Grave of Alfred S. Baird.

Photo courtesy of Ray Gurganus. Sourace: Find a Grave,  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/166220307/alfred-s-baird

Baird, Alfred Sherman DePuy (1864–1918)

By Kevin M. Burton

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Kevin M. Burton, Ph.D. candidate (Florida State University). Burton did mission work in the Czech Republic and South Korea and served as chaplain at Ozark Adventist Academy. He currently teaches American history at Southern Adventist University and has published several articles on Adventist history. His M.A. thesis is titled, “Centralized for Protection: George I. Butler and His Philosophy of One-Person Leadership.” Burton’s doctoral dissertation explores Adventist political involvement in the abolition movement and Civil War.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Alfred Sherman DePuy Baird was an architect who supervised construction of buildings for denominational institutions in Michigan and Washington, D.C.

Early Life (1864-1885)

Alfred Sherman DePuy Baird was born on June 6, 1864, to John J. Baird and Elizabeth Piper in Johnstown, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.1 John J. Baird, was commissioned captain of Company G, 76th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War. He was wounded at the Second Battle of Drewry’s Bluff in May 1864 and was hospitalized in Point of Rocks, Virginia. He did not recover from his head injury and contracted a bad case of diarrhea. As a result, he was discharged in July 1864, and returned to his family shortly after the birth of his third child, Alfred. Captain Baird remained in poor health for four years. He witnessed the birth of two more sons, but passed away on November 18, 1868, less than two months after his last child, John J. Baird, Jr., was born.2

Alfred Baird was surrounded by death at an early age. His only sister, Gertrude, died shortly before he was born, which was followed by the death of his father when he was four, and the death of his younger brother, George Bennett Baird, less than a year later on September 30, 1869.3

As a young widow, Elizabeth Baird struggled to raise her three growing boys. Though Elizabeth received a military pension, during the first three years after her husband’s death she had to liquidate his estate piecemeal in order to survive. After the last of the estate was sold in public auction in April 1871, she moved her three children to Fayette County, Iowa.4 At the time of her second marriage on December 29, 1873, Elizabeth’s total assets included three carpets, one stove, a set of dishes, a $72 check on the New York Bank, and four cows, totaling $178. She was hopeful that her marriage to William C. Downing would ameliorate her financial affairs, but Downing proved to be abusive and neglectful. On October 5, 1876, Elizabeth gave birth to twin boys; the next day, October 6, Downing severely beat his wife and then locked her in the house for two weeks and refused her medical attention. In spite of such treatment, Elizabeth Downing raised a total of six children—five boys and one girl—in that home. After moving to Holt County, Nebraska, in the early 1880s, she finally divorced Downing on October 3, 1883.5

Alfred S. D. Baird was deeply impacted by his home environment and took his first job when he was 11 years old, learning “the carpenter’s trade to support [his mother] and the other children.”6 When he was about 17, he worked for the Central Pacific Railroad (formerly Western Pacific Railroad), which had joined with the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 to form the First Transcontinental Railroad in North America. In the early 1880s Baird traveled back to his home state to study drafting and general architecture at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.7

An Architect in Iowa and Nebraska (1885-1898)

In about 1885, Baird received his first building contract. After drafting the plans, Baird supervised its construction and continued in this profession until 1899. During these years he organized work crews and built numerous “magnificent structures,” including courthouses and grain elevators. Around 1888-1889 Baird became a Christian, perhaps through the influence of Helen L. Lebert. On January 6, 1889, Baird and Lebert were married in Burwell, Garfield County, Nebraska. Though Baird may have accepted the Adventist faith as early as 1888-1889, he was certainly an Adventist by the late 1890s.8 Unable to bear children of their own, the Bairds became involved with foster care and legally adopted one young girl named Marguerite Dobson between 1900 and 1910.9

Service for the Nebraska Conference (1899-1901)

In early 1898, the Nebraska Conference established the Christian Help Mission in Omaha, Nebraska. Many Americans suffered during the financial depression that began in 1893 and the Omaha Mission sought to help underprivileged men and women with free lodging, clothing, food, and health care. Baird was familiar with these hardships and retired from his architectural work to minister to the needy. His brother-in-law, Harry Alfred (H. A.) Fulton, was also partially responsible for Baird’s career change. Fulton started his career as a physician at the Mission when it opened in 1898.

