215 W German St. In 1800 John Baker, a local attorney, purchased this house, adjacent to the Rickard House. He served in Congress and the Virginia legislature as a Federalist. In 1817 he bought the New Street property that would later become the Episcopal Rectory. Elias Baker (no relation) bought the German Street house just before the Civil War and served as federal postmaster 1862- 1867. When his son Newton joined the Confederate Army, the elder Baker refused to speak to him. Newton became a physician after the war and practiced in Martinsburg. There, Newton’s son, Newton Diehl Baker, Jr., was born. He became the Secretary of War in Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet. The Martinsburg Newton D. Baker Veterans Hospital is named for him.
Backstory and Context
John Baker was a Shepherdstown lawyer. He moved to the area in 1784, buying a tract of land closer to Charles Town than to Shepherdstown. He had an illustrious career,
When Aaron Burr was brought to trial in 1807, the dazzling battery of defense lawyers, sox in all and headed by Edmund Randolph, attorney general under Washington, included 'Jack Baker, a young but experienced defense lawyer.'He was made Jefferson County’s assistant commonwealth’s attorney and served four times as the president of the Court of Trustees. He was nominated to Congress, where he fought for pensioning soldiers from the Revolution and tried to provide options for Jefferson County farmers at market by making improvements near Georgetown. Baker bought a few houses in Shepherdstown. First inheriting the property on the northwest corner of Princess and New Streets, then purchasing this German Street location from John Mark and later purchasing the Episcopal Rectory on New Street.
Kenamond, A. D.. Prominent Men of Shepherdstown During Its First 200 Years. A Jefferson County Historical Society Publication, 1963.