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Finding the Old James and Mary Baker Homestead

The goal here is to identify the place where James and Mary (Palmer) Baker settled when they moved in upstate New York in the 1830’s. Several sources have helped in this cause. There is the family history written by Ethel (Baker) Neff that talks about growing up in the area.  Land records show the path of migration from Saratoga county in eastern New York to Niagara county in the westThe website www.fultonhistory.com has countless upstate NY newspapers scanned and OCR’ed that describe events at the time they occurred. It’s an amazing site. There are several old maps of the area that have survived. They allows us to view the area as it existed, and Google maps to see the area now. We can actually use these maps to locate the farms of the various Baker descendants. 

Excerpts from “Historical Data Anecdotes And Reminiscences Of My Family 1570 – 1949” by Ethel Baker Neff
Ethel who was born in 1880, writes about her visits to her grandfather, Alden Dudley Baker, as a child. We learn about a place called “Baker Hill” in Cambria, Niagara county, NY. We also get a sense of some of the people who lived there.

“JAMES BAKER, my great grandfather, was born in New Hampshire in 1792. His father moved to Saratoga County, New York, where in 1816 James married Mary Palmer. There a son, Alden Dudley, was born to them. About 1838 they moved to Cambria, Niagara County, New York where James bought a farm and built a large home which I always knew as the “Baker Homestead”. James and Mary had nine children. Ira, Oscar, Palmer, Alden, Mary, Jane, Omar, George and Sarah. Of them all I knew only Sarah and Ira, and of course, my grandfather Alden. I remember Aunt Sarah because she was so sweet and Uncle Ira because he was so fat. I was always thrilled when father would take me to Aunt Sarah’s. She was living in the home her father, James, had built. It was a beautiful place, filled with all sorts of interesting things which I was always free to examine. If we stopped at Uncle Ira’s we would find him in the hammock, if the weather was hot, industriously fanning himself with a palm leaf fan. As I said, he was very corpulent and I, dreadful child, was always hoping the hammock would break and I might be there at the time…James, born in Westmoreland, N.H., died November 18, 1868, age 76 years. He is buried in Cambria cemetery, Cambria, N.Y. The above date I copied from his tombstone when Margaret and I visited the cemetery on one of our trips back East.”

Alden Dudley Baker
“ALDEN DUDLEY BAKER, my grandfather, was born July 28, 1823 in Saratoga County, New York. He was the son of James Baker and Mary Palmer Baker, his wife. When Alden was about fifteen his father moved his family to Cambria, Niagara County, New York. There he built a large home in a fertile valley at the foot of a steep hill. Later Alden married Elizabeth Blackmer, bought a farm and built a home at the top of the hill. Two sons were born there — Everett, my father, and Elwood. As the years passed, there were Bakers at the top of the hill, Bakers at the bottom and on both sides of a winding road which led from the valley to the crest of the hill. So it does not seem strange that this hill was named “Baker Hill”. Today there is a bus stop there called “Baker Hill”….A visit to Grandfather Baker’s was always a great event. We would get up and dress by lamplight and take the train to Sanborn (not more than twenty-five or thirty miles). Why we always had to take such an early train I never knew. Grandfather would meet us with a horse and buggy or surrey and we would drive the few miles to his farm. He had a wonderful apple orchard and I have spent many a happy hour there with him, sitting on the ground, our backs against a tree, while he pared apples for me and told me stories. The “hired man” had to do all the work while I was there, so Grandfather could devote his time to me. We even went after the cows together — I riding behind him on old Nell…I dearly loved my grandfather with his soft white beard and kind blue eyes and Mother always said I was his favorite grandchild. I do know that when he was dying they sent for me at his request and when Papa took me in his room my picture was on a table close by him. He died March 15, 1891….The farm is still in the Baker family, owned and occupied by Herbert Baker, my cousin, son of Elwood.”
Land Transactions
Land records clearly show the migratation of James and Mary Baker, starting in Northumberland, Saratoga, NY where James married the daughter of Nicholas and Eunice Palmer. They first settled Gorham, Ontario, NY for seven years, then Royalton, Niagara county for 4 years. Finally, he purchased his property in Cambria, Niagara county in 1836.
14 Feb 1824James Baker and Nicholas Palmer of Northumberland, Saratoga, NY bought property of Abraham and Rebecca Chute in Gorham, Ontario County, New York for $1,300.
24 Sep 1831James and Mary Baker along with Nicholas and Jane Palmer sold property in Gorham, Ontario County, New York to John Ellsworth for $1,350
13 Apr 1832James Baker of Gorham, Ontario County, NY bought property of Ebenezer Pardee for $700
20 Feb 1836James and Mary Baker sold property in Royalton, Niagara, NY to William C Smith of Rochester, Monroe, NY for $3500
3 Mar 1836James Baker of Royalton, Niagara County, NY bought property of John Gould in Cambria, Niagara, NY, part of lot 12, 112 acres for $4,480 . liber 15 of Deeds page 271
11 May 1868James Baker conveys house & land to Ira Baker liber 115 pg 301
11 May 1868James Baker conveys land to Omar Baker liber 116, pg 268
16 Dec 1892Mortgage to Marie L Baker for $2500 for Deed No 13
24 Feb 1897Marie L Baker judgement of foreclosure and sale filed for deed No 13

Newspapers Accounts
Fultonhistory.com is an obscure repository of Western New York newspapers. It’s a amazing site that contains a pretty complete collection of newspapers from Lockport, the closest town to Cambria. We learn that Joseph and Mary Baker left quite a imprint on the area. Furthermore, it became fashionable to hold family reunions in the early 1920’s. For this Baker clan, these family reunions started 1924 and continued to a least 1962, an amazing run. At this point, the number of men with the surname Baker began to run low. There may be one Baker who remains in the area today.

from “The Lockport Daily Journal”, 23 Dec 1875
Omar Baker of Cambria, and Maria L. Langshore, of Lockport, were pronounced husband and wife Dec. 20, 1865, by Rev. Joseph L. Bennett. On the tenth anniversary of that joyful occasion, last Monday evening, he was summoned to their home and gave thanks for ten years of bliss, and with one hundred relatives and friends to congratulate them for their prosperity. Many family of Cambria with their pastor, Rev. Mr. Blake, and a goodly number from Lockport, were made welcome. The gifts – of tin – were both useful and ornamental and numerous. Enough of the comic was introduced in the presentation of articles to assure us that this was indeed the tin-th anniversary of the wedding. The sumptuous feat and the merry songs, the renewal of old acquaintance and the new ties formed, made the evening pass delightfully. James Baker forty years ago made purchase of 262 acres of land and has raised nine children. Some of the sons now live either on a portion of the original purchase, or near it, while the youngest son occupies the old homestead. May the race of Bakers continue, and be numbered with the thrifty families of Niagara county.

From “The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal”, 11 Jul 1931
SANBORN , July 11 – The seventh annual reunion of the Baker family was held at the home of Mrs. and Mrs. Edward Baker at their home on the Mountain Road on July 4, with 60 members attending. Dinner and supper were served at attractively decorated tables on the lawn. Officers elected for the coming year were as follows: President: Edward Baker, Sanborn; Vice-president, Arthur B. Baker, Sanborn; Secretary, Vivian Hause, Buffalo; Treasurer Harold Richardson, Eden, N.Y. Members were present from Buffalo, Kenmore, North Collins, Eden, Erie, Pa., and this vicinity. The members are descendants of James Baker who came with his family from Ontario county 90 years ago and settled in the vicinity 90 years ago and settled int he vicinity of the Baker hill. HIs five sons were: Ira, Dudley, Palmer, Omar and Oscar Baker and there were four daughters.

From “The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal”, 20 Jul 1945
PEKIN – Thirty nine descendants of James Baker who in the early 1800’s purchased a section of land in Niagara County, now known as Baker Hill, met for their annual reunion of Sunday at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Baker, Baker Hill. A picnic dinner was served on the lawn. Officers elected were: President, Walter Baker; vice president, Clarence Baker; secretary-treasurer, Frances Hause. Out-of-town guests were Mr. and and Mrs. Clyde B. Gass, Detroit. The 1946 reunion will be held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Stover, Jr., Upper Mountain Road.

From “The Lockport Union-Sun & Journal”, 5 Jul 1962
Clarence Baker was elected president during the business meeting of the Baker family at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Stover and daughter, Marcia, Upper Mountain Road, on Sunday. Other officers chosen were vice-president, Mrs. Edward J. Mayer, and secretary-treasurer, Mrs. Charles Bayer. Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Baker will be the hosts at the 1963 reunion.

Historic Maps
We are very fortunate that a series of Niagara county maps survives from 1829 to 1938, many of which show the various farms of the Baker family. We find the hill where the original homestead sits at the base, while the farms of his children can be found a the top along Upper Mountain Road. The locale lies in the middle of the towns of Cambria, Pekin and Sanborn. That’s why all three towns get mentioned in connection with the Baker family.
The 1875 map is particularly interesting because it pinpoints the farms of the various sons of James Baker. One can overlay this map over the current Google map to pinpoint the location of these farms. In 1875, Omar (O. Baker) leved in the original homestead. Alden Dudley (A.D. Baker) resides at the top of the hill. Across the street was Ira (I. Baker). Other sons Palmer Baker had moved to Michigan, and Oscar Baker passed away around 1861.
Now we can zoom into the James Baker farm at the base of Baker Hill and identify the house. As it turns out, we met the current owners of the house in 2013. We learned that the house fell out of the Baker family around 1897 due to foreclosure. The new oweners had rebuilt a house over the Baker house, and the original barn had recently fallen down. He handed use a brick which represented a last memento to the Baker family.
Now we can zoom in the farm at the top of Baker Hill including the Alden Dudley and Ira Baker farms. Notice that the part of the road leading to the top has been rerouted. The newspapers describe many accidents that occurred along this stretch of road over the years. It is not clear if either house is original although the odds seem good. They would be been built later than the James Baker homestead. During our visit to Cambria, we met the owner of the A.D Baker house. Although he was a bit leery to let a stranger enter the home, he allowed us to photograph the outside.

Peter Baker in the Revolutionary War

There is no question that there is a Peter Baker, born in Littleton, Massachusetts, who served in the Revolutionary War. He married Lydia Dudley, then moved to New Ipswich NH before settling in Westmoreland NH. He infamously left his family around 1800 when there were small children in the house. It is also quite likely that our ancestor James Baker of Cambria NY was born to Peter and Lydia with recent DNA testing comfirming this link. A separate article has been written that gives an analysis of this part of the story which can be found by clicking here.

The surprise is the extent of Peter’s Revolutionary War service. He lived long enough to apply for a Revolutionary War pension which the US government started to grant in 1818. In his application letter, he states:

“I, Peter Baker, of Mount Holly in the County of Rutland & State of Vermont of the age of sixty two years, being duly sworn, do declare depose & say  with in December 1775 at Littleton in Massachusetts, I enlisted into Capt Saml Gilbert’s Company in Col. Prescott Reg’t. of Massachusetts line to serve for one year. That immediately joined my company at Cambridge where we remained  until the British army evacuated Boston, when we followed them to New York – that we went into winter quarters in the High Land in New York I believe about three miles north of West Point – I further say that whilst in said winter quarters, about a month before my time of service expired, I again enlisted into Capt Saml Darby’s company in Col John Bailey’s Regiment being the 2nd Reg’t. Massachusetts line to serve for three years.  – that I served in said Company & Regiment the full term of reenlistment except nine days which was allowed me to return home when I was discharged at West Point – I have lost my discharge, not considering it of any value – I was at the battle of Monmouth & at the taking of Burgoine – I further say that I am a resident citizen of the U States – that I have resided in Mt Holly aforesaid about five months – that I am poor – and from my reduced circumstances in life I am in need of assistance from my country for support –and further say not.  Peter Baker, 6 Apr 1818”

He writes casually about travelling from Boston to New York and being present at the battles at Monmouth and Burgoyne’s capture. However, when one analyzes Peter’s movement, a harrowing story emerges. Due to the large amount of detail to cover, this story will be broken into three parts. First, a top level look of what we know is true. Second, a “best guess” account of Peter’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. Third, all the bare evidence will be presented for those that like to get into the weeds.

Some Details of Revolutionary War Service
First some explanation of military structure. Peter was an enlisted man. He remained a private. Other enlisted ranks include sergeants and corporals. His brother, Joseph, became an officer, specifically a lieutenant. Other officers include captains, majors, colonels, and generals. Soldiers were assigned to a Company led by a Captain, consisting of about 80 men. A Regiment, headed by a Colonel, would lead a series of Companies (around 8). Regiments would be placed in a Brigade, lead by a Brigadier General. Brigades were controlled by a Major General.

Individuals generally signed up for a term of service. Three major recruitment drives occurred, the first being the “8 month” term from April to Dec 1775, following the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Individuals in this service experienced Bunker Hill and remained in Boston. Second, the “year long” service from Jan to Dec of 1776 included the march to New York and the wintering in the Highlands. Third, the “three year” term occurred from Jan 1777 to Dec 1779. It involved the Battles of Saratoga and Monmouth as well as the winter in Valley Forge.

If you know the location of the Company, you likely know the location of Peter Baker. However, Company locations are not often mentioned in the literature. Fortunately, Companies traveled with their Regiment, and the Regiments traveled with their Brigade. So one can infer the whereabouts of Peter and Joseph by using this trick. However, this logic has limits. Soldiers got sick, they got captured, they took leave, they deserted, and they were assigned to other services.

Peter Baker in the Revolutionary War – The Summary View
Peter Baker signed up around December 1775 for a one year tour in Cambridge MA to serve with his brother Joseph Baker in William Prescott’s Regiment. Joseph and their father Joseph Sr had fought earlier in April at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Joseph and Peter marched from Boston to New York in March 1776. They were forced to retreat from New York after the British assault on Long Island on August 1776, eventually wintering in the Highlands of New York, near present day West Point. During the winter of 1776, Prescott’s Regiment disbanded. Peter and Joseph reenlisted for 3 years in John Bailey’s Regiment. This Regiment was involved in the Battles of Saratoga starting September 1777 where they defeated the British. They then marched to Valley Forge for a long, tough winter. In June 1778, Peter participated in the Battle of Monmouth, the last major Battle in the North. Afterwards, Peter and Joseph were assigned back to West Point to keep a crossing of the Hudson River open. Peter was discharged on Dec 1779.

