Genealogy of Richard Baker

Source: “Genealogy of Richard Baker,” New England Historical and Genealogical Register 43[1889].

[page 279]

RICHARD1 BAKER, the first American ancestor of those known distinctively as the Dorchester family of Baker, arrived in this country from England in 1635. The date may be fixed with precision as November 28 of that year. In his journal of current events, Gov. Winthrop notes the arrival at Boston on that day of a vessel which he describes as “a small Norsey bark of twenty-five tons;” and he adds, “her passengers and goods all safe.” This phrase, “Norsey Bark,” was for some time after the original publication of the “Journal,” a mystery to the historians; but the later issue of Winthrop papers*, including the letters written by Edward

*Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 4th Series, vol. vi. p. 325 et seq.

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Hopkins in London to John Winthrop, Jr., solved the mystery, for Hopkins, in referring to the same vessel, calls it a “North-sea boat.” He also used the word “barque” in designating the vessel. It is from these letters of Hopkins that the first information as to Richard Baker is derived, and they explain very clearly the circumstances of his coming to these shores. Edward Hopkins was the agent in London of a colonizing company or association, the chief members of which were Lord Say and Seal, Lord Brook, Lord Rich, Sir Richard Saltonstall, and others of influence politically and socially. They had obtained a grant of territory which included what is now the State of Connecticut, and were anxious to get military control of the region by establishing a fort at the mouth of the Connecticut River in anticipation of a like movement on the part of the Dutch of New Amsterdam, who also claimed possession or rights of trade there.

To this end the projectors needed a stanch vessel of light draft to ply between Boston and the mouth of the Connecticut during the building of a fort. This North Sea boat, which was named the “Bachelor,” was obtained, and a master and crew of eight in all were engaged to sail the vessel across the sea and on coastwise voyages here during the construction of the fort. The vessel was laden with material, iron work, etc., suitable for such construction, as the invoice contained in Hopkins’s letter shows. Four passengers were taken, Sergeant Lyon Gardiner, a military engineer; his assistant, and the Sergeant’s wife and maid. The letter of Hopkins containing the first mention of Richard Baker is dated London, Aug. 18, 1635, and states in the postscript that the Bachelor was cleared from Gravesend below London on that day. It gives the names of the master and crew, Richard Baker being second in command, or “master’s mate.” The wages to be paid each and the terms of their employment are also stated. The letter was addressed to John Winthrop, Jr., the agent of the company in this country, and, as it was foreseen that he might be in Connecticut on arrival of the vessel in Boston, the alternative was added, “or, in his absence, to the worshipful Jno. Winthrop the elder, at Boston aforesaid.” Hopkins speaks somewhat in derogation of a part of the crew, for which, as appears, he had good reason, and remarks in an explanatory way that “it was not easy here to get any at this time to go in so small a vessel.” He remarks incidentally that “the master hath a desire, as he tells me, to continue in the country.” He does not say that of the master’s mate, with whom (Richard Baker being then a young man of not much more than one and twenty) he probably held no conversation. But the reasons effective with the master in the matter would likely to be so with the mate, and, if they related only to pursuit of the mariner’s calling, there were with the latter other not less potent reasons.

At the last moment, when the barque was at Gravesend, four of the crew, whom Hopkins names, renounced their contract so far as it provided for service on the vessel in New England. “Whereupon,” he says, “being put to some straits I was in a manner constrained to yield to their desires.” Of the other four, one of whom was the master’s mate, he says that they, “sticking to the former agreement, will be able, I conceive, with small help more, to sail the barque in the country.” On the back of the next letter from Hopkins, dated London, 21 Sept., 1635, is a memorandum in the handwriting of John Winthrop, Jr., of four items, one of which reads: “3 bills of exchange of 30 li to be paid to Rich: Baker.” These bills, forwarded by a vessel sailing a month later than did the Bachelor, indicate sufficiently on the part of the person in whose favor they run, not merely a desire but a purpose to continue in the country.

[page 281]

This recital of remote, and, in part, unimportant facts of record is pertinent here as evincing to those who will chiefly be interested in this genealogy that their common ancestor came to America under circumstances highly creditable to himself. They give proof that he was a man of great courage and of skill and resources in the mariner’s art; that in an exigency which men of small soul took advantage of he was on of those who did equity by “sticking to the former agreement”; and that he was of a frugal habit, preferring to take passage where he would have nothing to pay out, but a considerable sum in pocket at the end of his ocean and coastwise voyages. The bills of exchange may also be taken as evidence of a like habit in money matters while he was yet in his native land.

