Caleb Baldwin – Early Citizen of Council Bluffs

Caleb Baldwin was born April 3rd, 1824 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He graduated law school in 1842 and by 1846 had moved to Fairfield, Iowa. There he married Jane Barr in 1848. They had 11 children, of which, only 6 lived to adulthood. Caleb and Jane moved to Council Bluffs in 1857 and made their home on Willow Avenue across from Bayliss Park.

By all accounts Caleb Baldwin was an outstanding lawyer and judge. He was a prosecuting attorney in Jefferson County, judge of the District Court and in 1859 was elected to the Iowa Supreme Court and in 1862 became Chief Justice. He retired from the Supreme Court and returned to private practice in 1864. In 1865 he was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Iowa, but held that position for a short time. Caleb was mayor of Council Bluffs in 1867. About this same time Caleb Baldwin formed a law partnership with George F. Wright. In 1874 Caleb was appointed one of the Judges of the Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims.

Despite his serious career, Caleb Baldwin was a man of good humor as described by his law partner George Wright: “His big sunny face when bright with laughter made mirth contagious, and one could no more resist than stand before a cyclone. Indeed, he laughed all over; and when his whole 430 pounds joined the whirlwind it was indeed a cyclone of good humor, and you, nolens, volens, got into the way” and “In society he was a favorite, for he was so kind, so gentle, so cordial and in the evening circle, for instance, could with other affable qualities, so deftly touch the lightest keys of the piano, with his immense hands, that he was sought for and always in demand.”

Caleb Baldwin passed away December 15 1876 and is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery. After his death, his wife Jane was appointed Postmistress of Council Bluffs, a position she held until her death in 1883.

“With marked ability to judge men, he was always ready to accommodate himself in speech and manner to their varied dispositions and positions. He was as much at at home with the plain farmer as with the learned attorney; with the humblest mechanic as the man of largest means; with the “hale fellow well met” as with the most accomplished and fastidious divine. All this with him was not a matter of study, but a part of his nature; and whatever his surroundings he was ever true to himself, and never other than the dignified gentleman”.