Henry S. Baird and James Sherman Baker Papers, 1845-1918


Henry Samuel Baird was born on May 16, 1800 in Dublin, Ireland. In 1805 he migrated to America with his family, settling in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a youth he was educated in common schools. Having an interest in law, he entered the law office of S. Douglas in Pittsburgh at age 18. For the next four years, he worked at various law offices in Pennsylvania and Ohio, finally acquiring a position in Cleveland at the office of Reuben Wood, who became Governor of Ohio in 1850.

In 1822, suffering from ague and fever, he moved to Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory, to recover his health. While there he taught school. Although intending to return to Ohio, Baird noted the opportunities for a lawyer in a frontier area, and decided to remain. He was admitted to the bar in 1823, of a newly created district of Michigan Territory, comprising all of present-day Iowa and Wisconsin. He moved to Green Bay in 1824 where, before a special session of Territorial Judge James D. Doty's court held October 4, 1824, he became the first professional lawyer in what is now Wisconsin.

On August 12, 1824, he married Elizabeth Therese Fisher, a native of Prairie du Chien who was raised in Mackinac and attended Baird's school. (Mrs. Baird's sister, Jane Monroe Fisher, was the widow of Joseph Rolette and later the wife of Hercules L. Dousman, both prominent Prairie du Chien fur traders.) Because of her varied knowledge of the area, her Indian ancestry, and her ability to interpret for Baird's French clientele, Mrs. Baird contributed much to his success in law and politics. Their home was the center of Green Bay social life for many years. The Bairds had four children.

Baird was prominent in Indian affairs and often critical of government actions regarding them. In 1830 he was a negotiator for the Winnebago and Menominee tribes in land sales. He served as secretary to Henry Dodge at the Treaty at Cedar Point in 1836, was commissioner at the treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1838, and was secretary to commissioner of Indian affairs, William Medill, at the council held at Lake Poygan in 1848.

His political career began in 1836 when he was elected as a Whig to the Wisconsin Territorial Legislative Council. He served as president of its first session, which began its meetings at Belmont, Wisconsin on October 25, 1836. In December 1836, Governor Henry Dodge appointed him Attorney General of the territory, a position he held until 1839. He was a delegate from Brown County to the first Wisconsin Constitutional Convention in 1846, serving on several committees. In 1853, he was the Whig candidate for governor. In this year also, he was elected president of the Green Bay village board, becoming mayor of Green Bay for two terms in 1861 and 1862. Finally, he served as Draft Commissioner for Brown County during the Civil War.

In addition to his legal and political interests, Baird supervised the sale of the Astor family property in Brown County from 1862 until his death. He also served as agent in other real estate transactions. H was elected vice-president of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in 1862. In 1871, Baird and his wife were in charge of relief work for victims of the Peshtigo Fire. In that year also, Baird was elected president of the newly organized Old Settlers' Club. He was an active member of the Wisconsin Masonic Lodge, having served as Grand Master at one time. In 1874, he was one of the organizers of the Kellogg National Bank in Green Bay. Baird died on April 30, 1875.

James Sherman Baker was born in Lockport, New York, on April 17, 1815. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Buffalo, New York. In 1845, he moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and engaged in the insurance business. Baker married Eliza Baird, a daughter of Henry S. Baird, in 1847, and moved to Green Bay. The Bakers had three children.

While in Green Bay, he continued in the insurance business, acting as agent for the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York and the Aetna Insurance Company. His legal practice consisted mainly of handling titles and abstracts. In 1852, Governor Farwell appointed Baker first bank comptroller of Wisconsin, a position he held for two years. He also engaged in the real estate business, replacing Henry S. Baird as supervisor of the sale of the Astor property after Baird's death in 1875. Baker was a vestryman of Christ Church, Green Bay, at the time of his death on March 26, 1892.