Henry Baldwin
Governor (1869 - 1873)

 Henry Baldwin, Ex-Governor of Michigan, is a lineal descendant of Nathaniel Baldwin, a Puritan from Buckinghamshire, England, who settled at Milford, Connecticut, in 1639. HIs father was John Baldwin, a graduate of Dartmouth College, who died at North Providence, Rhode Island, in 1826. HIs paternal grandfather was Rev. Moses Baldwin, a graduate of Princeton College, in 1757, "and the first who received collegiate honors at that ancient and honored institution." He died at Palmer, Massachusetts, in 1813, where, for more than fifty years, he had been pastor of the Presbyterian Church. On his mother's side, Governor Baldwin is descended from Robert Williams, also a Puritan, who settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts, about 1638. His mother was the daughter of Rev. Nehemiah Williams, a graduate of Harvard College, who died at Brimfield, Massachusetts, in 1796, where for twenty-one years, he was pastor of the Congregational Church. The subject of this sketch was born at Coventry, Rhode Island, February 22. 1814. He received a New England common-school education, until the age of twelve years, when, both his parents having died, he became a clerk in a mercantile establishment. He remained there--employing his leisure hours in study--until twenty years of age. At this early period, Mr. Baldwin engaged in business on his own account. He made a visit to the West in 1867, which resulted in his removal to Detroit in the spring of 1838. Here he established a mercantile house, which has been successfully continued to the present time. Although conducting very successfully a large business, he has ever taken a deeper interest in all things affecting the prosperity of the city and State of his adoption. He was for several years a Director and President of the Detroit Young Men's Society, an institution with a large library, designed for the benefit of young men and citizens generally.

An Episcopalian in religious belief, he has been prominent in all matters connected with that denomination. The large and flourishing parish of St. John, Detroit, originated with Governor Baldwin, who gave the lot on which the parish edifices stand, and also contributed the larger share of the cost of their erection. Governor Baldwin was one of the foremost in the establishment of St. Luke's Hospital, and has always been a liberal contributor to moral and religious enterprises, whether connected with his own church or not. There has been, in fact, but few social and public improvements of Detroit, during the past forty years, with which Governor Baldwin's name is not in some way connected. He was a Director in the Michigan State Bank until the expiration of its charter; and has been President of the Second National Bank of Detroit since its organization, in 1863.  He was a prominent member of the State Senate of Michigan during the years 1861 and 1862; was made Chairman of the Finance Committee; a member of the Committee on Banks and Incorporations: Chairman of the Select Joint Committee of the two Houses, for the investigation of the Treasury Department, and the official acts of the Treasurer; and of the letting of the contract for the improvement of the Sault Saint Marie Ship Canal. He was first elected Governor in 1868, and was re-elected in 1870, serving four years,--from 1869 to 1872, inclusive. It is no undeserved eulogy to say that Governor Baldwin's happy faculty of estimating the necessary means to an end--the faculty of knowing how much effort or attention to bestow upon the thing in hand--has been the secret of the uniform success that has attended his efforts in all relations of life.

