Biographical and Genealogical History of Morris County New Jersey. Illustrated. Vol. II., Lewis Publishing Company, New York and Chicago, 1899.
"The study of biography is by nature the most universally profitable, universally pleasant of all things," said Carlyle, and this statement of the philosopher is certainly verified when we turn our attention to the life records of such men as Mr. Baker. In considering the growth and development of Madison we find that she owes much of her commercial prosperity to him, and that for many years his success in business has not only administered to his own happiness but has contributed materially to the advancement and welfare of the thriving city which he makes his home. He has been identified with this section of the state for many years and has contributed to its natural material progress and prosperity to an extent equaled by but a few of his contemporaries. Few levies furnish so striking an example of the wise application of sound principles and safe conservation as does his, and his record is that of one who has used his abilities in the best possible way, winning respect and honor by his useful career.
Mr. Baker is one of New Jersey's native sons. He was born in Westfield, Essex county, October 9, 1823, his parents being William and Jane R. (Thompson) Baker. The grandfather, William Baker, Sr., was born August 5, 1759, made his home in Westfield and died December 30, 1833. His father, Henry Baker, of East Hampton, Long Island, was the son of Thomas Baker, the progenitor of the family in America. The father of our subject, William Baker, was born in Westfield, February 20, 1788, and having arrived at years of maturity, married Miss Thompson, who was born May 3, 1790, the daughter of Moses and Esther A. (Bonnell) Thompson, the former a son of Hezekiah Thompson, who is mentioned in history on account of his valiant service in the war of the Revolution. William Baker devoted his energies to agricultural pursuits, and was a well known and influential farmer in the community where he resided. Both he and his wife held membership in the Presbyterian church, and their many excellencies of character won them high regard. The father died November 25, 1831, and the mother, long surviving him, passed away April 5, 1867. Their family numbered six sons and four daughters.
Having pursued his elementary studies in the common schools, Jeremiah Baker completed his education in the University of New York. In 1838 he entered into his business career in New York city, where he carried on operations until 1842, when, feeling the need of more advanced educational training, he pursued his university course. After a time he assumed his business cares and responsibilities, being associated with his brother-in-law, James A. Webb, in merchandising in New York city until 1869. In that year he retired from active commercial life, and has since been connected with the American Insurance Company, of which he has been a director for twenty-five years. He was also one of the organizers of the First National Bank of Madison, and has served as a member of the directorate from the beginning. His executive ability, keen discrimination, sound judgment and energy have been important factors in his success and have brought to him a comfortable competence.
Mr. Baker was united in marriage to Miss Elizabeth C. Webb, a native of New York city, and a daughter of A. V. H. Webb and Phoebe (Baker) Webb. Her father was a native of the Empire state, and was the son of Orange Webb, who was born on December 8, 1763, and died on November 26, 1817. He was one of the largest shipowners of his day, and was one of the first elders in what was known as the old brick church, in New York city, serving in that capacity about 1812, when Dr. Gardner Spring was pastor. Mrs. Webb was the daughter of William Baker, of Westfield. Seven children were born to our subject and his wife, but all have passed away.
Mr. Baker belongs to a family that was connected with the Whig party during the first half of the nineteenth century, and he cast his first presidential vote for Henry Clay. Since the formation of the Republican party, he has been one of its loyal supporters, and on that ticket he was elected a member of the first city council of Madison, serving most acceptably in that office and laboring earnestly for the substantial improvement of the city. He was chairman of the finance and water committees, and managed the affairs of those departments with great discretion and ability. He is an elder in the Presbyterian church in Madison and all interests for the public good find in him a friend. He is a man of wide acquaintance in business circles, both in the metropolis and New Jersey, and his name is a synonym for honorable business dealing.
At this point it would be almost tautological to enter into any series of statements as showing our subject to be a man of broad intelligence and genuine public spirit, for these have been shadowed forth between the lines of this review. Strong in his individuality, he never lacks the courage of his convictions, but there are as dominating elements in the individuality a lively human sympathy and an abiding charity, which as taken in connection with the sterling integrity and honor of his character, have naturally gained to Mr. Baker the respect and confidence of men.
Transcribed by Christopher Cresta
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