Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Cape Ann Granite Company, Part Three - Albert Baldwin

The Albert Baldwin, the most-recognized granite sloop in Massachusetts Bay, put to wind the largest sail ever cut in the ports of Gloucester or Boston.1  Over her three decade career she answered to only one master, William Howard Poland.

Captain Poland had demonstrated his seamanship for the Cape Ann Granite Company during eight years at the helm of the William P. Hunt in the 1880s. When company president Colonel Jonas H. French determined that a replacement sloop should be constructed he sent Captain Poland to the James and Tarr shipyard in Essex to help develop the best possible craft.2 They christened the new vessel Albert Baldwin at her launching in 1890.
The granite sloop Albert Baldwin
Peabody Essex Museum photo
The namesake of the Cape Ann Granite Company's flagship has been a mystery in our time. I had perused Gloucester's nineteenth-century newspapers on microfilm as well as a fair portion of our local literature without finding any reference to Mr. Albert Baldwin.  To find out more I needed to employ tools of the digital age from my research center on the outskirts of Halibut Point.

Local historian Elise Breen recommended subscribing to the web site that has scanned many of the nation's newspapers with ocular character recognition (OCR), meaning that its software has translated newspaper images into a digital alphabet that reads words and names! Any member - usually in quest of illustrious ancestors - can inquire about the occurrence not only of family names but of any recorded word. The name/word might occur in an advertisement, in a feature article, or on a police blotter.  Artful users invoke tag words, timeframes, and geographic limits for a net that catches desired results with the fewest reports to sort through.
My queries finally produced this satisfying nugget from the Cambridge Chronicle of March 17, 1900: "Mr. and Mrs. James M. Robbins, of Lee Street, returned Wednesday from a month's tour of the principal cities and places of interest in the south.. .. Through the courtesy of Mr. Albert Baldwin, a former Cambridge boy, an old friend of Mr. Bobbins, and now one of the leading citizens of New Orleans, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins were enabled to attend all the [Mardi Gras] festivities and also enjoyed the freedom of the Boston club. While in New Orleans, the Cambridge people were shown much attention by Mr. Baldwin, who is vice-president of the electric street railway of New Orleans. On one occasion, he took them in the president's private car to West End or Lake Pontchartrain, and entertained them at dinner....On Saturday, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins were members of Mr. Baldwin's party which went on a trip to Baldwin's lodge, 40 miles up the river from New Orleans, in Mississippi.... Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Robbins took a trip up the river on the steam yacht Semper Idem to Sea Glenn, which is also owned by Mr. Baldwin. It was formerly the plantation of Gov. Claiborne, of Mississippi, and contains 1,600 acres. The party enjoyed a drive of many miles through beautiful pine woods and cotton fields. Mr. Baldwin, who entertained the Cambridge people so hospitably, was born In this city 65 years ago. He began business at 18, in the dry goods house of J. M. Beebe & Co., of Boston, at $75 per year. He went to New Orleans during the war, and has accumulated a fortune. He is president of the New Orleans National Bank, with $400,000 deposits, has a hardware and farming machinery business worth $500,000, and is interested in many more enterprises. He spends his summers at Jaffrey, N. H. and will visit Cambridge this year on his way to his summer home."
These biographical notes intriguingly catapulted me to the military administration of New Orleans during the Civil War when General Butler and Colonel French were the arbiters of good order and prosperity in the occupied city. At this very time Albert Baldwin, another recently arrived Bostonian, was raising his station considerably in New Orleans. "The Big Easy" appealed to Jonas French enough that he returned there on at least one occasion for the month of January, 1872.3 We can imagine a gratuitous collaboration that brought Albert Baldwin to be lettered in gold on the trailboards of French's flagship.
In perhaps his only recorded biographical sketch we learn that Jonas French's mother's maiden name was Sarah Baldwin of Billerica.4 Could that mean a family connection? 

 The Town Clerk of Billerica provided me with several tantalizing but inconclusive references to late eighteenth-century Sarahs of that period among the 335 Billerica Baldwins.
Sarah Dunlap of the Gloucester Archives Committee introduced me to on-line resources for tracing records that might link  Albert Baldwin and Jonas French as cousins.
Julie Rizzello, a volunteer at the Rockport Library, helped ferret through Vital Records and the Mormon-sponsored compendium Family Search.

Another internet thread revealed Albert Baldwin's son Albert Baldwin's summer residence in Jaffrey NH - the same town where Albert Senior had vacationed in 1900. A Google quest then brought forth Albert Baldwin's father Jacob, a native of Jaffrey NH. This person comes to our attention because his daughter (Albert's sister) married into the Stoddard family which published extensive genealogical essays, including this:5

"[Jacob's] ability in mathematics was inherited by his sons, who achieved remarkable successes in business. His oldest son, George Partridge Baldwin, was a merchant and banker in Boston for many years; held the office of Alderman of the city and was nominated but defeated for Mayor of Boston in the election of 1869. Jacob, his second son, was a prominent merchant in Boston for many years. His other sons, Henry Fay, Albert and David Gilmore, settled in New Orleans, La., where Henry was earning a large salary before he was of age, and was a partner in the firm of Slocomb & Baldwin, the most important wholesale and retail hardware concern in the South. After the latter's death, during the Civil War, his brother Albert succeeded to the business and formed the well-known company of A. Baldwin & Co., the largest in the South up to the present time. The latter's positions as President of this company and as President of the New Orleans National Bank are now held by his son Albert."
The Baldwin crypt
Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans
The last patch in our quilted portrait of Albert Baldwin came from the Find A Grave website recommended by Sharron Cohen, which offered a picture of his opulent final resting place in New Orleans. It also included a photograph of the deceased for eternal remembrance.
Albert Baldwin
As much as I would like to have established a conclusive relationship of blood or collaboration between Jonas French and Albert Baldwin, I can only present suggestive circumstances to the imagination. Some sleuth-minded readers will recognize that the adventure of collecting these stitches and swatches has been a reward in itself, apart from verification of the original thesis.
1. "Rockport's Old Salts Still Tell Thrilling Yarns of Stone Sloops," Boston Sunday Post, April 8, 1945.
2. "Rockport Granite Sloops," E. D. Walen and Howard I. Chapelle, The Mariner, Volume V Number 11, April 1931.
3. Cape Ann Advertiser, January 12, 1872.
4. History of Essex County, Massachusetts, D. Hamilton Hurd, 1888.
5. The Stoddard Family, Being an Account of Some of the Descendants of John Stodder of Hingham, Massachusetts Colony, 1911.



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