A Letter from Jehiel Hull Baker to his Niece Mary Jane (Mollie) Baker Southwick
NOTE: Misspellings are left intact to preserve the integrity of the original letter.
Justin Baker was born in Northern Vermont where his ancestors were Presbyterians believing in the Cavanistic doctrine of predestination of mortals to eternal ruin. He had a farm in Stafford, Genesse Co., NY with a an orchard and a family burial plot.
Benjamin Wooster Baker and Belinda Dunn Baker
|Justin was married in Northern Vermont to Hannah Butler who was born on Feb. 8, 1783 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the daughter of Issac Butler and Hannah Hull. They had moved to Vermont near Bakersfield when she was 7 or 8 years old. Justin and Hannah had 4 children that died in infancy; Virgil, John, Charles, and Mary where they're buried on the family farm in NY. Living children include:
Benjamin Wooster Baker, born 6-6-1807, married Belinda Dunn, born 3-14-1819
Erasmus Darwin Baker married Ann Angel
Amanda Baker married Orsan Dean. Amanda died in 1853
John Randolph Baker, born 2-9-1823, married Mary Merrick (1) then Lottie Chadwick (2)
Jehiel Hull Baker, born 2-9-1823, married Lydia Cooper (1) then Lucy A. Flint (2)
Jehiel died in 1889 in San Francisco. John R. became a lawyer in Paw Paw, Van Buren Co., MI, died June 1873
The following is an ecxerpt from a letter written to Mollie B. Southwick, (Mary Jane Baker), the daughter of Benjamin Wooster Baker and Belinda Dunn of Conneautville, Summerhill Twp., PA. from her uncle Jehiel Hull Baker. Mollie is my GGGrandmother on my father's side. Her first marriage was to my GGGrandfather Capt. John Burris Fay of Meadville, Crawford Co., PA Her second husband was Charles Southwick of Louisville, Ky.
To Mollie B. Southwick,
My beloved Niece, -
You solicited me to write about our family, its History and its traditions, but when I consider how little I know of our ancestors, or how few are the reliable data connected with them, I fear my ability to arrange satisfactorily, what little there is. However I will make the attempt, believing you will not hold me too rigidly accountable for the inaccuracies that may intrude.
Traditions have come floating along the generations gathering facts and fictions in almost inextricable companionship. A clear analysis may be required to separate the desirable from the obscure and unsafe fictions inter-woven. It may be necessary to refer to such legions as are, or seem to be, associated with our history.
Jehiel Hull Baker, author of this letter
Without other apology for digressions or error I will say that all my life I have sought to learn something of our Ancestry as from whence and when they appear in America. Also to get at these strange old traditions of which we heard so much in childhood. Thus groping after information of this nature, I wander away without the slightest provocation and without the least respect to time or method.
Have you ever thought what a multitude of ancestors there are even in half a dozen generations? -- And have you thought how ignorant we are of relatives comparatively so nearby?--What do we know of our great grand sires, to go no further away-We do not know if they lived beneath ancestral oaks or crept into straw thatched hovels. We cannot follow afar off, the thronging lines of new names mingling with our old family stock. But the study of these quaint old names with all their suggestiveness may often aid us in our search for the origin of our family. Still there are times when I seriously fear to inquire too closely into the character of our slumbering Ancestors, yet regardless of all this I will endeavor to briefly review our Baker family.
There are Bakers in all countries. It may be differently spelled, still whether English, Scotch, or Danish it is the same good old-fashioned name, originating in trade. Governor Bigler said, “Mr. Baker, you are of German origin, I believe.” I answered, “No Governor, we are from Abu Baker that grand old Arab Uncle of Mahomet. Your Uncle Dr. Darwin Baker and Col. E. D. Baker, who fell at Balls Bluff, were friends in Illinois. The Colonel was English born but they agreed upon the common origin of the two families, as also that Sir. Samuel Baker, the African explorer, belonged to the same English family as ourselves.
Now we don’t care for all of this and only say that our first American Ancestor was an Englishman, came to America abut the middle of the Seventeenth Century and soon settled in Pittsfield, Berkshire Co. Mass. There they flourished, were greatly esteemed, holding offices of trust and in fact wonders of sterling integrity. Soloman Baker was our first American Ancestor.
After about one hundred years or one hundred and twenty years in Pittsfield, when my father, your grand-father, was a child three months old, my grand-father, you great grand-father Soloman Baker, and wife, my great grand-father, Samuel Baker, with two uncles of my father’s, moved into what became Bakersfield in Northern Vermont. In these days there was trouble about the boundaries between the Colonies of New York and Vermont and the encroachments of the great Colony of New York became so intolerable that a commission consisting of Remember Baker, one of our Bakers, Ethan Allen of Tyconderoga fame, whose mother was a Baker of our family, and one other was appointed to draw up a remonstrance which may be found in an old Colonial history on Vermont. That history once in the library of my twin brother John Randolph contained the celebrated protest of Vermont and was in fact in all essentials the forerunner of the Jeffersonian Declaration of Independence. The noble sentiments at all events were worthy of our dear old Remember Baker, the undoubted Author, and who was I believe the uncle or great uncle of my father. You will perceive that the celebrated soldier Ethan Allen was also clearly related to us. Right here, I might introduce certain traditions, which unquestionably founded in fact; but must for the present defer.
