This family narrative was written by Ivan B. Baker, a grandson of Samuel Guinn Bittick. Ivan's parents were John Alexander Baker and Mary Lena Bittick, Samuel G.'s daughter. It appears here courtesy of Alice Dollahan, granddaughter of Ivan. Passages referring to Samuel G. and his children are in bold type on this web page. No other changes were made to the transcription by this web site.
Our Family Tree in Word RTF
OUR FAMILY TREE
Ivan B. Baker December, 1961
Iím doing this under duress. I've tried to jot down some of my memories and second-hand reports of my mother's family (Mary Lena (Bittick) Baker -- from whose family I derive my middle name); and as sketchy as it may be, what I know or my father's side (John Alexander Baker---known as Alex by the family and friends.)
My grandfather, Joe E. Baker, was a Union soldier, coming from that part of Kentucky that was Union. He was a boot, saddle and harness maker. This was an honored trade as cowboys and farmers set much store by a good saddle or a good pair of boots. Even when labor was cheap; a good cowhand got $30 per month. He would spend $30 to $50 for a good pair of boots or a fine saddle.
Grandpa Baker came through Kentucky to Oklahoma and into Texas, settling in Weatherford (30 miles from Ft. Worth), and then later in Lipan, Texas. Itís a funny thing, Weatherford which is a small town to our way of thinking grew too big for him and so he moved to Lipan, a smaller town. As I recall Lipan was only about 300 in population. His first wife gave him seven children (see below) before she died. Later grandfather remarried...his second wife had no children. Most all of his children got out away from the family hearth early. He outlived all but one of his children (Uncle Luther)...was 86 or 88 when he died. I know very little of his ancestry, except that they were in a direct line from the English.
The children by Grandpa Baker's first wife were:
(They are not listed in order of age but as I recall them):
a. Earnest Baker, an Electrical Engineer;
b. Lorena (spinster), now the Chief Librarian at the Univ. of Texas; and
c. Viola, who married Leon White, an Architect and Prof. of Architecture at the Univ. of Texas.
* * * * * * *
My father, J. Alex Baker, had a varied career. His mother died while he was quite young. My grandfather, Joe E. Baker, remarried and my father and most of his brothers ran away from home because he couldn't get along with his stepmother. He was about 13 at the time, and had only three years of grammar school. He went somewhere in west Texas to live with his older brother, Chester, who was a professional gambler and a shrewd person.
Chester paid a barber to teach my dad that trade when dad was about 16, saying it would always see him through. Then my Uncle Chester moved to Cooper, Texas where at next apprenticed my dad to a dentist for three years, as was the custom in those days. There were no dental schools in Texas or Oklahoma then and very few anywhere else. When dad finished, he went into practice at several places in Indian Territory, Oklahoma finally settling in Commanche.
Just before going to Commanche, he married a girl from Cleburne, Texas. She died in childbirth, but the baby lived and was named Chester, after dad's brother.
My dad sent Chester to live with his wife's people, the Waldrons, in Cleburne (which is about 30 miles from Ft Worth). (He is the cashier or Vice President of the Bank there.) And so dad was a young dentist and widower when he first met my mother, Mary Lena Bittick.
My mother was a comparative old maid, fully 25, when she married. She had been teaching school for five or six years, and at the time she married my dad, had been engaged to a Paul Lane. She broke her engagement and ran away with the young Doctor Baker, and they set up housekeeping in Commanche, I. T., where I was born on September 10, 1902.
My mother wanted to raise Chester as her own, but his grandparents had had him about three or four years by the time dad and mom married, and they didn't want to give him up, and dad finally agreed.
Chester used to visit us every summer. He never called mom "mother", but "Sug" (short for Sugar). They got along well, but mom and I both resented the fact that dad spoiled Chester with clothes, money, and candy. I understand this now (he only came to us once a year)---it was simply that dad saw so little and did so little for Chester that when he had the chance he tried to make up for it, and of course, it looked big to us. Chester was never really one of the family. My older brother Chester also had a boy named Chester who went to Texas A&M and graduated as an engineer. My kid brother, Frank, worshipped the ground he walked on. It was pitiful to see Frank trail after Ches, with Ches paying Frank no mind at all. Ches's intentions were perhaps good; I'm sure he was "conditioned" carefully by his grandparents. Even though he lived within 30 miles of us, he never came to see his own father, although dad was laid up for two years in bed with a bad heart before he passed away. Also while my mom was laid up he never came, although I did ask him to meet me there once and he did; however he promised he would visit her often, but never did until at her funeral. Then he mildly chided me for not letting him know sooner of her condition.
