MY PARENTS, THE ARCHAEOLOGISTS

Tony Baker
January 1, 2001

In the spring of 2000 I was honored by the Panhandle Archaeological Society (PAS) when they ask me to write my memories of my parents as they pertained to archaeology and, specifically, their work around Amarillo, Texas. This I did and those memories were included in the following book by my parents and published by PAS in 2000.

With the permission of the PAS, I have copied those memories here and added the photographs. If one is interested in obtaining a copy of this book, please contact the Panhandle Archeological Society, Box 814, Amarillo, Texas 79105.


Luella JEWEL Antoine and ELE Madison Baker were both born in 1914. Jewel, born in January, was 11 months older than Ele, but Ele was 14 inches taller. Both were born in cities, Jewel in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Ele in Stillwater, Oklahoma. While Jewel remained in the city, Ele left it at age seven when his family move to the town of Boise City, Oklahoma. Boise City had a population around 1800 people at that time and it still does today.

Jewel was the second born child in a family of three girls and two boys. Her father, Leon Antoine born in Germany of French parents, worked for and retired as a shop foreman from the Santa Fe Railroad in Albuquerque. Her mother, Marietta, was a housewife. Jewel graduated from Albuquerque High School and began attending University of New Mexico in 1932. In 1932 she had never heard the word archaeology.

Ele was the seventh and last-born boy in a family of seven boys and one girl. His father, William Ellmore (UNCLE BILL) Baker, had numerous jobs associated with agriculture in Oklahoma. However, Ele remembered him mostly as the Cimarron County Agent during the "dust bowl" years, a job he held for 25 years before retiring. His mother, Delcy, was a housewife.

During the years when Ele was in the seventh and eighth grades he lived with his mother and sister in a two-room shack on a 160-acre homestead. It was located 30 miles west of Boise City in an eroded tributary of the Cimarron river.1 It was so far removed from civilization that the local school District built a one-room schoolhouse about a mile from the homestead for him and his sister to attend. As a result, Ele spent many days of his formative years roaming in solitude among the rocks, cliffs, and junipers on the New Mexico-Oklahoma border. It was here that he developed a love and understanding of the landscape that I have not seen matched by any of my acquaintances of 55 years. These were the most enjoyable years of Ele's life.

The homestead is where Ele found his first arrowhead and this event germinated an interest in Uncle Bill for arrowhead hunting and archaeology. Uncle Bill cultivated that interest and became one of the most knowledgeable avocational archaeologists in the area. He was as famous an archaeologist as he was a county agent. At his death in 1957 his collection of artifacts, which he and Ele found mostly during the "dust bowl" years, was reported as being one of the largest Paleoindian collections in the country. Today, that collection resides in the No Man's Land Historical Society Museum in Goodwell, Oklahoma.

Ele and his family returned to Boise City when he entered High School. In High School he found he was athletically inclined and played football and basketball for four years. He also played golf and tennis; he was liked by most everyone and could make friends with anyone. Academically, he did what he had to, to get by.

After graduating from High School, Ele attended Panhandle A&M (Oklahoma Panhandle State University) for one year and again played football. In 1933, his sophomore year, he transferred to the University of New Mexico. He broke his collarbone in a football game that year, ending his football career. On the positive side this was the same year he met Jewel. In 1934 they were married.

Ele transferred to the University of New Mexico to study archaeology as well as play football. His likeable personally and knowledge of Paleoindian archaeology caused the Anthropology Department to notice him. As a result when Jewel and Ele had to drop out of school in 1935, because of lack of money, the Anthropology Department offered Ele a job.

Ele was to be the supervisor of the excavation and restoration of Quarai, an Old Spanish Mission southeast of Albuquerque. The laborers were from the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Jewel went with him and the two of them lived in the restored Baptistery. Jewel learned to excavate, keep notes, draw artifacts and live in a one-room house with a dirt floor. She had learned what the word archaeology meant and become an equal to all.

After nine months at Quarai, the operations were moved to Jemez Mission where they performed the same tasks of excavating and restoring that Mission. They returned to school for two semesters and also worked at Chaco and Paako Ruins. During this period Jewel earned her Bachelor's Degree in Education and Ele did not graduate.

In Ele's recollection of years later, he estimated that 50% of all the restoration visible today at the Quarai and Jemez Missions was done by Jewel and him and the CCC workers.

