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All the difference

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken (1916)

Thick as thieves.

That’s the way The Legal Genealogist‘s family always describes those siblings or cousins or friends who are simply inseparable.

And the way — I suspect — we’d have described Martin Baker and David Davenport in early North Carolina.

The cousins were born in what was then Burke County, North Carolina, just two years apart: David exactly 225 years ago today, on 28 November 1795,1 and Martin on 9 December 1797.2

And like so many in that branch of my family, their roots were intertwined. They were first cousins once removed since Thomas Davenport of Virginia (c1711-1815) was both Martin’s great grandfather and David’s grandfather. They were also second cousins — Thomas Davenport’s father Martin Davenport (c1682-before1735), another Virginian, was a great grandfather to both.

And they became brothers-in-law when, around 1818, David married Martin’s sister Dorothy, in Burke County, North Carolina.3

Martin’s marriage to Elizabeth Buchanan was right around the same time,4 and the two men stayed close for decades. In 1820, they were both still in Burke County.5 And they were there together in 1830.6

By 1840, both had moved — and they were living next door to each other in Cherokee County, North Carolina — numerated on the same page of the census, one after the other.7 Nearby, on the same census page, was Martin’s oldest son, whom he named David Davenport Baker.8

But Martin went on before 1850 to take the path that was grassy and wanted wear. While David stayed behind in Cherokee County, Martin was in Pulaski County, Kentucky, by 1850,9 in Louisa County, Iowa, by 1852,10 and in Parker County, Texas, where he died in November 1868.11

Their roads diverged in the yellow wood of their fifth decade, as the distant and then ever-growing rumblings of war grew throughout the land.

Two roads diverged

David’s family in North Carolina was caught up in the war. All told, David and his wife, Martin’s sister Dorothy, sent six sons into the Confederate Army — Charles, Abner, Josiah, Robert, John and Sidney. Three of them never made it home. When and where Abner died and where he was buried, remains to be determined. Charles and Sidney both died in Union custody at Camp Douglas.12

The closest any of Martin’s four sons came to the war was service in the Texas Frontier Organization — the home guard of men not subject to conscription into Confederate service because they were needed to protect the frontier from hostile native tribes. Martin’s sons Josiah A. Baker and Charles C. Baker — and his son-in-law, my scoundrel second great grandfather George W. Cottrell — served in Parker County, Texas, in Company A of the 1st Frontier District in 1864.13

Half of David’s sons who served never came home.

All of Martin’s sons who served survived.

All because Martin took the road less traveled by.

And that made all the difference.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “the road less traveled by,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 28 Nov 2020).


  1. Maribeth Lang Vineyard and Eugene M. Wiseman, William Wiseman and the Davenports (Franklin, NC: Genealogy Publishing Service, 1997), 42.
  2. 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. See also Baker Cemetery (Baker Community, Parker County, Texas; on Baker Road approximately four miles south of the intersection with Doyle Road, Latitude 323503N, Longitude 0974338W), Martin Baker marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 3 May 2003.
  3. The exact date is unknown but in January 1818, Dorothy’s and Martin’s father David Baker wrote to his brother in Georgia and mentioned: “my Second Daughter by Second wife is mared to David Davenport.” David Baker to Charles Baker, 27 January 1818, transcription by John Casper Branner 1910 of original held by Mrs. Carrie Baker of Tishomingo, Oklahoma; Baker genealogy; John Casper Branner papers, 1882-1921, Stanford University Libraries; PDF of digital images, Stanford Digital Repository ( : accessed 10 Aug 2018).
  4. See Elma W. Baker, The Rugged Trail, Vol. II (Dallas, TX: p.p., 1973), 71.
  5. For Martin, see 1820 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 55 (stamped), Martin Baker; digital image, ( : accessed 28 Nov 2020); imaged from NARA microfilm M33, roll 83. For David, see ibid., p. 59 (stamped).
  6. For Martin, see 1830 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, p. 198 (stamped), “Martain” Baker; digital image, ( : accessed 28 Nov 2020); imaged from NARA microfilm M19, roll 118. For David, see ibid., p. 201 (stamped).
  7. See 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, state, p. 239 (stamped); digital image, ( : accessed 28 Nov 2020); imaged from NARA microfilm M704, roll 1357. David was shown on line 7, Martin on line 8.
  8. Ibid., line 14.
  9. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Division 2, p. 111 (stamped), dwelling/family 528, Martin Baker household; digital image, ( : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217.
  10. 1852 Iowa State Census, Louisa County, Columbus City, p. 1, line 24, Martin Baker, State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines; FHL microfilm 1022204.
  11. Baker Cemetery, Martin Baker marker.
  12. See Judy G. Russell, “Remembering Camp Douglas,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 20 Aug 2016 ( : accessed 28 Nov 2020).
  13. See ibid., “G.W. Cottrell, Texas ranger,” posted 21 Apr 2012.
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