* * * * * *
To skip back to Commanche, I. T., when I was nine months old, a fire burned the entire business block in which dad had his dentist office, and we lost everything---home, furniture, office equipment, pictures, family letters, etc.
Shortly after this we moved to Texas following my grandfather. As a matter of fact, my Dad followed my Grandfather many times. My grandfather moved into Oklahoma and my Dad followed him there. My Grandfather moved into Texas and as I recall the first town we lived was somewhat near Pilot Point then we lived in Henrietta Texas. Somewhere in there my Dad gave up dentistry. He told me once that he couldnít stand working on peopleís mouths. He said they would wait until their mouths were absolutely rotten and decayed before they would come to a dentist. They would never give him a chance to do any real dental work. It was always repair work of the worst kind and so he gave it up. Since he had learned the barber trade as a young boy, he decided to go back to it, I think it was in Henrietta he started in the barber business again.
At this time my grandfather, Dr. S. G. Bittick, who had practiced medicine for many years in Oklahoma and then in Henrietta, Texas, decided to buy out a practice and drugstore on East Front Street in Ft. Worth, and move his family there.
Before moving, grandpa and my father had a long talk. Grandpa wanted to be near his only grandchild and so tried to talk my father into moving also.
Dad had been practicing for eight or nine years by this time, and was sick of dentistry. In those days dentistry was largely a matter of abstractions, as people only went to a dentist when a tooth was rotten or abscessed and they just couldnít escape the pain any longer. Dad was a small, dignified man, and was very sensitive to looks and odors. With everything gone, he decided to go back into the Barber business.
This was quite a social comedown for my mother---five out of seven barbers in those days were colored--- but Grandpa Bittick settled that by telling him that an honest barber was better than a dentist who hated his work.
So it was that Grandpa Bittick helped my father to buy a Barber shop, and sent his son, my Uncle Frank (Bittick) to dad to learn the trade. They opened a shop first at Pilot Point (a town of 2000, northwest of Dallas), next we moved to Arlington (half way between Ft., Worth and Dallas); where my brother, Frank, was born, and finally to Ft, Worth.
Just to show how towns change, my dad selected "north" Ft. Worth to settle in, and bought a shop there. Armour and Swift had bought land there and put in two of the largest Meatpacking Houses (third largest in the U.S.), so the cattle industry and the meat industry were there. It was know as Packing Town. When we used to play our opponents in football they use to call us "the Butchers" and some other names not quite as favorable. It was a busy and growing community. However, as the years went by--new and bigger roads were built just to the north of our community, and the residential section moved north with it, leaving the "north" side as an Industrial and manufacturing, community. And later, when I sold grandma's place, (I sold it to the Undertakeróthe Shannonís), the Industrial Community had moved down to and beyond Grandma's old place.
My dad was a little man, about 5í4", (wore a boy's shoe)-- very fussy about his dress--- very particular about his person --- fastidious to a fault almost--- a "DANDY" as they said in those days. He had all the sensitiveness that most little men have, and though he never took a dare, he was cocky and belligerent. Someone described him as a fighting Bantam Rooster.
Deep down in his heart he was devoted to his family, extremely affectionate, and was always hurt if either Frank or I went to bed without kissing him goodnight. But by the same token, he had unusually (so we thought) high and strict standards for us, and he had a hell of a temper when we didn't measure up, or were caught short.
He raised hell with me when I got a 99 in History (which I proudly and mistakenly showed him), and said that with very little effort I could have made 100. When I asked him in later life why. He explained that he felt that only by stretching oneís mind or muscle could one pull ahead, that too many were content to pat me on the back and say well done, and he wanted to say, "son, do better."
I mostly remember the bit of advice he gave me which I have not always followed, but whose wisdom I never doubted and want to pass on to all my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "Son, you will never regret the things you tried to do and failed half so much as you will regret the things you wanted to do, but didn't".
