Peninsula Genealogical Society

    Peninsula Genealogical Society - Door Co., WI

  Biography of FRANK BALDWIN


updated 1 May 2009

Francis "Frank" Baldwin - 1845 to 1924

Francis Baldwin was born to Newton and Nancy “Jane” Tucker in Buchanan, Berrien County, Michigan, April 7, 1845. He was the youngest of five children in this union. Three older brothers and a sister were his siblings. As a youngster he was nicknamed Frank, which is a moniker that stuck with him throughout his life.

As this story is told it is important to note several side issues or stories that incorporate into Frank’s life story.

One of the antidotal side stories is that of his parents, Newton and Jane. Newton had a lust for travel and he was forever seeking a better place and a better life, thus he moved several times in his life, which would ultimately affect most of the children in the family. An important issue to keep in mind is that the United States was still relatively untamed and new lands were opening up constantly. After the Louisiana Purchase was bought from France in 1803, this opened vast territories with new hopes for settlers trying to establish their fortunes or simply a new homestead where they could raise a family. Mining, logging, farming, oil discovery, and support business ventures were initially wild dreams for people living in the Eastern part of the country but year after year these dreams started to mature and people from individuals to whole families started moving West into new lands and new adventures. This was the mind set of Newton as he moved his family several times towards the ever growing West.

Newton was a gentle, loving and interested father and husband. These traits would also carry over to his children. Later in life as many of these children became adults and created their own lives many of these same characteristics were mentioned in documents, obituaries and family tales about them. This is certainly the case with Frank. More than one article was written describing the same gentle, loving nature he demonstrated towards family and friends. Frank grew to be a taller, slender fellow with prematurely greying hair. A facial feature that stands out with Baldwin men is the strong jaw line and higher forehead. Available photographs clearly define these features. The last comment, at this point, describes Frank’s very close relationship he had with both of his parents. This ultimately set the tone for living next to or near his parents most of his life.

By 1845 Frank’s parents were found living in Buchanan until he was about five years old. An event that held the Baldwin family in Buchanan was the wedding of Frank’s sister, Belinda. This occurred in 1854. Soon after Belinda gave birth to a son in the Spring of 1855, the entire family including Belinda’s new family all traveled by wagon train to Jasper County, Iowa. Farm lands were rich in this newly developing area which drew settlers by the numbers. Newton purchased a small farm in a suburb of Newton, Iowa called Ira. His elder sons and Belinda’s family all acquired homes in the near vicinity.

Frank’s early years were fun filled yet laborious. Every member of the home had chores to do and in this environment Francis learned responsibility and independence. While the original farm was small it was established in an area where the soil was excellent for growing row crops. Corn in the Summer, Squash in the Fall and a wide variety of vegetables were grown in the Spring. The larger town of Newton was not far away so every Saturday Frank would help load their wagon and take their produce to town to sell it in the market place. Most of the farmers from all over the area would come to town on Saturday mornings to sell their products. Chickens, geese, eggs, milk, cheese, breads, hand made items like quilts, dresses, shirts, socks, calves, colts, kid goats, and about anything you can think of were brought to town.

Francis attended school in the area and was one of the only members of the family to learn to read and write. His father did not learn to write until many years into adulthood and only then because the children taught them. Jane never did learn to write. Frank was smart and was blessed with good common sense. He earned respect early on for his abilities and these traits also helped him establish good reputations as he entered the work place as a young man. As Frank grew up he acquired several jobs where his leadership skills and intelligence earned him respectable positions as a supervisor in his various jobs.

Frank met a younger school mate named Mary Sager. They liked each other immediately which soon developed into a romance that would last their life time. On October 24, 1863, Frank married Mary. They spent their early married years living in Iowa. He was eighteen, she was only sixteen at the time of their marriage. Sixteen years old in the pioneer days was actually quite mature for a female to be married.

When Frank turned nineteen he purchased his first home from his father in Newton, Iowa. This was in April 1864, but by October of the same year Frank sold his place back to Newton. They, then, apparently moved to Atlantic, Cass County, Iowa, which is about 175 miles due West of Newton. It is unknown what drew him to this area. Perhaps some of Mary’s kin-folks lived in this area. He remained there for a few years, but, by August, 1866, Frank was again ready to purchase his own home; this time purchasing from an acquaintance. Land Records indicate Frank sold this home to another party in April, 1869. Frank was establishing himself as a farmer.

While they were farming in this area Mary had an encounter with a copperhead rattle snake. As the story went many years later, according to one of her granddaughters, Mary was out in the field digging potatoes for supper when she uncovered the venomous creature. She tried to jump back but the snake lashed out striking her in the lower leg. Mary made it to the house where she called for help. They were able to open the wound and drain out the poison. She stayed in bed for several days but soon enough Mary was up on her feet and ready for duty. They said she was a tough farmer’s wife for enduring the event and surviving without much of a whimper.

Frank and Mary continued to live on their farm in Atlantic until June, 1876, at which time they sold everything and moved by horse drawn covered wagon up North to Door County, Wisconsin. They settled in a beautiful farming area East of Sturgeon Bay called White Fish Bay. They actually lived in the unincorporated area known as Sevastopol just two miles from White Fish Bay. Frank initially tried farming but after a year he went to work for the city of Sturgeon Bay.

