Life Sketch of George Washington Baker

Written by his daughter Mary Baker Jensen in 1928.

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George Washington BakerGeorge Washington Baker

George W. Baker, son of Simon and Mercy Young Baker, was born September 9th, 1837 at Pomphret, Chautauqua County, New York. He was a descendant of the Reverend Thomas Baker, born at Dedham, Essex, England in 1638 and was in Rhode Island about 1650.

In the spring of 1839 George W. Baker, with his father’s family, moved west to Half Breeds Land, Lee County, Iowa. His father, through the teachings of Elder Benjamin Brown, having received the Gospel and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here his mother died March 4th, 1845. On April 8th 1845 his father married Miss Charlotte Leavitt, who was ever a kind and loving mother to his eight motherless children.

In the spring of 1846 the Mormon colony was called to go to the Rocky Mountains, so Mr. Baker and his family got together an outfit consisting of four yoke of oxen and two wagons, one span of horses and a light wagon, together with three or four cows and some sheep. His farm and entire improvements which sold for $4300 was entirely consumed in purchasing the outfit, leaving them with but little clothing and food for their journey. After leaving this place they went first to Mount Pisgah, where they located for about three months. Here Mr. Baker went down the Mississippi River to exchange their horses for oxen, they being considered better for the journey. On his return, he moved across the Mississippi to Winter Quarters, (now Florence Nebraska) where he built a cabin for his family. He thee took his older boys and his teams and went down into Missouri to get means to prepare for his trip west, intending to cross the Rocky Mountains with the first company of Mormons.

During the winter he procured a scanty outfit for such an undertaking; but before starting, he counseled with his family and put the matter to a vote, whether they undertake such a perilous journey, with such a large family in their destitute condition. The family vote was unanimous to start on the journey.

The outfit consisted of four wagons and ox teams, and their part numbered fifteen. Leaving Florence about May 1st, 1847, they went out to Elk Horn River, where the saints met in camp to organize in companies to cross the plains.

During their stay in Florence, George was afflicted with scurvy, from which hundreds died. The cause was said to have been bad water and scarcity of vegetables. Being bedfast all winter he was expected to die at any moment, but as spring approached he took a turn for the better, and though crippled at first, as time progressed, he recovered good health and walked every step of the way from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City, having neither hat nor shoes, his clothing being a shirt and trousers made of pieces of wagon cover.

They were organized into companies of 100’s, subdivided into fifties, and then again into tens, each company having a captain. When they got two hundred miles west of the Missouri River, now Nebraska, the country was densely inhabited by buffalo, which gave an abundance of meat.

The company in which the Baker family came was presided over by Jedediah M. Grant and arrived in Salt Lake City, October 3rd, 1847. They formed camp on City Creek, just sough of the old Fort.

They found the Indians very poor, but friendly and peaceable. Now began preparations for winter. A Fort was laid out. Thirty acres being enclosed by log houses with shanty roofs made of poles covered with dirt. Timber being scarce in the valley and the canyons very rugged, it was quite late in the winter before these refugees were housed.

Supplies were now nearly exhausted. A survey of foodstuffs was taken and rigid economy adopted. An apportionment was made per day to carry over until the coming harvest. This, with poor beef and thistle roots, which were quite abundant during the winter, formed the diet of these people, and George Baker’s occupation was gathering thistle roots, herding stock, etc., still having neither hat nor shoes.

In 1851, Mr. Baker went with his father to work for the church in North Canyon, where they continued getting out wood and timber until the fall of 1853, when he and his brother Amenzo were called on a mission to the Snake Indians, where he assisted in building Fort Supply, now Robertson, Wyoming, and learned the Indian language.

In June 1854 he returned to Salt Lake where he engaged in caring for the stock and dairy work until August 1855 when he went with his father’s stock to Cache Valley, which was then uninhabited. He and his brother Joseph built the first house, a log cabin, in the valley and here he remained during the hard winter of 1855-1856. In May 1856, his father was called on a mission to colonize Carson Valley Nevada. He was left in charge of his father’s farm on the Jordan River.

In 1857 he went to Cache Valley and put up sixty tons of hay, intending to winter part of their stock there but their plans were changed when the Carson Mission was broken up, and the United States sent an army of 14,000 troops to Utah, as they believed, to hang all the Mormon leaders. Brigham Young, Governor of Utah called out the militia of the territory and Mr. Baker enlisted, starting from Salt Lake City August 14th, 1857 with a company fitted out as cavalry, under the command of Col. R. F. Burton, going 400 miles east. At one time he alone remained at Fort Supply six weeks, taking care of the crops which had been left by the people who had abandoned this settlement and gone to Salt Lake City.

In the summer of 1859, he made a trip with a load of passengers from Salt Lake to California for William S. Gobe, crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains four times, returning to Salt Lake the follow December.

On April 5, 1860, in company with his brothers Albert and Amenzo, he started for Cache Valley, where they located on Gardner’s Creek, midway between Mendon and Wellsville.

The Indians becoming troublesome, they moved into the fort of Mendon and joined in the celebration of the 24th of July, attending a dance in the hall on a dirt floor, with one-half a tallow candle for lights. The first season in Cache Valley they put up forty tons of hay, raised 63 bushels of wheat, 24 bushels of barley and 25 bushels of potatoes.

On January 18, 1860, he married Agnes, the daughter of John and Agnes Hill Richards. During the next two years they were troubled much with Indians who stole most of their horses. In September 1863 he was called to help colonize Bear Lake Valley. He afterwards returned to Mendon.

In 1864, the people moved out of the Fort locating in their town lots. In 1865, Mr. Baker was selected as a committee of one to build a meeting house at Mendon, to levy a tax on the property and collect the same from the Church members to meet the expense of the building, which labor he performed with credit to himself and satisfaction to the entire community. The house being the best in the entire valley at that time.

In 1870, Mendon received a charter and became a corporate city. Mr. Baker being elected its first mayor. As mayor he organized the city with a council, police, city marshal and prosecuting attorney, distributed the allotments to the citizens and issued over 100 deeds.

In 1874 he was called to go to St. George to work on the temple. He made the trip of over 500 miles by team and stayed all winter assisting in the building of that sacred edifice.

He was a real leader in the community. He built houses, made shoes, acting as cobbler for the town, and he and Andrew Andersen made the coffins for burying the dead. He was charitable and generous to the poor and hospitable to all who came his way. He devoted a great deal of his time to the study of the scriptures, of science and philosophy and could converse intelligently upon nearly all subjects. He was the father of eleven children and died at the home of his daughter, Olive Hatch in Logan, October 16, 1925 at the ripe old age of 87 years, having assisted in transforming the desert into fertile fields and beautiful homes.