John Israel Baker was elected a member of this Society in 1851 and became a Life Member in 1863 He was born in Beverly Massachusetts August 16, 1812, and was a son of Joseph and Lucy (Bisson) Baker. His immigrant ancestor John Baker came from Norwich England to Ipswich in 1635. His line is John1, Captain Thomas2, Captain Thomas3, Thomas4, Joseph5, Joseph6, Hon. John I.7 Baker. He was also a lineal descendant of Deputy Governor Samuel Symonds and Samuel Appleton of Ipswich Judge William Hathorne and John Woodbury of Salem Barnard Capen, of Dorchester, and other founders of New England.
When only twelve and a half years of age Mr. Baker left school and became a clerk in a store and at the age of fourteen years was apprenticed to learn the shoemaker's trade and worked at that occupation for several years subsequently becoming a shoe manufacturer. At one time he engaged in rubber manufacturing and did much as surveyor and arbitrator and in the settlement of estates. He was elected town clerk at the age of twenty-three and held the position for nearly twenty years; he was selectman for seventeen years member of the School Committee and chairman for many years connected with the fire department and the militia for several years and county commissioner for sixteen years. In 1840, he was elected a representative to the General Court from his native town and served for eighteen years at different periods up to 1884 in eight of which as senior member he called the House to order and presided till the organization was completed. He was elected to the Senate in 1863 and 1864 and was a member of the council under Governor Banks and also under Governor Andrew. As a member of Governor Banks's council, he aided in settling the Rhode Island boundary question and in Governor Andrew's council rendered important service in fitting out the Massachusetts troops during the first year of the Civil War as a member of the committee of the council on military affairs. He was present when General Butler offered his services to Governor Andrew to defend the government and became from that time General Butler's devoted friend and admirer. He was appointed justice of the peace by Governor Everett in 1838 and was continuously reappointed. Governor Briggs made him special railroad commissioner in 1845. Governor Andrew appointed him inspector of fish in 1865 and he was made State liquor commissioner in 1866. He was a Whig till the organization of the Republican party in 1854 at Worcester when he served as secretary of the convention.
Early in life Mr. Baker took his position as an antislavery man and as an advocate of temperance and total abstinence from intoxicating drink. He was a strong advocate of the right of women to vote and hold office and also urged the importance of granting adequate rewards to labor. He was identified with the Republican party till 1870 when he joined the independent temperance movement. In 1875 and 1876 he was candidate for governor of the Prohibition party, but later supported General Butler's candidacy for governor. Mr. Baker was appointed harbor and land commissioner in 1883 and reappointed in 1886, 1889, 1892, and 1895. During the protracted and determined struggle to divide Beverly and organize Beverly Farms as a separate town, Mr. Baker stood strongly for the integrity of the town and was indefatigable in his efforts to prevent the division It was largely through his influence that the bill was defeated in the Legislature and when a little later in 1894, a city government was chosen, he was elected the first mayor of Beverly and aided the old town in starting on its new career.
Mr. Baker was called the “blue-eyed philosopher of Beverly”. He was certainly a man of exceptional ability and of the highest character. For a considerable part of the sixty years of his active life he served his town and county with entire faithfulness in every department, and he served the State for forty years with great zeal and efficiency. Though he lived to be an old man, he was always young in his sympathies and always progressive in his ideas. He had a remarkable faculty for making friends and retaining them. In religion he was broad in his views believing in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He was identified with the Baptists but was not a member of the church.
He married Mary Cressy, daughter of Maxwell and Joanna Green Cressy. She died in 1861, and subsequently he married Ellen Masury, daughter of Captain Stephen Masury. His wife survived him, and he left two children by his first wife, viz., Bessie Allen Baker and John S. Baker both residents of Beverly. He died February 17, 1897.
—Source: Memorial Biographies of the New England Historic Genealogical Society -
New England Historic Genealogical Society - Google Books,
Located by Barry Newlin