Biography - F. M. BALDWIN

Among the most prominent and enterprising citizens of White Hall F. M. Baldwin is numbered and his interest in the town and its upbuilding is indicated by his active co-operation in various movements for the general good. As mayor of the city he is conducting his affairs with the same dispatch and capability that he manifested in his business and in whatever relation of life we find him -- in the government service, in politics, in business or in social circles -- he is always the same honorable and honored gentleman whose worth well merits the high regard which is uniformly given him.

Mr. Baldwin is descended in the paternal line from Scotch-Irish ancestry. His father, Judge Benjamin Baldwin, now deceased, was a native of Virginia, born in 1792, and he became one of the most prominent and wealthy citizens of Greene [C]ounty, Illinois. His, indeed, was a remarkable record. Finding that he had little opportunity for advancement in Virginia, his growing ambition and desire for successful attainment led him to leave his old home in the south and remove to a pioneer district, which, however, presented opportunities for more rapid and substantial development. It was in early manhood that Judge Baldwin made his way to Ohio, arriving in Cincinnati about 1811 or 1812, with a capital of only fifty cents. His education had been extremely limited and he seemed to have no natural advantages save strong mentality and force of character. He had been in Ohio but a short time when he volunteered for active military service under General William Henry Harrison and became a lieutenant. He also assisted in building Fort Meigs. As time passed he added to his knowledge through reading, observation and experience. He was ambitious for mental as well as material advancement and put forth every effort that would develop his intellectual powers. Removing to Warren [C]ounty, Ohio, his fitness for leadership was there recognized and he was called to fill official positions within the gift of the county. He was also made brigadier-general in the Ohio militia and further political honors awaited him for he was twice elected to represent his district in the general assembly, being first chosen to that office in 1829. While in Ohio he was also candidate for the state senate, and while running for that office he met his first and last defeat. Again attracted by the possibilities of a frontier district he came to Greene [C]ounty, Illinois, in 1849, and purchased land in White Hall [T]ownship. One year later he brought his family from Ohio to this state and after residing upon a farm for about nine years he took up his abode in White Hall. In business he was active, far-sighted and energetic and acquired several thousand acres of land, which he divided among his children as they became of age. In this state further political honors came to him, for in 1860 he was elected to the legislature and took an active part in the affairs of the general assembly during one of its most important sessions. In politics he was a life-long democrat, with firm faith in the principles of the party, in the support of which he never swerved. His religious faith was that of the Universalist church. Judge Baldwin was united in marriage to Miss Martha Varner, who was a native if Hamilton [C]ounty, Ohio, the wedding being celebrated in the city of Hamilton in 1814. They became the parents of thirteen children, of whom F. M. Baldwin was the ninth in order of birth. Judge Baldwin passed away February 13, 1865, while his wife died in 1889, at the age of ninety-three years. He was a noble example of the self-made man, who arises to prominence through the opportunity which is the pride of our American life. With a recognition of possibilities he put forth his strongest and best efforts not only in business life, but also in political circles, and he won the prosperity which is the true reward of honorable effort and also gained an unassailable reputation as a citizen whose loyalty and devotion to the general good were above question.

F. M. Baldwin was born May 29, 1931, in Warren [C]ounty, Ohio, and the first fifteen years of his life were spent upon a farm. He continued at home until 1866, coming with his parents to Greene [C]ounty, Illinois, in 1850. He afterward secured land at String Prairie, where he carried on agricultural pursuits on his own account until 1869, in which year he purchased the Romeo gristmill and in the ownership and operation of this enterprise was connected with his brother, B. F. Baldwin, until 1883, when F. M. Baldwin sold out and removed to White Hall, where he has since lived. In his business affairs he was thoroughly trustworthy as well as active and enterprising and by careful management of his interests he accumulated a handsome competence that now enables him to live retired.

On the 5th of April, 1855, occurred the marriage of F. M. Baldwin and Miss Mary Agnes Bowman, who died in 1885, after a happy married life of about thirty years. They became the parents of nine children, of whom five are now deceased. Those still living are Mrs. Etta Griswold, who has three children; Mrs. Martha North, who has five children; Mrs. Mary Greer, who has three children; and Mrs. Agnes Woltrip, who has one child. Mr. Baldwin also has two great-grandchildren, one the child of a daughter of Mrs. Griswold and one the child of a son of Mrs. North. After losing his first wife Mr. Baldwin was again married in 1888, his second union being with Mrs. Cora B. Gullett, a daughter of Vilroy Robley, a prominent farmer.

In his political views Mr. Baldwin has ever been a most earnest democrat, giving inflexible support to the principles of the party. He has frequently been called to a public office and his official service has been creditable alike to his constituents and to himself. In 1889 has was elected alderman and in 1895 he was chosen mayor of the city, and in 1897 was re-elected. In 1899 he was defeated, but in 1903 he was again elected to that office and is now serving for his third term. His administration has been most acceptable, for it has been characterized by economy, progress and improvement. During his first term concrete walks were introduced into White Hall and the streets were lighted by electricity. During his second administration the water works system was established. He has favored every measure which he believed would contribute to the progress and upbuilding of White Hall and his efforts have been far-reaching and beneficial. He has several times served as school director in town 11, range 12, and yet Mr. Baldwin has by no means been a politician in the sense of office seeking, preferring to give his attention to the supervision of his private business interests. Realizing, however, that the duties and obligation of citizenship must be met, he has accepted the office of mayor when it has been the expressed wish of his fellow townsmen that he occupy the office and his public record shows that the trust reposed in him was well placed.

Extracted 2021 Aug 02 by Marti Swanson from Past and Present of Greene County, Illinois, by Ed Miner, published in 1905, pages 313-315.

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