And the Grand Jurors aforesaid upon their oaths aforesaid do further represent that said Emory Liken Biddle, Lewis C. Walkinshaw, Roy L. Biddle, John A. Biddle, Warren H. Biddle, John Latshaw, and C.A. McCollum, in the first count of this indictment mentioned, hereinafter called defendants and William H. Baker of Independence, Missouri and J.S. Bayer of Loysburg, Pennsylvania, both now deceased and, therefore, not indicted herein but who, for the purpose of convenience, are hereinafter also referred to as defendants, throughout the period of time extending from December 11, 1923 up to and including the time of the filing of this indictment and continuously throughout the said period of time did knowingly, unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously conspire, combine, confererate, and agree together and with each other and with divers other persons, to the said Grand Jurors unknown, to comit divers and numerous offenses against the United States; that is to say:
The said defendants did knowingly, unlawfully, willfully, and feloniously conspire, combine, confererate, and agree together and with each other to place and cause to be placed in post offices of the United States, to be sent and delivered by the post office establishment of the United States and to cause to be delivered by mail of the United States, according to the direction thereon, letters, circulars, and other written and printed matter for the purpose of executing that said scheme and artifice to defraud and for obtaining money and property by means of false and fraudulent representations, pretenses and promises, described in the first count of this indictment, the allegations of which said first count descriptive of and concerning said scheme and artifice, and the pretenses and representations of the PRETENDED Jacob Baker Estate, involved in said scheme and artifice to be defrauded thereby, and are now incorporated in this count by reference and made a part hereof as if fully set forth herein....
NOTE: That is the first of many many pages restating the same facts, so I won't type the complete 120 page transcript here.
The insert below is the transcript for "Overt Acts"
1. On or about April 19th, 1934, the defendant Warren H. Biddle did go to Philadelphia, PA within the jurisdiction of this court and did then and there lodge with the Register of Wills in and for that city and county of Philadelphia, PA a spurious, forged and fraudulent instrument purporting to be the last will and testament of one Jacob Baker, deceased, dated December 27th, 1839.
2. On or about May 15th, 1934, William H. Baker went to the City of Philadelphia, PA and within the jurisdiction of this Court, to confer with the defendant Emory Liken Biddle.
3. On or about May 15th, 1934, the defendant Emory Liken Biddle and William Horace Baker did confer in the City of Philadelphia, PA, in the Commonweakth of PA, regarding the financing of the activities of the defendents.
4. The defendents did during the continuance of the said conspiracy solicit and collect money from the persons to be defrauded.
5. The defendants herein did cause to be delivered by the mail of the United States according to the directions thereon at Philadelphia, PA within the jurisdiction of this Court those three certain letters set forth in the first three counts of this indictment in the manner charged in said respective counts of the indictment.
6. On or about the 16th day of May, 1934, the defendant herein, Emory Liken Biddle, did voluntarily testify before the Register of Wills in the Orphan's Court in the City and County of Philadelphia that the defendants herein had located a tract of land in Westmoreland Co, in the State of PA, which belongs to the said Jacob Baker Estate.
These listed under overt acts listed people they had contacted by mail:
On or about the 12th day of April 1934, J.S. Bayer on behalf of Emory Liken Biddle, did sign a receipt made out to: George Shoenfelt in the sum of $5.00 for one half share of the 20% of the Baker Estate in Philadelphia.
On or about the 28th day of May 1934, the defendants herein did place in a post office of the US at Salisbury, Missouri, a circular letter dated May 1, 1934, addressed to: Mrs. Belle Shafer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
On or about the 14th day of May, 1932, the defendant herein, Emory Liken Biddle, did send a telegram addressed to: William Baker, W. Coal St, Shenandoah, PA
On or about the 29th day of March 1934, William H. Baker did prepare a letter dated March 29, 1934, addressed to Mrs. E.J. Toller, St. Louis, Missouri. Letter was mailed April 1, 1934 from Independence, Missouri.
On or about the 17th day of Nov 1933, the defendant, Emory Liken Biddle, and William H. Baker of Indpendence, Missouri did sign a written contract dated 17th Nov 1933. Witnesses that signed this contract: C.A. McCollum and Lewis C. Walkinshaw
Note: This contact gave W.H. Baker the right to file the probate of the Jacob Baker will. Dr. William Horace Baker, Independence, MO, was the genealogist for the Baker Heirs' Association. Also listed as President of the Baker Heirs' Association.
