David, Joseph, Samuel, and Matthew Walker
Samuel Sharp (1834-1887), Joseph Robinson (1836-1901), David Frederick (1838-1910),
and Mathew Henry (1845-1916) - "Sharp," "Rob," "Fred,"
and "Matt" - Walker were the sons of Matthew and Mercy Long Walker.
The family came from Yorkshire, England, and the four brothers were born
there: 22 September 1834, 29 August 1836, 19 April 1838, and 16 January
1845, respectively. The family left England in 1850 for the United States,
moving to Utah in 1852, having converted to the LDS church.
The brothers got into the merchandizing business and traveled through the
Mormon settlements selling notions as employees of William Nixon, a merchant
out of St. Louis. In 1859 Patrick J. Hickey, who freighted the goods out
of San Francisco, helped the brothers establish a store, Joseph R. Walker
and Bros., in Fairfield, Utah, where the U.S. Army had established Camp
Floyd as result of the 1857-58 Utah War. The brothers purchased a safe and
began to keep gold and other valuables for their customers. By 1860 the
safe had become so popular the brothers opened a banking section in the
store. At age fourteen Matt became the first teller. As businesses developed
in neighboring areas, many companies began using the Walker brothers banking
By 1860 the brothers had opened their business in "Draft's Old Store"
in Salt Lake City. When the army auctioned off the assets at Camp Floyd
the next year, the brothers were among those who benefitted by buying up
the goods and freighting them to Salt Lake. However, their growing economic
success troubled LDS church president Brigham Young, who felt the brothers'
financial support of the church was not what it could be. The brothers had
regularly contributed to the Perpetual Emigration Fund but refused to pay
the ten percent tithing which church leaders began accessing members in
1860. The brothers asked to be removed from the church.
Not only were the brothers excommunicated, but Young issued a proclamation
that all "good" Mormons were to spurn the firm of Walker Brothers
and Company. But the Civil War years were good for business and the brothers
continued to prosper, finding ready customers among the California Volunteers
stationed at Fort Douglas. Samuel Kahn, who later went into business for
himself, was employed as the brothers' agent in Virginia City, and Benjamin
Raybould became their chief assistant in 1864.
In the post-Civil War years, Mormon church leaders intensified the embargo
of the Walker brothers and other non-Mormon merchants. However, the brothers
developed their banking business and went into other enterprises such as
In 1868 the brothers advanced the owners of the Emma mine in Alta, Utah,
money for development in return for a quarter interest. Under Marcus Daly's
supervision, the brothers made thousands in the venture and got out before
the scandal involving inflated shares sold to English investors broke. Daly
and the Walkers developed mining ventures in the Ophir fields and in Butte,
Montana; but the brothers shied away from investing in the copper mining
at Anaconda which made Daly a fortune.
In 1870 the Walker brothers joined with non-Mormons and William Godbe, another
merchant who had been excommunicated from the LDS Church, to establish the
Utah Liberal Party. This party worked for the next decades to end Mormon
political control of the territory.
The brothers continued to prosper. They built a group of lavish homes on
the block between Fourth and Fifth South and Main, invested in horse breeding,
created insurance companies, built the Walker House Hotel and the Walker
Opera House (1881-1904), which became the important cultural center of the
But it was the banking business that continued at the center of the Walkers
ventures. When they secured a national charter in 1885, the bank became
the Union National Bank of Salt Lake City, but it was as Walker Brothers
Bankers that it became incorporated in 1903, purchased the Salt Lake City
branch of Wells Fargo in 1905, made important loans to Utah Sugar and Idaho
Sugar companies in 1906, built the sixteen-story building at Main and Second
South, and took over the McCormick Bank in 1921. By then the Walker Bank
topped twelve million dollars in resources.
Sharp Walker died a alcoholic in 1887, leaving seven of eight children surviving
and his wife since 1861, Fanny Bascom to handle his real estate business.
Fred left the family business in 1884 and went to California with his second
wife Althea Hunt, a well-known medium. When he died a poor man in 1910,
his six children by his first wife Caroline Holmes, contested the will.
Rob left six children and wife Mary Ann Carson when he died in 1901.
It was Matt's son-in-law John M. Wallace who became chairman of the board
after Matt's death in 1916. Wallace, whose family was in the oil business,
in 1920 had married Frances Glenn, daughter of his second wife Angelena
Hague (Matt had married Minnie Elizabeth Carson in 1865). Wallace guided
Walker Brothers Bank and Trust to its purchase in 1956 by TransAmerica.
In 1981 the name Walker Brothers Bank disappeared into First Interstate
See: Jonathan Bliss, Merchants and Miners in Utah: the Walker Brothers
and their Bank (1983).
Brian F. Hahn