25. SEWELLS, BAKERS, AUGUSTINES
Well, I guess I do know the Bakers. Granny Sawyer
Richard Worstell met Wilda Ann Augustine sometime during 1926 in Des Moines, possibly through mutual fraternity friends. Wilda was from a little community in Washington County, Iowa, called West Chester. Her parents were Albert Tobias Augustine and Adda Baker.
Adda Lyella Baker was born on April 9, 1863. She was the youngest of eight children of Willis Baker and Lettitia Sewell. Willis Baker’s great-grandfather, Phillip Baker, emigrated from Germany about 1754 and along with other Germans, settled in Pennsylvania. Their sympathies during the Revolutionary War are unknown. By 1785, Phillip and his family were living in Shenandoah County, Virginia.
Lettitia’s grandfather, Thomas Sewell, was born in Liverpool, England, about 1751, then moved to Westminster for employment as a bookkeeper. In 1773, along with other young men, he signed an indenture agreement to become a servant with a Virginian for four years as a way to pay for his passage. Thomas was living in Botetourt County, Virginia, in 1776, when he joined the Continental Army. He was soon a corporal and a clerk and later a Quartermaster Sergeant. He was with Washington in the unsuccessful Battle of Germantown in the fall of 1777 and later at Valley Forge. After Thomas was discharged, he returned to Botetourt County and married Hannah Keller. The Kellers were one of the original Pennsylvania-German (Deutsch) families who moved into the Shenandoah Valley and later into West Virginia. The Sewells apparently reared their children in north Botetourt County or southern Rockbridge County. Later in her life, Lettitia would revere a picture of Natural Bridge, Virginia, because it was near where her father, David, son of Thomas, was born.
In 1812, Thomas and Hannah Sewell sold their farm, and with their children and their spouses, headed into western Virginia. They followed the rivers south and west, settling first in Kanawha County (Charleston). Later they went by way of the Ohio River on the current West Virginia’s southwestern boundary to the Scioto River, then upstream on the Scioto to Waverly, Pike County, Ohio. When Thomas’ son, David, who was born c.1797, was old enough, he enlisted in the military during the latter part of the War of 1812. In Ohio, the Sewell family met the Goodwins. David Sewell married Rachel Goodwin in 1820 and the following year his brother, Elijah, married Rachel’s sister. Rachel Goodwin was born at Red Stone, near Natural Bridge, Rockbridge County, Virginia. David and Rachel’s four children, including Lettitia who was born February 29,1824, and a son named Quentin who died at age twenty, were all born in Ohio. David and all but one of his nine siblings moved on west to Indiana, David to Tippecanoe County.
Peter Baker, the son of Phillip Baker, and his family moved on south from Shenandoah County through the Cumberland Gap (the extreme southwest point of Virginia) then north to Harrison County, Kentucky, in 1808. Peter’s son John married a woman named Elizabeth, and John and Peter farmed together in Harrison County. While in Kentucky, John and Elizabeth had a son, Willis, who was born May 15, 1815. In the 1820s, many families left Kentucky for Indiana. John and Elizabeth and their six surviving children (two were born later) moved to Hancock County in central Indiana. John’s father and mother followed in 1829. In 1835, John and Elizabeth’s eldest son, Willis, married Elizabeth Ann Liming, who was living just across the road with her family. In 1842, with their daughter Emily, the Willis Bakers traveled to Jefferson County, in southeast Iowa and there they settled. “Once in Iowa, the pioneers built log or frame houses, which took approximately three days to build after lumber had been collected.” (The Baker Family; Seven Generations in Iowa, 1842 – 1960 by Thomas Robert Baker.) Most immigrants to Iowa in 1860 were Irish or German.
David Sewell arrived in Jefferson County, Iowa, in 1844, with his wife and four surviving children and became a very successful farmer. David’s eldest, Martin, was married in 1845. Martin and his wife named their daughter Rachel for her grandmother. Within a year after their daughter was born, Martin’s wife died. David and Rachel Sewell took in the baby Rachel and raised her. David’s youngest child was just twenty and the grandbaby Rachel only four or five when David died in 1851. Three or four years after his father, David, died, Martin left for California. Martin died on the trail between Colorado Springs and Boulder, Colorado [near Golden]. Baby Rachel grew up, married, and settled in Kansas. After her husband died, she moved to Burlington, Colorado. She later remarried and settled in Nebraska.
