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Robert M. Baker was a pioneer Kansan. Nearly fifty years ago he identified himself with the frontier in Phillips County and helped to develop that wild prairie section into one of the finest agricultural districts of the state. In the year 1900 he moved his home to Topeka, where he lived in retirement until his death.
He was born at Mount Vernon, Ohio, in 1839. His father James Baker had a specially adventuresome and interesting career. James was born in the historic town of Battle, forty miles from London, England. As a young man a romantic experience caused him to run away from his home in England and come to America. Here his first employment was in assisting the troops of General Andrew Jackson to erect the breastworks of sand bags and cotton bales at New Orleans to repel the British invasion. A little later he went into Ohio, and there married the young lady on whose account he left England.
The late Robert M. Baker grew up in Ohio, received his education there, and during the Civil war he and his brother Wilson did hazardous duty as bridge builder in Sherman’s army, being attached to the pioneer corps. His brothers Isaac and Thomas were privates in the Union army. In 1868 Mr. Baker joined the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Church at Chillicothe, having early in life devoted himself to the cause of the ministry. He finally moved out to Kansas and located eight miles southwest of Phillipsburg, and three miles west of Glade on the Solomon River bottoms. He lived in Phillips until in 1900 removed to Topeka, where his death occurred in 1910 at the age of seventy-two.
Mr. Baker married Lucina Lawrence. Her father Jonathan H. Lawrence was a native of Morgan County, Ohio. Her grandfather Lawrence lived in a cabin on the coast of Maine during the War of 1812. When a British man-of-war attempted to land a small boat filled with sailors there, he as a sharpshooter wounded several and the sailors were glad to get back to their vessel. Subsequently he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and commanded an American ship which captured a British treasure vessel, and he was paid $4,000 as his share of the prize money. The British government subsequently offered $1,000 reward for his capture dead or alive. The Lawrence family came to America before the Revolution, and four brothers of the name served as patriot soldiers in that war. Mrs. Baker’s brother Zacharia Lawrence was also a soldier in the Civil war and gave his life for his country, dying at Bridgeport, Alabama, when only sixteen years of age. He was a member of Company H in the Fourth Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
To the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Baker were born thirteen children, twelve sons and one daughter. Nine of the sons are still living named Warren, Harvey, Charles, Lewis, Benjamin, Arthur, Grant, Clarence and George. Clarence and George are members of the Kansas National Guard, in Battery A of Topeka, and are now doing service along the Mexican border. Warren is in the oil fields of California. Harvey was managing a greenhouse at Kansas City, Kansas. Charles is fireman at the city waterworks in Topeka. Lewis is in the Santa Fe shops at Topeka. Benjamin is a landscape gardener at the Children’s Tuberculosis Hospital at Alamogordo, New Mexico. Arthur is employed by the Santa Fe and Grant is a foreman for the Topeka Street Railway Company. The son Harvey Baker was a member of Company D in the Twenty-first Kansas Infantry during the Spanish-American war. The daughter, Ella, died when two years of age.