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My Grandfather Philip Baldwin


Margo Baldwin

My grandpa Phil came to Noyes, Minnesota on May 6, 1922because he had an appointment as an Immigrant inspector. He had many previous years of experience in the Customs and Immigration service before coming to Noyes, but this was to become his permanent home. This is where he raised his family - - worked at his job and bought a farm which is my home and established himself with the pioneers that developed Kittson County.

Before arriving at Noyes, my grandfather had enough foresight to wire ahead and ask the officers to try to find a house for his family. Unfortunately, no homes were available so they lived at the hotel in Emerson.

My grandmother stated their arrival in this way: "I can see us now straggling into the hotel on an early Sunday morning, 5:30to be exact. It was a lovely day and spring was early for this part of the country. The whole town seemed to be asleep with the exception of one old cow that was staked out in the roadside ditch. As usual, after a long trip, the children, Phil and Rose, were tired and cranky." After a long wait, they were glad when they found a rooming house. "The kids got to belittle tyrants at the rooming house. It didn't take them long to find out that it was a place where railroad men slept during the day so they were supposed to be quite silent. Whenever they wanted attention or to do something they weren't supposed to do, they kicked up a rumpus and yelled to get their own way." (1)

After about a month they moved to a small house on the west side of the river and it didn't take too long to get the youngsters back on the track. My dad and Aunt Mary and Aunt Sarah were born in Emerson and had dual citizenship until they were old enough to make a choice. They all have certificates of derivative citizenship.

The Immigration office had burned down two days before they arrived and business was transacted in a railroad box car. What files they had were stored in a shoe box. Procedure was quite different then. The Great Northern and Soo Line trains arrived in Noyes a little after 5:00 am and were boarded by inspectors who went to Winnipeg where the District Office was maintained. They worked in the Winnipeg office all day and on the trip back to the border they inspected the aliens riding the train. It was usually 8:00pm or 8:30pm before they could call it a day and go home.

Grandpa Phil worked at the Immigration during the prohibition days. They were constantly on the watch for bootleggers trying to slip by the border with their bottles of illegal liquor. When they found women that tried to cross the border with liquor bottles under their skirts, they would call Grandma in to conduct the investigation.

The bootleggers also tied a string to a bottle and hung it out the train window. The inspectors would either cut them off or go along down the train and with a stick in hand they would break the bottles they found hanging outside the trains. However, the most effective method, my grandfather would often say, was when the government offered a share of the fines to people who could give information leading to the arrestor these bootleggers. Often the people who had sold the liquor in the first place would call to alert the men at the border.

In 1926, the family moved to St. Vincent, Minnesota so the children could go to school and learn to talk United States English and sing the Star Spangled Banner. Roads were often blocked with snow in the winter and a horse and covered sleigh was the main means of transportation. Highway 75 was being built at this time and the going was quite slow. About this time Grandpa Phil was in charge of the Noyes office and ports west through Portal, North Dakota and East to Warroad, Minnesota. The District Office had been moved from Winnipeg to Grand Forks.

By 1930 Highway 75 had been built and in that year the Baldwin family moved to Humboldt and a year later to the farm where we now live. It was a happy place to be - - horses to ride and drive, cattle, sheep, geese, guinea hens, chickens and turkeys, and lots of friends who often came to spend a day or an evening of music, or maybe a little dancing and lots of chatter.

His violin was Grandpa’s way of expressing himself through music. His happy effervescent nature led him to favor the quick lilting tunes of the polka and the schottische. Some of my happiest memories of him are of when we children were taught the schottische accompanied by Grandpa playing the violin and Grandma at the piano. Every family gathering ended in a musical talent show where all were applauded and encouraged. Grandpa was a great believer in using and developing what talents God gave you.

Philip Baldwin was born December 6, 1881, in Paulding, Ohio. His father, Marcus Dana Baldwin, was an attorney who was appointed an Indian agent at Cutback, Montana under Grover Cleveland's administration. Because the family lived on the Blackfoot Indian reservation, my grandpa was sent to school with the Indian children. He played with the Indian children and learned to break ponies to ride and rope cattle.

