W2921 TO REV. THOMAS BAKER from his son David Bogue Baker
Dec 17 1856
To: Rev. Thomas Baker, Newmarket, Canada West
From: Mankato, Minnesota, U.S.A.
My Dear Father,
Suposing [sic]1 you would be anxious to hear from me I
write the present Epistle to inform you that I am fast
improving in health2 and also to give you a more detailed
account of an expedition strongly hinted at in my last. In the years 1852 & 3 Dodgson and I commenced gathering specimens of birds, and were very successful in obtaining fine ones, Turkeys [,] ducks [,] gees [sic] [,] Pelican [,]
swan &c. But for want of means to transport them from place to place and our suit being anything but rain proof we lost all our labor. And our only reward was the Experience we had gained at a dear rate. Our object then was only to obtain birds and Animals suficient [sic] for the nucleus of
a Museum on which we or others might build at leisure as we intended making them a present to some liberal institution in Canada.
Finding our efforts unprofitable, led to the discovery of a great secret. That science and poverty were
incompatible. And we deemed it adviseable [sic] to travel East in search of some Lucrative occupation--but at the same time resolved to make our arrival at the Mississippi, we took lodgings in a private boarding House that could boast a good library for the West. Here we fell in with the Patent
office report on Agriculum for 1851 in which we found a very interesting Essay by Prof. S. F. Baird on the Ruminating animals of North America and their susceptibility of
domestication. Knowing the high standing of Prof. Baird--the honorable position he held in the Smithsonian Institute we placed every confidence in his report.
We were astonished to find that there existed so many whose size and order [seeming?] so important so little known. From that time we began to entertain ideas of a nobler cause. That of producing a work addapted [sic] to the words of the people. To this End money was to be raised sufficient to purchase a homestead and to outfit us as Naturalists. And we now have the satisfaction of seeing its
accomplishment drawing to a close. We shall go North by way of Pembina and Selkirk Settlements on the Red River of the North--spending our first winter somewhere in the vicinity of the latter. Then by taking an early start the following Spring we shall be able to reach Fort Resolution on Great Slave Lake in the fore part of July in time to make the necessary preparations for an Arctic winter. Are you acquainted with any member of the Hudson's Bay Co.? I
should like to obtain a letter of introduction to Sir George Simpson the Governor. I think we could obtain some
assistance from him. Our object in going North is to
perform the hardest part of our task first.
I should like you to keep Cold Springs untill [sic] I see you [;] I think I could buy it [,] property is rising in
value very fast here so that I think in three or four years I could raise sufficient to purchase it. I do not like to
see it go out of the family.3
I have great hopes of our success in out Town site [;]I am going out to finish the survey of it and to get it
recorded as soon as my health will admit of it with safety.
There is no very great risk attending out Expedition except for the Sioux and we speak their Language. And by being ready to start in July we shall be in time to go with the train of Mr. Kitson a trader at Pembina (last summer he was down with 77 Coat loads of fur) who will then be ready to return.
By spending our first winter in Selkirk we shall be
able to form an extensive acquaintance with Members of the H.B. Co. from whom we may need assistance,--and also gather an amount of valuable information from Voyageurs who have spent most of their lives in the far N.W. We could start with a large company as many wish to accompany us but we
prefer to go alone and if we need assistance hire
Experienced Voyageurs after we arrive at the field of
apperation [sic],--by going alone we avoid all disputes and difficulties. As Dodgson and I never have any. I think our plans are so feasible that you can, with safety countenance them with your best wishes and council.
Our most sanguine Expectations do not carry us so far as to hope for riches beside those of Audubon and Backman. But still we trust that by patient perseverance in a steady course to arrive at an honorable goal. Do not answer me in a disponding [sic] way [;] if you do, let there be a mixture
of kind Encouragement also similar to what I receive from my old Lector. Consider that great results have often sprung from small causes. Even as small as 5 feet 7 in.
When at work on Government Surveys we often had to make very large walks in one instance I walked nearly 60 miles. And though out with three different Companies I allways
[sic] received the appreciation of "the toughest one in the Crowd." Do not consider this Egotistical but consider it a true report made by a son to his father to convince him if
possible that he is physically able to accomplish what any other man could. And I trust that by the aid of the Divine Power as I grow older to grow better and make rapid strides of improvement mutually as to fit me for usefulness here and enjoyously hereafter. Remember me to Mrs. Baker and
Mary and to all inquiring friends Especially Uncle Lilly
(should you see him).
And believe me to be
Your very Affec't Son
[David Bogue Baker]
Rev. T. Baker
New Market [sic], Canada West
1 The original document contains errors which have been preserved during transcription. Changes to punctuation are indicated by [ ].
2 David died near Mankato on April 11, 1857, of tuberculosis (W2925). See also W2896.
3 Around the time of David's death, his brother James Alfred Baker moved to Cold Springs farm with his wife Charlotte (Puckridge) Baker and their three children. They had a total of seven children together before Charlotte's death, likely after 1864. See W2960.