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  • Dale C. Maley

Interesting life of Della Baker

One of the most fascinating stories back in 1888 was when fourteen-year-old Della Baker ran away from home for a few days. This story caught the town's attention because she was the daughter of the Fairbury Postmaster.

Della Baker had a fascinating life experience. Her family story began with the birth of her father, William Eugene Baker, in 1839 in Canandaigua, New York. William Baker was the son of Increase Baker (1807-1876) and Julia Canfield (1817-1904). William Baker moved with his parents from New York to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he was a young boy.


When William Baker was 20 years old, he moved to Livingston County to farm some land his father had purchased in Broughton and Sullivan Townships. Four years after he arrived in Livingston County, William Baker married Sarah Z. Chesebro. William was 24, and Sarah was 17 when they married. Sarah was the daughter of Saxton B. Chesebro (1819-1902) and Isabelle Harbison (1825-1912). William and Sarah Baker had seven children.


One of William and Sarah Baker's children was Stevens R. Baker (1878-1966). He was eventually elected a Judge in Livingston County. Another child was Patricia "Della" Baker. Della was born in 1874 when the family lived in Dwight.


In 1880, the William Baker family moved to Fairbury. Mr. Baker served as a Supervisor of Indian Grove Township. He was the Fairbury Postmaster under President Grover Cleveland's first administration for four years. The Baker family attended the Catholic Church in Fairbury.


In 1888, fourteen-year-old Della Baker ran away from home. The Ottawa Free Trader newspaper reported she had walked from her house in Fairbury to Weston and then on to Chenoa. At Chenoa, she bought a train ticket to Peoria, then took a train to Decatur. Her whereabouts after Decatur were unknown. The newspaper reported, "Someone had either lured her away or has given herself up too freely to French novels."


Della was found safe at a St. Louis Convent a few days later. The Sisters at the Convent were paid the $200 reward for finding her. This reward would be equal to $6,700 in today's dollars. Della was returned to Fairbury. Della resumed attending Fairbury Township High School.


Two years after she ran away from home, William Baker resigned as Postmaster. He started a four-year term as Livingston County Treasurer in Pontiac. Della remained in school at Fairbury Township High School. In March 1891, the Blade reported that Della was one of the top 20 students in the entire high school.


In 1896, Della Baker married George R. Longmyre. She was 21, and he was 32 when they married. George Longmyre was the son of pioneer Livingston County settlers David H. Longmyre (1825-1920) and Mariah Royal (1825-1911). The Longmyre family arrived in 1854 in Sullivan Township. George Longmyre farmed in Sullivan Township. George and Della Longmyre had three children.


In 1897, the first child of George and Della Longmyre was born, and they named her Constance Helen Longmyre. One year later, Emery E. Longmyre joined the family.


The third and last child of George and Della Longmyre was Ellis George Longmyre. He was born in 1900. Unfortunately, this child died at the age of two.


In 1906, George Longmyre made a trip to New Mexico. Shortly after he arrived in New Mexico, George died at the age of 43. George was buried in Pontiac's South Side Cemetery. Della was 32 years of age when she became a widow. When their father died, Constance Longmyre was nine, and Emery was eight. The family continued to live in Pontiac.


Della married Peter Joseph Schumm in 1910 in Kalispell, Montana. Peter was 32, and Della was 36 when they married. They had no children. Della attended and graduated from State Normal College in Montana and became a teacher for 23 years there.


After just two years of marriage, Peter J. Schumm died in Montana at the age of 34. Della was 38 when her second husband died. His death certificate reported that he died from an accidental gunshot. After Peter died, Della continued teaching school in Montana.


On April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on the German Empire, nearly three years after World War I started. Emery Longmyre enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April 1917. Emery served on the USS Brooklyn as a Seaman 2nd Class.


Constance Longmyre, daughter of Della, married Mark P. Lyons in April of 1918 in Montana. Her brother, Emery Longmyre, could not attend her wedding because he was still serving in the U.S. Navy. Constance and Mark Lyons had no children.


World War I ended in November 1918. Emery Longmyre was released from the U.S. Navy in November 1918. Della was likely very relieved that her only living son had survived World War I.


Constance Longmyre was only married to Mark Lyons for four years. In 1922, Constance married Gunard "Erik" Bjork in Spokane, Washington. Constance and Erik Bjork had two sons. In 1923, Della became a grandmother with the birth of Lloyd Emery Bjork (1923-1995). She became a grandmother again in 1926 with the advent of Donald Dale Bjork (1926-2004).


Emery Longmyre married Irene Murphy in Santa Rosa, California. Emery was 27, and Irene was 33 when they married. They had no children.


When 1934 began, life for Della was good. She was a schoolteacher in Montana. Della's daughter Constance was happily married to Erik Bjork and had two grandsons from their union. Her son Emery was happily married to Irene and lived in California.


Unfortunately, tragedy struck Della's family in March of 1934. Her son Emery and his wife Irene went horseback riding by William's Creek in the mountains in northern California. They went riding about eight miles east of Covelo, California. A storm caused the creek to flood. Both Emery and Irene Longmyre were drowned when they tried to cross the flooded creek. A local newspaper reported that Mr. Longmyre's body was found lodged in a tree about 2 feet above the current water level. Irene's body was found on a bank 200 feet downstream from where Emery's body was found. Emery was 36, and Irene was 42 when they drowned.


In 1944, Della was 70 years old. She moved from Montana to California to live with her daughter Constance Bjork. Della died in 1963 at the age of 89. She was buried in Palo Alto, California.


Della Baker led an interesting life. She ran away from home at age 14 but became an excellent student after she returned to Fairbury. Della eventually became a successful school teacher in Montana. Della experienced many tragic losses, including two husbands, a two-year-old son, and her grown son and his wife. She got to experience the joy of having two grandsons.

(Dale Maley's local history article is sponsored each week by Dr. Charlene Aaron)


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