The same industry and accuracy that distinguished him prior to his term as Governor was manifest in his career as the Chief Magistrate of the State; and, while his influence appears in all things with which he has had to do, it is more notable in the most prominent position to which he was called. With rare exceptions, the important commendations of Governor Baldwin received the sanction of the Legislature. During his administration, marked improvements were made in the existing charitable, penal, and reformatory institutions of the State.  The State Public School for Dependent Children was founded, and a permanent commission for the supervision of the several State institutions. The initiatory steps toward building the Eastern Asylum for the Insane, the State House of Corrections, and the establishment of the State Board of Health, were recommended by Governor Baldwin in his message of 1873. The new State Capital also owes its origin to him. The appropriation for its erection was made upon his recommendation, and the contract for the entire work let under his administration. Governor Baldwin also appointed the Commissioners under whose faithful supervision the work was commenced, has progressed, and is now drawing near completion, in a manner most satisfactory to the people of the State.  The re-compilation of the laws in 1871, and the geological survey of the State, were also fruits of his administration. He advised and earnestly urged, at different times, such amendments of the Constitution as would permit a more equitable compensation to State officers and Judges. The laws of 1869, and prior also, authorizing municipalities to vote aid toward the construction of railways, were, in 1870, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Many of the municipalities having in the meantime issued and sold their bonds in good faith, Governor Baldwin felt that the honor and credit of the State was in jeopardy. His sense of justice impelled him to call an extra session of the Legislature, and to propose the submission to the people of a constitutional amendment, authorizing the payment of such bonds as were already in the hands of bona fide holders. In his special message he says: "The credit of no State stands higher than that of Michigan; and the people can not afford, and I trust will not consent, to have her good name tarnished by the repudiation of either legal or moral obligations."  A special session was also called in March, 1842, principally for the division of the State into Congressional districts. A number of other important suggestions were made, however; and, as an evidence of the Governor's laborious and thoughtful care for the financial condition of the State, a series of tables was prepared and submitted by him, showing in detail estimates of receipts, expenditures, and appropriations for the years 182 to 1878, inclusive. Memorable in Governor Baldwin's administrations were the devastating fires which swept over many portions of the North-west in the fall of 1871. A large part of the city of Chicago having been reduced to ashes, Governor Baldwin promptly issued a proclamation, calling upon the people of Michigan for liberal aid in behalf of that afflicted city. Scarcely had this been issued, when several counties in his own State were laid waste by the same destroying element. A second call was made, asking assistance for the suffering people of Michigan. The contributions for these objects were prompt and most liberal, more than seven hundred thousand dollars having been received in money and supplies for the relief of Michigan alone.

So ample were these contributions during the short period of about three months, that the Governor issued a proclamation expressing, in behalf of the people of the State, grateful acknowledgment, and announcing that further aid was unnecessary. Governor Baldwin has traveled extensively in his own country, and has also made several tips to Europe and other portions of the Old World. He was a passenger on the steamer "Ariel," which was captured and bonded in the Caribbean Sea, in December, 1862, by Captain Semmes, and wrote a full and interesting account of the transaction. The following estimate of Governor Baldwin, on his retirement from office, by a leading newspaper, is not overdrawn: " The retiring message of Governor Baldwin will be read with interest. It is a characteristic document, and possesses the lucid statement, strong grasp, and clear, practical sense, which have been marked features of all preceding documents from the same source. Governor Baldwin retires to private life after four years of unusually successful administration, admit plaudits that are universal throughout the State. For many years, eminent and capable men have filled the executive chair of this State; but in painstaking vigilance, in sterling good sense, in genuine public spirit, in thorough integrity, and in practical capacity, Henry P. Baldwin has shown himself to be the peer of any or all of them. The State has been unusually prosperous during his two terms, and the State administration has fully kept pace with the needs of the times. The retiring Governor has fully earned the public gratitude and confidence which he to-day possesses to such a remarkable degree."

American biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men with Portrait Illustrations on Steel, Vol. I-ii 1878


The following from the Providence Journal will be read with interest in this State. In all that relates to energetic self-help and the highest type of true manly character, there is no better mode for the youth of our country than the present Governor of Michigan.


A few days since I saw an account in the Journal of a Rhode Island boy holding the office of Judge in one of the courts in a sister State -- Vermont. With your permission, Mr. Editor, I would like to give you a brief history of another son of Rhode Island. Nearly 40 years ago I made the acquaintance, in one of our factory villages (Woonsocket), of a young man who had opened a shoe store.

He soon built up a good run of custom, and became quite popular. Free from all the bad habits of the young men of that day, he neither used intoxicating drinks nor tobacco in any form, but applied himself strictly to his business and to the Church (Episcopal,) of which he was a member.

