Edward J. Baker

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ColBaker.png
Born September 30, 1868
Died January 17, 1959 (aged 90)
Spouse(s) Harriet Rockwell Baker
Children Henry Rockwell Baker
Parents Edward Baker
Martha Baker
EJ Baker Signature.png

Colonel Edward John Baker was an American philanthropist from St. Charles, Illinois, regarded highly for his generosity towards his hometown.

Early life[edit]

Col. Baker was born in St. Charles on a farm east of town to parents Edward and Martha Baker. His father, Edward Baker, was born in New York, but located in Kane County when young.

Col. Baker attended the west side school in St. Charles until he was nineteen years of age. Having an upbringing on a farm, he considered himself to be 'first and foremost a farmer' but upon leaving school turned his attention to commercial pursuits.

He attended Bryant & Stratton Business College in St. Louis for one year, taking a commercial course. And subsequently clerked in a hardware store in St. Charles and was connected as a part of the St. Charles Mercantile Company for a period of one year.

At the end of that time he was appointed Inspector of Grain and Railroad as well as being made Warehouse Commissioner by Governor John Riley Tanner. Col. Baker served that position for a period of ten years under the Governors Tanner, Yates, and Deneen, until his resignation in July 1907.

Col. Baker chose not to pursue any career endeavors following 1907- but represented the Republican Party of Kane County, partook in local charities, and harbored a great interest in horse racing.

Baker was married to Harriet Rockwell, daughter of H.T. Rockwell, in St. Charles in December 1889.

Betamillion Gates[edit]

Baker's sister, Dellora Baker married John Warne Gates in 1874. Nicknamed 'Betamillion' Gates for supposedly waging the sum of $1 million on which of two raindrops on a window would reach the bottom first. He lost.

Gates eventually sold barbed wire, invented by Joseph Glidden. Between that income, other endeavours, and oil investments which led to the Texaco Oil Company, they became wealthy.

Upon Gates's death in 1911, his fortune was left to his widow, Dellora Gates (née Baker), and following her demise; the fortune of oil tycoon and barbed wire pioneer John Gates, was left to Edward J. Baker of St. Charles. [1]

How Edward J. Baker became a Colonel[edit]

He was commissioned by Governor Ruby Laffoon of Kentucky as part of the Honorary Order of Kentucky Colonels, of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, in 1935.

Greyhound, Baker's famous trotter, he purchased as a yearling in 1933. Greyhound was the winner of seventeen international records during his racing career.

Harriet Rockwell[edit]

Col. Baker's wife, Harriet, was two years older than he was, born in 1866. She lived to be 73, dying in 1940 of a sudden heart attack. Col. Baker was confined to Geneva Community Hospital at the time of her death, in between, and undergoing multiple surgeries.

She had expressed a wish that she precede her husband in death.

Ms. Baker went rather suddenly, though she had been suffering from heart trouble for some years. The morning that she died, she was on her way to a planned cherry picking bee on the Crystal Brook Farm owned by her and Col. Baker.

The Bakers had only one child together, a son, they named Henry Rockwell Baker.

He lived to be 22. Dying in 1914 of a tuberculosis infection.

He left widowed his newly married wife Nina, who would stand as daughter-in-law to Mr. and Mrs. Baker, and was with her at the time of her death.

Contrary to popular belief, Col. Baker and Harriet were not separated, and were living together up until her death. The rumor was created when a woman in Chicago used Harriet's name in divorce proceedings.

In a St. Charles newspaper Harriet made the statement and had published specifically that she and Colonel Baker were not divorcing, and the idea was unthinkable.

It was after her death, that the recuperating Col. Baker moved into the Hotel Baker as living quarters. He stayed in rooms 504-505, with a nurse staying next door in room 503.

Building Projects[edit]

To my friends and neighbors in St. Charles:

I have been asked for a message to give you in this booklet. I will respond by saying, that if, in this my third effort to build beauty and utility in your town and mine, it will bring to you and your children happier moments and make you and them a little more pleased with this lovely old city; if it will cause you and them to think more tenderly of their home town and give them a little more pride in dear old St. Charles, then I will have brought nearer my realization of an ideal which I have held in my heart ever since it was made possible to share with all St. Charles, the beauty and utility which together make for advancement. Trusting that Hotel Baker meets your expectations and that it will be to you and your friends a fulfillment of a cherished hope, I am,

Yours for St. Charles,

Edward J. Baker

June 2, 1928

The first major donation Col. Baker made to St. Charles was the Baker Community Center, named the 'Henry Rockwell Baker Community Center' in honor of his late son Henry, who had died twelve years preceding the building's 1926 dedication.

Colonel Baker also supported the construction of the St. Charles National Bank Building and his 'pride and joy' the Hotel Baker, both opened in the late 20's.

In 1940 he donated towards the construction of a new town hall building, the Art Moderne Municipal Building.

In honor of his parents, Col. Baker gave funding for his last major project, the Baker United Methodist Church.[2] Which was built in 1952 east on Main Street from the Hotel Baker.

Two years preceding Col. Baker's death in 1959, a park was dedicated in 1957 next to the Baker United Methodist Church, and was named 'Baker Memorial Park'.

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ilkane/Gates.htm
  2. ^ http://www.bakermemorialchurch.org/bhist.htm