There are so many thoughts and emotions at the loss of my grandmother yesterday. There is so much to share to honor the extraordinary life and continued presence in our lives of this beautiful spirit. As an historian and archivist, I am able to take a longer view, back before the living memory of anyone in the family, so while I will undoubtedly share my own experiences and memories of Athalia Ogden Barker in the days and months ahead, let us start with her name.
Her mother, Margaret Stearns Olmsted, wrote a genealogical memoir for her descendants near the end of her life in 1952. In it she shares the origins of "Athalia" in our family, a name that continues with my Great Aunt, two cousins, and three 1st cousins once removed.
On a June day in 1837 when the petals of the apple trees all had dropped and rose vines bloomed on the old house a baby girl was born. - not such an event perhaps as she was the 10th baby to be born to Sarah and William Walker and the seventh little sister but important to us for they named her Athalia. The Biblical name is of Hebrew origin and means in the ancient language "Child of Happiness." All the other Walker children have recognizable family names from one side of the family or another - sometimes in combination - but this little girl was given the name of a friend of her Mother's ; Athalia Lucilla Tiernan of Baltimore.
For many years we knew only the name of this friend who visited 'in the Valley', but one day in the late '80s at Narragansett Pier where we were spending a summer holiday Mr. John Shier an old gentleman from Baltimore spoke to my mother who was wearing a pin forming the name 'Thalia''. He said; "I am interested in that pin of yours, is it your name?" And when Mother answered 'Yes' he said; "I have only known that name once before, it belonged to a gentle Quaker lady I was taken to visit when a child. Her name was Athalia Lucilla Tiernan.' Mother's reply surprised them both for she said; "The Aunt whose name I bear was named for her.'
Athalia Lucilla Tiernan Walker was pretty and gay and much loved by her brothers and sisters. I have heard many of them speak of her. They all called her 'little Thalia', the diminutive being a term of endearment. She died when she was 21 - a great sorrow to them all. 5 of the sisters and brothers gave the name to their children and that name lives on and is often heard to-day not only in the Valley but wherever there are Walker descendants.
One of those sisters was Margaret Currie Walker, who married John Owen Stearns in 1842. She gave the name to her eldest daughter, Mary Athalia Stearns, the mother of the writer of the passage above who wore the pin to Narragansett Pier. My grandmother Athalia Ogden wears it in this photograph from the late 1920s or very early 1930s, and I suspect if it remains in the family it has been passed along to my Aunt Happy, whose first name is also Athalia, or perhaps by now to her daughter Leila (another namesake). If ever there were someone who embodied the name "Child of Happiness", it was my grandmother Athalia.