The next date of record of Richard Baker is November 4, 1639, when he became a member of the church in Dorchester. It is probable that he was married about that time. His wife, Faith Withington, is recorded under her maiden name as a member of the same church of earlier date. She was a daughter of Henry Withington, the ruling elder of the Church. The office was one of much honor, and various facts show that the family of Withington was one of social distinction. Mary, a sister of Faith, married Thomas Danforth, who became deputy governor of the colony. Near relatives of Richard Baker were Thomas Baker, his brother, a resident of Roxbury and owner of the historical tide-mill there; and John Baker of Boston, a nephew of both Richard and Thomas, who in different documents describes himself as “smith” and “mariner.” These descriptive appelations do not indicate that he was merely an employé in either business. He was a prominent and enterprising citizen of the metropolis, and carried on business extensively. He died a comparatively young man, about twenty years before either of his uncles, and his inventory shows that he had acquired property in shipping and real estate amounting to £799, a considerable estate for that period.

It does not appear of record that Richard Baker assisted in sailing the Bachelor coastwise, but his contract required him to do so if the owners desired. It is certain, as appears in others of the Winthrop letters, that the vessel was thus employed. If he was in that service, a part, at least, of the interval between 1635 and 1639 is accounted for. In the records of Dorchester, very soon after the latter date, he is put down as a considerable owner of real estate in that town. His homestead was a tract of land fronting southerly upon the road now called Savin Hill Avenue. The site of his dwelling-house was undoubtedly that of the building known to the contemporary generation as the “Tuttle Mansion.” He added from time to time to the original area by purchase of adjoining lands.

One of these additions appears to have been a tract on the northwesterly slope of Savin Hill, where, up to a recent date, stood two dwellings known from time immemorial as the Baker houses. One yet remains. That which has been demolished was in all probability the house which Richard Baker, as he states in his will, built for his son John. The statement is made in connection with a bequest to his son of adjacent lands. Richard Baker bequeathed his homestead estate to his son James, who lived a bachelor. He in turn bequeathed it to his nephew John Wiswall, and the property remained in possession of the Wiswall heirs until 1826, when it was sold to Mr. Tuttle. The premises referred to as bequeathed to John Baker continued uninterruptedly in possession of some of his descendants till the year 1872.

Richard Baker was made a freeman of the colony May 18, 1642. He

[page 282]

became a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1658. In nearly every year from 1642 to 1685 his name is of record as exercising some office in the town administration of Dorchester. He appears not to have aspired to the highest station, and during only one year, 1653, is he recorded as a selectman. In 1668 he was elected a ruling elder of the church, but declined the office. Both in the town and the church records his name appears from time to time with those of others who were among the principal citizens in the making up of important committees. He was a proprietor in all the “Divisions” of town lands subsequent to the date of the “Great Lots.” The “Divisions” covered much the larger area. The inventory of his estate amounted to £1,315 15s. He died Oct. 25, 1689; his wife died Feb. 3, preceding. Children:

  • i. MARY,2 chr. Feb. 14, 1641; m. Samuel Robinson; she d. Aug. 27, 1714.
  • 2. ii. JOHN, chr. April 30, 1643; m. Preserved Trott.
  • iii. SARAH, chr. June 22, 1645; m. James White, Feb. 22, 1664; she d. Oct. 13, 1688.
  • iv. THANKFUL, chr. March 19, 1646; m. William Griggs.
  • v. ELIZABETH, chr. Oct. 27, 1650; d. young.
  • vi. JAMES, chr. April 30, 1654. As stated, to him was bequeathed the homestead estate of his father; this comprised considerable tracts of land adjoining and near to the dwelling house; he appears to have been a prosperous farmer; only once did he take a public office, that of viewer of fences of common corn fields; he died, single, March 30, 1721.
  • vii. ELIZABETH, chr. July 20, 1656; m. William Pratt of Weymouth, Mass.; they resided in Dorchester for a while, and went thence with the church organized in that town, Oct. 22, 1695, for missionary purposes in South Carolina; they had a daughter Thankful, born in Weymouth Oct. 14, 1683.
  • viii. HANNAH, b. Jan. 9, 1662; m. John Wiswall, May 5, 1685.

