David Baker’s tombstone in the historic Bakersville Cemetery.

Historical records indicate that the area around what today is called Bakersville was known at one time as Baker’s Place and/or Baker’s Plantation. To date, the first confirmed use of the name Bakersville is as a designated post office—1827, in newspapers as part of a postal delivery route—1830, and on the earliest map—1836.

The acreage of the Town was originally part of 5000 or so acres that Baker received in land grants for his service as a soldier in the American Revolution. He held land grants also in what is now McDowell and Burke Counties.

David, the 6thson and 8thchild of Thomas and Dorothy Davenport Baker, was born 6/3/1749 in Culpeper County, VA.  David enlisted in the 3rdVirginia Regiment in February 1776 and was assigned the rank of corporal in the 4thCompany which he held for the next 2 years. The 4thalso included future president James Monroe and Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall. On July 8-10, 1776, David saw his first action and first American victory in the Battle of Gwynn Island. Serving under General George Washington, he was in the 10/28/1776 Battle of White Plains and then in the 12/26/1776 Battle of Trenton, during which his brother Richard was killed just 3 days past his 23rdbirthday. December 25, 1776, is the legendary date for “Washington crossing the Delaware.”

From January to May 1777, David was in Winter Quarters with Gen. Washington at Morristown, NJ. He saw action at the Battles of Germantown and Brandywine. Muster records show he served under Marquis de Lafayette, Gen. William Woodford, Col. William Heth, and initially with Capt. John Thornton. He was discharged at Valley Forge in February 1778.

His father died while David was in service, and his mother, Dorothy Davenport Baker, relocated to Burke County, NC, following members of her Davenport family. After his discharge, David joined her along John’s River in Burke County where he received his first land grants. It was here he made the acquaintance of other soldiers of the Revolution, including the McDowells, Wisemans, Whites, and Averys.  Waitstill Avery had significant land grants in the Toe River Valley and perhaps encouraged David, as well as the Davenports and Wisemans, to pursue land grants in the Toe River Valley.  William Wiseman, another soldier of the Revolution and Toe River Valley settler, married Mary Davenport, a relative of David’s mother, about 1761. The families remained close for generations, geographically and through other marriages.

About 1779 David married Mary Webb, daughter of James Crittenden Webb who apparently also came to North Carolina from Culpeper County. Mary died 5/16/1794 in what is now Bakersville. The couple had 6 children; the last, Mary, was not 2 years old when her mother died.  David then married Dorothy Wiseman, daughter of William Edward Wiseman, in August 1795. They had seven children.

While David had land grants in what is now McDowell County, he looked up at beautiful blue mountains and moved his family to the Toe River Valley. Land grant records indicate that David’s land joined that of William McKinney and that he apparently had a mill in 1798, most likely in what is now Bakersville. Joseph and Arthur Buchanan received 1799 land grants on Georges Creek which joined the Cane Creek. These were the relatives of William Buchanan whose daughter, Elizabeth married David’s 8thchild, Martin Alexander Baker.

Record of David Baker’s birth in his son Josiah Baker’s family Bible.

Traditional family stories tell that David’s first dwelling was a log cabin on property in Bakersville later owned by the Baileys, then Dr. A.E. Gouge, and now the white 2-story house formerly a bed and breakfast across from the United Community Bank. Across the drive, where Young’s Hotel stood and now the annex for the Bakersville Community Health Center, he built a trading post. According to Jason Deyton, in 1836 during the first court session in the new Yancey courthouse a decision was rendered in which “it appeared to the court that David Baker and W. W. Carson were men of good character and steadfastness, therefore the sheriff was directed to issue each a license to retail spirits by the small measure for a period of one year.”

David benefited from that decision for only two years, passing away in September 1838. He is buried in the Bakersville Historic Cemetery beside both of his wives. Some contemporary ancestral posts include the middle name, Hollis, for David; however, there is yet to be a document presented that shows that he was known by that name during his life.

The information presented in this article has been gleaned from a number of sources (available by request) which do not necessarily agree with each other. Every effort has been made to select only those pieces which have clear evidence of their validity; however, as with much of family history, mistakes can easily be made. Apologies are offered by the writer for any less than accurate statements and requests made for evidence-based additions or disagreements.

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