C. Alice Baker

Charlotte Alice Baker, better known as C. Alice Baker, is dear to the hearts of Frary descendants as she is the person to buy the Frary House before it was demolished and had it renovated and preserved. She was alerted to this possibility by her first cousin, once removed, George Sheldon, who was the well known Historian for Deerfield and the President of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association from its founding until his death. Both C. Alice and George are descended from Lucy Frary Stebbins, daughter of Captain Nathan Frary of Deerfield whose father, Nathaniel Frary probably built the Frary House.

 

She was listed as C. Alice, age 17, in the 1850 census for Deerfield, MA living with her mother in the household of her maternal grandparents. She was listed as Charlotte, age 36, in the 1870 census  for Cambridge, MA living with her mother and had no occupation. She was listed as Alice C., age 46, in the 1880 census for Cambridge, MA living with her mother and working as a teacher.
     Miss Charlotte Alice Baker returned to Deerfield in 1890 to restore her family home, Historic Deerfield's Frary House. It was one of the first attempts at historic preservation of an old building in western Massachusetts and it was done by a woman. With the assistance of the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, C. Alice Baker brought life back to the old, dilapidated Frary House. When asked why she became so interested in the project, Miss Baker answered: "To save it, to dance in it, to give my mother a home in it."
     Deerfield Academy: The C. Alice Baker Award was established by the Executive Committee of the Alumni Association during Deerfield's Bicentennial to honor alumni and special friends of Deerfield for their loyal and devoted volunteer service to the school. It is named in honor of Charlotte Alice Baker, who attended the academy in the 1840s and became the founding president of the Alumni Association in 1901. In initiating this award it was the Executive Committee's wish to give public thanks to those dedicated individuals, such as class agents, reunion chairs and campaign volunteers whose quiet and steady day to day service is so instrumental to the success of the school.
     Charlotte Baker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on April 11, 1833. She was the daughter of Dr. Matthew Bridge and Catharine (Catlin) Baker. The family on her mother’s side descended from Rowland Stebbins, one of the founders of Springfield. Because Baker was believed to be a delicate child, she did not attend school regularly until about age eleven, when she entered Misses Stone’s School in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and later Deerfield Academy, where she and another young woman were the only females. She eventually became an assistant teacher and in 1856 opened a school in Chicago with lifelong friend Susan Minot Lane. The school was discontinued in 1864, when Baker returned to Cambridge to help her mother. She began writing book reviews and newspaper and magazine articles on botany, art, and women’s work. She also wrote a series for children, Pictures from French and English History . She became interested in white settlers kidnapped by Indians and read a paper entitled Eunice Williams, the Captive before the Pocomtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield. In 1897 Charlotte Baker printed a volume of thirteen papers entitled True Stories of New England Captives Carried to Canada During the Old French and Indian Wars . During the course of her research she traveled to Canada several times to locate the official records of Montreal and Quebec and to visit villages and Indian missions. She found eighteen Deerfield captives and identified many more whose fate had been unknown. She became known as an expert in New England history and was invited to join the New York, Cambridge, and Montreal Historical Societies. Another historian, Mary Hemenway, asked her to teach early American history to Boston children, and she prepared a series of lectures. Charlotte Baker died in 1909.
     Baker, Miss Charlotte Alice, was born April 4, 1833, at Springfield, Massachusetts. Her father was Matthew Bridge Baker of Charlestown, her mother Catharine Catlin of Greenfield. Her father, after three years at Harvard, took up the study of medicine and then married and settled at Springfield, Massachusetts. Dr. Baker was a descendant of Thomas Baker, who was in Roxbury as early as 1640, and of Deacon John Bridge, who was in Cambridge in 1633. Catharine Catlin traced her ancestry back to Mr. John Catlin (son of John of Wethersfield), who came to Deerfield soon after its permanent settlement in 1671. On her mother's side Catharine Catlin came from Rowland Stebbins (Roxbury, 1634), who with William Pynchon was a founder of Springfield. Miss Baker's story of her childhood was printed in 1870 under the title " The Doctor's Little Girl." She was a pupil at Deerfield Academy and for one year at Dr. Cornelius Sowle Cartee's school in Charlestown. She early became a teacher and was for a short time with her aunt at La Salle, Illinois, and for a longer period at Deerfield Academy. Then from 1856 to 1864 she was in Chicago with her friend, Miss Susan Minot Lane. In 1864 the school in Chicago was given up and the two friends came to live with Miss Baker's mother in Cambridge. Miss Baker now engaged in the work of writing articles and reviews for newspapers and magazines and also papers upon historical subjects. Her work as a teacher was not abandoned, and after a short interval she with Miss Lane opened a school on Charles Street in Boston. In 1882, by invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Barthold Schlesinger, Miss Lane and Miss Baker moved their school to the beautiful Schlesinger estate in Brookline, where they continued until Miss Lane's death in 1893. Miss Baker's great interest was in Deerfield and in Deerfield Academy. She prepared and read many papers before the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association of Deerfield. In 1897 she printed a volume containing thirteen of these papers, entitled " True Stories of New England Captives Carried to Canada during the Old French and Indian Wars." In the preface she wrote: " I have taken upon myself a mission to open the door for their return." She went several times to Canada, searching the records there. Of the Deerfield captives she learned of eighteen whose fate had not been known and also learned the fate of many more from other New England towns. The value of this work was fully recognized, and she was invited to membership in the New York and Montreal Historical Societies and was often asked to speak on historical subjects in the Old South Church in Boston. She owned and lived in the oldest and most interesting house in Deerfield. She named it Frary House, after her ancestor, Sampson Frary, who may have built it as early as 1683. She provided that it should go ultimately to the Historical Association in Deerfield. She was one of the trustees of Deerfield Academy and. worked untiringly to strengthen it The "C. Alice Baker Endowment Fund " constitutes her fitting memorial. She died in Pittsfield May 22, 1909. The meeting house bell tolled the number of her years to tell the people of Deerfield that they had lost their friend and benefactor. 

