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
Tracking Peter Baker and Lydia Dudley
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 Baker||1800 Census for Peter Baker||1810 Census for John Darling|
|Category||Individual [age]||Category||Individual [age]||Category||Individual [age]|
|2 males < 16||Asa , Unknown||1 males < 10||Alden ||1 male < 10||Charles |
|1 males >= 16||Peter ||2 females < 10||Lydia? , Polly ||1 male 10-15||Alden |
|3 females||Lydia , Sarah , Lydia ||1 female 26-44||Lydia ||4 males 16-25||James , Larkin , Boynton , Darius |
|missing||none||missing||Peter , Sarah , Asa , James , Larkin , Charles ||1 male > 44||John |
|1 female < 10||Miranda |
|2 females 10-15||Polly , Louis |
|2 females 16-25||Mary Ann , Sarah |
|1 females > 44||Lydia |
|missing (all except Asa married)||Sarah , Asa , Lydia , John , Nahum , Montgomery|
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.
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”.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is the part where the Westmoreland History society describes the life of Larkin:
“LARKIN, son of Peter, 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.”
“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.
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.”
“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.
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.