J. A. Baldwin
J.A. Baldwin, chief engineer of the Masonic Temple, of Chicago, is one the prominent and well known men of his profession in the city. He is the eldest child and only son of four children born to his parents, Joel and Angeline H. (Hill) Baldwin, the former of whom was born near Utica, N.Y., and the latter was reared in Huron county, Ohio. The father was a man of fine educational attainments, and in his early life was a prominent and successful educator. Subsequent to his marriage he engaged in the boot and shoe business, in which enterprise he was successful. His death occurred March 25, 1883. Mrs. Baldwin, his widow, is yet living and resides at Benton Harbor, Michigan.
J.A. Baldwin's boyhood was spent in Columbia Station, Ohio, where he was born August 26, 1850, and where he received the rudiments of his education in the common schools and by instruction under the tutelage of his father. At the age of twelve years he secured a situation in a shingle factory in his native town, which became the starting point of his mechanical career. In the above factory and in a wooden bowl factory of the same place he was alternately employed until he went on the lakes at the age of sixteen years. His maiden trip was made in the spring of 1867 on the schooner-rigged boat Nellie, commanded by Capt. William Aldridge, on which he remained during the shipping season of that year. Spending the following winter in his native town, he, at the beginning of the lake season of 1868, returned to the Nellie, then under command of Captain Stickney, and later went to the Elyria, Capt. Charles Reed, and still later in the season he went to the steamer George W. Bissell, Capt. George Pringeld as wheelsman. On the former named boats he was a sailor before the mast. At the close of navigation in 1868 he went to Paw Paw, Mich., and attended school the following winter. At the opening of spring in 1869, he secured employment as engineer in a sawmill, and later became engineer of a large furniture factory at Paw Paw, and still later in that year became engineer in a sash and door factory at Decatur, Mich., where he remained a part of the winter following.
The spring following (1870) he was employed by R.W. Colburn to run his sawmill near Paw Paw, where he remained during the summer, and in the winter he moved that mill to the north branch of the Paw Paw river, where he operated it in the late winter and early spring (1871), then went to Saugatuck, where he was employed in a sawmill until June, when he went to Muskegon and secured work in a sawmill there for a short time. He then worked as a stevedore, loading vessels in the summer of 1871, then made five trips on the steamer Alpena as watchman, when he quit and went to Black lake and engaged at cutting logs and getting out hemlock bark for a mill that was there until fall. He then took charge of the mill at Black lake, owned by Swarthouse & Mulder, running the same on shares until along in the winter, when he shut down and rebuilt the mill, which he started up in February, 1872, and which afterward he continued to run, having an interest in it. That winter he took up his residence there with his family, and carried on the mill until late in the summer of 1872, when he became a partner with Captain Rowe in the purchase of the tug Hattie May. It was in the spring of this year that he secured at Milwaukee his first papers as engineer from United States Inspector Humes. He then moved to Spring Lake, and towed logs for Cuttler & Savage, mill men, and during the summer traded the Hattie May for the tug Croton, and moved to Douglas, doing general towing on the Kalamazoo river. In the late summer of 1872 he sold the tug Croton to its original owner, for whom he ran the tug as engineer. In the fall he quit the Croton and went to St. Joe, and secured a position as fireman on a passenger engine on the West Michigan railroad. William L. Fitch was then master mechanic of that road. He, however, remained only a short time in that position, when he went on the steamer G.P. Heath, Capt. R.C. Brittain, finishing the season with him. On the last trip of that boat from Saugatuck to Chicago he brought his family, which he settled near Downer's Grove, Ill. In the winter and spring of 1873 he went to Sherman, Mich., where he ran a sawmill, in which he was interested as part owner. Late that spring he returned to Downer's Grove, was taken ill and remained there during the ensuing summer. In the fall of that year he fitted out the propeller Skylark, and ran her for two months from St. Joe to Chicago, spending the following winter at Downer's Grove. In the spring of 1874 he returned to the Skylark, starting on his first trip April 24, and remained on her until July 1, 1874, when he returned and accepted a position with the West Michigan railroad as engineer, which he retained until early in October following when he became ill; recovering early in December, he went to Sand Lake, Mich., where for most of the winter he was employed in shipping lumber and scaling logs. In February of 1875, he again returned to the West Michigan Railroad Company, where he remained until he accepted a position on the tug Fannie Shriver in April, Captain Boswell commanding, for Captain Robbins, owner, and remaining on her until in the fall when he passed one month on the Messenger, of the Graham & Morton line, spending the following winter in Paw Paw. In February, 1876, at St. Joe he began putting machinery in the Sweet Brothers, owned by Henry Grimm & Co., Captain Myers sailing her. On the Sweet Brothers he remained until in the middle summer. In November he returned to the Skylark, aboard which he finished the season. The next February he again fitted out the Skylark and went across the lake with her in March, and was a week in making the trip owing to the great quantity of ice in the lake. On the Skylark he stayed all that season, and during the winter of 1877-78 ran a sawmill at Paw Paw. In the spring of the latter year he returned to St. Joe, where he ran a fish tug, and afterward was on the riverboat Union, on which vessel he was employed as engineer until late in the season. He then returned to the Skylark, finishing the season, and afterward removed her machinery, refitted her and remodeled her into a passenger boat - W.H. Williams becoming her owner - finishing her that winter. In the spring of 1879 he brought her (the Skylark) out as chief engineer, running her a short time and then came to Chicago and went on the canal and river boat, the H.P. Heath, steamer - running on the Illinois river and canal - Captain Nicholson owner. Later that year he went on the Niagara, Captain William Neadder owner, a similar boat on the Illinois river and canal. In the winter of 1879-80 he was employed as engineer in a coal mine at Beardstown, Ill. In the spring of 1880 he returned to the Niagara, remaining on her that season, and during the winter of 1880-81 was with the N.K. Fairbanks Company, as steam fitter.
