The Gates Legacy
Colonel Edward J. Baker & The Norris Family
St. Charles, Illinois
St. Charles wouldn't be what it is today without the generous contributions of the Gates, Baker & Norris Families.
They have shared their wealth with the community.
Following is a brief outline of how the families fit together and some of their many contributions.
Colonel Edward J. Baker and Dellora Angell Norris inherited substantial fortunes from Dellora Baker Gates, wife of John Gates.
John Gates, originally from Turner Junction, (West Chicago) made part of that fortune selling barbed wire invented by Joseph Glidden, of DeKalb.
Here's a brief history of how the families fit together.
Henry Warne - Hunterdon County, New Jersey prior to 1830s
Married: Charity Stires and operated a tavern, called Half-way House in Campton Hills, west of St. Charles.
Children: Had 9 children including Lucinda Warne who married Joseph F. Glidden, of DeKalb, a farmer and inventor.
Asel Avery Gates - Turner Junction (West Chicago), IL - farmed, Gatesknoll
Married: Mary Warne in 1843. ( a distant relative of Henry Warne )
Children: Had 4 sons, but all except John Warne Gates died.
Martha & Edward H. Baker - Medina County, OH - 1850's
Martha b. ?, d. 1898; Edward b.?, died circa 1901
Children: Dellora, Edward John & Lavern
Dellora Baker married John W. Gates. John eventually sold barbed wire invented by Glidden. Between that income, other endeavours, and oil investments which lead to Texaco Oil Company, they became wealthy.
Read the book, Bet a Million Gates to learn more about this interesting man.
Dellora Baker and her husband, John W. Gates, shared their wealth with St. Charles relatives. They were especially close to Dellora's brother's child, Henry Rockwell Baker, son of Edward John Baker, who was their only nephew; and Dellora's niece and namesake, Dellora Frances Angell who was born in 1903 to Dellora's sister, Lavern and her husband, Robert Frank Angell.
Dellora Angell Norris, Niece of Colonel Edward J. Baker
Dellora Angel Norris and Colonel Baker were the only two heirs to the Gates fortune as Henry Rockwell Baker died of tuberculosis in 1914.
Edward J. Baker
Among the residents of St. Charles who have taken a very active and prominent part in public affairs is EDWARD J. BAKER, who has made his home here throughout life, for he was born in St. Charles on the 30th of September, 1868. His father was EDWARD BAKER, a native of New York, who came to this state when young and located in Kane County. During his boyhood our subject attended the west side school of St. Charles, his first teacher being BELLE KELLY. He continued a pupil in the public schools until nineteen years of age and later pursued a commercial course at Bryant & Stratton Business College in St. Louis for one year.
Early in life Mr. Baker became familiar with agricultural pursuits, being partially reared on a farm, but on leaving school he turned his attention to commercial pursuits and for a time clerked in a hardware store in St. Charles. Subsequently he became a member of the St. Charles Mercantile Company, with which he was connected for one year. At the end of that time he was appointed inspector of grain and railroad and warehouse commissioner by Governor JOHN R. TANNER, and continued to fill that position in a most creditable and acceptable manner for ten years, serving under Governors TANNER, YATES, and DENEEN until July, 1907, when he resigned. Since then he has not actively engaged in any occupation but continues to make his home in St. Charles.
Mr. BAKER was married in that city in December, 1889 to Miss HARRIET ROCKWELL, a daughter of H.T. ROCKWELL, of St. Charles, and to them has been born one son, HENRY R., now in school. Fraternally Mr. BAKER affiliates with the Modern Woodmen of America and politically is identified with the republican party, taking a very influential part in public affairs as a recognized leader of his party in Kane county.
From: History of Kane County, Illinois by Joslyn & Joslyn 1908
How Edward J. Baker became a Colonel
He was Commissioned by Governor Roby Laffoon of Kentucky as a Kentucky Colonel in 1935 after having purchased Greyhound, Baker's beloved trotter, as a yearling in 1933. Greyhound was the winner of seventeen international records during his racing career.