My father was the oldest of his father’s, Soloman Baker’s family. His brothers were Soloman, Enos, (who afterwards resided not far from your family in Pennsylvania, Josiah, Benjamin and Elijah. His sisters were Almira, who married Uncle Sammy Heath and Roxy who married Uncle Tommy Dodson. She was very handsome, as was her mother, my grandmother. My father’s name was Justin; his mother’s name was Roxy. My father was raised in Vermont, was not highly educated, but was a good reader, a legible writer, and of a natural arithmetic turn of mind. He was a good man of great good sense and business talent, a wonderful manager and one of the most industrious and hard working men I have ever known. He was kind and forbearing to his children and yet quick and passionate at times, and then obedience must be instantaneous, or a blow followed.
His parents and his ancestors were rigid Presbyterians, believing that “None come to the Son except the Father, by his spirit draw him,” not only a Bible but a Calvinistic doctrine, of much significance, running, as it does, along with the predestination of innumerable mortals to eternal ruin. If correctly informed our Baker Ancestors believed that for them predestined to eternal damnation, no atonement was make through Jesus, but once a child of grace, although he might run into sin yet he was not in danger of everlasting punishment. My father, it is said, stood waiting in great agony for the spirit of God to draw him to Jesus.
Star King, of whom you have heard, the great Unitarian preacher, when asked to define the difference between Universalism and Unitarianism said, "Universalists believe God too good to damn all or any part of mankind; while Unitarians believe all and every part of mankind too good to be damned by God". This awful sentiment, if true, would render unnecessary any atonement to by the Son of God. - As if mankind is too good, he had no sin to be blotted out, and no blood should be shed for his salvation. This is called liberalistic or progressive religion. Just as if man could improve upon the religion Jesus taught. Permit me to quote: “Grant me, O God, a faith so pure, so steadfast that no temptation shall prevail to shake my trust in Thee, or lesson my hope for salvation through Jesus my Redeemer.” O, how beautiful is this humble prayer for faith in Jesus. There is notwithstanding Mr. King or any other “no worth nor worthiness in mankind,” and we cannot plead our own merit, for if we are wholly pure or meritorious, then we indeed need no forgiveness or mercy from our Heavenly Father. I hope my children may cling to the Bible and that all my beloved relatives may learn to hope and pray for salvation through the shed blood of Jesus our Redeemer.
Our Ancestors entertained many superstitions, many myths, and around the fireside when a child I listened to innumerable legends of family beliefs of ghosts, witches and all that, yet all our people were readers of the Bible, believed in the Bible, loved the Book of God. They believed God created all worlds, but also all the laws, which regulate the physical world. I may have occasion to speak of all this again. We have tacitly agreed not go back of our first American Ancestor, except to learn, if possible, to what country our Baker family belonged and at about what time they emigrated to America. We have definitely settled these questions. The facts are as stated as is, also, that they were a Calvinistic family, first settling in Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., Mass., and long afterwards in Bakersfield, Vt., a city celebrated for its educational institutions. We have also shown that Ethan Allen, who said his shirt, was made of oven wood and grape vine, and woven in a one, the number of the reed, was one of our near relatives, as was Remember Baker. It doesn’t signify that Uncle Solomon Baker late in life became a Baptist, nor that his sons, Prentice was a Methodist preacher and Alpheus LaFayette and Randolph were Baptist preachers of high standing. It is not necessary for me to say that while Baptists insist upon immersion as the true form of baptism [perhaps correct], in all else they are as much Calvinistic as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, the Puritans, or other branches of that great leader John Calvin.
Now here then, in the family of your great uncle were four brothers who preached the gospel of our dear Redeemer. I have heard Alpheus. He was unquestionably one of the great pulpit minds of this Century. Those who heard LaFayette, who was at one time the principal of the Erie Academy, say he was the foremost Orator of the age. The two brothers conducted a great revival meeting at Buffalo to which the ablest lawyers and scientists went to learn the one way of salvation through Jesus the Son of God. LaFayette would say, “Brother, I cannot stay in the pulpit, I feel it is my duty to go along the aisles and exhort the people.” Alpheus would answer, “Dear brother, don’t quench the spirit,” and such an awakening was never before in Western New York. I mention these things not or deny that in recent years there have been members of our family who have been Universalists, Episcopalians, Methodists and all that, but still as a whole the family were Calvinistic, believing it a crime to even pray for those whom God had predestined to final ruin.
