William R. Baker was elected Auditor for Greene County in November, 1883, and has served continuously since that time, a fact which speaks highly for his character and the estimation in which he is held by the people of his county. He is one of the old soldiers whom all lovers of the flag delight to honor, and in remembrance of the years during which he hazarded life itself in battle’s front, he belongs to the Grand Army of the Republic at Xenia. For some years prior to his election to his present responsible position, he was identified with the business interests of the city in the capacity of a dealer in groceries and in financial circles was held in excellent repute.
Mr. Baker was born near Jamestown, August 31, 1841, being a son of John W. Baker, whose settlement in this county dated from 1828. The father was a native of Kentucky, whither he came across the Ohio River when a boy of fourteen years with his father, William BAKER, who kept one of the early public houses of Jamestown. Amid the pioneer surroundings the father of our subject grew to maturity, being engaged as a teamster until his marriage, when he turned his attention to farming. In the spring of 1848 he abandoned that enterprise and returning to Jamestown, engaged in the grocery business, continuing in that occupation until 1857.
In the schools of his native place and in the store kept by his father, he of whom we write received his education, being enabled to make practical use of the principles learned from the text books and so realized the object of his schooling. During his youth his father resumed his farm work and continuing it until after his boys had grown to manhood, they became well acquainted with the occupation also. The father finally removed to Grape Grove and four or five years later to Columbus, where he still lives. The mother of whom our subject and other members of the parental family owe much for good counsel and loving care, also survives.
Our subject left the parental roof in the fall of 1861 to enlist in Company A, Seventy-fourth Ohio Infantry. The regiment spent six months at Camp Todd and Camp Chase, preparing for the duties which awaited them at the front, and then going to Nashville, were placed under the command of Gen. Thomas, in the Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland. They bore a gallant part in the momentous battles of Stone River, Chickamauga, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, and afterward participated in the scenes of the Atlanta campaign from Chattanooga to Atlanta. During this period they were under fire nearly every day, bearing their part in all the battles of the campaign. At its conclusion our subject was discharged, his term of service being completed, and was mustered out October 7, 1864.
Returning to his home Mr. Baker became a clerk in the grocery store of Eavey & Co., Xenia, remaining in the establishment until 1869, in a clerical capacity and assuming a half interest in the house. The firm did both a wholesale and retail trade and was well known in this section of the Buckeye State as one of the most reliable establishments of Xenia. For sixteen years Mr. Baker was connected with the house, during the various changes it underwent, owning from one-half to the entire interest. When elected to the office in which he is now serving his third term, he sold out his business in order that he might devote himself fully to his public duties.
Mr. Baker votes the Republican ticket, no stancher supporter of the party being met with than he. He is a Chapter Mason and is also identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His family consists of a wife and two children, the latter bearing the names of Florence H. and Jessie R. Mrs. Baker bore the maiden name of Anna P. Harrison, and was born and reared on a farm near Cedarville, this county, of which her father, James Harrison was an early settler. The rites of wedlock between herself and our subject were celebrated at her home March 1, 1876. She is a noble woman, true to her family and friends, and intelligently interested in the affairs of mankind.
Portrait and Biographical Album of Clark and Greene Counties, Chapman Bros., Chicago, published 1890
William R. Baker, a veteran of the Civil War, former auditor of Greene county and formerly and for years engaged in the mercantile business in Xenia, in which city he is now living retired, is a native son of Greene county, born on a farm in Silvercreek township, one mile west of the village of Jamestown, August 31, 1841, a son of John W. and Elizabeth (Towell) Baker, the former of whom was born in Kentucky in 1814 and the latter, in Virginia, in 1813, who were married in this county and here established their home, many years later moving to Columbus, where their last days were spent.
