Many of the residents of Columbia, Missouri, knew 81-year-old “Uncle” Jess Baker as the scary old man who lived in a rickety cabin outside of town. Others had heard the story of how Uncle Jess had “saved” General John B. Gordon when he fell from his horse wounded in the battle of Gettysburg.
A newspaper reporter described Uncle Jess’s visit to town in January 1911:
“Gray and bent, an old man climbed the stairs at the city, hall yesterday and went to the headquarters' of the Charity Organization Society. He didn't have to ask where it was; he had been there before. This time it was a pair of trousers and some coal to heat the little house where he lives with his son-in-law Dave Roberts, that he wanted. His oldest son, Ben Baker, and wife are visiting there now and they have a little baby less than a month old, so the house has to be kept warm.”
Uncle Jess frustrated the Columbia townspeople and his family because he wouldn’t move into the Missouri Confederate Home in Higginsville. He insisted on continuing to live in his cabin in the woods.
“The Charity Organization society has tried to get him to go to the Confederate soldier's home, but he refuses. He was there once about a year but fell and broke his leg and came home and refuses to go back.”
Uncle Jess survived another winter, but died alone in his cabin a year later.
(See University Missourian, January 25, 1911)