We are the descendants of that Pittsfield family. They are of unadulterated staff, clinging to Jesus, to the Bible, and fully persuaded so I believe that Jesus came to teach the will of God his Father, and not the will of men. Came to teach that there was but one way of salvation. There was nothing liberal and there was but one only atonement, and that was through Jesus the Son of God.
Your great-grandfather Solomon Baker was for four years a revolutionary soldier, fighting for the liberties we enjoy today. He was sent south under General Green and endured weary marches and suffering and was in many battles, in one of which he received a hip wound which finished his service to his country and made him use crutches for the balance of his life. In the south he much of his time under General Francis Marion, whom he dearly loved. This will explain why in our family we have had Marion as one of our names. John R. your uncle lost a child so named, and so, too, my beloved child Marion died at Forrest Hill.
Grandfather Baker was a noble looking man and was beloved and esteemed by all who knew him. He would sit by us and tell of incidents and anecdotes of the war, sometimes bringing tears to our eyes and then convulsing us with laughter; so droll were his stories. He and Grandma Roxy would often stay for weeks at fathers. Grandma was a very beautiful old lady and just as queer and full of fun as was Grandpa. She would say to us, O, how I wish I could love your dispositions as much as I love your persons. Both would tell of ghosts and witches and relate family legends, full of superstitious beliefs, some of which I am inclined to mention.
One of our ancestors had a much-loved child, a very precocious boy, who at three years could memorize almost anything he heard. He attracted attention-so much so that learned men came quite a distance to hear the child repeat chapters in the Bible which he could not read. His father is in passing daily to and from to his duties connected with a manufacturing establishment, had to pass a graveyard. On his return one evening when twilight had just closed its curtains for the night he saw in the church yard a wonderful ball of fire, which wavered and would almost vanish almost vanished, then rise up in a flame, illuminating all the vicinity. This waywardness was repeated several times before final disappearance. The father ran violently home and repeated what he had seen to his wife and remarked that they would bury their beloved child within a week. Sure enough the child sickened next day and died before the end of the week, was placed in its little grave.
In the corner of the orchard on my father’s farm in Stafford, Gennesse County. N.Y. is buried Virgil, John, and Charles, all my brothers. I have heard my Mother say that just before the death of Charles my Father was saw such another ball of fire in the family burial ground in the orchard. In 1869 I was in White Pine, Treasure City, in the State of Nevada; I was in an upper bunk on the night of Aug. 3rd and wide awake, when my boy Marion came to me saying, “ Pa, pa why didn’t you come home to Marion?” This the child repeated two or three times. I asked those sleeping at my feet and below me if they heard anything, they heard me trying to pacify the child. I knew the child was dead, and so stated. In a few days I received a letter from mama informing me of his death, and that just before, he said, “Pa, Pa, why don’t you come home to Marion?” Now no one could convince me that my child did not so call me.
I know all that may be said of “Will of the Wisps,” Jack O’ Lanterns,” and dim fantastic lights that play and bewilder wandering travelers through dreary swamps,” but never the less while not admitting myself to be more superstitious than others, yet I can understand that He who created all things, and the laws which control and govern the physical world, could as easily introduce phenomena as is here as I have mentioned. My grand parents were Christian people, and a belief in such things did not lessen the esteem in which they were held.
Your grandmother Baker was Hannah Butler, daughter of Isaac Butler, born in Litchfield, Conn., and moved into to Vermont near Bakersfield, when she was seven or eight years old. Samuel Butler, born in Londonderry County Antrim, North of Ireland, in the early years of the seventeenth century, was her first American Ancestor. He married Amanda, only daughter of the Earl of Godwin, and with his bride and his brother Isaac fled to America about 16Samuel settled in Litchfield with his beloved wife, while Isaac settled in the Colony of South Carolina. I do not intend to follow this family other than to say, that the Earl of Godwin disinherited his only child and but on his dying bed mocked revoked his act of disinheritance, Which has the tradition says, been smothered in the secret archives of the British Government, and also it is also said that the Earl sent a large King James Bible to Amanda with explanatory letters, etc., all of which is more fully set forth in an article written for John A. Butler, 3 Hubner Strasse in Dresden, Germany. That he is making up an historical essay of the Butlers both south and north, and promises that you and I, and May, will receive the work. This work will include the eminent Butlers, including Author of Hudibras down to the present Duke of Ormand,--one of our Butlers.
My mother was a remarkable woman. Although schools were not so thorough in their teaching as our modern schools. She even now seems to have been one of the foremost scholars of that or any other age. Her information was indeed wonderful. She knew all ancient history, all works of travel, all of Morses Great Universal Geography, the Classics and Medical works. She would from memory repeat to us the Aeneid of Virgil or his Bucolics, etc. Often, very often, would she tell us of Camilla the Amazonian woman, or of Aeneas and his son or of King Anchises whom Aeneas carried out of burning Troy, or of Romulus and Remus the founders of Ancient Rome, with un-numbered other readings. But above all this those was her knowledge of the Bible, the word of God. How often would she say, “Without regard to this or that church?” I do hope my children may “Join the church of the Precepts.” O, blessed mother, although raised in the strictest sense a Presbyterian, she loved the precepts, the teaching of our Redeemer, more than all churches or creeds. Her family was raised on the frontier where the advantage of schools were not to be thought of, yet her children grew up not altogether uneducated. In fact, I may say that several collegiates have insisted that my knowledge of the Ancient Classics must have been derived from college instruction. Of such invaluable importance is an educated mother. She was devoted to her family and her children adored her.
Her mother, your great grandmother, was the sister of Commodore Isaac Hull, who in 1812 commanded the ship Constitution, obtaining a great naval victory over Lord Dacres in the British Frigate Guerriere. You may have heard---
* | * “Then said Hull unto his crew,
boys, let us see what we can do.
If we take this boasting Britton
over the Daudy O,
* * * “The first broadside we poured,
carried their main mast by the board.
Which made that lofty frigate
look abandoned. O,
Our second told so well,
that their Fore and Mizzen fell,
which doused the royal ensign
so handy O.”
Then D. Dacres came on board
to deliver up his sword,
Loath was he to part with it,
it was so handy O.
Now keep your sword said hull,
and o not be so dull.
Come cheer up and take
a little Brandy O.
Now keep your sword said hull,
and o not be so dull.
Come cheer up and take a
little Brandy O.
(They all drank brandy on board ship in those days).
Congress paid Hull great honors and he is buried in Fairmont Cemetery, Philadelphia, beneath a slab of marble upon which is carved the American Flag by order of the Congress of the United States.
As I was named Jehiel Hull one of the family of the Commodore. I may be pardoned for the pride I feel and also that I do own the Commodore’s sword cane, the frame made of Constitution Oak, the blade or rapier 24 inches long of the finest Damascus steel, which may be almost tied in a knot, so fine is the steel. The cane is much too short for me is wound with rattan and is a homely stick not worth a dime except as a memento.
If my life is spared and my health restored I intend writing a few many things my mother would sing, or rather fragments, for I do not remember in full all she would either recite or sing. Some of these will be very old and to me far more precious for that reason.
My mother would say, “Children, you must never do a wrong for you have a noble ancestry who would be offended, besides God notes every evil word and thought.” You have heard of the love of Samuel Butler and Amanda, the only child of the Earl of Godwin, and how they were married and settled in Litchfield, Conn. From these have descended many eminent statesmen and clergymen and professional men, but above them all were our revolutionary grand sires on both sides. Your great grand sires Butler and Baker. Now Cousin Butler writes me of the Duke of Ormand, A. Butler. It must pass, and I hope you feel as I do, more pride over our soldiers of freedom than for any King made nobleman, more pride over a lover of Jesus and the Bible than all else.
Justin Baker, your grandfather, married Hannah Butler, daughter of Isaac Butler, a deacon in the church and who for some years fought and fifed for the freedom of the American Colonies. They were married in Northern Vermont. They must have been a fine looking couple, for both were more than ordinary in good looks, and in native talent they were certainly more than average. Their first child Mary died in infancy.
Their second, Mary Octavia, grew up lame from hip disease. She married Robert McClellan, a most excellent man. They settled in Niagara County, N.Y. I remember but little about her, other than she was thought the sweetest, true hearted, Christian woman in all the neighborhood. She had no children. She was a Methodist and died while I was very young.
Benjamin Wooster - after Uncle Benjamin, father’s brother, and Wooster, after a Presbyterian minister in Vermont - my eldest brother and your father was born, I believe in Vermont in 1807 or 18My father moved to New York in 1811 or possibly one or two years earlier; for they remained two years in Rome, Oneida County, before settling on the old farm in the town of Stafford, Genesse County. Wooster left home when he was seventeen years old, went to Niagara County to Sister Mary, but how long he remained there I do not know. Afterwards he went to Ohio, was a stone cutter, and drifted into Hamilton County on the Miami River, where Uncle Hull Butler resided. He did not like his uncle’s family and worked himself south to the Muscle Shoals, thence back into Granger Co., Ohio. He was a natural mechanic, could make anything he had seen made. He was a very handsome young man and had a most excellent disposition. He was one of the kindest of the kind and generous to a fault. Have heard my mother tell wondrous things of him. When Virgil died he said to mother it was the best for him [Wooster] as he was ever yielding to Virgil’s ideas while now he could rely on himself. He was perhaps the most lovable character of any of our family. After we had moved to Michigan and began to prosper, one evening when about to seat ourselves for supper, a man came in and asked if he could sleep there. Father, who knew nothing but hospitality, said, “Yes and if you need supper, draw up to the table.” In course he was asked where he was from and he said, “Garrettsville, Ohio”, and mother looked at him and cried, “You are my own dear Wooster”. There was embracing and crying and laughing in that house for hours. I became acquainted with a brother, for I had hardly known him before. He stayed a week, told of his engagement to marry a Miss. Dunn whose parents I believe was known to Father in N.Y.Vermont My beard was growing and he shaved me, and told me to open my mouth, then he drew the brush full of lather through it. He came to us after mother’s death, moving back to Pennsylvania His dear wife and one child staid it may be two weeks with us. In 1851 he came to Paw Paw to visit us. I had just got back from California We visited sister Amanda. He died in 1884, I think. He was a very honorable man, full of humor, with a spark of wit that attracted all who knew him. God has him in the arms of infinite love. He was ever very dear to me and his wife was devoted to him. One can hardly imagine a happier life than that of my beloved brother and his noble, true hearted wife, living for many years on their farm in Conneautville, Crawford County Penn. Pennsylvania, where his bereaved wife now resides. They raised three sons. Cosmo [whom I knew], and Justin and James, and two daughters, Mollie B. and Rena May. They are beloved and respected by all who know them.
