My 7th great grandfather Timothy Baker was born in December of 1675 in Northampton, Massachusetts and according to Baker family historian, Nelson M. Baker, who published in 1867 “A Genealogy of the Descendants of Edward Baker,” Timothy Baker, the son of Timothy and Grace Marsh Baker, “died in infancy.” Fortunately for the thousands of living descendants of Timothy Baker including yours truly, Nelson M. Baker was wrong about the early demise of young Timothy. In Nelson Baker’s defense however, we admit that the absence of historical records mentioning our Timothy Baker in Northampton, Massachusetts might very well have led to the conclusion that he must have died at a young age. Since we know virtually nothing about Timothy from the time of his birth until he appears in historical records in New Jersey in 1707, what I am about to relate about his early life is based on pure speculation. It is not fantasy however, as historical facts and logic plus the few facts that we know about his family during this period of his life makes the following account of his early life a realistic possibility.
Timothy Baker was born during a turbulent period in American history. Only a few months before his birth, the Native Americans in New England staged a major rebellion against the white colonists. The Indians of this area had been remarkably peaceful considering that since the landing of the Pilgrims in Plymouth some 55 years earlier the white English settlers had been gradually absorbing their land and the traditional source of their food supplies. This changed however by late 1675, when the Indian tribes under an Indian leader that the settlers were calling King Philips, led a series of surprise attacks against the villages in the Connecticut River valley. Timothy’s father, Ensign Timothy Baker, played a major role during the war, later called by historians the King Philip’s War, not only by his helping to organize the defense of their community of Northampton but also through his leadership role in the militia counterattacks against the Indians villages. Unfortunately, for the first six months of Timothy’s life, his father was rarely home. Equally unfortunate, Timothy’s mother, Grace Marsh Baker died in Timothy’s first year of life. Were it not for Timothy’s grandparents, Joan and Edward Baker, who stepped in as surrogate parents to raise him in the early years of life, Timothy would likely have been “farmed” out to live with another family.
Joan Baker was around 58 years old when her grandson was born. She had seen her own share of hardships as a young woman growing up in New England in the early 1600s. She knew the difficulties of raising children under these hard conditions having raising nine children of her own. For the first three years of Timothy’s life his grandmother’s face was the first one that he saw when he verbally expressed his hunger or other discomforts. Timothy also recognized his grandfather who frequently rocked him to sleep in his grandfather’s favorite chair. Even his grandfather Marsh, his mother’s father, was not too old then in his mid-60s, to occasionally visit his young grandson from his nearby home in Hadley.
All of this changed to some extent when his father remarried in early 1678. Timothy’s new stepmother at first was very attentive towards her new stepson although he remained somewhat unsure at least initially as to her role in the family. Unfortunately for Timothy and for his gradually improving relationship with his new stepmother, when Timothy was four years old, his stepmother gave birth on 3 February 1680 to her first son, John Baker, and out of necessity almost her full attention was redirected to the care of her newborn. Timothy was forced once again to retreat to his grandmother for his daily needs and love and affection. Over the next nine years, Sarah Hollister Baker and Timothy’s father, Timothy Senior, were to have four additional children. Timothy was no doubt well cared for by his father and stepmother during these years but he was older than his stepbrothers and stepsisters which meant that he did not develop a strong bond with any of his siblings. He was four years old when John was born and fourteen years old by the time that his youngest stepsister was born. We have no way of knowing just how close a relationship Timothy maintained with his family, however the fact that Timothy left his home in Northampton and migrated to New Jersey by the time he was thirty, added to the fact that he apparently did not stay in contact with his family and is not mentioned in his father’s will, suggests that the relationship was not strong. Furthermore, none of his stepbrothers and sisters followed Timothy either to the New York or to the New Jersey area. The fact that Timothy appears to have so strongly divorced himself from his family in Northampton when he moved to New Jersey has for many years led family genealogists to conclude that the Timothy Baker who was well established in New Jersey in the early 1700s was not related to the Timothy Baker born in Northampton in 1675. Were it not for the close matching of DNA between descendants of one of the sons of Timothy and Sarah Hollister Baker and some of the descendants of Timothy Baker of New Jersey that showed both were likely descendants of Edward Baker, we would be unable to conclude, as we now have, that the Timothy Baker from Northampton and the Timothy Baker of New Jersey were one and the same individual.