Living near each other, the Willis Baker and the David Sewell families became well acquainted. Willis’s wife, Elizabeth, was now deceased (possibly on the way to Iowa), so he began to woo David Sewell’s only daughter, Lettitia. A little later, on April 13, 1844, Willis married Lettitia and they moved to Mahaska County. (For those readers who are following the Worstell story, Mahaska is the next county east from Marion County, where Knoxville is the county seat.) John Baker (Willis’s father) and his second wife (John’s first wife, Elizabeth, died c.1851), a son, and a grandson joined Willis and family in Iowa in 1853. Other relatives moved into the area later. Willis platted the town of Indianapolis (no longer in existence) next to his farm and it became a stagecoach crossroads and a thriving town by the 1860s, when prospects for the future of Indianapolis dimmed. First a “great storm” destroyed many houses, and then it was a major setback when the railroads came near, but not into, Indianapolis. Willis was quite an entrepreneur. He had a general store, first established in partnership with Mr. Williamson, and a blacksmith shop. His first saw mill was horse powered, then later by steam. He also had a gristmill, and speculated in farmland. “Old Granny Sawyer,” interviewed for a newspaper article in the Indianapolis Sunday Star Sept. 25, 1905, related a story about an anvil from the Willis blacksmith shop:
Yes, Willis Baker laid out the town and had that big store buildin’ built, and he run the blacksmith shop and a lot o’ other things, too. I remember one Fourth of July we had quite a time ‘cause of somethin’ that come out of that blacksmith shop. James W. Hinesley from Indianapolis, Ind., who afterward become Sheriff of this county, borrowed an anvil from Baker’s shop and day after day as he found time to [work on it, he] would come in and mention the Fourth of July and tell how they hoped to celebrate. He would show them the anvil and tell them how he hoped to make a cannon out of it, and then make them help a bit with the drilling. So every one in the whole country knew about that cannon and hoped for great things.
They got them, too. The first time Mr. Hinesley fired it off it was a complete success, but he was too impatient and did not wait for it to cool and loaded the anvil once more with powder. There was a bit of fire in the bottom and as he rammed the powder down it exploded and shot the ramrod through his forearm from wrist to elbow and shattered his hand.
It was over twenty miles to a doctor who was in regular practice. This physician was just leaving home in answer to a call and could not come to relieve Mr. Hinesley and would not let his instruments be taken to perform the necessary operation of cutting off his arm. So the messenger returned to Indianapolis, and little could be done to relieve the sufferer until the next day when the operation must be performed if the life of the man would be saved. After much parley the doctors successfully amputated the arm with the aid of a common butcher knife and a tenant (sic) saw. Yes, an’ he got well quicker, too, than folks do now — was up walkin’ round as pert as you please in a week.
Granny Sawyer remembered even earlier days:
I can remember when they killed bears right here. Willis Baker’s wife says she saw the last of the buffaloes after she had been here a long time. The Indians used to go up into the Sioux country after buffalo calves and elk calves after game got pretty scarce around here. They would bring the young down here and raise them. After all the rest were gone, and the Indians, too, there was one big elk that stayed and led sort of a charmed life. He slept with the cattle and seemed to enjoy himself. But one day some fellow from a park away back East — where I come from, well, this fellow come and took the elk away with him — the last of the wild things to go, he was. The very last.
The Methodists organized in the late 1840s. The Indianapolis Christian Church built the first house of worship in 1854. Several Bakers joined the church. Lettitia Baker confessed her faith in 1860 and her mother soon after, but Willis was never baptized into the Church. Granny Sawyer had a church story, too:
Jim Bridges, he was a Republican and Unionman clean through. He voted for John C. Fremont and has been a Republican ever since. Well, he had money — why, in ‘64 him and John Dixon bought 80,000 pounds of wool and in six weeks cleared $10,000 on it. So you see he had money. Well, them Baptists kept quarreling, and they was in debt on their church building and couldn’t seem to pay out. They didn’t like to hustle very much, and Jim Bridges he suggested that they put it up for auction. They said nobody would buy it if they did, and Bridges said jus’ try and see. They asked him what he would do with it, and he said, ‘Give it to the Methodists.’ Well, that’s just what he would o’ done, and they knowed it, and you just bet they did not let him try. They just up and raised the amount they owed an’ packed the church off to Agicola, another town near by, where there was members enough that was peaceable to support it.
