H. R. Page & Co.




“The groves were God’s first temple; ere man learned

To hew the shaft and lay the architrave

And spread the roof above them; ere he framed

The lofty vault to gather and roll back

The sound of anathema.”




  “Fifty years ago there were about 100 inhabitants between the northern limits of Oakland County and the Straits of Mackinaw.  At that time my residence was in the settlement of Grand Blanc, better know they by its French pronunciation “Graw Blaw,” (Big White), the name given by the French settlers of Detroit on account of its having formerly been the place of residence of a big white savage.

  “The first sermon I heard in Michigan was delivered by a presiding elder from the Ohio Conference.  His name was Gilruth, a large, portly man, with all the characteristics of an old-time Methodist minister.  That was in 1831, and I think the first sermon preached in that settlement.  In 1832 Charles and John Butler resided in the southern part of the Grand Blanc settlement, (they had been connected with a Congregational Church in Western New York,) and in the Summer of that year the people gathered on Sabbath afternoons at the house of one of the brothers to hear a sermon read and prayer offered.  In the Summer of 1833 Rev. James F. Davison, of the Methodist connection, preached occasionally in the settlement.  During that same Summer a Congregational Church was organized, which was the first church organization between Pontiac and the Straits of Mackinaw.

  “In 1833 I removed from Genesee County to Saginaw, but I believed the first church organization after the one at Grand Blanc was a Congregational Church in 1836, at Mount Morris, six miles north of Flint.  The place was then called the Coldwater settlement, on account of the strict temperance principles of the people.  About that time a presbyterian Church was organized at Flint.  The Methodist Episcopal Church had a preaching station at Flint, but I believe no church organization till after the ones above referred to.” 

  In the Summer of 1833, the Ohio Methodist Episcopal Conference attempted to establish a missionary station among the Indians at Saginaw, and also to furnish preaching for the white settlers at that point.  They sent out a smart young minister named Frazee, well educated, a fluent speaker, and who was fond of a good horse, as I believe most Methodist ministers are.  Mr. Franzee met with a rather cool reception among the Indians; the traders did not encourage them at all in the matter of having teachers among them, telling them that their business was hunting, not looking at papers, as they expressed the art of studying.  At one time, after preaching on a Sabbath at a white settlement on the Tattabawassee, Mr. Frazee was inquired of as to his congregation.  He said there were some women present, but the men he believed had all gone hunting.  After visiting Saginaw once or twice, he found that the be-setting sin of a portion of the people was selling whiskey to the Indians, and on one occasion in his sermon he boldly denounced such practices, which caused as great an uproar, in a small way, as Paul’s preaching at Ephesus did; for like Demetrius and his followers, they knew that “by this craft they got their wealth.”  During the night, after the sermon, certain lewd fellows of the baser sort’ entered the stable where the minister’s horse was kept, and shearing the hair from the animal’s mane and tail.  In passing through the country on his return the horse displayed a prominent sign of the depravity of human nature.  The next minister that came to the Saginaw Circuit, was the Rev. William H. Brockway, a young man particularly well adapted to his work, and subsequent years have shown him well adapted to other positions in life than a pioneer missionary.  Mr. Brockway mingled freely with the people, assisting them in whatever labor they were engaged in.  He would rebuke every sinful practice that came within his knowledge, in such a way as to give no offence, thereby gaining the respect of the people and doing much to check the evils of profanity, drunkenness and Sabbath breaking.  I recollect on an occasion of a quarterly meeting he preached in the “messhouse,” attached to the American Fur Company’s trading house, to a congregation of about twenty, not one of whom was a professor of religion, and the collection amounted to $17.  Mr. Broickway left Saginaw early in 1836, and his immediate successors did not fill his place.  After the Indian title to the land in the vicinity of Saginaw had been extinguished, and before it was offered for sale by the United States Government, the locality was visited by Dr. Charles Little, of Avon, N.Y.  He was greatly pleased with the country and had great faith in the future of the Saginaw Valley.  Dr. Little made some choice selections of land in the vicinity of the Fort, at Saginaw, and on his return in Detroit left money at the land office to purchase land when it should be offered for sale.

  “Rev. H.L. Miller, who married a daughter of Dr. Little’s, came with his family in 1836, to reside permanently at Saginaw.  There was a great accession to the population during that season, and in the Fall a Presbyterian Church was organized, which was presided over for the next two years by Mr. Miller as pastor, during which time a marked improvement was made in the religious and social status of the people.

  “In December, 1838, a series of meetings were held at Saginaw by the Rev. O. Parker, under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church.  There were a number of conversions and several accessions to the church at the next communion season.  Among the number were the late Dr. George Davis and wife, myself, wife and wife’s sister.  Rev. C.C. Foote preached for the church during that Winter.  There were times when the church was without a minister, but when there was no preaching, worship was kept up by reading a sermon on the Sabbath, and I believe the Sunday-school was a live Institution from its organization.  Rev. Harry Hyde supplied the church in 1842 and 1843, or thereabout.  He was a strong Congregationalist, and prevailed on the younger members of the church to change its government and connection from Presbyterian to Congregational.  I well remember that Hiram L. Miller, who was present when the vote was taken, refused to unite with the new organization, and stated that he felt that it would be his duty to organize a Presbyterian Church as soon as one could be sustained.  The church remained in the Congregational connection for a time, but did not prosper much.  About the same time I took another move away from church and social privileges-coming to Portsmouth to reside, when there were only four or five families within a mile of us.  There were a few families living then at Lower Saginaw who had so far advanced in civilization as to build a small schoolhouse abou8t twenty feet square, which, I believe, now stands connected with another building near the corner of First and Washington Streets.  A successful mission among the Indians had been established, and as a result many Indians had been converted from heathenism to Christianity.  I recollect an incident in my travels in 1846, while far up the Tittabawassee looking for pine land.  I had started from my camp at daylight, and while paddling my canoe down the river, about sunrise, my ears were greeted with music, and I was never more charmed by its sound than while listening to a familiar hymn tune sung in the wilderness by a family of Indians at their morning devotions.  The Rev. Mr Brown, the Methodist missionary at devotions.  The Rev. Mr. Brown, the Methodist missionary at Kawkawlin, preached occasionally in the little schoolhouse at Lower Saginaw, when the people at Portsmouth had the privilege of attending religious worship by walking two or three miles over a rough road, which privilege some of them almost invariably availed themselves of.  The first church that was built in the Valley and dedicated to the worship of God was the missionary church at Kawkawlin.

