"The Devil and Tom Walker" question

I teach Washington Irving’s story “The Devil and Tom Walker” to my students yearly. It’s a great adaptation of the old Faustian legend. The last sentence is troubling to me, though, as it suggests that there is a proverb popular in New England which uses, in some form, the phrase “The Devil and Tom Walker.” I live in New England, and I am not familiar with the proverb. In fact, the only time I’ve ever heard of Tom Walker is in Irving’s story.

Here’s the final sentence: “In fact, the story has resolved itself into a proverb, and is the origin of that popular saying, so prevalent throughout New England, of ‘The Devil and Tom Walker.’”

I know it’s only a folk tale, but it seems obvious that there really is (or was, at the time) a real-life saying or proverb involving Tom Walker and his dealings with the devil; otherwise, I doubt Irving would have mentioned it as a “popular saying, so prevalent throughout New England.”

Does anyone know if there was indeed some old proverb that utilized Tom Walker’s name? (A proverb should express a general truth, of course, so it must at least be a sentece…)

I don’t know any particulars about “The Devil and Tom Walker,” but I can say that having read many stories of the supernatural written about that time (early 19th century, I presume?), many of them refer to “well-known” this and “famous” that, and I suspect–though I do not know–that this is by way of making the story more real. That’s a SWAG, though, so take it for what it’s worth.

On the other hand, a character in this piece (http://www.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext05/8qcrt10.txt) uses the phrase, “the devil and Tom Walker.” Note that it was written in 1906, though, so we have some chicken-and-egg issues here.

You’ve posed an interesting question. I am intrigued and must look into it further.