The Baker Family at Bunker Hill in Boston
Peter Baker was part of a family that actively served their country in the Revolutionary War, starting with his brother Joseph Baker and father Joseph Baker Sr. These two men fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill under the command of William Prescott. The Colonists lost this battle, but the British, under the command of William Howe, took heavy losses in their three attempts to win. It showed the Colonists that victory was possible. Prescott with his men continued to defend Boston against further attacked from Howe, whose ships sat anchored in the harbor. Peter joined his brother at Sewell Point in Dec 1775. By then George Washington had taken charge of the army. Eventually, Boston was refortified with weaponry seized from a raid of Fort Ticonderoga. Howe opted to evacuate to Nova Scotia.

March to Long Island for start of War
Both Washington and Howe focused their attention on New York City. Washington bet that the British wanted to control the Hudson river and split the Colony into two. Washington sent 19000 troops to defend New York City. Prescott’s Regiment made a hasty march to New London CT where they boarded ships to New York. They were then stationed on Governors Island, a small island south of Manhattan Island, where they built a fine fortification. Meanwhile, the British took several months to amass a huge force of 32000 men.

Joseph Baker Sr died on 8 Jul 1776 so speculation abounds that his death may have had something to do with the war. However, note that military activities centered in New York at this time. It is possible he received injuries or got sick due to Bunker Hill.  It is possible he marched with his sons to New York in which case he would have died on Governor’s Island. Or maybe he died from natural causes.

Fighting started on Aug 27 with the Battle of Long Island, where Howe stormed Staten Island and forced Washington’s retreat. Washington was out-manned, out-equipped and out-maneuvered. Washington managed to elude outright defeat by sneaking all his troop to Manhattan in a fog during the night. Prescott’s Regiment, located off the main island, was among the last to leave. It must have been a hasty retreat because various reports describe guns, cannons and even clothes left behind. The defeat represented one of several battles where Howe chose not to impose outright defeat. The British viewed the Colonist as wayward children who would eventually behave with the proper punishment. They badly misinterpreted the American resolve.

Retreat from Long Island
Peter and Joseph’s Regiment was next reorganized under General William Parson’s Brigade and stationed at Crown’s Point as part of an effort to hold Manhattan Island. Howe launched his next big strike on 15 September against the colonists at Kipps Point. There was chaos at the point of attack. George Washington ordered Parson’s Brigade north to support those troops, but the Prescott’s Regiment also took flight and retreated. Washington became furious. Stories tell of him hitting soldiers, throwing his hat in disgust, calling them cowards. Eventually, much to the amusement of the on-looking enemy, someone led Washington away on his horse to keep him from being shot. In reality, the soldiers were wise to flee; they had no chance of survival.

The Battle of Harlem Heights occurred the next day on 16 September. It represented the sole victory during the NY campaign in that the British were forced to retreat slightly. Many of Prescott’s troop would later claim participation in this battle although they may also be referring to their time at Kipps Point.

Prescott’s Regiment was next positioned at Frog’s Point where they erected another fortification. As a side note, Peter and Joseph were part of a team that could build great fortifications while under duress. This time they successfully prevented Howe troops from landing at the point (It also helped that Howe picked an unsuitable marsh-like spot to land). After five days, the ships pulled anchor and landed north at Pell’s Point to continue their assault.

The retreat from New York continued with the next confrontation at the Battle of White Plain on 28 October 1776. Prescott’s Regiment was located on the east side of the front, while most of the action occurred on the west side. This battle was considered a loss in that Washington’s forces were again forced to retreat, but again losses were minimized. Several of Prescott’s men later indicated they fought in this battle, although their exact involvement remains unclear.

Winter in the Highlands
After White Plain, Prescott’s regiment was ordered north to the Highlands to winter. There they built a sizable encampment, later known as Continental Village, where they could house large numbers of soldiers, and store food and armaments. It is also at this time that Prescott finished his term. His regiment was disbanded, and Peter and Joseph were convinced to join the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment better known as Bailey’s Regiment under Colonel John Bailey.

Victory at Battle of Saratoga
Bailey’s Regiment became part of Learned’s Brigade in the spring of 1777, when General William Learned came out of retirement to serve under the command of Major General Philip Schulyer. They continued to march to forts in upstate New York to counter British General Burgoyne’s powerful army marching from Canada to New York by way of the Hudson River. Bailey’s Regiment would have been part of the effort to slow this march. They fell trees across the few available roads, destroyed bridges, diverted streams and burned fields to deny food to soldiers and livestock. The strategy, while not glamorous, succeeded in weakening Burgoyne.

There were several documented skirmishes. The Colonists, including Bailey’s Regiment, were forced to retreat from Fort Ticonderoga on 6 July after Burgoyne men was able to set up a cannon on nearby Mount Defiance. Some of Bailey’s Regiment also marched on 8 August under the leadership of Benedict Arnold in support to Fort Stanwix, under siege from the British troops of Barry St Leger on their way to merge with Burgoyne. Arnold, undermanned, tricked St Leger into withdrawing with a convincing rumor of inflated troop numbers. In a serious blow to Burgoyne, St Leger’s troops would never materialized.

A little side note here about the Generals. General Schulyer was the pragmatic one. He understood the limitations of his troops as soldiers, but took advantage of their stamina in the wilderness. General Horatio Gates was the politically ambitious one who got Schulyer fired after the retreat at Fort Ticonderoga. General Benedict Arnold was the brilliant one whom the troops most admired. His aggressiveness in battle do not mix well with the cautious behavior of Gates.

All this activity culminated in the two Battles of Saratoga. In the Battle of Freeman’s Farm on 19 September, Gates formed a left wing under Arnold, a center wing under Learned and a right wing. Gates allowed Arnold to wage an assault, which turned out to be aggressive and brilliant, while Gates cautiously held back the center and right wings. As the battle wore on, Arnold appealed for more troops, but Gates waited to the afternoon to release Learned’s Brigade which made them very ineffective. As Wikipedia put it: “They mainly got lost in the woods, and exchanged light fire near the end of the battle.”

Learned played a major part on 7 October in the second battle of Saratoga called the Battle of Bemis Height. This time, Arnold received no command from Gates. Yet when the battle started, he swooped onto the field like a madman and led Learned’s Brigade against the Prussian front, forcing their retreat. Bailey Regiment would have fought in the thick of battle with hand-to-hand combat. When the smoke cleared, Burgoyne was resoundingly defeated. It gave the troops some badly needed hope. It also convinced France to support the colonial cause. Yet, even in glorious victory, hardships remained. Gates gave zero credit to Arnold for the victory which undoubtedly contributed to Arnold’s later decision to defect. Worse, Bailey’s Regiment had remained unpaid for the last 6 to 8 months, and they refused to march until they got paid for their courage.

Winter at Valley Forge
Next stop was Valley Forge from Dec 1777 to June 1778. Many men perished in the harsh winter due to factors like rancid meat and a lack of clothing. However, springtime presented an opportunity for the troops to regroup under men like Baron Von Steuben who arrived from Prussia and provided badly needed military training.

The Battle of Monmouth
These skills were put to the test at the Battle of Monmouth on 28 June 1778, a day of scorching 100 degree heat that claimed the lives of many soldiers. Peter and Joseph fought in General Stirling’s left flank. What a difference from Kipps Landing. Washington and Steuben watched proudly as the Colonists fought with precision against some of Britain’s best troops under General Clinton. This battle, while technically a draw, felt like a victory since the troops demonstrated such skill and since Clinton slinked away from the battle site before daybreak. Monmouth is considered the last great battle of the North.

End of Military Service at the Highlands
After Monmouth, life appears to be much quieter for Peter and Joseph, as much of the war action moved away from the North to the South. Bailey’s Regiment was stationed back at the Highlands. Continental Village had been burned down by a British raid in 1778. However, Washington considered it vitally important that the Hudson River remain open. Activity centered at West Point where the troops strengthened the fortifications along the river. It was so vital that Benedict Arnold attempted to pass the West Point plans to Britain as part of his treason in July 1780. Although Peter and Joseph faced little combat, conditions for them remained tough. Men continued to desert due to lack of pay. On a more personal level, Joseph was declared “deranged” on 1 April 1779. Little more surfaces about Joseph Baker after the end to his brave service. On 23 Dec 1779, after many grueling years of service, Peter Baker completed his contract, and would have walked home to resume the career he left four years earlier.
Detailed Chronology of Peter Baker’s War Service
The above narrative is subject to interpretation since we are trying to follow the movements of Peter and Joseph Baker through the movements of their Regiments and Brigades. There are some omitted events, such as the contribution of Col. Jonathan Reed’s 6th Middlesex Regiment, whose role remains unclear (Reed arrives from Littleton on occasion and appears to be a minor player) . You also have to deal with occasional, small contradictions. So presented here a complete chronology found in a multitude of sources.

