The many names of Baird T Spalding – Part 2
In part one of this series on Baird T Spalding’s biography, I examined new information that came to light as a result of the Department of State releasing Baird T Spalding’s 1935 passport application, which included an affidavit from his brother Hiram Spaulding, and confirmed much of the biographical research published here during 2009.
The confirmation of Spalding’s name at birth (Bayard Spaulding), and his family details enables us to examine the apocryphal stories about Spalding’s father and grandfather having a long history with India. Dr Neva Dell Hunter is quoted in Life and Teaching Vol 6 on “Baird T. Spalding III…his father Baird Spalding II and his grandfather.. Baird Spalding the first” , noting that the grandfather had been born in India. Spalding’s biographer David Bruton also makes similar claims in Baird T Spalding As I Knew Him about “John Spalding, grandfather of Baird T Spalding”, who lived the greater part of his life in India.
Baird T Spalding’s father was Stephen T Spaulding, a farmer in Cohocton, New York. Stephen Spaulding was born in 1840, the youngest of eleven children of Hiram Spaulding, an early settler in Atlanta. Stephen married Mary Hartwell in 1862 and raised his family on a seventy acre farm near the town of Cohocton, New York, where Baird was born in 1872. He grew hops and corn, and later potatoes. In 1891 the family moved to live on a farm on West Creek, near the town of Wheeler. Stephen Spaulding spent the winters in Florida where he operated a business shipping potato seed. He was known for the Spaulding Rose strain of potatoes, which remained popular until the 1930’s when it succumbed to a virus.
Stephen Spaulding was mechanically inclined and filed a number of patents on farm equipment during his life. US patent # 98,202 issued in 1869 is an agricultural cultivator invented by Spaulding. Baird was noted as having a mechanical aptitude later in life, and his father may have been his inspiration.
According to a genealogical article, Stephen Spaulding’s grandfather James Spaulding was born in England in 1772. There are no records showing a Baird Spalding I or II, or a John Spalding earlier in the family tree, and no record of a trip to India.
An alternative way to verify the history of the Spaulding family in India is the India Office Family History Search database, which contains extensive records for Europeans in India between 1600 and 1949.
Baird’s surname spelt as Spaulding only appears once in the entire India Office records, recording the marriage of an Alexander Spaulding in 1881. The Spalding variant spelling is more common as it is a popular English surname, but no variation of the name Baird Spalding appears. Two individuals named John Spalding appear in the database. The first, an infant born in 1780, would be too old to be Spalding’s grandfather. The second John Spalding was a British major in the 20th regiment of the Bengal Native Infantry, buried in 1826. Given that Stephen Spaulding was born in 1840, and that his genealogy can be firmly established via other sources, neither of these individuals are his father, or Baird Spalding’s grandfather.
As a result, both the Neva Dell Hunter and Bruton stories above about Baird’s Indian connections can clearly be considered fictional. Like Baird’s alleged English heritage or 1857 date of birth, it’s likely that these were simply stories concocted to support Life and Teachings.
Baird Spalding was the second youngest in a family of six children. Baird’s siblings included sisters Nettie, Hattie and Mary, and brothers Hiram and George. Unlike Baird, the rest of the Spaulding family remained in the New York area. Both Nettie and Hattie were members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which organized in Cohocton in 1898. Hiram and George remained in Cohocton as farmers their entire lives. After the death of Stephen Spaulding in 1906, Baird’s mother moved from West Creek to Avoca with her son Hiram. She died on January 27th 1923, still active at the age of 89, and was buried in the Avoca Highland Cemetery.
Baird’s older sister Mary Spaulding died at the young age of twenty, but the other Spaulding sisters went on to long lives like their mother. Baird’s oldest sister Nettie Spaulding married Charles Totten in 1890 and had three daughters Bessie, Mildred and Agnes. Nettie outlived all of her siblings, dying in 1958 at the age of 92.
In addition to the passport application, several obituaries and genealogical databases corroborate this information. The oldest is an 1880 census record which lists the entire Spaulding family in Cohocton. This is the earliest official record of Baird Spalding.
Spalding’s relationship with his family is an unknown quantity, but there are several hints that Spalding may have been estranged from them for some time. Baird spelt his fathers name incorrectly on his 1935 passport application, writing ‘Steven D Spaulding’, whereas the spelling on other documents is ‘Stephen T Spaulding’. Stephen Spaulding’s own 1906 obituary mentions the other Spaulding children but omits any mention of Baird. Finally, Mary Spaulding’s 1923 obituary notes her son ‘Bayard T’ as living in Alaska at the time, but Spalding had left Alaska at least a decade earlier.