In my father’s family, after Wooster and Virgil and John, who died before I was born and lie in the family burial place on the old farm in Stafford, Genesse County, N.Y.? Then came Erasmus Darwin, an odd genius. He was not strong in his ankles, and although first trying to become a clothier had to quit. He studied medicine with Uncle Ammi Butler at Alexander, Genesse Co., attended lectures at Geneva, and graduated; He married Ann Angel, a beautiful and most lovable woman. He settled at Salem in Marion Co., Illinois, got wealthy and finally settled at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was very skillful as a Doctor. He was erratic and possibly miserly. He died I think, in 18I never met his children except when they were very small.
After the Doctor came Amanda, whose early life was one of constant illness. She outgrew all of this and married a Mr. Orsan Doan, a nice man and a mechanic, although owning a farm near Three Rivers in St. Joseph Co. Michigan. Amanda was a very talented woman, and as devoted a Christian as could be found. I think she made the ablest prayers of any one I ever heard pray. She was a Methodist. She raised several children, but I don’t know what has become of them. She died in 18I saw her last in 18
Then followed the Twins, John Randolph and Jehiel Hull. We were raised on a farm. We were born in Stafford. (Right here, I may say we had a younger brother, Charles Rollin, who died when about three years old and was buried in our orchard with Virgil and John.) We were born the day after our mother was 40 years old, Feb. 9, 18
Father had been a great farmer, but mortgaged his farm to help Uncle Dr. Elizur Butler, who died, and my father had to sell to pay the debt. He moved to Niagara County between Lockport and the Falls. Everything went bad. Continued law about the title of the farm he bought, and sickness and trouble of every sort, at last, until very poor, he moved to the town of Lima, Washtenaw County, Michigan. He had bought 80 acres of wild land but owed in part for it. He built a log house and we moved in without a chimney or a floor. But this was soon remedied. It was in May 1834; he mortgaged the place and bought a barrel of flour - [we had lived on pounded corn for a time with boiled potatoes] - a yoke of oxen and one cow, and we went to work. Everything prospered. . In three years we had 40 more acres of land and 28 acres of wet meadow, and barns and orchard and a good house, more oxen, more cows,. We sold 1000 bushels of wheat at $1.25 per bushel, and paid off the mortgage and all that. We worked like Trojans, and mother worked more than anyone, besides teaching us every night for one or two hours; and then if there was sickness in the neighborhood she would sit up all night taking care of the sick. Amanda got well. Mother died in Aug., 1840.In August, 1840, mother died. She had often seen officious persons close the eyes of the dying before dead and greatly disliked it, so she said if conscious and she could use her hands she would close her own eyes. She kissed us all and then closed her eyes in death.
My father was very lonesome and married in 1841 the Widow Lemon with a large family of children and a farm covered all over with mortgages. He gave John and me the home farm and we mortgaged it for $1800 to pay a mortgage on the Lemon farm. We disliked the marriage of father. It involved us, and no mortals had ever worked harder. My father intended all for the best, we nor none of us ever realized a dollar. The Lemons got it all. My father died in Feb., 18
Mary Merrick Baker wife of John Randoph Baker
About the time of father’s marriage, John went to Amanda Ann Arbor and studied law with Kingsley and Morgan, a great Law Firm. Soon after - Amanda was keeping house for us - I married Lydia Cooper, whom my mother loved. The Cooper family lived only a mile away. Amanda married Doan as stated. My wife was esteemed and educated and as good as could be. I was broken down with hard work, and John needed his part, so we sold the place and moved to West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin, and began to merchandize.
John and myself were so much alike that few could tell us apart, and we had many amusing circumstances by reason of this. We were rocked in the double - headed rocker and loved each other with as perfect a love as ever existed between brothers. He settled in Paw Paw, Van Buren County., and Michigan. He became eminent as a lawyer. He married Mary Merrett, an excellent girl and of good family. He had He had four children; Marion, who died in infancy, and Jenny May, now good, noble Mrs. Albert Robinson of Grand Rapids, Michigan – these by his first wife. His wife died, some years after his wife’s death, after years he married Lottie G. Chadwick, a good woman, by whom he had Halo Godwin, who married a Mr. Stevens, a banker living in Dakota, and Harris Godwin (Harris Godwin ed.) who lives with his mother and sister in Dakota.