Date
ddmmm
Activity
19 Apr
1775
Seige of Boston begins with Battles of Lexington and Concord – the First battles of the Revolutionary War
23 Apr
1775
William Prescott’s Regiment organized as 10th regiment of the Army
30 Apr
1775
Joseph Baker Jr, enlists as ensign in Capt Samuel Gilbert’s Company, Col William Prescott’s Regiment. Service 92 Days [until 31 Jul 1775]
20 May
1775
Joseph Baker Sr, enlists as Private in Capt Samuel Gilbert’s Company, Col William Prescott’s Regiment. Service 73 Days [until 1 Aug 1775]
17 Jun
1775
Battle of Bunker Hill with Joseph Baker Sr and Joseph Jr present. 1200 troops under William Prescott defended against 2400 British under William Howe. It took three assaults before colonist lost, but the British took surprisingly heavy loses. A stand-off ensued.
25 Jun
1775
Joseph Baker commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant by order of Provincial Congress
3 Jul
1775
George Washington takes control of army. Orders Prescott’s Regiment to the woods leading to Lechmere’s Point, near Cambridge, considered a prime landing spot for the future British attack.
8 Jul
1776
Joseph Baker Sr dies. Cause of death not known.
22 Jul
1775
Prescott’s Regiment stationed at Sewall’s Point or Brookline Fort for remainder of time in Boston. This fort did not see much action, but it represented a strong deterrent force with six guns and a large population of soldiers. Total number of officers and men 482. Site now location of Boston’s famous Citgo sign.
1 Jan
1776
Peter Baker enlists for 1 year in Col Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Gilbert’s Company. Peter states in pension file that date is Dec 1775
1 Jan
1776
Prescott’s Regiment combined with other companies to form 7th Continental Regiment, part of Heath’s Brigade under General William Heath
17 Mar
1776
Siege of Boston ends on “Evacuation Day”. Howe decides to move 11,000 troops to Nova Scotia after Boston gets reinforced with heavy artillary captured from the British at Fort Ticonderoga.
23 Mar
1776
New York Campaign starts. George Washington orders available troops to NY city. On this date, Prescott’s Regiment ordered to march under Brigadier General Sullivan. They left 29 Mar for New London CT where ships transported them to the city. 19,000 soldiers total.
7 Apr
1776
Prescott’s Regiment ordered to Governors Island to erect a fortification. They did a good job. General Stirling would later write: “Governors Island is more strong and better guarded than any other post of the Army…”
29 Jun
1776
British troops start arriving with their version of “shock and awe” 32,000 total troops with heavy armaments and a flotilla of ships.
1 Jul
1777
Prescott’s troops assigned to Nixons Brigade under General John Nixon.
22 Aug
1776
British assault starts. Colonists about to get crushed. On 27 Aug Battle of Long Island was waged. Washington issues retreat. Prescott’s Regiment slips out from Governors Island at night on 30 Aug leaving 40 cannons and ammunition, one of the last bases to leave the area.
31 Aug
1776
Relieved from Nixon’s Brigade and assigned to Parson’s Brigade under Brigadier General Samuel Holden Parson. Still part of Main Army. Stationed at Corlears Hook, also known as Crown Point.
15 Sep
1776
British landing at Kip’s Bay. When invasion started, chaos and panic ensue, including Prescott’s Regiment, who had been ordered to provide support. The troops did not have a prayer, but Washington was disgusted as he wrote:
“As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible dispatch towards the place of landing, where to my great surprise and mortification I found the troops that had been posted in the lines retreating with the utmost precipitation and those ordered to support them (Parsons’ and Fellows’ brigades) flying in every direction, and in the greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their general to form them into some order; but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual and on the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than sixty or seventy, their disorder increased, and they ran away in the greatest confusion, without firing a single shot.”
16 Sep
1776
Battle of Harlem Heights. Considered the sole victory during the Siege of Long Island, giving the Colonist’s some reason to hope. Some of Prescott’s Regiment later claim participation.
12 Oct
1776
Prescott at Frog’s Neck having built a fortification there. Howe lands large force to attack Washington’s Army. The line holds. After 5 days Howe forced to relocate to Pell’s Point.
16 Oct
1776
Parson’s brigade assigned to St Mary’s Pond. They would remain in area until 9 Nov covering the upper road into Connecticut
28 Oct
1776
Battle of White Plains. Part of Parsons brigade participated (Webb’s Regiment). Some of Prescott’s probably participated (there is a partial list of soldiers that list 10 men from Prescott’s Regiment). Colonial troops forced to retreat further north. However, losses were minimal.
29 Oct
1776
After battle of White Plains, Parson’s Brigade stationed near head of Rye Pond. On 1 Nov, Parson brigade marches on Kingstreet from Rye Pond to Saw Pits (now Port Charles).
6 Nov
1776
Parsons has a desertion problem when he write about the “most scandalous practice of desertion and returning home, by which the number of our troops is every day decreasing.” His brigade had 3192 on 3 Nov, 1999 on 9 Nov, and 1316 on 24 Nov. Prescott’s troop number on 31 Oct: 211 fit for duty, 26 present but sick, 59 absent & sick, 60 absent on command, 376 total excluding officers
12 Nov
1776
Parson’s Brigade relieved from Main Army and assigned to Highlands Department under Major General William Heath. On 18 Nov, Heath writes to George Washington about troop placement. Prescott’s Regiment would be located at “the Gorge of the Mountains by Robinson’s Bridge”. Clinton’s Brigade (where John Bailey’s Regiment could be found) would be stationed at “the Heights above Peeks Kill Landing”. The fort near Robinson’s bridge would later be called “Continental Village”.
7 Dec
1776
Capt Samuel Gilbert of Prescott’s regiment taken prisoner. Circumstances unclear. Joseph and Peter still likely serving under him. He was exchanged two years later.
26 Dec
1776
Battle of Trenton where George Washington launched surprise attack on Hessian troops. Victory improved moral of troops. Washington used victory to help re-enlist troops. Attacking force included John Bailey’s 23rd Continental Regiment.
3 Jan
1777
Battle of Princeton included John Bailey’s 23rd Continental Regiment, part of Clinton’s Brigade.
Jan
1777
Peter and Joseph enlist for 3 years in Capt Samuel Darby’s company, John Bailey’s Regiment. Pay account indicate 1 Jan start date. Peter Baker writes that he re-enlisted in John Bailey’s Regiment “about a month before his time of service expired”. So it is possible that Peter and/or Joseph Baker joined John Bailey’s Regiment in Nov/Dec. If true, then they could have served in the important battles of Trenton and Princeton. More likely, they made the transition Jan/Feb in Continental Village.
10 Jan
1777
Letter from Major General William Heath to George Washington:
“Some Regiments, in particular Prescott’s, have Sixty or Seventy Arms lost, some private & others public property—The Officers alledge that when they left Governor’s Island, they had many Sick, That some Arms were left on the Island—that others were brought over to the City, & that at the Time of the Retreat, Waggons could not be obtained to bring them off, & that they lost even their own Clothing—Others were at the Armourers Shops, and either brought away in a Hurry, & mixed with others, or left behind—Such as were private property they request payment for—Such as belonged to the Public & were so lost, they construe unavoidably lost—As there were a great many Arms lost by different Regiments, in the before mention’d Retreats, under Similar Circumstances, I would beg your Excellency’s particular Direction, as it is a matter of very considerable importance, as all should be treated alike—I have ordered a Stoppage for the public Arms, which have been lost in the before mention’d Instances, until I am directed further.”
9 Feb
1777
Prescott’s Regiment disbanded. Washington combines Bailey’s 23rd and Prescott’s 7th Regiments with elements of other regiments, creating the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment or “Bailey’s Regiment” of the Northern Department.
2 Apr
1777
Ebenezer Learned comes out of retirement to lead the 4th Massachusetts Brigade, or Learned’s Brigade. Stationed in the north to try and slow Burgoine’s march down the Hudson. He appears to be working under Major General Philip Schuyler.
30 Jun
1777
Major General Philip Schuyler writes to George Washington that half of Bailey’s Regiment going to reinforce Fort George; half going to Fort Edward. Total 255 rank and file. He also discusses severe supply shortages:
“I have as yet only been able to march Colonel Bailey’s Regiment consisting of 255 Rank & File—Half of it is to reinforce Fort George and the other half Fort Edward—None of the Militia are yet moved. Should our Troops at Tyconderoga fall into the Enemy’s Hands, I fear they will be able to march where they please, unless a greater Force is sent me than what your Excellency at first intended. I shall be greatly distressed for Shelter for the Militia—If any Tents can be spared I beg your Excellency to order them up and whatever Cartridge paper you can, for we have next to none on this Side of Tyonderoga….If it to be true that we may be so plentifully supplied with fresh Beef as Mr Trumbull positively asserts, his Agents manage badly, for we have none, and hardly any Thing else of the Meat Kind on this Side of Tyonderoga, altho’ I ordered his Deputy to send for Cattle to every Quarter soon after my Return from Philadelphia. If any intrenching Tools can be spared, I wish to have two hundred Spades, and as many Shovels and pick axes sent up, and if any Field Artillery is sent up, be so good as to let it be accompanied by a Detachment of the Artillery, with a Sufficiency of fixed Ammunition. I am Dear Sir most respectfully Your Excellency’s obedient humble Servant Ph. Schuyler”
6 July
1777
Americans forced to evacuate Fort Ticonderoga after Burgoine sets up some huge cannons on nearby mountain. Bailey’s Regiment retreats toward Saratoga. Schuyler is blamed, and replaced by Horatio Gates.
8 Aug
1777
Learned’s Brigade (~700) marched under Benedict Arnold to the relief of Fort Stanwix under seige by Brigadier General Barry St. Leger and trying to prevent him from merging with Burgoyne troops. Arnold created false impression that 3000 men on the way. On 22 Aug, St. Leger took the bait and retreated. His troop were never available to merge with Burgoyne.
17 Sep
1777
Joseph Baker assigned with Capt Aaron Jewett’s (3rd) co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) Regiment. According to Wikipedia, this regiment was formed on 27 Sep in Littleton and marched to Saratoga as a reinforcement. Part of Brickett’s Brigade, one of five known to be “floating” on Burgoyne’s left flank during the retreat to Fort Hardy and Saratoga after the action at Bemis Heights. None of these units saw any significant action, but served to block lines of retreat and limit the range of Burgoyne’s foraging parties. Disbanded on 9 Nov. It is possible that Joseph was assisting this regiment during the Battles of Saratoga.
19 Sep
1777
Bailey’s Regiment in 1st Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Freeman’s Farm. Learned’s brigade considered not very effective. Working forward in the center of the line, they mainly got lost in the woods, and exchanged light fire near the end of the battle.
7 Oct
1777
Bailey’s Regiment in 2nd Battle of Saratoga, also called Battle of Bemis Heights. Peter calls it “taking of Burgoine”. A great Colonial victory that prevented the British from cutting Colonies into two by way of the Hudson river.
The Americans attacked in three columns under Morgan, Learned, and Poor. The British line broke and rallied repeatedly. As the British retired, [Benedict] Arnold, who held no official command, dashed onto the field and led Learned’s Brigade against the enemy center which retreated. He then led Poor’s Brigade against British fortifications until he was wounded….Burgoyne lost over 600 men, 10 guns, and a key defensive position. The Americans lost about 30 killed and 100 wounded.
9 Oct
1777
Continental Village buried by British attack
10 Nov
1777
Bailey’s Regiment expected to go to Philadelphia to help Washington. However, despite the Saratoga victory, the troops are unhappy as seen in this letter from Alexander Hamilton to George Washington:
“I am pained beyond expression ⟨to⟩ inform your Excellency that on my arrival ⟨here⟩ I find everything has been neglected and de⟨ranged⟩ by General Putnam, and that the two brigades Poor’s and Learned’s still remained here and on the other side the River at FishKill…The two Brigades of Poors & Learneds it appears would not march for want of money and necessaries, several of the Regts. having received no pay for 6 or 8 months past. There has been a high mutiny among the former on this account, in which a Capt. killed a man, and was shot himself by his comrade. These difficulties for want of proper management have stopped the troops from proceeding. Governor Clinton has been the only man, who has done any thing toward removing them; but for want of General Putnam’s cooperation has not been able to effect it. He has only been able to prevail with Larned’s brigade to agree to march to Goshen; in hopes by getting them once on the go, to get them to continue their march. On coming here, I immediately sent for Col. Bailey who now commands Larned’s Brigade, and have gotten him to engage for carrying the Brigade on to Head Quarters, as fast as possible. This he expects to effect by means of 5 or 6000 Dollars which Governor Clinton was kind enough to borrow for me; and which Col. Bailey thinks will keep the men in good humour ’till they join you. They marched this morning toward Goshen.”
Dec
1777
Bailey’s Regiment begins Valley Forge Encampment. Brutal winter. 2nd Mass entered with 459 men assigned, 297 fit for duty. Left with 392 assigned, 226 fit for duty.
20 Dec
1777
A letter from a Committee to Inspect Beef to George Washingtona about rancid meat:
We the subscribers being appointed a Committee to Inspect the Beaf drawn for Genl Learnard’s Brigade, under the Command of Colo. Bailey Commandant, we have examianed the Beaf and Judge it not fit for the use of human beings, unwholesome & destructive to nature for any person to make use of Such fude. Signed Joseph Pettingill Captn, John Wiley Capt., Seth Drew Capt.
24 Dec
1777
A letter from Col Bailey to George Washington about lack of clothing:
May it Please your Excellency. Lieut. Colonel Bedlam of my Regiment, having lost his Cloaths, in the Siege at Fort Stanwix. The officers & Soldiers of the Regiment, being in great want of Cloathing, Myself & the Major being Present Humbly request, that he may have a furlough, for the purpose of Procuring Cloathing for himself & Regiment. From Your Excellencys Most Obedent Humb. Servt, John Bailey Col.
19 Feb
1778
Peter Baker assigned to Capt Aaron Jewett’s (3rd) co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) Regiment. It is not yet clear what this assignment meant. Other in the company are also assigned.
24 Mar
1778
Ebenezer Learned, who never wintered in Valley Forge, resigns from post citing health problems. Brigade now called “Late Learned”.
Jun
1778
Bailey’s Regiment leave Valley Forge a strong fighting force having been trained by Baron Von Steuben who arrived on 23 Feb.
28 June
1778
Battle of Monmouth. Learned’s Brigade were stationed on left flank under Lord Sterling. In “The War of the Revolution”, Christopher Ward writes:
“A British attack was aimed at Stirling’s wing. The British light infantry, the 42nd Foot, and the famous Black Watch pressed forward and were met by the heavy fire from the guns of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Carrington’s battery. British fieldpieces were brought up, and a smart artillery duel ensured. Volley after volley of musketry came from both sides. Stirling, with Washington and Stueben, passed along the American line, encouraging the men. For nearly an hour the guns on both sides pounded their opponents, the muskets rained lead without cessations. The fighting was terrific. The American regiments in that line had been brought up to their positions under the eye of Stueben. Under fire they had wheeled into line “with as much precision as on an ordinary parade and with the coolness and intrepidity of veteran troops.” Alexander Hamilton afterwards said that never, until he saw the troops deploy and fight as they did, had he “known or conceived the value of military discipline.” It was Steuben’s reward to see those result of this teaching.”
19 Oct
1778
In letter from Major General Horatio Gates to George Washington, Late Learned’s Brigade under Col Bailey will march to Hartford CT to support the French fleet in Boston if they need help.
20 Nov
1778
Bailey’s Regiment relieved from the Main Army and assigned to Highlands Department. Building fortresses around West Point to prevent another British attempt to divide the colonies.
1 Apr
1779
Joseph Baker discharged from army for being “deranged”
31 Dec
1779
Peter Baker receives honorable discharged at West Point.
1 Jan
1780
William Heath wrotes: “Early in the morning about 100 soldiers belonging to the Massachusetts regiments [of the West Point garrison] … marched off with intent to go home: they were pursued and brought back: some of them were punished; the greater part of them pardoned.” Once back in quarters the individual cases were reviewed, and some of the men received their discharges. The mutineers seem to have asserted that their three year enlistments meant that they only had to serve for three different calendar years, not for three full years from their date of enlistment. Thus, those that had enlisted in 1777 were done, having served for 1777, 1778, and 1779

The Baker Men in the Revolutionary War
“Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War”, published in 1891 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth represents the gold standard of Massachusetts Rev War service. The authors combed through all the available military rolls, and attempted to show how they served. Many members related to the Baker family can be found on these rolls.

“Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War”, published in 1891 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth represents the gold standard of Massachusetts Rev War service. The authors combed through all the available military rolls, and attempted to show how they served. Many members related to the Baker family can be found on these rolls

Peter Baker: Peter’s service record, as detailed in the book, does not mention Prescott because a roll for those serving this term does not survive:

“Baker, Peter, Littleton. Return of men enlisted into the Continental Army from Capt Aaron Jewett’s (3rd) co., Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) regt., dated Feb 19, 1778; joined Capt. Samuel Darby’s (2nd) co., Col. John Bailey’s regt.; enlistment, 3 years or during war; also Private, Col. Bailey’s regt.; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Jan. 1, 1777, to Dec. 31, 1779; also Capt. Samuel Darby’s co., Col. Bailey’s regt.; return of men in service at Valley Forge Jan. 25, 1778.”

Stephen Dudley (father-in-law to Peter): The Stephen Dudley listed in the book is probably, not definitely, our ancestor. He served as a guard for three months to protect Boston. Boston was not under siege at the time, so it was likely an uneventful assignment

“Dudley, Stephen. Private, Capt Isaac Woods’s co., Cop. Jonathan’s Reed’s (1st) regt. of guards; joined April 1, 1778; service, 3 mos. 2 days, at Cambridge; enlisted, 3 months from April 1 (also given April 2). 1778.”

Joseph Baker (brother of Peter): Joseph enlisted first in Col. William Prescott’s regiment. He started as an ensign, became a 2nd lieutenant, later a 1st lieutenant.

“Baker, Joseph (also given Jr.), Littleton. 2d Lieutenant, Capt. Samuel Gilbert’s co., Col. William Prescott’s regt. ; list of officers; commissioned June 25, 1775; also, muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted April 30, 1775; service, 92 days; also, company return dated Cambridge, Sept. 28, 1775; also, order for recompense for losses at Bunker Hill, dated Littleton, April 2, 1776; also, return of men enlisted into Continental Army from Capt. Jewett’s co.. Col. Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) regt., dated Littleton, Sept. 17, 1777; joined Capt. Samuel Darby’s co., Col. John Bailey’s regt.; enlistment, 3 years; also, Col. Bailey’s regt.; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Jan. 1, 1777, to April 1, 1779 ; reported resigned April 1, 1779; also, Capt. Darby’s co., Col. Bailey’s regt.; return of men in service at Valley Forge Jan. 25, 1778; also, order for clothing payable to Lieut. Col. Ezra Badlam, dated Camp at White Plains, Aug. 19, 1778; also, return for clothing dated Dorchester, Sept. 28, 1778 ; also, return for clothing dated Boston, Oct. 6, 1778; also, list of officers in need of clothing, dated Dorchester, Oct. 22, 1778; also, certificate signed by said Baker, dated Littleton, Feb. 1, 1779; also, list of officers dated Boston, May 19, 1779 ; reported not recommended on the new establishment.”