Two special events occurred during Timothy’s early life that may have profoundly influenced his later action of moving away from Northampton. His grandfather, John Marsh, who lived in Hadley, Massachusetts close to Timothy’s home in Northampton, moved to Hartford, Connecticut when Timothy was around twelve. John Marsh who had lost his wife many years earlier and was living alone, at the urging of his daughter, Hannah Marsh Loomis, moved to Hartford to live with his daughter and her family. Timothy was surely saddened when he learned of his grandfather’s death at the end of 1688 and he probably did not understand until later the significance of what his grandfather wrote in his will: “I give to my grandson Baker of Northampton, five pounds, when he shall attayne to the age of one and twenty years.”
An even greater impact on Timothy’s life occurred a few years earlier, when his grandparents Edward and Joan Baker moved away from Timothy’s home in Northampton and returned to their former home in Lynn, Massachusetts. His devotion to his grandparents and in particular his grandmother, must have been enormous and when they left Timothy who was probably no older than ten, he must have been devastated. It was even harder when he learned of his grandfather’s death in 1687. There is no record of his grandfather bequeathing Timothy anything when he died and Timothy is not mentioned in his grandfather’s will. Furthermore when his grandmother died a few years later in Lynn in 1693, there is no record of her leaving Timothy anything in her will. It is my belief however, that before Timothy’s grandparents left Northampton to return to Lynn they left something of value to their grandson Timothy that he would receive at the time he came of age. While neither grandparent Marsh or Baker would have left Timothy a large sum of money, I believe that what he did receive when he reached the age of twenty-one allowed him to leave his home in Northampton and travel south down the Connecticut River towards Long Island and ultimately overland to New Jersey.
It is impossible to know whether religion played any role in Timothy’s decision to move away from Northampton. Timothy’s father became a “freeman” in 1676 at the age of 29 and therefore was recognized as a member in good standing of the local Congregational church. Timothy was no doubt raised as a Puritan and he would have attended church services in the Congregational Church from the time he was an infant in his grandmother’s arms. There are no historical records suggesting that Timothy was a strong proponent of change within his faith that might have compelled him to seek another area more conducive to a freedom to choose how he might worship. It is well known however, that Timothy Baker when he was settled in New Jersey was a member of the Presbyterian Church. How and why he changed churches is a matter of some speculation although I do not think that such a change was “unlikely” as suggested by Richard Herbert Tivey, Governor General of The Society of the Descendants of the Founding Fathers of New England, when he was asked whether or not he believed that the Timothy Baker of Northampton and the Timothy Baker of New Jersey were one and the same person. He concluded that because the two Timothy Bakers were of different faiths it would be dangerous to conclude that they were the same person. Since we now know that they were the same person, it appears that somewhere between Northampton and New Jersey, my 7th great grandfather, Timothy Baker, changed from being a Congregationalist to a Presbyterian.