2. JOHN2 BAKER (Richard1), son of Richard and Faith, was born in Dorchester and was christened, as appears by the church records, April 30, 1643. He married Preserved Trott, July 11, 1667. He lived at Savin Hill, in the dwelling house already referred to. The site is about two rods south-easterly of the present boundary of the street, and, in an air line, about 260 feet due north-east from the centre of the highway bridge over the Old Colony railroad. The house was occupied as a barrack for American troops during the siege of Boston. John Baker owned a large area of farming land, though his homestead tract was comparatively small. He appears to have been an efficient townsman, and served during a succession of years in different town offices. He died Aug. 26, 1690; his wife died Nov. 25, 1711. Children:

  • i. SARAH,3 b. Aug. 12, 1668; m. Oliver Wiswall, Jan. 1, 1690.
  • ii. MARY, b. Nov. 10, 1670; d. Jan. 26, 1670.
  • 3. iii. JOHN, b. Nov. 25, 1671; m. Hannah Withington.
  • 4. iv. JAMES, b. Aug. 4, 1674; m. Judith Maxfield.
  • v. MARY, b. Aug. 24, 1676; m. John Minot, May 23, 1696; she d. Feb. 15, 1716.
  • vi. THANKFUL, b. April 13, 1679; m. Hopestill Capen, Aug. 4, 1702; she d. Dec. 6, 1761.
  • vii. HANNAH, b. July 22, 1682; d. Aug. 9, 1683.
  • viii. ELIZABETH, b. July 18, 1684; also called “Betsey”; d. single.
  • ix. HANNAH, b. July 11, 1687; d. Nov. 12, 1690.
  • 5. x. ABIJAH, b. Feb. 25, 1690; m. Hannah Lyon of Milton, Mass.

[page 283]

3. JOHN3 BAKER (John,2 Richard1), son of John (2) and Preserved, was born in Dorchester, Nov. 25, 1671. He married Hannah Withington, May 16, 1708. His dwelling house was situated on “the great country road,” so called, now Washington Street, in Dorchester. The site is three or four rods east of that street, and probably projects slightly upon the southerly sidewalk of the present Melville Avenue. The premises were bought by John Baker of William Stoughton, as appears by deed of March 30, 1698. The house was occupied by the descendants of John Baker down to a date within the recollection of the oldest persons now living. It faced south, with the west end towards the road, and was of two stories in front, the long slope of the northerly roof making it to be one story in the rear. He owned extensive farming tracts adjoining and in the vicinity. He died Oct. 9, 1746; his wife died April 30, 1768, aged 82 years. Children:

  • i. HANNAH,4 b. June 9, 1709; m. Benjamin Clapp, a great-grandson of Capt. Roger Clapp, Dec. 29, 1730; they lived in Stoughton, Mass., after 1740; she d. there.
  • 6. ii. JAMES, b. May 24, 1713; m. Priscilla Paul.
  • iii. JOHN, b. in 1711; d. in infancy.
  • 7. iv. JOHN, b. June 28, 1715; m. 1st, Sarah Wiswall; m. 2d, Jane Wheeler.
  • 8. v. THOMAS, b. May 3, 1717; m. Ann Mattox.
  • 9. vi. ELIJAH, b. May 14, 1720; m. Hannah Puffer.
  • 10. vii. GEORGE, b. Aug. 13, 1724; m. 1st, Ruth Williams; m. 2d, Mary Jones; m. 3d, Susan Viles.

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8. THOMAS4 BAKER (John,3 John,2 Richard1), son of John (3) and Hannah, was born May 3, 1717. He married Ann Mattox. As appears by deed bearing date, June 1, 1738, he bought of Ebenezer Mawdsley a dwelling house and ten acres of land bounded westerly by the highway leading to Boston, southerly by land of John Baker, easterly by Capen, and northerly by Robert Searle, Jr. The description is sufficient to fix it as contiguous to the land which John Baker bought of William Stoughton, and fronting on “the great country road.” Thomas Baker died Dec. 29, 1745; his wife died Oct. 5, 1758. Children:

  • i. SARAH,5 b. Nov. 24, 1739; m. Abram Wheeler, Nov. 15, 1759; she d. Feb. 11, 1776.
  • ii. HANNAH, b. Aug. 3, 1741; m. John Clapp, Nov. 29, 1764; the same described in the Clapp genealogy (p. 228) as “John Old Times”; she d. Aug. 10, 1779.
  • iii. ANN, b. Oct. 5, 1744; d. Oct. 6, 1757.
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