Known to Indians as Asquamchumauke, the nearby river was renamed for Lt. Thomas Baker (1682-1753) whose company of 34 scouts from Northhampton, Mass. passed down this valley in 1712. A few miles south his men destroyed a Pemigewasset Indian village. Massachusetts rewarded the expedition with a scalp bounty of £40 and made Baker a captain.
Erected in 1968, this marker is located on Rt 25 in Rumney, about 8 miles west of I93 off exit 26, in a rest area and information station. You’ll pass the world famous Polar Caves on the way there.
The Baker River is a quiet waterway about 36 miles long with its headwaters originating on the south side of Mount Moosilauke (4800 feet). It parallels Rt25 in Rumney before entering Plymouth and emptying into the Pemigewasset River.
To learn the full story of Thomas Baker we’ll need to go back 8 years before the event on the marker to 1704 and the town of Deerfield Massachusetts. It was there that a key event in Queen Anne’s War would occur and chart Baker’s course in life. The Deerfield Massacre.
At dawn on leap day, February 29th 1704, the settlement at Deerfield came under attack from a force of 300-400 Indians and their French commanders. Two Garrisons protected the town, one surrounded by a high palisade. Fearing attacks, many residents spent their nights within the garrison walls. The attack force stealthily approached the town and climbed snow drifts to get inside the palisade and open the gates. The massacre was on. As dawn broke hatchets fell and guns fired. The Indians ransacked and burned homes lighting up the skies and alerting settlements to the south.
The pattern would be the same as befell Hanah Dustin from Haverhill 7 years earlier: Strike at dawn, pillage, burn the town, take captives and escape north. The town garrisons and militia put up a valiant fight eventually driving off the attack. 48 were killed, 140 “alive at home” (wounded) and 112 people were taken captive.
Among the captives was the town minister John Williams, who would later write a book about the event The Redeemed Captive Returning to Zion and 22 year old Thomas Baker. I’ll bet you thought I forgot about him by now!
To make a long story a bit shorter, Baker was taken to Montreal. He would spend 15 months there before escaping. In May of 1705, he and 3 others managed to get clear of Montreal making their way back to Deerfield where they arrived weak and hungry on June 8th.
The Deerfield Massacre, his capture and escape would define Bakers life. Described as “somewhat rough in manner” he joined the King’s army and became a proficient scout. Commanding soldiers scouting north for Indian raiding parties would be his day to day life, and he eventually earned a commission to Lieutenant.
The Indians that raided Massachusetts and New Hampshire were using the Pemigewasset more often to make their escape. Baker was assigned 30-35 men (accounts vary) for an exploratory mission up the Connecticut River Valley and then southeast to what is currently Plymouth NH. Travelling north they went as far as what is currently Haverhill NH. On their arrival no Indians were to be seen. Striking Inland and following the terrain the party would eventually arrive in what is today Warren, NH and the Baker River.
Baker River, at the marker with Rattlesnake Mt. in the distance, 12/09
The trip down the river was uneventful until the party arrived at the confluence of the Baker River and the Pemigewasset at today’s Plymouth. There they encountered a small band of Indians who had made their home there. Baker attacked, killing many including their chief, and scattering the rest. After inspecting the village they took as many furs and supplies as they could carry, and burned the rest to the ground. They finished their journey heading south to the Merrimack, and then to Boston to report.
The marker story ends here, but Captain Baker doesn’t. In 1714, guiding negotiators to Montreal to gain the release of British Captives, Baker would meet his wife Margaret. As a baby she had been taken from Dover, NH in an Indian raid in 1689. She was given to the Catholic priests for upbringing. She married a Frenchman named LeBeau and had three children before M. LeBeau died.
She returned to Massachusetts with Baker and they were wed in 1715. He continued his scouting missions, became a local politician, and by 1735 had resettled in Margaret’s home town of Dover, NH. Captain Baker died in 1735. Mrs. Baker ran a tavern in Dover as a widow until her death in 1773.