He had unlimited amount of energy. He rarely had any outside interest, except his lodges (W.O.W. & Oddfellows) and for a while he was a chicken fancier. He raised and showed chickens at the International Stock Shows. He always had something to occupy his time around the house. I was always interested in the house. It was built as a shot gun three rooms one after the other. Every year something was added on to it. Dad would come home late at night and get the lantern and go to work.
He always was inventing something or building something. He had an unusual high degree of manual dexterity and wanted to know what makes everything "tick". He had a phenomenal memory. I recall years later after he sold the barber shop and went into the manufacturing business he developed a series of hair tonics and face creams and to do this he had to learn the Pharmacoepia. It was a great big thick book that contained all the remedies or prescriptions that the druggists or doctors used. He memorized the "Pharmacoepia", and doctor friends who would forget a formula would call him or come to see him in the Lab to find out what certain formulas were.
When I was about eleven years of age my Dad decided to raise chickens so he bought an incubator with a hundred eggs from Sears & Roebuck. Every night he would come home and watch the incubation period and see the chicks hatch. He decided that these chickens werenít coming out fast enough so he would help them out of their shell. In the first place, nature doesnít like to be interfered with, so unfortunately he killed about half of them.
Another time, it was in the winter, and we had some baby chicks. Dad thought it was too cold for them and decided to rig up something to keep them warm. He put them all in a little pen in the kitchen and then he put a big piece of vinyl over them and put a light bulb on top of that. He thought the light bulb would heat the vinyl just enough to keep them warm. One thing he forgot, about 3:30 AM a neighbor saw the back end of our house going up in smoke. By the time the fireman got there we found out this contraption caused some sort of combustion and set the kitchen and the back end of the house on fire. This was his way of experimenting. As I recall, He was always experimenting with something. He wanted to learn. Heíd go to books. Heíd talk to friends. Heíd get ideas. We always had hundreds of U.S. government publications around the house.
We never had a piece of equipment that he didn't take apart three or four times and finally add something to it. He raised animals --- chickens, cows, dogs, trying to crossbreed animals and observe tendencies: heredity lines, etc. Although generally impatient with his family because we were mentally slower, he could be absolutely patient and nerveless when undertaking one of his experiments.
When we came to Ft. Worth, Dad had been "monkeying" around for a long time with things he would like to do and the way of hair tonics and face creams. Although the third grade was his limit in formal education, he was well educated as a Chemist (self-taught). He would spell big scientific words, but never knew how to spell or use: too, to, or two.
Having some medical and clinical training, he was interested as a barber in scalp diseases, and kept trying to find out what caused them, and their cure. He first had an amateur laboratory in mother's kitchen (the cause of a good many arguments) in Pilot Point, Arlington, and later Ft. Worth. He studied and spent every cent to buy books, instruments, and medicines.
As soon as the house at 1209 North Main St. (Ft. Worth) was built, he immediately turned the attic into a Laboratory. Later, he, Frank, and I dug out a basement and rebuilt the Lab there. In 1916 or 17 we built a complete Lab on the back of the lot (in cement) with the help of one day laborer. Dad would work all day in the shop and then keep me up, and later Frank M. to 12 and 1 am. holding the lantern so he could see to work and study. Occasionally I would doze off and he would hit his finger (first) and then rap me on the skull for going to sleep.
If my family thinks I have a tendency to run away from house work, it was probably due to this as I never got to play or swim until the big Lab was built, and I was 16 years old by that time.
When I was 16 my dad sold his shop and began to devote full time to his study -- preparations of tonics for scalp diseases. Knowing this would be slow at first, he made up a number of what we call men's cosmetics for various wholesale drug houses, sometimes under our name, and sometimes sold under the customer's label. He finally put on the market a series of products called BAKERíS BEST.
He often said if he could just get Frank and I into the business and we could get through the next 10 years, that some day the menís cosmetic field would be terrific-- that men would care about grooming their hair, etc. Certainly, this has proven true.
I believe he would have been a great scientist, had he come in contact with schooling or persons in this fie1d. Suddenly, my Dad had a stroke and was bedridden for three years. He thoroughly believed that a woman's place was in the home; yet, knowing that he hadn't long to live, he taught your grandmother all he knew from his bedside and, with this knowledge she made a good living for 25 years after he died.
