Friday, 16 September 2011

Rev Thomas Baker, Congregational Church

Thomas Baker was born January 24, 1796 in Portsea, England. He was the son of a captain in the British Merchant Marines and when he was just 9 years old, he applied for commission in the Royal Navy. By age 11, Thomas went to sea as a midshipman on board the HMS Antelope. While in the Royal Navy, Baker continued his studies.

Baker was later rewarded for his service during the Napoleonic Wars and received several promotions as a result. Thomas served as midshipman on the frigate HMS St. Lawrence during the war of 1812. The ship weighed 3200 tons, and had 120 guns and was the largest freshwater sailing vessel at the time. Baker and the rest of the crew sailed out of Kingston on October 15, 1814. By 1815, Baker had received his lieutenant's commission

Thomas Baker withdrew from active service in 1817 and turned his studies to the Clergy. He became an ordained minister in the Congregational Church. In 1835, Baker accepted an appointment from the London Missionary Society in Canada. He and his wife, Sarah (Hampson), and their eight children emigrated to Canada, settling in Kingston. In 1846 Baker accepted a post in Brantford. Sadly, Sarah and their eldest daughter, Harriett Wilkes died in 1847. In 1848, Baker re-married. His new bride, 13 years his junior, was Mary-Jane McIlwaine of Brantford. Mary-Jane and Thomas had one child together, daughter Mary-Jane Baker in October 1849. Mary-Jane was doted on. She later married Isaac McQuesten, a lawyer in Hamilton. Mary Baker and Isaac McQuesten lived at Whitehern in Hamilton.

As a minister in the Congregational Church, Baker was very strict and demanded a strict adherence to his own moral and social convictions. As a leader, he combined his  military training with his religious convictions. Baker first ministered in Paris and then at First Congregational Church in Brantford. The church was located at Victoria Square. Throughout his life, Baker was a prolific writer. It is evident from his writings that he was a highly principled and inflexible pastor, one who and meted out disciplinary measures with military vigour.

Thomas Baker was a staunch defender of women's rights. He openly defended the rights of women to participate in church meetings and politics. His daughter Mary Baker McQuesten was head of the Women’s Missionary Society. After a few years of ministering in Brantford, Baker accepted a call to Newmarket, Ontario, where his declining health forced him to resign in 1858.

Following the death of his second wife, Mary-Jane, in 1882, Baker spent a great deal of time with his beloved daughter Mary Baker McQuesten at her home, Whitehern, in Hamilton. Thomas Baker died on March 29, 1887. He and Mary-Jane McIlwaine are buried together in the McQuesten family plot in Hamilton Cemetery. Their Monumental Inscription reads:

In memory of MARY JANE MCILWAINE wife of the Rev THOMAS BAKER born Donegal, Ireland 17 May 1809 died in Hamilton 12 August 1882. Also THOMAS BAKER Commander R.N. and for many years Congregational Minister. Born in Portsea Hants 24 January 1796, died in Hamilton 29 March 1887.

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