No Bakers or Baker relatives joined the army during the Civil War and there was considerable “debate, discussion, and fighting on the Home Front.” Thomas Baker references Proud Mahaska, 1878 Mahaska County History in his book, The Baker Family, when he says:
Granny had a story about the Fortieth Iowa in the Civil War.
You have heard ‘em speak of the ‘Bloody Fortieth?” Well, you know why they called them that? You see there was a whole lot of Democrats in the Fortieth, and them times you couldn’t trust everybody. So they was not given orders to get in the thick of the fight, and they do say as how the ‘Bloody Fortieth’ never saw a battle.
Willis Baker died suddenly in 1864 leaving his wife and nine children, including Emily by his first wife; the oldest three boys were still in their teens, and the youngest, Adda, was under one year of age. (One scribbled note says that while working at the sawmill, Willis got cold and wet, and then died of pneumonia.) Since Willis died without leaving a will, Lettitia and the children sued each other in court “so as to appoint referees to set off Lettitia’s dower and divide the remaining two-thirds between the eight children.” Most problems were settled when the younger ones married or moved away and sold off their portions, usually to the eldest, David, who often had to borrow money to purchase them. Later on, Lettitia lived with David and his wife. In continuation of the interview, “Old Granny Sawyer,” said this about Lettitia and her daughter-in-law Eunice:
Why, ‘Tish Baker has got most as good a memory as I have. Lots of pensions have been granted ‘cause she could so well remember just where and when such and such a thing happened, and then when they looked it up the records proved out as she said. She is a granddaughter of old Tom Sewell of Revolutionary fame and a daughter of David Sewell, who fought in the War of 1812. Her man, Willis Baker, lived near Greenfield, Ind., and came out here and took the claim where they have always lived...
Lettitia spent much of her life in David’s home. Lettitia’s children made frequent visits to her, and the David Bakers hosted many a large family dinner. One of her grandchildren, Clara Sankey, wrote in a letter, “I shall always cherish the love that Grandma had for us. She truly was always glad to see us. [But] I guess Aunt Eunice and the girls did resent so many coming and going of the Baker family.” “Resent” may be too harsh a word, but the effort involved in hosting the family dinners could have gotten onerous.
Kansas was the state that drew pioneers after the Civil War. Members of both the Baker family and the Sewell family were among those pioneers. Brothers and sisters of David Baker who spent time in Kansas were Martin, Jay, Simp, Sue, and Willie. Martin Albert and his wife Ollie went to Norton County, Kansas, after 1877. Martin’s uncle, Willis Baker’s youngest brother, Madison, joined Martin and Ollie before 1880. In 1886, David’s brother, Simpson (Simp), a bachelor, started a store in Eustis, Sherman County, in the far northwest of Kansas, then moved the store to Goodland when Goodland became the county seat. Elijah (Jay) William, also a bachelor, went to Kansas and lived and worked in the store for a time with Simpson. Later Jay and Simp moved back to Iowa. Susan and her husband Christian Sankey and their family went to Kansas but didn’t stay long. Not long after they returned to Iowa, Susan died of consumption (TB), a disease she had suffered from for a long time. From a letter written by Corena (Coda), David’s daughter, to Wilda Augustine Feb. 14, 1950, concerning a certain family photograph: “...Aunt Sue was very very sick and I think they all came back to see her, thinking she could not live long. They got her out of bed long enough to get the picture.... We had a big crowd that day for dinner, which we very often did. Grandma once said ‘Where mother is ought to be a home for the rest of the family.’”
David’s sister, Willie Matilda Baker, Adda’s next older sister, married Larkin S. Crawford. Larkin Crawford had grown up in Kansas and after they married they moved back to his home area of Johnson County, Kansas. The Crawford’s had three children, including a son named Larkin, Jr. The family was living in Kansas when Willie died; Larkin was about six years