He succeeded will in his business for a number of years, and then concluded to strike out into deeper waters, and accordingly removed to Detroit, Michigan, where he commenced his business again, and became very rich. I understand he has built an elegant church and rectory, and presented them to that diocese, besides making other large contributions to various charitable and religious purposes.

He is now Governor of Michigan, and his name is Henry P. Baldwin. He was born in Coventry, and removed to Pawtucket with his parents when he was but four years old, where, at the age of thirteen years, he was put into the store of David Lefavor, Esq. His parents were poor, and Mr. Baldwin did not have a collegiate education, nor hardly any benefits of the common schools (such as they were at that time,) but was compelled to rely on his own efforts and carve out his own fotune.

We have more boys of the same stamp left, if they would emulate his energy, integrity, and strict application to business, forsaking the dissipation and extravagance that in various forms prevail too extensively among youth.

Date: Tuesday, February 16, 1869  Paper: Jackson Citizen (Jackson, Michigan) Page: 2


Henry P. Baldwin, one of Michigan's most distinguished men, ex-Governor, ex-Senator and for many years of power in the Republican party, died at his home on West Fort street, at 1 p.m. yesterday. He has been for months a sufferer from disordered stomach, and this, coming on in his extreme old age, was the cause of his death. His physicians, Drs. McGraw and Cleland, name the disease chronic indigestion.

Mr. Baldwin's family have for many days feared the worst, and as the end drew near they gathered at his bedside and witnessed the final struggle with death. No arrangements have yet been made for the funeral.

Mr. Baldwin's residence here covered a period of over fifty years. He traced his ancestry in this country to Nathaniel Baldwin, an English Puritan, who settled in Milford, Ct., in 1639. One of his descendants was the Rev., Moses Baldwin, who in 1757 received the first collegiate honors that Princeton College bestowed, and for upward of half a century was pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Palmer, Mass., where he died in 1813. One of his sons, John Baldwin, who graduated at Dartmouth in 1791, and died in North Providence, R.I., in 1826, was the father of Henry P. Baldwin. On the maternal side, the ancestry of Mr. Baldwin is traced to Robert Williams, a Puritan, whose place of settlement in 1638 was Roxbury, Mass. The late ex-Governor's maternal grandfather was the Rev. Nehemiah Williams, a Harvard graduate. He was pastor of the Congregational Church at Brimfield, Mass., for a period of twenty-one years, and died at that place in 1796.

Henry P. Baldwin was born at Coventry, R.I., February 22, 1814. He received a public school education, supplemented by a brief academic course. The death of both his parents forced him, at an early age, into active services for the gaining of a livelihood. He went onto a store as clerk and remained there until twenty years of age, when he engaged in business of his own account at Woonsocket, R.I.  Three years later, in 1837, he made a visit to the west, and during that trip became so impressed with the commercial advantages of Detroit that, in the spring of 1838, he located permanently in the city. His career as a merchant covered a period of many years. Beginning in a small way, he broadened his business plans and pushed them rapidly forward with unfaltering energy. He became a prosperous and progressive citizen and identified his name with the mercantile history, not only of Detroit, but of the west. Retiring not long ago from active participation in the establishment he founded, he left it to his successors as a valuable heritage.

