Washburn Co. WIGenWeb

People Histories

James P. Baker
 (05 Dec 1836 - ?1)


by J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, IL, 1905

pages 418 - 419

James P. Baker, one of the earliest settlers in Washburn county, and postmaster at Shell Lake, is a successful man with a record for industry, perseverance and integrity of character.  He was born in Solon, Somerset Co., Maine, Dec. 5, 1836, son of Francis and Deborah (Buckman) Baker. 

Francis Baker was born in New Hampshire, and his parents, who were of Scottish descent, dying in his boyhood, he was adopted by a family named Eaton, with whom he went to Maine, where the remainder of his life was passed on a farm. He was a deacon in the M. E. Church, and an exemplary citizen, and lived to be eighty-four years of age.  Mrs. Deborah (Buckman) Baker died on the old homestead farm in April, 1902, aged 100 years.  She was a native of Norridgewock, Maine where her father, Asa Buckman, who was of German descent, and a potter by trade, kept a general store.

The boyhood of James P. Baker was spent on a farm.  After working early and late as a farm hand for $13 a month, he decided in 1857 to try to better his fortunes in the West, and borrowing $60 he set out.  He went by rail to Prairie du Chien, Wis., and from there to Lake Pepin by stage.  although it was the latter part of April the lake was still filled with ice, and with a few companions he completed the thirty-five miles of his journey on foot.  In Stillwater he secured a position at a dollar a day, which seemed to him a princely income.  Here he soon went into the lumber business, an occupation which he followed for thirty-one years.  He cut and sold logs on the St. Croix river and tributary streams for several years.  His first visit to Washburn county was in 1861, there being but three white men in the county at that time, and he spent two years logging near the site of the present town of Shell Lake.  In 1872 he returned to Washburn county and began logging on the Yellow river, where he has been interested ever since, bringing his family and permanently locating in the county in 1884.  In addition to the logging, at which he employed from fifty to one hundred men each winter, he soon began clearing a farm in the town of Bashaw, west of Shell lake, this being the first farm of any size to be cleared in the county, no other settler having at that time more than one acre under cultivation.  This farm was subsequently sold, and since March, 1891, the family resided in Shell Lake village, where Mr. Baker bought a meat market that is carried on by his son.  Mr. Baker has always been a Republican since casting his first vote for Lincoln; he has served several years as a member of the county board, and since 1897 has been postmaster.  Fraternally he is connected with the Knights of the Maccabees.

In 1868 Mr. Baker married Addie Jackman, a native of Charlotte, Maine, daughter of Joseph and Louise (Murphy) Jackman, with who she moved, in 1850, to Stillwater, Minn.  Mr. and Mrs. Jackman were both natives of Maine, where the latter died; the former passed away at Stillwater.  When the Jackman family came to Minnesota there were about half a dozen houses in St. Paul, and a few more in Stillwater.  Mr. and Mrs. Baker have two children, namely:  James J. and Edith E., both of whom were educated in Shell Lake, the daughter also attending school in St. Paul; she is now employed in the Shell Lake postoffice.

1 - Editorial Note - Nothing was found when seeking death information on James P. Baker, although according to the Washburn Co. Register of Deeds Death Index, there is a death record on file in that office for James' wife, Addie, who died on 24 Nov 1907 (Death Volume 5, page 67).  No burial information was found for the Bakers.


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