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JAMES H. BAKER
BY MRS. JAMES M. SKINNER
James H. Baker was born in Norwalk, Ohio, September 16, 1839, and came to Lansing with his parents in 1849. They located some land at the corner of Washington avenue and Shiawassee street and built a house which was occupied by the family for many years. The old house still stands as one of the early day landmarks of what was then called Middle Town. Mr. Baker attended the public and Mr. Taylor's private schools until about sixteen years of age. He then became a dry goods clerk and sometimes he used the brush very skillfully. When about eighteen he was engaged by Messrs. Woodhouse and Butler, of Lansing, who had secured a contract with the State to manufacture chairs on the grounds of what was then the State Reform School for Boys. Most of the boys at that time were employed in these shops. Mr. Baker was foreman of the caning department and he taught the first boy in that institution to weave a cane seat. He held this position until August 21, 1861, when he joined a company of sharpshooters, standing the test of expert marksmanship. He and his brother, A. L. Baker, left Lansing to go into camp at Detroit. Mr. Baker was made second lieutenant of Company C, First Regiment United States Sharpshooters. He was sent with his company to Weehauken, New Jersey. They were sent to Washington and went into camp on the heights, about one mile north of the Capitol, where the regimental organization of the company was perfected. They remained in this camp until March, 1862, when they entered upon the Peninsular Campaign with McClellan. In February, 1862, Mr. Baker while home on recruiting service was married to Miss Ednah DeLano who survives him. He fought in many of the hardest battles, being three times wounded. His last engagement was on the mountain top of Wapping Heights on the skirmish line July 27, 1863. Here he was wounded and returned to Michigan on leave of absence, resigning at close of the war.
Mr. Baker was twice promoted, commissioned first lieutenant, Oct. 18, 1861, and captain, Aug. 31, 1862; honorably discharged, Nov. 21, 1863. He was highly complimented by Col. Berdan for gallantry and skill he displayed while under fire at Gettysburg, was also recommended for a medal of honor by the commanding officer.
After his recovery he and his brother, Oscar A. Baker, started a chair factory on the north half of the site of the present Buck store. A year and a half later he sold out to his brother.
In 1866, through the recommendation of Mr. Robinson, then superintendent of the reform school, Mr. Baker was appointed assistant superintendent. One year later Mr. Robinson died and Mr. Baker acted as superintendent for several months. After nearly three years he resigned to enter the lumber business with a Toledo firm. He built the home on Shiawassee street which he occupied for nearly forty years.
In 1885 he was superintendent of the lumber interests of Mr. Orlando F. Barnes at Harrison and Smith Creek, Gladwin County, which consisted of a saw and shingle mill. Ten years were spent in this locality until the business was closed out. He returned to Lansing and was employed as purchasing agent for the Lansing Spoke Company, owned and conducted by Mr. E. S. Porter of Lansing. After ten years of steady service his health failed and he resigned in 1908. He died Aug. 3, 1909, aged sixty-nine years.
ARTHUR C. BIRD
Arthur C. Bird, state dairy and food commissioner, and one of the leading business men of Lansing, died early Friday morning, May 27, 1910, at his home in East Lansing of heart failure, superinduced by pneumonia.
Mr. Bird has been active politically in this State for many years and was well-known throughout the State, but to Lansing he was one of its leading citizens, interested in every enterprise for the good of the city and out at the college, he will be best remembered as a man anxious for the college to progress at all times, while many students have occasion to remember him for his many kindly acts and interest in their welfare.
He was born in Highland, Oakland County, May 22, 1864. He attended the public schools until he was thirteen years of age, when he entered his grandfather's bank at Fenton and laid the foundation there for the business career in which he was such a success. At the age of sixteen he entered the Agricultural College, graduating in 1883. For a number of years he was engaged in farming in Oakland County, and during part of this time he edited the farmer's club department in the Michigan Farmer and also organized a Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Co., which was conducted successfully under his direction. He was founder and first president of the State Association of Farmers' Clubs and it was in this connection that he first entered politics. Goyernor Pingree, when he entered office in 1897, appointed Mr. Bird a member of the State Board of Agriculture and a few years later he became secretary of the college, a position in which he displayed talent for organization and thoroughness in business matters which accomplished much for the institution. Since quitting that post he retained his intense interest in the college, doing for it in any way at any time. He was a member of the Eclectic Literary Society and to him more than any other man the society owes its fine building erected a few years ago.
In 1904 he became superintendent of the State census and in 1905 Governor Warner appointed him dairy and food commissioner. Mr. Bird's business career in this section began when he became associated a number of years ago with C. D. Woodbury and Edward Cahill in platting the subdivision of Oakwood, in what is now East Lansing. There he erected a fine and commodious home in which he resided at the time of his death. Later he acquired an interest in the Clippert & Spaulding Brick and Tile Works, and devoted considerable time to its affairs. He was also interested in the Hammond Publishing Co., the Auto Body Co., and had large real estate holdings in the city, including the Oakland Block which he erected, and the brick stores and wholesale warehouses on East Michigan avenue.
He was one of the organizers of the Lansing Business Men's Association, was deeply interested in its work and was a member of the board of directors at the time of his death.
