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Millinocket mother one of Maine’s 5,000 influenza casualties in 1918

Posted Jan. 15, 2013, at 8:43 p.m.

A recent busy day with four of my grandchildren had me thinking about great-great-aunt Lucy (Given) Baker, a relative I never met because she died on Dec. 28, 1918, in Millinocket. Her death certificate cites influenza, leading to bronchial pneumonia.

The official count of Mainers killed by the 1918 influenza epidemic was about 5,000 according to an interesting 2009 BDN story by Nok-Noi Ricker. Sources over the years agree that the disease was underreported.

Herbert J. Baker, who worked in the paper mill in Millinocket, lost his wife when Lucy died. I’m not sure how many children lost their mother, but Millinocket records show birth certificates for six children.

The 1910 Census listed Herbert and Lucy as living in Millinocket with their young daughter, Dorothy, who was born in 1908. I also found birth records for Elaine, 1910; Jean Isabel, 1912; an unnamed daughter, 1914; Herbert Henry, 1915; and Ralph, 1917.

There were other Baker families in Millinocket in 1918, but I haven’t researched whether they were related to Herbert J. Baker. I did check death records from 1908 to 1920, and did not find any of his children listed.

By 1920, the family was certainly scattered. Elaine and Ralph Baker were living in Sangerville with Harry and Thressa (Given) Steeves and children Harry; Arthur; Roy; Stanley, my grandfather; Amalia; and Randal. Thressa was a half-sister to Lucy Baker, Thressa being the daughter of Thomas Given and first wife Harriet Stein (Steen); and Lucy one of Thomas’ several children by second wife, Minnie Carson.

I don’t know if I ever knew Elaine Baker, but Ralph was one of my “uncles,” even though he was actually a half-first-cousin, twice removed. Growing up, I knew he was taken in because someone had died.

It turns out that the children’s dad, Herbert J. Baker, also lived in Sangerville during the 1920 Census. He was enumerated with the family of Clifton and Bessie Stone. Bessie died when I was young, but I remember my grandfather referring to “Aunt Bessie Stone.” Indeed, she was Lucy’s older sister, and Thressa Steeves’ half-sister.

In the 1930 Census, Ralph was listed as a Steeves in the family, but the 1940 Census lists him as Baker.

Most of the other children, I haven’t found information on. Oldest child Dorothy did marry Louis Alexander Pretsell in 1928 in Iroquois Falls, Ontario, and they had a child. Dorothy worked as a stenographer and died in 1986.

It’s possible that some of the other children were listed in census records as having the last name of whatever family took them in.

When relatives come from Canada, it’s always interesting to make note of when they came, and to where.

Clifton and Bessie (Given) Stone were in Maine by 1902, when their first child was born here. They lived first in Millinocket, where Clifton was a shoemaker. Lucy (Given) Baker came to Millinocket in 1907 from Saint John, New Brunswick,, and married Herbert Baker the next year. Harry and Thressa (Given) Steeves came to Sangerville from Saint John in 1911, and Harry worked in the woolen mill in Sangerville.

Harry Steeves’ mother and stepfather, Margaret and Miles Gould, came to Maine in 1905 and were living in Portland during the 1910 Census.

Looking for the rest of Lucy’s family reminds me of the devastation that illnesses such as flu can cause. Children grew up without their mother, and Lucy never got to meet her grandchildren. How fortunate we are in this day and age to have the option of shots for flu and pneumonia.

For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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