The following March he fitted out the Niagara, a river steamboat, at Havana, Ill. On June 22, he became assistant engineer on the Mary Jarecki, running between South Chicago and Escanaba, continuing on her until September 4, when he was scalded by the bursting of a throttle, and returned home. When recovered he returned again to the N.K. Fairbank Company, with whom he remained throughout the rest of that year. In February, 1882, he went to Benton Harbor and fitted out the propeller Skylark, then owned by the Graham & Morton Transportation Company, first under Captain Stines and then under Captain Randall, and afterwards Capt. Wm Boswell, remaining on her until December following, when he returned to Chicago, and entered the employ of the N.K. Fairbank Company for the winter. In March of 1883, he was employed in putting new machinery in the City of St. Joe, a passenger boat, Captain Elton in command, which when completed he ran as engineer during the season, under Captain Stines. In the spring of 1884 he went on the passenger boat Lora, as engineer, finishing on her the lake season of that year, again returning to the N.K. Fairbank Company, and then to the Chicago Sugar House Company, 12th street, for the winter (1884). The year 1885 he was again on the Lora in his old capacity, spending the following winter in Chicago with the N.K. Fairbank Company as steam fitter. Early in the spring of 1886 he was employed by the owners of the Lora to refit her, and afterward he assumed his old position on her till the end of navigation of that year. During the winter of 1886-87 he was employed by Tobin & Hamler, who were building new boilers for the steamer Puritan, and at Benton Harbor the next spring he fitted out three boats for the Graham & Morton Transportation Co., and during the following season served aboard the Lora, Puritan and other boats of the same line as chief engineer of that line. During the winter of 1887-88 he rebuilt the machinery of the steamer Puritan, and when navigation opened he went on the latter boat, serving as chief engineer throughout that season. That fall he quit the lakes, went to Kansas City, Mo., to accept the office of chief engineer of the "Midland Hotel" of that place, remaining there creditably filling his responsible position during the year 1889 and until 1892, inclusive. On January 1, 1893, he accepted the position of constructing engineer for the Williams Engine Company, of Beloit, Wis., remaining with the firm until it went out of business late in August, when at the instigation of the above company he made arrangements with the Benton Harbor and St. Joe Electric Railway and Light Company to rebuild their plant, which he accomplished in a highly satisfactory manner, finishing his work in February, 1894. When navigation opened that spring he went out on the steamer Reed, running between St. Joe and Milwaukee, quitting her the last to July to go to Kansas City, Mo., to accept the position of constructing engineer for the Link Belt Machinery Company, of Chicago, and put in new boilers in the "Midland Hotel" plant, for the Grand Avenue Hotel Company, of which he was constructing engineer. In the spring of 1895 he returned to Chicago, and late in April went in partnership with Ben Haskell, of Glenn Pier, Mich., bought the steamer Yattow, which they later chartered to a steamship company on Lake Erie, running between Black river and Cleveland, Ohio, and later they chartered the steamer Root, which they put in the fruit-carrying trade between Glenn Pier and Chicago, closing the steamboat business October 1. He then returned to Chicago, and in November went to work for Wells & French as chief engineer of the street-car shops, where he remained until July 20, 1896, when he accepted the position of assistant engineer on the steamer Tioga under Charley Cushane as chief, Captain Wilkie in command, running between Chicago and Buffalo in the package trade. The Tioga was laid up in Buffalo the last of the year, and Mr. Baldwin returned to Benton Harbor January 1, 1897, then went to Chicago and later fitted up an ice plant for Swift & Co., at Calumet Lake, running the same until the middle of February, and soon after he appeared in Kansas City as a witness in an important case affecting the Midland Hotel Company. Returning to Chicago he was engaged in overhauling an ice plant, and later became assistant engineer of the Chicago Stock Exchange, having night charge of the plant until the last of June, when, on July 1, he was called to fill the responsible position of chief engineer of the Masonic Temple, where since by the engineering skill displayed he has won an enviable place among the men of his profession.
On September 13, 1869, he was married at Paw Paw, Mich., to Miss Libbie Button. Mr. Baldwin has filled many important positions of responsibility and trust, and he has received from his employers many testimonials certifying to his ability as an engineer, his integrity as a man, in whom great trusts may safely be imposed, and to the faithfulness of his character and entire freedom from questionable habits.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.