Aaron Cooper Baker brought his entire family north on a covered wagon pulled by oxen up the Newaygo and Northport State Road (known then as “The Trail”) to Springville Township. As a Civil War Veteran, he accepted 160 acres of land for his service as a soldier. Aaron was 39 when he joined the 29th Ohio infantry company under Captain A.P. Steele.
Mr. Baker married Clarissa Perkins in 1842 in Geauga (Gee-AH-gah) County in the State of Ohio. Click their marriage record below to enlarge. Notice the fancy handwriting for the names and dates.
Aaron served in the infantry for two years until he contracted several diseases which allowed him to be honorably discharged from the war. The official report from the Department of the Interior stated, “The soldier contracted heart disease, rheumatism, lung disease,” along with “fever and loss of sight of right eye, near Cumberland, Maryland” in February of 1862. He was treated for six weeks at the General Hospital in Cumberland, where over a year later he was discharged from the army in July of 1863.
After leaving the army he received 160 acres in the Southeast quarter of Section 12 of Springville Township, right on the Newaygo and Northport State Road. He moved his wife and five children from Ohio to Michigan in the fall of 1863 making them the first family to live in Springville Township. Still sick from the war, Aaron had to travel the entire way lying down in the back of the wagon. Having to show improvement in making his land better within five years, he finally received his land grant from the government in 1869. His land grant is below and tells exactly where he lived. Click on the picture of the Land Grant below to enlarge and explore it. Notice the President of the United States who signed the Grant was named Grant.
Aaron and Clarissa and children, especially leaning upon then fifteen-year-old Lyman Baker, built a make-shift house of boughs, which are large limbs cut from surrounding trees that can keep them from the wind and snow. These are brought together and tied to form a shack. When Aaron recovered from his sickness he built the family a log house made out of hemlock trees which housed the family for two winters, 1863 and 1864. Eventually he built a better and larger house which could board travelers on the stagecoach line both ways from Grand Rapids to Traverse City.
The Summer of 1864 brought the next child into the Baker family when Howard Aaron Baker was born on July 29. Howard was the first baby born in Wexford County. Their final child, Alvin, would be born in 1869.
Aaron and Lyman cleared a large portion of the land and planted crops. Aaron also taught his son to trap along the many springs and creeks which ran across their property at that time. Aaron was known as a Fur Trader back then. When Act 386 of the State Legislature was passed in 1869 which provided for the first election in Springville Township, Aaron was named as an Election Inspector along with Daniel Jewett and H.C. Dunning. That first Springville Township election for Wexford County officers was held at the Lewis J. Clark General Store in what is now Sherman. In 1870 and 1871, Aaron Baker and Daniel Jewett were hired with several others to help build the Sherman Courthouse. The beautiful courthouse below was built by John Wheeler, who hired Aaron Baker, Daniel Jewett and several other local men to help build the first courthouse in Wexford County.
Sometime in 1871, Aaron and Clarissa traded their homestead for a farm down in Allegan where they farmed and lived for many years in Allegan, Salem, Jamestown and Trowbridge, Michigan. However, three of their daughters, Ellen (Eleanor), Mary and Lucy all married three of the Mesick brothers, Howard, Walter and Jesse respectively. Mary died two years after her parents left the area at age 20 and is buried in the Sherman-Mesick Cemetery.
Below is the parcel of land which is the exact land on the land grant above. The Northwest part of Section 12 now has the Mesick High School and two baseball fields. The Northeast part is where the Lake of the Woods is located.
Questions for Learners:
1. What State did the Baker’s come to Michigan from?
2. How many acres of land did Civil War Veterans receive from the Government?
3. What was the reason Aaron Baker left the war?
4. The Newaygo and Northport State Road was known to the Baker family by what common name?
5. On their journey, Aaron had to rely upon his wife and oldest son completely. Where was Aaron during their travelling?
6. The Baker’s built a shack of boughs. This reminds us of the song “Rock-a-bye Baby on the Tree Top,” for “when the BOUGH breaks, the cradle will fall.” Can you remember the words and sing the song?
7. How many years did the Baker family have to improve their land in order to receive the ownership of the land from the U.S. Government?
8. For which “trade” was Aaron Baker known?
9. Aaron watched over the first election in Springville Township. From which County were officers being elected?
10. Aaron also worked on building the first Wexford County Courthouse. Who was the main man responsible to build the courthouse?
11. Three of the Baker girls married three men whose last names were Mesick. The oldest brother, who married Eleanor (Ellen) Baker, had the same name as her brother, the first baby born in Springville Township. What was the oldest Mesick brother’s name?
12. The Baker family lived in Section 12. What resides in Section 12 today?