I cannot purport to be an expert on comparative religions and I acknowledge that when I state that the basic tenets of both the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church in the 1600s in America were very similar, I may very well be oversimplifying the facts. Both faiths believed that the word of God was expressed in the bible and that unlike the Church of England and the Catholic Church it was not necessary to have priests, bishops, or popes interpreting the word of God and the manner in which one was to worship. A major difference however, between the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church was that the Congregational Church believed in local control and that each church hired its own leaders and determined how it was to manage its own affairs, its forms of worship, and so forth. The Presbyterian Church on the other hand, believed in a more centralized control for the church where church policies were determined by a group of leaders from various Presbyterian churches where a consensus of opinions determined church policy. One of the unfortunate disadvantages of the Congregational Church in early New England particularly in the greater Boston area was that the congregation was often subject to the power of a single theocratic leader whose style of leadership might border on tyranny. One man often under the guise of the word of God and the power he was granted could determine who could join the church and how everyone in the community ran their personal as well as their public lives. The founding of Windsor and Harford in Connecticut, as well as other communities in Rhode Island and on Long Island were all the result at least in part, of groups of Puritans trying to escape instances of the out of control tyranny of theocratic Congregationalism. Other than the area controlled by the Dutch around present day New York City, much of Long Island was settled by Puritans turned Presbyterian beginning as early as 1640 with the founding of Southampton at the east end of the island. Jamaica closer to New York at the west end of the island was founded by Connecticut settlers in 1657. In a history of Long Island it is noted that “Almost all these English settlements were made by Presbyterians and from Jamaica east this was the prevailing denomination.” These early settlers from southern New England who migrated into Long Island were primarily Congregationalists who evolved into Presbyterians. It was not a massive conversion to another faith. It was more of a transformation as to how they wanted to change and manage their faith from an unchecked liberalism to a less radical conservatism. When Richard Herbert Tivey stated that it was unlikely that a Timothy Baker would convert from Congregationalism to Presbyterianism as he moved from Massachusetts to New Jersey, he must have missed the rise of Presbyterianism and the decline of Congregationalism in America beginning in the late 1600s. Whether or not Timothy Baker consciously left the Congregational Church in New Northampton to find a more acceptable church in Long Island or New Jersey we will never know. What we do know is that the transformation appears to have been made without any apparent conflict in his life.
Timothy Baker probably migrated south down the Connecticut River sometime after his twenty-first birthday and after he collected whatever money he inherited from his grandparents or was granted to him by his father when he came of age. His departure if this assumption is correct would have taken place around 1697. Unfortunately, nothing is known about Timothy Baker between the time that he left Northampton until he met and married his wife, Susannah Mathews, in Maidenhead (now Lawrenceville), New Jersey in 1703. We can speculate that his original intentions were to settle on Long Island, possibly in the Jamaica area, where he would have known that many other families from Northampton and from other Connecticut communities had settled beginning in 1657. He may also during this period have spent some time at the home of his Aunt Hannah Marsh Loomis (his mother’s sister) and his Uncle Joseph Loomis in Windsor, Connecticut. His uncle Joseph Loomis was a deacon in the First Church in Windsor, a church that under the guidance of the Rev. Samuel Mather began in the mid-1680s a merger of his Congregational church with another congregation of Presbyterians. The end results of the merger for the combined church meant an increased number of parishioners and more importantly, a more liberal policy going forward for church membership. One of the criticisms of the early Congregation church in New England was that its strict requirements for become a “freeman” that signified membership in the church, also severely limited membership in the church and without a church membership families were unable to have their children baptized. Timothy Baker’s exposure to the First Church in Windsor may very well have encouraged his acceptance of the Presbyterian form of worship at his new home in New Jersey. Another important factor in Timothy’s decision to accept the Presbyterian faith was probably the fact that his future wife and her family were Presbyterians.
Timothy Baker’s future wife and my 7th great grandmother Susannah Mathews was born in Jamaica, New York on Long Island in the year 1679. We know very little about the origins of Susannah’s father, Samuel Mathews, other than he was probably born in England and he was an early immigrant in the Long Island area. His name first appears in historical records in 1655 where he is mentioned in Court Minutes of New Amsterdam. Shortly thereafter in March of 1656, he appears on a list of residents living in Hempstead, Long Island and again in 1656 when his name appears with thirteen other petitioners requesting permission from Governor Stuyvesant of New Amsterdam to settle on land that the petitioners had purchased from the local Indians. Permission was granted and Samuel Mathews with other settlers most of whom had emigrated from Connecticut, settled in what eventually became the town of Jamaica located about 10 miles west of Hempstead. Around 1660, Samuel Mathews married Susannah Strickland, the daughter of John Strickland also living in Hempstead. John Strickland, my 9th great grandfather, was one of the original founders of Hempstead in 1644. Historical records show that he first arrived in America in Salem, Massachusetts from England in 1629 and by 1630 he was one of the earliest settlers in Charlestown where he became a freeman by 1631. The historical records are unclear as to his movements before his arrival in Hempstead in 1644 but what is known is that he brought with him his entire family consisting of one son and seven daughters one of whom was Susannah Strickland who was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts around 1630. Prior to marrying Samuel Mathews, Susannah Strickland was married to Timothy Wood of Hempstead. She married Timothy Wood in 1651 and bore two children with him before he died in 1659. What is interesting here is that Susannah Strickland’s grandson, Matthes Baker (son of Timothy Baker and Susannah Matthews), married a Judith Wood of Jamaica, Long Island and while it seems likely that Timothy Wood and Judith Wood would somehow be related as yet no genealogists including myself have determined their relationship.