It was just before the beginning of World War II, when quinine and other ingredients were beginning to be hard to get, and the business was getting too much for her, that mom sold it to Mr. Hal Collins (of Mineral -Wells fame) for enough to live on up until she passed away in 1954. Mr. Collins moved the business to Dallas, and built the business up, and today the hair tonic called BAKER'S BEST is still a big seller in the Southwest.
* * * * * * *
Mary Lena Baker, my mother, was a Bittick. She was called Molly by some and Polly by others---I never knew why. She was a diploma graduate of Kidd-Key College, a Methodist girlís school in Sherman, Texas, and taught school for five or six years before she met and married John Alex Baker.
Her father, Dr. Samuel Gwynn Bittick, was one of the few doctors with a college degree in our part of the country. His father was a prosperous farmer living near Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and although my grandfather was married and with three small children at the time, he prevailed on his father to send him to the University of Louisville Medical School. In those days, there were no vacations. You went to school for three solid years for an M.D. He returned home and then moved to Commanche, then Ryan, Ok., and then Henrietta, Texas. He lost his first wife (my grandmother, a Ewing) and married again-- Alice Fendley--who I knew as Grandma, and had three more children by her.
He practiced in Cooper, Texas and other places I can't remember. Finally, he moved to Ft. Worth where he bought a practice and drugstore on East Front Street, near the car barn. On the property was a large house set back on the lot, and up farther was my grandfather's office and surgery and a pharmacy, which he also owned and operated. In his office building was a ticket office for the Street Car Company and for the Electric train that ran between Ft. Worth and Dallas. Grandpa had what is now called an Industrial practice -- meaning he did the medical work for the company employees, plus his private practice.
At this point, my father bought a barber shop first in Arlington, where Frank Marshall was born, and then in North Ft. Worth. Grandpa loaned father the money and engineered the deal so as to be near his grandchildren.
I remember him vividly. He spoiled us royally. He didn't believe in punishing or spanking children, and while my father resented any interferences from his in-laws, he liked and respected Dr. Bittick, and was meek as a lamb around him. In fact, Dr. Bittick was more of a father to him than his own father and grandpa really alternately scolded and praised my dad as if he were his own son.
* * * * * * * * *
I must skip back at this point and retrace:
My motherís own mother was a Ewing of the Ewan (Scottish) Clan. The Ewans are part of the Scottish McLochlan clan. She and her people were reputed to be Quakers. Her children were Mary Lena, my mother; Leonard, who died without issue; Leona, (first wife of the famous Tex Rickard, promoter and gold field adventurer) deceased; and Frances or Uncle Frank, Aunt Stell's deceased husband, and father of Bernice and Doris. By his second wife, Alice Fendley (also of Scotch decent) there were: Uncle Samuel Gwynn Bittick, Jr. a veterinarian, (deceased) whose wife, Alice passed away a short time ago, and a son--Samuel Gwynn, who died at 16; Aunt Birdie (Coleman), Uncle Matt's wife and Richard's mother (she passed away in 1953); and Uncle Yandle Bittick.
I remember my Grandma Bittick (his second wife). She lived on after him for some years. Don't ever believe stepmother stories. She really did more for, and was closer to her stepchildren than to her own. I loved to visit with her and spend weekends and summers with her whenever I could. She always made special things to eat, and she scrounged around to buy or borrow books I could read. She was lonely as all the children were married except Uncle Yandle (and between his girls and his motorcycles, he wasn't home much). She treated me like a grownup and always confided in me. I didn't know for years that she was my step-grandmother, and I loved her all the more for it. She was an avid reader, and I think guided my reading habits by just laying books around where I would notice them.
My Grandfather Bittick (Dr. S.G. Bittick) was a family physician and away at all hours. Piecing together the family stories from different sources, I found that he was of English and Welsh descent (the name Bittick is probably chopped off from some longer Welsh name. I meant to check this in Burkes Register when I was in England, but didnít get around to it.)
There were two Bittick brothers (Frances and Samuel) who came to this country
Through Grandfather Bittick's first wife, we inherit our Scotch ancestry. Through her ancestors we are related to the founders of the Disciples of Christ (called Campbellites---after Campbell, the founder, who split off from the Baptists). My mother's second or third cousins, Addison and Randolph Clarke -- both Disciples Preachers -- founded Add-Ran College at Waco, which was later moved to Ft. Worth and called T.C.U. Paul and Ivan used to play on the campus---chasing and retrieving footballs for Sammy Baugh and others.