 

Notice of funeral hereafter. Died At Boston 22d C. Alice Baker of Deerfield and Boston, daughter of the late Matthew Bridge and Catherine Catlin Baker. Springfield Daily Republican, May 26, 1909, p. 5 col. 3--Funeral of Miss Charlotte Alice Baker, who died in Boston, was held yesterday at the chapel in Springfield cemetery.  There was a large attendance of friends and relatives from this city and Deerfield.  The altar was decorated with white lilacs and lilies from the garden of the Mrs. David Ames estate, where Miss Baker played when she was a child. Rev. Richard E.R. Irks officiated at the funeral.  The burial was in the family lot, where Miss Baker's parents are buried.

Sunday 23 May 1909. Springfield Republican, page 16, column 2--Death of Miss C. Alice Baker--Noted as a Teacher, and as Historian of New England Captives of the French and Indian Wars---Miss Catherine (sic) Alice Baker, one of the most remarkable citizens of Deerfield, a woman of striking individuality, a teacher of importance for many years and notable author in the field of historical research concerning the early years of English settlement in the Connecticut Valley, died at her home in the Fenway, Boston yesterday morning, in her 77th year. She was born in this city, April 4, 1833, daughter of Dr. Matthew Bridge and Caroline (Catlin) Baker.  Her father died in 1839.  On her mother's side she was of Deerfield stock, and in that town her interests were largely centered for many years.  Her home on the Old Street, the Frary house, was the oldest house in the county, and full of historical interest. It was the home of her ancestors, once Frary's tavern, and in the last French and Indian was used as a commissary by Col. William Williams. When she determined to make the ancient house her summer home, she fairly had to lift it from the ground, into so great neglect had it fallen.  She was most scrupulous in its restoration, and every brick in the great square chimney, which bears the date "1698", was set in its original position. She had made her home therein for many summers, and used to give pleasant entertainments in the graceful colonial ballroom. Miss Baker had been noted as the head of private schools of large value. She had such a school in Chicago, where among her special friends was Robert Collyer.  Later she established a school at Cambridge, and afterward in Boston.  Deeply interested in the town of her ancestors, the Catlins, she made a special study of the fates of those men, women and children carried away to Canada by the French and their Indian allies in the border wars of the 17th and 18th centuries; but she was also much engaged with similar studies of the Maine wars.  She had a cottage off Kittery Point, near York, where "Father Rosle's War" was.     The fruits of her studies of old records and of many journeys were given in papers prepared for historical societies, afterward made into books. Miss Baker devoted her vacations to long trips into the Canadas and thus she traced out the subsequent histories of very many children of the settlers of Deerfield, Northfield and other valley towns, and she became a familiar visitant in Canadian convents, where she was hospitably received and where her knowledge of the Old French enabled her to read the old records.  Miss Baker was an accurate and conscientious historian, and treated her material without bias. She loved Deerfield, and was ardently interested in the Deerfield academy, now the high school, and a valuable institution recently renewing its usefulness after a period in which it had been hindered by unfortunate circumstances.  Miss C. Alice Baker (so she wrote her name) was one of the noteworthy personages of the old Street, and was often helpful to the young people, whom she befriended.  She will be greatly missed in Deerfield, but also in a large circle of friends in Boston and Cambridge.  She spent her winters in Boston, and had a fine home in the Fenway, where she died.  She also had warm friends in this city.  The funeral will be private.
