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Expanding the Baker family story

One of the very best things about being a genealogist is the community of friends we build.

The Legal Genealogist has been the beneficiary of this community so many times, and there just aren’t enough ways to say thank you.

A case in point: seven years ago, a dear friend, the late Betty Clay of Texas, was reading what she described as a fascinating murder mystery novel based on a true story. And, she said, when she read about one of the real people featured in the novel, “For some reason, the name of David Baker, along with Burke County, NC, came to my ears in your voice.”

Yep. David Baker, the elder, was my fourth great grandfather. A Revolutionary War soldier from Virginia, he and most of his mother’s family settled in Burke County around 1778.1 He became a Justice of the Peace there in 1797,2 and at least two of his sons — Thomas Baker, his oldest son by his first wife, Mary Webb, and David Davenport Baker, his second son by his second wife, Dorothy Wiseman — became Justices of the Peace in Burke County in their turn.3

And it was David the younger who showed up in the book Betty was reading — a book on the Frankie Silver murder case in western North Carolina.4 That’s a case anybody with roots in that part of the Tarheel State knows about or has heard about or read about — it’s one of the enduring, folk-loric tales of the area. How she and the boy next door Charlie Silver were married as teenagers. How they’d had one baby daughter. How just before Christmas in 1831, Frankie took an axe and killed Charlie in their cabin. How she hacked the body into pieces and, eventually, with the help of her family, burned as much of the body as she could. How a conjurer called in from Tennessee found what pieces remained of Charlie. How what was left was buried under three stones. How Frankie was arrested, tried, convicted, briefly escaped, recaptured, and eventually hung in Morganton, the Burke County seat, on the 12th of July 1833.5

It turns out David Davenport Baker had been the justice of the peace before whom the murder complaint was first filed,6 and David’s younger brother Charles — then a constable in the county — who’d taken Frankie into custody.7

Betty sent me the book and it was a great read. I got to write about it for the blog.8

Yesterday, thanks to yet another friend from the genealogical community, John Blythe, I got to look at some of the original documents and hear the first part of the story in the words of people who know it well.

John sent me a link to a brand new podcast that’s just been launched by the North Carolina State Archives called Connecting the Docs: True Stories from the Old North State. The announcement from the Archives said the podcast would “use archival materials to introduce listeners to fascinating and true stories from around the Old North State. The theme of our first season is “Murder, Mystery, and Mayhem.” Stay tuned!”9

NC podcast

And the very first story being told: The Frankie Silver Story. Episode 1, available as of yesterday, is Charlie Goes Missing.10 You can listen in online, or download a free podcast app from Android or iOS devices.

While you listen in, you can also take in the three documents available to review on the Archives blog: a newspaper account of the murder from 28 January 1832; a warrant for Frankie’s arrest and the arrests of her mother and brother issued 9 January 1832; and the indictment in the spring term of 1832.11

It’s that arrest warrant that caught John’s eye and had him asking if this was my family. There are two signatures on that warrant: the complainant Elijah Green at the top, and the justice of the peace at the bottom, D.D. Baker.

My third great granduncle.

Way cool. More Silver threads to the Baker family story.

And you can hear all about this case — and more to come! — from the archivists of the North Carolina State Archives in their cool new podcast.

Thanks for the heads-up, John!

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “More Silver threads,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 22 Oct 2019).


  1. 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 7 Sep 2012), David Baker file, pp. 3-6.
  2. Minute Book, Burke County Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, October 1795 – October 1798, Part II, minutes of 24 January 1797; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  3. For Thomas, see Minute Book, Burke County Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, 1818-1829, Part I, minutes of January 1818. And for David D. Baker, see Minute Book, Burke County Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, 1830-1834, minutes of 26 July 1830.
  4. Sharyn McCrumb, The Ballad of Frankie Silver (New York : Penguin Group, 1998).
  5. See generally Wikipedia (, “Frankie Stewart Silver,” rev. 1 Sep 2019.
  6. Perry Deane Young, The Untold Story of Frankie Silver : Was She Unjustly Hanged? (Asheboro, NC : Down Home Press, 1998), Kindle edition, location 2750.
  7. Ibid., 2764.
  8. Judy G. Russell, “Silver threads to the Baker family,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 8 Sep 2012 ( : accessed 22 Oct 2019).
  9. Connecting the Docs Podcast Episodes Available October 21,” History For All the People: A State Archives of North Carolina blog, posted 17 Oct 2019 ( : accessed 22 Oct 2019).
  10. Ibid., Connecting the Docs Podcast, Episode 1: Charlie Goes Missing, posted 21 Oct 2019.
  11. See Ibid.
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