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Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker
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It’s all in a Week’s Work


By Marian Bailey Presswood,

Polk County Historian


   Sometimes the deadline for this column sneaks up on me, and I don’t have time to look for anything else, and just have to use what I’ve been working on for someone during the week - and this is one of those weeks. Actually, I didn’t do any butchers or candlestick makers, just a Polk County Baker family and some related lines.

   A super nice lady I met at church who was born here but her family moved away when she was small was asking about her Polk folk, and I’ve been trying to pull that together for her. She is a Baker, granddaughter of the well known and well researched James K. Polk and California Harper Baker.  Pictures and articles of that family have appeared in the News regularly over the years, usually shared by Blaine Baker’s daughter, Helen, who has since passed, as has her sister Mary Etta Baker Dotson.  

   So this won’t be about the Baker genealogy, but one interesting new fact about that family has recently been discovered, and that is what happened to their ancestor Zachariah Baker (1820-1903) who was said to have just walked off from home one day and they never heard from him again. Well, turns out that old Zack took a very long walk - and ended up in Washington State, married again, and had a 2nd family! There’s even a grave marker picture on Findagrave memorial # 47275309.  Moral of that story is to never give up, Grandpa will more than likely leave some kind of trail whether paper, oral, children, or whatever - and you just might find him somewhere or another, sooner or later. This info surfaced because of a search made by one of Zach’s 2nd family grandsons.

   California ‘Callie’ Harper Baker’s parents were Lot Erwin Harper and Mary S. Burgess, who was a great granddaughter of a Revolutionary War Patriot, William Burgess, and wife, Agnes Partain. Anyone who is interested in joining the Daughters or Sons of the American Revolution through that Patriot has it made, for a member who is already approved has her application on file and it comes right down to James K. Polk Baker. The only proof needed would be from you to him.   By the way, a ‘shout out’ for the local Benjamin Cleveland Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution in Cleveland, Tennessee might be in order here. That is absolutely one of the fastest growing chapters anywhere in the country. Just watch the Cleveland newspaper to see articles about their meetings and great speakers, new inductees, etc.  Mr. Stan Evans was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of that chapter, and I’ll bet he sometimes feels as if he has a tiger by the tail, it’s growing so fast. He also works tirelessly to help potential members find all the proof necessary for their application.  

   Going back to the Harper family, that is also a very prominent family, but was mostly over in Fannin County, Georgia. However, we do have some descendants still living here in Polk County, the Ruth Harper (Mrs. Roy) Stillwell descendants among them.  Callie’s grandparents were William Harper and Narcissa Russell, and her great grandfather was another Lot Harper, born 1781, died 1866 in Buncombe County, North Carolina.  I know it wasn’t unusual to have a large family back then, but I’m still in awe of William and Narcissa’s family of fifteen children - and they all lived to adulthood!  They’re all named and a tidbit about who they married and their children appears in an article in the Facets of Fannin County, Georgia, p. 348, article # 272 by Wanda L. Poteet Garrett (a copy is in the PCHGS Genealogy Library.)  

   On the other side of the fence, when looking at Arizona Watson’s family, it gets into the Confederate soldier, William Moore Bain, and Jacob Lingerfelt folks who also are very well known and highly researched Polk pioneer families. In fact, should anyone who is direct line related to this family wish to apply for our First Families of Polk County it’s easy as can be, just go in through Jacob Lingerfelt who was here when the county was formed in 1839 and appears in our 1840 census. And since several others have previously applied through Jacob, you probably would only need a couple of proofs from you to him. (Contact PCHGS for an application form.)

   John Henry Watson’s wife, Dixie Bell Franklin, was the daughter of Mitchell and Mary Fitzgerald Franklin and her siblings in 1880 were Elizabeth, Sarah, Rebecca and Agnes, with brother George born in ‘82. (See article # 348 Heritage of Polk County by Edna Brewer.) Both Mitchell and Mary had been married before and both spouses were deceased. Mitchell Franklin is buried in Rock Creek/Boneyard Cemetery, and Mary, daughter of Ambrose Fitzgerald and Sarah Thompson of Habersham County, Georgia, is buried in Cookson Creek. (pictured Bell and John’s children, Arizona, Leland, Carl, Vassie, Rufus, and Madge.)

   Someone recently shared an interesting observation about why so many of our great grandparents married relatives and close neighbors.  They figured the eligible mate pool was only as large as a young man looking to do some courtin’ could walk in one day. Well, duh!  We all should have known that - right?  You just had to take whoever lived close enough to court ‘n catch.

   I recall with a grin the time I was working on a family and immediately came upon the same grandparents on both sides. Thinking I had done something wrong, I wadded it up, threw it in the trash can and started over - only to run into the very same thing again. I finally called one of the children and asked what I was doing wrong. They replied, “Nothing, my parents were first cousins!”  Happened a lot back then.  

   So, who cares if you have the same grandparents on both sides of the family? Go ahead and Preserve YOUR Heritage and record it just ‘as is’ - and mess with the minds of your kids and grandkids. They can probably check it out with the click of a mouse on Ancestry, anyway.


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