Select Baxter Genealogy
The Baxter surname derives from the occupation of baker. Its root was the Old English baecestre meaning “female baker.” The spelling later became bakstere and baxter and then generally applied to both male and female bakers.
Baxter is often considered as Scottish. A 16th century Scottish prelate was vilified as being “ane baxter’s sone” (a baker’s son). But Baxter has English origins as well.
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Scotland. The Baxter surname had appeared in Scotland by the
13th century. Early Baxters were to be found primarily along the
east coast. Baxter was and is a common name in Angus as Forfar was at one time a royal residence and the first Baxters there may well have been the royal bakers.
A Baxter family came to the Dundee area as weavers in 1728. John Baxter was the first of five generations of Baxters there in the flax and jute industry:
- his son John was a merchant
- his grandson William started a flax spinning mill at Glamis
- and his great grandson David expanded Baxter Brothers & Co. to become the largest linen producer in Britain by the mid-19th century.
Sir David Baxter and his sister Mary Ann were great benefactors to Dundee and the Baxter presence in Dundee continued well into the 20th century.
In more modern times a Baxter family at Fochabers on the river Spey in Morayshire has built a successful business creating quality
soups and produce from local suppliers. The forebear of this business was George Baxter who had opened a small grocery shop
there in 1868. Audrey Baxter, a fourth generation descendant, now runs the company.
Today the Baxter name is more prevalent around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Jim Baxter, the Scottish footballer, played for Glasgow Rangers.
England. The English census of the late 19th century would suggest that Baxter was primarily a northern English surname. The name appeared in Northumberland in the 14th and 15th centuries. More than a third of the Baxters came from the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire in 1891. However, some prominent Baxter families came from elsewhere.
Baxters have lived at Upper Bryn near Newtown in Montgomeryshire since the mid-17th century. It is thought that the Puritan divine Richard Baxter, born in Shropshire, came from this family.A 19th century descendant was George Baxter, a writer and campaigner against the Poor Laws.
William Baxter married Sarah Hull in Haslemere, Surrey in 1640. There were three generations of prominent Baxter descendants from Lewes in Sussex during the 19th century:
- John Baxter, a bookseller and printer who published Baxter’s
Bible which sold well in America
- his son George Baxter who invented a process of printing in oil colors
- and his grandson Wynne Edwin Baxter who made his name as the coroner in London at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders and the Elephant Man.
Ireland. Baxter was a Scottish implant in Ireland, mainly in Ulster. There is some suspicion that the early Baxters in Antrim may have been gallowglasses (i.e. mercenaries). The Baxter name was also to be found in county Cavan, at Ballyconnell in Templeport parish.
America. Early Baxter arrivals were English, later Scottish and Irish.
New England. Some say that the early Baxter arrivals had come from Norfolk, others from Shropshire where the Puritan divine Richard Baxter had been born.
Gregory Baxter was there in 1630 with Winthop’s fleet and made his home in Braintree, Massachusetts. His daughter Abigail married Joseph Adams in 1650 and they were the grandparents of John Adams, the second President of the United States.
George and Thomas Baxter were the forebears of the Baxters of Westchester county, New York.
Thomas had apparently arrived earlier. He was recorded as pillaging Dutch vessels and towns in the area in 1653. Their lineage was described in Frances Baxter’s 1913 book The Baxter Family: Descendants of George and Thomas Baxter.
Baxters were to be found in colonial times in Norwich, Connecticut. Elihu Baxter and his wife Tryphena moved to Gorham, Maine after the Revolutionary War was over. Their son Elihu was a distinguished doctor in the town (his home Baxter House has been preserved) and the forebear of a notable Maine family:
- his son James moved to Portland, Maine and made a fortune in the canning industry. He was mayor of Portland no fewer than six times and lived onto the grand age of 90.
- his grandson Percival was the Governor of Maine from 1921 to 1925
- and his great grandson James was a distinguished historian, winner of the Pulitzer prize for History in 1947.
Elsewhere. The Baxter arrivals here were Scottish or more likely Scots Irish.
Arthur Baxter came to Georgetown, South Carolina from Ulster in the 1730’s. His descendants spread across the South. The family history was traced in Lionel and John Baxter’s 1989 book A Baxter Family from South Carolina.
William Baxter from county Down came in 1789 and made his home in Rutherford county, North Carolina. He was described as a “thrifty and wealthy farmer.” His eldest son William was murdered in 1838 at the age of 42 while on a trip to South Carolina. But his son Elisha, a Union supporter during the Civil War, became a controversial Governor of Arkansas in 1872.
Canada. Simon Baxter from Connecticut became the first Empire Loyalist, in 1782, to settle in New Brunswick. His great great grandson John Baxter was Premier of New Brunswick from 1925 to 1931.
Two Baxter families from Cavan in Ireland – those of James and Thomas Baxter – were on McCabe’s list, enlisted in the late 1820’s to help build the Rideau canal connecting Ottawa with Kingston, Ontario. When construction finished in 1832 James and his family settled in Marlborough township on a patch of land that came to be known as Baxter’s Corners. Thomas made his home in Nepean. A descendant Monsignor Paul Baxter, born in 1934, gave his name to the elementary school in Nepean.
Jim Baxter, a diamond merchant with a checkered history, had been born to Irish immigrant parents in Ontario around 1840. He came to Montreal in the 1880’s and made his mark as a property developer. In 1892 he built the Baxter Block in downtown Montreal, said to have been the first shopping mall in Canada.
However his reputation fell apart in 1900 when he was arrested, charged and convicted of embezzling $40,000 from his bank. He was jailed for five years and died at the end of the term in 1905. His widow Helene Baxter was a passenger on the Titanic in 1912 who survived.
New Zealand. Samuel Baxter and his wife Margaret departed Antrim in 1840 and initially made their home in Melbourne. Some fifteen years later they crossed the Tasman Sea to South Island, New Zealand and settled in Naseby, Otago. Their story was told in Greg Aspinall’s 2002 book The Baxter Saga. One of their grandchildren Kenneth became an activist New Zealand trade union leader.
Select Baxter Miscellany
If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:
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Richard Baxter was a prominent English Puritan church leader of
the 17th century.
Sir David Baxter was a linen manufacturer and benefactor to the town of Dundee in the mid-19th century.
Jim Baxter was a Scottish footballer of the 1960’s generally regarded as one of the country’s finest players.
Select Baxters Today
- 33,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
- 19,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
- 25,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)
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