Joseph Baker Sr (father of Peter): Joseph Sr enlisted a month later. Both served under the famous William Prescott of Bunker Hill fame who uttered the famous line “Do not shoot until you see the whites of their eyes”.

“Baker, Joseph, Littleton. Private, Capt. Samuel Gilbert’s co., Col William Prescott’s regt.; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted May 20, 1775; service, 73 days; also, company return dated Cambridge, Sept. 28, 1775; also, order for bounty coat or its equivalent in money, dated Cambridge, Oct. 30, 1775.”

Jonathan Whitcomb (husband of Peter’s sister, Sarah Baker): Not listed on “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War”. However, from “The Whitcomb family in America”, pg 214, we read this about Jonathan Whitcomb:

“On hearing of the news from Lexington and Concord enlisted in the American army. Just before the battle of Bunker Hill he was called home for some reason, and his brother, Peter, who served as his substitute, was killed in the fight.”

Samuel Tuttle (husband of Peter’s sister, Elizabeth)

“Tuttle, Samuel, 2d, Littleton. Return of company officers of Col. Dike’s regt., showing number of men present under them and also those not joined, dated Dorchester, Sept. 21, 1776; said Tuttle, with others, raised for Capt. John Minott’s co. but reported as not having joined.”

John Darling (second husband of Lydia Dudley Baker)

“Darling, John, Winchendon. Private, Capt. Abel Wilder’s co. of Minute-men, Col. Ephraim Doolittle’s regt., which marched April 20, 1775, in response to the alarm of April 19, 1775, to Cambridge; service, 6 days; also, Capt. Abel Wilder’s co. Col. Ephraim Doolittle’s regt. ; receipt for advance pay dated Charlestown, June 26, 1775 ; also, same co. and regt. ; muster roll dated Aug. 1, 1775 ; enlisted April 26, 1775; service, 3 mos. 13 days; also, company return dated Oct. 6, 1775; reported went to Quebec; also, order dated Nov. 8, 1776, signed by said Darling, for money due for a bounty coat, he having marched to Quebec with Col. Arnold Sept. 13, 1775, and been taken prisoner, and not having received either the coat or its equivalent.”

Thomas Baker (uncle of Peter Baker): The youngest brother of Joseph Sr struggled after the war. Legal documents show the town of Groton taking over his finances to settle some of his debts. One son, William, is known to survive. He became an itinerant minister settling in Michigan.

“Baker, Thomas, Groton (also given Littleton). Private, Capt. Henry Farwell’s co., Col. William Prescott’s regt., which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775; service, 18 days; also, Capt. Samuel Gilbert’s co., Col. Prescott’s regt.; muster roll date Aug. 1, 1775; enlisted May 20, 1775; service, 73 days; reported lost articles in battle at Charlestown, June 17, 1775; also, company return dated Cambridge, Sept. 28, 1775; also, order for bounty coat or its equivalent in money, dated Cambridge, Oct. 30, 1775.”

Timothy Baker (cousin of Peter Baker and brother of David): He shows up as a drummer on the military rolls with Peter and Joseph, likely a cousin. Joseph Sr had a brother William with children Timothy and David. The term “Jr” may be used to differentiate him from his uncle Timothy. Like Peter, Timothy initially settled in Cheshire county, NH. After his first wife died, he eventually settled in Genesee county NY.

“Baker, Timothy, Jr., Littleton (also given Shirley). Return of men enlisted into Continental Army from Capt. Aaron Jewett’s (3d) co.. Col. Jonathan Reed’s (6th Middlesex Co.) regt., dated Feb. 19, 1778; joined Capt. Samuel Darljy’s (2d) co., Col. John Bailey’s regt.; enlistment, 3 years or during war; also, Drummer, 2d co., Col. Bailey’s regt. ; Continental Army pay accounts for service from May 10, 1777, to Dec. 31, 1779; also, Capt. Darby’s co.. Col. Bailey’s regt. ; return of men in service at Valley Forge, Jan. 25, 1778; also, Private, Capt. Thomas Bradford’s co., Col. Bailey’s regt. ; Continental Army pay accounts for service from Jan. 1, 1780, to April 17, 1780.”

David Baker (cousin of Peter Baker and brother of Timothy): Likely died during the war. On military roll lists him a “sick in hospital”

“BAKER, David, Littleton. Private, Capt. Asa Laurance’s co., Col Jonathan Reed’s regt.; enlisted Sept. 26, 1777; discharged Nov. 9, 1777; service 1 mo. 15 days, with army under Gen. Gates; also, descriptive list of men enlisted from Middlesex Co. for term of 9 months from the time of their arrival at Fishkill, June 21, 1778; 3d co., Col Reed’s regt.; age, 19 yrs.; stature, 5 ft. 2 in.; residence, Littleton.”

The Pension Files of Other Soldiers
The Federal government allowed survivors of the Revolutionary War to apply for a pension starting in 1818. Spouses also could get a benefit. The files are now online, and many names on the files have been indexed on Fold3 so it is now possible to see what other survivors have to say. The purpose of these pensions is to prove service and hardship so they need to state they have neither income nor any assets. As a bonus, several individuals gave details of their service including battle, injuries, sickness, etc.

Comparatively few pensioners name Samuel Gilbert as their Captain. However, other individuals under Col Prescott give a consistent story. They all indicate going to Governor’s Island. Many indicate that they fought in Harlem Heights, but this service could include the time on Crown Point which is never mentioned. Many indicated fighting at White Plain, but this service may include time on Frog Point. Finally all mention finishing in either Fishkill or Peekskill.

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Samuel Gilbert’s Company

PETER BAKER: “immediately joined my company at Cambridge where we remained  until the British army evacuated Boston, when we followed them to New York – that we went into winter quarters in the High Land in New York I believe about three miles north of West Point”

JOHN OAKS: “I served this time out; and at West Point I immediately enlisted again for three year under Capt Saml Derby (of old York) & Col Bailey’s Regt.”
as stated as witness on Caleb Severan pension file: He [Caleb Severan] was in the “years service” so called, did his duty faithfully as a soldier during that time & was discharged on or about the first of January 1777: together with my self & others of the same Reg’t.”

LEMUEL OAKS: in a company of infantry commanded by Capt Samuel Gilbert, Leut. Joseph Gilbert and Leut or Ensign Joseph Baker…enlisted into the service of the United States under the same officers for the term of one year, and served as a private during said term chiefly in the State of New York.”
from witness Abel Proctor: “he [Lemuel Oaks] said that he was a warten to leiut Joseph Gilbert who went from Littleton, when on their furlough home, said Gilbert was taken sick by the way, and died at North Castle, this he stated to me on his return.”

ISAAC DURANT: “went to New York, did a years service and was discharged”

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Joseph Morse’ [AKA Moss] Company

JOHN BULLARD: “he was in the battle of White Plain in the State of New York”

SAMUEL CLARK: “I was first stationed at Lechmere point in Cambridge, Toward the last ??? of the next March I left that place & went to Governors Island in New York Harbor. I was there & in N.Y. City till sometime in the next September when the Regiment marched to Kings bridge – we then built some Barracks & in a short time after we went to White plains – when the British took the place, the Company when to Peekskill & continued there till the end of my said enlistment.

WILLIAM CLARK (as stated on Samuel Clark Pension): “I was first stationed at Lechmere point in Cambridge. Toward the last of March of the next year I left that place & marched to Governors Island in New York Harbor. I was at that place & in the City till sometime in September when we went to Kings bridge – we there built some barracks & after a few weeks we went to White plains – when the British took that place we went to Peekskill & continued there till the end of my enlistment.

ABEL CONANT: “was stationed at a place called Sewell’s point near Boston until after the British evacuated Boston – from thence to New London, Conn. and from thence by water to New York City and was there stationed for a short time and afterwards at Governors’ Island – was taken from Governors’ Island to work as a Carpenter, in the City some time in the summer, building boats etc. At the time the army left New York, went with the army up North river and was discharged at Peek’s kill”

JOHN REED: “he remained a short time at Brookline when his Regiment repaired to the City of New York & from thence to Governors Island on the harbor of that City, & he continued doing duty in New York and New jersey untill the expiration of his term”

WILLIAM WOOD (from Josiah Gilman & Sam Tenney,  4 Dec 1787): “he has produced sufficient evidence that, while in the service of this county in said regiment [at Bunker Hill] he received a wound in the right elbow by which it is rendered stiff – that we judge him to be entitled to a pension.”

PELATIAH RUSSELL: “he was employed by his company Officers on particular service and was ordered to join his company at Providence which he did and on the nineteenth day of april, he was with this Regiment in the City of New York, and from thence they proceded to Govenors Island….In the month of May there was a proposal to raise a Regiment of Artificers, and all Artisans belonging to the service were permitted to houin it; some day in May they paraded on Broadway, were counted of into…in a Regiment of Artificers commanded by Coll Jonathan Brewer…The Artificers were employed in or about New York untill they were compelled to retreat to Kings Bridge, thence to North Castle, then to Pekks Kill when they went into Winter Quarters and remained until his time expired”

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Joseph Moor’s [AKA Moore’s] Company

JOHN PATTIN: “Marched to Boston, then to New York: were stationed on Governors Island. On or about the month of September we were driven from this place by the British [assault?] into the City of New York; from thence to Harlem Heights & to Kingsbridge. And on to the White Plains. I continued in this service till the 24th of November following when I was taken unwell. I was discharged, as a Invalid. Having been in service almost eleven months”
as stated as witness on Caleb Severance pension file: “from said Sewels Point, we marched the spring following to New York – from New York we went on to Governor’s Island where we remained until driven off by the British back to New york – we retreated from the City of New York to Harlem heights’ then off the Island across King’s Bridge & from thence to white plains”

EBENEZER FARNSWORTH: “he was at the Battle of White plains”
(as witness for James Mack): “We were first embodied at Sewells Point in Massachusetts and from thence went to Providence Rhode island from which place we embarked on bord a ship and went to New york City and were stationed on Governnors Island. From which place we retreated to New York and were stationed on the Common, from whence we retreated to Harlem Heights and were in the Battle of that place. From thence we removed to White plains and were the the Battle of that place. From thence we went to Peekskill, afterwards went into Winter quarters at Fishkill. From which place we were discharged.”

SAMUEL WHITNEY: “I was at the Battle of Harlem heights, and various skirmishes in New Jersey – & on the 15th Sep 1776 in the retreat from New York under Col. Prescott, to Harlem heights”

AMOS BLODGET (20 Apr 1818): “in this company he proceeded by the way of New London to New York and was encamped on Governors Island in the harbor of New York” (March 1821): “was in the Battles of Harlem Heights and White Plains”

SIMEON KEMP: “enlisted for the term of one year in December 1775 and was called for in April following into active service, was marched to the City of New York to Governors Island adn Long Island adn continued in the service till the succeeding January being the year 1777 & was discharged at Peekshill in the Highlands.”
(from witness Jonas Blood): “I remember his going from Sewells point to New London, where we took shipping for New York, where we landed and afterwards, were encamped on Governors Island, & I remember to have seen him during the year occasionally tho he did not belong to the same Company with me, but being of the same Town, I often met & recognized him & know that he continued with his Company and Regiment untill we were all dismissed at Peeks kills.”

DAVID CLOUGH: “I was stationed on Govenors Island in New York harbor. I was in the battle of white plains & had to retreat to Peeks kills where we remained untill my time of enlistment was out”

STEPHEN HILLS: “I did duty in the City of New York & on Governors Island, at Harlem Heights, White plains, Peeks Kell, and in the State of New Jersey. I have been in several skirmishes but in no pitched battles & received a slight wound from a musket ball in my left leg on a retreat from New York to Harlem Hights. I was in a brush at White planes & exposed to bombardments on Governors Island & a place called the bowry near the City of New York. & I was honorably discharged in writing on the high lands about fifty miles above the city of New York, a mile or better from the River”

EBENEZER HILLS (as witness on Phineas Gage pension file): “The regiment marched to Providence, New London & New York. Soon after to Governors’ Island, where we served until the enemy came into the narrows. In the later part of September or the first of October 1776 said Gage was sick, and sent to Stamford. I was sick and sent to the same place soon after. About the middle of October an examination of the sick list was made, and I was directed to join by regiment, which I did, and said Gage and John Patten of said Merrimack were directed to go home, being considered unfit for any more duty that year.”

PHINEAS GAGE : “As stated in the affidavit of Ebenezer Hills, that I was taken sick in September 1776, and sent to Stamford in Connecticut. In October, and I think in the middle of the motth, an examination of the sick list was made. I was then so sick that it was certain I should be unable to do duty before my time was out, and I was discharged and told I might go home though it was doubtful if I ever reached home. I went by short stages and reached home the first of November as near as I can recollect, and remained sick some time longer.

WILLIAM GREEN (witness on Simon Green pension file, 18 Aug 1838): “We were stationed in the vicinity of Cambridge untill about the first of April following and then marched to the City of New York and were stationed in the City of New York and on Govenour Island untill the fifteenth day of September following when we were driven out of the City by the enemy to Harlem Heights. The next day we drove the enemy back towards New York City. A short time after we marched to white plains and said Simon Green and myself were in the Battle at said white plains. After said battle we were stationed in different places in the State of New York untill the first of January 1777 when we were disbanded and went home.”

MOSES CHASE (witness on Samuel Lawrence pension file): “we both served there in, he as an Ensign, and I as a private for the term on one year, – marching to New York, retreating to Harlem heights on the 15th of September, my birthday, were there in a battle, and afterward, retreated across King’s bridge, & we were in the battle of White plains – afterward went to winter quarter at Fish kill.

