Retrospection and Introspection

Retrospection and Introspection

Autobiographic Reminiscences

4This venerable grandmother had thirteen children, the youngest of whom was my father, Mark Baker, who inherited the homestead, and with his brother, James Baker, he inherited my grandfather’s farm of about five hundred acres, lying in the adjoining towns of Concord and Bow, in the State of New Hampshire.

    One hundred acres of the old farm are still cultivated and owned by Uncle James Baker’s grandson, brother of the Hon. Henry Moore Baker of Washington, D.C.

    The farm-house, situated on the summit of a hill, commanded a broad picturesque view of the Merrimac River and the undulating lands of three townships. But change has been busy. Where once stretched broad fields of bending grain waving gracefully in the sunlight, and orchards of apples, peaches, pears, and cherries shone richly in the mellow hues of autumn, — now the lone night-bird cries, the crow caws cautiously, and wandering winds sigh low requiems through dark pine groves. Where green pastures bright with berries, singing brooklets, beautiful wild flowers, and flecked with large flocks and herds, covered areas of rich acres, — now the scrub-oak, poplar, and fern flourish.

    The wife of Mark Baker was Abigail Barnard Ambrose, daughter of Deacon Nathaniel Ambrose of Pembroke, a 5small town situated near Concord, just across the bridge, on the left bank of the Merrimac River.

    Grandfather Ambrose was a very religious man, and gave the money for erecting the first Congregational Church in Pembroke.

    In the Baker homestead at Bow I was born, the youngest of my parents’ six children and the object of their tender solicitude.

    During my childhood my parents removed to Tilton, eighteen miles from Concord, and there the family remained until the names of both father and mother were inscribed on the stone memorials in the Park Cemetery of that beautiful village.

    My father possessed a strong intellect and an iron will. Of my mother I cannot speak as I would, for memory recalls qualities to which the pen can never do justice. The following is a brief extract from the eulogy of the Rev. Richard S. Rust, D.D., who for many years had resided in Tilton and knew my sainted mother in all the walks of life.

    The character of Mrs. Abigail Ambrose Baker was distinguished for numerous excellences. She possessed a strong intellect, a sympathizing heart, and a placid spirit. Her presence, like the gentle dew and cheerful light, was felt by all around her. She gave an elevated character to the tone of conversation in the circles in which she moved, and directed attention to themes at once pleasing and profitable.

    As a mother, she was untiring in her efforts to secure the happiness of her family. She ever entertained a lively sense of the parental obligation, especially in regard to the educa6tion of her children. The oft-repeated impressions of that sainted spirit, on the hearts of those especially entrusted to her watch-care, can never be effaced, and can hardly fail to induce them to follow her to the brighter world. Her life was a living illustration of Christian faith.

    My childhood’s home I remember as one with the open hand. The needy were ever welcome, and to the clergy were accorded special household privileges.

    Among the treasured reminiscences of my much respected parents, brothers, and sisters, is the memory of my second brother, Albert Baker, who was, next to my mother, the very dearest of my kindred. To speak of his beautiful character as I cherish it, would require more space than this little book can afford.

    My brother Albert was graduated at Dartmouth College in 1834, and was reputed one of the most talented, close, and thorough scholars ever connected with that institution. For two or three years he read law at Hillsborough, in the office of Franklin Pierce, afterwards President of the United States; but later Albert spent a year in the office of the Hon. Richard Fletcher of Boston. He was consequently admitted to the bar in two States, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In 1837 he succeeded to the law-office which Mr. Pierce had occupied, and was soon elected to the Legislature of his native State, where he served the public interests faithfully for two consecutive years. Among other important bills which were carried through the Legislature by his persistent energy was one for the abolition of imprisonment for debt.

    In 1841 he received further political preferment, by 7nomination to Congress on a majority vote of seven thousand, — it was the largest vote of the State; but he passed away at the age of thirty-one, after a short illness, before his election. His noble political antagonist, the Hon. Isaac Hill, of Concord, wrote of my brother as follows: —

    Albert Baker was a young man of uncommon promise. Gifted with the highest order of intellectual powers, he trained and schooled them by intense and almost incessant study throughout his short life. He was fond of investigating abstruse and metaphysical principles, and he never forsook them until he had explored their every nook and corner, however hidden and remote. Had life and health been spared to him, he would have made himself one of the most distinguished men in the country. As a lawyer he was able and learned, and in the successful practice of a very large business. He was noted for his boldness and firmness, and for his powerful advocacy of the side he deemed right. His death will be deplored, with the most poignant grief, by a large number of friends, who expected no more than they realized from his talents and acquirements. This sad event will not be soon forgotten. It blights too many hopes; it carries with it too much of sorrow and loss. It is a public calamity.