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John W. H. Baker, M.D.


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/14/2021 at 12:12:46

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


DR. BAKER traces his lineage back through an unbroken line to one Jeffrey Baker, who came from England to America early in the seventeenth century, and was one of the original settlers of the town of Windsor, Connecticut. The line of descent from him is as follows: Joseph, born 1655 ; Joseph, born 1678 ; Heman, born 1719 ; Oliver, born 1755 ; Oliver, Jr., born 1788 ; J. W. H., born 1821.

Dr. Baker's grandfather, Oliver Baker, Sr., was one of the early physicians of New England, and obtained his medical education before the establishment of medical colleges in that section of our country. He was born in the town of Tolland, Connecticut, and practiced his profession for a long series of years at Plainfield , Sullivan County, New Hampshire.

His son, Oliver Baker, Jr., likewise chose the profession of medicine, and studied under the celebrated Dr. Nathan Smith, afterward founder of the medical department of Dartmouth College. He was for more than thirty years a successful practitioner in Chesterfield , New Hampshire. He removed in 1840 to Windsor, Vermont, and the last years of his professional life were spent in active practice at that place.

Dr. John Waterman Harris Baker was born in Chesterfield , New Hampshire, on the twenty - first of August, 1821. He received his early education at the public schools and afterward attended the academy of his native village. He was an apt student, bright and alert, and remembers with pleasure how frequently, when but a small boy, he proudly wore home from school the prize medal, which was each evening given to the pupil who stood at the head of his class, and which consisted of a silver dime with a hole drilled in it and a string put through so that it might be worn around the neck of the student. This token of honor was each day placed about the neck of the pupil who was at the head of the class, and at the close of the term became the inalienable property of the one having the highest record.

When fourteen years of age he was sent to the Kimball Union Academy at Meriden, New Hampshire, then one of the best and most popular schools in New England. Here he remained two years and completed a classical course. He then took up the business of teaching during the winter months, and in the meantime having decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and become a physician, he took up the study of medicine under the tutelage of his father. In 1840 he became the student of Dr. Amos Twitchell of Keene, New Hampshire, one of the best, and certainly the most famous surgeon of his day in New England. He attended lectures at the New Hampshire Medical College, continuing his studies, and taking a private clinical course under the tutelage of the professors of this institution between the lecture courses. He received his diploma in the fall of 1842, and in the following spring, 1843, he located in the village of Newport, New Hampshire, where he remained till June, 1844, when, a favorable opening occurring in Meriden, he located there and soon was engaged in a remarkably successful practice. He won the confidence and respect of the people, and in the village and surrounding community had all he cared to do. This practice was continued till August, 1853, when he determined to investigate the new found and much talked of " El Dorado, " California. Accordingly he bade his family farewell for the time being and departed for the golden coast. In October of that year he opened an office at Moquelumne Hill , Calaveras County, California. He continued in practice there until May, 1855, when the desire to be again united to his family overcame all other considerations, and he returned to his home in the east. He did not resume his practice there, however, but after a good visit home, set out on a prospecting tour of the west, seeking a favorable location. He traveled extensively through a good part of the western country, finally deciding on Davenport as his future field of operation. He accordingly moved his family here and opened an office in November of that year, and from that time to the present, nearly forty years, he has been one of the leading physicians of this city.

While located in New Hampshire he was regimental surgeon of militia, and after coming to Iowa was commissioned by Governor Stone surgeon of the Second Iowa Volunteer Militia . During the late Civil War he received an appointment as assistant surgeon, and was ordered to duty in the military hospital at Camp McClelland, near Davenport The duties of this position he performed for several months, but finding the hospital duties interfered seriously with his regular practice, he resigned the position.

In 1856 he took an active interest in the organization of the Scott County Medical Society, being present at the preliminary meeting, and also at the meeting for the election of officers. Among the first officers of the society, he held the position of censor, and was afterward honored with every position from that to president. He became a member of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1857, was its recording secretary in 1858, vice -president in 1864, recording secretary for the second time in 1865, and in 1866 was elected president of the society, serving in that capacity one term. He became a member of the American Medical Association in 1860, and is still a member of that society.

Dr. Baker was married January 1, 1845, to Julia Ann Richardson, the daughter of Orlo and Nancy ( Wilde) Richardson of Chesterfield, New Hampshire. To this marriage have been born seven children, viz :

John Frederick Baker, born September 12, 1845, graduated in medicine in 1868, practiced in company with his father ten years, and is now a successful and prominent physician in St. Paul, Minnesota.

George Francis, born April 16, 1847, died September 14, 1849.

Laura Maria, born April 14, 1849, married J. Milo Richardson, March 14, 1871 ; he died October 31, 1871. She has never again married, and has for several years been a teacher in the Davenport High School.

Oliver Franklin, born January 31, 1853, studied dentistry and is now practicing his profession in New Richmond, St. Croix County, Wisconsin.

Julia Ann, born November 4, 1856, married, May 9, 1877, Frederick Crouch, and resides in Davenport.

Charles Richardson, born January 6, 1859 ; now a dentist in Davenport. ( His biography appears elsewhere in this volume.)

Hattie Wood, born December 31, 1863, married, June 16, 1887, James R. Smith , and resides in Davenport.

Dr. Baker, though now in his seventy- fourth year, is still hale and vigorous, and actively attending to the duties of his profession. He is a splendid example of that noble, self- sacrificing, honest, and worthy class of men, of whom for some reason we see but few these days, known as the old family doctors. Possessed of a splendid physique, a genial manner, a warm heart, and a cheerful presence that in itself goes a long way toward banishing illness, and inspiring confidence, he has added to these natural advantages extensive reading and earnest investigation in the line of his profession, and so taking all these facts under consideration, it is no wonder he has attained a high rank as a physician and as a citizen. He is an earnest man and an honest one ; tolerant of the opinions of others, yet decided in his own views. He is liberal in religious and political matters, as in fact he is in all matters. Public spirited and progressive as a citizen, constant and true as a friend, he commands the esteem of all who know him, and the affectionate regard of those who know him best.

While he has never particularly devoted himself to any one branch of the profession as a specialty, yet his professional brethren, as well as the laity, give him credit for special ability as an obstetrician ; and his books show that he has had a remarkable practice in that line.

When Dr. Baker shall be called to his fathers thousands of people will mourn the loss of a friend as well as a physician.


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