In June 1899, Baird became business manager of the Omaha Mission under superintendent James A. (J. A.) Skinner. In September, Baird was elected to the Nebraska Conference executive committee, and in about the summer of 1900 he became the superintendent of the Omaha Mission, serving in that capacity until the early spring of 1902.10

Denominational Builder (1902-1913)

In 1901, Battle Creek College was renamed Emmanuel Missionary College and moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan. There were no buildings, however, and the students utilized the former Berrien County courthouse during the inaugural year. Before the school year ended, Baird was asked to move to Michigan and build the new college campus with student labor. Though somewhat hesitant, he accepted the offer and began the project in the spring of 1902.11

With the help of twenty to thirty inexperienced students, Baird began to build the faculty cottages. Over the next two years, Baird moved on to build the rest of the main campus buildings, including the two-story Advocate Hall, the manual arts building, a three-story domestic arts building, and the study hall, which was the main campus building. The study hall was the most memorable, and the unique Russian-style onion-like dome that protruded above the front entrance remained the most notable college landmark for nearly fifty years.12

In August 1903, the General Conference headquarters and the Review and Herald Publishing Association moved from Battle Creek to Washington, D.C. Initially housed in a rented building, the General Conference Committee requested that Baird come and build two permanent office buildings as well as Washington Training College (later Washington Adventist University) and the Washington Sanitarium (later Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital). Baird moved to Washington in the spring of 1904 to build the new denominational headquarters.

Baird built numerous Adventist buildings in and around Washington, D.C., between 1904 and 1913. He first built a campus for Washington Training College, which opened its doors in November 1904. By the summer of 1905 two dormitories and a dining hall were constructed, but the main college building was postponed. In the late summer, Baird moved on to build the new office buildings for the General Conference and the Review and Herald Publishing Association. The former was completed in December 1905 and the latter in May 1906. Though additions were added in time, both buildings remained in use until the 1980s.13

After completing these projects, Baird began to build the Washington Sanitarium, completing the main building in time for it to be dedicated on June 12, 1907. Baird then resumed his work on the college, beginning the main building in 1907. It was dedicated on May 19, 1908. Baird also built other structures, including a two-story elementary school building and several homes for denominational leaders.14

Baird was an inventor as well as an architect, and received a patent for a device that could cut crooked screw threads on May 11, 1909. Shortly afterward, in June 1910, more than three years before the assembly line reduced prices, Baird purchased an automobile.15

Later Career (1913-1918)

In the early months of 1913, Arthur C. Moses organized the A. C. Moses Construction Company in Washington, D.C. and Baird became his architect and superintendent. During the next five years, Baird built over 150 homes in and around the nation’s capital.

In 1917, Baird also acquired two building contracts for the United States government: a field house in Potomac Park and a brass foundry for the Navy. Baird did not live to see either structure completed, however. On April 27, 1918, Baird suffered from a heart attack while cranking his car and died the next day. His funeral took place on April 30 and he was buried in the Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C.16

Contribution

Alfred Baird faced numerous challenges as a child. He learned from these experiences, however, and developed a strong character and work ethic. These early years informed Baird’s service for the Adventist Church, first as the manager of the Omaha Mission and later as a denominational builder. In only a decade he planned and built two college campuses, a sanitarium, office buildings for the General Conference and Review and Herald Publishing Association, and scores of private dwellings. Several of these structures still stand, including numerous homes, such as the row of concrete houses in Washington, D.C. on Randolph Street between 4th and 5th Streets, and one of the field houses in Potomac Park, which Baird designed but failed to complete. More importantly, Baird impacted the lives of those he served and employed. He held daily devotional services before construction began and was an excellent manager and mentor. Throughout his life he deeply impacted many underprivileged persons, students, employees, and colleagues.