The Godwin names are from the Earl of Godwin, whose only child, Amanda, married our Ancestor Samuel Butler in 16My brother commenced to write the history of the Butlers and Bakers, but it was burned with his library. He prospered, built and surveyed the town of Lawrence, owned farms and was interested in different enterprises. He lost dearly in a Railroad project, and died in June, 18I may have something further to say of my beloved Twin.
In all I write, it is my desire, in a brief a way as possible, to state a few facts. There may be many inaccuracies which have been inadvertively introduced, and such I now believe is the case age of my mother, for I am certain she must have been born in 1776 or 1777 instead of a later date. I will go on.
At West Bend, Wisconsin, 28 miles above Milwaukee, I began trading in a small way. The place was in the midst of heavy timber and on the Milwaukee River. I built a good house, a part of which we used as our residence, the other part for the store. The saw mill and flour mill were begun. I moved in the fall of 18My wife worked hard to assist me, and our success was reasonable. I built an ashery and run ashes into black salts and into potash, and this was also a paying enterprise. I purchased goods in Milwaukee at first, afterwards in New York.
In the summer of 1847, Dr. E.D., my brother, came up with several hundred cattle and horses from southern Illinois With also his good wife and two or three children. We had buried our only child, Mary Beele, before leaving Lima, Michigan. The Doctor was wealthy and insisted that I should take charge of his cattle and that I should enter into a partnership in the store etc. or with Mr. Jacob Rapelye a merchant in Milwaukee and a good man. The Doctor gave me $2,500 to use without interest just as long as needed. We bought goods in New York and business prospered. Then the Doctor went East on a visit and while East wrote that he must have his money. This was the greatest trouble of my life to that time. To draw that amount out of the firm would ruin me. I had assured the Doctor that to do so would ruin me and that I better keep on in a moderate way and by myself, but he was set, and I was so disgusted that I sold to John P. Butler, who married Matilda Butler, my cousin, paid the Doctor in part, and in January, 1849, sent my poor wife to her parents in Michigan and left for St. Louis. Uncle Jacob Rapelye who was consumptive but insisted upon going with me.
On the 2nd day of May with Mr. Rapelye. Joab Haskel, Charles Tuttle, Jacob Emly. a Mr. Vance, and one other, we left Independence, with two big wagons loaded with much unnecessary stuff and some 14 mules and horses to go to California. At Grand Isle, on the Platte, we shortened our wagons and laid off some hundreds of dollars worth of goods, for our stock was running down. At Fort Larimer we sold the wagons for a few pack saddles, divided our animals, packed up what we thought we should need, and with Ormsbys moved on. Mr. Rapelye died at Salt Lake City. We Crossed Bear River at head of Salt Lake July 4th. From that place, I traveled with Robert Davidson and DeWitt and James Downer, all from near my old home in Michigan. I suffered a great deal, but we made fast time. Of course hardly a day passed that we were not along with other California bound trains. Aug. 14th we reached Culloma, old “Suter Mill”, where gold was first discovered. Edwin Caldwell took mules to a ranch, and after going in debt $250 for provisions, flour $0.90 per lbs. Bacon $1.25 lb., black molasses $5 a bottle, salaratus $2.50 a lb. , etc. went over to Spanish Bar on Middle Fork, American River, worked one hour while the sun was going down and made $23, made few hundreds and worked our claim out. Went over to Weaver Creek below Hang Town two miles and worked a little red mound carrying the earth about 20 yards to wash in a pool. Caldwell was my partner, Davidson and the Downes near us. The Hightens called on us. We earned from one to five ounces per day, sometimes worked by moon light. We worked bar nearly out and left with Davidson, Caldwell, Harry Crossman and Ben Rikard [the Downes had gone to the Yuba), to Bird’s Valley near where Michigan Bluff now is. We prospected in Tichner’s gulch in El Dorado, Canyon and other places, but found nothing to exactly satisfy, and after two weeks went down the divide. Met Dr.Todd, Judge Longley, et al, at Todd’s Valley. Crossed the Middle Fork above Spanish Bar and camped. Next day went up to near where George Town had just started. We built a cabin near Oregon Canyon [a very rich Canyon] and laid in our winter provisions. We had killed a fine 400 lb. Beef, bought flour, bacon, molasses, etc., too poor to buy butter or potatoes or onions except some few lbs. of potatoes to eat raw for the Scurvy, which Mr. Davidson was slightly attacked with. I went along the Canyon, saw some men who had for some days traveled and camped with us on the plains. They were going home and I bought their claim for $3Caldwell declined to join me in the purchase, but Mr. Davidson did so. We found the gold in filaments in slate rock, after stripping the earth some four to eight feet and then breaking into slate and washing in a rocker.
