Old Pioneers of Van Zandt County Van Zandt County Genealogical Society
This page will be devoted to the Old Pioneers of Van Zandt County. These stories have come from a variety of sources, some from old newspapers, some from descendants and some have been previously published in the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society's quarterly publication, "Our Heritage." Our thanks to Sue Wilkinson, quarterly editor, for permission to reprint these stories. All biographies are welcomed and if you have one that you would like to submit, just write it in your own words and send it to Sibyl and we will be very happy to post it on this website.
From all accounts and family stories, old Dempsey Baker was a real character. He had jet black hair, twinkling blue eyes and was deaf as a post. He apparently thought everyone else in the world was deaf as well because "you could always hear old Uncle Dempsey coming a mile away." He was quite sociable, talkative and most of all, loud. He lived to be 95 years old and never had a single gray hair on his head, according to old family stories. He was born 1809 in Bertie Co., NC. His parents were most likely Jeremiah Baker and Elizabeth Curry who married 1808 in Bertie Co, NC. His grandfather was Dempsey Baker who was a Revolutionary War soldier.
They all migrated to Georgia between 1810 and 1820. Dempsey married in Bibb County to Martha "Patsy" Wallis Norsworthy in 1831. Jeremiah Baker lived in this county also, as well as Dempsey Baker (the elder) who died in 1844 in Macon Co. Both Dempsey the younger and Jeremiah lived in Hawkinsville, Pulaski County before and just after the Civil War. It was then that Dempsey the younger migrated to Texas with his family, probably traveling with the large covered wagon train initiated by William Hendley, a neighbor in Pulaski County. The two families, along with others, arrived in Texas at the same time, around 1868 or 69, lived first for a short time in Smith County, then by 1870, they were living in Van Zandt County. Dempsey's eldest son, William Jefferson Baker, was a Confederate soldier.
Dempsey Baker was a farmer most of his life and was still actively farming at age 82. From the Canton Telephone of March 1890, Four Mile Prairie community news: "Uncle Dempsey Baker, aged 82 years, and the father of Tom and Billie Baker, lives in this community. He is as active as a boy, and plows in the field." From the Canton Telephone of October 1890, Four Mile Prairie community news: "Uncle Dempsey Baker, age 82 years, has raised two bales of cotton and one hundred bushels of corn, and did the work himself." When he wasn't farming, in later life, he became the oldest postal carrier in Texas. Dr. W.A. Allen once referred to Dempsey in an article printed in the Canton Herald, July 17, 1910: "Dr. Allen well remembers some of the old time carriers such as Uncle Dempsey Baker who handled the mail bags west of Canton, and was the father of Billie Baker, now deceased, who lived three miles west of Canton, both of whom will be readily recalled by many."
Dempsey and Martha Baker had twelve children, several of whom died when young. They came to Texas with William J., Mary Evaline, Harriet Caroline, John Thomas, Joseph Wiley and David Franklin. Mary and Tom married brother and sister W.L. and Mary Ann Easley.
Obituary from the Canton Herald: "Uncle Dempsey Baker, whose fatal illness was noted last week, died at the home of his son, W.J. Baker, in the Ford community Saturday about 2 o'clock and the remains were interred at High Graveyard Sunday afternoon, a large number of friends attending the services. Uncle Dempsey was well-known in the county, having lived in it for about 35 years. He was in his 98 (95)th year, perhaps the oldest man of the county. We have known him for many years and he was a good citizen in all paths of life. He leaves a large number of relatives and friends to mourn his death."
Descendants of Dempsey Baker still reside in Van Zandt County.
Submitted by Sibyl Creasey
Previously published in the Van Zandt County Genealogical Society's Our Heritage
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