Fred Maltby Warner

Fred Maltby Warner Mansion Museum in Farmington, Michigan:

Letters to Farmington during
CV-19 Lockdown
(to 10th July 2020)

Courtesy of the Warner Mansion
Fred Maltby Warner (Courtesy of the Warner Mansion)

An Account of Fred Maltby Warner’s life (July 2015 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth).

Fred’s father, William Maltby, was born in Hickling and his family went back at least several generations in the village.  He was baptised here on 6 December 1829.  He married a woman from Waltham on the Wolds, Frances Munton, at Waltham on 24 June 1857. 

William and Frances had four children, in order of birth John Henry, Emily, Clara and Fred.  Frances registered Fred’s birth in August 1865 and the certificate shows that his registered name was Fred and his date of birth was given as 20th July.

Very shortly after Fred was born the family emigrated to the United States.  We have been told by a descendant of William’s sister Sarah that the family understand that the reason for this was the hope of better prospects.  Although we have no evidence that the family was poor it also seems that they may have been vulnerable to sudden changes in circumstances.

The family moved to Livonia, then a fairly new settlement near to Detroit.  We have been unable to find the record of their voyage in passenger lists but we know that they must have moved very shortly after Fred’s birth because when he was only four and a half months old his mother died in Livonia.

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It would seem that William felt unable to cope with four young children because the three youngest of them were “adopted”.  We are unaware of this also happening to John Henry so it may be that his father thought that, at the age of 7, he was a little more able to look after himself, at least to some extent, and so we suspect that William retained the responsibility for him.

We are thus faced with the situation that William went over the Atlantic with his family, apparently in the hope of a better future, and within a very few months he had seen his wife die and had lost his three youngest children to “adoption”.  About a year later, in March 1867, John Henry died.  We have found William in the 1870 US census, still living in Livonia and working as a ditcher.  We have been unable to find him in the 1880 census.  This may be because his name was mistranscribed and so we are not finding him in the index.  It may also be that he had moved from the United States, most likely to Canada, which was nearby.  Since, however, his three surviving children still lived in the Livonia area this was perhaps unlikely.  It must remain quite possible that he died in the period between the two censuses, which would have been in his forties or his very early fifties.

Adoption did not exist as a formal legal framework in the United States when Fred was young.  As over here, it did not come in until somewhat into the twentieth century.  One would imagine that responsibility for the care of children was usually arranged informally, with family or close friends taking this on.  We understand, however, that a formal apprenticeship was a favoured mechanism in the United States.  Although we do not yet know whether this route was followed with Fred’s sisters, we have a copy of the Apprenticeship Indenture for Fred (indenture p1 & indenture p2).

As an aside, the indenture names Fred as Frederick, although his birth certificate shows that he was certainly regarded as Fred.  Perhaps Frances just registered the name by which he was known, whereas William regarded him as formally Frederick.  It may also be the case that Frederick was somehow felt to be a more suitable name for a legal document.  Whatever the case, the name Frederick did not stick.  The indenture also gives Fred’s date of birth as 21 July.  The birth was certainly registered much closer to the date of birth but it may be that one parent was more date aware than the other and so 21 July may in fact be the correct date.  It may even be that neither is exactly right!  Nonetheless, his “official” date of birth is that registered on the birth certificate.  21 July did, however, stick and became generally known as his date of birth.

The indenture may at first look strange, since in it William agreed that his baby son would be bound to fulfil his part of the legal agreement.  It is not, however, quite so odd because people taking on apprentices were obliged to train them and also to provide for their basic physical needs.  Nonetheless, it seems to be the case that many children apprenticed in these circumstances found themselves as a source of cheap labour or acting as household servants.

Fred’s two sisters went to new families in Livonia but Fred went to the nearby town of Farmington, then also a fairly new community.  His “adoptive” parents were P Dean Warner and his wife Rhoda.  Apparently Rhoda agreed to take him in if he didn’t cry too much.  P Dean Warner was a businessman of some standing in the community and was also involved in state politics.

Apparently Fred behaved although he was so scrawny that Rhoda joked he would never amount to much.  P Dean had more faith and said “If he lives to be 40, he’ll be six foot tall, 200 pounds, and Governor of Michigan”.

We can make some judgement on the relationship between Fred and his new parents from a letter written to him by his adoptive father in 1880.  It is not the stiff letter which one might associate with the relationship between some Victorian fathers and their children, nor does its tone indicate that his father is addressing someone whom he regards as being in some way of lower social standing than himself.  Instead it is warm and affectionate.

Fred kept in touch with his two sisters and we know from a letter to him from Emily (by then known as Emma) dated 19th January 1879 that he visited England in the previous summer, when he would have been 12 or 13 years old:  “If you ever go to Europe again I will go with you if I can, but I would rather have gone last summer because I would like to see Grandmother so much.  I remember her better than any one else”.  It would seem likely that he would have visited Hickling; certainly his Hickling grandmother was still alive then.

In 1880 Fred left High School and went to spend a year at Michigan State Agricultural College.  He then returned home to work in his father’s store and when he was 21 his father gave him the merchandising business to run.

In 1890 Fred married Martha M Davis, whose family had a prosperous farm.  Fred and Martha had four children, Edessa Susan, Howard, Harley Davis and Helen Rhoda.

As a wedding present his father gave Fred the house that he had build for himself in 1867.  Fred lived here all his life and then left it to Edessa.  On her death in 1980 her children gifted the house to the community of Farmington to be used as an historical museum.

In due course Fred set up in business himself and established 13 cheese factories, which enterprises led to him becoming known as The Cheese King.  He owned a considerable amount of land and also served as a vice-president of the Detroit United Savings Bank, which he helped to organise.

Fred also followed his adoptive father into state politics.  From 1895 to 1898 he served, as had his father, in the State Senate and from 1901 to 1904 he was the Michigan Secretary of State.  Finally he was elected Governor of Michigan, as his father had predicted.  He was the first foreign born Governor of Michigan and also the first to serve for three successive terms, running from 1905 to 1911.

Fred was known for his progressive policies.  He supported regulation of the railroad and insurance, conservation, child labour laws and women’s suffrage.  During his term in office there was also the authorisation of a factory inspection bill, the passing of a direct primary election law and promotion of highway construction.

Fred suffered from uremia and went to Florida in the hopes that the warmer climate would aid his recovery.  He died of the condition on 18th April 1923, having been ill for a long time.   His body was returned to Farmington for interment in the family plot.  The date of birth of 21st July, as shown on the apprenticeship indenture, was recorded on his grave.

Fred’s History: July 2015


(Images courtesy of the Warner Mansion Museum, Farmington, Michigan)

Documents – Gallery:

Portraits, Home and Family – Gallery:

The Big Cheese – Gallery:

The Politician – Gallery:

The Warnerettes (tribute to FMW’s support for the Suffragettes) – Gallery:

Press Clippings – Gallery:

Farmington & Hickling (inc. 150th B’day) – Gallery: