Walker Guess: Violence, War, and Tragedy

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Tragedy.  (To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Participating in this year-long challenge has resulted in reconnecting with several members of my extended family. Sometimes these family members request I write about certain ancestors, and this week’s post was such a request. My grandfather’s half-niece Wanda Davis Collins thought Walker Guess would be an interesting tale. Walker is my 3x-great-grandfather and Wanda’s great-grandfather. He definitely fits with the “tragedy” theme, as he saw — and was a victim of — much violence during his life.

Walker Guess was born July 27, 1809, to parents Morgan Guess and Mary Jane Walker,¹ likely in Tennessee or Georgia.² Walker seems to be named for his mother’s surname, perhaps honoring family still living in her homeland of Ireland.

Walker married Nancy Cook Lovin about 1833 in Mississippi.³ They had nine known children together.⁴ My Smith family descends from their sixth child, daughter Jemima Carry Guess. My family did not pass down any stories about Walker, so everything I know about him has been learned through records and research.

Walker first appears on the tax rolls of Carroll County, Mississippi, for the years 1836, 1838, and 1839.⁵ He paid one poll tax each of these years.⁶ This Walker Guess is most certainly my family member, as his brother Moses is also listed in these tax rolls.

A land deed from Lawrence County, Mississippi, also identifies Walker as being a resident of Carroll County at this time. Walker was part of a group that sold 155 acres of land near Fair River in Lawrence County to Isaac Smith in April 1838.⁷ The members of the group were mostly familiar to me — all were related to Bailey Loving, who is twice my 4x-great-grandfather. A transcription of the deed identifies these persons, which I’ve clarified below:⁸

  • “Nancy Loven of Lawrence County” = Nancy Loving, wife of Bailey Loving
  • “Z. B. Guess of Attala County” = Zebediah Ball Guess, husband of Bailey Loving’s daughter Annis; he was also Walker’s brother.
  • “Collen Wooten of Carroll County” = Cullen Wooten, husband of Bailey Loving’s daugther Eleanor
  • “William C Loven of Carroll County” = Bailey Loving’s son
  • “Bailey C Loven of Carroll County” = Bailey Loving’s son
  • “Walker Guess of Carroll County”
  • “Spencer Ball of Yazoo County” = husband of Bailey Loving’s daughter Matilda. (Bailey also had a son named Spencer Ball Loving, but would have only been 11 years old at the time of this deed — too young to be the Spencer named in this document.)
  • “Lot Smith of Lawrence County” = husband of Bailey Loving’s daughter Elizabeth
  • “John Pierce of Lawrence County” = husband of Bailey Loving’s daughter Malinda
  • “Robert Loven of Lawrence County” – Bailey Loving’s son

Bailey Loving died sometime after 1830;⁹ therefore, this deed executed by his wife, sons, and sons-in-law seems to be settling affairs from his estate. The Isaac Smith who purchased the land could have been Elizabeth Loving’s father-in-law Isaac, Sr. or her brother-in-law Isaac, Jr. Either way, these names are familiar, as — spoiler alert — Walker’s yet-to-be-born daughter Jemima will marry Isaac Smith, Sr.’s grandson Leonard.

By 1840, Walker moved his family to Attala County. Walker paid poll taxes in this county each year between 1840 and 1844.¹⁰ The family also appears in the 1840 U.S. census with the following structure:¹¹

  • 1 male, age 30-39 = Walker
  • 1 female, age 20-29 = Nancy
  • 1 female, age 5-9 = Mary Jane
  • 3 females, age under 5 = Nancy, Elizabeth, Cerena

This census also reports one person employed in agriculture, indicating Walker was probably a farmer.¹²

I’d like to pause here and also comment about these daughters’ names. Walker and Nancy sure liked to honor family members when naming their children. Oldest daughter Mary Jane was probably named for Walker’s mother. Second daughter Nancy shared a name with her mother and maternal grandmother Nancy Cook, making her a third-generation Nancy. Elizabeth could have been named for Nancy’s sister, or her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Emory. Poor Cerena is probably the result of her parents getting creative since they had four (eventually six) girls in a row!

Mississippi state censuses also provide glimpses of the family during these years. The 1841 state census shows the Walker Guess family in Attala County¹³ and even gives ages for each family member before totaling the number of males and females in the household. What a great resource for identifying birth years! The state census contains the following data for the Walker Guess household:¹⁴

  • Males:
    First column = 32 (appears to be the age of Walker)
    Second column = 1 (total number of males in household)
  • Females:
    First column = 1, 3, 5, 7, 24 (appears to be the ages of Nancy and daughters, which match answers on 1840 U.S. census)
    Second column = 5 (total number of females in household)

Walker Guess and family also appear in the 1845 Mississippi state census for Attala County.¹⁵

I learned more details about Walker’s life in 1845 from the Mississippi Democrat, a newspaper published in Carroll County. Unfortunately, it’s a tragic, violent event — possibly the first of several in Walker’s life. In April 1845, Walker’s brother Moses attempted to kill him, and Walker killed Moses in self-defense.¹⁶

“Another!” The (Carrollton) Mississippi Democrat, 30 Apr 1845, p. 3,
col. 4; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://newscomwc.newspapers.com/clip/35046658 : accessed 28 Aug 2019).

Walker managed to survive his brother’s assault with both hatchet and gun. Either Walker was really great at fighting back, or his brother was really impaired when trying to kill him! Unfortunately, the article gives no reason for their disagreement. I have been unable to find court records about this incident, as Attala County experienced courthouse record losses in 1858, 1860, and 1896.

Despite not knowing the cause of the assault, the result seems to be Walker moving his family to neighboring Leake County after the incident. The family appears in the 1850 U.S. census within Beat 3, having added two more daughters: Matilda and Jemima.¹⁷ The family is also found on the Mississippi state census for Leake County in 1853.¹⁸ The entry shows two males and six females in the household, indicating the addition of son John Morgan and marriage and departure of two older daughters.

But Walker may have moved into Leake County even earlier than these censuses suggest. Military records show he enlisted as a private in Company B, Anderson’s Battalion of Mississippi Rifles on January 5, 1848, in Carthage, the seat of Leake County.¹⁹ Walker responded to the federal call for more volunteers in the late stages of the Mexican-American War. He was also following a rich family tradition of military service. His father Morgan Guess served with the 36th Regiment, Tennessee Militia, during the War of 1812,²⁰ and his grandfather Capt. Moses Guest served with the North Carolina Militia in the American Revolution.²¹ Walker mustered in with more than 400 other men at Vicksburg on January 8, 1848, and he served during the war’s final days until June 28, 1848.²² This group spent most of its time in garrison at Tampico and saw no battle deaths.²³ However, I doubt Walker was immune to the tragedy of war. He experienced the discomforts of long marches and rough camp living, worried about his family, and witnessed his fellow soldiers succumb to illness and death.

Walker returned to Leake County after the war and seems to have remained there at least through 1859, when he is recorded paying poll tax.²⁴ I haven’t found him or his family on the 1860 census. Walker may have moved south into Copiah County, as he answered the call of the Confederacy on March 9, 1861, by enrolling as a private in Capt. M. B. Harris’s Company, Mississippi Volunteers, in Hazelhurst.²⁵ He was 52 years old.

What motivates such an aged man to join another war? Walker was well past the ideal age of a soldier. Did he sympathize greatly with the Confederate cause? Was he nostalgic of his past war experiences? Was he intensely loyal to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the colonel he served under in the Mexican-American War? Or could he have just needed the money? I don’t think we can know the answer with absolute certainty. Several of these factors may have influenced Walker to join the fight.

Walker’s unit became known as Company D, 12th Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers and mustered at Corinth, Mississippi, on May 12, 1861.²⁶ Although Walker enlisted for a one-year term, records show he was honorably discharged on June 25 at Union City, Tennessee.²⁷ The muster card also says the unit had traveled 450 miles from home.²⁸ Was Walker dismissed because he couldn’t keep up?

Well, Walker didn’t take the hint.

Walker enlisted again — this time with Company G, 3rd Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers — at Hazelhurst on August 15, 1861.²⁹ He was 53 years old. His time with the 3rd Regiment lasted longer than his first attempt at service. Walker’s unit was sent to Camp Clark in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, for coast guard duty.³⁰ He seems to have remained there until discharged on August 7, 1862 in Jackson, Mississippi, when the following certificate was issued:³¹

Certificate of Disability for Discharge – Walker Guess
“Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. K, 3rd Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/68957692  : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 132. 

This document is quite faded and difficult to read, so I’ve transcribed it below:

Certificate of Disability for Discharge

Walker Guess of Captain O. H. Johnston’s Company, 3d Regiment, Mississippi Volunteers, was enlisted by W. M. Estelle of the C. S. A. at Hazelhurst on the 15th day of August 1861 to serve one year. He was born in the State of Georgia, is Fifty-three years of age, five feet eight inches high, Light complexion, Gray hair, Blue eyes, and by the occupation when enlisted a Mechanic. During the last two months the said soldier has been unfit for duty Sixty days.

On consequence of advanced age & together with Injuries received to his right arm by fracturing & dislocation of the Elbow joint – also dislocation of the Tarsal bones of same arm – said injuries were received three years ago.

O.H. Johnston
Commanding Company (K)

I certify that I have carefully examined the said Walker Guess of Captain O. H. Johnston’s Company, and find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of advanced age together with injuries received on his right arm causing fracture & dislocation of the Elbow joint also dislocation of the Tarsal bones of same arm, said injuries were received three years ago. I further declare my belief that he will not be able for military service at any future time.

J.M. Pogle, Surgeon
3d Regt. Miss. Vol. C.S.A.
Approved by T. A. Mellin, Commanding Regiment

Certificate of Disability for Discharge for Walker Guess
“Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. K, 3rd Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/68957692  : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 132. 

Walker must have been injured before his first enlistment. He decided to serve even with a dislocated elbow and other broken bones in his arm. And the found himself another unit that would take him despite his age and injuries. Tough guy!

The wording at the end of the certificate also makes me chuckle — “I further declare my belief that he will not be able for military service at any future time.” Did the surgeon write this because he knew Walker would just return home and re-enlist again? Maybe this statement gives us a glimpse of Walker’s personality — stubborn and hard-headed! But I admire someone so dedicated to a cause he serves while injured and despite the tragedy he probably saw during war.

I have no further information about Walker Guess except his grave marker. Walker died February 7, 1870.³² He is buried in Lot Smith Cemetery in New Sight, Lincoln County, Mississippi³³ — the cemetery on his brother-in-law’s land where many Guess relatives are interred. According to Walker’s Find-A-Grave memorial, this resting place was not his first. Supposedly, he was buried in Monticello initially, but his sons moved his body to the family cemetery at a later time.³⁴

Find-A-Grave also gives another un-cited nugget: Walker was supposedly stabbed to death by a carpetbagger named Mr. Linear.³⁵ After a life of tragic violence by his brother and three tours of duty in war, Walker may have met his end in one final act of violence. I have found no records to support this statement, but I’m still looking. Walker’s wife Nancy received a widow’s pension for his Mexican-American War service.³⁶ I need to order her pension application; maybe these records contain details about Walker’s manner of death.


¹Bill W. Guest, Compendium of Guest-Guess Descendants of William Guest, Sr. (Spring, Texas: self-published, 1990-1993), 16.

²Walker’s birthplace is listed as Tennessee in the 1850 census:
1850 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 3, p. 43 (stamped), p. 85 (penned), dwelling 556, family 619, Walker Guess; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4200047_00089/3459655 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 376.

Walker’s birthplace is listed as Georgia in his military discharge certificate:
“Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. K, 3rd Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/68957692  : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 132. 

³Marriage date estimated one year before birth of first child, Mary Jane:
Guest, Compendium of Guest-Guess Descendants, 16.

⁴Guest, Compendium of Guest-Guess Descendants, 16.

⁵Mississippi, Carroll County, Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi; digital image, (http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/Carroll/ : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing microfilm series 1202.

⁶John Paul Smith, compiler, Records of Lawrence County, Mississippi, 5 vols., (Jackson, Mississippi: self-published, 1989), 3:111.

Ibid.

Ibid.

