John T. Baldwin was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania on October 12, 1820, four years before his younger brother Caleb Baldwin. Like his brother, John was a large man, standing 6 foot four and weighing 300 pounds.
In 1843 he married Jane Hunter and together they moved to Fairfield, Iowa in 1844. In 1853 he closed up his interests in Fairfield and moved to Council Bluffs. John immediately became a mover and shaker in his new city. Jane and John had 3 daughters, Anna Baldwin Phelps, Sarah Baldwin Wheeler and Elizabeth Baldwin.
In 1853 he was elected to the Council Bluffs city council and in 1854 he was elected to the state legislature. He was elected mayor of Council Bluffs in 1877.
In 1856 John Baldwin opened a bank and land office with Grenville Dodge. Baldwin had this business until 1870 when they merged with the Council Bluffs Savings Bank.
John Baldwin and General Dodge then organized the Pacific National Bank in 1869, this enterprise also merged with the Council Bluffs Savings Bank in 1878.
Over his lifetime John Baldwin was involved with every aspect of business in Council Bluffs. He outfitted miners and emigrants heading west. He owned an interest in a flour mill. He was president of the Broadway Street Railway Company which eventually became the Council Bluffs streetcar system.
In 1876 Mr. Baldwin rebuilt the Ogden House hotel which had burned in 1874. His son-in-law George Phelps managed the hotel.
A life long Republican, John Baldwin attended several national conventions. In 1882 he caused quite a stir when he endorsed W. H. M. Pusey, a Democrat, for congress. The Nonpareil which was a Republican newspaper at the time (The Globe was the Democratic newspaper) wasn’t so endearing in their description of Mr. Baldwin.
“Mr. John T. Baldwin, who has made more money out of politics by being a republican in the past twenty-five years than perhaps any twenty-five men in the district ever made if their incomes were aggregated, is openly supporting the democratic nominee”
Daily Nonpareil September 17, 1882.
Despite the political differences, John T. Baldwin was admired as a loyal citizen of Council Bluffs.
“Since 1853, the year he came to Council Bluffs with his family, no one has been more intimately and actively engaged in the various business ventures that constitute the activity of life than has Mr. Baldwin. Council Bluffs had scarcely five thousand people when he arrived in our midst, his vigorous intellect and resolute purpose seized upon every project for the growth and prosperity of Council Bluffs.”
Council Bluffs Globe January 30, 1890
John T. Baldwin passed away on January 30, 1890 and is buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery.