Hon. James Baby

July 21, 2014

Today we take a look at James Baby, the man who built the second owner of the Duff-Baby house at the corner of Russell & Mill.That house built about 1790, is still standing and is Windsor’s oldest building.

As for James Baby, the builder (pictured above) Frederick Neal’s book has this to say:

    HON. JAMES BABY

    Was born in Detroit, 1762, built the Baby Mansion, at Sandwich, about the year 1790. He
    was a member of the Legislative Council of Hesse and Western District from 1792 to 1833;
    appointed Judge of Surrogate Court in 1794; at the close of the War of 1812-13 he was appointed
    to the very responsible office of Inspector General of Upper Canada. This later office was offered
    him because his merits had been so conspicuous during the war, his services so disinterested, his
    losses so great that the Government tendered him the position as a mark of approbation. He died
    at Little York (Toronto), February 19, 1833, in his 71st year. His remains were brought to
    Sandwich and re-interred in Assumption Church Graveyard.

6 Responses to Hon. James Baby

  1. ShawnM on July 21, 2014 at 10:33 am

    Wasn’t it Alexander Duff the Scottish fur trader who built that house? Never lived in it, used more as a warehouse until Baby bought it and made it his own?

  2. ShawnM on July 21, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Ahh yes, just read it was bought by Baby in 1807 off Duff. Then made his home in 1816.
    Was General Harrison’s local HQ during the War of 1812

  3. Dave on July 22, 2014 at 9:30 am

    Correct Shawn. and then it was the Gordon House in Amherstburg when the Brits fled Fort Malden.

  4. Lanny on July 22, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    According to Fr. Lajeunesse in The Windsor Border Region: “James Baby did not come into possession of this lot (on which the present James Baby House stands)until 1807…on lot #3 on the east side of Russell Street, facing the Baby Mill on the shore of the Detroit River”. James Baby was appointed to the first Executive Council of Upper Canada (of the five members, three came from l’Assomption or the future Sandwich). Baby was chosen because he was French Canadien, who outnumbered the English in the district at that time. The Baby family was the only French family to continue as merchants in the fur trade. The others were pushed out by the Scottish and Irish Yankee merchants and had to learn how to farm, which is why those French-named streets in Windsor were originally farms belonging to men like Parent, Marentette, Ouelette, Goyeau and so on.

  5. Andrew on July 22, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks guys! I though as I was typing that post out, that I wasn’t convinced that Baby built the place. Should have checked my other local history books first!

  6. rws on July 23, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Most Windsor residents know the Detroit River is north of the city. But not all realize that there such a slow bend in the river that by the time it reaches the Sandwich area, the river is west of the settlement. Thus historian Fr. E. J. Lajeunesse’s description of the location of the Duff- Baby house (in blog above) correctly places it on the “east side” of Russell street.

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