Just how long DID this Baker scam go on? The earliest one I have come across was 1894, but it has been mentioned that as early as 1860 various scams regarding the Baker family was alive and profitable.
Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette 23 September 1897
Baker Heirs Big Claim
Descendants of a Revolutionary war Soldier Claim A Big Tract in Philadelphia
An association of about 50 families in Western Pennsylvania, all of which are descendants of Jacob Baker, a Continental Army Colonel who held considerable property in this city (Philadelphia) and vicinity, shortly after the close of the Revolutionary War, have a representative here, who is endeavoring to establish legal claim to an estate valued at $6,000,000.
The section of Philadelphia which is claimed by the Baker Heirs is situated along Frankfort Avenue and is bound by Second Street and Girard Avenue. The claim aggregates about 4,500 feet frontage and has an apprximate value of $6,000,000.
The heirs base their claim on an old deed recently unearthed in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds. The document is dated May 19, 1792, and is made in the name of Jacob Baker, bachelor.
The Baker Heirs Representative, George S. Shoenfelt, claims that there is no record of transfer of this deed and for that reason he is hopeful that Jacob Baker's heirs may be able to establish a lawful claim to that estate in the courts.
The claim of the Baker heirs is interesting because of the romantic story on which it is based, Jacob Baker, the original owner of the property claimed, served as Colonel in the Continintal Army under Washington and Lafayette, and at the close of the war was paid off in script, the national currency of the time.
With his earnings, which are aggregated several thousand dollars, Baker purchased farming land on the outskirts of the old town of Philadelphia. For 10 years following the close of the revolution, Baker, and a sister Bettie, lived alone but later Bettie married one Joseph Shoenfelt, contrary to the brothers' wishes, and Baker announced his determination to disinherit her.
He however, died intestate and the sister never presented a claim to the property of the brother. Until recently (1897) there were five legal representatives of the heirs in Philadelphia working on the claim.
Attorney Shoenfelt who is now looking up the case says he will be ready to present the claims of the heirs to the courts in a short time.
End News Article; The Washington Post, In PA Archives file re: Baker Hoax/Jacob Baker.
Federal Agents Write Finis In Baker Fraud
24 Convicted in Nations' Greatest Swindle; Hero Just A Myth, 1937
Philadelphia, it was announced yesterday by the United States Postal Inspectors, belongs to the Phialdelphians and not the mythical estate of Jacob Baker, Revolutionary War Hero.
In writing "closed" at the end of one of the greatest swindle cases in history, the inspectors revealed that thousands of Americans were defrauded for years, without the possibility of reward, by racketeers who claimed the nonexistant Baker held title to $60,000,000 worth of property in the heart of Philadelphia.
Listed among the assets of the Baker estate were Independence Hall, Franklin Square, the grave of Benjamin Franklin, the US Post Office, the US Mint, the Broad Street Station of the PA Railroad, and the abutments of the Delaware River Bridge.
Membership Sold: The scheme consisted of selling memberships in leagues pledged to have the will probated. Persons by the name of Baker or Becker, were solicited for amounts varying from $1.00 to $50.00, to "have the will legalized"
A side racket was selling genealogical charts to victims which demonstrated (for a fee) their relationship to the dead hero, who was supposed to have recieved large grants for service in the Continental Army.
The postal agents learned that 44 different associations had been operating the Baker estate racket at various times, one often replacing the other when trouble loomed.
24 Swindlers Convicted
That a "Will" exisited investigation soon found out. They got possession of it through court action and had its'paper and handwriting analyzed, it was dated 1839. The paper was a type not manufactured until 1880, nearly 50 years after the alleged hero dated the document.
A check of wills bearing the name Baker or Becker showed that no one by the name ever had any title to the abve mentioned property.
War Department records showed there never was a Revolutionary War Officer of that name and Congressional records showed no land grants ever had been made to anyone of that name.
Twenty-five suspects were brought to trial. Evidence unearthed by the postal inspectors resulted in conviction of 24.
1. May 15, 1937 Parole Request filed: E.E. Baker, was Ernest Everett Baker, from Springfield, MO.
He held no prior convictions of any kind. Mr. Baker was a real estate agent from Springfield, Mo.