In February 1938 Ele and Jewel moved to Amarillo and went to work for the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society excavating Antelope Creek Focus Ruins. They were again in charge of the excavations and this time they were supervising laborers from the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Each morning they would drive their trucks around Amarillo picking up the WPA laborers and drive to the excavation. They would work all day, then drive the laborers back to Amarillo and deliver them to their respective homes. In June 1941 the WPA money dried up and Ele and Jewel were again out of a job.

Ele and Jewel then received a $500 grant from University of Pennsylvania to do a survey of the Paleoindian material from northeast New Mexico. The $500 lasted two months. This would be the last archaeology they would do for the next 25 years.

The papers, notes, charts and graphs that make up this book (see above) are the products of Ele and Jewel's efforts during the Antelope Creek Focus excavations in Amarillo. These excavations "... provided a significant contribution by discerning the internal structures of entire rooms and room blocks. Much of the architectural terminology still in use (e.g., central channels, channel curbing, platforms/altars, passageways, entry steps, etc.) was developed by the Bakers and disseminated at various regional meetings."2 This is the first time their entire products has been published.


IN SEPTEMBER 1941, Ele and Jewel returned to Albuquerque and both found work with the Corp of Engineers. The following year they purchased the house that they would live in for the rest of their lives. In February 1943 Ele enlisted in the Army, and in May 1946 Ele was honorably discharged as a 1st Lieutenant. Jewel was now a mother and I was almost two years old. In another year my sister would be born and the two of us would be the Baker children.

In the late 40's and early 50's I can remember the family going on fishing trips over the weekends during the summer. Daddy loved to fish and was an excellent fisherman having developed his skills in the Jemez River while working on Jemez Mission. These fishing trips consisted of driving to the Jemez or Pecos Mountains on Friday afternoon, spending Friday and Saturday nights in a tent, and fishing during the day. On Sunday afternoon we would return home and this was the only part of the fishing trip I disliked. On the way home, Daddy would always stop the car in the middle of nowhere and wander out across the dry desert looking for an arrowhead. I didn't like walking with him because it was hot and dirty. I didn't like staying in the car because it was hot and boring. I really didn't like stopping at all because it made us late getting home.

Mother renewed her teaching certificate in the 1955 and started teaching at an elementary school. Daddy then returned to college in 1957 after holding numerous jobs (e.g. civil servant, service station owner, paint store manager, etc.) and graduated in 1959. With his double major in education and anthropology he began teaching history in junior high school. Six years later he was teaching five classes of anthropology in high school.

While living at home with my parents, I began attending the University of New Mexico in 1962. In 1963, an anthropology professor inspired me and I came home one day and asked Daddy if we could go arrowhead hunting. No one could have guessed that this simple request would lead Ele back to archaeology.

Over the next three and half years while I was in college and in Albuquerque, Daddy and I would go out every weekend looking for arrowheads with Mother occasionally joining us. Initially, I thought I was his equal. I soon learned I was a student being taught by one of the best archaeologists around. Daddy knew the geology of the land, the ways of the animals, the names of the plants and, most important, he knew the archaeology. Besides teaching me archaeology, Daddy taught me to love the same hot dry desert I had disliked as a child. Daddy loved it even more than I did. When I was 20 and Daddy was 50 years old, he would walk me into the ground and still want to keep looking. When we finally did stop and start home, Daddy would drive and I would sleep.

When I had asked Daddy to go arrowhead hunting in 1963, I really asked, "why don't we try to find some of those Paleoindian arrowheads that you and Grandfather use to find." Daddy responded that there were no Paleoindians around Albuquerque. He had been looking for them for the last 30 years and they just weren't there. Contrary to his statement, we started finding Paleoindian material and lots of it. During the next three and half years we found more artifacts and sites than Ele and Grandfather ever found in the 1920's and 30's. Daddy continue to find material after I left Albuquerque in 1967.

These Paleoindian sites and artifacts that we found those first three and a half years have since provided data for four Ph.D. dissertations.3 Additionally, many archaeology students have learned more Paleoindian archaeology in an evening with Daddy and the artifacts than they could have possibly obtained from a college classroom or book. Many of today's Paleoindian experts can trace a connection back to Ele and remember what he taught them.

Ele and Jewel both retired from teaching in 1980. Jewel died in November 1982. Ele remarried in 1983 and died in November 1991.


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