Robert's son Caleb always signed his surname as "Beaker". Writing in 1888, Professor William H. Whitsett of Richmond College concluded that the original may therefore have been Becher, a German name signifying a beaker or drinking vessel. There is, however, no indication of a German origin other than Caleb's eccentric spelling. Based upon sound alone, wouldn't the anglicized Becker have been more logical? Based upon the meaning, wouldn't the result have been pronounced as Beeker, without any change in the vowel sound?
With even the surname in question, researchers have been unable to agree on the early history of this family. Some have claimed that the earliest ancestor in the Colonies was Andrew Baker, who supposedly immigrated to Plymouth Colony in 1624, only four years after the landing at Plymouth Rock. (Needless to say, this rather conflicts with the idea of a German origin.) They believe that his son John Baker moved to Chester County, PA. (But Chester County didn't begin to be settled until 1683; before that the only white settlers in the area were a very small group of Swedes.) Others have claimed that gunsmiths Robert and Samuel Baker were themselves immigrants from England. The permutations of these two stories are almost endless. One version of the latter, for instance, has Robert and Samuel coming to America, then traveling back to England for several years to manufacture guns for the king before returning permanently. Descendant Lillie Baker Allen, who was born in KY in 1891, asserted that the brothers Robert and Samuel came from Liverpool, England, expressly to manufacture guns for the colonies. Both versions, however, agree that Robert and Samuel were brothers and gunsmiths in Chester County, PA.
The difficulty, of course, is that Robert Baker was hardly an uncommon name. There was a Robert Baker in a neighboring PA county who can apparently be easily confused with our Robert. Nor is the name of Robert's wife certain. Most genealogists seem to believe that she was Susannah Packer (and occasionally Susan Parker), but others feel that her identity hasn't really been established. According to one family historian, Susan/Susannah was a Quaker who married Robert in 1685 when she was 21 years old. (Quakers in Chester would certainly have been the norm.)
Since one can be certain that Robert the gunsmith was the father of Caleb Baker, we'll start with him even though the facts are scanty. Most of my information was obtained on the web, thus - all too typically - original source citations are non-existent. As the reliability of the writer could not always be ascertained, there are few footnotes. Regard the following as starting points to be researched further.
1717: Robert purchased 500 acres on the Susquehanna River in Conestoga Township, Chester County, PA from John French. When son Caleb Baker sold 250 acres on Pequea Creek in 1741, the deed mentioned that "Sarah Rodman by indenture of the 14th day of April in the year 1724 did grant release and confirm the same unto Robert Baker the father of the said Caleb Baker and his heirs". Is the date of the original deed incorrectly cited, or were there actually two different deeds for two different pieces of land?
15 Aug 1719: Robert petitioned to have Jacob Taylor, surveyor, lay out a site for the erection of a gun mill for Robert Baker. This was located at the mouth of Pequea Creek.
Robert and his sons have been credited by many as the inventors of the famed Kentucky [orlong] rifle. It has also been suggested that they were the first gun manufactures in the British Colonies.
c. 1722: Robert Baker and James McLean made a complaint before the court regarding Phillip Syng, who'd had 200 acres on the west bank of the river surveyed. The area was known as "The Mine", being rich in iron and possibly the source of Robert's gun barrels. Syng claimed the parcel under a Maryland title. Syng was actually taken into custody by order of Sir William Keith, the Governor, who apparently threatened Syng into withdrawing any claim to the property. The border between Maryland and Pennsylvania was disputed, thus the actions by the Governor Keith.
13 Sep 1728: Son Caleb was appointed administrator of the estate of Robert Baker, who had died intestate. On 19 Sep 1728 Joseph Higginbotham, David Jones, and Tobias Hendricks inventoried the estate, which included gunsmith's and blacksmith's tools, along with 450 acres of land. Higginbotham and Hendricks also acted as sureties for the Administrator's Bond, with Douglas Baker and Joshua Lowe as witnesses.
Children of Robert Baker:
Robert Baker ( – 1759; m. Mary Thomson)
Caleb Baker (c. 1690 – Mar 1754; m. Martha Brooks)
Andrew Baker (c. 1692 – 6 Sep 1781; m. Mary [or Molly] Bolling)
Samuel Baker (c. 1694 – 1758; m. Elizabeth Thomson)
Mary Baker ( – ; m. Robert Elliot)
Douglas Baker ( – 1765; m. Jane Thomson)
Elizabeth Baker (10 May 1713 – )
If you have any additions or corrections, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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