In northwestern Ohio is a town of about two thousand people,
called Swanton. It is located in Fulton County and is situated on
the New York Central Railroad running between Toledo on Lake Erie
to the east and Chicago on Lake Michigan to the west.
In memories of many threshermen and those interested in
threshing machine history the name Swanton will always be
synonomous with Abner D. Baker and the A. D. Baker Company which he
Abner D. Baker was born March 17th, 1861, in Knox County, Ohio.
When fifteen years of age he moved with his parents to a farm
located a few miles east of Swanton. Although he acquired only a
common school education he developed a natural mechanical ability
and an unusual interest in steam engines. When he was twenty-three
years old he went to Akron where he spent the next three years as a
machinist at the Empire Reaper Works. The following year he was
employed by the Erie City Iron Works in Pennsylvania. Another three
months were spent at the Frontier Iron Works at Detroit before he
returned to his father’s farm.
Here in 1888 he established a repair shop. A prosperous business
developed, repairing the many new machines which were coming into
use on the farms. This also included the threshing machinery used
by the local custom threshermen. In 1895 he moved his shop to
Swanton to be closer to required facilities.
This period was the development stage of the American Steam
Traction and to A. D. Baker with his interest in steam engines, it
was a period of great learning. These years of working on many
makes of steam traction engines involving the ideas of many
designers and inventors, gave Abner D. Baker a splendid chance to
observe and distinguish the good features from the bad. So, it was
only natural that he should from his own experiences and interest
decide what features and designs would go to make up a most
desirable steam traction engine.
In 1898, we see Abner D. Baker with his idea for a better
traction engine, approaching a Toledo bank to obtain a loan which
would enable him to build one, thereby proving or disproving his
theories! At first the bank turned him down but later when his
friend F. E. Pilliod signed the note with him, the bank agrees to
let him have the money.
This enables him to start work on the patterns and machine work
required. The boiler was purchased from an established boiler shop.
Before long we see the new creation a 16 horse steam traction
engine bearing the name ‘BAKER’.
Soon after its completion a purchaser was found who had the
necessary ready cash. Now with the money from the first sale he is
able to repay the bank loan and have enough left to plan on
Only one engine was built in 1898, to be followed by two more
each year during 1899 and 1900. All these engines were easily
disposed of in the immediate neighborhood which led to the belief
that it could be successfully manufactured on a large scale.
With this thought in mind, the company which had been founded in
1898 was incorporated in December 1900 as The A. D. Baker Company
and was capitalized for $150,000. Mr. Baker served as president at
various times but was the Plant Superintendent for the life of the
company. His friend, F. E. Pilliod, was also interested in the
company and served in the capacities of secretary, treasurer, as
well as being General Manager. Others who also had money invested
in the company served in various capacities as well as on the board