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Hugh Maxwell’s Company

CALEB SEVERANCE: “I then continued in service, and enlisted under the same officers upon the Continental Service for one year (viz. the whole 1776). We remained at Sewall’s Point until the enemy evacuated Boston. Then we marched to New York, and worked on the Fort at Governor’s Island, until the retreat at King’s birdge. From thence we marched to White Plains, where I served in the battle. From thence we marched to Peek’s Kil, where I remained until January 1777.”
as stated as witness on John Pattin pension file: “enlisted on 1st Jan in 1776 at a place called Sewel’s point, near Boston, from said Sewel’s Point we marched in the spring following to New York; from New York we went to Governor’s Island where we remained until we were driven off by the British -back to New York – we retreated from the City of New York to Harlem Heights & from thence off the island across Kings bridge & from thence to white plains”

JACOB NUTTING: “Preceded by the way of New London to New York and was encamped on Governors Island in the harbor of that city, in that vicinity and in the State of New Jersey he remained until the expiration of that year when his Company was discharged and he returned home.”

JAMES PATTS: “Served at Cambridge Massachusetts, New York – and near in the battle of White Plains.”

JONATHAN PETTS: “marched to New York City and from thence to Governors Island where we staid the summer and from thence to what was called the Highland in said State and thence took up our winter quarters and the spring following was discharged”

ARCHIBALD McINTOSH: “was in the battle of White Plains”

SILAS PARKER: “went from Brookline to Cambridge, then to New York, Governors Island, to the City of New York, & to White plains, and was in the Battle of Frogs point”

JOSEPH RUMRILL (from daughters Rebeca and Asenath Rumrill regarding wound received earlier at Bunker Hill): “he suffered from the effects of a wound by a musket ball through both cheek received in service, for which he drew the Invalid Pension, which carried away eleven of his teeth, and a large part of his tongue; that his tongue partly grew again, but was deformed; that his speech was much impaired by it; that he suffered dispency in eating”

JOHN MANNING: “with the Regiment he proceeded by way of New London to New York, was first encamped on Governors Island, and with his Regiment he continued doing duty”

BENJAMIN BROWN: “I was in several engagment during the evacuation of New York Island in 1776. I was in the Battle of White Plains and in December I was present at the taking of Hackinsack under the command of Genl Parsons”

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Jonathan Nowells’ Company

ICHABOD LORD: “marched to the city of New York, and remained there & vicinity of Boston till the army retreated up the Huson river at King’s bridge & vicinity till he was discharged at Peekskill in the state of New York, on or about the first of January, 1777.”

ANDREW NEAL: “was in the battle of White Plains”

BENJAMIN LORD: “and then enlisted into the years service for a year and served in the same company nine months of the years service ofarred (?) & then hired a man by the name of Feltch as a substitute and that he was accepted by the officers”

RICHARD PERKINS: “I was in Bunker Hill battle, also at Harlem plains and Stillwater besides many skirmishes and was always called a good soldier”, Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt John Nuttings’ Company

ELEAZER SPAULDING: “I joined my Reg’t at Cambridge, Marched to N. York (after the British had evacuated Boston); was stationed on Governor’s Island; Continued there till we evacuated the place; when we went into the City of N. York. I was at the Battle of White Plains; We went to Fiske kills when we continued principhy[?]  till my said term of one year had expired; when I was regularly discharged.”

THOMAS WEATHERBEE: “In the service of the United States untill the first day of Jan 1777 when he was discharged from Service at Peekskill in the State of New York, was stationed at Governor’s Island & White Plains & other places”

DANIEL NUTTING: “he entered his company at Cambridge on the said first day of January & proceeded with them by the way of New London to New York and was encamped on Governors Island on the harbor of New York, & did duty on the State untill his year expired & he was dismissed, no discharges were given to any solider of Capt Nuttings Company that ever heard off – he received a wound in the battle of bunker hill, for which he was place on the pension roll”
From Doctor’s Report concerning his pension status
“it appears that on 17th day of June in the year 1775 being engaged in the battle on or near a place called Bunker’s Hill in the State, of Massachusetts, he received a wound in his left hand from a musket ball which entered the out edge of said hand near the wrist, croped said hand, and carved away his left thumb, and injured the muscles and tendons of his said left hand and arm.”

JOSIAH NEWHALL: “I served but two months on the last enlistment owing to my being unwell & unable to perform duty, and by the advice of Doctor Hart, Surgeon of said Regiment & with the consent & approbation of Col. Prescott I was honorably discharged at West Point in the State of New York on or about the 22nd of March 1777, by hiring a substitute to take my place for the remainder of the term of two years; this substitute was my Brother Micajah Newhall, who is now dead. I had a written discharge from my Col which was stolen from me with my pocket book at New London in the State of Connecticut on my return home. I was in no battle except the battle of  Bunker Hill.”
His witness, Thomas Kemp, writes: “Newhall soon after his second enlistment was ordered to New York and the next time I saw him was a the Battle of White Plains, where said Newhall was…”

ELEAZER SPAULDING: “I joined my Reg’t at Cambridge, Marched to N. York (after the British had evacuated Boston); was stationed on Governor’s Island; Continued there till we evacuated the place; when we went into the City of N. York. I was at the Battle of White Plains; We went to Fiske kills when we continued principhy[?]  till my said term of one year had expired; when I was regularly discharged.”

JOSEPH SHED: “marched to Rhode Island & thence to New York and was in the battle at ‘White plains’ “

OLIVER BOWERS: “he was in the Battle of Harlem Heights on York Island below Kings Bridge”

NATHANIEL SARTELL: “when the American Army marched to New York that Spring he was left with the care of the Invalids at Sewell’s point, and on the 22nd of April he was ordered to join his Regiment till the expiration of this term”

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt John Nutting’s Company

JONAS BLOOD: “he proceeded to the City of New York, was on Governors island and continued to do duty in that vicinity untill the first day of January, 1777”

JOSIAH SPAULDING: “I was in the battle of White Plains”

JOHN McCONNECK: “he was at the battle of Harlem heights in the State of New York in the year 1776 & at the battle of white plains in the State of New York”

Soldiers in Col William Prescott’s Regiment, Capt Samuel Patch’s Company

SAMUEL NUTTING: “in the spring he proceeded with his Regiment by way of New London to New York, and encamped on Governors Island [unreadable] retreated from New York, he was ordered in Capt. John Nutting’s Company of Rangers in which he did duty until his time expired”
from witness Amos Blood Letter in file: “Soon after I joined the Army I kept a journal of occurences and know that Col Prescott’s Regiment marched from Sewells point in Cambridge to New London where they took shipping and landed at New York City and soon after were encamped on Governors Island, on which place I often saw the aforesaid three Soldiers – Some time during the summer Genl Washington came on to the Island & invited Capt Nutting to select two hundred men from Col. Prescotts Regiment for Rangers, and he took the aforesaid Samuel Nutting who was Searjant in Capt Patch Company amoung the first he selected, and he left the Island, and I did not see him as he went away with the Rangers untill after I was discharged – the said Joseph Adams and Jonas Blood remained on the Island with their Companies untill the Regiment retreated from the Island and over Kingsbridge to Harlem – I was ordered to Stamford with a Sarjants party and after the battle at White plains, I joined the Regiment again, where I again met the said Adams and Jonas Blood and we all continued with our respective Companies untill the first day of January AD 1777”

LEVI CHUBBUCK: “wounded on 14 Oct 1776 on Frog’s Point in left knee by a musket ball”

Enough pensioner file exist for Col John Bailey and Samuel Darby’s Company so that other companies were not included. They universally mention “The Capture of Burgoyne” and Monmouth which likely includes both battles of Saratoga. The description of Ichabod Lord is valuable because he taking about his movement outside of these important events.

PETER BAKER: “I further say that whilst in said winter quarters, about a month before my time of service expired, I again enlisted into Capt Saml Darby’s company in Col John Bailey’s Regiment being the 2nd Reg’t. Massachusetts line to serve for three years.  – that I served in said Company & Regiment the full term of reenlistment except nine days which was allowed me to return home when I was discharged at West Point – I have lost my discharge, not considering it of any value – I was at the battle of Monmouth & at the taking of Burgoine.”

JOSEPH HILTER: “marched to New York and Pitskill, when by term of service expired. I then reenlisted into the same company and regiment for the term of one year and served out the full period of my enlistment, I reenlisted at Pittskill and afterwards marched at Trenton and to a place some where near Philadelphia”

ZACHARIAH ROBBINS: “He entered in the spring of seventeen hundred and seventy-five for eight months in the company commanded by Capt Joseph Baker and Regiment of Col Prescott and was the battle of Bunker Hill; Afterwards he enlisted for three years and during the time was detained a prisoner at N. York ten months. I think he left the service in the year seventeen hundred and eighty.”

WILLIAM DAVIS: “I was at the capture of Burgoyne; was in the front guard of Gen. Washington’s main army at the battle of Monmouth, and acting as a serjeant commanded a platoon at the storming of Stoney Point under General Wayne.”

MILES FORD: “he was in both of the battles at the taking of Burgoyne”

JOSHUA FENIX: “That he was at the capture of Burgoyne & Battle of Monmouth. Resigned his commission on account of deafness”

ICHABOD LORD: “he with said company marched to Boston & in the spring to Bennington, Vermont, then to Albany, where the whole regiment remained some time, and then marched up North river to Saratoga, Forts Miller, Edward & Ann; was in the battles of Stillwater & Saratoga in September & October 1777, and at the surrender of Burgoin’s army – in said battles. Colonel Bailey, Leiut Col. James Tupper, & Major ___ Peters belonged to said Regiment, in Brigadier Genl Learned’s brigade, in Genl Arnold’s division, & whole army commanded by Generals Schuyler & then Gates. And after Burguoin’s surrender said regiment went to Albany, to Esopus, then across New Jersey to Valley Forge where passed the winter of 1777 & 1778, and then 1778 crossed New Jersey to West Point, where said vicinity he said Ichabod Lord served till dischaged on or about the first of January, 1780, thus serving three years.”

JAMES NOCK: “near 2nd Battle of Saratoga 10/7/1777”

WILLIAM PREBBLE: “1st Battle of Saratoga 9/19/1777”

NATHAN PILLSBURY: “he was in the Battle of the Capture of Burgoyne, the Battle of Monmouth and at the Storming of the fort at Stoney Point”

EBENEZER PERKINS: “Capt Baker’s Company in Col Bailey’s Regt in the Massachusetts Line where I served untill a little before Burgoin surrendered & was in the first battle at Saratoga in New York. I was ordered out in a Corporal’s guard & was taken by surprise by a Company of Tories & was pricked in the breast by one of them & should have been killed had not one of them struck of the bayonet. There were six of us in the guard we were carried prisoners to Montreal & from thence to Quebeck in Canada & was then removed to St. Johns & the Isle of Nore where they put me to work & I soon after made my escape from them & when I came to Crown Point I was told that peace had taken place & returned home & never after joined the army & I understood my Regt had broken up.”

ZACHARIAH ROBBINS (from Hugh Maxwell): “This may certify that Sarj’t Zachariah Robbins has served as a faithful good soldier in the 2nd Mass Regt from the tenth of May 1777 to the Ninth of January 1781 – Being three years and Eight Months from the 3rd Feby 1780 to the 10 Dec 1780 was a Prisoner in New York- is honorby discharged the service. Given under my hand at West Point this Ninth day of January 1781.

BENJAMIN ROE: “In the spring of 1777 I enlisted again as a private for three years [unreadable] same time in the fall of 1777 [unreadable] ambushed at Lake George in Capt Darby company in Col Baileys Regiment, Massachusetts line [unreadable] cut my time and [unreadable] discharged”

JOHN TOBEY: “I enlisted again in Captain Samuel Darbys Company in Col Bailey’s Regiment and marched to Albany, and to Fort Edward, served under then several enlistments at above mentioned and various other place during the revolutionary war four years and and half on the continental establishment, and was discharged but my certificate of discharge has long been lost. I was in the Battle of Monmouth, and on the Retreat from Ticonderoga”

ALEXANDER THOMSON: “during the above time of service said Capt. Derby was promoted to be a Major, and our company was commanded by Capt Simeon Lord. I was at the taking of Burgoyne, & at the Battle of Monmonth. I think said Lord was called Captain Lieutenent”

DANIEL WEBBER: “he was in the battle of Monmouth & in several Shirmishes”

PAUL WENTWORTH: “he was in the battles of Still Water – of the White Plains & at the Capture of Burguoyne”

THOMAS WOOSTER: “went to Boston, and from thence went to the Northward, and was engaged in the battle at the taking of Burguoines army – Afterward he was engaged in the celebrated battle of Monmouth. And was engaged in several other shimishes.”

Soldiers in Col John Bailey’s Regiment, Capt Drew’s Company

 LEVI CHUBBUCK: “a fifer; he was in two battles at Stillwater in September & October 1777, and in the Battle at Monmouth June 28th, 1778”

Peter and Lydia (Dudley) Baker of Westmoreland NH

The Westmoreland Historical Society published this interesting account about a Peter and Lydia (Dudley) Baker of New Hampshire. This biography was likely written by a descendant of Larkin Baker around the year 1895, the latest date indicated. The best guess is William Alson Baker, who died in 1897. His death date is unmentioned, and there considerable information listed about his children. This account contains a lot of useful information about Peter and Lydia, their parents, and children. It also includes inferences to valor in the Revolutionary War and, later, of desertion.
“PETER[3], son of Joseph Jr[2], born circa Sept 5, 1755, married Nov 14, 1783 to Lydia, born circa 1763, died Sept 9, 1815, daughter of Stephen & Lydia Dudley of New Ipswich NH. Revolutionary War solider. Lived in southwest part of Westmoreland between 1792 and 1799. Was said that he ran away circa 1799 and left his family, some of them quite small at the time. His widow married in Chesterfield on Nov 27, 1804 John Darling as his 2nd wife. Children: (order uncertain) 1. Lydia born Jun 26, 1788, died June 26, 1828, married 1808 Arza Walker of Chesterfield; ii Sally married May 2, 1803 Martin Cole, removed to Mt Holly Vt; iii Asa, a Judge, removed to NY State, solider in War of 1812, Freemason; iv Polly married Chesterfield Jan 26, 1814 to John B Day Jr of Chesterfield; v Alden, a Judge, resident of NY State; vi James – lawyer, resident of NY State; vii Larkin; viii Charles (youngest), resident NYC.”

