FARMER, POET, JURIST.
Life of lion. Austin S. Baker, as Sketched by a Leading Newspaper of Troy, NY. Portrait and Sketch Printed Upon Request of Many Readers.
The editor of the MIRROR has somewhat reluctantly yielded to the requests of many of our townspeople to publish a picture and sketch of his respected father, Judge Baker. It is not the purpose—or one of the purposes—of the publication of the MIRROR to parade the family before the public or to particularly advance any of their personal interests. The sketch of Judge Baker which follows was printed in an old and well-known newspaper in the city of Troy last winter, and we give it a place here as a disinterested outline of the Judge’s career. Of course there are many things that are not contained in the sketch which could be said about Judge Baker, if details were gone into more closely. But as we have endeavored with the previous sketches to make them as brief as possible and do justice to the subject, we think this one will suffice for the occasion.
It might be said that the Judge is pleased to be back among his townspeople again and to greet his old friends frequently, and we hope he will be able to do so—and write poetry for the MIRROR—for many years to come.
[From the Troy, N. Y., Northern Budget, February 9, 1902.]
The Hon. Austin S. Baker of Danby, Vt., has for many years been a composer of poetry of more than ordinary merit, though little of it has been given to the public through the medium of the public press. Though his first efforts of a poetic nature date back more than half a century—being largely composed in those days as contributions to the interesting features of a village lyceum—a greater part of the verses have been composed solely as pastime and have met the eye of but few people. Judge Baker, as he is familiarly called in his native county, having contributed a few verses to the Budget at Christmas time, it was learned that he had written many meritorious poems that had not been published, and it was with pleasure that we secured permission to print a few of them [poems omitted here, but some or all of them will be printed in future issues of the MIRROR]; and it is with equal pleasure that we are permitted to show a half-tone portrait of this Vermont poet and give our readers a brief sketch of his busy life.
Judge Baker was born March 16, 1824, in the mountainous town of Mount Holly, Vermont, and is of mixed Irish, Scotch and Welsh descent. His great-grandfather emigrated to this country from England in the pioneer days and settled in Massachusetts, where his father was born. When but a few years old his parents removed from Mount Holly to Danby and settled in the northern part of the town, taking up their abode in a log house—the common domicile of the people in those days. He managed to acquire a quite thorough and practical education in the common schools, and being a great reader and keen observer, has added to his storehouse of knowledge while traveling the journey of life. He has followed the occupation of farming all his lifetime, and now owns one of the best farms, for its size, in the town of Danby, and which lies adjacent to the principal Village of the town, known as the ‘’Borough.”
For years after having reached to manhood’s estate, Judge Baker found pleasing relief from the monotony of farm life by teaching in various of the district schools of his native town during the winter months; and in after life was called upon to perform much public business, and at one time or another has held nearly every public office within the gift of his townspeople. In the stirring times of the war of the Rebellion, as one of the selectmen of his town, he was active in recruiting his town’s quota of soldiers, and was absent from his home for weeks at a time, traveling over mountainous highways at night when it was so dark that the only means of traveling with any degree of safety was by leading the horse by the bits and walking carefully along by his side. In those days, too, he was carrying on probably the largest farm in the town, containing some 500 acres and stocked with upwards of forty cows, together with other live stock. At that period the cheese factory was unknown, and the milk produced by that large herd of cows was made into cheese on the premises.
He has served many years as Justice of the Peace, and in that capacity has presided at the trial of hundreds of the grievances of his townsmen. In 1888 he was elected an associate judge of the Rutland County Court, remaining on the bench for three terms (six years), at the expiration of which time he refused a renomination on account of failing eyesight. He has also been in great demand as an administrator and commissioner of estates, executor of wills and trustee of the estate of minors. Although not regularly admitted to the bar, his legal advice has been sought by a great many people, and he has performed many services of a legal and semi-legal nature. He has for years been accredited with a very clear perception of the law, and while he has many times invoked its aid in the behalf of others, he has but once or twice been one of the contesting principals in a case at law. He has been very successful in securing satisfaction for his clients—probably largely because he would not hold out any false hopes for the sake of securing a fee, which was always a modest one. Eight times he journeyed to the distant state of Michigan on behalf of some forty heirs, principally residents of Danby and surrounding towns, to a large estate in course of administration there.
In politics, Judge Baker is a steadfast republican, though never a politician. He is a member of Marble Lodge, F. and A. M., of his town, and was for a number of years its secretary. He has acted as local correspondent for several newspapers and has been contributor to agricultural publications and other periodicals. In the prime of life he was of rugged physique and strong constitution; and, in fact, up to a few years ago scarcely knew what sickness was, and has seldom needed the aid of a physician. Despite the fact that for years he did more work, day after day, on the farm than any two men he could hire, he is today enjoying better physical health than the majority of men of his advanced age. His failing eyesight is his worst trouble today, although at times he is, of course, troubled with rheumatism and other physical ailments that may be expected to follow such an active and laborious life.
Since the death of his life partner, nearly four years ago, Judge Baker has let the farm to others more active and physically able to give it care, although he has made it his home a greater part of the intervening time till this winter. For the past three months he has resided with his son—Charles S. Baker, editor of the Carriage Dealers’ Journal—in Troy, with the purpose of avoiding the cold winds of the Green Mountains, and the attending liabilities of exposure on the farm. His stay in Troy has been satisfactory in this respect, and the Budget hopes he will be able to spend many winters more in our busy city, and that our readers will be still further favored by being permitted to enjoy many other of his poetic contributions.