Mar 202019
 

Example of the revolver Jonas Baker used to shoot himself in the temple.

Studying family history is not for the faint of heart.  This morning I found these notes from another family tree about my third great-grandfather, and upon further research discovered multiple newspaper articles that described his suicide.

The letter seemed to whitewash his dark side, while the newspaper left nothing untouched.  There were at least six stories in Indiana newspapers the day following his death.  On the day of his death, a notice appeared in the afternoon Indianapolis Star.  This is amazing to me: how did the news get from rural Whitley County to urban Indianapolis that quickly in 1890?

Jonas Baker was my great-grandmother Anna Long Hoard’s grandfather.  Her mother died when she was a small child, so I’m not sure how much contact she had with his family.  This event happened when she was thirteen and living in the same community.  I believe it impacted her.  What I know about her is that she was a temperate, shy, hard-working woman who kept her proverbial nose to the grindstone.

From an email of Susan Abentrod of Birmingham, MI, dated Aug. 10, 2006:

Jonas was one of the first permanent settlers of Whitley County. He served several terms as trustee of Washington Twp.

I have copied some of the notes of my grandfather for you below. These were in a family history prepared for my cousin, who was his first grandchild. I have copied this just as he wrote it.
From the notes of J.A.Mullendore in 1940.
Father of Elizabeth, Frank (who married a daughter of Lewis Long – Cassie), Dan, Jonas. With an ax on his shoulder and his gold wrapped in a handkerchief came from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, arriving barefooted he bought and settled on 320 acres in Washington Twp. He was a character. Was kind to some and Generous to others who praised him highly. 
He was very large and strong and much feared by many, for he drank much and was very rough. At times (was known to take men and thoroughly whip them with a brush or sprout) as he did the nite he was asleep (drinking maybe) in the back of the wagon box, while Lew Weybright was driving the team from Columbia City to his farm, and in crossing a swinging bridge over Sugar Creek, team, wagon, men and all were thrown into the water. He blamed the driver and when a farmer nearby got to the scene, he had the Driver by the neck and was lacing him plenty with a brush (the farmer was Pharis Bollinger, who related this incident to me while I was building a new bridge at the site in 1922). 
He would go to town, put his team in the barn and stay for a week or two. People that knew him in Columbia City were afraid, for where he took a notion to stay all night, he went in and went to sleep, not bothering to knock or announce himself until morning. He hated style, especially silk dresses. He was known to walk up behind and wet them.
He shot himself in the right temple with a revolver twice to commit suicide (If Dave Shoemaker (who married his daughter Marguete) did not do it for him.) He had very fine horses and was considered very prosperous, despite his faults.
He was known to ride horseback to the home of a poor settler, leave a sack of cornmeal and one of potatoes and ride away not aiming to be seen (as told to J.A.Mullendore in 1939 by Willis Miller, an old man now, who saw him do so at his parents home.)
Lightning struck of his cattle, he shook his fist, and defied Almighty to try it to him – after the storm he took the steer and the family bible to the woods and burned them on the same fire. His grandson, Frank (Jonas he was named for being like him) Mullendore stood looking at his grave and said “there’s a man who sure went to hell” (told to J.A.Mullendore by Ira Beachler in 1908 who was with him.)
Jonas came from a large family. He had brothers Henry and John, one of whom settled in Wabash Co., the other was a bum.
He is buried at Eberhard Cemetery.
Note from Allen White/ 1870 Census records: 
Real estate valued @ $12,800.00, and personal possessions valued @ $1950.00 which made him the 4th wealthiest man in Washington Twp. after Noah Swihart, Jacob Metz, and Frederick Morrell.
And now for the rest of the story, apparently inappropriate for the official history.
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