As a descendant from a James Baker, this document is a godsend because it potentially bridges the gap from our James Baker back into time. Unfortunately, it also has a common genealogical flaw. It gives no sources. We need supporting evidence, the basis of any good research. Without going into the details about good vs bad evidence, one would ideally like to find records created at the time of the event that show the interconnectedness of the family (e.g., a birth record that lists the names of the parents). However, any record is useful as long as it comes from a unique source. Ultimately, there are two important questions to answer: 1. Is this document accurate?  An error-filled document loses its credibility. 2. Have the correct children been identified? Seven of the eight of the children has family trees dependent largely on this single document. How do we know that our James Baker is the correct one among the many available James Bakers? So let’s see how the evidence unfolds. Maybe, we can learn a little more about Peter and Lydia Baker.

Proposed Family Tree for Peter and Lydia (Dudley) Baker

Peter & Lydia (Dudley) Baker

Tracking Peter Baker and Lydia Dudley

Births of Peter Baker and Lydia Baker

According to Littleton, Middlesex, MA town records, Peter Baker was born 5 Sep 1755 to Joseph and Sarah (Wheeler) Baker.  The family biography in “Herrick Genealogy” reads: “Sarah Wheeler; d. in Acton, York co., Me., Sep. 2, 1837; m. 1742, Joseph Baker, jr., of Littleton, Middlesex co., Mass. He enlisted in the American Army in 1775, and d. July 8, 1776.” Lydia Dudley was born 11 Aug 1762 to Stephen and Lydia (Harwood) Dudley. The biography of Stephen Dudley in “History of the Dudley Family” states: “Stephen, born at Littleton, Mass., July 2, 1735; m. Lydia Harwood of Littleton. He was a Revolutionary soldier. He. d. about 1784 in South Carolina, while there temporarily on business.” So Peter and Lydia were the product of Littleton Massachusetts families that actively supported the Colonists.

The Revolutionary War Years
Peter Baker turns up in Mt Holley in 1818 and submits a letter for a pension where he writes simply about his involvement in the “Taking of Burgoine”,  and the “Battle of Monmouth”. But research shows a much bigger story. His father and brother, Joseph Sr and Joseph, both fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Then Peter joined his brother for the next four years where they participated in the highs and lows of the War. They marched from Boston to New York. They retreated to the hills near West Point in the face of a ferocious assault of a well-armed enemy. They survived a winter in Valley Forge. They served under famous names like Benedict Arnold, William Prescott and George Washington. Through it all, they had the ability to march long distances in untamed forests, to build great fortifications and to survive with minimal resources. They eventually trained to be great soldiers, and they were winners in two important battles: the Battle of Bemis Heights where British General Burgoyne was captured and the Battle of Monmouth. It must have been a harrowing experience for both Peter and his brother, Joseph, and there are indications that both were affected. Due to the large number of details, there is a separate account that covers Peter’s service.

Married Life of Peter Baker and Lydia Dudley
After the war, there is a record of the marriage of  Mr. Peter Baker of Littleton and Mrs. Lydia Dudley of New Ipswich on 14 Nov 1783. Their first two children, Sarah and Asa, were born in New Ipswich NH per town records. By the time of the 1790 census the family can be found in Westmoreland NH. They probably moved there around 1788 prior to the third child’s birth. Census records in 1790 show Peter, Lydia, with children Asa, Sarah and Lydia. There is also another male less then 16 yrs, who may have died young. Here is a summary of the relevant census returns that include possible names and their age in [ ]. For those not familiar with early US census returns, Peter Baker in the 1790 census is head of the household, with 2 males less then 16 years old, 1 male 16 years or old, and 3 females which probably translates to he and his wife with 2 sons and 2 daughters. We have to guess the identity of the males and females.

1790 Census for Peter Baker1800 Census for Peter Baker1810 Census for John Darling
CategoryIndividual [age]CategoryIndividual [age]CategoryIndividual [age]
2 males < 16Asa [4], Unknown1 males < 10Alden [2]1 male < 10Charles [10]
1 males >= 16Peter [35]2 females < 10Lydia? [12], Polly [3]1 male 10-15Alden [12]
3 femalesLydia [28], Sarah [5], Lydia [2]1 female 26-44Lydia [38]4 males 16-25James [18], Larkin [15], Boynton [20], Darius [23]
missingnonemissingPeter [45], Sarah [15], Asa [14], James [8], Larkin [5], Charles [0]1 male > 44John [59]
1 female < 10Miranda [4]
2 females 10-15Polly [3], Louis [14]
2 females 16-25Mary Ann [16], Sarah [19]
1 females > 44Lydia [48]
missing (all except Asa married)Sarah [25], Asa [24], Lydia [22], John [32], Nahum [29], Montgomery[25]

Clearly something happened with Peter and the family around 1800. There is one male under 10 years old, 2 females under 10 years, and 1 female between 26 and 44 years, i.e Lydia with 3 young children. The Census shows no adult male in the household and many of their 8 children missing. The census supports the narrative that Peter has left the family.

Marriage of Lydia Baker to John Darling
Lydia Baker remarried on 27 Nov 1804 to John Darling who had fathered 8 children by his previous wife. Lydia and Peter had one girl, Miranda, born 1806. Given Lydia’s 8 children from her previous marriage, you have 17 available children ranging in age from 4 to 30 with only 11 children listed on the 1810 census. While intrepretation of this census poses a challenge, it is possible to account for all of the children, so John and Lydia likely were able to combine their families. Lydia died on 9 Sep 1815 in Chesterfield. She shares a gravestone with Sarah, the first wife, in Center Cemetery. The John Day farm still exists to this day as the “1780 farm”. You can read the entire biography of John Day here

“John Darling, the subject of this memorial, married Sarah Blood, 24 Sept., 1778 in Groton, Middlesex Co., MA. Sarah was born on 9 Oct., 1754 in Groton and died the 6 June, 1804 in Chesterfield, Cheshire Co., NH. She is the daughter of Oliver and Sarah (Darling) Blood. John and Sarah are first cousins. John Darling served in the Revolutionary War as a private in Col. Ephraim Doolittle’s regiment in 1775, as did his father and brother, Jewett. He marched to Quebec under Col. Benedict Arnold, 13 Sept., 1775. In an order dated 8 Nov., 1776, John Darling requested money due for a bounty coat, since he had been taken prisoner. In Jewett Darling’s application for a military pension, John Jr. gave a deposition on the 29th of April, 1818, stating that he saw his brother, Jewett, as a prisoner of war at Ft. Washington. At the time of the deposition, John was living in Chesterfield.  After their marriage, John and Sarah Darling moved to Chesterfield, NH. According to family tradition, they came there on foot. John built a large, two story house situated on the road from Center Village, Winchester, long known as ‘the yellow house’. John was a lumberman and miller, having erected a sawmill on his property. He also used to hunt wolves and bears for bounty and obtained considerable money in that way. … Children of John and Sarah (Blood) Darling, all born in Chesterfield, Cheshire Co., NH are: 1) John 2) Nahum 3) Montgomery 4) Darius 5) Boynton 6) Sarah (Sally) 7) Mary Ann 8) Louis (daughter). After the death of his first wife, John Darling married, second, on 27 Nov., 1804, in Chesterfield, Mrs. Lydia (__) Baker, widow, of Westmoreland. Lydia died 9th of Sept, 1815, at age 52; therefore, she was born abt. 1763. John and Lydia (Baker) Darling had one child: Miranda Darling, b. abt. 1805; m. 10 Oct., 1822, Ebenezer Scott, b. 4 Sept., 1788, d. in Chester, Windsor Co., Vt., son of Ebenezer and Rebecca (Smith) Scott.”

Reappearance of Peter Baker in Vermont
It is not until 1818 that Peter resurfaces in Mt Holly VT seeking a pension for his Revolutionary war service. To quote him in 1820, he has “a pair of crutches upon which I am & I have been obliged to walk for more than three years past and I am now more than Eight Hundred dollars in debt & have been obliged to depend upon the charity of my children for support until I received my pension certificate.” His net assets total 1/2 dollar. During those missing 18 years, only one clue has been found that might suggest his whereabouts. It is a Vermont “warning out” issued a Peter Baker in 1812 in Mt Holley VT. (These warning out notices were a way of telling undesirable inhabitants to get out of town). Amylynne Baker Murphy, a certified genealogist and fellow descendant of Peter and Lydia, has also hit a brick wall in her search of various court records to discover the fate of Peter and the children. Peter Baker died on 25 Nov 1827 at the age of 72 years as shown on his gravestone located at Old Mechanicsville Cemetery located near Mt Holly. At this bottom of the gravestone is the simple tribute “revolutionary soldier”.

Joseph Baker, brother of Peter
The tale of Joseph Baker, who served with Peter, deserves additional mention. Here is recap of his military record as published in the magazine The Massachusetts Magazine, Vol 1, 1908, pg. 253 in an article about Colonel William Prescott’s Regiment

“SECOND LIEUTENANT JOSEPH BAKER of Littleton enlisted April 30, 1775, in Captain Samuel Gilbert’s Company, Colonel William Prescott’s Regiment, and served through the year. He held the same rank in the 7th Continental Regiment in 1776. January 1, 1777, he was appointed First Lieutenant in Captain Darby’s Company in Colonel John Bailey’s 2nd Massachusetts Regiment of the line. He was deranged, April 1, 1779.”

Silas Baker, a big Baker historian, published a brief biography of Joseph’s probable wife, Anna Dix, where he speculates that Anna could have be separated from her husband.

“In 1795 she [Anna Baker] went to Boston, and d. there in July, 1803. She was the first female employed as an instructor at the Orphan Asylum. The day before Anna died her daughter Sarah (Baker) Goodwin’s son died age nine days. Both Anna and this grandson are buried at Central Burying Ground in Boston, Mass. The following is Anna’s gravestone inscription: Sacred / To the memory of / Mrs. Anna Baker / who died July 30th 1803 / Æt. 56. It is not clear if Joseph abandoned Anna or he pre-deceased her. At no point is she referred to as widow, nor is he buried with her. Her obituary which appeared in “The Columbian Centinel”, 3 August 1803 stated that Mrs. Anna Baker “Governess of Boston Female Asylum” died Saturday last.”

These accounts add another layer of intrigue to our Peter Baker. What was the nature of his derangement? Why the difference in rank? What became of Joseph? Did Peter and Joseph both have trouble with their personal relationships? Inquiring minds would someday like to know.

Peter’s Middle Name is not “Wheeler”
As another side note, the brothers Peter, Joseph and Edward Baker have been said to share the middle name of “Wheeler”. However, this unfortunate occurrence seems due to a typo in one family genealogy book published in 1920, “Genealogy and history of the Baker, Andrus, Clark, and Adams families”. The authur accidently used the surname of the mother (“Wheeler’) where the surname of the father (“Baker”) should appear. So every child of Peter and Lydia looks like they have a middle name of “Wheeler”. Given the nature of genealogy on the internet, the name “Peter Wheeler Baker” will erroneously live on forever. From a personal note, I must admit I contributed to this misinformation for a long time.

The Children of Peter and Lydia

It is difficult to prove that he is related to any of his children because none of his children acknowledge his existence.  There is never a mention of the word “Peter” by any of these descendants. Likewise, Lydia is rarely referenced. Son James had a daughter Lydia. One wonders about her options with her existing children when she remarried John Darling in 1804 given his eight children coupled with her eight. Despite this obstacles, let us see if we can identify and verify the children in the Westmoreland account
“Sally married May 2, 1803 Martin Cole, removed to Mt Holly Vt”
Town records of New Ipswich NH indicates a Sarah Baker was born on 26 Jan 1785 to Peter and Lydia Baker. No marriage record found, but there is record for Martin Cole’s birth in Westmoreland NH so the Westmoreland marriage location make sense. 1850 and 1860 censuses for Sarah Cole indicate NH birth. Gravestone of Sarah B Cole in Mt Holly Vt next to Martin Cole gives a death date of 2 Nov 1863, age 79 correctly corresponding to the 1785 birth record. Their only child’s name is Larkin, presumably after his uncle. Furthermore, Peter Baker shows up in Sarah’s town of Mount Holly in 1828 saying he is being supported by his children. In genealogy terms, this is about as good as it gets in terms of saying that Sarah is a child of Peter and Lydia.

“Asa, a Judge, removed to NY State, solider in War of 1812, Freemason”

Town records of New Ipswich NH indicates an Asa Baker was born 31 Dec 1786 to Peter and Lydia Baker. He married Hannah Robinson who lived long enough to collect his War of 1812 pension benefit. In the pension file is a lot of good information. Mention is made that he enrolled in Vermont. Hannah states that he was a merchant born Westmoreland, NH. He served admirably in the war of 1812 before being discharged in 1815 and settling in Baldwinsville NY. He was not a judge, but rather a merchant, who lived in the downtown area of Baldwinsville (his house still stands).

His eldest son, William R Baker, who became rich and famous in Houston TX, took an interest in his family history. He gave some money to help erect a Statue honoring Revolutionary and War of 1812 veterans. Asa’s history is referenced in William’s biography, “[Asa] was a son of Captain Alden S Baker of Revolutionary fame, who served as a gallant officer int he New Hampshire line.” While this statement might seem to suggest that Asa as a son of Alden Baker, it only shows William R Baker got his facts wrong. The birth record trumps an old family memory. Remember that Peter Baker is the Revolutionary soldier, Asa is the 1812 War Captain, and Alden S Baker is a proposed brother to Asa. The fact that William mentions Alden S Baker is a good thing because it connects the two individuals.
“Lydia born Jun 26, 1788, died June 26, 1828, married 1808 Arza Walker of Chesterfield”
There is no birth record for Lydia or any of the remaining Baker children because the family is now living in Westmoreland where no birth records survive. However, we find a gravestone at Center Cemetery in Chesterfield with the inscription: “Mrs. Lydia / wife of / Mr. Arza Walker / died /June 26, 1828 / in her 40. year.”  Arza died the same year, leaving young children, one of whom was William P. Walker. In his biography it is written: “William P. Walker, left fatherless and motherless when but four years old, was taken charge of by his uncle, Martin Cole, a farmer, of Mount Holly, Vt.” So now we can tie Lydia with her sister Sarah Cole, and have some strong evidence that Lydia is another child.

