Simmons Jones Baker
|Simmons Jones Baker|
|Member of the North Carolina Senate
Representing Martin County
|Governor||William Miller then John Branch|
|Preceded by||Jeremiah Slade|
|Succeeded by||William Darlett|
|Member of the North Carolina
House of Commons
Representing Martin County
Serving with John Guyther (1814)
and Gabriel L. Stewart (1815)
|Preceded by||Andrew Joyner / Joel Cherry|
|Succeeded by||Joel Cherry|
|18th Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina
|Preceded by||Richard Dobbs Spaight|
|Succeeded by||Samuel F. Patterson|
|22nd Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina
|Preceded by||David W. Stone|
|Succeeded by||Daniel S. Crenshaw|
|Born||February 15, 1775
Hertford County, North Carolina
|Died||August 18, 1853
Raleigh, North Carolina
|Resting place||Scotland Neck, North Carolina, Private cemetery with large monument|
|Alma mater||Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and others|
Simmons Jones Baker (February 15, 1775 – August 18, 1853) was a physician, planter, legislator, and slave owner in North Carolina.
Early life and education
Baker was born in Hertford County on February 15, 1775 to Lawrence Baker and Ann Jones. His mother died when he was quite young and he therefore lived for part of his childhood with an aunt in Southampton County, Virginia. During this time he attended the same school run by Rev. Henry John Burges that William Henry Harrison attended.
Baker traveled to Great Brittan in 1793 at the age of eighteen to study medicine. As was customary at the time there is no evidence of him ever earning a medical degree. However, he did receive certificates from the two of the more famous medical facilities in Britain at the time: St. Thomas's Hospital in London and the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.
During this trip he carried with him an armorial seal that had been passed down through his family. He took the seal to the College of Arms to inquire if any living Bakers in England were still using the same arms. The only one was Sir George Baker, the physician of King George III. Baker visited this Dr. Baker on a future trip to consult about a personal illness. The consultation was success and in gratitude he would later name his first son George.
Baker returned from his medical studies in Brittan in 1795 and married, in October of that year, Polly Smith of Halifax County. The couple built a house named Greenwood in 1796 on the plantation given to them by Polly’s grandfather near the current town of Scotland Neck. Four years later he sold that plantation and moved to Martin County. Baker was made a trustee of the State Bank of North Carolina in 1811. Polly Smith Baker died in 1812 following the birth of their eighth child.
In 1814 Baker was remarried to Ann Cleverius who died in 1843.
Baker moved to Florida in 1828 and acquired a large amount of land near the present town of Mariana where he lived intermittently with Raleigh for a decade, ultimately staying in Raleigh until his death.
Baker represented Martin County in the State House of Commons (now known as the State House of Representatives) from 1814 to 1816 and then in the State Senate from 1816 to 1818. While in the Senate Baker was in a group who, in excitement over the news of the Erie Canal, investigated the possibility of constructing a canal from Raleigh to Asheville. The plan was ultimately abandoned. Baker was also involved in the legislation that created the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Baker was initiated into Freemasonry in 1812 in Concord Lodge No. 58 in Tarboro. His lodge elected him to represent them at the Grand Lodge assembly in 1814. He would later be elected Grand Master of the state in 1832 and again in 1840. It was in this capacity that Baker laid the cornerstone of the state capitol building in Raleigh on July 4, 1833.
Physician, Educator, Religious Layman
The oral tradition in the region indicates Dr. Baker was a well known and well respected physician, but there is little evidence to prove this. He was however made an honorary member of the North Carolina Medical Society when it was formed in 1849 and two of his sons-in-law and his ward were all physicians, likely his students.
In the field of education, Baker served as trustee of the Vine Hill Academy when it was first chartered in 1809 as well as serving as a trustee of the University of North Carolina from 1812 until his death.
Dr. Baker died on August 18, 1853 in Raleigh leaving behind eight adult children including his oldest son James Lawrence George Baker who was a member of the North Carolina General Assembly in 1832 and Simmons Jones Baker, Jr. who was one of the signers of the Ordinance of the Secession of Florida in January 1861. Through Simmons Jr.'s influence in the area, the town of Greenwood, Florida was named for Baker's plantation he owned with his first wife in Halifax County North Carolina.
