James Baker was born in Belleville, Illinois, on 19th December, 1818. James Bridger recruited him for the American Fur Company and in 1838 went up the Missouri River and spent two years trapping beavers in the Rockies. Baker developed a reputation as a hard and courageous mountain man.
Baker returned to Illinois in 1840 but the following year he worked as a guide to a group of people travelling to the Green River. He remained in the region for several years and spent time living with the Shoshone. He adopted Native American customs and it is claimed he married six squaws.
On the decline of the fur trade Baker became an army scout and was based at Fort Laramie under General William Harney. In 1857 he guided Randolph Marcy from Fort Bridger to Fort Union, New Mexico.
Baker settled in Denver in 1859 but occasionally guided parties into the Rockies. In 1873 he built a log cabin by the Little Snake River, Wyoming.
James Baker died in Wyoming on 15th May, 1898.