James – lawyer, resident of NY State
Our James Baker first shows up in Wilton, Saratoga, NY in 1815 where he married Mary Palmer on Sept 14th. They spent a few years in Gorham, Ontario, NY before settling in Cambria, Niagara, NY. He was a farmer, never a lawyer. There are no records that place him with a brother or sister, although Alden S Baker lived only 20 miles away in Middleport. From 1925 to 1950 there was a Baker family reunion in Cambria where James & Mary Baker are celebrated as the first Bakers to the area. However there is never any mention of his birthplace. The family biography written by Ethel (Baker) Neff states, “Children of Peter and Lydia, order uncertain, Lydia, Sally, Asa, Polly, Alden, JAMES, Larkin, Charles.” However, this information is clearly taken from the Westmoreland account.

So how can we say that James Baker is the correct son of Peter and Lydia Baker? He consistently lists his birth state as NH in 1850, 1855, 1860, 1865 censuses. The name of his third child is Alden Dudley Baker; the fourth child is Lydia Jane Baker, possibly after his mother Lydia Dudley and his brother Alden S Baker.  Most importantly, there was another James Baker family researcher who was a direct descendant of Palmer Nicholas Baker, eldest son, who moved left NY for Michigan around 1868. Her information appears completely independent from other research, and it states that James Baker was born 11 Mar 1792 in Westmoreland, NH. Not only is the location correct, but the birth date fits nicely between Lydia and Larkin Baker.

The proof is there, but is somewhat circumstantial and weak. For some organizations and researchers, this information may not be sufficient to prove that James Baker is the son of Peter and Lydia Baker. It would nice to find his name with a brother or sister.
Larkin
Here is the part where the Westmoreland History society describes the life of Larkin:

“LARKIN[4], son of Peter[3], b Sept 17, 1795 d  Feb 3, 1872 m(1) Jan 23 1823 Celina who d Oct 4, 1852 dau of Gen Simeon Cobb, m(2) Sarah (White) Wier who d Sept 12, 1880 wid of John H Wier. Was brought up by Hon Ezra Pierce. Went to Dist Sch in town and took a small supplementary course at Chfd Academy. Was a schoolteacher when young man. Busy in town affairs. Supt of Schools, Justice of Peace, Selectman 11 yrs, Judge of Probate 22 yrs, farmer 20 yrs, merchant 7 yrs; these were some of the many offices he filled. In Militia held Capt & Major’s Comm. Was light complexioned, rather below medium height and weighted 240 lbs. Ch all by 1st w: 1 Charlotte Adeline b Apr 23, 1824 d June 13, 1851 m July 16, 1846 Rev Geo E Fuller, 1 ch: Geo Elwin; ii Eunice Dudley b Oct 8, 1825 d June 12, 1852; iii Simeon Larkin b Dec 22, 1827 d Sept 19, 1854 m Mary Randall of Chfd, 1 ch: Alice d 1894, unm; iv Mary Elizabeth b May 5, 1830 d May 2, 1832; v Albert Sprague b Sept 29, 1934 d Sept 15, 1895 m Nov 27, 1861 Carrie F Locke of Rye NH who d 1881, no ch; vi William Alson b May 10, 1837 m Cornelia Cannon of E Cambridge Ms, ch; Mabel, Josie, Albert L, William A, George C; vii Mary Elmina b Oct 10, 1839 d abt 12 yrs; viii Sarah Josephine m May 1, 1863 Elijah Farr.”

In addition there is a very complimentary obituary of Larkin that states:

“born in Westmoreland Sept. 17, 1795, where he has always resided. In early life he was left without the care and counsel of a father. He acquired his education in the primary schools and in the academy at Chesterfield. He afterward taught school several years. He held for a few years a Captain’s and Major’s commission. In 1822 he was married to Celina Cobb, daughter of Gen. Simeon Cobb of Westmoreland. There were born to them nine children, four sons and five daughters.”.

These accounts are filled with a vast amounts of details including his place of birth. It also helps that his middle name is Dudley, and that his nephew’s first name “Larkin” Ironically, it is missing much supporting evidence. There are no independent accounts of his parents, brothers or sisters that would help confirm that Peter and Lydia Baker are his parents. In a way, Larkin has no better claim than James other than the strength of this story.
“Alden, a Judge, resident of NY State”
There is a Alden Sprague Baker who was a judge and he resided in Middleport, Niagara, NY. Two relevant accounts about him survive. First is his newspaper obituary that states: “Alden Sprague Baker was born in Chesterfield, N.H., Nov. 10th, 1798, and was at the time of his death 79 years of age. In 1816 he removed to Baldwinsville, Onondaga enmity, N. Y., and shortly thereafter went to Oswego.” The other is biography written about his son Andrew Jackson Baker where it is stated: “Hon. Alden Sprague Baker was born in Westmoreland, New Hampshire., November 10, 1799, and emigrated to the State of New York in 1816. He married Elizabeth Wanton Wickham, at Sodus Point, Wayne county, New York, in 1823, and settled in Middleport in 1824.”
The two accounts give different birthplaces (Westmoreland vs Chesterfield) and birth dates (1798 vs 1799), but it does not represent much of an inconsistency. Lydia lived in Chesterfield after she remarried. His gravestone supports a 1798 birth. The mention of Baldwinsville is significant because Asa Baker lived there. It suggests that Alden S lived with Asa in Baldwinsville for awhile, which would explain the mentions of Alden S Baker in the William R Baker biography. Based on a mention of Westmoreland as his birth place and a connection to Asa Baker in Baldwinsville, the case for Alden S Baker as a child of Peter and Lydia is quite solid.

“Polly married Chesterfield Jan 26, 1814 to John B Day Jr of Chesterfield”
There is a Polly Baker who married John Day of Chesterfield as evidenced a marriage record on 26 Jan 1814 and by her gravestone found in Grafton VT: “POLLY BAKER / Wife of / JOHN DAY / died / Jan. 1. 1849 / AE. 52”. There is also a biography of John Day that states the following: “JOHN, son of John, m. 1st, 1814, Polly Baker, d. Grafton, Vt., Jan. 1. 1849, a. 52; 2d, 1850, Sophia, dau, of Rufus Harvey (2). He d. Chfd., Apr. 29, 1864.” There is no doubt that a Polly Baker married a John Day and died in Grafton. However, we still are looking for any tie to either Peter Baker or Lydia Dudley. Additional evidence is slim. One child is named Larkin, possibly after his uncle. All members of the family indicate that she was born in NH.

“Charles (youngest), resident NYC”
No Charles Baker has been found yet despite various search attempts. Also, it seems strange that a member of a frontier family in New Hampshire ends up in New York City. However, the story stills holds up. Given a birth date for Alden of 10 Nov 1798, then there is room for a Charles to be born late 1799 into 1800.

Conclusion
On one hand, not much has changed in our understanding of Peter and Lydia Baker. The story presented by the Westmoreland History reveals itself to be very accurate, minus a few occupations for James and Asa. Moreover, the correct individuals have likely been identified as children with various degrees of certainty. One the other hand, the extra evidence gives a clearer picture of this family. There is the impact of the Revolutionary war. We see the pain of a child who “was left without the care and counsel of a father”. Finally we are left wanting to know more: those missing 18 years, the fate of brother Joseph, and the destiny for son Charles.

William R & Hecter (Runnels) Baker of Houston TX

This is the saga of a branch of the Baker Family tree, now defunct, that spanned 130 years from 1820 to 1950. This line has really interesting skeletons. Whereas all families experience ups and downs over the generations, here the highs go higher and the lows go lower.  And since no descendants survive, we do not have to worry about hurting anyone’s feeling when we air the dirty historical laundry. Without further ado, meet William Robinson Baker, a man who gained tremendous power and wealth as part of the early rise of Houston.

Childhood of William Robinson Baker
Asa Baker was the father. Raised in Westmoreland, NH, under difficult circumstances because his own father abandoned the family when he was a young boy, Asa rose to the rank of Captain in the War of 1812. He settled in Baldwinsville, NY, near Syracuse, where his house remains, designated as a historic home. Asa died suddenly by drowning. As stated by the county coroner: “Asa Baker, on the 20th day of April, 1851, at about eight o’clock in the evening, casually fell into the Seneca River and then and there casually, accidentally, and by misfortune, was drowned.” It would not be the last of sudden, unexpected death in this line of the family.

Hannah Robinson was William’s mother. She was the daughter of William Robinson, a merchant from Philadelphia. She remained in Baldwinsville until 1853 when she left to join the rest of the family in Houston where she lived with her children until she died in 1889 at the ripe old age of 94. Her family erected a very nice monument in Glenwood Cemetery. A photo of her survives.

William Robinson Baker in Houston
Born 21 May 1820, William Robinson Baker began his life modestly as stated in his biography in the “Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas” (1880):

“At the age of ten years he was put to manual labor. His early literary acquirements were exceedingly limited, for his father, though a scholarly man, was held in check by the pinches of poverty, and in consequence was obliged to become the tutor of his own children. He however succeeded in giving his son William a tolerable knowledge of the English rudimentary branches. Performing hard labor until the age of seventeen, he determined to go to Texas, and in 1837 arrived in the Republic, locating at Houston, where he has resided ever since. Soon after his arrival he got employment as book-keeper of the Houston Town Company, and was thus engaged for about two years. From 1839 to 1841 he carried on a kind of general store.”

Fortunately for him, as a book keeper, he reported to the Allen Brothers – land speculators who founded Houston in 1836. He parlayed this opportunity well. His claims to fame included:

  • Harris County Clerk from 1841 to 1857
  • Secretary, vice president, general manager, president, and board member of Houston & Texas Central Railway from 1852 to 1877
  • Bank President of City Bank of Houston (it failed in 1885)
  • Major Land Owner and Developer in the 6th Ward of Houston
  • Mayor of Houston from 1880 to 1886
  • Part-owner of Houston Post Newspaper from 1883 to 1889

His success appears to be front-loaded with his railroad job and his land development. His 1860 stated wealth of $300,000 in real estate and personal property of $75,000 (including 23 slaves) put him as one of the top 30 richest Texans. After he sold his stake in the railroad in 1877, he turned to other activities with mixed success. He ran as the astute businessman who could fix the city budget when he won election as mayor in 1880. However, the deficit actually grew by $200,000 during his three terms. He lost by 4 votes on his fourth try in 1886. He purchased the City Bank of Houston. Questions arose whether he knew about the poor capitalization of the bank when he obtained it. A bank run soon closed the bank in 1885, and cost him money in the ensuing lawsuits. Baker attempted to save the Houston Post when he purchased it in 1883, but then had to shut it down in 1884 as it continued to hemorrhage cash. He sold his interest in 1885. Under new ownership, the Post would reopen for a long successful run until 1995. Despite these setbacks, William R Baker still had considerable wealth to the day he died.

William Baker married Hester E Runnels, a prominent debutante, raised by her uncle, Hiram Runnels who would move to Texas in 1842.  Runnels County Texas is named for him. Like other storied men of the South, Hiram appears as a larger-than-life character. He served as Governor of Mississippi in 1833, he attacked a later Governor, Alexander McNutt, with a cane in 1836, and he seriously injured a newspaper editor, Volney Howard, during a duel in 1840. Hestor, on the other hand, comes across as a very charitable soul who gave Houston back her time and treasure until her death in 1880.

 

Siblings of William R Baker
William brought all his siblings to Houston. While his brother died young,  his sisters all married the rich and famous of this early city. Houston has (or had) a Baker Street, Bagby Street, Taylor Street, Runnell Street and a Szabo Street all named after individuals in this account.

  • George Robinson Baker – went to California during the Gold rush. Died young at 28 years. No known offspring
  • Marianna Baker married Thomas Bagby – Library Patron, President of Third National Bank, Founded the Houston Direct Navigation Company to transport cotton
  • Emily Baker married Horace Dickinson Taylor – cotton broker, one time mayor of Houston
  • Julia W Baker married William Clark. He was a merchant who owned a store downtown. He died before 1870, and Julia lived with family in Houston before moving to Waco with her children.
  • Harriet Baker married Alexander A Szabo – Operated first powder mill and the first cotton gin. Received many cotton-related patents. City Treasurer for twenty years.

William and Hestor lived on Rusk Ave between Austin and LaBranche Streets. Back in the day, the rich owned blocks in downtown Houston. As years passed and these individuals moved from the increasingly commercialized downtown, many of these great mansions became obsolete. The Baker house site is now a parking lot. Fortunately, the home sites of the other Baker children have seen a better fate. The Houston City Library now sits on the site of the Thomas and Marianna Bagby home. The Horace and Emily Taylor house site, which lost acreage when Buffalo Bayou was rerouted, sits on the current Sesquicentennial Park. Alexander A Szabo moved into his first wife’s family house, the famous Kellum-Noble House, then bought a large parcel next door. This land now comprises Sam Houston Park.

Lucy (Baker) Turner
William and Hester had one child, Lucy, born 13 Jul 1848. She would have been raised in the highest privilege that Houston offered. Despite the Civil War in the 1860’s, the family showed an appetite for the fashionable Metropolitan cities, particularly New York and Paris.  On 15 Jun 1869, she married Edmund P Turner, whose biography was described in “The Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia”:

“Edmund Pendleton Turner, ’59, of Houston, Texas, died at Sewanee, Tenn., July 31, 1907, from the effects of a stroke of paralysis suffered more than a year earlier. Interment was made in the family burying ground at Oropaxie, New Kent County, Va. Captain Turner was born in 1835. From 1855 to 1859 he was a student in the academic department of the University of Virginia, and later graduated in law from one of the colleges of the North. He was a soldier in the Confederate army, and rose to the command of his company. For many years prior to his death he was engaged in the practice of his profession in the city of Houston.”

