Henry S. Baird (1800-1875), Elizabeth Baird (1810-1890) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Henry S. Baird (1800-1875), Elizabeth Baird (1810-1890)

A Short Biography

Henry S. Baird, b. Dublin, Ireland, 1800
d. Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1875
Elizabeth Baird, b. Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, 1810
d. Green Bay, Wisconsin, 1890
EnlargeQuarter-length oval portrait of Henry L. Baird.

Henry L. Baird, 1856

Madison, Wisconsin. View the original source document: WHI 27578

EnlargeBlack and white portrait of Elizabeth Baird.

Mrs. Elizabeth Thérèse Baird

View the original source document: WHI 58712

Henry Samuel Baird was a territorial politician and prominent early Wisconsin settler. Elizabeth Therese Baird was the daughter of a British fur trader and a French-Ottawa mother.

The Bairds were connected to many of the founders of modern Wisconsin through family ties, marriage, business interests, and politics. They participated in or witnessed the birth of nearly all the state's important social institutions. They helped shift millions of acres of land from inhabitation by American Indians to government ownership. They watched hundreds of towns grow from frontier backwaters to cities teeming with new immigrants. They saw Wisconsin's landscape transformed from unbroken forest and prairie into thousands of bustling farms.

Early Years and Marriage

Elizabeth Therese Fisher was born in Prairie du Chien in 1810. When Elizabeth was two years old, she and her mother moved to Mackinac. Elizabeth grew into a woman of great charm and intelligence who moved easily among both the Indian and white communities.

Henry S. Baird was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1800. He immigrated to Pittsburgh with his family around 1805 and studied law in Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 1822, he moved to Mackinac Island, Michigan Territory and taught school. One of his students was Elizabeth Fisher. In 1823, he was admitted to the bar and became the first practicing attorney in Wisconsin.

Settling in Green Bay

Elizabeth and Henry married on August 12, 1824. Elizabeth was 14 years old at the time. They set up house in the frontier settlement of Green Bay. Elizabeth's detailed knowledge of the fur trade, American Indian family connections, and ability to interpret for French clients made the Baird home a center of Green Bay social life. It also contributed to Henry's success in politics and law.

Witnesses to Wisconsin's Growth

Wisconsin's environment, politics, economics, culture, and languages were completely transformed during the Baird's lifetimes. When the Bairds settled in Green Bay after their marriage, Wisconsin was home to fewer than 150 pioneer families. By the time Elizabeth died in 1890, the state's population was approaching 2 million.

Involvement in Indian Affairs

Henry's law practice took on a great deal of work that concerned Indian affairs. He often criticized government actions. He represented the Ho-Chunk and Menominee in 1830 land transactions and was a quartermaster general during the Black Hawk War of 1832. In addition, he served as secretary to the U.S. negotiator at treaty councils in 1836, 1838 and 1848.

Championing Territorial Government

When the Wisconsin Territory was created in 1836, Henry presided over the state government's first official meeting. Ten years later, he served as a delegate to the first constitutional convention. Always active in politics and business, Henry unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1853. He also served two terms as mayor of Green Bay during the Civil War. In 1871, Henry and Elizabeth took joint charge of the relief effort for victims of the destructive Peshtigo Fire.

Henry died in Green Bay on April 30, 1875. Elizabeth died in Green Bay on November 5, 1890.

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