Last time, the Heritage Paper looked at one of the pioneer families of East Flamborough, the Abraham Baker family, who settled on Lot 13, Concession 4 in the early years of the nineteenth century. Abraham’s large family of five sons and seven daughters married into many other pioneer families of the Township, such as the Flatts, Mordens, Markles and Fretwells. George Baker, one of these sons, is the subject of this Heritage Paper.
George Baker, the eldest son of Abraham Baker and Ester Yake, was born 20 September 1801. His place of birth is at present unknown — it may have been East Flamborough, in which case he and his twin sister, Mary, were possibly among the very first children born in the Township. George married Mary (1804-1866), surname unknown, and had a family of six sons and two daughters. He made his will 17 August 1836, and died the following day aged 35 years and 11 months. He is buried in the Rock Chapel United Church Cemetery, West Flamborough. His parents are buried next to him1.On his tombstone is the inscription:
Farewell, dear friends, dry up your tears,I shall arise when Christ appears.
His six sons and two daughters were named in his will. Mary, his wife, remarried John Yake, one of the executors of his will, and moved to Waterdown. The photograph of Mary Baker and her six sons is in the Heritage Society’s Photograph Collection. This picture was taken c. 1865-67, prior to William Baker’s death and so is one of the earliest photographs in the Archives.
George Baker is regarded as the first settler in the area north of the village of Waterdown and the founder of Bakersville–the small settlement that developed on Centre Road, just north of the fifth Concession road, along the Grindstone Creek. The water power provided by Grindstone Creek acted as a magnet to enterprising settlers like George Baker, who hoped to capitalise on nature by converting the energy into substantial wealth and steadily increasing income. Property, consisting of one hundred acres in Lot 8, Concession 5 East Flamborough, was purchased by George Baker from Jacob Lenbrock of Granthem, the County of Lincoln, District of Niagara, on 14 February 1822. The original deed to this property transaction still exists, and states that the property was obtained…”in consideration for the sum of twenty-five pounds of lawful money of the province of Upper Canada.”
In “Waterdown and East Flamborough 1867-1967” and the “County of Wentworth and Hamilton City Directory for 1865-66,” George Baker is noted as having settled in Bakersville as early as 1824 and had also built the settlement’s first mill by this date. An excellent description of this area of East Flamborough a few years after George Baker first settled is to be found in Volume 1, ‘Wentworth Historical Society Journal’ written by John Glasgow. It begins with the story of his journey from Scotland to Canada in 1832, and the subsequent purchase of property in East Flamborough.
After considerable time being spent in looking up land, our families purchased their several homes in the fifth Concession of East Flamboro’, paying four dollars per acre. I am safe in saying it was a wilderness at that time, not one tree having been chopped down….Our settlement was three miles from the nearest road, Mr. Hugh Creen….was our nearest neighbour. He had one small field cleared, that being the only land clearance on the east side of Centre Road. Three small places were cleared on the west side by Mssrs. Finley, Foster and Baker. There was no other settlement until Carlisle was reached, where a few acres were cleared, and the next settlement was Guelph, where a few half-pay military officers had settled.2
The original Baker home was reputedly a log house, set back towards the Grindstone Creek. “Mrs. Baker used to tell about the milk house built out in the creek where they kept the butter and milk to keep it cool.”3 Today there is no evidence of any of these buildings left, although the probable site of the mills on the Grindstone Creek is covered by a Packing House for market garden produce.
With George Baker’s early death in 1836, when he was only 35 years old, the family somehow managed to keep the mill running and by 1853, there were two saw mills, using both steam and water power–one of the mills producing over a million board feet a year.
John, George Baker’s second son, eventually came to completely own the Bakersville mills, and the Lot 8 property4, and is the subject of another Heritage Paper. Of the other brothers, William (4 September 1827-14 September 1868) began as the tavern keeper of the Rising Sun Hotel on Centre Road, but moved to Hespeler, Waterloo County, with his wife Ellen Allen Springer and family c. 1855. Here he operated the Baker House on Queen Street, one of the two hotels in Hespeler, until his early death in 1868. Abraham (1822-7 March 1897), the eldest son, married Louisa Ann Ballard. During the 1850s, the family lived on the ninth Concession East Flamborough, but by 1865, had moved to Waterdown, Abraham becoming the proprietor of the Crown Inn on Dundas Street5. He and his wife are buried in Grace Anglican Church Cemetery.
James (1828-1904) and Henry (1831-7 July 1896) worked with John as sawyers at the Bakersville saw mills during the 1850s and 1860s. In 1868, the saw mill complex was sold to Messrs. Burns and Son, and the Baker family’s involvement in the business ceased6. James, married to Ann McBeath, moved to Hespeler to help William’s family and by 1877, he was operating the Queen’s hotel in that town7. Eventually he moved to California, where he died in 1904. Henry remained in East Flamborough; he was listed as the proprietor of the Royal Hotel, Waterdown in 18678, and during the period 1870-1896 as a butcher in Waterdown. He is buried in the Union Cemetery, Waterdown, commemorated by a memorial placed by his children. No information about Samuel, Susannah and Mary Jane Baker, George Baker’s other children, is known at present.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, March 1986.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1986, 2021.