Frazier Baker was appointed the first African American postmaster of Lake City, South Carolina, in July 1897 by President William McKinley. Frazier Baker, who was a school teacher, had Lavinia as his wife and was also a father of six.
Growing up in Effingham, South Carolina, Baker and Lavinia shared similar stories growing up in a mostly black-dominated area. Frazier Baker once served as a postmaster before relocating with his family to Lake City, (a predominantly white community) where he assumed a federal assignment.
Baker may have anticipated a tranquil environment to raise his young family, coupled with his federal appointment. It wasn’t to be, though, as he faced bitter opposition from Lake City white folks. Baker’s administrative ability was heavily criticized, residents filed several grievances against him, was accused of being incompetent, lazy and ill-mannered.
Other complaints include Baker reducing mail deliveries from three times to once a day. Federal postal inspectors investigated the claims filed by the whites and determined that the accusations against Baker were not factual. However, Baker had curtailed deliveries to daily drops due to repeated threats on his life.
Baker faced several incidents of violence, including gunfire as he left the post office. Another time, the post office building was shut-up and about six months after Baker took the job, the post office was set ablaze.
This had the authorities recommending the post office be relocated to the outskirts of the Lake City with thoughts of reducing racial violence. However, racial violence still dogged Baker and his family even on the edge of the town.
On 22 February 1898, Lavinia discovered that their home, which also functioned as the post office, had been set ablaze by a white mob, at about 1:00 a.m. when she woke. She hastily alerted her husband, who immediately tried to extinguish the burning flames. Baker and his wife, Lavinia, then hurriedly gathered their children out.
With desperation to guide his family away from danger, Baker opened the front door but gunshots struck him in the head and body killing him as he fell backward into the blazing building.
His wife, Lavinia, got shot in the arm as she fled. She couldn’t hold on to Julia their youngest kid who was equally struck by the bullet. Julia and his father Baker both shot dead, laid on the floor of the burning building as flame consume them.
Baker’s surviving children and his wife Lavinia had fled to neighbor’s house. This is where she examined the critical gunshot wounds of three of her children. However, two of her children were physically unhurt.
Lavinia moved her family to Boston, Massachusetts, after federal prosecutors tried 13 white men for conspiring against Baker in April 1899, where an all-white jury failed to convict the perpetrators.
The misery on Lavinia continued accumulating as she lost her youngest child through illness in 1908 when a tuberculosis outbreak ravaged through a poor black community in Boston. She lost three more of her children twelve years later, while her last surviving child died from a heart attack in 1942.
Lavinia lost it all in life, got frustrated and returned to South Carolina where she resided until 1947 when she eventually died.
Source: Black Past