Susannah Mathews’ father Samuel Mathews died in early 1695 when Susannah was around 14 years old. Her mother shortly after a brief mourning period for her late husband, married for a third time, a man named Ralph Hunt from nearby Newtown, Long Island. Young Susannah Mathews then accompanied her mother, her new step-father, Ralph Hunt, and possibly her older brother Samuel Mathews Jr. , her sister Mary Mathews as well as some of Ralph Hunt’s brothers and a brother-in-law to a new home in Maidenhead, New Jersey. Ralph Hunt may have planned the move to Maidenhead even before he married Susannah Strickland Wood Mathews as his name appears in public records for land purchases with his brother-in-law, Theophilus Philips, in Maidenhead beginning as early as June of 1694 as well as on numerous other occasions over the course of the next decade. According to the historical narrative “Genealogical and Personal Memorial of Mercer County, NJ” edited by Francis Bazley Lee in 1907, Ralph Hunt was a “Pioneer of Maidenhead”, and a “Prominent man in the community and well known as Captain.” The narrative also portrays that Maidenhead “contained best agricultural land in the state” which if true certainly explains why so many settlers from Long Island as well as Connecticut flocked to the area to buy land from the Quakers who had originally purchased the land in the 1670s. The name “Maidenhead” was given to the area by Quakers but the village that bore the name was later changed to Lawrenceville by the New Jersey legislature in 1816 as apparently they were embarrassed by the suggestive nature of the old English name. I must admit that I spent an inordinate amount of time researching Ralph Hunt primarily because I found it difficult to believe that Ralph Hunt was over twenty years younger than 63 year old Susannah Strickland Mathews when they married. Furthermore there are no records to indicate that he was married prior to marrying Susannah. There seems to be ample evidence that they married despite their age difference. When the husband of Susannah’s daughter, Thomas Smith, died in 1702 he appointed Ralph Hunt, “my father-in-law”, as executor of his estate. Furthermore in a land sale recorded in Maidenhead dated October 16, 1700 there is a notation with respect to the sale: “Ralph Hunt with wife Susanna.” On the other hand, when Ralph Hunt died in 1733 his will referred to his wife Elizabeth and their children. In another record I noted that Ralph Hunt and Elizabeth were married in 1712. In 1712, Susannah would have been around 80 if she were alive which obviously she was not, and Ralph would have been in his late-50s. Ralph apparently had enough spunk left in him to marry a much younger woman after Susannah’s death and father children most of whom were still minors when he died.
We also find in the early land records of Mercer County the names of Joseph and Thomas Smith. While the two Smiths were probably not related, as it is believed that Thomas was born in Bedford Village in the Town of Brooklyn and Joseph in Jamaica, Long Island, they were later to become brother-in-laws. Joseph Smith married Mary Mathews possibly in Jamaica before they moved to Maidenhead. Thomas Smith moved to Maidenhead around 1696 and later married my great grandmother, Susannah Mathews, Mary’s sister, around 1697. They had two children together and she was apparently pregnant with a third when her husband Thomas Smith, “weke of body,” died in November of 1702. Susannah was in her early twenties when she lost her husband. She was not however, left destitute as her young husband had already acquired land and other “Goods and Chattels” in Maidenhead before his death and her older brother Samuel Matthews when he died young in 1700 left his entire estate to his sisters Susannah and Mary. His estate consisted of “three valuable deeds”, 400 acres in Hunterdon County (later Mercer), New Jersey and two parcels totaling 275 acres in Kent County, Delaware. Fortunately for Susannah Mathews Smith, now a widow with infants, along came a nice man from Northampton, Massachusetts named Timothy Baker and they married probably sometime in mid to late 1703.
