Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Baker Family: Fulton

Fulton Journal: January 15, 1864

Mr. John Baker was born in the State of Maryland on the 6th day of August, 1801, and was consequently in his 63d year when he died. He was the youngest of twelve children, all of whom he survived.
He was married in his native State, and had two children; one of them died in infancy, and the other is a resident of this state. While yet a comparatively young man he was called to lay his beloved wife in the tomb, and was thus made to drink of that cup, than which none is more bitter.

After his wife’s death he determined to gratify his natural enterprise and energy in travel, and seeking himself a home in the then far west. His footsteps were directed to this county—then inhabited solely by Indians and he located himself near Albany in 1833, the year after the Black Hawk War-the first white man who settled in this county.

Not long after he removed to this town and opened a farm where he resided on the side hill near the Cat Tail bridge, and where he married her who now sits solitary in her widowhood.

The following paragraph is taken from a pamphlet entitled “Sketches of the early history and c. of Fulton.

“The first effort for a town at this point was made by Mr. John Baker of Maryland in the year 1836. This gentleman had then been in the county some three years residing a few miles below on the banks of the Mississippi. During that time he employed himself in seeking a locality which might be favorable as a permanant settlement with a prospect of advancing to something of real importance. It at length became apparent to his mind that the narrows of the Mississippi at no distant period, would become the site of a city. He resolved therefore to here sit his stakes and make a beginning.

At this time the Winnebago Indians occupied large and populous villages near- by.—In the following year, however, they removed to their new homes across the Mississippi in accordance with their late treaty. The deep trodden tracks of the Indian pony and the marks of Indian corn hills are still visible.—Soon sites Mr. Baker had determined to make a strike here, he drew up a claim for the ground on which Fulton now stands.

About 14 years ago Mr. Baker moved from this place to Lockport near Joliet and there resided until some four years since, when he returned to this town.

In 1850, leaving his family behind, he went to California, and was gone about three years. In consequence of the state of his health he has been obliged since the removal of his family here to travel much of the time, far in the interior of the continent, where he might find a clearer and dryer atmosphere.

He returned from his last tour late in the past Autumn, and after a few weeks was seized with a violent attack of ‘Typhoid Pneumonia’ which notwithstanding all that medical skill and the assiduous attention and nursing of affectionate friends could do, ran its rapid course, and on the evening of the 23rd Dec., last, his mortal life was extinct.

Mr. Baker was a man of sterling qualities. Possessed of an indomitable will, difficulties only proved the incentives to increased energy and effort. Of the adventurous spirit, he hesitated not to throw himself /////and circumstances from which more timid souls would shrink. Somewhat stern in his manner and appearance, he bore within a warm and genial heart which endeared him to those who knew him.

Reserved with strangers, he was sufficiently frank and confiding to friends. Possessed with a high sense of honor, he scorned that which was mean.

He was no intermeddler with other men’s matters and had a great faculty of minding his own business.

Long then will his memory remain green in the ????of those that knew him.

Fulton Journal: Centennial Edition: July 5, 1935

The First Settler
By Dwight P. Green
John Baker was the first settler in Fulton, whence he came in 1835, via New Orleans, from Centerville, on the east shore of Maryland. Driven from the south by the cholera epidemic, he proceeded up the Mississippi, stopping first at Rock Island, which was then a Fort. After a brief stay on the Meredocia, he selected the Cattail, near the George Ingwersen farm, for the site of his permanent home, and there built his log cabin, which was the first in the locality of Fulton. It is said that his selection of this site was prompted by his recognition that here were the “Narrows” of the Mississippi, which would afford an easy crossing in the future. Later events proved the accuracy of his vision. Concerning his home on the Cattail, many stories of early hospitality to overland travelers have been recorded.

Here Mr. Baker lived alone for a year, except for friendly Indians in the neighborhood and occasional travelers passing by. In December 1836, he was joined by his nephew, John W. Baker, aged twenty-four, who came overland from Centerville, Md., via Chicago, which he passed by as an unpromising swamp.

