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Remembering Eastern’s History Through Martha Walton’s Painting

George Claghorn, a former Eastern philosophy professor and dean (1951-1965), once wrote, “Your personal visit to the new campus of Eastern Baptist College [now Eastern University] is bound to be memorable. For neither words nor pictures can convey the full grandeur and beauty of its spacious lawns and stately buildings. This estate stands as a fitting and enduring monument to its builder: Charles Spittall Walton.”

Indeed, the grounds of Eastern University’s St. Davids campus are a monument to Mr. Charles Walton Sr. However, Walton did not create his estate by himself. His wife, Martha Walton, always stood by him, and likewise, Walton always stood by his wife. He even named the estate that would one day become Eastern University after her. He called it “Walmarthon.”

Last semester several Eastern students found a damaged portrait of Mr. Walton in the upstairs of Walton Hall. Soon afterwards, The Waltonian published an article that covered the discovery. Upon reading this article, Eastern University Sodexo employee Eileen Korman came forward and said that she believed that she had a painting of Mrs. Walton and her daughter. Eastern Archivist Dr. Fred Boehlke was immediately contacted and after exploring his many files he was able to find a photograph of Mrs. Walton. By comparing this picture to her portrait, Korman was able to confirm that the woman in the painting was indeed Mrs. Walton.

Korman tells the story of how she purchased the painting over twenty years ago: “There was an antique and art event in Bryn Mawr and Wayne. Now, all the antique stores had everything outside and we were walking by it and we saw this painting… we purchased it… then when I went to go pick it up I asked the store owner, ‘Do you know who these people are?’ He said, ‘All I know is that it is from Eastern University,’ but he really didn’t know who the people were.”

At the time she purchased the painting, Korman had heard of Eastern University, but she had no idea that one day she would come to work there. When she arrived at Eastern she became curious about the people who once lived in Walton Hall. She researched Eastern’s history and eventually began giving historical tours. Korman states, “My impression of the Waltons is that they were a phenomenal family. [Charles Walton Sr.] was a philanthropist and they are the reason that you are here today. This is why the campus is what it is. He was a caregiver to many, not just to his family, but also to many in the community. He shared the estate with them. They used to ice skate on the pond and use the log cabin for different events. And I just know that he was good to many people.”        

No one really knows for sure just how the painting of Mrs. Walton and her daughter ended up at the antique store where Korman brought it. A few Eastern faculty members recall seeing the painting in the attic of Walton, but said that it disappeared many years ago.

Mr. Walton’s portrait is currently undergoing restoration. This comes after much effort, an art show fundraiser, and with donations from the Eastern Community. His portrait is scheduled to be unveiled in Walton Hall next semester.

Professor Claghorn ended his synopsis of the Waltons by writing, “‘God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform.’ So it was that in the providence of God, Walmarthon has become the home of Eastern Baptist College… May the example of this patriot, skilled businessman, true father, and devoted Christian, and that of his good wife, continue to inspire generations of students.” The incredible legacy of the Waltons is being preserved through these artworks that help to tell their story.

Sources: “The Easterner,” April 1953

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