New Jersey is somewhat unique when compared to the other early American colonies in that the largest portion of its earliest settlers were immigrants from other established colonies instead of newly arrived immigrants from England and Europe. In 1680 the total population of New Jersey is estimated to have been only 3,400 with most of the communities located in New Jersey’s northeast near New York City and Long Island. In the next 20 years New Jersey’s population soared to 14,000 largely made up of Quaker settlers from the Philadelphia area and New England settlers migrating from Connecticut and Long Island. Prior to 1664, New Jersey was claimed by the Dutch although for the most part the land was occupied by Indians. When the English took control of New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the King of England granted the lands between New England and Maryland which included the future states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to his brother, the Duke of York who was later to become King James II. The Duke then granted New Jersey to two of his loyal friends and later Pennsylvania to William Penn. New Jersey was then divided into East and West Jersey as shown on the above map. Lord Berkeley who was granted West Jersey, sold almost immediately his western portion of New Jersey to a group of wealthy Quakers in England, one of who happened to be William Penn. These Quakers subdivided and resold the land in large acreages mostly to newly arriving Quakers settlers. The first settlers in the Maidenhead area were Quakers from Buck County, Pennsylvania located just across the Delaware River from West Jersey. They purchased the land in the year 1690.
The economy of the American colonies during this period of our country’s history was based predominately on agricultural. Since family farms in the 17th and 18th centuries required large sections of land and since the population was growing rapidly more as a result of internal growth than immigration, it is not surprising that more and more young families were moving inland in search of available and affordable land. Between 1680 and 1720 the population of the American colonies grew from 151,500 to 466,200. New Jersey during this same period had a population growth from 3,400 to 29,800. It is not surprising that many settlers chose to relocate to, in the words of William Penn, the “good and fruitful land” of the Delaware River Valley. Thanks to the generally peaceful nature of the Native Americans in the region in large part due to William Penn’s magnanimous attitude towards the Indians, the threat of Indian attacks was virtually nonexistent. The climate in New Jersey was more temperate than in New England and less hot and humid in the summers than in the Virginia colony to the south. It matched closely what many of the new settlers remembered of the climate in their English homeland. The Delaware River was wide and deep enough that it allowed large ships to travel upriver from the Atlantic Ocean northward a distance of 200 miles until the river reached an area that they named “The Falls” where further river passage was impossible. The area that they called The Falls soon became a population and commerce center. The name of this early settlement was later changed from The Falls to Trenton. Another attribute of this Delaware River Valley was the large numbers of small river and creek tributaries that laced the land on both sides of the Delaware. These rivers and creeks not only supplied water to the farmers but they were a source of food and transportation. One of these small creeks that meandered northward from the area of “The Falls” (Trenton) was named Shabakunk Creek. It was along a small brook tributary called Little or Lesser Shabakunk Creek near the new community of Maidenhead that Timothy Baker and his new wife Susannah Mathews and her small children eventually settled. Timothy’s first land purchase in 1707 was described as “Lyeing & being between y’ Greater Shabbetunk & y’ Lesser Shabbetunk.” The general location of his land holdings is shown on the map above somewhere in the area between the two Shabakunk creek tributaries in the present day Township of Maidenhead.