 The Cambridge Historical Society printed the following sketch of Charlotte's life--Miss Charlotte Alice Baker was born April 4, 1833, at Springfield, Massachusetts.  Her father was Matthew Bridge Baker of Charlestown, her mother Catharine Catlin of Greenfield.  Her father, after 3 years at Harvard, took up the study of medicine and then married and settled at Springfield, Massachusetts.    Dr. Baker was a descendant of Thomas Baker, who was in Roxbury as early as 1640, and of Deacon John Bridge, who was in Cambridge in 1633.    Catharine Catlin traced her ancestry back to Mr. John Catlin (son of John of Wethersfield), who came  to Deerfield soon after its permanent settlement in 1671.  On her mother's side Catharine Catlin came from Rowland Stebbins (Roxbury, 1634), who with William Pynchon was a founder of Springfield.    Miss Baker's story of her childhood was printed in 1870 under the title "The Doctor's Little Girl."  She was a pupil at Deerfield Academy and for one year at Dr. Cornelius Sowle Cartee's school in Charlestown.    She early became a teacher and was for a short time with her aunt at La Salle, Illinois, and for a longer period at Deerfield Academy. Then from 1856 to 1864 she was in Chicago with her friend, Miss Susan Minot Lane.    In 1864 the school in Chicago was given up and the two friends came to live with Miss Baker's mother in Cambridge.  Miss Baker now engaged in the work of writing articles and reviews for newspapers and magazines and also papers upon historical subjects.  Her work as a teacher was not abandoned, and after a short interval she with Miss Lane opened a school on Charles Street in Boston.  In 1882, by invitation of Mr. and Mrs. Barthold Schlesinger, Miss Lane and Miss Baker moved their school to the beautiful Schlesinger estate in Brookline, where they continued until Miss Lane's death in 1893.    Miss Baker's great interest was in Deerfield and in Deerfield Academy.  She prepared and read many papers, entitled "True Stories of New England Captives Carried to Canada during the Old French and Indian Wars."  In the preface she wrote: "I have taken upon myself a mission to open the door for their return."  She went several times to Canada, searching the records there.  Of the Deerfield captives she learned of eighteen whose fate had not been known and also learned the fate of many more from other New England towns.  The value of this work was fully recognized, and she was invited to membership in the New York and Montreal Historical Societies and was often asked to speak on historical subjects in the Old South Church in Boston.    She owned and lived in the oldest and most interesting house in Deerfield.  She named it Frary House after her ancestor, Sampson Frary, who may have built it as early as 1683.  She provided that it should go ultimately to the Historical Association in Deerfield.  She was one of the trustees of Deerfield Academy and worked untiringly to strengthen it.  The "C. Alice Baker Endowment Fund" constitutes her fitting memorial.    She died in Pittsfield May 22, 1909.  The meeting house bell tolled the number of her years to tell the people of Deerfield that they had lost their friend and benefactor.
The preface to Charlotte's book on the captives reads as follows: As often I  have read  in the annals of the early settlers of New England the pathetic words, "Carried captive to Canada whence the came not back," I have longed to know the fate of the captives.  The wish has become a purpose, and I have taken it upon myself a mission to open the door for their return.    It is just fifty years since that indefatigable Antiquary, Mr. Samuel G. Drake, published at Boston his "Tragedies of the Wilderness."  I offer these narratives as a modest sequel to the work of my illustrious predecessor.      C.A.B.    Cambridge, Mass. March, 1897.

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Founded in 1970, the Frary Family Association (FFA) promotes the knowledge and history of the Frary Family and its descendants in America and elsewhere.
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