Joseph Baker, son of Simon Baker, was born August 15, 1839 in or near Montrose, Lee County, Iowa, about four miles west of Nauvoo, Illinois. At this place his mother, Mercy Young Baker, died March 4, 1845. His father, after the death of his mother, married Charlotte Leavitt. During the exodus of the Mormons from Nauvoo, the family joined with them on their journey west and spent the winter of 1846-1847 at Winter Quarters. In 1847, while he was scarcely eight years old, having neither hat nor shoes, he drove a yoke of bulls on the “Old seven foot Cannon,” most of the way in crossing the plains to the Rocky Mountains. This cannon being the first cannon brought west of the Missouri River is now kept as a relic in the Salt lake Museum.
During the winter of 1847-1848 he assisted his brothers in digging thistle roots, segos and wild onions for the family, it being their chief food at this time: flour being very scarce, all lived on rations” from October until the following July, when grain was harvested, which was ground in a hand mill for the family use.
On December 10, 1850, he, together with his father and some 200 others, with teams under the leadership of George A. Smith, left Salt Lake City for the purpose of colonizing Iron County and located Parawan, Utah.
The following spring of 1851, his father sold their locations to John Topham, and he and his father returned to Salt Lake City. His father, at this time, contracted with the Church to haul timber and wood from the North Canyon, east of Bountiful, called Baker’s Canyon. Here he worked for four years, except during the winter, when he went on the ranch, west of Jordan River, near it’s mouth, where his father kept his horses and cattle during the winter.
Early in July 1855, President Brigham Young, desiring to settle Cache Valley, invited his father, together with some other stock raisers to go to the Valley and prepare to winter their stock there.
On July 17, the following persons, as pioneers, left Salt Lake City for Cache Valley, arriving there in July 20, 1855. Bryant Stringham as Captain, Simon Baker and Andrew Moffett, Councilors. These, together with Joseph Baker, Brigham Young Jr., Thomas Clayton, Thomas Naylor, Thomas Kendall and George Twist, comprised the party of explorers. They first camped near where Wellsville is now located. The following day, July 21, 1855, Captain Stringham, Simon Baker, Young and Moffett, started on horseback to explore the valley and find the best location, and after three days riding they selected what is now known as the Church Farm. While they were exploring the valley Joseph Baker cut and hauled a load of poles and made a calf’s pen, as they had two cows and calves along with them. This was at Haw Brush Springs and was the first mark of civilization in Cache Valley.
After they had decided on their location, Mr. Stringham said, “Boys, I am going to have the honor of cutting the first house log.” Mr. Baker replied, “If you do, you will have to fall the tree on me.” They each commenced chopping at the same tree. Brother Baker was successful in reaching the heart of the tree first, and fell the tree on Mr. Stringham, thus securing the honor of cutting the first house log in the valley for himself.
About a month later his brothers George W. and Albert M. came into the valley with a herd of cattle and horses. They cut and put up during the season about 40 tons of hay, and the following September Mr. Baker and his brother, George W. built on the Church Farm the first cabin in the Valley.
That memorable hard winter of 1856 came with snow three and one half feet deep all over the valley, which lasted from December until April 30. After removing all the cattle that could be driven out of the valley, Mr. Baker and eight others were left there to feed some 120 head of cattle that were left there. By April 1, they had used all their flour and bacon, and their cattle were too poor for beef, and fortunately at that time, the prairie chickens came by the thousands to their corral to roost and by getting up early in the morning they could shoot all they needed before breakfast, and having one bushel of seed wheat and half a bushel of seed peas, they had all the pea soup they cared for, so were living well when relief came in the spring.
On returning to Salt Lake City, he learned that General Conference held thee April 6, 1856, his father had been called to go on a mission to Carson Valley, so Mr. Baker concluded to go with them and leaving Salt Lake City the latter part of May, together with a number of others, taking with them about 100 head of cattle and some horses, they arrived at Carson about the first of July, where his father bought a farm of 640 acres, paying in cattle and horses for the same. There on that location, called the Niles and Sears farm, was born to his father’s wife, Elizabeth, a son named James Staples, in honor of his maternal grandfather.
Early in December of this year, his father, together with six others, started on a return trip to Salt Lake City, leaving him in charge of the place during his absence, which was until June 1, 1857, and on June 12, he and his father started over the Sierra Nevada Mountains for California, to find his brother Jarvis, who went there in 1850. They found him and he returned with them to Carson.
