Stopping in Your Baker Park

Henry Baker was born in Columbia County in eastern New York State in 1797. He fought for the United States in the War of 1812. As compensation, the U.S. gave him a warrant for land in the Territory of Illinois.

After the war, Baker settled in western New York State, in the area of the Jamestown in Chautauqua County. He reportedly said that Illinois was “entirely too far from the sunrise.” For that reason, he did not use his federal warrant to obtain land there. He allegedly sold the warrant to another Jamestown resident for $10 worth of plug tobacco (chewing tobacco pressed into squares).

Henry Baker became one of Jamestown’s leading businessmen, farmers, and politicians, and he prospered. In 1845, he and his wife Maria Fish Baker donated land to Jamestown on the condition that it always would be used as a public square.

Robert H. Jackson, born in 1892, began to visit Jamestown as he was growing up in a nearby hamlet, Frewsburg. He finished his high school education in Jamestown, in 1909-10. He then, in 1910-11 and again in 1912-13, worked as an apprentice to two Jamestown lawyers.

In 1913, Robert Jackson became a lawyer. He began to practice law in Jamestown and its region. It became his adult hometown, the base of his increasingly prominent law practice, the birthplace of his children, and a core part of his identity.

And Jackson prospered. In the 1920s, he and his wife Irene Gerhardt Jackson built a house on Lakewood Road in the town of Ellicott, which abuts Jamestown’s city limit. (The road later was renamed Fairmount Road, and the house was given number 474.)

During Robert Jackson’s two decades as a lawyer in Jamestown, he had a downtown office, located about 1½ miles from his house. I assume that he usually drove to the office. But sometimes he walked. That meant walking along Jamestown’s red brick streets that surrounded (and do surround) Baker Park.

According to Jamestown lore, Jackson would sometime stop on his quiet morning walks to work and sit down on a Baker Park bench. He would converse if someone stopped to talk. But mostly he thought, and sometimes he read or wrote.

I hope that you have a Baker Park, and that its beauty will lift you in the summer months ahead.