When he was 18, some friends of his that had been in the Spanish American war decided to go to the Philippines. Grandpa's early trainings an Indian cowboy was the reason he went along to help with the army mule pack trains. When the army didn't need him anymore as a pack mule train assistant, he decided to stay on as a Customs Inspector. He left the Philipines after 15 years because he was very ill with malaria.

When he returned to Montana, he went to a Business College, where he met Grandma. She had been his teacher in shorthand and typing. Together they opened a business college of their own.

Grandpa Phil preferred the government service and was, soon after applying, accepted to the Immigration Service at El Paso, Texas. Their first new home was built of adobe block which is a mixture of mud, straw, and manure. Many houses in Mexico and Texas in the warmer climates are still built this way. Grandma was not the kind that believed in paying rent, so they bought a lot and had an adobe house built. Grandma tired of the extremely exciting and adventurous life of living by the Mexican borders they moved back to Montana. Here, Grandpa bought a small alfalfa farm. It took two years to find out that it was a losing adventure. It was after this that Grandpa Phil came to Minnesota.

Besides being an active man and father of five, my Grandpa Phil Baldwin was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. To belong to this group of persons you have to have proof that you were a descendant of someone that participated in the American Revolution. The following lists the requirements:

"SECTION 1. Any man shall be eligible to membership in the Society who, being of the age of twenty-one years or over, and a citizen of good repute in the community, is the lineal descendent of an ancestor who was at all times unfailing in his loyalty to and rendered active service in, the cause of American independence, either as an officer, soldier, seaman, marine, militiaman or minute man, in the armed forces of the Continental Congress of any one of the several Colonies or States of as a signer of the Declaration of Independence; or as a member of a committee of Safety of Correspondence; or as a member of any Continental Provincial, or Colonial Congress or Legislature; or as a recognized patriot who performed actual service by overt acts of resistance to the authority of Great Britain."(1)

My Grandfather was one of many who read this article when applying for membership in the "Sons of the American Revolution.” Being a descendent of George Michael Spangler, who was an Ensign of the 4th Company of the York Company Pennsylvania Militia, enabled my grandfather to become a member of the elite society. I included a copy of his membership application at the conclusion of this essay.

Puzzles - - history books - - number short cuts to addition or multiplication - - spelling sticklers - - Spanish books and newspapers- - an ever-growing collection of tools and handy gadgets - - cameras and the dark room with its photo enlarger - - were some of the hobbies he shared with his family. When he started to raise turkeys as a new hobby he started out big, with a thousand birds. That didn't look like many when they were small but, by fall they were all but busting out of the fences and caring for them was a two man job. He raised turkeys for several years until the market no longer covered the cost of the feed. The best part of this venture was that this holiday meat became any-day fare.

Grandpa liked people - - loved company - - and was happiest at the head of a table dishing out his favorite foods to family and friends. He was sorely missed by all of us when the end of his life came in April of 1957 in Tucson, Arizona where he and Grandma had gone for the winter.

In May 1945, Grandpa Phil had retired from the Immigration and Naturalization Service after 43 years of employment.

(1) Interview: Mrs. Rose E. Baldwin, February 12, 1969

(1) "Son of the American Revolution."


Great Falls Tribune, Great Falls, Montana, November 1, 1931

The Spangler Families with Local Historical Sketches, by Spangler, Edward W.

The Iowa Society of the Sons of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Interview: Mrs. Rose E. Baldwin, February 12, 1969

Interview: Mark Baldwin, February 12, 1969

Interview: Mrs. Rose E. Baldwin, February 20, 1969

Interview: Mark Baldwin, February 26, 1969

The original essay was reproduced for the Red River Valley Website by
Dennis L. Matthews

font-size:13.5pt'>February 26, 1969

The original essay was reproduced for the Red River Valley Website by
Dennis L. Matthews