As with many United Empire Loyalists, family folklore has it that my 3-greats-grandfather Joseph Baker left Petersham Massachusetts on a horse for Dunham, Lower Canada, in 1792, with his wife Mollie hanging on behind him. However, since they had four children by then, I think there must have been a cart somewhere. Their fifth child, the first born in Canada, was named Thankful. Their descendants almost overwhelm the large Anglican graveyard in Dunham.
Mollie Stevens' parents, Joseph Stevens (born 1728 in Petersham, he may be a descendant of a Mayflower pilgrim of the same name) and Dorothy Sawyer, her siblings and some of their descendants, are listed in "The Stevens Genealogy" (Elvira Stevens Barney, 1907). Mollie's brother Lemuel and his family moved to Stukely (near Waterloo Quebec) before 1800; Lemuel's grandson Gardner Stevens was mayor of Waterloo for a time. Mollie's sister Dolly and her husband Willard Barnes came to Dunham in 1809.
My mother wrote of some of the third generation of Dunham Bakers in An Eastern Townships' Childhood. The censi of Dunham tell two stories in addition to those she knew. Edmund Watson is first recorded in Dunham as a labourer on Harriet Baker's farm, in 1861. By 1871 he had married and had four children. By 1881 he was back at Harriet's farm, as her husband. I wonder if she was attracted to him when he worked for her, but (9 years older) seemed too old to him then?
A more unsettling entry occurs in the census for 1881: a Henry Baker, almost certainly my great-grandfather, in the household of Edmund and Harriet Watson, occupation "not given". His age is given as 6 years older than our Henry, and Henry's gravestone in Dunham says he was buried 3 months before the census. But, Edmund's age is given as equal to Harriet's in this census (not in the others), rather than the 9 years younger that he was. It was common for enumerators to collect information from children or neighbours when adults were not home at the time of the call, and such errors in adult ages are normal with a child.
We know that Henry left his children after his third wife died, apparently on a permanent basis, for my mother has a heart-rending letter from her mother to him:
Mittineague Nov 18
I received your letter yesterday night. Arthur brought it in the mill about 4 o clock. I am very lonesome here at times. Some times I feel a little as though I would like to sit down and have a good "bawl". At times I feel as though I must tell mamma as if it couldnt be possible that she would never listen to me again and talk and be careful of me & humor me when I was put out as only a mother can. I cant keep from thinking of her. At my work I will be busy and sort of dreaming away and some one will speak to me and I will find myself thinking if mother would not want a drink or some thing. I dream nights of seeing her and having our own old talks and wake to the sad reality. If Ed has written to you lately I suppose he has told you that Jim has gone away from Lovelands and that he is living at Mr Ames. From his account and Eds Mr Loveland liked him well enough but he was as Ed puts it "simply to small" to do the work. He came out here last Saturday and he looked bright and healthy ... I am sleeping with Annie yet and I expect to sleep with her until we get another house to live in ... I had a letter or rather mother did from Uncle Ed. He says he hopes she is getting better. Uncle Charlie is going to write to him after I get through so my letter must be brought to a close.
Your loving "little Stete."
(Ed and Jim were her two brothers; Stete, pronounced "Stay-tee", was her pet name. Uncle Ed was her mother's brother who lived in West Shefford. "Uncle Charlie" must be the relative with whom she stayed.)
The conclusion seems inescapable, that Henry dumped his youngest three children the way he had his first child after the death of her mother, then came home to Dunham to die. Perhaps that is when he visited his first child, as my mother tells.
What on earth did he tell his sister about his children, that they weren't looked after at that time? No wonder my grandmother was bitter to her dying day about the way she had been betrayed by an uncle who took everything she earned, then refused her even a single keepsake of her mother when her aunt Harriet offered to look after her in Dunham.
Sankey of Ottawa
other notes on family history