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John Peter Walker left Natchez country in 1800 for Philadelphia, where he was employed by Andrew Ellicott to draw maps as a result of his survey of the new boundary line between the U.S. and Spain.
Ellicott was the American Boundary Commissioner in charge of marking the line along the 31st parallel beginning about 60 miles south of Natchez on the east side of the Mississippi River. Walker, at 17, was hired by Ellicott in 1798 to help survey the boundary. Pleased with Walker's work, Ellicott asked Walker to return with him to Philadelphia to make the maps.
Once there, Walker entered classes at Philadelphia Academy, which became the University of Pennsylvania. He studied the English language and mathematics. He wrote home to his father in Natchez:
"I am presently studying Astronomy. I have went through Navigation and Surveying. In a couple of weeks I shall begin Algebra. I am first" in a class of more than 100. He said he spent his evenings studying modern Europe.