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180 years ago today

It was the 15th of September 1838 in Yancey County, North Carolina. And the old man drew his last breath.

He was 89 years old that fall day in the hills and hollows of western North Carolina. Born in the then-brand-new county of Culpeper, Virginia, David Baker left few records in his home Virginia county.1

Oh, we know he witnessed a land deed in 1779,2 and reported to the Culpeper court on the sale of estate property of his late brother-in-law William Mallory late that same year.3

That’s not much for a man then 30 years old.

Some of the explanation is that he’d relocated with his mother and siblings to those western North Carolina hills by then: he entered a tract of 576 acres on the Johns River in November 1778,4 and even earlier had entered another tract with three of his brothers.5 So his activities in Virginia in 1779 look like they were just wrapping things up there.

Bakersville NC

And before that… well, before that, David had had other things on his mind.

Like war.

First authorized in December 1775, the 3rd Virginia Regiment of Foot began actively recruiting to fill its 10 companies in February 1776. The 4th Company of the Regiment was headed by Captain John Thornton and raised in Culpeper County on 12 February 1776. Among those who enlisted in the company were James Monroe, future President of the United States, and John Marshall, future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, as lieutenants.6 And, as a private and then later as corporal of the company… David Baker.7

According to David’s pension application, he saw a lot in his two years’ of service during the Revolution. He saw action at:

• The Battle of Gwynn Island, Virginia, 8-10 July 1776.

• The Battle of White Plains, New York, 28 October 1776.

• The Battle of Trenton, New Jersey, 26 December 1776.

• The Battle of Princeton, New Jersey, 3 January 1777.

• The Battle of Brandywine, Pennsylvania, 11 September 1777.

• The Battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania, 4 October 1777.

The war took a terrible toll on David, including, during the battle of Trenton, the loss of a brother Richard “killed in that action.” And after all the battles of 1776-1777, he had to face that terrible winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge.8

It’s such a testament to the strength of this man that he survived, went home, married and had six children, outlived that wife, married again and had seven more children.9 He lost his home and discharge papers to a Christmas Eve fire in 1785,10 went on to serve as a justice of the peace,11 and was widely respected in his community.12

He drew his last breath 180 years ago today — before he knew that he’d been honored by the giving of his name to the town closest to his North Carolina home: Bakersville, NC, is now the county seat of Mitchell County.13

Rest in peace, David Baker. And know that all of us who — like your fourth great granddaughter The Legal Genealogist — are privileged to call you our own are so grateful for all you did.


  1. For David’s birthdate, see 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), “Births”; 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. For the place, well… David’s father Thomas “of Orange County” received a land grant in June 1749 listed as 400 acres in Orange County. Except that the land was in what became Culpeper County when that county was organized the same year. See Bulletin of the Virginia State Library 9 (1916): 19, 78. On 17 1751, Thomas witnessed the will of Francis Strother, “of Culpeper County, made this date”. Culpeper County Wills, A:57, will of Francis Strother, 1751; Library of Virginia.
  2. Culpeper County Deed Book I: 191, Alexander Baxter and Mary his wife to George Calvert Jr., 15 March 1779.
  3. Culpeper County Will Book B/C: 351-352; Estate of William Mallory, 20 December 1779.
  4. See Entry Book 65: 406, David Baker, 17 Nov 1778, Burke County NC; North Carolina State Archives.
  5. See Entry Book 28: 27, Jas., David, John & Charles Baker, 13 Jul 1778, Burke County NC; North Carolina State Archives.
  6. E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra, A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1778 (Richmond : Virginia State Library (1978), 29-40, 71
  7. Affidavit of Soldier, 26 September 1832; Dorothy Baker, widow’s pension application no. W.1802, for service of David Baker (Corp., 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 14 Sep 2018), David Baker file, p.4.
  8. Ibid. See also Compiled Military Service Record, David Baker, Corp., 3rd Virginia Regiment, Revolutionary War; Compiled Service Records of Soldiers who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War, microfilm publication M881, Roll 951 (Washington, D.C. : National Archives Trust Board, 1976).
  9. See Yancey County, North Carolina, Record of Wills 1: 30, will of David Baker, 26 Jan 1838; North Carolina State Archives microfilm C.107.80001.
  10. Petition of David Baker, 22 Oct 1790; GASR Nov-Dec 1790, Box 2; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  11. Burke County, North Carolina, Court of Common Pleas Minutes, 23 Jan 1797; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  12. See “Plain Dealing,” Daily National Intelligencer, Washington, D.C., p.3, col. 2, 25 Oct 1832.
  13. History,” ( : accessed 14 Sep 2018).
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