Millie Baker

Millie Baker (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Amelia Baker was born in Minnesota in December 1887. Her parents, either biological or foster parents (it’s not clear) were Alfred George Baker and Mary Ann Baker. Alfred was born in England in the 1840s. He immigrated to America around 1860 and fought in the Civil War on the Union side, serving in the 61st New York Infantry. He came to Duluth around 1880 and worked for years as a marine engineer. Mary Ann was born in Ireland about 1862. She came to America in 1874. She and Alfred lived in Duluth at 2209 Minnesota Avenue on Park Point.

Amelia, who became known as Millie, grew up in Duluth. She studied music under George L. Tyler, a local singer and voice teacher. As a child, Millie performed in many local programs and gained a reputation locally as a promising singer and actress. In March of 1904, she sang the contralto role of Frederic in a local production of Ambroise Thomas’ Mignon at the Lyceum Theater. Millie attended Central High School and is last listed in the 1904 Central yearbook with the class of 1907. She left Duluth in the fall of 1904 to study music in Chicago. By April of 1905, she was performing in New York, and in July she joined the Weber Musical Company; she later joined the Charles Frohman Company. On April 23, 1907, in New York, she was married to musician Alexander Oliver Lynch. On a visit to her parents in Duluth in August of 1908, she was interviewed by the Duluth News Tribune as Mrs. Oliver A. Lynch and asked about her stage career. According to the article, she was living quietly in New York where her husband was engaged in the advertising business. The writer quotes Millie: “Of course I love the stage…I hope to go back to it, although my husband is opposed to it.” She says, “Maybe I can do something to make dear old Duluth proud of me.”

Millie’s father Alfred died on June 8, 1909. According to the obituary, Mary Ann and Millie were both at his side when he died. Later in 1909, Millie traveled to Europe to study voice. At some point during this time, she was apparently either separated or divorced from Lynch. A 1912 article says she has been studying in Europe for three years and is now being coached in Paris and Spain by the Marquis de Trabadelo, a famous voice instructor. An article in the August 17, 1912, issue of Musical America says Millie “bids fair to become a singer of world-wide repute.”

Millie returned to Duluth for a visit during the Christmas season of 1914. She left Duluth on January 3, 1915, for New York, where she studied with Madame Giulia Valda for a few months. She left New York on May 1, 1915, aboard the Lusitania to return to Paris for a resumption of her studies with de Trabadelo. Millie was traveling with art dealer and connoisseur C. F. Williamson, their cabins across the hall from one another. It was later revealed that they were to announce their engagement in the fall. The ship was sunk by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, off the coast of Ireland, and Millie died in the tragedy. She had been expected to make her debut in grand opera shortly in Paris.

Story by David Ouse. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by David Ouse.