Sources

A. C. Moses Co. “Moses-Built Houses.” Washington, D.C., Post, November 5, 1916.

A. C. Moses Company, Incorporated. “There is No Reason in the World Why You Should Buy Your Home on Faith.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, March 20, 1915.

A. C. Moses Company, Incorporated. “This Type of Architecture Has Never Been Produced Before Under $6,000.00.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, March 27, 1915.

“A. S. Baird, Construction Superintendent, Dies: Was Builder and Architect for Washington Concerns—Lived at Takoma Park.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, April 29, 1918.

Baird, A. S. Baird to Elders White and Daniells. March 6, 1904. Ellen G. White Estate. Incoming Correspondence.

Baird, A. S. Baird to W. C. White. March 28, 1904. Ellen G. White Estate. Incoming Correspondence.

Baird, A. S. Baird to E. G. White. August 11, 1907. Ellen G. White Estate. Incoming Correspondence.

Baird, A. S. “The Spirit of a Training School.” The Advocate of Christian Education, March 1903.

Baird, A. S. “Student Labor.” The Advocate of Christian Education, June 1903.

Baird, Alfred S. Device for Cutting Crooked Screw Threads. US Patent 921,501. Filed June 5, 1908. Issued March 18, 1909.

Baird, [H. L.]. [H. L.] Baird to W. C. White. January 30, 1903. Ellen G. White Estate. Incoming Correspondence.

Baird, [H. L.]. [H. L.] Baird to W. C. White. October 1, 1905. Ellen G. White Estate. Incoming Correspondence.

Beatty, J. F. “Nebraska Conference Proceedings.” ARH, November 14, 1899.

Beatty, J. F. “Nebraska Conference Proceedings: Including Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota.” ARH, October 22, 1901.

Black, W. R. “Orphans Court Sale.” Indiana (PA) Progress, May 12, 1870.

Brown, Geo. M. “The Omaha Mission.” The Central Advance, January 14, 1903.

“Building Activities are Normal, Permits for Week Being $147,480.” Washington, D.C., Post, February 6, 1916.

“Building at Takoma Park.” The Advocate of Christian Education, July 1904.

“Building Permits.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, October 13, 1915.

“Building Permits.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, January 12, 1916.

“Building Permits Issued.” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, July 31, 1906.

Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, compiled 1861–1934. Digital Image. Fold3.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://www.fold3.com.

Colcord, W. A. “Obituaries: Alfred Sherman Baird.” ARH, May 30, 1918.

Curtiss, S. N. “Annual Meeting of the Review and Herald Publishing Association.” ARH, May 31, 1906.

Daniells, A. G. “The Work in Washington, D.C.” ARH, July 7, 1904.

“Developments at Emmanuel Missionary College.” The Advocate of Christian Education, July 1904.

District of Columbia. Washington City. 1910 United States census. Digital Image. Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

“Dog Trips Auto: Throws Machine Through Fence When Entangled in Gear.” Washington, D.C., Herald, October 12.

[Editorial Note]. ARH, December 21, 1905.

Evans, I. H. “One Hundred Thousand Dollar Fund.” ARH, May 17, 1906.

Evans, I. H. “The Washington Sanitarium.” ARH, December 27, 1906.

General Conference Committee, General Conference Archives. Accessed July 18, 2017, http://docs.adventistarchives.org/docs/GCC/GCC1908.pdf#search=%22%20a%20s%20baird%20%22&view=fit.

Gross, Jos. “Orphans’ Court Sale.” Indiana (PA) Progress, March 16, 1871.

Howard, A. J. “Nebraska.” ARH, February 1, 1898.

