Caroline B. (Bake)

After four boys in a row, the birth of Caroline Baker Littlepage on 2 January, 1843 must have been such a joy to Caroline that she gave the child her name. Initially she was called Baker, but that soon was shortened to Bake. And Bake she will be throughout Caroline’s journal.1 Bake’s birthday was not noted in any of the available family documents. Caroline has entries on three of her birthdays and fails to mention them; odd, as she mentions many other birthdays.2

Of Bake’s childhood we only have what is written by her older sister Rose when Bake was 10. Bake appears as one might expect in Rose’s eyes. As befits her age Bake, attends school with her brothers at their Uncle Edmund’s. But Rose cannot help commenting, “Words here too feeble to express my delight at the idea of her going to a strict teacher again.” Bake attends church regularly with her family. While Rose notes without comment of making a mousdelain (sic) dress for Bake she also notes that Bake is learning to sew herself, assisting her at one point and in November making a pair of pants for for their “servant” Charles.3 Bake is also developing the social graces by overnight visiting with school mates and family. Rose does not mention Bake helping with the other major domestic chore, meals. But Caroline might have been more concerned with preparing her elder daughters for housekeeping responsibilities rather than her 10 year-old.4

Like most of the Littlepages, Bake is frequently reported sick. But Rose does not provide enough detail to determine if she is subject to the intermittent fevers and chills that plague the family. Bake is reported as “too unwell” to go to school in early May, 1853. On the 10th Bake is mentioned as staying home from school with “pain in her knees.” With more sisterly affection Rose continues, “We call her Grandma now more frequently than anything else.” Again on 11 July, Bake is “still quite sick.” Rose gives no details about the nature of her illness, but the following day comments, “Bake is still in the cradle.” A couple days later Rose reports that she has improved slowly. But it is the 18th before Rose reports Bake “up and walking about a little.” Rose’s health improved enough the next week to fall victim to a honeybee hive accident that stung “Baker and Ed not less than fifty times.” 5

The only unusual entry about Bake at age ten is the comment by Rose on 27 October that she has been unable to attend school “all during the week for want of shoes.” On 7 November Rose writes that “Bake has been quite unwell for several days with a cold. She hasn’t been to school for more than a fortnight.” Five days later Rose notes that Mr. Wilcher made “a pair (of shoes) for Bake this morning.” 6

With the close of Rose’s diary we lose tract of Bake until she appears in Caroline’s journal. By then big sister Molly is living in Henrico with three daughters of her own. Rose has been dead nine years. Her father lies buried a stone’s throw from Woodbury. Bake, now 21, must watch the river for Union gunboats and the road for soldiers, deserters, and stragglers. It is pointless to dwell on which of the young men in her acquaintance will die next; but she probably does. As the eldest daughter at home she would share responsibly for raising her two teenage sisters and running the household. But she might also be wondering if she will ever have a household of her own.

  1. Junius referred to her only once in 1848, as Baker. Rose four years later occasionally referred to her as Baker, but most of the time it was Bake.  (back)
  2. Caroline is noted as 7 in the 1850 U.S. Census, and 17 in 1860. She “loses” two years in the 1870 census. The next available census is 1900 where her lost years were found and she provided her birth month. Her remaining censuses are consistent. Her day of birth is from her tombstone.  (back)
  3. Male slaves were commonly give one new pair of pants at the beginning of each year. These were either from homespun cloth or osnaburg.  (back)
  4. Mary Elizabeth (Molly) will marry Garland Hanes in February the following year. Rose was already planning her wedding clothes, sadly, clothes she will never need.  (back)
  5. If Rose seemed a bit dismissive of Bake’s health issues it should be remembered that their mother had been bedridden for months after the birth of her last child, Helen May, who had just died that June. And the day following the honeybee incident her brother’s wife Mag gave difficult birth to the first of the next generation of Littlepages. Illness and the prospect of death were ever present, even with a doctor in the family.  (back)
  6. ???  (back)