THE CAPTAIN JOHN BAKER FAMILY
PIONEERS OF MONROE COUNTY
by R.E. Harrington
From our vantage point in time, it is difficult to visualize life on the American Frontier 200 years ago. One of the main reasons for this, of course, is that we live in a world of wall-to-wall people; fenced property; paved roads; automobiles; airplanes; telephones; TV; running water; computers; Internet; supermarkets; laws governing most activities; and much, much more. To visualize the American Frontier of the late 1700s we must first be able to visualize a world with all of those things missing. It was a world of nothing but trees, nature, weather, and lots and lots of unknown and uncertainties. It was a world full of deer, bear, elk, mountain lions, wild turkey, wolves, squirrel, coon, and more. Personal security for the people who lived on the frontier was thin and ephemeral. A state of perpetual guerrilla warfare existed with a sparse but ever present Indian enemy.
By the late 1700s, the frontier had been pushed westward over the Appalachian Mountains. Much of what is now Ohio and Kentucky was still Indian country. The steady movement of the frontier westward had become a threat to the Native American Indians. The clash between the Ahunter-gatherer@ culture of the Indians and the farming culture of the white settlers was inevitable. Injustices committed by both cultures became excuses for hostilities on each sides. For decades the accepted relationship between the Indians and the white settlers had been one of intense suspicion, hostility and frequently open war.
As in most human relations over the centuries, the issues of economics lay scarcely hidden beneath the hostile actions of both of the warring sides. White settlers with their concept of land ownership were aggressive in their pursuit of free or cheap lands. The existing state and federal governments contributed to pressure to move into Indian land by first claiming sovereignty over the land, then using it as payments for military service. It was also sold to land companies as a source of revenue for the state and federal governments.
Although the Indian Nations did not use the concept of land ownership, as hunters and gatherers they saw that the real estate that provided their livelihood was continually being diminished. Because of the unique Indian hunter-gatherer live style combined with the need to prevent the white settlers from pushing them into extinction, and because of the prospects of gaining riches from the white man in the form of horses, rifles, and other loot, it was perhaps a logical and natural expectation that the Indians would mount raids on the encroaching whites.
So accepted had the practice of raiding the white settlers become that over time a corridor, of sorts, had been established that raiding parties of Indians from northern and central Ohio followed to penetrate into Virginia. This corridor or war path crossed the Ohio River at roughly the point where Captain John Baker had built a blockhouse surrounded by a stockade. Captina Creek was a tributary on the Ohio side of the river which formed a part of the corridor or war path.
The story teller of the "Battle of Captina" was Martin Baker, son of Captain John Baker, second youngest son of Captain John Baker. In May 1794, the month of the skirmish between an Indian war party and the whites from Fort Baker, Martin Baker who was born on October 10, 1780 was just 13 2 years old. Luckily for the author of this article, he was too young to engage in combat with warring Indians. Martin lived to be 77 years old. He died April 27, 1857 and was buried in Steed Cemetery in Monroe County just outside Woodsfield, Ohio.
Martin=s older brother, John Baker Jr., who was killed by the Indians during the battle of Captina was about 29 years old. John was born in 1765. His date of death is given as May 22, 1794 which, if correct, fixes more precisely the date of the Battle of Captina. John was married to Elizabeth Parr and the couple had a son, John Baker, Jr..
Ironically, Martin and John Baker=s father, Captain John Baker, had been killed by the Indians in 1787, seven years earlier than the battle of Captina, close to the spot where John Baker, Jr. was killed in 1794. Captain John Baker was about 50 years old at the time of his death. John Baker, Sr. had been born in Bingen, Germany. By the age of about 21 years he had immigrated to America, had wed Elizabeth Sullivan in Philadelphia, PA and had started a family. John and Elizabeth=s first two of their 11 children were twin girls, Catherine and Margaret Baker. These twins later married Yoho brothers, Henry and Peter Yoho. During the remainder of his life John Baker completed several enlistments in the army of the Colony of Virginia where he earned his title of Captain. His military career include service during the American Revolutionary War.
Captain Baker and his family was one of the pioneer families moving ever westward. In 1784 John built his blockhouse surrounded by a stockade at Cresap=s Bottom on the Virginia (now West Virginia) side of the Ohio River. The facility became known as ABaker=s Station@ and later as ABaker=s Fort.@ It provide safe quarters for his family and others during times of siege. Being strategically located on the Ohio River at the intersection with the Indian war path, it was a frequent stop on the route of white travelers, hunters, scouts, and Indian fighters passing through the area. Across the Ohio River from Baker=s Fort was Captina Creek, the setting of the Battle of Captina.
According to the story told of Captain John Baker=s fate, in 1787 John Wetzel and his son, George, were at Baker=s Station when they and Captain Baker noticed some Indians on the Ohio shore walking leisurely about. Baker shot at one of them and killed him. The others appeared frightened and ran away leaving the dead Indian behind. Baker and the Wetzels crossed the river and were viewing the dead Indian when several shots were fired at them. Apparently the Indians had feigned fright to lure the whites into a trap. Captain Baker fell, mortally wounded. The Wetzels Atreed@ (meaning they took cover behind trees or rocks) and commenced firing back. Several more men crossed the river to reinforce them and drove the Indians off. Captain Baker had crawled a short distance from where he had fallen and was alive but he died soon after arriving back at the station. He was buried on the flat near a stream called AGrave Yard Run@ at the upper end of Cresap=s Bottom.
Elizabeth Sullivan Baker stayed on at Baker=s Station for several more years following the 1787 death of her husband Captain John Baker and the 1794 death of her son, John Baker, Jr. In 1804 she moved with her son, Martin Baker, the story teller of the Battle of Captina, across the Ohio River to Washington Township in Belmont County, Ohio. Nine years later, in 1813 Elizabeth Baker again moved with her son, Martin, to Monroe County, Ohio where Martin had purchased the northwest quarter of Section 23, Range 5 on September 3, 1813. This property is located about 2 miles south of Woodsfield, Ohio at the intersection of Ohio Route # 800 and Monroe County Route # 26. It is currently known as the Matz farm. Elizabeth died there on May 22, 1836 at the age of 92 years, 3 months and 8 days. She is buried beside Martin Baker and his family in the Steed Cemetery which is on the same quarter of land purchased by Martin Baker in 1813.
Captain John and Elizabeth Sullivan Baker were the author=s 5th great grandparents. The author wishes to recognize the source of much of the above information as coming from a book titled the "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio." The material for the "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio." was taken from two nineteenth century books: (1) AHistory of Monroe County Ohio,@ a product of the H.H. Hardesty & Co., publishers, Chicago and Toledo, 1882 and (2) ACaldwell's Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio,@ a product of Atlas Publishing Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio, 1898. The "Combined History and Atlas of Monroe County, Ohio" was reprinted by and is available from the Monroe County Historical Society. The author also wishes to recognize the contribution of his 5th cousin, Valerie Jean Kramer, author of the recently published book, ADescendants of Captain John Baker whose book is available by contacting her at P.O. Box 625, Port Orford, OR 97465 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org