The latter part of July they started for Salt Lake City, the mission having been abandoned on account of the Echo War. They were 26 days making the trip to Salt Lake City, having found and buried a number of emigrants, whom Indians had killed while on their way to California. In the fall of 1857 he went to Cache Valley with part of his father’s stock to winter, while his brothers took care of those on the Jordan Ranch. In the spring of 1858 his father and brother George came and helped to move the stock to Salt lake City, and soon after moved on south to the Provo bottoms, where they remained until after the treaty of peace was concluded, June 10 to 12 1858, between the United States Commissioners and the Mormon leaders. They then returned to Salt Lake City, where he attended school during the following winter.
During the spring of 1859, he ranched and sold 500 head of oxen for H. C. Perry, a prominent merchant of Salt Lake City.
On July 10, 1859, he was married to Lucy Amelia Pack, by Brigham Young, which proved to be a happy union. They resided in Salt Lake City until the following spring, when they removed to South Bountiful, where they lived until the spring of 1861, when they removed to Mendon, Cache Valley. He joined his brothers Amenzo, Albert and George W., who settled there the preceding year. They divided their land with him, which gave them 15 acres each. They afterwards bought 30 acres more and divided it between the four brothers. At this time the Indians were very hostile, stealing their horses and cattle; his time was mostly taken up with guard duty, or, chasing those that stole their stock; being a minute man he was on duty most of the time for three years, until General Conner came up from Fort Douglas, with a detachment of soldiers and killed about 300 Indians, which made good Indians of them.
In the spring of 1864 the people moved out of their log fort onto their town lots, building just a log house on the lot, which he lived in for two years, then in 1866 he commenced building a stone house, completing it in 1867. This was the first stone house built in Mendon. He was the first man in Mendon to successfully raise an orchard with choice apples, as seedling trees were all that they had here at that time, going to Salt Lake City by team, he secured buds from choice fruit trees, grafting those shoots into the seedling trees, raised wonderful apples of several kinds. He understood the grafting of fruit trees very well doing lots of fruit grafting for others as well as himself.
All Seemed well and happy with them until August 10, 1873, when they lost by death their youngest son, George Eaten. Mrs. Maker seemed heart-broken, and was sick from that time until her death, April 16, 1874, leaving Mr. Baker with eight small children to care for. Mr. Baker, referring to the sad occurrence said, “I felt that I would die with grief, but God tempers the breeze to the shorn lamb, and I saw in a dream the woman that was to take her place, although she was in Wales at the time I knew her when I first saw her and on July 26, 1875 she became my wife.”
Mr. Baker was married July 10, 1859, at Salt Lake City by President Brigham Young to Lucy Amelia, daughter of John and Lucy Ives Pack, a Utah pioneer of 1847. She was born June 22 1837 at Kirtland, Ohio, and died April 16, 1874, at Mendon, Utah. He married second, July 26, 1875, at Salt Lake City, by Daniel H. Wells, Mary Alice, daughter of Thomas and Ann Roberts Morgan. She was born March 6, 1855, at Merthyr, Glamorganshire, South Wales.
He held many offices of trust in his town and county. He was president of the Elders quorum, coroner of Cache County from 1894 until 1896, Justice of Peace for sixteen years in Mendon. He died October 8, 1925, at Mendon, Cache County, Utah.
Children: All born in Mendon, except the first and last named. Joseph Lindon, born March 22, 1860 in Salt Lake City, died January 10, 1880 at Mendon. Jessie Merrit born November 11, 1861, married Sarah A. Dowdle. Simon Pack born January 2, 1864, married Sarah Bassett. John Rupert born November 29, 1865 married Sarah Bassett. Lucy Amelia born October 22, 1867 married Albert W. Raybold. Charlotte Eleanor, June 16, 1869 married David T. Owens, Tamsan Louella, Born February 23, 1871, married Edgar Arlington. George Eaton born January 15, 1873, died August 10, 1873. Ward Caleb, born April 10, 1874, died April 10, 1874.
Children by second wife: Mary Elizabeth, Thomas Morgan, Albert Marvin, Richard Morgan, Annie Maria, Alice, David M., William Melvin, Alma, Florence Geneva, Hazel May, Margaret Edna, Mary Geneva Morris born at Brigham City, adopted daughter of Mrs. Baker’s sister Elizabeth Morris.