WOMEN OF WESTPORT POINT: Mercy Etta Baker: Artist, Poet, and Inventor

Mercy Etta Baker (1876-1957)

1998 Main Road Westport Point

Artist, poet, inventor, would-be developer of Horseneck Beach

Mercy Etta Baker

The life, art and poetry of Mercy Etta Baker were intertwined with the natural beauty of her Westport Point home and Horseneck Beach, a large tract of which was owned by her family. She is known for her postcard-sized watercolor paintings depicting local salt marsh, dunes and river scenes. As a child, she had received some artistic training and later was associated with a Boston studio for a few years.

Those who are familiar with Westport Point and Horseneck Beach will recognize elements of the landscape in her works. Lesser known are her sketchbooks, now part of the Westport Historical Society’s collection, providing fragmentary sketches of people, places, and domestic scenes – many of which are derived from her daily life at Westport Point. Her sketches capture the day-to-day life of women in the early 20th century:


A kitchen scene

Kitchen scene by Mercy Etta Baker

A woman reading

Woman reading by Mercy Etta Baker

An artist at work on the beach

Artist on the beach


Westport Point by Mercy Etta Baker


Sand dunes by Mercy Etta Baker, WHS Collection

The New Bedford Whaling Museum has several of her paintings.

Born in 1876, Mercy was the daughter of Jehiel and Abby (Gifford) Baker and lived during her early years at 1998 Main Road, Westport Point. Her father and grandfather owned many acres of land on Horseneck where they cultivated cranberries. This was a significant local business, employing many local residents. Mercy grew up exploring Horseneck Beach, and in her adulthood, she inherited many acres on West Beach. It seems that her intention was to create a summer community, as by 1915 she had subdivided her land into 97 lots, averaging 50 feet in width. Much of her property eventually came under the control of the state, forming Horseneck Beach State Reservation.

She published two volumes of poetry: “Bird Logic and Other Verses” and “White Elephant Sale.” As with her art, her poetry was inspired by the landscape around her, dominated by themes of the beach, harbor and her experiences in New Bedford where she resided in later years.

As a surprising addition to her artistic talents, she became a patent holder for an invention to improve a mold for compressing paper pulp into spherical units for fuel.

Mercy Etta Baker remained unmarried, living in New Bedford during her later years. Her generosity and humanitarian concerns are represented in her will, reflecting her interests in animal welfare, the prevention of cruelty to children, Monthly Meeting of Friends and other local charities.


ACOAXET RIVER by Mercy Etta Baker

Landlocked tidal ebb and flow,

Up its tortuous channel go

Lobster boats today;

Whaleships tall and proud, once seen,

Threading through its marshes green,

 Now are past decay.


At its hidden harbor-mouth,

Ledges thrusting east and south,

From Rhode Island’s shore,

Past the scimitar of sand

That is Horseneck’s seaward strand,

Teased the British sore.


When our privateers, pursued

(1812, and times were rude)

Took to canny flight,

Round the white-surfed point they slipped,

Anchor dropped and masts unshipped;

 Not a spar in sight.


Offshore, England, deeper draft,

Puzzled, sought the vanished craft;

“Gone!” the captains cried;

Spat and swore:  “Now, sink my soul!

‘Tis the devil’s pocket-hole,

 Where these Yankees hide!”