Colonel Edward J. Baker
Long time Fox Valley residents may still remember Colonel Baker living in the penthouse of Baker Hotel, one of his many building projects. He died at age 90 on January 17, 1959, having spent a long career enhancing the beauty of St. Charles with his many endeavors.
Dellora Baker Gates & her husband John Warne Gates began a legacy of giving to the residents of St. Charles that has lasted through several generations. Following is a partial list of some of the contributions made by the Gates, Bakers & Norris Families.
Henry Rockwell Baker Memorial Community Center - 2nd & Walnut Street
Built on property acquired from Major Joseph S. Van Patten this was the first large contribution by Edward and Harriet Baker to the community of St. Charles. The VanPatten & Baker families were related. Major VanPatten's daughter, Mabel was the wife of Harriet Baker's brother, Frank Rockwell. The four story community center was dedicated May 1, 1926, in honor of Edward and Harriet Baker's late son, who served in World War I, as well as to all the other young men and women from St. Charles who served.
Baker Hotel was built on the site of the burned out mill on West Main Street at the Fox River. Designed by Architects Wolf, Sexton, Harper & Trueax, the elegant hotel opened June 2, 1928. The ornate brick building with tile roof is an excellent example of Spanish architecture. Baker Hotel became "The Place" to visit in the 1930s and 40s. It has since been refurbished and is again available for a variety of events. This building is on the list of National Trust for Historic Preservation. The elegant ballroom with glass lighted floor is a must see. Have a look at Baker Hotel.
Baker Memorial United Methodist Church - East Main between 3rd & 4th Ave.
Baker Memorial United Methodist Church is built on the site of the historic Ferson property and was dedicated September 1, 1954 as a memorial to the parents of Colonel Edward Baker, Edward and Martha Baker. The classic architecture of this church highlights beautiful stain glass windows.
St. Charles National Bank Building, now Old Kent Bank - West Main Street and 2nd Street (Hwy 31) was the built in 1926 as the St. Charles National Bank, by Colonel Edward J. Baker. It is a classic pink marble bank with a rich marble and hardwood interior. The construction cost was $200,000.
Municipal Building - East Main Street at the Fox River.
A magnificent tower of white Georgian Cherokee marble creates a spectacular sight each night as the dome of ever changing colored lights sparkles on the Fox River. A speaker system gently broadcasts music. Dellora and Lester Norris & Colonel Edward Baker funded construction of this wonderful structure, designed by architect R. Harold Zook, in the late 1930s, with opening day Labor Day, 1940. Be sure to stroll the area along Main Street and the River Walk to enjoy the sights and sounds. Christmas time is an extra special treat. The St.Charles Heritage Centre was housed here until recently. Watercolor prints of this beautiful building are available at the new location of the St. Charles Heritage Centre, at East Main and 3rd Streets.
Two Rivers Boy Scout Council on Route 31 was built by Lester & Dellora Norris as a tribute to their son, Lester J. (Brud) Norris who died in 1967 of a heart attack.
Main Street Bridge - first four lane bridge
John Baker Norris Recreation Center , built in 1975, was another gift of the Norris family to the community and is named for the youngest son of Dellora & Lester Norris who was killed in a car accident in 1957.
Norris Cultural Arts Center
John Gates was instrumental in having a vocational school for boys established by the State of Illinois on property west of St. Charles. He donated some $20,000 in the early 1900s to build warm homelike cottages for the boys. That facility has changed from his original concept and is now a facility for juvenile offenders surrounded by barbed wire.
DuPage County Airport (research needed)
Greyhound- Colonel Baker's Trotter
Colonel Baker's race horse, Greyhound, was a noted trotter who was also known as "The Grey Ghost". Greyhound lived many of his retirement years, in air conditioned comfort, under the care of R.C. Flannery and Dooly & Leona Putnam, at Flannery's Farm near Maple Park. He was honored as Horse of the Century after his death in 1965. He was 32 years old when he died in 1965 and is buried at Baker's Red Gate Farm.
The Norris family also maintained activities in Naples, Florida.
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