John W. Baker was a son of William and Dorothy (Winans) Baker and was fourteen years of age when he came to this county from Kentucky with his parents in 1828. Two years previously William Baker had come up here from Kentucky on a visit to his kinsman. Doctor Winans, who was at that time practicing his profession at Jamestown, then a hamlet of fewer than a dozen houses, and had been so favorably impressed by the promising conditions here that he decided to locate in this county. Returning to Kentucky he disposed of his interests there and in 1828 came with his family and took up his permanent abode at Jamestown, where he erected a frame building on the site now occupied by Johnson's grocery store and there engaged in the manufacturing of harness. Not long afterward he established a tavern at Jamestown and Baker's Tavern was for years a popular stopping place both "for man and beast," a large yard and stable at the rear affording accommodations for the latter. That tavern occupied the southeast corner of Main and Limestone streets. William Baker and his wife were the parents of eight sons and three daughters and John W. Baker was the fifth son. The latter grew to manhood at Jamestown and there married Elizabeth Towell, who, as noted above, was born in Virginia in 1813. She was a daughter of John and Sarah Towell, the former of whom died in Virginia, his native state, after which his widow came with her children to Ohio and after a sometime residence at Xenia located at Jamestown. After his marriage John W. Baker became engaged in the grocery business at Jamestown and remained there until his sons were well grown boys, when he moved to a farm be had bought in Sugarcreek township, south of Jamestown, where he remained until in the early '60s, when, in order to secure better advantages in the way of schooling for the younger daughter he moved to Columbus, where he again became engaged in the grocery business and was thus engaged until his retirement. He and his wife spent their last days at Columbus, her death occurring there in 1900 and his, in 1901. They were members of the Methodist Episcopal church and their children were reared in that faith. There were seven of these children, of whom the subject of this sketch was the third in order of birth, the others being Sarah E., widow of James Alexander, now living with her daughters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; James C, who died in the days of his youth; John H., also now deceased; Samuel T., a veteran of the Civil War, who is living on his farm in the Cedarville neighborhood; Erastus F., a traveling salesman, who died at Chicago in 1914, and Clarissa A., wife of W. H. Dye, now living in Florida.
William R. Baker received his schooling in the schools of Jamestown and was a well-grown lad when his parents moved to the farm, where he was living when the Civil War broke out. In October, 1861, he enlisted for service, a member of Company A, Seventy-fourth Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, and served with that command for three years, or until the completion of his term of enlistment, being mustered out in the fall of 1864, when his younger brother Samuel took his place in the company. During that period of service Mr. Baker was attached to the Army of the Cumberland, Fourteenth Anny Corps, Second Division, Third Brigade, and was an orderly at division headquarters when mustered out. He participated in many of the notable battles and engagements of the war, including those of Stone's River, Chickamauga, Jonesboro and the Atlanta campaign and upon the completion of that active service became an ambulance driver and thus continued his service until the close of the war.
Not long after his return from army service Mr. Baker became employed as a clerk in the grocery store of H. H. Eavey at Xenia, beginning that employment in 1867, and two years later, in 1869, bought a half interest in the store. Soon afterward the firm again was reorganized, Mr. Baker's brother-in-law, W. B. Harrison, buying his partner's interest, the firm then becoming Baker, Harrison & Company, and Mr. Baker continued thus engaged in the mercantile business until his election in the fall of 1883 to the office of auditor of Greene county. He was retained in office, by successive reelections, until 1896, when he declined to be the further nominee of the party that had honored him by these successive nominations without opposition. For four years after his retirement frorn the auditor's office Mr. Baker was engaged in prospecting in the Scioto oil fields and since then has been living practically retired, his chief attention being given to the management of a farm he owns in this county, making his home in the old W. B. Harrison residence at 202 East Market street. He is a Republican.
Mr. Baker has been twice married. On March 1, 1876. he was united in marriage to Anna Harrison, who was born and reared in this county, her home having been about eight miles east of Xenia. She was a daughter of James and Ruth (Hanna) Harrison and a sister of W. B. Harrison, who for years was a merchant and manufacturer at Xenia and a politician of more than local influence. To that union were born two daughters, Florence B., who married Frank Wickersham and now lives in Denver, Colorado, and Jessie R., wife of J. A. Chew, managing editor of the Xenia Gazette. The mother of these daughters died in October, 1892, and on September 12, 1905, Mr. Baker married Mrs. Agnes (Garrett) Harrison, widow of the late W. B. Harrison, mentioned above. Mrs. Baker was born at Wilmington, Delaware, a daughter of Elwood Garrett and wife, and was living in that city at the time of her marriage to Mr. Harrison, her home since then having been in Xenia. Her father, Elwood Garrett, a Quaker, who died in 1910 at the great age of ninety-three years, was a photographer and was quite an inventor, he having put up the first telephone in use in the city of Wilmington. Mr. and Mrs. Baker are members of the Church of Christ (Scientist) and Mr. Baker is a member of the Masonic order.
From History of Greene County Ohio, Its People, Industries and Institutions, vol. 2. M.A.Broadstone, editor. B.F.Bowen & Co., Indianapolis. 1918