While the first land purchases in Maidenhead were made by Quakers from Bucks County in the year 1690, by 1694 large land sales were well underway mostly to new settlers who had followed the old Indians trails from Long Island communities such as Newtown, Jamaica, and Hempstead to this new developing land in West Jersey in the Delaware River Valley. Almost all of these new settlers in Maidenhead were Presbyterians whose parents had originally relocated from New England to Long Island and New York in the mid-1600s. By 1697, Maidenhead with its growing population was officially established and by 1698 there were enough Presbyterian settlers to warrant religious worship and The Presbyterian Church of Maidenhead was organized. It was originally referred to as “The Maidenhead Meetinghouse” as the first structure constructed served both as the church as well as a public meeting place in the same manner that the early Congregational churches in New England served this same dual purpose. The locations of the first two Presbyterian Churches in the area, one in Maidenhead and one in Hopewell are shown on the above map. Timothy Baker and his wife are known to have attended both of these churches.
The fact that Timothy Baker ended up settling in Maidenhead, New Jersey around 1700 or 1701 suggests that he may have lived for a period after he left Northampton, Massachusetts in one of the western Long Island communities, possibly Jamaica. Unfortunately no colonial records have been found that mention Timothy’s name between the year he is mentioned in his grandfather’s will in 1687 and his first land purchase in Maidenhead in 1707. We can only surmise that he left Northampton after his 21st birthday around 1697, spent several years at least in one of the Long Island communities possible living with a family and working as a farm hand, and then around 1700 he relocated to Maidenhead probably following other settlers from Long Island who had chosen to make the journal to this new settlement. There is no evidence that Timothy had the benefit of wealth through inheritance or otherwise which might explain why he was “lost” during this period of history. There is no surviving evidence that he purchased land in either Connecticut or Long Island nor are there any surviving church records that mention a Timothy Baker during this “lost” period of his life. It was not until after he married and thus obtained a certain amount of wealth via his wife’s inheritances from her brother and her late husband that Timothy’s historical presence reemerges in the public records. I suppose we must give credit Timothy for his good marriage.
Beginning with the recording of Timothy Baker’s land purchase in Maidenhead in November of 1707, his name appears in the public or church records almost every year from 1707 until his death at the age of 71 in 1747. We learn primary from his Last Will and Testament that Timothy and Susannah had seven children, four boys and three girls. True to the customs of the day and to the joy of later family genealogists, the couple named their children after their relatives that typically began by naming their first born son and daughter after one of the child’s grandparents. In this case, their first son born in 1704 they named Samuel after Susannah’s father, Samuel Matthews. Their first born daughter born around 1707 they named Grace after Timothy’s mother, Grace Marsh Baker. Baker family historians for many years until DNA testing provided the conclusive answer, had trouble identifying the family origins of Timothy Baker of Maidenhead and his wife Susannah Baker. The clue to their origins as we now know was right in front of them by simply looking at the names of their children. Timothy and Susannah chose for the name of their second son a rather unusual name. They called him Matthes which obviously was a variation or possibly even a mis-spelling of Susannah’s maiden name Matthews. Matthes was born in 1710 and as you will learn in the next chapter, he was my 6th great grandfather. It is interesting to learn that they chose for the name of their third son, the name Thomas in honor of Susannah’s first and late husband, Thomas Smith.
Timothy Baker’s prominence in the Maidenhead community is well reflected in both the public and church records. He is listed over the years in a number of positions including that of Constable, Surveyor of the Highways, Overseer of the Poor, Overseer of the Roads, and Justice of the Peace. He also served in 1719 on the first grand jury held in Maidenhead. He was also a prominent member of the Presbyterian Church in Maidenhead. On several occasions his name is included in a list of church members who helped acquire land for the church and in 1733 he is listed as a church Elder.
The probate date of Timothy Baker’s will was 9 June 1747 which indicated that he died a short time earlier. We know that Susannah survived the death of her husband of 44 years although the year of her death is unknown. Presumably they are buried together but the location of their graves is unknown. It is likely however, that they lie together somewhere in the graveyard of Maidenhead’s Presbyterian Church beneath long lost stones that had marked their graves.
In the next chapter of this blog on our family’s history I will continue with the story of my great grandfather, Matthes Baker.