After reviewing Land Records in Sturgeon Bay (the county seat), it appears that Frank purchased two properties from the same seller, whom he probably knew from Cass County, Iowa. Nathan and Sarah Winters, were from Atlantic, Iowa. On June 12, 1876, they sold a small parcel of land with a house on it to Frank for the sum of $100. Within a few weeks, (Recorded July, 19, 1876) Frank purchased another piece of land with sixty acres and a house from W.H. Wead, who was also from Atlantic, for the sum of $150. Then on August, 30, 1876, Frank purchased ten acres of bare land from W. H. Wead for the sum of $25. No other land transactions were made until June 3, 1884. Frank then purchased 39 acres of bare land from Joseph Smith for the sum of $30.

Once Frank became somewhat settled and assessed the land situation he notified his father of the good opportunity that existed in Door County. Newton was smitten with another opportunity to acquire good land for farming. He and Jane sold all of their holdings in Iowa and proceeded to move to Sevastopol to be near their son and his family. On August 1, 1877, land records show, Newton purchasing 40 acres from the State of Wisconsin. This property had previously been considered “swamp land” by the state but by an act of US Congress in 1850 large tracts of lands were opened up for purchase by the public. This 40 acre parcel was located directly across the road from the 39 acres Frank and Mary had purchased the previous year.

This property is located in the unincorporated countryside of Sevastopol. The County Seat is in Sturgeon Bay, which is about ten miles S/W of Frank’s property. Frank's land is actually much closer to White Fish Bay. The entire peninsula of Door County is and has been recognized as a recreational area for Wisconsinites as far back as the mid-1800's. Deer run aplenty throughout the region. There are lush tree stands and the views out across Lake Michigan are stunning.

It is hard to imagine a body of water as large as Lake Michigan being capable of freezing during the Winter months to the degree that a person could walk upon the frozen surface. But, one true and very interesting news item appeared in the local newspaper, The Weekly Expositor of Sturgeon Bay, date March 21, 1884, telling of men crossing from Egg Harbor over to Menominee, Michigan. This is an incredible distance on the frozen ice of approximately 20 miles. However, the newspaper also reported that the first signs of Spring rain had appeared and they expected it would not be long before the ice was free and broken up.

Frank had a very successful life in this area. He became a Supervisor for the City Government of Sturgeon Bay and did farming on his 40 acres as his avocation. Not much information is known about his specific duties while employed during this period.

In March, 1884 when Frank’s father, Newton, passed away, life began to change for Frank. It was difficult for Frank and Mary to continue living on their farm when so many memories existed with his parents having lived so close. In May, 1886, Frank sold his farm to his son Julius. Julius kept the farm for several years but eventually moved and remained nearly his whole life in Menominee, Michigan.

In 1896, a relative stated that Frank drove a covered wagon to Faribault, Minnesota. He purchased property there and stayed only for a few years.

Then in 1904, he drove another horse drawn covered wagon and began a long distance journey to Edmonds, Washington. The railroad existed and stretched throughout the country so why Frank chose to travel such a great distance by such primitive means is unknown and a mystery. According to a newspaper article printed in 1884, we know he was relatively wealthy, for the times, and certainly could have afforded to travel with his family on a railroad train but chose to join an organized wagon train for this trip instead. Several family members who actually knew Frank and Mary told of this trip.

Research has determined that Mary was probably the driving force behind this major move. She had relatives that show up on the 1900 Federal Census already living in Washington. Three names are listed in the R. L Polk Directory in Edmonds: Carlton W. Sager; Charles E. and Clarence L. Sager. It is believed that Carlton was the father of Charles and Clarence. Carlton worked as a laborer and lived on Daly Street near 6th Ave., which is less than one half mile from where Frank and Mary settled.

Even though Frank had accumulated a certain comfort by his earlier enterprises he was too young for retirement and needed a job to keep busy and to better support his family. He found a job at the Washington Excelsior and Manufacturing Company, which was a Veneer plant located down on the waterfront where the present day Marina is located. The 1909 City Directory lists Frank as a Foreman working for this company. Shortly after 1909 the veneer factory sold out and became the Western Veneer and Box Company. Records also show this apparent same company as Campbell Veneer and Box company.

In the early days Edmonds had but few homes built upon the hillsides around the area. Every home site had a panoramic view of the Puget Sound. Frank and Mary built their house up on the Eastern slopes of Edmonds and had a beautiful unobstructed view of the ocean. As in most residential developments each home is built upon a parcel or a plot of ground. Their house was built on three plots located side by side which gave them nearly one-half acre total. Their house was built at 957 Cedar Street and set at the N/W corner of Cedar and 8th Street. The house still stands today after over 100 years. In modern times the neighborhood is considerably more developed and views to the water are only peak-a-boo types.

Even though Frank and Mary had eleven children only two made the long journey out West with them. Records show that Lydia, age 22, and Frank Jr, age 19, rode with them. So, while four adults lived in their Cedar Street home, the square footage isn’t very much. After the automobile became more popular it appears that there was a garage built towards the rear of the house.

