Reflections 

Two State Representatives Who Ran Against Each Other

Stephen Baker and Homer Augustus Nelson are both buried in the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. Baker is in Section N overlooking the beautiful Hudson River while Nelson is buried in historic Section C. Both served in New York's 12th District in the United States House of Representatives. Nelson succeeded Baker on March 4, 1863, Baker having served 1861-3. Baker was a Lincoln Republican while Nelson was a Democrat. Both served only one two-year term.

Baker was born in New York City on August 12, 1819. He was engaged in the woolen goods business for some time. He moved to Poughkeepsie in 1850, and there became active in politics.

At Poughkeepsie he was elected to the 37th Congress, serving March 4, 1861-March 3, 1863. He died enroute to California for his deteriorating health, on a train near Ogden, Utah, on June 9, 1875. He was returned to Poughkeepsie and interred here. Stephen Baker is buried one row closer to the river than this author's plot. A descendant of his still comes to the cemetery and tends to the grave with fresh flowers.

His son, Stephen Baker, Jr., was president/chair of the board of the Bank of the Manhattan Company, the earliest predecessor to Chase Bank, and was an associate of the famed tycoon John D. Rockefeller, Jr. of Pocantico Hills, NY.

More information exists on Homer Augustus Nelson. He studied law in the offices of Tallman & Dean, Varick & Eldridge, and Charles H. Ruggles. He was admitted to the New York State Bar. He practiced in Poughkeepsie, and was County Judge in Dutchess from 1855-62. At the close of his term, he declined an appointment in diplomatic service, offered by President Abraham Lincoln.

He was a veteran of the Civil War who became Colonel of the 159th NY Volunteer Infantry. He left that assignment when he took his seat in the 38th Congress. Nelson lost his reelection bid in 1864, serving only until March 3, 1865. He became a delegate to the NY State Constitutional Convention of 1867.

Homer was selected Secretary of State in 1867, serving until 1871. He later became a State Senator in New York 1882-3. He was appointed a member of the commission to revise the judiciary articles of the New York State Constitution, in 1890.
His better known cases included the contest of the Matthew Vassar will and defending the noted Jacob Sharp. He was fond of hunting and fishing and other field sports. He married but had no children.

Locally, he served on the boards of the Vassar Home for Aged Men and was Director of the Central Cross-Town Railroad of Poughkeepsie and the City Railroad Company of Poughkeepsie.

Nelson died on April 25, 1891, at age 61, and was buried at the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery. Much of the information I gleaned on Nelson was from a New York Times obituary dated April 26, 1891.

 

 

 

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