Liberty Jail by Robinson

Caleb Baldwin: Bold Friend

Caleb was born September 2, 1791, in Nobletown, New York. As he matured he was quiet and soft-spoken except when speaking in defense of his friends and then he was known to have a “fiery tongue.” Caleb fought under Captain Charles Parker in the War of 1812. He married Nancy, December 9, 1814. When Mormon missionaries passed through northern Ohio in late 1830, Caleb and his wife were baptized. Most know the story that when Julia Murdock passed away in 1831 that her newborn twins were given to Emma and Joseph Smith to raise, but what no one remembers is that it was Caleb and Nancy who cared for the three older children while their father John served as a missionary.

Later when the saints experienced intense persecution in northern Missouri, Caleb was among able defenders in what was called the Battle of the Blue. He was captured and “was beaten almost to death by Missourians with hickory sticks,” the scars of which he carried for the rest of his life.

Caleb became a missionary, preaching the gospel fearlessly. Finally in late 1838 he was living somewhere near Far West, Missouri. When the Mormon\Missouri War broke out Caleb fought in defense of his people. When Far West fell, Caleb was among those arrested and charged with treason. He was brought before Judge Austin A. King to be arraigned. Caleb asked for a fair trial and then asked the Judge what he was to do with his family who were being driven out of the state by the mob. Judge King’s answer was that if Caleb would renounce his religion and forsake Joseph Smith, he should be set free and protected. Caleb refused.

He was bound over as a prisoner along with Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Alexander McRae, Lyman Wight, and Sidney Rigdon for next four months in Liberty Jail, Clay County Missouri. Caleb was Caleb Baldwin. It was he, along with Alexander McRae that scribed that letter dictated by the Prophet Joseph Smith to the Church that would later become Doctrine and Covenants 121-123.

When Joseph and the other prisoners escaped Missouri, they fled to Quincy, Illinois. There Joseph and the others found their families, but not Caleb. His family yet remained in Missouri. Caleb knew he was a wanted man in Missouri. If he went back and was captured he would be imprisoned or killed. He went back for Nancy and the children and got them out safely.

In Nauvoo, Caleb helped build the Nauvoo Temple. On one occasion the Prophet Joseph stood atop a barrel to preach to a gathered crowd. When the barrel began to teeter, Caleb rushed forward and Joseph put his hand on Caleb’s shoulder to steady himself. That act symbolized the life and service of Caleb Baldwin. When the saints went west to the Rocky Mountains Caleb was among the first. He was 57 years-old when he made the journey and was called Father Baldwin. Though he held no high position, he often included in counsel with the leaders of the Church. He arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September of 1848, where he died just a few months later.

It is said that the name “Baldwin” is of Germanic origins and that Bald means bold and that Wine means friend or protector. Caleb Baldwin was indeed a bold friend, mostly and undeservedly, forgotten by history.


Artwork by Robinson

9 Responses

  1. My Grandmother’s (Vernetta Baldwin Fraser) Grandfather. I am so proud of this heritage. Another book about him is “The Life and Times of Caleb and Nancy Baldwin) written by Duane E. Baldwin, a cousin of mine.

    1. Sandra, I also am a proud direct descendent of Caleb Baldwin. I tried to look for the book you mentioned but see that it is out of print. Do you know how I could get a copy for myself and my mom?

  2. I am proud to be a descendent of Caleb Baldwin! Many traits listed about him have been passed down to members of my family. I am so grateful for his example of never wavering dedication to the gospel of Jesus Christ. His legacy lives on in many of his descendents. I will be ever grateful for his faith, courage, and testimony of the gospel. I pray to be so strong.

  3. I found Caleb Baldwin in my mother’s descendant and enjoyed knowing I can proudly claim to be a Daughter of the Utah Pioneers. I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

  4. My great-great grandfather was Thomas Enoch Rhoades, a direct convert of the 1834 missionary efforts of Caleb Baldwin—he even named a son after this wonderful man (Caleb Baldwin Rhoades). Thousands of faithful members of the Church are literally directly connected to him through the Priesthood ordinances he faithfully performed as a missionary. I was amazed to learn so many fascinating stories about him. Mine will be among the many voices that will rise up and call him “Blessed” at the last day. God bless all of his descendants and may the choicest of spiritual gifts be yours through the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ!

  5. I read about Caleb in “Revelations in Context” in the capter on Liberty Jail. I wanted to find out more about this man who stood up to one of his jailors who was going to chain them all to the floor of their cellar prison. Caleb told this man, “Tillery, if you put those chains on me I will kill you, so help me God!” He was expressing righteous indignation which was couragous given the circumstances. Tillery backed down and none of the prisoners were chained although their guards were increased.
    He was one of the scribes that took down the letter that was later cannonized as sections 121-123. Caleb took great comfort from the letter and it helped him to handle his imprisonment. When the prisoners finally escaped and fled to Illinois, Caleb discovered that his wife and children were still in Missouri. He returned and found Nancy and his children and brought them eventually to Nauvoo and later to Salt Lake.
    He never held high office but was always willing to help where needed and had a great tetimony. I want to meet this man when I get to the Spirit World. He is my idea of a great Latter Day Saint.

  6. I am a descendant of Caleb Baldwin. So proud of that legacy! I’d love information about that out of print book.

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