This is the third and final part of the Editor’s research on the Baker family who originally settled on the fourth concession of East Flamborough in the early 1800s. The second generation of this family were the founders of the small settlement of Bakersville on Centre Road in the 1820s and owners of mills on the Grindstone Creek that existed for over forty years. The final paper looks at a member of the third generation, John Baker, and some of his descendants.
John Baker was the second of George and Mary’s eight children. Born 17 March 1824 in the original Baker log house in Bakersville, he eventually came to own two saw mills in the Grindstone Creek, a Great Lakes schooner and the Baker family home on Centre Road. He married Maria Myles (23 September 1828 – 13 April 1911) of Waterdown on 11 November 1847, and they had a family of eleven children, three of whom died in infancy and are buried with their parents in Union Cemetery, Waterdown.
With the early death of George Baker in August 1836, the family managed to retain ownership of the mill. Gradually during the 1840s and 1850s, through transactions with his five brothers, John obtained all the property that his father had distributed among them in his will. He took over the running of Baker’s mill, which had expanded to two mills by 1858, and was also listed as early as the 1850s as an Innkeeper, the Rising Sun Hotel on Centre Road, being one of the stops on the stage coach route from Hamilton to Milton. The two saw mills using steam and water power were producing over a million board feet of lumber a year, making the settlement of Bakersville important enough to be listed in various Wentworth County Directories of the 1860s. The lumber from the mills was transported to Brown’s Wharf, Aldershot for shipment. For a time, John owned a Great Lakes schooner called the “Dauntless”1 that brought coal to Brown’s Wharf and shipped lumber to Detroit and down the St. Lawrence River. For working overtime to unload, each man was reputedly compensated with a bottle of whiskey. With the sale of the mills in 1868 to Messrs. Burns & Son, John’s interest diversified as in later listings he is a Farmer, Hotel Owner, Tollgate Keeper and Post Master. He continued in the lumber business, bringing timber from Northern Ontario via a spur line at Elmvale.
John Baker was not always popular with the local inhabitants of the area, and one storey exists that as Tollgate Keeper of Centre Road at the fifth concession, he reputedly demanded money from all us used the road. This became such an unpopular action, and so infuriated one local resident, Mr. Beeforth, that he offered the land at the front of his property (Lot 3, Concession 5) for an alternative road. This would have meant that the Milton Stage that travelled the Snake Road into Waterdown, then up Centre Road, stopping at Bakersville before going on to Carlisle and Milton, would miss Bakersville by turning at the fifth concession and using present-day Beeforth Road to the sixth concession. John Baker must have backed down, as the stage continued to use Centre Road through Bakersville, and the Rising Sun Hotel operated until approximately 1899-1900. On 7 March 1899, John Baker, aged 74 years, died and was buried in Union Cemetery, Waterdown.
John Baker’s eldest son, George, born 18 January 1849, married Anne Jane Brown, daughter of Edward Brown and Fanny Flatt on 18 January 1871. He attended Business College in Hamilton for a year and then became part owner of a rake, cradle and agricultural implement factory known as Brown & Baker, situated on Mill Street, Waterdown, close to the falls. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1885, and no attempt was made to rebuild it. In 1888, Dr. John Owen McGregor of Waterdown, George’s friend, gave him the money to take his wife and children to Chicago to join the American Rolling Mills, which in later years became U.S. Steel. Here he began as a salesman and ended his career as President of the U.S. Steel Company. George often returned to Waterdown to visit his mother and to go fishing with Dr. McGregor as in the old days. The two families were united by the marriage of Muriel McGregor (November 1887), daughter of Dr. McGregor, and Orrin Hugh Baker (10 June 1885 – 13 July 1949), son of George Baker.
Dr. McGregor practised medicine in Waterdown for over fifty years. He made calls in the village for 50¢, and his charge for confinements was $5.00, and the next day he made a courtesy call. Because of this, Orrin Baker was later known in Chicago as the “$5.00 Baby.” Orrin died in 1949, and was buried with his parents in Rosehill Cemetery Mausoleum in Chicago. Muriel had his body disinterred and brought back to be buried near the McGregors in the Union Cemetery, Waterdown. They had built a home in Burlington and intended to live there after Orrin’s retirement, which was two weeks away when he died. Later, memorial windows were placed in Knox Presbyterian Church, Waterdown by Muriel, who at the time of writing this paper was still alive, living in a Hamilton Nursing Home (1986).
Franklin Baker (28 May 1868 – 9 August 1940) was John and Maria Baker’s ninth child. He married Mary Elizabeth “Bessie” Harvey (7 June 1873 – 26 September 1926) daughter of Robert Harvey and Jane Jessiman, on 31 January 1900, at Fruit Ridge Farm, Waterdown. Their family of seven children were all born at Bakersville in the Rising Sun Hotel, which had by the turn of the century ceased to be operated as a hotel. Franklin and his son Myles McGregor, “Mac”, farmed the ninety-nine acres of property the family owned in the fifth Concession of the township. They exhibited fruit and vegetables at many fall fairs, travelling to the London Fair, Canadian National Exhibition and the Royal Winter Fair, Toronto, and Franklin exhibited for 52 consecutive years at the Galt Fall Fair where he was a perennial winner. He also served as a board member of Waterdown District High School for 32 years and as Chairman of the East Flamborough Liberal Association.
1The “Dauntless”, a lake schooner of 179 tons, was built by John Potter at his yards on the flats of Sixteen Mile Creek at Oakville. The vessel was launched 13 May 1867 and registered at Oakville. She was used in the lumber trade on Lake Erie, and ended her days as a semaphore vessel in the Detroit River, the registration being cancelled 1917.
When John Baker sold the sailing vessel and retired from the Great Lakes trade, the buyer did not come up with sufficient funds. In fact, all that was collected was enough to buy some furniture that included a bedroom suite and a chest of drawers that have been handed down through generations of the Baker family, and today are owned by one of John Baker’s great grand-daughters.
Originally published in Heritage Happenings, April 1986.
© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 1986, 2021.