by Ethel Baker

From the Judge Henry Davis Papers

Thomas Swift Baker, the father of Susie Baker Gordon, was born at Hopewell, the Baker estate, located about a mile from Gordonsville, Virginia.

He fought in the confederate Army during the Civil war and later married Maria Jane Davis of Virginia.

To the Bakers were born six children, two boys and four girls, of whom Susie was the second child.

During Susie’s young girlhood, she had a private tutor in Latin for several years.  She attended the Gordonsville Female Institute [constructed in 1878] and was graduated from that school.  At the age of eighteen she began teaching in the country schools of Virginia.

Later, Susie Baker, graduated from the Peabody Normal College of [Nashville,] Tennessee with a life certificate.  While attending Peabody, during the summers, she would take courses from the University of Virginia at Charlottesville.  She continued to take refresher courses at the University of Virginia during her life time.

Susie Baker went to Granbury, Texas, about 1893, and began teaching Latin and English in the Granbury High School.  She also had subjects in the grade school.  She would go home every summer and teach Latin in Peabody.

According to several of her pupils who are now living in Granbury, she was a good disciplinarian, but not one to make pupils dislike her.  She was a conscientious teacher who loved children, and children, loved her.  The men and women in Granbury have never forgotten her.

She often helped pupils over the telephone.  She was strict about formation of lines, was fair minded, and had no pets.  She gave programs to bring out talents and to teach children to appear before crowds.

She started the custom of entertaining the graduating class formally.  Some children would never have known how to use silverware otherwise.  She was a very understanding person – always acted with dignity.  The children didn’t even want to be disrespectful.  Still she could laugh and see fun, but the work must be done; however, they could be pleasant about it.

She lead [sic] pupils to love geography and other studies.  She did definite teaching.  She often had her pupils go to her home, to help them with some problem that needed more time than could be given at school.  Not only would she help with lessons, but often would help plan different types of entertainment.

In Fort Worth, Texas, on November 3, 1907, Susie Baker was married to Mr. A.P. Gordon of Granbury.  They lived in the lovely Gordon home in Granbury on the Fort Worth Highway.

Historical Home of Alonzo Peyton Gordon & Susie Baker Gordon
307 East Pearl Street in Granbury, Texas
Photo courtesy of Wayne Moyers

Mrs. Gordon continued with her teaching.  There was a large library in the home, and with Mr. Gordon’s assistance, she continued to help her pupils with their studies and to entertain them.  Mr. Gordon was a typical Southern gentleman and had that sweet Southern attitude toward Mrs. Gordon and her pupils.  According to a former pupil, he always seemed to think everything Susie did was wonderful.  They entertained many graduating classes.

Some of her former pupils remember a big fat cat called Pete, that both the Gordons and the pupils loved.

Mr. Gordon died. [1847-1921]

Mrs. Gordon continued to teach in the Granbury High School until 1924, when her health completely failed.  She then returned to Virginia, on her doctor’s advice, to be with her people, but lived only a few months.

Mrs. Gordon died March 24, 1925, and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville, Virginia.

In the town of Granbury, there are many who knew Susie Baker Gordon, both as a friend and a teacher.  She still lives in the hearts of many of her former pupils and friends.

It is fitting to end this biography with a beautiful tribute by one of Mrs. Gordon’s former pupils, Mrs. Mary Walley Johnson:

I feel honored to be granted the privilege of writing a tribute to my beloved teacher and friend, Mrs. Susie Baker Gordon. 

Through the years, I came to realize the greatness of her heart more and more.  So many fine characteristics I could attribute to her, that I am at a loss to single out those most outstanding. 

However, considering her from the angle of teacher, I should probably level it off as Thoroughness. 

No fact was ever given to us and then left to fall into obscurity. 

Once she had emplanted an idea – it was embellished from day to day.  It was connected with other fields of interest until finally it would become an open door to some greater, more valuable field of knowledge. 

I remember when I had eighth grade algebra – Wentworth’s Book I, she had on her desk Book II, III, and IV.  As we mastered a chapter, for instance, Quadratic Equations, she took up Book II, and gave us with her help, all that she could of it.  There was always some girl or boy who could “catch the Gleam” and work in the book ahead. 

And so it happened, that by the time we reached the fourth year, our work was practically fun, and we could enjoy our next step in math. 

In Latin it was quite the reverse – Old “Collar and Daniel” went up with us through “Caesar,” “Cicero,” and on.  We conjugated and declined until when we took our finals in senior year, we could practically have written a beginner’s Latin book, without notes. 

Never did I appreciate her more than when I visited my son, Clay Johnson, Jr. – who was attending M.I.T., and I stayed in Cambridge and round about Boston.  Her training just came alive and charmed me at every turn. 

As “I stood on the bridge” made famous by Longfellow and looked out over the spires of Cambridge, I almost “heard the bells on Christmas Day” as I recalled the lines that she gave us with so much inspiration. 

Over in Boston, my son said one day, “Mother, there is the Old North Church.”  Over my mind and heart there passed a great surge [of] patriotism as I repeated, “One if by land and two if by sea,” and there in the sea still rested Old Ironsides.  I was charmed at her lovely interior, cared for by the U.S. Navy, and was glad that she had never been given to the “god of storm.” 

Lines from the “Children’s Hour” re-read themselves to me as I stood before the picture of “Grave Alice and Laughing Allegra and Edith with golden hair” and saw the chair that Longfellow sat in as the little girls would slip in and cover his eyes. 

There also was the chair made from the “Spreading Chestnut Trees.” 

Every word of these poems was plastered deep on my intelligence by Miss Baker’s patient care.  I wished that I could tell her again how much she had meant to me and how I valued the training that she had given me for appreciation and enjoyment of the better things of life. 

Erect of body – fair of face – sweet of voice and disposition, Mrs. Susie Baker Gordon embodied everything lovely that is allotted to the making of gracious womanhood.
 Mary Walley Johnson

Sources of information:

Mrs. Belle Baker Preddy, sister, Charlottesville, Virginia
Mrs. C.J. Theirmer, cousin, Warrenton, Virginia
Mrs. Byrd Gordon Wear, Granbury, Texas
Mrs. Henry Nutt, Granbury, Texas
Mrs. Mary Walley Johnson, Granbury, Texas
Former pupils