BAKER, CHARLES, surveyor, office holder, jp, and judge; b. 5 Oct. 1743 in Virginia, son of William Baker and his first wife, Susannah Rice; m. c. 1770 Ann Barron, daughter of Captain Edward Barron, apparently at Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N. B.), and they had seven children; d. 10 Feb. 1835 in Amherst, N.S.
Educated at home by his father, who was “a good English scholar,” Charles Baker is reputed to have attended the College of New Jersey, but this claim is not borne out by the available records. The family was apparently living in Pennsylvania in 1756. That year they moved to the “county town” of Carlisle because of Indian raids after Major-General Edward Braddock’s defeat near Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh, Pa) the previous year, and Baker’s father was employed by Adam Hoops, an army victualler. Two years later Brigadier-General John Forbes* was building a road through the mountains for his army in order to attack Fort Duquesne and, Baker later related, “taking a fancy for my father and willing to assist him he entered me into the Service a dollar a day and Rations.”
Baker is known to have arrived in the Chignecto region of Nova Scotia in 1765, but he probably had gone earlier as a surveyor to the Petitcodiac River (N.B.) because of his connection with Hoops, who along with Colonel Frederick Haldimand* was a grantee of the new township of Hopewell there. Family tradition relates that Baker’s appearance in Nova Scotia resulted from his having fallen in love with Edward Barron’s daughter at Quebec and followed the family to the Chignecto Isthmus, where Barron had received a grant of land. Upon his arrival Baker was appointed a deputy surveyor, and for a time he was employed under Captain John Huston, the county surveyor. Some years later he reported to Surveyor General Charles Morris* that Huston had forced him to make boundary adjustments he knew to be incorrect. Baker also acted as intermediary between the proprietors and the inhabitants of the Petitcodiac settlements, and after Hoops’s death his nephew made Baker agent for his properties in Hillsborough Township. Baker’s residence at this period is unknown, although there is some suggestion he lived in Monckton Township.
Few details are available about Baker’s activities during the American revolution. In August 1775 he reported at Halifax that New England rebels had cleared a road from the Saint John River to the Shepody region (N.B.) in preparation for an attack on Fort Cumberland. Opposition to the provincial government was marked in Cumberland County, but like his father-in-law Baker was undoubtedly loyal during Jonathan Eddy*’s invasion of Nova Scotia in 1776. After the war he was one of the deputy surveyors employed by Morris in settling loyalists. Between 1783 and 1785 he worked along the Petitcodiac, and in the Ramsheg (Wallace), Cobequid Road, Westchester, and River Philip regions of Cumberland County. Although Morris praised Baker’s plans as “well executed” and “very prettily finished,” he often remonstrated with him about his accounts. For example, Morris complained on 22 Feb. 1784 that “your method of making out accounts is the most extraordinary of any among fifty Deputies now employed, were they to follow your example the annual expense of surveying for Loyalist[s] would amount to at least Sixty thousand pound.” Baker was indeed soon in financial difficulties since he owed more money to the men he hired to assist him than he was able to collect from the government, partially because the wages he paid seem to have been higher than the government allowance. To pay the debts contracted in “searching Out and Surveying the Lands for the West Chester Refugees” he was forced to sell the lands in Monckton and Hillsborough townships he had been granted in 1784.
By late 1785 Baker was making preparations to move to Amherst Township, and in 1788 he was granted 800 acres there, although he commented that “the land is but Indifferent.” The centre of population for the township gradually concentrated at Amherst Corner (Amherst), where Baker had his property, and where he donated land for an Anglican churchyard and cemetery. On 22 July 1785 he had been appointed a justice of the peace for Cumberland County, and he also served as clerk of the Court of Quarter Sessions. Baker became a judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas for Amherst Township on 15 April 1802, and one for Cumberland County on 22 May 1810. Prior to May 1778 he had been appointed a registrar of probate, and succeeded his father-in-law in that position for the county on 22 Jan. 1799, most likely continuing to serve until 1831. At the same time he aided Joseph Frederick Wallet Desbarres, who had granted him power of attorney in 1782 to manage his Memramcook (N.B.) and Petitcodiac properties, and during DesBarres’s residence in Amherst after 1812 the two men, who seem to have been on good terms, discussed plans for DesBarres’s lands.
In his letters to his son Edward, who was mha for Amherst Township from 1806 to 1818, Baker showed an interest in public affairs, a fatherly moral tone, and strong religious convictions, counselling “Dear Neddy” that “the Eyes of the Publick are now on you, all your words and actions will be Strictly Scrutenized” not only by “your fellow men” but also by “your Heavenly Judge.” In 1826 and 1833 Baker and his wife disposed of lands they owned in Cumberland County to their son William since they were incapable of managing them “by reason of old age and infirmity.” In return William promised to provide “all such decent Cloathing washing firing and attendance as they may reasonably Require.” On his death Baker was lauded in a long obituary in the Novascotian, or Colonial Herald as “a firm magistrate, [and] an honest and faithful public servant” who was distinguished by his “natural pleasantry of disposition.” The funeral service was conducted by the Baptist minister Charles Tupper*, although Baker had been a member of the Church of England.
PANS, MG 1, 106; MG 9, no.34: 15–16; no.45: 289; no.184: 25; RG 1,168: 173, 472; 169: 124–25; 172: 86, 118, 143, 152, 211; 173: 33, 36, 43, 69–70, 131, 394, 448; 394: 33, 105, 147, 225; 395: 21, 40, 42, 70; RG 20A, 16, 1786, no.8; 20, 1788, no.6; 30, 1809, petition of Charles Baker; RG 20C, 86, nos.5–7, 37, 43, 50, 52; RG 34-309, P, 1. Novascotian, or Colonial Herald, 26 Feb. 1835. Esther Clark Wright, The Petitcodiac: a study of the New Brunswick river and of the people who settled along it (Sackville, N.B., 1945).