A great many men were working both above and below us. Our first half day gave us $3We hired Ben Rickard at $9 per day. One day we cleaned up $30We worked the first sixteen days of December 1849 and worked the claim out. The total yield was about $40,0This very great, good fortune. The rain had fairly set in and it was the severest storm ever seen. We could do nothing. Mr. Davidson on the 7th of January, 1850, left for home. I sent considerable money by him. He was a splendid man and a Christian. His home was at Ann Arbor, 12 miles from my old home, and he went to see my wife at once. Mr. Caldwell had found the lead in the “Lost Lead Gulch”, and I alone sunk 14 feet and took up one bucket, which gave me one and a half ounces. But the storm continued and Charles Tuttle came over from the North. He had not done anything. So he, Caldwell, Zimrall, Rounds, and myself started a store at Stoney Bar on the North Branch, of the middle fork, of the American River, below where Michigan Bluff started in 18I furnished most of the money and the others ran the business. I prospected, camping near Baker’s Ranch as known afterward. They ran the store into the ground. Zimrall was supposed to have dealt unfairly. I lost a good deal and closed it in early July. I had built at the Ranch but kept on the prospect until in June, when I commended to set a table and sell supplies on the roadside. Ben. Bennett had a big mule and I let him have an interest. He was lazy and no good. J. R. Nickelson did the cooking and I took him as another partner. He was a first rate good man. We made money fast and sold early in March, 1851 (1857) to Blegett and Howell, Bennet loaning them money.
I left with Caldwell, Tuttle and Nikessen for home March 24, 1851 (1857). We left San Francisco April 1st. At New York. I drew the insurance on goods sent to round the Horn by Rapelye and myself; at Buffalo, stayed over one day to visit Mrs. Chambers, a cousin. Had stopped at Alexander to see Uncle Ammi Butler. I then went on to Michigan. Found my wife at my brother John’s in Paw Paw, VanBuren. (In going from Chagres to New York our steamer stopped at Kingston in the Island of Jamaica, and we hired a team and rode into the country, bought bananas and oranges and old rum to take home. We had also at Mazettom on the Pacific bought shells and a costly silk Chinese shawl, etc. I traveled through Iowa, Illinois, looking for a place to settle. My brother bought a double house in Chicago on St. which if I had kept would have been a fortune. I was not satisfied, so after visiting my father and my wife’s parents and with brother Wooster and Amanda, I went to Milwaukee and lived near Butler, who with John arranged a settlement with brother E.D., the Doctor, and I studied law and was admitted to practice before judge Hubell. My money began to ebb fast and my father died in February 18So with Tuttle, his wife and his brother, I with my wife and a brother of hers, started on the last of March, 1852 for a second trip to California. John came to see us at Chicago and I never saw him again. Our outfit this trip got at St. Joseph, Mo., was all that could be desired. A good wagon with five mules and a riding horse for myself and one for my wife, with not a pound of superfluous stuff to lug. Tuttle had also a good outfit. We traveled fast. My poor wife was taken sick and at Fort Larimer we were given a room by the Captain and the Surgeon was in attendance for 14 days, when she died. Every one was kind and Tuttle and wife would not go and leave us. She died. She was very dear to me, for we were grown up together, and besides was a great favorite of my mother. It was a terrible trial, but God knew what was best.
John Burris Fay, 1st husband of Mary Jane (Mollie) Baker
From Larimer we traveled very fast and reached California early in July. I went to the old ranch and went into three stores and a Beef business with Hatfield, Sims, and Bennett. Our stores were at Baker’s Ranch, at Bride’s Valley and in El Dorado Canyon. My indebtedness Aug. 5th, 1852, was over $17,000, but made money hand over hand, selling in less than one year nearly $40,000, realizing large profits. Hatfield was all business and untiring, Sims was a good man and Bennett was good for nothing.
|In one year with Bennett I bought the old ranch, and the other stores were closed out soon after. We had a Toll road crossing Velasco Canyon to Bird’s Valley, and finally to Michigan Bluff. Business began to droop and Bennett went off to Tahita Islands. I bought 1020 acres of land in Fess Valley 7 miles from Napa, Naka? and 70 cows of first imported stock and several horses. On Bennett’s return he decided to go into the Ranch with me instead of remaining in the mountains. In 1857 I was elected to the Senate. (I paid Josiah Rogers of Racine, Wisconsin nearly two thousand dollars on Jo Ferris’ and O’Fling’s note, which I had signed to accommodate) My behaviour in the Senate was approved of and I could have been elected again had I so wished. Bennett sold the ranch and stock, then about 300 head, and a great deal of grain, to Sam Huffaker and the Hardens, now of San Louis Obispo, and ran away. I employed Judge Hazen and James Anderson to try to get something for me. Mr. Himrod made two or three journeys to find Bennett. A great many thousand dollars was utterly lost. The business in the mountains was but little.
