History of Robert Bell Baird, by Rachel Rebecca Baird
Robert Bell Baird, my father, son of Robert and Agnes Bell Baird, was born April 24, 1855 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Two brothers immigrated to Utah and settled in Brigham City, Utah. Peter, in writing back to his father told of how he could look out of his window and how grand it was to see things and he began to think seriously of the move. On May 28, 1866, he and Grandmother, two Aunts, and my father left Glasgow, Scotland. One sister was taken sick and died on their journey. She was buried in Illinois. They arrived in Brigham City in October of 1866.
Grandfather was a carpenter by trade. There was some building being done in Willard. Grandfather built a store for a number of owners, the store being called "Willard Mercantile Company". My father got work at this store. He kept books, ran errands, etc. for several years.
My father attended the schools, was very bright, quick to learn, and he was very good at arithmetic, spelling and was a splendid writer.
According to the custom of the Church, he was rebaptized in July 1868 by Bishop Alfred Gordon, of Willard, and confirmed by G.W. Ward. In 1871 he was ordained to the office of an Elder by Pres. Wm. Lowe. On September 6, 1878 he was rebaptized by and confirmed by Elder G. Facer.
On February 19, 1874 he began working on the railroad, first as a hand of the section, then as foreman, and later as agent. A record of railroad work shows 42 years.
Father was married October 27, 1876 to Ann Gwenthlyn Davis. John J. and Elleanor Ward were married the same day. Both couples were sealed in marriage by Daniel Hanmer Wells in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City.
As well as railroad work, Father was always interested in music. On June 8, 1884, he took the leadership of the Willard Choir. He held this position until about November 1903. He composed many songs for the choir one of which was called "Gratitude" was published. Whenthe Primary was first organized, he composed the music to suit them for the little hymn book that was published. We find in our Sunday School song book both words and music composed by him namely: "Improve the Shining Moments", "The Bright New Year", "The Songs of Zion", "When the Rosy Light of Morning", "Break Not the Sabbath Day", "Is There Anything We Can Do", "Welcome Sabbath Morning", and others which he composed separately.
In 1882 Father thought that he would quit the railroad, so he went to Logan to take up music. Sickness came in the family and he returned to the railroad at Willard.
When the Brass Band was first organized on April 1, 1885, my father was chosen leader, secretary and treasurer. Later, on December 14, 1891 he was chosen leader of an orchestra. He composed all kinds of dance music, waltz, polkas, Scottish, two-step, marches, etc. He also gave music lessons to many pupils. In 1892-93 he taught music in the schools at Brigham, Three Mile Creek (now Perry), and Plain City.
On December 25, 1887 my father was appointed second assistant in the superintendency of the Sunday School. January 11, 1891 he was appointed assistant superintendent to D.C. Hubbard. He was released in the Sunday School on November 20, 1891. My father was also Sunday School chorister for some time. In 1897 he was the janitor of our meeting house. My father was also elected a City Councilman.
Until 1894 he was foreman on the railroad and then on September 1, 1894 he became agent at Willard depot. He held this position until January 31, 1903. He had worked nearly 9 years at the depot and then he was released on account of not knowing telegraphy. After that, he worked at several railroad jobs. I learned telegraphy and then he returned as agent and myself as operator on March 12, 1906. We held the position until December 1910. Then Clarence, my brother, took my place and they continued on until September 4, 1915 when the office was turned over to Clarence and Father received a pension.
After he received his pension he took sick. He passed away on May 28, 1916. He was buried Decoration Day, May 30, 1916, being 61 years, 1 month and 4 days old.
He was the Father to 11 children, 7 boys and 4 girls. One girl and four boys died before they reached the age of two.
Synopsis of the Life of Robert Bell Baird, by Mrs. Malcolm J. Baird
In studying his life, talking to old friends and acquaintances and from his children, I can add a few personal items and side lights on his character. In the first place he was a sensitive lovable, and kind man, who loved his family and his music, and if a choice came between the two, his family came first.
To him music was his recreation and his comforter, not a career, and what he composed was for his own pleasure, or to fill a need in the ward in which he lived and worked. During his many years of service he wrote a great volume of music in manuscript, much of which was never published and most of which has been lost. We still have some of it in his own handwriting and in the possession of his children who treasure these things more and more as time goes on.
Brother Baird had practically no musical training. He loved music; it came to him naturally, and he studied it out for himself. He was rather retiring by nature and never talked much about his compositions to his family who do not know what inspired the writing of his hymns and other things.
"When the Rosy Light of Morning" was written in 1880, the year his oldest daughter was born. A missionary song was written for Brother Harvey Wooyatt on his leaving for a mission to Great Britain. We have in the original manuscript an anthem "Gratitude" (Latter-day Saints Anthem Book-volume published by Daynes and Coulter). "Improve the Shining Moments" we have in part, in his handwriting with original markings for change and correction, made as he worked on it. His selections and parts for orchestra would fill volumes with dance music of his generation and time.
When Robert B. Baird first came to Willard, his friend and companion was Evan Stephens, who later became one of Utah's most well known musicians and composers. Both young men were interested in music and spent many hours together and we know that Mr. Stephens received much of his inspiration and start in the musical line from his association with Robert. Both young men went to work for the railroad company as section hands in 1874 and worked there for some years.
Robert was married in 1876 and after several years working for the railroad, his love for music became a dominant influence in his life, and he decided to leave the job of railroading and devote his time to music. He went to Logan to study and teach music and to try and make a living in his chosen line, but being a man with a family, things did not turn out that way. His wife's health became very poor and he had a small son die. So after a year's effort, he was forced to come back to work for the old U. & N.R.R., taking charge of section No. 3 of Willard as foreman, after being off since April 8, 1882.
Brother Stephens went to Salt Lake City and continued with his musical career, and Brother Baird went on with his job on the railroad and raising his family. He later taught music in the Box Elder County School when he had time off his regular job. He did much to make people realize the need of music in the public schools.
When Sister Jane Owens was president of the Willard Primary, she felt the need of music of for the children. She asked Brother Baird to help her, which he gladly did, writing words and music for many children songs, which were later published without his name. He wrote them to fill a need and gave no thought to future glory.
He loved to remember his home-land of Scotland and as he grew older he often entertained his children with songs of Bonnie Scotland and its lads and lasses, and could be very entertaining. In fact, all his children and old friends remember him as being often the "life of the party". He was very witty, entertaining, and a good mimic without rancor. He will always live in their memory as a most loved companion.
Brother Baird played and taught many instruments, among them being piano, clarinet, accordion, flute, piccolo, and bagpipe, but most of all he loved the organ. In times of stress or relaxation he would shut himself up with his organ and play and play. Sometimes they were things no one else had ever heard, but all beautiful. He just played as the songs came to him because the music was in him and that was its outlet. When his final illness came upon him, he realized that he must give up and stay in bed, but the last thing he did was play his beloved organ.
Robert B. Baird never attained riches or fame, but his talents entitled him to both. He preferred rather a comfortable home, family, friends, and he gave freely of his time and talents for the good of the community in which he lived.