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Rev. William Baker was a well known figure in Kansas, and had a career of remarkable experience in foreign lands before taking up his residence in the Sunflower State. He lived and developed a fine farm in Wabaunsee County, but spent his last years in Topeka, where members of his family still reside.
He was born in London, England, July 6, 1838. His father, William Baker, Sr., was a basket manufacturer and also a native of London. The country home of the family was at Plaistow in Essex County.
Reared in the Episcopal or Established Church of England, Rev. William Baker was for a number of years identified with the educational activities of that church. In early manhood he went to teach the English language among the natives of South Africa in Basutoland. Altogether he spent five years as a teacher there under the auspices of the French Missionary Society. For a time he was a companion of the distinguished French missionary Coilliard. At the request of President Oom Paul Kruger in the Orange Free State these missionaries went to South Africa, and when the missionaries requested Oom Paul to call in the natives for worship, Oom asked if he should also call in the dogs. That question illustrated the typical Boer attitude toward all efforts for civilization and christianization in South Africa.
In 1878 Rev. Mr. Baker returned to England and married Miss Clara R. Williams of London. Her father, Alfred W. Williams, was a corn merchant and died early in life as the result of an accident.
In 1881 Mr. Baker received a letter from the governor of Kansas, John P. St. John, describing to him the prohibition amendment to the constitution of the state. Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Baker were so impressed by this letter that they determined to make their home in a state that was devoted to prohibition. In that year therefore they brought their little household to Kansas and located near Maple Hill in Wabaunsee County. Mr. Baker secured land on Mill Creek and there began general farming and stock raising. He was possessed of the English virtues of thrift and industry, and eventually accumulated a fine farm of 240 acres, which he named the Woodlands.
In 1901 Mr. Baker moved with his family to Topeka and bought a residence at 306 Harrison Street. In that home he spent his last days and passed away July 1, 1906, honored and widely respected for his many virtues. He was a man of the highest moral character, a splendid citizen and a good father. Though reared and many years identified with the Episcopal Church, he was afterwards a Congregationalist. After coming to Kansas he frequently lectured on temperance and also filled numerous pulpits.
Both he and his wife were people of very liberal education, and they reared their daughters with the best advantages at home and these daughters have been guided by high ideals to render themselves capable of worthy and self sacrificing public service. Four of the daughters have life diplomas as teachers and all expect to obtain degrees within a year or so. Florence, the oldest, is a teacher in Western Kansas. Lillian is a teacher in the Southwestern Texas State Normal School at San Marcos. May is the manager of the cafeteria in the Topeka High School. Violet is teacher of history in the Junior High School in North Topeka. Rose is a senior student in the agricultural college at Manhattan. Mr. Baker had two daughters by a former marriage, Ellen and Kate, both of whom have homes in distant states.