There is quite a mixture in the Bittick side. My grandpa's (Dr. S.G. Bittick) own mother was a Choctaw Indian, and we had oil rights as a result of this, but Grandpa's papers were destroyed in a fire and he could never legally establish the family claim. There is evidence also of German and Dutch ancestry, of which our family historians are sure of, but none could furnish any evidence except to say Aunt Sophy (?) was Dutch, or Aunt Susie (?) was this.
Grandpa Bittick was firmly convinced that I would study law and my brother, Frank, medicine. He discussed this with me many times when I was too small to know what he was talking about. And such was his determination, if he had lived, we probably would have, too. I can remember setting on a bench on the drugstore porch and listening to him tell my Uncle Leonard, "You've got nobody and if anything happens to me, you see that Ivan goes to Law School and send Frank back to my old Medical School. Uncle Leonard, who was fat and jolly, and would promise anything, said, "Yes, pa, I sure will" (Uncle Len was single then and home on vacation. He was a Postal Clerk in Minneapolis or St. Paul. He always gave me things for Christmas that my folks wouldn't---such as a knife, rifles, and such things that mom and dad thought I was too little for).
In fact, I kept this memory, reinforced by all my Aunts and Uncles up, through High School Graduation, when in my senior year I decided to go into YMCA work.
* * * * * * * *
My second Cousin, Judge Ewing Boyd, of Houston, who was mother's cousin through her own mother, is the family historian, and if he can ever be persuaded to write the family history, much more of this will come out. (After this was written, Judge Ewing died without writing anything down)
Also a Ewing, whose first name I have forgotten, has written the family history and there is a copy in the Library of Congress.
* * * * * * * *
As I write, I find that one thing keeps reminding me of something else. As I think of my parents, I also keep thinking of your Grandma Campisi. Her life would make a good book, if I could only write.
Joseph and Giovanna Campisi were from a small fishing village named San ?? near the large town of Palermo, Sicily, Italy. He was a Barber in the little village near Palermo. First your Grandpa Campisi came over, leaving your grandma and their two children (your mother and your Aunt Jenny), and he worked in Washington D.C. for two or three years saving his money so he could send for his wife. She, your mom, and your Aunt Jenny came via ship. It was the cheapest kind or quarters, cramped, etc. Your mom was just past three, not quite four.
They stayed with your Grandpa's cousin in Washington, D C. (who had his own Barber Shop) for a while, but came on to Chicago where Grandma Campisi had two brothers Uncle Tony and Uncle Frank Decaro (?), and a sister, your Aunt Bongiorno. There were some stepbrothers and sisters who stayed in Italy, and one who came over and settled in Louisiana.
Your grandpa Campisi bought a barber shop in Chicago but didn't stay in this country too long. He had asthma and the doctors said he should return to Italy to a warmer climate. He died there of TB when your Uncle Chuck was still an infant. Thus grandma Campisi was left alone in this country speaking almost no English and having no income or trade.
Your mother was the oldest, about 10 when her father died, and then there was Aunt Jenny, Aunt Sadie, Aunt Grace and Uncle Chuck to support. Also Grandma's mother was living with them at the time. She was able to eke out a bare existence by doing tailoring at home, and then later Italian Embroidery through the Eli Bates settlement House. She was Catholic and your mom and Aunt Jenny were confirmed in the Roman Catholic faith. During this time things became harder and harder, and the Priest and Sisters kept coming for money, etc., no help or sympathy of any kind. When things were at their lowest ebb, Dr, Norman Barr, head of Olivett Institute, came to see her and brought food and clothing, etc. He did not introduce himself as a minister or even ask her to attend his church. It was quite a while before your grandma knew who he was. Olivett was an Institutional Church with many activities, such as music lessons, clubs, etc., and through Dr. Barr your mom and Aunt Jenny studied music, and he was instrumental in putting them in touch with other persons and agencies so that Grandma was able to get scholarships, etc. and financial help to put Aunt Jenny and your mom through high school, and your mom through the Chicago Kindergarten College (Now a part of Northwestern Univ.)
