group from Pennsylvania settled along Big Creek, and later in the same year some New Yorkers settled farther west along the same creek.
Parallel to the history of the Volga-Germans of Ellis County, is the story of other German families, mostly from the former Kingdom of Hanover, Germany, which had been annexed to Prussia by the iron policy of the Mighty Bismark. These families, not finding their status as “Muss-Preussen” to their liking, came to the United States, settling temporarily, principally in Ohio and Kentucky.
In the fall of 1876, Herman Robben, one of their number, then a young man, came to Kansas, and having heard of a German Catholic settlement in Ellis County, made his way there. He rode from Junction City, Kansas, to Victoria, Kansas on horseback. He was the first man married in the new settlement. He was soon followed by his brothers, William and family, and George, a single man, Herman Schippers and Henry Tholen, whose home had been in Lancaster, Ohio.
In March, 1878, two brothers, Herman and Ulrich Berens, came from Junction City, Ohio.
The families of John Baumrucker and Adam Wagner had already been established on Big Creek, in the southeastern portion of Ellis County, when the Volga-German settlements were formed; they joined the congregation at Victoria, as did all the Germans who settled in the eastern part of the country.
Clemens Griese, an Oldenburger, found his way from Covington, Kentucky, to Victoria, in 1878. A further arrival in that year was Herman Schulte and family, who came from McCunesville, Ohio.
Later arrivals at various dates were William Funke, Gerard Wellbrock, Herman Tholen, all of Covington, Ky., Theodore Munk of Lima, Ohio, and William Schrant of Decatur, Illinois.
Matthew Robben, brother of Herman Robben, came in 1880, the Huser family from Covington, Ky., and the family of Henry VonLintel from Ohio. William Heyl, a Pennsylvanian, came from Herman, Pa., in 1882.
These families settled on land lying mostly between Walker and Victoria. They became affiliated with St. Fidelis Parish, Herzog.
Their language was the “Plattdeutsch,” which was not easily understood by the rest of the Germans. In manners, habits and customs, they differed greatly from the Volga-Germans, hence, although associated together in the same church, there was very little social mingling. Inter-marriages for many years were prevented.