I married Lucy A. Flint on the 9th of May, 18She was from Concord Mass., where her ancestors and descendents had lived since the Mayflower days. Her first American ancestor had come over on the Mayflower. She was a noble, good wife and tried to assist me all in her power to revive our broken fortunes.
With the brothers Cotton I bought the Old Bay State Flouring Mill at Sacramento and moved it into Kennedy’s and Hopkin’s building on Gold Street, San Francisco. It burned just a few weeks after it was started. I lost about $14,000 clear. My wife had encouraged the enterprise and the failure greatly distressed her and myself. After my marriage I had built a good house and barn costing over $5,000; had cleared about 12 acres of heavy timber and built fences and water works, costing us much more. I had expended about $2,500 in mines, out of which I got $1,100, my wife sold for $5I sold the timber on the ranch to a Saw Mill and sold the Toll road, realizing together about $6,000, and finally sold the ranch for $1,100 and my library for $7All gone! We moved to Forest Hill in the spring of 18I went over into the State of Nevada at White Pine and Temoirite (at Ten Pitch), and at Groom. I worked very hard and struggled to send money to my wife. In February, 1870 went home for a month. Our boy Marion had died while I was gone and our Blanche was born. Went back to Nevada. In 1877 went to Chicago and sold my
mines. I received altogether about $10,000, a good deal of which I owed, and some shares. Went home Christmas and then back to Nevada and remained until August, 18And the mismanagement left nothing to expect. On November, 4th moved to Oakland. Had bought a place, $6,1Soon found a cloud upon the title. I had mortgaged the place. It could not be sold to clear off the mortgage and all was lost, besides leaving us in debt for several years’ subsistence. This was on 17th St. We rented and moved to 25th St. We had Amy Bond, Lucy Lydia, Alfred Hull and Almira Blanche.
Amy married Theodore P. Strong, son of the Rev. Mr. Strong, a most excellent man, devoted to his wife. They are a happy couple and have one child, Leslie Flint, a beautiful boy, now more than three years old. Mr. Strong is an Insurance Agent and makes, I believe, a comfortable living.
|Lucy married Frank A. Gove, a very excellent man. He clerks for Whittier Whiten, Fuller, & Co. in San Francisco. He bought this place 1213 Chestnut St. and pays in installments monthly. It keeps him close to support his family and pays his monthly installments. He loves and makes happy his wife. They have one child, Leon Marion, three years old, a very fine child.
Alfred has over three years worked at small wages in a coal & wood yard, and is becoming a steady and much respected young man; for a time he did not behave well, but we are now pleased with him. Blanche lived with Amy, but was not at well, so in January, 1889, she went to her uncle Rockwood Flint’s, who with his family live at Santa Barbara. She is now much better. She is a most clear headed and good looking and good girl.
Mary Jane (Mollie) Baker
More than seven years ago my poor wife, my beloved companion, was stricken with paralysis. She lived along until 17th Jan. and died. We lived with Mr. Gove and wife. I can hardly lose without again referring to my dear wife. Uncomplaining, not able for a long time to speak, yet always she was so good, never speaking a hard word of anyone. She loved and was devoted to her family. I pray to God she is in the arms of Jesus’ love.
We were at times very comfortable, but misfortune followed; for years we have lived a burden to Mr. and Mrs. Gove, Mrs. Belinda Baker, my sister-in-law, and my niece, her daughter. My brother Wooster, widow and child, Mrs. Mollie B. Southwick, and my niece, [daughter of my twin brother] Mrs. J. May Robinson, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, have voluntarily contributed to our comfort.
For years I have been troubled with Sciatica and also with Bright’s disease. My feet and ankles are at times swollen and the swelling for the last four months will not subside, besides is creeping to and above my knees. Sometimes am troubled to get my breath. The dropsical character is due to diseased kidneys and I may die at any moment, or if it be the will of God, my days may be prolonged. I daily pray God to forgive the evil I have done in life, through Jesus my Redeemer. I daily pray God to bless all dear relatives and friends and have mercy upon my enemies. My children, my grandchildren, my sons-in-law, and those beloved ones who have to constantly assisted me is the subject of my prayers each day. I have always been a reader of the Bible and most earnestly do I urge all my beloved ones to daily read its sacred pages.
There is one-fourth undivided interest in some mines at Lincoln County, Nevada, Which will some time, not very distant, be sold to pay my debts, and considerable besides. Should I be able, may add to this long, yet brief recital. I have not gone into many details, yet, perhaps, sufficient to give on idea of the vicissitudes of my life. I hope to make a copy of the above for my children and my wish is that beloved J. May Robinson may have a copy of this, as also your mother if she so desires.
Your ever affectionate uncle,
Jehiel H. Baker
Footnote: Jehiel died in 1889 in San Francisco, CA
Special thanks to direct descendant Daniel Fay for the contribution of his GGGrandUncle's letter to the Washtenaw Co., MI USGenWeb page
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