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.