Amelia I., or Amelia A., Baker, always known as ‘Millie’ Baker, is believed to have been born in Minnesota in the United States of America on 23rd December 1887. Although her family background is not known, she was formally adopted by Alfred George and Mary Anne Baker, a childless couple who married in December 1880. Her father, who had been born in England, was a veteran of the American Civil War, having served with the 61st New York Infantry in the Union army, and then became a marine engineer. Her mother had been born in Ireland. The family resided at 2209. Minnesota Avenue, Park Point, Duluth, Minnesota.
Millie Baker was gifted with a beautiful singing voice and studied music under George L. Tyler, a renowned local singing and voice teacher, before moving to Chicago, Illinois, to further her music studies in 1904. In 1905, she went to New York City and joined the Weber Musical Company, and later the Charles Frohman Company. On the 23rd April 1907, she married Alexander Oliver Lynch, variously described as a musician and working in the advertising business, in New York City.
On the 8th June 1909, her father died with Millie and her mother at his bedside, and it is believed that shortly after this, Millie went to Paris, France, to further her career. Nothing further is known of her marriage to Alexander Lynch, but it seems likely that they divorced or were otherwise estranged by this time. Millie had high hopes of becoming a famous singer and performing with the
Opera Comique in Paris, and was studying under the Marquis de Trabadelo in Paris and also in Spain.
In November 1914, Millie returned to the United States of America on board the
S.S. Baltic, and travelled to Duluth to spend Christmas with her mother. In January 1915, she travelled to New York and spent some months there, presumably in furtherance of her career. She resided at 621. 5th Avenue, New York. On deciding to return to Paris, she booked a saloon class ticket - number 46059, to Liverpool on the
Lusitania. While staying in New York, she made the acquaintance of Mr. C.F. Williamson, who was an art dealer of some note. It is possible that Millie knew him in Paris, as he often travelled there in connection with his trade. Mr. Williamson and Millie decided to return to Europe together, and were booked on the same ticket on the
Lusitania, which was scheduled to sail from New York on the morning of 1st May 1915.
Arriving at the Cunard berth, Pier 54, in New York harbour on the morning of that date, she boarded the liner and was escorted to room B38, which was under the personal supervision of First Class Bedroom Steward James Grant, who came from West Derby, a suburb of Liverpool. Mr. Williamson was escorted to room B34, which was directly across the passageway. Also on board was Charles Frohman, with whose theatrical company Millie had performed with some years previously.
The vessel’s departure was delayed until the early afternoon because she had to take on board passenger crew and cargo from the Anchor Liner
Cameronia requisitioned at the end of April for war service by the British Admiralty and just after mid-day, she slipped into the North River and then out into the Atlantic.
On board, Millie enjoyed the company of a select group of people, among them, Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who was a personal friend of C.F. Williamson, Edward Gorer, a London art dealer, Thomas Slidell, George Ley Vernon, and his sister-in-law, Rita Jolivet, the famous actress, and Alick Scott, to name just a few.
Six days after leaving New York, Millie was dead - killed after the Cunarder was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine
U-20, within sight of the coast of southern Ireland and only hours away from her Liverpool destination. Her travelling companion, Charles F. Williamson, was also lost.
Her body was never recovered from the sea and identified afterwards and as a result, she has no known grave. She was aged 27 years.
On 9th May 1915, a communication concerning Miss Baker was sent to the Cunard office at Lynch’s Quay at Queenstown from New York, which was probably about Miss Baker although it was somewhat garbled. It stated: -
Please cable whether saloon passenger Mibric Baker, five feet three inches chestnut hair dark blue eyes prominent birth mark she is in hospital or body recovered.
Bedroom Steward Grant, who had looked after Miss Baker in room B38, did survive the sinking, however, and eventually made it back to his Liverpool home.
Mary Anne Baker lodged a claim for the loss of Millie, and her possessions, with the Mixed Claims Commission, which was a Commission, set up after the War between the United States and German Governments to deal with claims from survivors, and relatives of victims, for compensation as a result of the sinking. It was revealed at this time that Millie had life insurance for $2,000 which she had willed to her mother. The Commission granted Mary Anne Baker the sum of $15,000 for the loss of her adopted daughter’s property as a result of the sinking.
1900 U.S. Federal Census, 1905 Minnesota Territorial and State Census, U.S. Passport Applications 1795 – 1925, New York Passenger Lists 1840 – 1957, Cunard Records, Mixed Claims Commission Docket No. 225, Jim Kalafus, Mike Poirier, Deaths at Sea 1871 – 1968, PRO 22/71, PRO BT 100/345, UniLiv. PR13/6, UniLiv. D92/2/29, Duluth Public Library, Graham Maddocks, Geoff Whitfield, Stuart Williamson, Michael Poirier, Jim Kalafus, Cliff Barry, Paul Latimer.
Copyright © Peter Kelly