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PAGE 54

Baker’s Transfer Tokens

by Jerry Adams T.N.S. Member #363

 

This is the story of the family that issued numerous (about 11 types) trade tokens, called “depotel tokens”, in the town of Weatherford, Texas in the late 1800’s. The name “depotel” is derived from the fact that the tokens were generally good for a trip from the train depot, to a hotel, or from the hotel to the train depot.  These early horse drawn wagons carried both human passengers and their bags, often the round trip was paid for at the depot, and a token was given to the individual for the return trip.  Many of the customers of the early “hack” drivers that used depotel tokens, were salesmen, or “drummers”.   

Much of this information is the result of interviews of the Baker family by Fred Cotton and John Coffee both of the American Vecturist Association. The Vecturist Association collects transportation tokens, a large branch of exonumia.  

 

The Baker family came to Texas from central Wisconsin in the mid 1850’s.  

Texas was a wild and woolly place in those days, full of hostile native American Indians and buffalo.  Comanche Indians and Kiowa Indians often raided the settlements of whites in the area of north Texas, and what is now southern Oklahoma. Large herds of American bison, or buffalo, ranged south from the great plains into the cross timbers area near the newly established Fort Worth and the town of Dallas.  

The Baker family settled in Corsicana, Texas, not far south of Dallas.  

Mrs. Baker ran a hotel in Corsicana, and her son’s name was Chauncey Cyrus Baker.  

During the early 1860’s, the Baker family became uneasy with the looming talk of southern rebellion, and civil war so they packed their bags, sold the hotel and returned to Wisconsin where C. C. Baker and his brother both enlisted in a newly formed Wisconsin military regiment, and spent the war years fighting for the Union.  After the war’s end, the family returned to Texas.  

Texans who had fought for the Confederacy referred disparagingly to new arrivals from the north as “carpet baggers”, but the derogatory term barely fit the Baker family, since they had lived in Texas prior to the war.   

As the Texas and Pacific railroad built westward, the family moved to Weatherford, Texas about 1879. 

 

 

When telephones arrived in Weatherford, C. C. Baker registered his wagon business phone number as 79, to commemorate the year of his arrival in the town. For years he placed an advertisement in the local newspaper for his transfer company which only had the numerals “79” in a one inch square.

C. C. Baker started his transfer business in Weatherford in 1883, selling furniture and coffins. About 1889 he also started embalming as a natural part of the business of selling coffins. They added a horse drawn hearse to their wagons, and furnished funeral services to the area of Texas as far as 90 miles west and northeast. Funerals also used his carriages, which were furnished for $5 each. 

Baker’s main competitor was a man named J. C. Piland, who also issued tokens. Piland and Baker were in competition for years, and the wagon drivers often came to blows at the train station over who would carry passengers.  

The main hotel in Weatherford for years was the Sikes House which was known for it’s fine table (food) and that was run by Mr. and Mrs. Sikes. (Mrs. Sikes was also affectionately known as “Mammy Sikes”).    

The Carson and Lewis Hotel later became a competitor to the Sikes House.

 

  One of the more profitable areas of the transfer business was hauling trunks, boxes and freight. For large loads, he had what was called a “float line," which consisted of large wide wagons, that were towed. The typical charge for these large loads hauled from the depot to a warehouse was 15¢ per hundred pounds. 

The wagons used to haul passengers and their baggage were called "buses" and, through the years, Mr. Baker had three of these operating. Each bus had the name of one of his three daughters painted on the side -- Bess, Lucy and Mary - and passengers' baggage was allocated a brass tag to ensure safe delivery. The typical  "baggage tag" was made from brass. There were originally two shapes, one square, the other was shield shaped with matching numbers on the shield and square shapes. All of the baggage tags were made by W.W. Wilcox of Chicago, as stamped on the reverse in small letters. 

 

 

Mr. Baker’s barn for the transfer operation had a large cupola on top, with a large bell, which he used to communicate with the bus drivers.  Each driver had a number, one, two or three.  The number of rings of the bell called a particular driver who was needed to respond for a hotel or depot pickup.  Often the drivers had stopped to talk, or dropped into a local saloon, or confectionery.

It is said, that C. C. Baker was one of those men, who kept his barn scrupulously clean. There was never an odour of ammonia to the barn.  His horses all were trained to go to his lot should they break loose. He had a wash rack, his equipment was always well maintained, painted. His harnesses were neat, and the brass fittings on the equipment were always shiny.  He maintained a solid place in the community, his family was of most importance to him, followed by the church. 

As the motor bus took much of the business into the early 1900’s, private cars or “jitneys”  took much of his depot to hotel business, and the role of Baker Transfer diminished.  

After his death, Mr. Baker’s son tried to keep the business afloat using motor trucks, but could not beat the competition.  He closed the business and became the Greyhound ticket agent. 

 

The token:

BAKER’S TRANSFER / WEATHERFORD / TEXAS

GOOD FOR / 25C / RIDE

Brass-round-33 millimetre diameter .

 

Some other known Baker Transfer tokens:

C. C. BAKER BUS LINE GOOD FOR A RIDE

(reverse blank)

brass-round-32 mm (holed as made)

 

BAKER’S TRANSFER. GOOD ONLY FROM HOTELS.

POSITIVELY GOOD ONLY FRO THIS TRIP. (numerals)

heavy yellow cardboard-round-39 mm (holed as made)

 

BAKER TRANSFER CO. WEATHERFORD TEXAS

GOOD TO AND FROM HOTELS

aluminum-octagonal-29 mm

 

BAKER TRANSFER CO. WEATHERFORD TEXAS

GOOD TO OR FROM HOTELS

aluminum-octagonal-29mm

 

Reference:

The Atwood-Coffee Catalogue of United States and Canadian Transportation Tokens, Fourth Edition, Volume Two” by John M. Coffee, Jr.  

 

updated: 26 May 2002

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