2. Dr. E.G. (Edward Gordon) Baker, from Winigan, Mo was listed as the President of the phony Bakers Heirs' Association.
3. NOTE: Both W.H. Baker and J.S. Bayer/Baker died before the trial, or they would have been listed as Baker Heirs Association members, and also tried in this fraud case.
W.H. Baker the genealogist: was William H. Baker, Independence, Missouri, he died before the case went to trial. Also one, J.S. Bayer/Baker of Loysburg, PA died before the case went to trial.
William Horace Baker, born 8 Aug. 1868 in Plattsville, Blenheim Tp, Oxford Co, Ontario; Died 4 May 1935 in Independence, Jackson Co, Missouri, buied Mound Grove Cemetery, Independence, Jackson Co, Missouri. He and his wife had 11 children, the last of the children born: 1924, Fargo, Cass Co,ND
William's death certificate stated that he was a genealogist. He was active in the Baker Heirs Association as their genealogist.
William L. Baker, William H. Baker of Shenandoah PA (both miners); William H. Baker of Pattersonville, PA; James T. Baker from Pittsburgh, PA; Stella Capiga, James Capiga, Nova Weidow, Daniel Bankes, Wellington Bankes, Daniel Baker, Frank Hartzel, David Hartzell, George Shoenfelt, Mrs. A. Mondryewiske, Lottie Hollenbach, Sara Singley, Fred Dresh, H. S. Baker,
Mrs. John Flickinger from Salina PA; Celia C. Mulnix, Mrs. Nora Mann from Pittsburgh, PA; Mrs. J. Marish from San Francisco, CA; Martin E. Baker from Illiopolis, ILL; Alfred B. Greer from Rochester, IN; Mrs. Mina Childers from Middletown MI; Del Baker, J.H. Risdon from Los Angeles, Ca; Daniel Morningstar, George W. Baker, H.G. Baker, Mrs. Belle Shafer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Mrs. J.J. Hill from Salina, Pa; Mrs. E. Faust of Coropolis(?) PA; and a large number of other persons, whose names are to the Grand Jury, unknown.
Mrs. J.R. Brooks, Moberly, MO
George Miller, Pittsburgh, Pa
Mrs. L.S. Brown, Pittsburgh, Pa
L.A. Lutz Mahoney City, PA
Charles F. Uhl, Millersburg, PA (lawyer in the case)
Harvey S. Baker, Wooster, Ohio
V.M. Heazel, Roanoke, VA
Zelano Hegman, Petrolia, PA
Clarence Baker, Wooster, Ohio
C.A. McCollum, Mendon, MO (convicted for fraud)
Ernest Bolin, Mishawaka, Indiana
Levi Morningstar, Portland, Oregon
M.T.S. Orner, Pittsburgh, Pa
A.B. Wallace, Pittsburgh, Pa
Convicted Philadelphia, Pa, from Baker Hoax Trial during April 1- April 16, 1937
Emory Liken Biddle, Altoona, PA
Roy L. Biddle, Harrisburg, PA
John A. Biddle, Altoona PA
Warren H. Biddle Altoona PA
Lewis C. Walkinshaw Greenburg, PA
C.A. McCullom Mendon, MO
Convicted during May and June 1937
William Morrow Cameron Smith, Washington D.C.
William S. Miller (Sollie Miller) Indiana, PA
David J. Anderson (aka D.L. Anderson) Johnstown PA
W.H.G. Sprengel Johnstown, PA
Fred F. Sprengel, Johnstown PA
Rev. Norman H. Blough, Davidsville, PA
Henry H. Wolford Johnstown, PA
Milton E. Best Greenburg, PA
Mary Baker Kelly Best Greenburg, PA
Margaret Lighthill, Pittsburgh, PA
Bertha Ross Dodson, Pittsburgh, PA
Leroy Eschrich, Pittsboutgh, PA
Lilian A. Ryan Portland, Oregon
Albert P. Baker Pana, ILL
Mrs. Albert Baker, Pana, IL
E.E. Baker, Springfield, MO
O.S. Baker DeSoto, Kansas
R.H. Baker, Middletown, VA
From Baker Hoax Files: Baker Family Newsletter Int.
Baker Hoax Page