Baker also left behind 163 slaves when he died who were carefully appraised by the executors of his estate. He furthermore provided for the maintenance of superannuated (retired due to age or infirmity) slaves in his will.
Detailed Listing of Slaves Owned by Dr. Simmons J. Baker at the time of his death: http://library.uncg.edu/slavery/listPeople.aspx?id=4667&p=s
- Smith, Claiborne T., Jr. (1979). Powell, William S., ed. Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. 1. (A-C). Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 92–93. ISBN 0-8078-1329-X.
- "Simmons J. Baker Surgical Certificate From St. Thomas's Hospital, London" [The Simmons J. Baker Papers, The Wilson Library] (scan of historic document) (in English and Latin). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 1794-05-27. Retrieved 2011-01-27.
- "Simmons J. Baker Medical Certificate from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh" [The Simmons J. Baker Papers, The Wilson Library] (Scan of Historic Document) (in Latin). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. May 5, 1795.
- Connor, Robert D.W., ed. (2007) . A Manual of North Carolina [Issued by the North Carolina Historical Commission for the Use of Members of the General Assembly Session 1913] (html). University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill digitization project, Documenting the American South (1 ed.). Raleigh, North Carolina, USA: E. M. Uzzell & Co. State Printers.
- "Officers of the GRAND LODGE A.F. & A. M. of NORTH CAROLINA" [1787 TO 1887 First One Hundred Years]. Raleigh, North Carolina: Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Retrieved 2/3/2011. Check date values in:
- Episcopal Church, Diocese of North Carolina (1892). Sketches of church history in North Carolina [addresses and papers by clergymen and laymen of the dioceses of North and East Carolina] (Google eBook). Wilmington, North Carolina: William L. DeRosset, Jr. p. Page 84. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- "History of the State Bank(s) of North Carolina". North Carolina Business History. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Turner Censer, Jane (1990). North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800-1860 (Google eBook). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-8071-1634-3. Retrieved 2/3/2011. Check date values in:
- Wheeler, John H. (1851). Historical Sketches of North Carolina [From 1584 to 1851, compiled from original records, official documents and traditional statements ; with biographical sketches of her distinguished statesmen, jurists, lawyers, soldiers, divines, etc.] (Google Book). 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Co. p. 253. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Battle, Kemp P. (4 Feb 1889). "An Address on the History of the Supreme Court" [At the Request of the Members of the Court and of the Bar, in Commemoration of the First Occupamcy of the Court of the New Supremem Court Building] (pdf). Raleigh, North Carolina: North Carolina Supreme Court Historical Society. p. 39. Retrieved 2/3/2011. Check date values in:
- Brown, J. Howard (1958). History of Concord Lodge, no. 58, Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons, Tarbora, North Carolina, 1811-1958. Greenville, North Carolina: Eastern North Carolina Digital Library. p. 8.
- Brown, J. Howard (1958). History of Concord Lodge, no. 58, Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons, Tarbora, North Carolina, 1811-1958. Greenville, North Carolina: Eastern North Carolina Digital Library. p. 10.
- Murray, Elizabeth Reid (1983). Wake [Capital County of North Carolina]. 1. Raleigh, NC: Capital County Publishing Company. p. 239.
- "Acts of the General Assembly and Ordinances of the Trustees for the Organization and Government of the University of North Carolina". Raleigh, North Carolina: The Raleigh Register. 1838. p. 3.
- Smith, Stuart Hall; Smith, Claiborne T. Jr (1955). The history of Trinity Parish, Scotland Neck [and] Edgecombe Parish, Halifax County. Durham, North Carolina: Christian Printing Company. p. Page 38.
- "Ordinance of Secession of Florida". Largo, Florida: The Confederate War Department, Hans K. Kircsh. Retrieved 2/3/2011. Check date values in:
- "Florida Ordinance of Secession" [Third signature from the bottom, right-most column]. Tallahassee, Florida: State Library and Archives of Florida. January 10, 1861.
- "Petition 20585306 Details" [Petition to the Court of Jackson County Florida to appoint commissioners to appraise the slaves belonging to the estate of John S. Baker]. Digital Library of American Slavery. Greensboro, North Carolina: University of North Carolina at Greensboro. December 1853. Retrieved 2011-01-31.
- Turner Censer, Jane (1984). North Carolina Planters and Their Children, 1800-1860 (Google Book). Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. p. 136. ISBN 0-8071-1634-3.