Happy Birthday Philander Baldwin



Philander Baldwin (1809-1876)

Arrival at Watertown

Two hundred and seven years ago today, 16 April 1809, Philander Baldwin was dropped on the planet by aliens. Well, probably not, but I’ve not yet been able to find any record of his birth or early life. He just appeared out of nowhere in 1836, in what would later be called Watertown, Wisconsin. According to census records, he was born in New York. But, the first evidence of him comes in an account by a Wisconsin pioneer named Luther Cole. Mr. Cole wrote:

“I then resolved to upon visiting Wisconsin; and taking passage at Grand Haven, [Michigan] at the mouth of Grand River, in the schooner White Pigeon, in the company with Philander Baldwin and Elisha M. Osborn, we reached Chicago after a sail of about twenty-four hours. Two or three days afterward we started on foot for Milwaukee, following Indian trails most of the way, and finding on the route but an occasional settler. We arrived at Milwaukee on the 10th day of May, 1836.

At that time Lake Michigan had been visited but two or three times by steamboats—the object of these boats thus in straying so far from the usual channels of commerce at that day, being to provision the U.S. troops at Green Bay, Mackinaw and Chicago. There were a few schooners on the lake. During the season of navigation, one of them may have passed from Grand River to Milwaukee every two weeks on average. They were principally engaged in the lumber trade.”

Lucky for Philander and his two traveling companions, they were on the White Pigeon early in 1836, because later that year, on 8 September 1836, she had trouble. The White Pigeon had been put into service in 1832, just four years before. She was a steamer with a wooden hull, side wheel propulsion and a 1-cylinder low pressure engine. Accounts of her demise were reported:

“A violent wind commenced blowing on the night of Thursday last, and raged during the three following days into the severest storm that we have had this season. The MADISON left here that night, but returned on Saturday night, after getting as far as Milwaukee, where she lost or broke her only remaining anchor – she having left her other one at Skilagee, on her last trip up. She starts again today. The ship MILWAUKEE, we learn is ashore up north, near Little Fort, forty or fifty miles. It is reported that the NEW ENGLAND in crossing Saginaw Bay lost one of her wheels. It is also reported that five or six vessels are ashore between this and Michigan City – the VIRGINIA, Brig JOHN KENZIE, WHITE PIGEON, &c. It is now quite calm again.” A letter from the PostMaster at Michigan City dated 19th.inst states that the gale the night previous landed the JOHN KENZIE, VIRGINIA, and WHITE PIGEON high and dry on the beach. Of the several vessels lying at anchor, all but the three names, hoisted sail and stood off when the wind changed from south to north.”

Philander Baldwin would have been about 27 years old when he arrived in Wisconsin. He went to work upon his arrival. According to Timothy Johnson, the founder of Watertown:

During the same summer I cut a road, with the assistance of three hired men— Philander Baldwin, Reeve Griswold and Charles Seaton—from Jefferson to Watertown, on the east side of the river, and one from Jefferson to a point near the present tavern stand of Austin Kellogg, in the town of Concord. Striking the extensive tamarack swamp there, which we regarded as impassable, we abandoned our intention of opening a road to Milwaukee.

Marriage and Children

Timothy Johnson must have thought favorably of Philander, because, in 1838, Philander married Timothy’s 18-year-old daughter Charlotte Johnson. Women were in short supply there and Timothy’s wife had been the first white women in the area. His daughters were married off quickly to some of the many eligible bachelors. Philander was perhaps lucky to get one of the daughters for himself.

Charlotte Johnson and Philander Baldwin had six children. One child died young, but the others have been identified as:

  • Mary L. Baldwin was born on 31 Jan 1841 in Wisconsin. She married George W. Johnson on 20 Mar 1861 in Sun Prairie, Dane, Wisconsin. She died in 1937 in Orange, Florida.
  • Lorena M. Baldwin was born in 1844 in Wisconsin. She married Selah Bronson Langworthy on 30 Jul 1864 in Dane, Wisconsin. She died in 1918 in Orange, Florida.
  • Martha A Baldwin was born in 1848 in Wisconsin. She died in 1864 in Wisconsin.
  • Helen Lucina Baldwin was born in Sep 1852 in Wisconsin. She married James W Huleress Fawcett on 02 Feb 1869 in Poweshiek, Iowa. She died in 1932 in Adair, Iowa.
  • Henry E. Baldwin was born about 1864 in Wisconsin.


The Baldwin family did not stay in Wisconsin, but rather moved around the country. In 1840 they were in Watertown, Jefferson, Wisconsin, and in 1848 Philander purchased land in Wisconsin.

Philander Baldwin, 1848 Land Purchase.

But by 1850, he had moved his family back east to Galen, Wayne, New York. It’s not known why they moved back to New York, but it could be an indication of where Philander originally was from.

In 1860, the family was back in Wisconsin. They lived at Medina, Dane, Wisconsin where Philander worked as a day laborer.

In 1871, when Timothy Johnson, father-in-law of Philander, passed away, the obituary said that the Baldwin family was living in Iowa. But, by 1875, when Kansas took a state census, Philander, Charlotte and their youngest son were living at Rose Creek, Republic, Kansas. Philander was listed as a farmer, but did not own any of his own real estate.


A year later, on 21 May 1876, Philander Baldwin succumbed to typhoid pneumonia. He was 67 years old. He was buried at Rose Creek Cemetery, Rose Creek, Republic, Kansas. His obituary was printed in the Watertown Republican on 28 June 1876:

Obituary of Philander Baldwin.
Obituary of Philander Baldwin.

Where is he in the tree?


“Second Annual Pioneer Festival”. (1851, January 22). Watertown Chronicle , p. 1.

Lewis, W. (n.d.). White Pigeon (Schooner), aground ?, 1 Aug 1836. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from Maritime History of the Great Lakes: http://images.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/58497/data?n=2

Lewis, W. (n.d.). White Pigeon (Schooner), aground, 16 Oct 1839. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from Maritime History of the Great Lakes: http://images.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/50977/data?n=1

Library of Michigan. (n.d.). White Pigeon 1832 Steamer. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from Great Lakes Maritime Database: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tbnms1ic/x-

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