ABNER D. BAKER, SON of Samuel and Lydia Baker was born March 17,
1861 near Fredericktown, Knox County, Ohio. When 15 years of age he
moved with his parents to a farm a few miles east of Swanton,
He had a common school education, and when he was 23 years old
went to Akron, Ohio, and worked as a machinist in the Empire Reaper
Works about three years. From there he went to Erie, Pennsylvania,
and worked one year in the Erie City Iron Works. From there he went
to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked in the Frontier Iron Works
about three months.
At this time he returned to Lucas County and started a repair
shop on his father’s farm in the country. He conducted a
prosperous business there for a few years, and in 1895 he opened a
similar shop in Swanton.
He conducted the Swanton business as a repair shop until 1901,
when it was incorporated under the name of the A. D. Baker Company
and they engaged in the manufacture of steam traction engines. Mr.
Baker had already built five traction engines as a personal
business enterprise before he organized the stock company.
In April 1886, Mr. Baker married Ella Berkebile, and in 1891 a
son, Louis R. Baker was born who was the mechanical engineer of the
Abner D. Baker was a widower many years before his death on June
The A. D. Baker Company enjoyed many years of prosperity under
the able management of Abner and Louis Baker. In one of their most
prosperous years they built a fine modern brick home about 40 rods
south of the factory, or just across the New York Central double
Mr. Baker’s daughter-in-law warned him many times to be
careful as he generally took the short cut to the factory by
crossing the railroad. He crossed these tracks thousands of times
and never was caught, even when he was 90 years of age.
Abner D. Baker was quite active in his advanced years, going to
the factory nearly every day.
Mr. Baker’s oldest employee-Chauncey Berkebile, was a
machinist at the factory for 56 years, and was employed until the
factory was dissolved in 1953. He was a brother-in-law of Abner D.
Mr. Baker invented the radial reverse gear that bears his name,
and all good authorities on valve gears say it is the best reverse
gear ever put on a steam traction engine or a locomotive. Mr.
Baker’s exhaustive tests have proven there is great economy in
hooking up the reverse quadrant.
Mr. Baker’s high pressure steam tractor with automatic
stoker and water regulator was an interesting & economical
steam tractor. His first engine for his steam tractor was a double
simple. He next used the cross-compound type, but did not like the
indicator cards from it, so finally used the tandem compound type
with piston valves and center-crank and superheated steam. Had he
been able to completely separate the cylinder oil from the
condensed exhaust steam, this engine would have been a great
We bow our heads to a great man who has gone to his reward.