The Township of Walker began its proud history on December 30, 1837, with the passing of a public act by the Michigan State Legislature. The far-stretching boundaries at that time had Walker going to the banks of the Grand River, and even included in its northern area all of what is now Alpine and Sparta Townships. Over the first one hundred and twenty-five years, large parts of the original Township land were taken by land annexations from neighboring cities, or were lost when new townships were formed.
Although the Township officially began in late 1837, there are reports of eight families living on the Township land in 1837. Credit for the first settlers in Walker has been given to Samuel and Lydia White, who came to Kent County from Canada in the first days of 1837. With their team of six oxen, they cut the very first roads into the unsettled wilderness. Other pioneer families in the Township are names such as Wright, Covell, Taber, Cordes, Hilton, O’Brien, Turner, and Edison. Many of these families still have descendants living in the City of Walker.
Walker City Hall construction, c. November, 1964
The naming of Walker is still unknown at this point. We are however, continuing to research the naming, but because many of the original records of Walker Township were destroyed in a fire in the mid 1800’s we may never know the origination of our name.
Problems in the early days of the Township differed in their importance compared to today. For example, an office held was that of "Commissioner of Peach Yellows". This position was one that enforced local control on the many peach orchards in the area to combat infectious disease. Another position that was held in early Walker Township was "Commissioner of Highways". Although all travel was done by horse and wagon, Walker controlled its own road system even though at times, these were only trails.
The original meeting place of the new Township was at the Mission School House on the west bank of the Grand River. The first officers were: Supervisor, Lovell Moore; Clerk, Issac Turner; Treasurer, Harry Eaton; Justices, Robert Hilton, Issac Turner, Ira Jones, and Isaiah Burton. Meetings were usually held once a month, usually in the home of one of the officers. Many of these old record books are on display in the Historical Museum, and in the present day City Commission chambers.
In 1867, a fund was raised to build a Township Hall on the southeast corner of what are now Leonard and Covell Streets. The original Township Hall was a wooden structure, which, at a later time was bricked. The hall underwent four different additions over the years, with the last one being done in March of 1958. Most of this last project which cost the Township $ 1,900.00, was completed by the then Fire Chief Pat C. Smith. That addition befitting the times also provided a Civil Defense and Tornado shelter on the ground floor.
In 1959, the area around-and including- the Township hall, then known as the Oakleigh-Shawmut School District, was annexed to the City of Grand Rapids. The hall was sold to the City of Grand Rapids in 1962, where it stood until 1987 when it was razed to make way for a modern fire station. Efforts were made to move the hall, but its brick construction with no support structure proved to be too much of an obstacle.
Old Walker Township Hall on the southwest corner of Leonard & Covell, c. 1987
In 1962, due to renewed annexation pressures on several large industrial areas of the Township; petitions were circulated throughout the Township for incorporation as a "Home Rule City". After successfully voting for incorporation, a Charter Commission drew up a charter for the new proposed City of Walker. This appeared on the ballot in November of 1962, and was passed by the people, thus establishing the City of Walker on November 8, 1962. The new City Commission then purchased a fifteen-acre parcel of property that had been an apple orchard of farmer Ernest Wilder. This was located at 4243 Remembrance Road. Construction began on the new City Hall in the summer of 1964, and was completed in November that year. At that time, the new City had a population of approximately 11,000 people; a Police Department with five officers and a clerk; and a Fire Department with 30 volunteers and a Fire Chief.
Today, a growing City of Walker has a population of over 22,000 people covering 26 square miles of superior commercial, residential, and agricultural space in which to grow.