WALKER, NEHEMIAH, sea captain for the HBC; fl. c. 1670–90.
He was a son of the London goldsmith, William Walker, who was a stockholder in the Company from the 1670s and a committee member from 1682 to 1685. Nehemiah himself, apparently as security to the Company for good conduct, appears to have been a stockholder in 1670 when he sailed in the Wivenhoe (Capt. Robert Newland) to Hudson Bay as assistant to Governor Charles Bayly. Walker was present when Bayly took formal possession of Port Nelson in September 1670 and he wintered with the remainder of the Wivenhoe’s company at Charles Fort, Rupert River. On his return to London in 1671 he found other employment.
Immediately after the loss of the homeward bound Shaftesbury (Capt. Joseph Thompson) in the autumn of 1678, the Committee persuaded Walker to rejoin the Company, and in the following year he commanded the John and Alexander to and from James Bay. On this voyage both the outward-bound Governor John Nixon and the retired Governor Bayly suffered from his arrogance and ill-temper. Furthermore, Walker’s reckless behaviour was largely the reason the Colleton (Capt. James Tatnam) did not reach James Bay that year, so it is understandable that with the return of the John and Alexander to the Royal Navy early in 1680 and the chartering of the Prudent Mary (Capt. Richard Greenway) for the voyage of that year, Walker was left unemployed. But the Prudent Mary was wrecked and the other ships sent out in 1680 remained in James Bay so, in 1681, the Committee again approached Walker. After an unsuccessful demand for very high wages, Walker accepted the command of the chartered ship Diligence. According to instructions he wintered at Charlton Island and his quarrelsome and drunken behaviour there caused Governor Nixon to complain bitterly to the Committee.
Walker returned to London in 1682 and in 1683 he again commanded the Diligence to James Bay. Nixon’s successor, Henry Sergeant, was a passenger and, like his predecessors, had reason to complain of Walker’s behaviour. In Hudson Strait the Diligence came upon the interloper Expectation (alias the Charles) which was commanded by an ex-Company employee, Richard Lucas. Acting on instructions from the Committee who sought to safeguard their privileges under the charter of 2 May 1670, Walker seized the Expectation and placed his own crew aboard. The vessel was wrecked shortly afterwards and Lucas and his men were brought back to England in the Diligence later in 1683.
The seizure of the Expectation led to a series of legal actions by the owners against both the Company and Walker who, early in 1684, was dismissed by the Committee not only because of his mismanagement when taking the interloper, but on account of his conduct to Governor Sergeant.
Walker, whose brothers William and James were also employed by the Company for short periods, described himself in 1687 as of the Thameside parish of Rotherhithe, and it is likely, but unconfirmed, that he was identical with the Nehemiah Walker, mariner of London, whose wife, Anne, was sole beneficiary under a will dated 21 June 1688 and proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 12 July 1690.