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Bakersville, NC

It is Decoration Day season in the mountains of western North Carolina and, in fact, in much of the South.

BakersvilleThat time of year when families and communities gather to honor their dead and ensure that the cemeteries are in shape to welcome the living for another visit.

There are brief ceremonies, never more than a half hour or so in length. The historical societies recruit color guards from local lineage societies. There’s a bit of speechifying and some music.

There’s always some effort by the towns in a region not to overlap, so folks whose people were buried in different communities at different times can make as many Decoration Days as possible.

And tomorrow, September 15, 2013, it’s Bakersville’s turn.

Bakersville is the county seat of Mitchell County, North Carolina.1 The town’s website tells us that “Even though the headwaters of Toe River into which Cane Creek flows was occupied as early as 1777, the names of these first settlers are not known. By 1790 William McKinney, Frederick Ledford, Thomas McKinney, John Gouge, Thomas Young, John Wilson and Reid Medlock had established themselves in the Cane Creek Valley, and on White Oak and Snow Creek. However, the first settler on the site of what is now Bakersville was David Baker.”2

David Baker.

My fourth great grandfather.

It wasn’t Mitchell County — or even Bakersville — when David lived there. The county wasn’t formed until 18613 and there’s no evidence of the place being called Bakersville until the 1840s.4

And David Baker died in 1838.5

Born in the brand new Virginia county of Culpeper6 on 3 June 1749,7 he served as a corporal in the 3rd Virginia Continental Line, serving from 1776 to 1778.8 When he was discharged, David followed his family to the brand new North Carolina county of Burke9 and settled there.10

He became a Justice of the Peace in Burke County on 23 January 1797, when he was sworn in at the start of the January session of the Burke County Court of Pleas and Common Sessions11 and served as a justice of the peace in Burke County until the part of the county he lived in was cut off into the newly formed Yancey County in 1833.12

BakerAnd just about that time — when Burke was about to be divided — there was a national crisis called the Nullification Crisis. It arose from the enactment of federal tariffs in 1828 and 1832 that some Southerns felt favored the North at their expense. South Carolinians, led by Vice President John C. Calhoun, took the position that a state could refuse to obey the law and, in effect, nullify it.13

The crisis threatened the Union years before the Civil War… and David Baker had fought for that Union in the Revolution. And just recently I was able to put my hands on a copy of a clipping that says just what he was willing to do about it. You can see it to the right here, and here’s what it says:

Plain Dealing.— We perceive by the Salisbury Journal, that the friends of the Union have had a meeting in Burke county, North Carolina, at which much eloquence was displayed. Mr. Carson alone advocated nullification. When he took his seat, David Baker, Esq. a Revolutionary soldier, venerable for his age and unblemished character, rose, with a staff in each hand to support his tottering frame, and requested permission to address a few words to his fellow-citizens. After premising that he was probably the oldest man in the house, he went on to say that he enlisted under Washington, in the first regiment raised in Virginia, in the beginning of our Revolutionary struggle; and after other remarks, he added, that in those days there were men who attempted to resist the laws of their Government, and they were publicly tarred and feathered; and, continued the venerable old patriarch, he feared it must come to that here! When this was uttered, the whole audience, as it by one impulse, united in a most deafening applause; and the old veteran sat down, amidst the enthusiastic cheers of his fellow-citizens. — N.C. Spectator.14

David Baker. Then age 83. “Venerable for his age and unblemished character.”

David Baker. Patriot and Unionist.

David Baker. My fourth great grandfather.

David Baker. Who died on the 15th of September 183815 — exactly 175 years to the day before the ceremony tomorrow at the cemetery where he is buried.

A fitting bit of serendipity for a bright September day.


  1. County Seats,” National Association of Counties ( : accessed 13 Sep 2013).
  2. Bakersville History,” Bakersville, North Carolina ( : accessed 13 Sep 2013).
  3. Public Laws, 1860-61, chapter 8 (16 February 1861) and chapter 9 (20 February 1861), in Public Laws of the State of North Carolina, Session of 1860-61 (Raleigh : p.p., 1861), 14-18.
  4. Bakersville History,” Bakersville, North Carolina ( : accessed 13 Sep 2013).
  5. Bible Record, Josiah and Julia (McGimsey) Baker Family Bible Records 1749-1912, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (New York : American Bible Society, 1867), “Deaths”; privately held by Louise (Baker) Ferguson, Bakersville, NC; photographed for JG Russell, Feb 2003. Mrs. Ferguson, a great granddaughter of Josiah and Julia, inherited the Bible; the earliest entries are believed to be in the handwriting of Josiah or Julia Baker.
  6. “Formation of Culpeper County,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 27 (July-Oct 1919): 377-378, setting out the statute of 23 March 1748.
  7. Josiah and Julia (McGimsey) Baker Family Bible Records 1749-1912, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “Births.”
  8. Affidavit of David Baker, 26 September 1832; Dorothy Baker, widow’s pension application no. W.1802, for service of David Baker (Cpl., Capt. Thornton’s Co., 3rd Va. Reg.); Revolutionary War Pensions and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, microfilm publication M804, 2670 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Service, 1974); digital images, Fold3 ( : accessed 7 Jan 2012), David Baker file, pp. 3-6.
  9. David Leroy Corbitt, The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943 (Raleigh : Division of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987), 42.
  10. Affidavit of David Baker, Fold3 David Baker file, p. 5.
  11. Minutes of 23 Jan 1797, Burke County, North Carolina, Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Minute Book July 1795 – Oct 1798, Part II, p. 428; call no. C.R.014.301.2; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  12. Corbitt, Formation of North Carolina Counties, 239.
  13. See generally “Nullification Proclamation,” Primary Documents in American History, Library of Congress ( : accessed 13 Sep 2013).
  14. Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C., 25 Oct 1832, p.3; Early American Newspapers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
  15. Josiah and Julia (McGimsey) Baker Family Bible Records 1749-1912, The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “Deaths.”
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