From the year 1860 Mr. Baldwin has been prominently identified with the political history of the state. He was chosen to the State Senate, and served during the years 1861 and 1862. During his term of service he was chairman of the finance committee, a member of the committee on banks and corporations, and chairman of the select joint committee of the two houses for the investigation of the acts of the State Treasurer. He was likewise chairman of the legislative committee charged with the important work of improving the sault Ste. Marie Ship Canal. This was the chief work in the line of internal improvement then under the control of the state and Mr. Baldwin was influential in the prosecution of the work. In 1868 he was elected by the Republican party to the office of Governor of the state, and two years later re-elected, thus serving four years as the chief executive of the state. The period of his incumbency was marked by the establishment and improvement of several public enterprises. He assisted materially in the advancement and in broadening the scope of the state charities. He founded the State Public School for Dependent Children, which is a model of its kind. He also secured the permanent organization of a commission to supervise the state charities and penal institutions. He recommended the establishment of the Eastern Insane Asylum, the State Board of Health and the State House of Correction. He obtained appropriations for the enlargement of the university, and was largely instrumental in the erection of the State Capitol building at Lansing. He not only recommended the appropriation for its construction, but the contracts for all the work were let under his administration and he appointed the building commission under whose direction and supervision the Capitol was begun and completed. During his last term the fire of 1871 destroyed the City of Chicago and other fires swept, with devastating consequences. through the state. Gov. Baldwin issued a call to the state on behalf of the western metropolis, and it is a matter of history that that call was nobly answered. Soon afterward he issues a similar appeal in aid of the people of his own state, and supplemented it with such admirable and systematic methods for the collecting of donations and administering relief that within three months he was enabled to make the gratifying public announcement that no further aid was needed. In 1876 Mr. Baldwin ser4ved as a member of he Republican national convention which nominated R. B. Hayes for the presidency. In 1879 the sudden death of Senator Zachariah Chandler created a vacancy in the United States Senate, and Mr. Baldwin was appointed to fill the position, and did so with great credit and ability.

In addition to other engagements Mr. Baldwin has, for nearly forty years, been conspicuously identified with the banking history of this city. He was a director in the old Michigan State Bank up to the time the charter of the bank expired.

In 1863, upon the organization of the Second National Bank, of Detroit, he was chosen its president and remained so until the reorganization of the institution in 1883, as the Detroit National Bank, when he was again elected president, which position he resigned because of proposed absence on an extended tour of the old world.

his connection with the affairs of the Protestant Episcopal Church, of this city, has had much to do with the remarkable prosperity of that denomination. When he first came here he joined St. Paul's Church, which was then the sole occupant of the Protestant Episcopal field. He was soon chosen vestryman and warden, and ever since filled important positions in connection with the church.  In 1858, he with other churchmen, organized a new parish called St. John's. In 1859 work was begun upon the church building, chapel and rectory, at the corner of Woodward avenue and High street, and a very large proportion of the entire expense of the undertaking was contributed by Mr. Baldwin with whom it was always a principle to bestow a liberal portion of his income in religious enterprises. In the history of the diocese of Michigan he was an important factor. For more than forty years he was a fellow-member with Charles C. Trowbridge, of the standing committee of the diocese, and with him bore the burden of active labors in an endeavor that achieved much in the way of useful and valuable results, and both of them were continuously appointed to represent the diocese in the general convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church. In 1852 his health led him to seek rest and recreation abroad and he made an extended tour of the European continent.

In 1864 and 1865 accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Armitage, rector of St. John's, he made a second European trip. In the winter of 1862 and 1863, in pursuit of relaxation from business cares, he made a sea voyage to California via the isthmus. The steamer in which he was a passenger was captured near the West Indies by the Alabama, a confederate vessel. This mishap resulted in a detention of two days, but the captives were finally released upon the officers of the steamer giving a bond to pay ransom money after the acknowledgment of the independence of the confederate states; fortunately for the officers of the steamer, the conditional pledge never became an obligation. In addition to his connection with the political, religious and financial history of the city and state, Mr. Baldwin had much to do with the social life of the city. He served as president of the St. Luke's Hospital and Church Home, and was for several years president of the Michigan Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument Association. He was also prominently identified with the Detroit Museum of Art. His interest in art matters was not of recent date and for a number of years he possessed many valuable works obtained by himself and by Maj. Cass while United States Minister in Rome.

published in The Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) 01 Jan 1893


Copyright © Genealogy Trails  

All Data on this Site is © Genealogy Trails, with rights reserved for original submitters.