In time, more of the children moved out West and settled around the general area. While Julius and Fred are known to have stayed in the mid-west area, Bertha and Eliza moved to the Pacific Northwest. Both girls raised families and lived in the Edmonds district nearly all of their lives. Lydia eventually married and moved to Seattle. It’s unknown where the other living children moved to as they grew up.

It appears that many of the family members belonged to the Baptist Church. Frank’s parents had been married in the Baptist Church and it is very probable he was raised in that same religion. Local records show that Frank and Mary belonged to the Edmonds First Baptist Church, located at 4th and Bell Street, in downtown Edmonds. The church still stands although it has been renovated several times and had a fence built around the property in later years.

On February 23, 1924, Frank died while at home from an apparent heart attack. He was 78 years, 10 months and 16 days old. His obituary was printed in the Edmonds Tribune-Review and had the following article.

“Well-Known Citizen Dies Suddenly”

The many friends and acquaintances of Frank Baldwin were shocked to learn of his sudden death from heart failure at his home Saturday, February 23.

Only the proceeding day he was seen on the streets of Edmonds greeting his friends and acquaintances. Although he has been in failing health for some time, no one realized the end was so near.

Being a loving, kind and generous nature he made friends readily wherever he went and will be greatly missed by many besides the family.

The funeral took place Tuesday at 2 o’clock, conducted by Rev. Thomas Howland, after which the body was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery, besides that of his son Charles, whose passing away proceeded his by 17 months.

Frank Baldwin was born April 17, 1845 at Buchanan, Michigan and departed this life February 23, 1924 at the age of 78 years, 10 months, and 16 days. When he was 10 years of age, his parents moved to Newton, Iowa at which time he grew to manhood. He was married on October 27, 1863 to Mary Sager, who survives him.

To this union was born eleven children, six of whom are still living: Fred H. of Menominee, Michigan; Julius O. of Faribault, Minnesota; Frank D. of Pinehurst, Washington; Mrs. Eliza V. Creque of Seattle, Washington; Mrs. Lydia Atchison of this city. There are twenty-seven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.

He came to Washington twenty-four years ago, and three years later to Edmonds, which has been his home ever since.

Having become a Christian in early life, his faith and hope were firmly on the loving promises of the savior.

Frank’s body was cared for by the Edmonds Undertaking Company. On February 26, his body was laid to rest at the Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery in Seattle next to his son, Charles; who passed away in 1922.

Mary only continued living in the house for a few more years until her health started to decline. Current land records show that after Frank was gone Mary sold the house on October 25, 1929 to T. F. Hall for the sum of $500. Until then they had owned this house for twenty five years.

She moved to Seattle with her daughter, Lydia, who had become married to William A. Atchison.

On December 12, 1930, Mary Sager Baldwin died in a Seattle Hospital. She suffered with Arteriosclerosis and an enlarged heart condition. The Edmonds Tribune-Review also ran the following obituary on Friday, December 19.

“Pioneer of Edmonds Passes in Seattle”

Mrs. Mary Baldwin, a resident of Edmonds for about 27 years, passed away Friday, December 12, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Lydia Atchison in Seattle. Mrs. Baldwin had been ill only about a week.

Mary Sager was born is Canton, Ohio, December 21, 1846, and at the time of her passing, lacked only nine days of being 84 years of age. She was married to frank Baldwin, and about 27 years ago they came to Edmonds to make their home. Mr. Baldwin passed away six years ago.

Mrs. Baldwin leaves to mourn her loss, three daughters, Mrs. Bertha Traver of Edmonds, Mrs. Lydia Atchison of Seattle and Mrs. Eliza Creque of Puyallup: three sons, Frank of Pinehurst, Fred of Menominee, Michigan, and Karl of Kansas: also twenty-seven grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Sunday afternoon, December 14, at the Harpst Funeral Home in Seattle. Rev. Green of the Seattle Baptist Church officiated, and special songs were sung by Mrs. Lamoreux, formerly Eunice Coble of Edmonds. Internment took place in the family lot at Evergreen Cemetery, beside her husband and a son.

Mary’s body was cared for by Harpst Funeral Parlor of Seattle. She was buried next to Frank and their son, Charles, at Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery.

Frank Baldwin lived a very happy life. He grew up as a Christian and became very close with all of his children, just like his father had done. He lived through more than half of the Nineteenth Century and into one quarter of the Twentieth Century. He saw remarkable changes within his life time. The country had gone through a Civil War and abolished slavery. One of the nations greatest Presidents was assassinated, the wild west went through it’s faze, Indian Nations were forced to give up their lands so the new nation of the United States could grow, settlements and cities were popping up everywhere, the railroad stretched clear across the country and horse drawn wagon travel was no longer necessary. As the United States entered into the Twentieth Century he saw wide spread use of electricity, the development of telephones, automobiles, new steam operated farming equipment and machinery, and political strife that brought our country into another great war, but this time with international consequences. It was a lot to see in one life time but, he did and he enjoyed every minute of it.

Story written by

Robert R. Baldwin

dated: April 30, 2006



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