Robert O. and Mary Cox Baldwin and the Baldwin Family
Robert O. Baldwin (1828-1908) arrived in the San Ramon Valley in 1852. He and his brother John came from Ohio in 1850 with a group of 200 men who traveled to the California Gold Rush. John and Robert wrote a diary which covers the challenging expedition across the country.
The Baldwin brothers and their friend William Meese mined in Placerville and the Feather River area. They moved to the valley in October of 1852 and bought land with their mining profits. R.O. and his wife Mary eventually owned over 900 acres of prime valley land in Danville.
Mary Cox (1838-1914), her parents, four sisters and two brothers arrived the valley in 1853. Brother William Cox (1833-1910) bought land south of Meese’s ranch. An area next to San Ramon Creek on the Cox Ranch was known as Cox’s Grove and many July 4th picnics were held there during the 1800s.
O. Baldwin and Mary Cox were married in 1858 and had six children. Both R.O. and Mary’s brother William were founding members of the Danville Grange (1873). The Baldwins were one of six Grange couples who celebrated their Golden Anniversary in the first decade of the 20th century.
Robert was a well-known farmer, a trustee of the Danville Presbyterian Church, one of the first trustees of the Danville grammar school and a Grange leader. He experimented with new crops such as beets and planted thousands of fruit trees just before the train arrived in 1891.
Three Cox sisters, Mary, Panthea and Sarah, married pioneers Robert Baldwin, William Meese and John Larabee. Their brother William Cox married and stayed in the valley as well. The many first cousins went to school together, socialized and knew one another well. One pioneer said it was hard to get away with anything since everyone knew or was related to everyone else!
R.O. made the first direct shipment (150 tons of wheat) from Danville to the Grangers’ warehouse at Port Costa on June 9, 1893. The family’s flag stop on the Southern Pacific railroad line was called Osage Station, named for the Osage trees and hedges he had planted with seeds from back East. Today’s Osage Station Park in Danville was named for this railroad flag stop; it was once a large Baldwin pear orchard.
Baldwin was also a great San Ramon Valley booster. He wrote regularly for the Contra Costa Gazette, saying at one point: “I thought the valley was a Garden of Eden when I moved here and I’ve never had any reason to change my mind!”
The Baldwin home was a handsome two-story building, built in 1888. It burned down in 1953 when water supplies ran out. The palm trees which framed the house could recently have been seen along El Capitan Drive, just east of Camino Ramon. The Baldwin Ranch was sold in the 1960s; today the Danville Station development covers much of the original ranch land.
John F. Baldwin Jr., the bright and personable U. S. Congressman from the San Ramon Valley from 1955-1966, was the grandson of these two pioneers. (His father John Finley Baldwin married Nellie Linikin in 1900.) John F. Baldwin Jr. elementary school in Danville is named in his honor.
Margaret Baldwin Wildenradt, John’s sister, went to Cal the same years as John. She decided not to get a teacher’s certificate because she didn’t want to go to a small town to teach. “In Danville a teacher’s life wasn’t her own – everybody ran her business – who she went with, what she did, everything else.” She went to business school and worked for the Bank of America in Oakland. Later she, her husband Herb and family lived near today’s Camino Ramon and ran the Baldwin Ranch.
The Baldwin cemetery plot in the Alamo Cemetery is often visited on during the Museum’s public cemetery tours. Adjacent to it is the Cox family plot.
Contra Costa Gazette, various reports by R. O. Baldwin, 1880s; Danville Sentinel, Feb. 11, 1899; Munro-Fraser, History of Contra Costa County, 1882, pp. 56, 128, 143-144, 429-431, 439-440, 442-443, 506-507, 619; Illustrated History of Contra Costa County, 1879, p. 23; Virgie V. Jones, Historical Persons and Places…In San Ramon Valley, 1977, pp. 25-29; Jones, Remembering Alamo, 1975, pp. 67-75; Margaret Baldwin Wildenradt, oral history May 22, 1991.
B. Lane 11/2023