Today in History: Harvey Baldwin becomes first Syracuse Mayor

Harvey Baldwin

On March 7th, 1848, Democrat Harvey Baldwin (1797-1863) became the first Mayor of the City of Syracuse. Baldwin was a lawyer and part of the committee that drafted the charter that established Syracuse as a city. Harvey Baldwin is the brother of Horace Baldwin, who served as the Mayor of Houston, Texas and is the son of Doctor Jonas Baldwin, whom Baldwinsville is named after. Harvey was already well known in the community in the 1840s, but his political potential surfaced in 1846 when citizens were debating the potential boundaries of a proposed City of Syracuse.  Some optimists saw future growth and advocated a generous boundary.  Many others were more skeptical of Syracuse’s destiny. Baldwin rose and presented a dynamic vision for a future city of 200,000. His speech around this time period helped spark confidence and helped to mark him for the role of Syracuse’s first mayor.

“Were we permitted to indulge in visions of the future I would present a view of our village or city as it is to appear hereafter, when all of us who are now on the busy stage of life shall be slumbering with our fathers.

 It is universally conceded that we are to become the great in-land town of the State and next in size and importance to New York and Buffalo. . .  that we are to go on by rapid strides, increasing in population until we shall number from 100,000 to 200,000. . .

 All bordering territory will have been brought into a high and perfect state of cultivation and our beautiful lake, on all its beautiful shores and borders, will present a view of one continuous villa ornamented with its shady groves and hanging gardens; and connected by a wide and splendid avenue that shall encircle its entire waters and furnish a delightful drive to the gay and prosperous citizens of the town who will, toward the close of each summer’s day, throng it for pleasure relaxation or the improvement of health.”

Mayor Baldwin served just one year, the length of initial mayoral terms, and returned to his law practice.  He lived on West Onondaga Street and is buried in Syracuse’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

You can view a recently restored deerskin coat given to Harvey Baldwin by the Oneida Nation by visiting the Onondaga Historical Museum in downtown Syracuse and learn more about it below.

Harvey Baldwin Deerskin Coat

Thanks to a grant from Greater Hudson Heritage Network, OHA was able to send the deerskin coat, a very important piece of our collection, to Lisa Goldberg, an independent conservator out of Corning, NY., to conserve and restore the coat.

The Story: Chiefs from the Oneida Nation were sent to Dr. Jonas C. Baldwin, who founded the village of Baldwinsville, to request provisions for the winter due to a bad yield. Dr. Baldwin provided for one-half, or 250 people, of the nation. These 250 Oneida Nation members camped in woods near the village to be able to draw their daily rations.  Dr. Baldwin gave them grain from his mill as well as other care.

As a result of his generosity, the Oneida Nation”adopted” his son Harvey with impressive ceremony into the tribe.  Harvey was given this beautifully beaded ceremonial deerskin coat, and was also given the name of “Cohongoronto.” The name signifies a boat having a sharp prow constructed for the navigation of rapid waters, and was intended as emblematic of the profession of law, which he was in the process of studying. Harvey Baldwin later became the first mayor of Syracuse .

How Did it Get to OHA?: On November 11, 1949, the ceremonial deerskin coat was presented to Crandall Melvin of the Onondaga Historical Association by John A. Morton, Jr., great-grandson of Harvey Baldwin. Along with the coat, Morton also donated Harvey Baldwin’s Bible.