Your grandma never had enough money to know where next weeks income was going to come from. As soon as the girls began earning money, your mom and I got married, and your Aunt Sadie got married, so she never had much. When she passed away, she left a trunk, which had over $2000 in it, mostly in small bills and a few $5 gold pieces, and small change. As poor as she was, she put aside all she possibly could from the money all the children contributed to the family in their part time after school work. Up to that time your mom and I had never been able to save anything, but when we saw what your grandmother had been able to do (the family never knew about the trunk until after she died), mom and I started saving. I've told you kids this before, "no matter how little you have, you can put aside something, if only a dime, and it does mount up---we know". Mom has finally got the but when she saw all that was typed and so she will correct and add to this account.
* * * * * * * *
I am going to add to dad's material, but I shall put it in the first person.
Through the help of some friends who knew my eagerness to become a school teacher (this idea had grown with me ever since I could remember), I was given a scholarship to the Chicago Kindergarten Institute, located then on Rush St., but no longer in existence. There I spent two of the happiest years in training.
After graduation, my first position was at the Stickney School, near the Edgewater Beach Hotel. The Kindergarten children came from the wealthy families around that area. What I was mostly interested in was to work with children of the very low income groups. After one year at Stickney, my big chance came with an offer from Erie Neighborhood House as assistant kindergarten teacher to Miss Florence Towne. Now I was happy, feet fully dedicated to my work and had all the intentions of making this my life work. But I had not counted on meeting Ivan Bittick Baker. He was going to the Y M C A College, now called George Williams, and also at the Chicago University, and working part tire at Erie Chapel as a boy's worker.
He was a very lonesome young man that Christmas, December, 1921, so far away from his family and home in Texas. He asked me for a date. We went to the Chicago Theatre on Christmas Eve, and from then on he worked very fast. On February 4th, 1922, he proposed. I remember that date so vividly because it was my mother's birthday. She was ill in bed and I broke the news to her that night. Aunt Bongiorno who lived below us, took a real liking to this young man, and did all she could to persuade my mother that a long engagement was foolish. So on March 23, 1922, we were married. We lived with my mother for several months and my salary went to her. When I discovered we were going to be blessed with a child, we decided to find an apartment of our own. After Ivan II was born, dad felt obligated to quit his college studies and find a full time job. I made up my mind right then and there that I would not be happy until dad would get his degree from the Chicago University.
Not until after the second child came and was four years old did we realize our dream...Ivan was five, and Paul four. We became resident workers of Samaritan Neighborhood House. I had the Kindergarten class, taking our two boys with me each morning. This was very convenient as we lived upstairs in the same building where I taught. Dad went to Chicago Univ. days and worked with the settlement boys evenings, teaching basketball, football, etc.
Being harnessed with a wife and two children didn't seem to hurt dad. His grades were much better than they had been before we were married. He made the "A" Club and received a cash award for writing an excellent paper. This cash enabled us to buy some new clothes to attend the graduation exercises.
Dad accepted a position in Albany, New York as Program Secretary in the Y M C A there. It was while in Albany that the depression hit us. Joann was born on March 5, 1933, and we were so over-joyed at having a daughter that the depression didn't bother us too much. Time came though when we had to sell all our belongings at an auction sale, and move our family to Ft. Worth, Texas. We lived with grandma a few months, then found a little apartment near T.C.U. It was walking distance to the T.C.U. Stadium, and the boys used to find a way to get in and see the football games.
After several moves, we found ourselves in Springfield, Illinois when the Second World War broke out. Ivan, Paul and Dad all went overseas in the armed services for two years. Dad came home a Lt. Colonel, and later became a full Colonel, after serving in the Korean War.
In 1952 Ivan II accepted a position as Science Instructor in the Public School System of Park Forest. It was at our first visit to Park Forest that we decided to buy a house, our first, that was in the process of being built. It was just two doors away from Ivan Alex's home. These last eight years have been very happy years. I 've kept busy doing part-time teaching at the Co-op Nursery School here. Iíll be 62 on my next birthday. Your Aunt Joann passed away in June of 1962 at the age of thirty and although we miss her, she will always live in our hearts. You have all been a great comfort to us. We are now looking forward to following our grandchildrenís careers but now matter what field you choose, I am sure you will always do your best. I love you all very very much. Gram
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