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2 corrections, most recently by doug.butler - Show corrections


Another of the early landmarks of the colony has been removed by the death at the age of 83 of Mr. Arthur John Baker, which occurred at his residence at Nor- wood on Wednesday morning. He was a native of Devonshire, and received his edu- cation in that county. At 17 years of

age he entered the East India Company's service as a midshipman, and sailed from London for Calcutta in 1833. After en- countering a number of vicissitudes and re- markable escapes from fire and shipwreck, he settled in Upper Canada, where, for some time, he lived the life of a back- woodsman. He returned to England in 1837, and married in 1838. In October of that year he returned to Seymour, Upper Canada, with his wife, where he engaged in farming. in conjunction with two others, he built the Precursor, the first steamer that navigated the lakes from Toronto to Montreal, via tne St. Lawrence River, over the Rapids. He purchased land on the Rice Lake in partnership with another person, laid out a township, and built steam s6awmills. The venture was successful, but Mr. Baker, being prostrated by fever and ague, was compelled to sell out at a loss. On his recovery he went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and thence to St. John's, N.B., where he was engaged in various callings, the most important of which, was as manager of some extensive sawmills on the Muquash. River. These mills and a large general store were worked to great advantage for the London owners from 1847 to 1S50. He returned to Eng- land in 1851, and sailed in that year as supercargo for Sydney, New South Wales, in the ship Harriet. He left Sydney with his wife and family for Adelaide in the Asa Packer, and reached that port on July 11, 1853. Shortly after his arrival he was engaged as a storeman to Messrs Dacomb & Co., but was subsequently ap- pointed their traveller in the country dis- tricts. It is said that Mr. Baker was the first traveller in the soft goods line sent out in South Australia. On August 1, 1854, he was appointed clerk to H. M. Cus- toms, Port Adelaide, and held that office until February 1, 1856, when he entered into business on his own account as a stock agent at Hindmarsh-square. In June, 1856, Mr. Baker received the appoint- ment of manager of the horse department at the Burra Mines, but in consequence of his inability to dispose of his Adelaide business he was compelled to resign the appointment, and continued as before. It was in October of this year that Mr. Baker and his wife suffered a sad bereavement by the accidental drowning of their only son,

Arthur, an intelligent youth, then nearly sixteen years of age, while endeavoring to ride across the River Torrens at the Frome Bridge ford at the time of a freshet. Mr. Baker next turned hie attention to the running of omnibuses on the Bay-road, and continued this till 1858, in September of which year he joined Major Warburton's exploring party, and was out three months with them. In June, 1859, he made an- other trip to the north-west of Stuart's Creek, and on his return took up some fine country that he had dis covered, and which he afterwards sold to Mr. Philip Levi. He then went to Lang- horne's Creek, and was engaged with Mr. Frank Potts in assisting him to get out timber for the Swallow, a vessel Mr. Potts had undertaken to build for Mr. Archibald Cook. Interesting and remarkable as Mr. Baker's adventures undoubtedly were up to this point, it is his long connection with the South Australian Fire Brigade   that has rendered his name familiar throughout the land. In December, 1859, he accepted the offer made by the fire in- surance companies, through Mr. Henry Scott, or organising and working a fire brigade in Adelaide, and was appointed Superintendent of Fire Brigades on Janu- ary 1, 1860. He drew up the rules and regulations for the brigade, and drafted a short Fire Brigades Bill, which was passed through both Houses of Parliament, and was assented to by his Excellency Sir Dominick Daly on October 21, 1862. In December, 1862, he was elected councillor for Gawler ward in the Adelaide Corpora- tion, and served until 1864. In 1868 he was a candidate for the mayoralty against Mr. H. R. Fuller, but Mr. Coglin also entered the lists, and divided the votes, which gave the election to Mr. Fuller. On October 15, 1878, Mr. Baker, whose health had suffered from injuries received during twenty years' active service, received a year's leave of absence, and left for Eng- land, returning in July the following year, when he resumed duty. In September, 1879, he perfected a model for a fire escape on the Lazy-tongs principle, and presented it to the Adelaide Chamber of Manufactures. From that period until the new Fire Brigade Act (No. 273, of

1882) was passed he was constantly em- ployed, having on an average fifty calls per annum to fires within the city, whilst he also attended to and managed nine fire brigades in country towns. The new Act brought Mr. Baker's 23 years' connection with the fire brigades of the colony to an abrupt conclusion, and he retired, and did not apply to be reappointed under the new Fire Brigades Board. Mr. Baker's long public services were by this means sum- marily dispensed with. It was generally ad- mitted that Mr. Baker, in spite of very insufficient appliances, always discharged the duties devolving on him as Superin-   tendent of Fire Brigades, with promptness and intelligence. It was his proud boast that during the whole of the time he filled that position he was never reprimanded, never let a fire spread beyond the building in which it originated, and never caused the fire insurance companies a law suit. Under the operation of the Act drafted by Mr. Baker the fire brigade did excellent service to the community, and in the year 1867 this was acknowledged by the presen tation of a gold watch and silver medal to the superintendent, and like medals to the firemen. Mr. Baker was an enthusiastic member of the Hunt Ulub, which he joined at the time of its inception. On June 1, 1878, he had two ribs broken when hunt- ing, but continued to ride ail that reason, as he had charge of tiie hound*, in. the same year ;he wis made a life-member of the Adelaide Hunt Club in acknowledg ment of services rendered, and he con- tinued to ride with them until 1884. Mr. Baker was of a poetical temperament, and has left many specimens of his composi- tions, which appear in an autobiography, written some years ago, and which he dedi- cated to his children and grandchildren. Among those occurs an epitaph, which was apparently written for himself, which Included the following lines:— Rest, weary body, rest; let none died a tear; Death hath no terrors, I have nothing to fear; Then lay me at rest by the side of my son, It is what I crave most when this life ie done. In 1883 Mr. Baker was gazetted a jus- tice of tne peace, and in the same year was appointed a member of the Royal Lunacy Commission. He was also a mem- ber of the Fire Brigades Board from January, 1884, to January, 1885, when he resigned in favor of Mr. Hack. Mr. Baker was twice married, and his second wife died only a few months ago.