Colonel Joel B. Baker came to East Orange in 1871 from Troy, NY where he was principal of First Ward School. He became Eastern District School's first principal in its new, brick building on the north side of Main Street near Maple Avenue and served at Eastern School until 1875 when he left to work at a Hartford, CT school. He was followed as principal of Eastern by Clarence Franklin Carroll.
Mr. Baker was born Joel Brigham Goodell in Ontario, Canada on August 9, 1833. In 1837 his parents, Jotham Weeks Goodell and Anna Bacheler (may be "Bachelor") Goodell decided to emigrate to Ohio (the family eventually went on to Washington state). Joel was only 4 and considered not healthy enough for the trip, so his father's older sister Phebe Goodell Baker and her husband Jonas Baker who lived in Lockport, NY took him in as their son. Another reason given for the informal adoption is that the Bakers were not able to have children of their own (Phebe was already 44 in 1837). Joel officially changed his name to Baker in 1860.
Joel Baker was a graduate of Wilson Academy, a NY school. He married Emily Lafler on May 23, 1854 and they had three children, William Jonas, Emma Anna, and Minnie Phebe. His pre-1863 and 1865-1870 employment history is unclear but he was elected school commissioner in Niagara County, NY in 1860. In 1863 he entered the army as a captain and when he was mustered out in June, 1865 he was a colonel. Colonel Baker died in Hartford on June 1, 1876 and is buried in Budd Cemetery, Cambria Center, Niagara County, NY. (Photo of Col. Baker's gravestone)
One of Col. Joel B Baker's descendents found letters that he had written to Emily during the Civil War and the letters were published in 1996 under the title Letters Home, Joel B Baker. More info about the Goodell family's travels to Ohio and then Washington, life in Washington state, and some info about the Baker family can be found at the following sites:
Phoebe Goodell Judson