Hughes, LoRetta. “Gertrude Adella Baird.” Find A Grave. February 10, 2007. Accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17882170&ref=acom.

Iowa. Fayette County. 1880 United States census. Digital Image. Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

Magan, P. T. “From Book to Building.” ARH, December 31, 1903.

“Many Cars Bought in Month of June.” Washington, D.C., Times, July 10, 1910.

Mary (Coggin)Russell. “George Bennett Baird.” Find A Grave. July 23, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=133218116&ref=acom.

“Moses Heads New Construction Firm: Latest Building Company Gets Contract for $30,000 Structure in H Street.” Washington, D.C. Times, March 20, 1913

Nebraska. Douglas County. 1900 United States census. Digital Image. Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

“Notes on Buildings.” Washington, D.C. Herald, August 2, 1908.

“Obituary.” Blairsville (PA) Press, October 2, 1869.

Patterson, Charles H. “Obituaries: Fulton.” ARH, March 30, 1933.

Pennsylvania. Westmoreland County. 1860 United States census. Digital Image. Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

Pennsylvania. Indiana County. 1870 United States census. Digital Image. Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

P[rescott], W. W. “Dedicatory Exercises at the Foreign Mission Seminary.” ARH, May 28, 1908.

R[uble], W. A. “Dedication of the Sanitarium.” ARH, May 30, 1907.

R[uble], W. A. “Dedication of the Washington Sanitarium.” ARH, July 4, 1907.

Schwarz, Richard W. and Floyd Greenleaf. Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Revised and Updated Edition. Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2000.

“Services for Alfred S. Baird.” Washington, D.C., Post, April 30, 1918.

“Since Our Last Number.” Life Boat, June 1901.

Sutherland, Annie. “Words and Works of Church-School Teachers: Nebraska.” The Advocate of Christian Education, June 1899.

Vande Vere, Emmett K. The Wisdom Seekers: The Intriguing Story of the Men and Women Who Made the First Institution for Higher Learning among Seventh-day Adventists. Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1972.

White, E. G. “An Onward Work.” ARH, September 22, 1904.

Notes

  1. W. A. Colcord, “Obituaries: Alfred Sherman Baird,” ARH, May 30, 1918, 23.

  2. Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861–1934, National Archives Catalog ID 300020, Record Group 15, Roll WC129895-WC129925, digital image, Fold3.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://www.fold3.com.

  3. LoRetta Hughes, “Gertrude Adella Baird,” Find A Grave, February 10, 2007, accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=17882170&ref=acom; “Obituary,” Blairsville (PA) Press, October 2, 1869, p. 3, col. 4; Mary (Coggin) Russell, “George Bennett Baird,” Find A Grave, July 23, 2014, accessed July 17, 2017, https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=133218116&ref=acom.

  4. Black, W. R. 1870. “Orphans Court Sale.” Indiana (PA) Progress, May 12, pg. 2, col. 6; Gross, Jos. 1871. “Orphans’ Court Sale.” Indiana (PA) Progress, March 16, pg. 6, col. 7.

  5. Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Veterans of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War With Spain, compiled 1861–1934, National Archives Catalog ID 300020, Record Group 15, Roll WC129895-WC129925, digital image, Fold3.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://www.fold3.com.

  6. A. S. Baird, “The Spirit of a Training School,” The Advocate of Christian Education, March 1903, 91.

  7. Colcord, “Obituaries: Alfred Sherman Baird,” 23.

  8. Ibid.

  9. 1910 United States census, Washington City, District of Columbia, enumeration district 0202, roll T624_155, FHL microfilm 1374168, page 2b, digital image, “Dobson, Marguarte [sic],” Ancestry.com, accessed July 17, 2017, http://ancestry.com.