That “college to the North” was Harvard Law School. He attained a rank of Captain as a Assistant Adjutant-General during the Civil war, coordinating troop movements in the regional headquarters of Houston under Major General John Magruder. Edmund served as a pallbearer at Magruder’s funeral.

Then 1873 happens. Lucy (Baker) Turner gave birth to her only son, William Baker Turner, exact date still unknown, probably in New York City. Then, we see the following newspaper announcement surface in the “New York Post” on 3 Jun 1873:

“At Grand Hotel, very suddenly, Mrs. E.P. Turner, daughter of Mr. William Baker, of Houston, Texas. Notice of funeral hereafter.”

The circumstances of her death are never made clear. New York City was issuing birth and death certificates but no documents can be located for either Lucy or her son. The obituary the following week on 10 Jun in “The New York Herald”, while long and sad, does not address the question.

“This much admired young woman, so amiable, so dearly loved, has been snatched suddenly from among us. Her early life gave promise of a long period of happiness and usefulness. Her gentle and genial disposition made sunshine to all in her presence. But Death, regarding not the beautiful traits of her character, swept his scythe over the very threshold of her life. Relentless Death! This is thy world; thou reapest here; but unseen angels snatch the flower from thy sickle and plant it in a garden over which thou hast no dominion. So has this treasured flower been removed from the clouds and storms of this world, to bloom and flourish in a heavenly home.”

Next mention of the family does not occur until almost 9 months later when Lucy’s body is returned to Houston for burial as reported by the “The Galveston Daily News” on 6 Mar 1874.

“Interment of Mrs. Turner – Capt. E.T. Turner returned from the North on Tuesday with the remains of his beloved wife, nee Lucy Baker, whose untimely death was reported several weeks ago. The remains of the amiable and universally respected lady were met at the depot by numerous friends of the family, and escorted to the residence of her father, Wm. R. Baker, Esq., by one of the largest funeral corteges ever seen in Houston. The funeral service was conducted by Rev. Dr. Zealy, of the Baptist Church. By direction of the sorrowing mother of the deceased, an elegant tomb had been erected in the garden, where the resting place of her idolized daughter will always be in view. The grounds were beautifully decorated with the most exquisite flowers and wreaths of immortelles, and everything was done that could be to testify grief for the death or respect for the memory of the dear departed.”

E.P. Turner did marry again to Mary Ashley Van Alstyne on 19 Dec 1874. She was daughter of William Ashley and Maria Van Alstyne. William was a treasurer and major stockholder of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. The town of Van Alstyne (north of Dallas), formed in 1873, was named after Maria.  Mary came with a child, Maria, better known as Daisy, from a previous marriage that ended in divorce in 1873. They also produced another child, E. P. Turner Jr, known a Pendleton, 13 years younger than William Baker Turner.

It is not until 1880 with the death of Hester Baker of a stroke, that we really learn what happened to Lucy. It turns out that William and Hester had custody of their grandson following the death of Lucy in childbirth. Now Edmund and his new wife Mary want custody of the young boy. Not even all the wealth and power of William R Baker can prevent him from losing his grandchild in this court fight. From “The Galveston Daily News”, 22 Feb 1880:

“The Houston Telegram tells of a touching scene in a court room the litigants being Col. William R. Baker, of railroad fame, and Capt. E.P. Turner, once adjutant to Gen. Magruder, afterward Col. Baker’s son-in-law, and now married to a daughter of Mrs. Van Alstyne. Capt. Turner applied to Judge Masterson for a writ of habeas corpus of William R. Baker, citing him to show cause why he should not give into the custody of the former his child William B. Turner, which was being illegally held by him. To this Col. Baker made answer that the child was the only son of the relator, E.P. Turner, and his wife, Lucy E. Baker, who was the only child of defendant and his wife, Hestor E. Baker, lately deceased. That the mother died at the birth of the child some six years ago, and ever since that time it had been, by and with consent of the relator, in defendant’s custody and that of his late wife; that the child had formed attachments which, if broken now, would be dangerous to it in its frail condition of health and weak constitution. The defendant had arranged to have persons for whom the child had already formed attachments, and who were friends of all parties, to take charge of his house and child. Judge Masterson heard that defense, and decided that the law and facts required the child to be turned over to the custody of his father, the relator. At this point, says the Telegram, the little boy’s nurses began weeping, and Mr. Baker went across the room to the child, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he kissed the little boy good-bye. The scene was one of painful interest. Grown men with tears standing in their eyes, the sob of women mingled with the wails of the child, who was of himself too young to appreciate the situation, but who, knowing that he was to part from those who lad loved and cared for him from birth to the present time, and the tears of others affected him by sympathy.”

So the simple story might be that Edmund and Lucy moved to New York City shortly before 1873. That she died there from childbirth, and that Edmund remained in New York until 1874 when he moved back to Houston in March 1874 and married Mary in Dec 1874. However, E.P. Turner is mentioned as lawyer in a Houston newspaper account on 6 Dec 1973 which suggests that Edmund never lived in New York. So one is left with the sense that there is more to this story.

William Baker Turner
William B Turner is living with his father and stepmother as shown in the 1880 census. He attended Phillips Academy in Exeter NH in 1888. Through it all, as the only remaining descendant, he remained the apple of his grandfather’s eye. When William R Baker died on 30 Apr 1890, he named his grandson as beneficiary of his considerable estate. Terms of the will were very unusual. Young William B Turner got $2,000 a month until the age of 30 when he would inherent the bulk of the estate, UNLESS he married early and produced an offspring anytime after he turned 21. So guess what? William, age 22, married on 30 Jan 1895 the very attractive Emma Carolyn Lewis.  It looks like they lived in San Antonio at first, where they had a child, William Baker Turner Jr in 1897. William Sr was 24 when the family became $450,000 richer.  News of the marriage, baby and the unusual terms of the will made the papers over the county.

In the 1901 city directory of Houston, he is living at the Rusk residence. He is working in the famous Benz Building. In 1902, he disappears from Houston although his name continues to pop up in continuing lawsuits. Later accounts suggest that they divorced around 1900. William Jr later recalls living in Denver CO between 1900 and 1902. The timing of the marriage and divorce suggest that Emma and their son were merely pawns for William B Turner’s grab for the estate money.

It is difficult to follow the money. Several lawsuits appear in the Texas papers without discussion of the details. We learn William B Turner moved back to New York City. In 1902 he married again to Mary Kennedy, a women married once before. She came from modest means, immigrating from Ireland when a young girl. A fast downward spiral ensues. At some point, he starts selling home cures, and referring to himself as Dr William B Turner. In reality, his name is associated as a business manager with Egan Medical Company of 168 West 23rd St, which published some dubious medical cures in NY newspapers.

He also developed a fascination with the Thirteen Club. Started in early 1880’s, this fraternal organization would dine together to laugh in the face of superstition. However, William’s Thirteen club was different. It was a suicide club where members would discuss how they would do oft themselves. On 18 Dec 1907, after a meeting of the 13, while his wife visited family in Chicago, he shot himself in front of a mirror. Details of his death make news across the country, including his suicide note:

“My Dear Wife – I think it will be for the best for me to leave you. You are the only person on earth that I love excepting my son, and, as you know, my affection for him is parental. I have known and lived with you for the last five years, and have been nothing but a drag and a hindrance to you. I have supported you and have given you what love and affection I am possessed of, but what you have done for me is a greater debt than I could ever repay during the balance of my life. I may be doing you an injustice in saying that I feel I am doing this for your good, but I do feel so, although I love no one but you. I still feel that you will be better off and far happier than with me. With all my dying love. ‘YOUR HUSBAND'”

In the end, William Baker Turner was a complete train wreck. Newspaper accounts indicate that he drinking and smoking heavily (some newspaper even mention 100 cigarettes a day), and that he had consumption.  A week later the Houston Post received word of the death and put the entire story together and posted this obituary on 25 Dec 1907:

Former Houston Young Man Shoots Himself in New York
“William Baker Turner, aged about 35, grandson and heir of the late William R. Baker, pioneer merchant and former mayor of Houston, took his own life in New York city last Wednesday evening, advice of his death reaching this city only yesterday. Mr. Turner shot himself in the head, the bullet entering the left cheek and ranging upward through the head. The young man, who has been in the patent medicine business in New York for several years, is believed to have been a member of the “Thirteen club,” the members of which are said to enter into a suicide pact. No one saw the shooting. Mrs. Turner being absent in California at the time. The bulk of the vast estate left by William R. Baker went to William Baker Turner, the only surviving child of this only child. The estate was valued at about $450,000 and under the provisions of the will young Turner was to receive only a certain amount of the income until he became 30 yrs, old unless he married after he became 21 and his wife bore him a child after that. Mr. Turner married when he was about 21 years old and in about two years after son was born. The property was turned over to him the executors of the Baker estate who were Judge E.P Hill, Henry Brashear and Presley K. Ewing. Mr. Turner and his first wife were divorced after a few years of wedded life, and he remarried about five years ago. The first Mrs. Turner married a wealthy mining engineer several years ago and she and her husband are now in Panama. Through poor business management and other ways Mr. Turner lost the fortune that had been bequeathed to him, and of recent years he had been selling medicines, being known a Dr. Turner.”

William Baker Turner, Jr
After the divorce, William Jr reports living in France until 1906, presumably with his mother, Caroline. Was she leading the high life of “Gay Paree” or putting distance from an erratic huband? Whatever the reason, they returned to New York, and Caroline remarried in 1907 to Granville Moore, a successful mining engineer with interests all over the globe. The new family remained in New York a few years with William attending boarding school at Princeton Preparatory School in Princeton NJ.  In 1915 he moved west with his family to enroll at University of California at Berkeley. Two years later in 1917 he joined Officer’s Training School but the war soon ended. William never resumed college. It was around this time that his father’s demons took over and he started drinking. The next twenty years paint the sad story of a lost soul. His stepfather describes him having various jobs through his business interests:

“Upon beginning his working career, he worked for me at a company’s manufacturing plant which I controlled and managed and which produced heavy chemicals, also he worked for me on a 1600 acre orchard and alfalfa ranch on the Sacramento River which I owned and, at different times, at several mines in which I was interested and which I operated. During those  many years, he was not constantly in my employ but he was much of the time. While working for me, I showed him no preference nor favored him over other employees but his work was always satisfactory.”

In the census, William lists his occupation as “mining engineer” in 1920 in San Francisco, and as “Real Estate Salesman” in 1930 in Beverly Hills, both times living with his stepfather and mother. Based on William’s later record, we see that he moved from San Francisco in 1922 to work in Hamilton City (near Chico) until 1927, and that he moved back home in Los Angeles until 1937.

1937 was the year that William B Turner Jr was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. It would be easy to imagine why he might have been forced from house. He travelled north to Sacramento, and went on complete bender drinking in his words “about a quart of whiskey a day”. He alternated his time between odd jobs and rehab facilities. On Jan 1938 he was convicted of passing $92.67 in bad checks, and sentenced to the Sacramento County Industrial Road Camp. Released in 2 July 1938, he violated parole the following week on 11 July 1938 by passing another $5.00 in bad checks, and sent to San Quentin prison. He broke parole on purpose to gain additional treatment for his TB. Finally he was released in 21 Oct 1941. From here onward, he would alternate his time between odd jobs and sanitariums.

On Oct 1946 he sent a letter to request a pardon. His file contains numerous recommendations from college friends with whom he maintained contact. On 23 Apr 1947, he was recommended by the Superior court for a pardon.  William B. Turner wrote a letter to the Governor’s office on 16 Sep 1947 from the Green Shutter Hotel in Hayward Cal.

“The story of my trouble, in brief, I was informed that I had Tuberculosis – I had just lost two of my best friends and my fiancee from this disease – I lost my head – thinking that I had but a year or so to live – and went out and made an utter fool of myself .”

William Turner died on 22 Dec 1947 of complications from TB. His body was cremated the following week on the 29 Dec. No family listed as informant. No cemetery burial, just Oakland Crematory. He received his pardon 7 Apr 1950 from Earl Warren, then Governor of California, later Supreme Court Chief Justice. His death marked the end of the ancestral line of William R Baker, a span of 130 years.

Postscript
Looking back, one sees two young adults, William B Turner and William B Turner Jr, unable to cope with early adulthood. Or was it three? One has to wonder if it started with Lucy. Although we have discovered a lot about this branch family, there are clearly additional mysteries yet to be uncovered. A few side notes about individuals mentioned above.

  • Pendleton Turner, William’s stepbrother, settled in Washington DC as an insurance adjuster. Apparently he never married, and lived his life as a playboy socialite. Frequent newspaper articles find him at the latest society event. One amusing account reports a suit for $100,000 by a husband for breaking up his marriage.
  • E.P. Turner served as a lawyer in Houston until he suffered a stroke in July 1906. Funds were solicited to prevent him “being taken to the poorhouse”. He died in Aug 1907, and is buried in the family grave in Virginia.
  • Mary (Van Alstyne) Turner moved to Richmond to be near her son, Pendleton. There are local newspaper accounts of her giving a few nice parties so she probably lived comfortably until her death in Dec 1913.
  • Mary (Kennedy) Turner may be the same woman, living in Bronx and working as a druggist in 1910. She married in 1919 for a third time to Joseph A. Kirchhoff, a salesman from St Louis MO. She lived a quiet life there until her death in June 1961.
  • The fate of Daisy Turner could not be found. She married Charles Sydney Wigg on 14 May 1891 in Houston. They appear in Waco, TX for the 1900 Census. She was granted a divorce on August, 1907 in Franklin County, TN where she was living with her mother. Lawyers ran some classified ads in 1914 looking for her as a missing heir to her birth father.
  • Granville and Caroline Moore lived out the remainder of their lives in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It was apparently a quiet time for them since few newspaper articles emerge. Caroline died in 1956, while Granville passed in 1958, both in San Francisco.
  • There are living descendants from Asa Baker, some of whom likely still live in Houston. The surnames of Baker, Bagby, Szabo and Clark are all now gone, but a few Taylors remain.