In the following year, John W. Baker was joined by his wife, whom he had left in Centerville until he had completed his explorations in the west. Her name before marriage was Mary Hall Wright. At the age of twenty, she left her family and comfortable circumstances in Maryland to join her husband in establishing their home on the frontier. She was the first white woman in the locality of Fulton. She came overland to the Ohio River, thence by steamboat down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to Rock Island, where she was met by her husband and escorted to the cabin on the Cattail.

In the following year came John W.’s three sisters: Frances, who in 1837 married Mr. Edmond Rolfe, and thus became the first bride in Fulton; Rosena, who became Mrs. Jacob Parker, long a resident of Garden Plain; and Martha, who married Mr. George LaShelle. Miss Elizabeth Skinner, a niece, also accompanied the party of sisters. Hers was the first death in Fulton. She was buried on a high bluff, north of the settlement.

John Baker, the first settler, acquired by Government grant, the land on which Fulton was later built. He continued to live in Fulton until 1850, when the lure for further pioneering and the gold fever took him overland to California. Following his return, he made several trips by “prairie schooners” to Colorado, accompanied by sons of John W. Baker, some of whom continue to make their homes in the west in the same pioneer spirit that had been displayed by their parents in Illinois.

John Baker married, as his second wife, Mrs. Ellen Humphrey, who was the grandmother of Dwight Phelps of Tacoma, Washington, and Mrs. Hattie Robinson, formerly of Fulton, now deceased. John Baker died in Fulton in 1863.

John W. Baker opened the first store in Fulton and built the first frame building on the corner of what was then Base and Ferry streets, the center of the settlement (now Fourth street and Seventh avenue). While in Fulton he held several public offices. He later moved to Garden Plain, where he spent the remainder of his active life as a farmer. He died in 1882. Mrs. Baker died in 1883. Ten children were born of the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Baker of which the only survivor is Mrs. Elizabeth Green, of Fulton. Children of Albert Baker, deceased son of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Baker are living in the west, and children of Thomas Baker, another deceased son, are living in northern California.

Fulton Journal: November 18, 1878

Selections from a sermon by Rev. D.E. Wells, at the funeral of Mrs. John Baker, held in the Presbyterian church, in Fulton, on Sunday, November 3, 1878.

Dear mourners and friends, we are summoned to give heed to the lessons taught by the providence of God which has removed a venerated relative neighbor and friend.

When persons so far advanced in years as was the deceased, is removed from us by death, a very natural desire is felt upon occasions like this, to learn something of their early history. Especially is this true, if it is known that they were among the earliest pioneers or settlers in the locality in which we live. For the purpose of gratifying this desire, I will state that our venerable friend whose remains lie before us was born on the third of December, in the year 1795, in Canton, Conn., which is about twelve miles from the city of Hartford. She was therefore nearly 83 years of age. In the vicinity of her early home, she was married to a Mr. Humphrey. Their family numbered six children of whom four died in early childhood; one named Eunicia, died at the age of 22 years and was buried in our cemetery; the last surviving child was Mrs. Ellen Phelps, whose death at the age of 51 years, we were called to mourn a little over a year ago. Being left a widow when somewhat over thirty years of age, she removed from Conn., with her family, in the year 1839 to Elkhorn in the eastern part of this State, where some of her relatives resided. In the following year, 1840, she was married to John Baker whose name is associated with the earliest settlement of this town. They occupied a house for about one year which stood up on the site of the present residence of Mr. Lucius Kinney on the further declivity of the hill in the eastern part of the city.

