north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     “Bunk,” part of the American lexicon, has its origins in the oratory skills (or lack thereof) of a nineteenth-century Congressman from Buncombe County. Felix Walker was born in 1753 in Hampshire County, Virginia, which is now part of West Virginia. He moved with his father in 1768 to what is now Rutherford County, North Carolina. In 1769 he was employed as a merchant’s clerk in South Carolina, before joining the Boonesboro, Kentucky settlement with Daniel Boone and others.

     Walker was a North Carolina militiaman and took part in the Revolutionary War from 1776 to 1779. After his war experience, he was a clerk in the Rutherford County Court from 1779 to 1787. He served four terms in the State House. For most of his life he was primarily a farmer.

     Walker was elected as a Republican to the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Congresses, serving from 1817 to 1823. There he gained a reputation for “speaking for Buncombe.” At that time old Buncombe County (with its seat at Asheville) was larger than its present size and comprised the core of Walker’s Congressional district. Walker’s reputation, by association with the phrase was both credited, that is, he competently represented his constituents, and discredited, that is, his thoughts were dismissed as “bunk.” Walker moved to Mississippi in 1824 where he became an agricultural trader, and lived there until his death in 1828.

     H. L. Mencken, the sage of Baltimore and a connoisseur of the American language, entitled one of his books A Carnival of Buncombe.


References:
Samuel R. Walker, ed., Memoirs of the late Honorable Felix Walker of North Carolina (1877)
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress online: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000050
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, VI, 111—sketch by Stanley J. Folmsbee
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