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BAKER, LORAN ELLIS, businessman, shipowner, philanthropist, and politician; b. 13 May 1831 in Yarmouth, N.S., only child of Ellis Baker and Delina Kenney; m. there first 22 Sept. 1857 Mary Eliza Bond (d. 1868), and they had one son and two daughters; m. there secondly 10 May 1870 Frances Isabella Farish (d. 1872); a second son, born of the first or second marriage, probably did not survive infancy; m. thirdly 1873 Mary Isabel Creighton in Dartmouth, N.S., and they had three sons; d. 31 Dec. 1899 on a train between New York and Boston.
After receiving his education at the Yarmouth Academy, Loran Ellis Baker worked for a time as a clerk for local merchant Dana D. Moulton. Because of his industry and high moral character, he was sought out by William H. Townsend*, a leading Yarmouth politician and businessman, who employed him as a clerk. In 1855 he entered into partnership with John Young, who provided the initial capital. The firm of Young and Baker became importers and dealers in a wide variety of merchandise, including dry goods, hardware, stationery, clothing, paints, and foodstuffs. The partners built Yarmouth’s first brick mercantile building in 1856, and a year later installed its first plank sidewalk. They were also actively involved in Yarmouth’s shipping industry, holding major interests in some ten vessels totalling 4,196 tons.
John Young withdrew from the partnership in 1864, and Baker continued on his own. His business acumen was recognized by the local citizens who established the Bank of Yarmouth in 1865. He was made a director, and ten years later was to become president, a position he held until his death. He was also a director of the Yarmouth Marine Insurance Association from 1867 to 1883 and he held shares in several other marine insurance companies. In 1870 he became the first president of the Western Counties Railway Company, established to complete the railway link from Halifax to Yarmouth through the Annapolis valley. He maintained an interest in this company well into the 1880s. Other business interests in the 1870s and 1880s included the Yarmouth Gas Light Company, Mountain Cemetery Company, Yarmouth Water Company, Yarmouth Marine Railway Company, Yarmouth Woollen Mill Company, and Cowan Gold Mining Company.
In 1868 Baker had bought a share in the well-known American clipper ship Great Republic. The Yarmouth shipping registers indicate that Baker was still involved with sailing vessels in the 1880s, but he was not among the largest shareholders of such vessels. When the Yarmouth Duck and Yarn Company was established in 1883, Baker was not a director, perhaps an indication that he foresaw the decline of Yarmouth’s sailing fleet. In 1885 he purchased the steamer Dominion and Clements Wharf from the Nova Scotia Steamship Company. He bought two more steamers the following year, and in 1887 organized the Yarmouth Steamship Company, of which he was president, managing director, and principal shareholder. This progressive company ran steamers to ports on the Bay of Fundy and the south shore of Nova Scotia, and between Yarmouth and Boston.
Baker, through the Yarmouth Steamship Company, is credited with establishing the tourist industry in Nova Scotia. In the company’s brochures he advertised the province and its charms. Realizing that suitable accommodation and entertainment would be required if tourism was to be successful, Baker in 1893 established the Grand Hotel Company, which built one of the province’s leading hostelries in Yarmouth. Three years later Bay View Park, a resort he developed, was opened. He also gave assistance to the railway link between Halifax and Yarmouth along the south shore.
In religion Baker was an Anglican and a member and vestryman of Holy Trinity Church. He was an active freemason in the Hiram Lodge, and he served on the boards of such community enterprises as the Yarmouth Seminary and the Yarmouth County Agricultural Society. In 1872 he established the Yarmouth Public Library and Museum, which included various artefacts and the town’s first free lending library with 2,500 volumes. He again demonstrated his public spirit in the 1890s when he gave Yarmouth a three-acre park.
Baker took no part in municipal, provincial, or federal politics until he was appointed on 18 Feb. 1878 to the Nova Scotia Legislative Council, where he served until his death. Although a Liberal, he reportedly had public, not partisan, interests at heart during the council’s discussions and decisions. In the weeks preceding his death, he had been mentioned as a possible successor to Nova Scotia’s lieutenant governor, Malachy Bowes Daly. Without a doubt, Loran Ellis Baker was, throughout the late 1800s, one of Yarmouth’s most prominent businessmen and citizens.
NA, RG 42, E1, 1296–98, 1300, 1439–41 (mfm. at Yarmouth County Museum and Hist. Research Library, Yarmouth, N.S.). PANS, MG 9, 194: 124; MG 100, 7, no.22; 222, no.9; 251, no.29P; RG 32, M, 108, no.2738; Vert. file, 243, no.10. Yarmouth County Museum and Hist. Research Library, Arch. files, YMS 1-11 (L. E. Baker); 1-147 (Young and Baker); YMS 4-4 (L. E. Baker and Company); 4-6 (Bank of Yarmouth); 4-7 (Exchange Bank of Yarmouth); 4-14 (Cowan Gold Mine); 4-27 (Grand Hotel); 4-60 (Western Counties Railway); 4-69 (Yarmouth Steamship Company). J. M. Lawson, Yarmouth past and present: a book of reminiscences (Yarmouth, 1902). Acadian Recorder, 1 Jan. 1900. Halifax Herald, 8 June 1898. Progress (Saint John, N.B.), 14 Oct. 1893. Yarmouth Herald, 14 March 1835; 2 May 1872; 21 Feb. 1878; 2, 9 Jan. 1900. Biographical review: this volume contains biographical sketches of leading citizens of the province of Nova Scotia, ed. Harry Piers (Boston, 1900). CPC, 1891. J. M. Lawson, Record of the shipping of Yarmouth, N.S., containing a list of vessels owned in the county of Yarmouth since its settlement in 1761 . . . (Yarmouth, 1876); Appendix to the record of shipping of Yarmouth, N.S., from 1876 to 1884 (inclusive) (Yarmouth, 1884). N.S. directory, 1864–65, 1868–69. F. W. Wallace, In the wake of the wind-ships: notes, records and biographies pertaining to the square-rigged merchant marine of British North America (Toronto, 1927). Yarmouth directory, 1890, 1895. G. S. Brown, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia: a sequel to Campbell’s history (Boston, 1888). J. R. Campbell, A history of the county of Yarmouth, in Nova Scotia (Saint John, 1876; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1972). F. W. Wallace, Wooden ships and iron men: the story of the square-rigged merchant marine of British North America, the ships, their builders and owners, and the men who sailed them (Boston, 1937; repr. Belleville, 1973). R. B. Blauveldt, “Profiles from our past,” Light Herald (Yarmouth), 27 Aug. 1970. Busy East of Canada (Sackville, N.B.), 7 (June–July 1917). G. A. Maclnnis, “Yarmouth Steamship Company,” Light Herald, 10 Jan. 1974. Vanguard (Yarmouth), 9 June 1971.