At that time, but very few dwellings had been erected here. I know of but five persons now living in this town who were located here at that time, viz; Mr. and Mrs. Dr. Reed, Mr. McCoy, Mr. G. Rice, and Mr. J.W. Baker. Rev. J.H. Prentiss a Home Missionary of the Congregational church, was located here at that time, holding religious services at private houses in neighboring townships in this State and in Iowa. From about the year 1841 to the year 1848, the family of the deceased lived in a house near Langford & Hall’s lumber mill which was recently taken down and removed. That house, was, in a sense, the birth place of the church, of which the deceased was so long a member. In it, on the 18th of December 1845, under the presiding offices of Rev. Wm. Reed of Davenport, the first Congregational church of Fulton and Lyons was organized. Of that organization, the Presbyterian church of Fulton is the successor, as shown in the Centennial sermon preached in this pulpit a little over two years ago. In the year 1848, Mr. Baker removed his family to Lockport, near Joliet in this state where they remained until the year 1860, when they returned to this city and took up their residence in the brick house which stands opposite the Baptist church. Mr. Baker died in the year 1863, so that our departed friend was left again a widow at the age of 68 years.

Mrs. Baker’s connection with the church as a professed Christian dates back to an early period in her life, though her membership with this church was not formed until July 22, 1860, under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Leonard. During the last eight years of Rev. Mr. Leonard’s, the four years pastorate of Rev. Henry Kelgwin, and the six and half since then, the life of this venerated friend to whose worth we are assembled to pay our grateful tribute of appreciation, has been that of one who though humbly conscious of her own imperfection and unworthiness in the sight of God, maintained a life of prayerful consecration to her Lord and Master. When I took charge of this church, five years and two months ago, it was not expected that she would survive but a short time.

Fulton Journal: July 14, 1882:

John W. Baker of Garden Plain, died at his residence on Saturday, July 8th, in the 71st year of his age. The funeral was held in the church at Garden Plain on Sunday and many of our citizens attended. Mr. Baker was a native of Maryland and was born in 1812. He moved west in 1836 and located near the present site of Fulton, but in 1843 he purchased a tract of land in Garden Plain township where he has since resided. He was widely known and had held many local offices of trust. A strong and zealous temperance worker, he was respected and esteemed by a large circle of the citizens of the county.

Fulton Journal: March 30, 1883:

Mrs. Mary Baker, widow of the late John W. Baker, of Garden Plain, died at her residence in Fulton on Wednesday afternoon, in the 70th year of her age. The funeral services were held at the house this forenoon, the Rev. N.D. Graves officiating, and the body was taken to the Garden Plain cemetery for her burial. The deceased was married to J.W. Baker, whom she survived but a few months, in Maryland, in 1833 and three years latter came to Whiteside county where she has since resided.
Fulton Journal: April 30, 1915
Albert J. Baker is Dead
Mrs. Nathaniel Green Thursday received a telegram from Denver, Colo., stating that her brother, A.J. Baker died that morning at his home in that city. Albert J. Baker was born in Gardenplain seventy-three years ago, and was a son of John W. Baker and the grandnephew of John Baker, the first settler in the town of Fulton. During the Civil war he attended school in the Western Union college in this city, and nearly fifty years ago went west and located in Denver, where he established a large brick manufacturing plant and for many years was engaged in that business. He leaves his wife, two sons and two daughters.

Fulton Journal: June 25, 1937

Sarah Elizabeth Baker, daughter of John W. and Mary Hall Wright Baker, was born in Garden Plain Township, November 28, 1857, and passed away after a brief illness in Jane Lamb Hospital, Wednesday night, June 16, 1937. She was the last surviving member of a family of ten children. Her great uncle, John Baker, was the first white settler in Fulton, coming here from Centerville, Maryland, in 1835.

Her father, a nephew of John Baker, came from Centerville in December, 1836, and the following year he was joined by her mother, the first white woman to come to Fulton. After two years here they moved to Garden Plain, where they engaged in farming. The old homestead is still known as “The Baker Place”.

Elizabeth Baker, the subject of this sketch, after completing her education taught school for a time and then coming to Fulton she, with a relative, engaged in the dressmaking business. On May 24, 1884, she was married to Nathaniel Green, a young business man of Fulton, the ceremony taking place in the Garden Plain home. They took up their residence in Fulton, their home for the remainder of their lives. One son, Dwight Phelps Green, was born to them. The happy family circle was broken on December 16, 1922, when the husband and father was suddenly taken by death. Bravely and undauntedly Mrs. Green carried on upheld by her Christian faith and encouraged by her son, then an attorney in Chicago.