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COMANCHE COUNTY, KANSAS: HISTORY & GENEALOGY
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Memories of Lew Baker: the Baker and Powell families

by Lewellyn "Lew" Baker (Thanks to Robert E. Nelson for this history.)

Surnames in this history: Baker, Buckingham, Cox, Ferrin, McMillen, Pepperd, Powell, Wright.

Memories of Lew Baker...Lew Powell's Cousin

The purpose of this little bit of history and of some of the events in the lives of some of our ancestors and how they came to be Americans may interest some of my children and grandchildren.

From my father's side of the family, my father with his widowed mother came from England in a sailing boat when my father was eighteen, settling at DeKalb, Illinois. The trip on the boat took them three weeks. During the passage they were in a great storm and it seemed that the ship was going down. Father said he never heard such a bedlam in his life. Some were cursing, some were praying.

Father's mother's name was, before her marriage, Hann Buckinam (Ann Buckingham) and she was very proud of the fact that she was "ead cook in the big ouse," and that she served "Quality Folks."

My mother's father, David Powell II, came from Wales (His mother was pregnant when she left Wales, but David II was born in America..) His family settled in Pennsylvania. His brother's name was Llewellyn, which is typically Welsh. Then the name has been handed down, I think, for four generations, and as you know, I picked this one out of the hat. (How confusing it must have been to have had a cousin with the same name; perhaps why they called Lew Powell's son Warren...)

David Powell II was always on the frontier. He must have married in Pennsylvania, because Grandmother was what they call Pennsylvania Dutch. She was what you might call "Squat." (Martha Cox) If she needed something on a shelf, she had to lie down to reach it. (Don't know what he means*)

My mother (Elizabeth Emily Powell) was born in Coldwater, Michigan. Mother and father ( Henry Baker ) were married in DeKalb ( Nov. 25, 1861) living in Waverly and Debuke at different times.

From Iowa, in company with all of Grandfather's family, they moved to Dade county, Missouri, near Lockwood. That's where I first tipped my hat to the world.

Returning to my grandfather Powell, who I have said was always on the frontier, while the family was living in Iowa, he, with a few other men, went to Colorado where he filed a claim to what is now Canon City and built his first house. There, no doubt, made of logs. I can remember his adz and broad ax with which he hewed out the sills for his buildings.

About 20 or 25 years ago my Uncle Will Powell (one of triplets, James Wesley, Lew Z. Powell's father, William, and Lewellyn) saw an account of someone having found a copy of the New Testament with the name of David Powell on it.

David Powell returned home and later sent his papers by a man going out there and money to pay his taxes, but never saw man, money or papers again. It would not be right to condemn the man as a thief as there were many hostile Indians then. He had a span of mules stolen by Indians and he followed them for days, finally suddenly coming upon a hostile camp of Indians. Knowing their customs, he rode to the chief's tent, gave up his gun and his horse. He was kept several days when they brought him his horse and gun and let him go.

Some of the little incidents of the times then to illustrate how people managed to live then was while Grandfather was away, was mother's brothers Lew and Jim Powell. They took any kind of job they could get, including work through harvest. Walking into the store one day some one asked who they were going to work for in harvest. One of them said "We are going to work for the first man who will advance us enough to buy a sack of flour today." They got their flour.

Now for Kansas. Mother's three brothers Ike, Will and Ed Powell had been in Kansas for several years. They had bought cattle and horses back there and driven all the way from Dado County, Mo. to here. So in the spring of 1885 father sold his land there and on the first day of April 1885, we started with two covered wagons and some loose horses. I was ten years old then and must have ridden about all the way on a horse or mule as it was my job to keep up the loose horses.

There were two other wagons with us, one with Martin McMillen driving one of Grandfather Powell's mules and Jim Wright the other. Mr. McMillen had worked for Grandfather Powell several years. We were seventeen days on the road, having laid over one day at Oxford, Kansas. The 160 Highway follows almost exactly the same route of the old wagon trail. Attica was the end of the railroad then, so Father had to drive back there for some of our household goods. Father had expected to go into the cattle business as my uncles were doing. The range was free then but that spring it seemed like everybody else came. The roads were lined with wagons and land was all taken and they voted a herd law so that all you had was the 160 acre claim. So much of the land was rough and not fit for plowing that they couldn't make a living on it, so most of them got a loan on it and left.

After the settlers were mostly gone, those that were left went back to raising cattle again. My job from the time I was twelve to sixteen or seventeen was herding cattle. I had to miss school about a month and half in the fall and about that much time in the spring, so don't blame me for being ignorant.

One day Father came back from Coldwater and said that the report was out that there might be an Indian raid any time and he's bought some buckshot for his muzzle-loading shot gun. Boy, I could nearly have bitten a piece out of my heart'

My first ponies after I came out here were a couple of two year olds that had been caught wild in Colorado, for $11.00 each. I wasn't any bronco buster. I had a tendency to reach over their head to get my fingers in the grass.

There was a lot of wild game left here. Lots of Quail and Prairie Chickens running loose. As I said before, there was no railroad when we came and the road through Wilmore was not built until 1887. Mr. Jim Wright used one of father's mules to help build the road through Wilmore. The town of Wilmore was named after Captain Pepperd's foreman, Thomas Wilmore, who was married to a sister of Jr. Wright and I happened to be at the ceremony. It was performed by Arthur Ferrin who was a justice of the Peace. Cigars were free, so I got my first, last and only cigar. I took it home and took it with me to herd cattle. After dinner I lit up and in just a short time I crawled down in the shade to die, as I thought, but the Lord preserved me for some reason I don't know what. I never took a drink of whiskey or beer in my life, but I think I've known some better men than I am that have, but it wasn't the drink that made them so.

Lew Baker is Elizabeth Powell Baker's son. Her brother is James Wesley Powell, Lew Powell's father.

Gravestone of Lewellyn & Catherine Baker, Wilmore Cemetery, Wilmore, Comanche County, Kansas. Photo by John Edward (Ed) Schrock, used with permission of Janet Schrock Hubbard. Gravestone of Lewellyn & Catherine Baker, Wilmore Cemetery, Comanche County, Kansas.


Related histories:

Lew & Kate (Roderick) Baker

The Roderick Family in Sharon & Wilmore, Ks

The Powell trek to Comanche County, Ks

Zelma Hazel (Baker) White, sister of Lew Baker.

Felix Martin McMillen   "From Missouri he came to Kansas in 1886 by covered wagon route, accompanying the Baker, Wright and Powell families, well-known Comanche-co., pioneers.", The Wilmore News, October 29, 1926.


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This page was last updated 10 June 2006.