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BALDWIN, WILLIAM WRIGHT

BALDWIN, WILLIAM WRIGHT (1845–1936). William Wright Baldwin, railroad attorney and land developer; credited with creating the Westmoreland Addition in the Montrose area of Houston, Texas; as well as founding Bellaire, Texas; was born in Keosauqua, Iowa, on September 28, 1845, to Charles and Rachel Baldwin. Baldwin attended public primary and secondary schools in his hometown of Keosauqua. He was admitted to Iowa State University in 1862 and graduated in 1866, following brief service during the Civil War. Baldwin was one of the founding members of the Zetagathean Society, a literary organization, and pledged the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

In 1864 Baldwin left Iowa State University to enlist with Union forces during the Civil War, specifically Company D, Forty-fourth Regiment, Iowa Infantry. This volunteer unit was organized in Davenport, Iowa, on June 1, 1864. The unit was ordered to Memphis, Tennessee, and assigned with guard duty until the volunteers were mustered out on September 15, 1864.

Baldwin returned to Iowa State University and completed his undergraduate studies, then entered Iowa Law School in Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated in 1867 as class salutatorian. In the course of his legal education, Baldwin worked for printers by copying Supreme Court opinions. He earned enough to pay for law school and also save seventy-five dollars. The following year he worked as a law clerk before accepting a partnership offer to practice law with Judge C. B. Harrington.

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company (CB&QRC) hired Baldwin in 1879. His first post was as Iowa land commissioner with the legal department. He advanced within the corporate system and became president of two lines that were consolidated with the CB&QRC—the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern and Chicago, Burlington and Kansas City lines. Baldwin was eventually named assistant to the president and then elected vice president in 1909. In this role, he was responsible for company activities involving taxation, land matters, telegraph operations, as well as government relations.

Baldwin was also president of the South End Land Company, and one of its projects in the city of Houston was the Westmoreland Addition in the Montrose area. The company purchased forty-four acres in 1902 and developed a twelve-block subdivision. By 1903 lots were sold in what the Westmoreland Preservation Alliance refers to as the “first planned, elite residential area” in Houston. The next development for Baldwin and the South End Land Company came in 1908 with the purchase of Westmoreland Farms, six miles west of Houston. Baldwin named the new community Bellaire, after Bellaire, Ohio, which was served by one of the CB&QR rail lines, as well as for the “good air” from constant Gulf breezes.

Baldwin was a noted philanthropist in Des Moines County, Iowa. He served as a trustee of the Burlington Public Library, president of the Charity Organization Society, president of the local school board, and director and secretary of the Opera House Company. Politically he was a member of the Democratic Party.

In September 1870 Baldwin married Alice Tuttle, daughter of Martin and Mary (George) Tuttle. Her uncle was James M. Tuttle, a colonel of the Second Iowa Infantry. William and Alice Baldwin had three sons (Martin, William, and Roger) and one daughter (Rachel).  Baldwin died ten years after his wife Alice on July 17, 1936, in Cook County, Illinois. He is buried next to Alice in the Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington, Iowa.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Augustine M. Antrobus, History of Des Moines County, Iowa and Its People, Volume 2 (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1915). Bellaire Historical Marker Information, Bellaire, Texas (http://ci.bellaire.tx.us/457/Bellaire-Historical-Marker-Information), accessed March 18, 2016. Crawford House, Westmoreland Civic Association (http://westmorelandpreservationalliance.org/specificpropertyhistory/crawfordhouse.html), accessed March 18, 2016. Union Iowa Volunteers, The Civil War: Battle Unit Details, National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-battle-units-detail.htm?battleUnitCode=UIA0044RI), accessed October 8, 2016. 

David A. Falloure and David H. Falloure

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Handbook of Texas Online, David A. Falloure and David H. Falloure, "Baldwin, William Wright ," accessed November 21, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbald.

Uploaded on October 11, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.