⁹The last record on which Bailey Loving appeared as the 1830 census:
1830 U.S. census, Lawrence County, MS, population schedule, p. 58 (stamped), line 3, Lovin Bailey; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8058/4410666_00107 : accessed 20 Mar 2019); citing NARA publication M19; roll 71.

¹⁰Mississippi, Carroll County, Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi; digital image, (http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/Attala/ : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing microfilm series 1202.

¹¹1840 U.S. census, Attala County, Mississippi, no township, p. 15 (stamped), line 9, Walker Guess household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4409452_00033/1445834 : accessed 28 Aug 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M704.

¹²Ibid.

¹³1841 Mississippi state census, “List of the Census of Attala County for the year A.D. 1841,” Mississippi, State and Territorial Census Collection, 1792-1866,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1125/v229_1-0224/8761 : accessed 29 Aug 2019), citing Mississippi State and Territorial Censuses, 1792-1866, microfilm V229, 3 rolls, Heritage Quest.

¹⁴Ibid.

¹⁵1845 Mississippi state census, “Mississippi, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1805-1890,” Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3556&h=15484558&ssrc=pt&tid=53112007&pid=13913762297&usePUB=true : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing Mississippi Census, 1805-1890, Jackson, Ron V., Accelerated Indexing Systems, compiler.

¹⁶”Another!” The (Carrollton) Mississippi Democrat, 30 Apr 1845, p. 3, col. 4; image copy, Newspapers.com (https://newscomwc.newspapers.com/clip/35046658 : accessed 28 Aug 2019).

¹⁷1850 U.S. census, Leake Co., Mississippi, pop. sch., p. 43 (stamped), p. 85 (penned), dwell. 556, fam. 619, Walker Guess.

¹⁸1853 Mississippi state census, “List of the Census of Leake County for the year A.D. 1853,” Mississippi, State and Territorial Census Collection, 1792-1866,” Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1125/v229_2-0409/48637 : accessed 29 Aug 2019), citing Mississippi State and Territorial Censuses, 1792-1866, microfilm V229, 3 rolls, Heritage Quest.

¹⁹”Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Mississippi,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. E, Battalion Mississippi Rifles (Anderson’s); digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/272441513 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M863, roll 8.
 
²⁰”Index to Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the War of 1812,” entry for Morgan Guess, Pvt., 36th Regiment Tennessee Militia; digital image, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/310551821 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M602, roll 87.

²¹”Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files,” entry for Moses Guest (Ensign and Captain, North Carolina Militia) and widow Eleanor; digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/21855214 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M804, roll 1144.

²²”Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Mississippi,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. E, Battalion Mississippi Rifles (Anderson’s); digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/272441513 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M863, roll 8.

²³Gregory S. Hospodor, University of Mississippi, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Mississippi Encyclopedia (http://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/mexican-american-war/ : accessed 25 Jul 2019), “Mexican-American War.”

²⁴Mississippi, Carroll County, Tax Rolls, 1818-1902, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi; digital image, (http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/taxrolls/Leake/ : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing microfilm series 1202.

²⁵”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. D, 2th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/192796377 : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 204. 

²⁶Ibid.

²⁷Ibid.

²⁸Ibid.

²⁹”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Walker Guess, Pvt., Co. K, 3rd Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/68957692  : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 132. 

³⁰Ibid.

³¹Ibid.

³²Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/23196774/walker-b-guess  : accessed 28 Aug 2019), memorial 23196774, Walker B Guess (1809-1870), Lot Smith Cemetery, New Sight, Lincoln County, Mississippi.

³³Ibid.

³⁴Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/93454435/william-walker-guess  : accessed 28 Aug 2019), memorial 93454435, William Walker Guess (1809-1870), Lot Smith Cemetery, Stone County, Mississippi.

³⁵Ibid.

³⁶”United States Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926,” entry for Walker Guess and widow Nancy Guess, filed 10 May 1887; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8HW-QZH : accessed 28 Aug 2019); citing FHL film 000537005.

One thought on “Walker Guess: Violence, War, and Tragedy”

  1. Well, Walker “Billy” Guess was certainly a character! Can only imagine how hard it was for Jemima Carrie & family.
    You have brought his story together, very well written.
    Wanda D Collins

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