Mr. Bird was married in 1889 to Josephine St. Johns and she with two sons and two brothers survive him. He was a member of Lansing Lodge No. 33, F. & A. M., and Lansing Commandery Knights Templar and the Mystic Shrine of Detroit.—Lansing State Republican, May 27, 1910.
DELOS A. BLODGETT!
BY W. H. ANDERSON
In the death of Delos A. Blodgett, which occurred in Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 1, 1908, the business and financial world sustained a distinct loss; the State of Michigan one of its most eminent citizens, society an active influence for good, and the worthy poor and unfortunate, a generous, sincere and unostentatious friend.
Mr. Blodgett was a native of the State of New York, having been born in Otsego County, March 3, 1825, and continued a resident of that State until he had attained his majority. About that time the family
Read at the annual June meeting, 1910.
moved to Illinois, and later to Wisconsin. The great lumbering industries of the northwest were then undeveloped, and the dormant wealth of the pine forests was comparatively unappreciated or unknown. Young Mr. Blodgett, possessed a keen foresight, which in later life, was recognized as wisdom and shrewdness, and quickly saw in the vast forests an opportunity for gaining riches. The life of a lumberman at once fascipated and appealed to him, and he decided to enter upon it as a vocation. His elementary knowledge of timber, and the process by which it was converted into lumber, and made ready for market, was obtained in the sawmill and lumber camps, where he found employment as a common laborer. He was never afraid of honest toil, whether it was swinging the axe, pulling the saw, or risking his life upon the treacherous river "drives,” by which means logs were floated from the forests to the mills. He shared the rough life and coarse fare of the woodsmen, and was in every sense one of them. But while he was toiling at the very bottom of an industry then in its infancy, he was active and alert to the opportunities, which the pine woods presented, and his ambition was to make a place for himself among the foremost. This position he ultimately attained, though not without a struggle, experiencing hardships and disappointments, such as come to the lives of the pioneers of any wilderness.
Mr. Blodgett's success in life was reached by slow and steady stages; the passing over many rough highways, and meeting and overcoming the usual difficulties and reverses, by the employment of that energy, determination and will power which ever characterized his undertakings in later life. He chose for his field of operations, Muskegon and the country tributary thereto, and began the career which did not end until he had reached a position among the strongest lumbermen of the Northwest, and had amassed a fortune among the largest. His initial venture in felling the forest on his own account, was made in company with Thomas D. Stimson. The undertaking resulted profitably for the two young lumbermen, and gave encouragement and furnished inspiration for more extensive operations. Faith in Michigan pine caused Mr. Blodgett to re-invest his money from time to time, and to gradually extend his holdings of valuable timber. He formed a partnership with Thomas Byrne in 1871, and for ten years, until the death of Mr. Byrne, the firm of Blodgett & Byrne, was among the best known of the half hundred mill owners and operators in the "Sawdust City," as Muskegon was then called. Following the death of Mr. Byrne, Mr. Blodgett continued the business without disturbing the interests of his late associate, and with such ability, fidelity and loyalty did he conduct the affairs, that when they were settled up, he turned over to the heirs of his former partner, more than one million dollars. Mr. Blodgett continued his operations in Michigan pine, until its early exhaustion became to him apparent. He then turned to the south, making large investments in some of the choicest tracts of timber in that section, which like his Michigan holdings, ultimately yielded him large profits. In 1881, Mr. Blodgett located in Grand Rapids, and soon became an important factor in the city's financial life, by identifying himself with several of the leading banking institutions, and becoming active in their conduct; he also invested heavily in real estate, and erected imposing structures for housing commercial enterprises. He, at once, became a part of the financial, commercial and political life of the city, and of western Michigan, being recognized as a strong man in all of his business connections and undertakings.
But it is Mr. Blodgett, the man, the philanthropist, the citizen and friend, rather than to Mr. Blodgett, the millionaire and lumber king, to whom it is desired to pay tribute in this article. One of his closest friends and business associates, in speaking of him, summed up his characteristics, in these concise words, which though brief, correctly describe Mr. Blodgett, as he was known in the community where he lived and died: “In business matters he was unswervingly honest and just. The man who tried to do right, found in him a friend, but he hated deceit in any form, and despised a sham."
He was sensible, pre-eminently modest, and without foibles. The accretion of wealth left him always the same simple unostentatious gentleman. His sympathies were with the unfortunate, and neither creed or color influenced his action. If the unfortunate was worthy, he did not ask in vain for assistance, and many times help came in the absence of any appeal. The extent of his quiet and unheralded charities will never be known, except to the many who at different times were beneficiaries of his kindness. His tender and sympathetic interest in the little homeless waifs, brought into the world only to become outcasts, was beautifully shown in the magnificent building erected and endowed by him for the care of such unfortunates in Grand Rapids, which will ever stand as a monument to his generous impulses.
Mr. Blodgett was not a church man, in the general acceptance of the term; that is, he was not a follower or subscriber to any of the orthodox creeds or faiths, yet he was a friend to all churches, and all denominations recognized him as such. When in need, they made their wants known to him, and whether Protestant or Catholic, black or white, they were rarely turned away empty handed. He recognized in all of them an influence for good, and to assist and encourage the good, to uplift and better moral conditions, and to help his fellow-man, was Mr. Blodgett's religion. Who will say such is not a beautiful faith, and who will deny that the world was benefitted by Mr. Blodgett's life, and his daily living and practice of this faith?