Biography of Henry M. Baker
Discover your family's story.
Enter a grandparent's name to get started.
Henry M. Baker, of Bow, Merrimack County, lawyer and Congressman, and son of Aaron Whittemore and Nancy (Dustin) Baker, was born in Bow, January 11, 1841. He comes of patriotic and heroic ancestry. His great-great-grandfather, Captain Joseph Baker, a Colonial surveyor, married Hannah, only daughter of Captain John Lovewell, the famous Indian fighter, who was killed in the battle of Pigwacket, May 8, 1725. A few years later the township of Suncook, or Lovewell’s town, which included much of the present town of Pembroke, was granted by Massachusetts to the surviving participants and the heirs of those killed in that battle. As its boundaries conflicted with those of the town of Bow, chartered May 10, 1727, by Governor Wentworth, of New Hampshire, the grantees never received the full benefits of the grant. The resulting contention was terminated December 13, 1804, when that part of Bow east of the Merrimac River was annexed to Pembroke and Concord. The Colonial heroine, Hannah Dustin, was a maternal ancestor of Henry M. Baker. Another maternal relative was Walter Bryant, who surveyed many of the townships and the eastern boundary of the State, and was prominent in Colonial affairs.
Captain Baker’s son, Joseph, married a descendant of one of the Scotch Covenanters, and settled in Bow. He was among the first to locate there, and the acres he cleared and cultivated are a part of the family homestead. He was a soldier in the Revolution and a man of energy and influence. James Baker, son of Joseph, married a grand-daughter of the Rev. Aaron Whittemore, the first clergyman settled in Pembroke. Of their six children Aaron Whittemore Baker was the eldest. When his father died from injuries accidentally received, he was only twelve years old, an early age to take up the burden of life. However, resolutely meeting the responsibilities he could not escape, and with the aid of his mother, he managed so that the younger children were well educated, and the farm was successfully cultivated. He was a man of sterling integrity, of advanced thought, a bitter opponent of slavery, an ardent advocate of temperance, and the friend of the friendless. His wife, Nancy Dustin Baker, a lady of high character, sweet disposition, and great talent, was generally beloved. Of their children the only other survivor is John B. Baker, of Bow, a member of the legislature of 1897.
The Hon. Henry M. Baker attended the schools of his native town, the academies in Pembroke and Hopkinton, the New Hampshire Conference Seminary at Tilton, and Dartmouth College, graduating from the lastnamed 1863. Three years later he received the degree of Master of Arts. Soon after graduation he commenced the study of law under the direction of Judge Minot, of Concord. Early in 1864 he was appointed to a clerkship in the War Department at Washington, D.C., and a few months later, at his request, was transferred to the Treasury Department, where he filled different positions of trust and responsibility for several years. During this time he continued his law studies, and, having entered the law department of the Columbian University, graduated as Bachelor of Laws in 1866, and was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. In 1882 he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States. For several years he practised his profession at the seat of national government, where he soon obtained a large clientage, and was engaged in many important cases. His practice was varied, requiring close application to details and a knowledge of many subjects not included in the ordinary course of professional work.
The sons of the Granite State are noted for their love of home and for attachment to the hills, valleys, lakes, and rivers which make that State so picturesque and beautiful. Wherever they roam, or however long absent, they turn with loving devotion to the old homesteads, and greet with equal joy old friends and accustomed scenes. Though necessarily absent for months at a time in a period of several years, Mr. Baker has never ceased to be a resident of his native town; and no year has passed without a visit to the old home, to mingle with his neighbors and friends and enjoy its pure air and beautiful scenery. He has always been an aggressive Republican, and every general election has found him at the polls. No demand has been made for his aid or services that he has not promptly met. As a campaigner he has few superiors. No efficient plan for the development of our material, social, educational, political, or religious interests or reputation is without his approval or hearty co-operation. No son of New Hampshire is more jealous of her good name and high standing in all that constitutes a worthy commonwealth than Mr. Baker. At every opportunity he has been earnest in his advocacy of State aid to her public libraries, institutions of learning and of charity, and for the preservation of her historical records and objects of patriotic interest.
In 1886-87 Mr. Baker was Judge Advocate General of our National Guard, with the rank of Brigadier-general. He was nominated in the Merrimack District by acclamation as the candidate of his party for the State Senate in 1890. It was close fighting-ground; for in the two preceding elections there had been no choice by the people, and in the last election the Democratic candidate had received a plurality. General Baker took personal charge of his campaign, and won a great political victory, running largely ahead of the general ticket. While in his district the Republican candidate for governor had a plurality of only seventy-six votes, he received a plurality of one hundred and fifty and a majority of seventy-five votes. At the same time his energetic canvass contributed greatly to the general success of his party, and its control of the legislature that year was largely due to him. In the Senate he was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a member of several other important committees, and the Chairman of the Joint Special Committee on the Revision, Codification, and Amendment of the Public Statutes of the State. He took an active part in all the proceedings of the session, became the Republican leader, and was
General Baker was elected Representative in Congress from the Second District in 1892 by a good plurality, reversing the Democratic victory in the preceding election. In 1894 he was re-elected by a plurality more than fourteen times greater than that of 1892. In the Fifty-third Congress he was assigned to the Committees on Agrjculture and on the Militia. In the next Congress he was a member of the Committees on the Judiciary and on the Election of President, Vice-President, and Representatives in Congress. He was active and faithful in committee work, and was Chairman of one of the standing subcommittees of the Judiciary Committee. Several important matters were reported by him.
His principal speeches in Congress were made in opposition to the repeal of the Federal election laws, on the Methods of Accounting in the Treasury Department, in favor of the Purchase and Distribution to the Farmers of the Country of Rare and Valuable Agricultural and Horticultural Seeds, on the Tariff, on Protection not Hostile to Exportation, on the Necessity of Adequate Coast Defences, on the Criminal Jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court, and on Civil Service Reform. Several of these speeches were printed in pamphlet form, and many thousand copies of them were distributed. Mr. Baker was a frequent participator in the general discussions of the House, and the Congressional Record shows his views upon every important subject of recent national legislation. He was not again a candidate for re-election.
General Baker has been heard upon the stump frequently, and is active wherever he can aid his party. His campaign speeches are distinguished for fairness, the entire absence of abuse, and for a clear and vigorous presentation of the policy and platform of the several parties. He is a member of the New Hampshire Club, and has spoken before it on several occasions in advocacy of the educational, historical, and business interests of our State. His remarks in favor of the substitution of silver or silver certificates for the United States and Treasury notes now in circulation, but to be cancelled as silver or silver certificates are issued, were printed, and attracted considerable attention. In religion he is a Unitarian. He is a Mason, a Knight Templar, and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine. He has made valuable contributions to the New Hampshire Historical Society, of which he is a member, and has established prizes in Dartmouth College. He has been an extensive traveller in America and Europe, and a close student and keen observer. An independent thinker, he investigates every subject upon which he is called to speak or to act. He is a good organizer, is not discouraged by opposition, and possesses high executive ability. He has achieved no success he has not earned.