The William E. Baker Sea Shell Collection, among others he owned, was donated to the City of Ponca City in 1955 by Baker’s daughter, Cammie. As was Baker’s wish before he died, he had hoped to find a permanent appropriate home for all of his special artifacts. His overall collection includes a grouping of small and large sea shells collected in the early 1900s. With the shells are additional pieces of drift wood, coral and shell fossils. Baker also donated a number of fine American Indian artifacts from various tribes. As a boy he collected many arrow points from the late 1800s and continued this hobby in his later years adding to his collection.
United States Volunteer Engineer
Mr. Baker, born in 1875 and originally from Missouri, moved to Indian Territory to supervise the building of several cotton gins and afterward their operation. Baker chose to serve his country by sharing his talents as an engineer. He had supervised the building of cotton gins and knew about construction techniques and methods. Later he served with the 3rd Regiment U.S. Volunteer Engineers in the Spanish-American War, 1898. In addition to the volunteer organizations furnished by the States to serve in the Spanish–American War, a number of regiments were mustered in under the title of United States Volunteers by authority of acts of Congress. These acts gave the President authority to enroll 3,500 men qualified for engineering work. The official roster shows the principal companies as the following: Third Regiment, four companies at Cienfuegos with headquarters, four companies at Matanzas, and four companies at Havana. William E. Baker would have served in one of these three companies.
Historic House Museum
At the time of the Baker family donation, the entire collection was housed at the Ponca City Library in what was known as the Indian Museum. The Ponca City Indian Museum was moved from the library location to the Marland’s Grand Home site after the City purchased the historic Marland home in 1967. “The shell collection has been in storage for many years, almost forgotten. It was time to bring it out, clean it up and tell its story. The display makes a nice temporary summertime exhibit in our sunroom”, said Jayne Detten, Assistant Director of the Marland’s Grand Home and Marland Mansion locations. The shell collection will be on viewing status through August of 2019. The American Indian arrow and projective points, stone axes and hatchet heads, spear and lance points are on permanent display in the basement of the Marland’s Grand Home.
The Marland’s Grand Home is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission prices are $5.00 adults, $4.00 seniors and military, $3.00 students 7-17, and Ponca City residents are free. For more information, please see the web site at marlandgrandhome.com or call 580-767-0427.
Early 1900 Baker Shells Collection, located in the Sun Room of Marland’s Grand Home.
William E. Baker, Spanish-American War, 3rd Regiment, U.S. Volunteer Engineer