  10. A. J. Howard, “Nebraska,” ARH, February 1, 1898, 80; Annie Sutherland, “Words and Works of Church-School Teachers: Nebraska,” The Advocate of Christian Education, June 1899, 386-388; J. F. Beatty, “Nebraska Conference Proceedings,” ARH, November 14, 1899, 745; J. F. Beatty, “Nebraska Conference Proceedings: Including Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota,” ARH, October 22, 1901, 692; “Since Our Last Number,” Life Boat, June 1901, 78; Geo. M. Brown, “The Omaha Mission,” The Central Advance, January 14, 1903, 6; Charles H. Patterson, “Obituaries: Fulton,” ARH, March 30, 1933, 22.

  11. Baird, “The Spirit of a Training School,” 91.

  12. Ibid.; A. S. Baird, “Student Labor,” The Advocate of Christian Education, June 1903, 165; P. T. Magan, “From Book to Building,” ARH, December 31, 1903, 19-20; “Developments at Emmanuel Missionary College,” The Advocate of Christian Education, July 1904, 99; Emmett K. Vande Vere, The Wisdom Seekers: The Intriguing Story of the Men and Women Who Made the First Institution for Higher Learning among Seventh-day Adventists (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1972), 100, 105, 107, 117.

  13. A. G. Daniells, “The Work in Washington, D.C,” ARH, July 7, 1904, 24; E. G. White, “An Onward Work,” ARH, September 22, 1904, 7; “Building Permits Issued,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, July 31, 1906, 8.

  14. I. H. Evans, “The Washington Sanitarium,” ARH, December 27, 1906, 7; General Conference Committee, July 1, 1908, 518, General Archives, accessed July 18, 2017, http://docs.adventistarchives.org/docs/GCC/GCC1908.pdf#search=%22%20a%20s%20baird%20%22&view=fit; “Notes on Buildings,” Washington, D.C. Herald, August 2, 1908, 27; W. W. P[rescott], “Dedicatory Exercises at the Foreign Mission Seminary,” ARH, May 28, 1908, 15; W. A. R[uble], “Dedication of the Sanitarium,” ARH, May 30, 1907, 21; W. A. R[uble], “Dedication of the Washington Sanitarium,” ARH, July 4, 1907, 21.

  15. Alfred S. Baird, Device for Cutting Crooked Screw Threads, US Patent 921,501, filed June 5, 1908, issued March 18, 1909; “Many Cars Bought in Month of June,” Washington, D.C., Times, July 10, 1910, 20, cols; “Dog Trips Auto: Throws Machine Through Fence When Entangled in Gear,” Washington, D.C., Herald, October 12, 1910, 1.

  16. “Moses Heads New Construction Firm: Latest Building Company Gets Contract for $30,000 Structure in H Street,” Washington, D.C. Times, March 20, 1913, 9; A. C. Moses Co., “Moses-Built Houses,” Washington, D.C., Post, November 5, 1916, 2; A. C. Moses Company, Incorporated, “There is No Reason in the World Why You Should Buy Your Home on Faith,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, March 20, 1915, 3; A. C. Moses Company, Incorporated, “This Type of Architecture Has Never Been Produced Before Under $6,000.00,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, March 27, 1915, 4; “Building Permits,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, October 13, 1915, “Building Permits,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, January 12, 1916, 5; “Building Activities are Normal, Permits for Week Being $147,480,” Washington, D.C., Post, February 6, 1916, 7; Colcord, “Obituaries: Alfred Sherman Baird,” 23; “A. S. Baird, Construction Superintendent, Dies: Was Builder and Architect for Washington Concerns—Lived at Takoma Park,” Washington, D.C., Evening Star, April 29, 1918, 7; “Services for Alfred S. Baird,” Washington, D.C., Post, April 30, 1918, 13.

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Burton, Kevin M. "Baird, Alfred Sherman DePuy (1864–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed January 27, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=98X8.

Burton, Kevin M. "Baird, Alfred Sherman DePuy (1864–1918)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access January 27, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=98X8.

Burton, Kevin M. (2020, January 29). Baird, Alfred Sherman DePuy (1864–1918). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved January 27, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=98X8.