  “In 1850 and 1851, the firm of Russell, Miller & Crowl were engaged in the lumber business at Portsmouth, employing a number of men, many of whom had temporary residences for their families.  The resident members of the firm desiring some religious privileges for their families and for those in their employ, in the Fall of 1850 hired Rev. B. N. Paine, a young man belonging to the Wesleyan Methodist connection, to come to Portsmouth and preach.  His first sermon was delivered in the cabin of a propeller that had come to that point for lumber.  Soon afterwards a rough building, 20x80 feet on the ground, was erected and formally dedicated to the worship of God.  The building was afterwards enlarged and improved for a schoolhouse, and was used for school and religious purposes till the new schoolhouse (the one that was burned) and the Baptist Church were built.  Mr. Paine did not remain long at Portsmouth, and after he left, the house above referred to was open for all denominations to preach in, and was for some years a regular preaching station for the Methodists.  During the revival of 1857-58 it was the scene of many rich spiritual blessings.  In the Spring of 1851 I was staying over night at the Northern Hotel, at Flint, where the office of the Flint and Saginaw stage was kept.  In the evening a very fine looking young man came in and engaged a passage for the next day to Saginaw, saying that he would be found at Mr. Atterbury’s, the Presbyterian clergyman.  At that time tri-weekly stages were able to do all the passenger business between Saginaw and the outside world.  The plank road was not completed, and a passage from Flint to Saginaw was anything but pleasant; and it was a wonder to some of his fellow passengers what should call the young man to Saginaw at that time when the roads were so bad.  It was suggested to him on the way that there must be some female attraction at Saginaw.  I afterwards became acquainted with the young man, (who was none other than the rev. D. M. Cooper), and knew him long as the beloved pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Saginaw.”

  The conclusion of Judge Miller’s reminiscence relates particularly to the organization of the Presbyterian Society, and appears in that connection:

 After the first schoolhouse was built, just south of were the Detroit & Bay City passenger depot now stands, religious services were held there, conducted by Hon. James G. Birney, who was an elder in the Presbyterian Church.




  Methodism in Bay City held its first organized class in 1837, consisting of Mrs. Belinda Barney, Mr. And Mrs. Raby, and J. Crutchfield.  Of these the first named yet retains an honored place in the church.  Occasional preaching services were held here before that date, and for some years after by ministers from Flint and the Saginaw mission.

  First Methodist Episcopal Church of Bay city.–In 1852, at the annual conference held in Niles, Bishop Levi Scott presiding, George Bradley was assigned to Lower Saginaw.  He was the first Methodist minister appointed to this charge.  During his ministry in 1852-53 the society was fully organized, and the present church building erected on Washington Street.  This has been enlarged and modified from time to time, and with such improvements as were imperatively called for, has faithfully served its purpose as a place of worship for thirty years.

  The economy of the church in its methods of pastoral oversight has required several changes, but has not allowed the succession of yearly appointments to be broken.  Since the pastorate of George Bradley above named, there have been the following: In 1853-54, Isaac Cogshall; 1855-56, T.J. Joslin; 1857-58, William Benson; 1859, E. Klumph; 1850-61, J.C. Wortley; 1862, E E Easter; 1863, H.O. Parker; 1864-65, William Fox; 1866-67, R.S. Pardington; 1868, George I. Betts; 1869-70, J.H. Burnham; 1872-72-73,John Kelly; 1874, T.G.Potter; 1875-76-77, J. Venning; 1878-79-80, J. Atkinson; 18881=82, J. McEldowney.

  On the 5th of September, 1859, William Benson recorded in the county clerk’s office the appointment of Calvin C. C. Chilson, Henry M. Bradley, Henry M. Stillman, John J. Nichols, and A. G. Sinclair trustees in trust for the Methodist Episcopal Church.  This is the first board of trustees of which there is official record.

  Difficulties, many of them peculiar to the early settlements of the Saginaw Valley, others common to all localities, have been encountered and overcome in the years past.  The church has steadily gained in strength and numbers.  Within the territory formerly occupied by this charge there are now four Methodist churches, each working in its own sphere.  Ten years ago this charge reported 145 members.  If none had died or removed or backslidden there would today be 506, but deaths, removals, with and without letters, and other causes have reduced this to 230.

  The present officers of the church are as follows: Presiding elder, Rev. J. S. Smart; pastor, Rev. John McEldowney; trustees, Frederick E. Bradley, James Seed, R. W. Erwin, William Foale, Louis Goeschel, S. N. Henion, Henry Homes, J. Mansfield, J. W. Shorey; stewards, C. W. Parish, E. J. Hargrave, H. M. Bradley, L. R. Russell, Frederick Hargrave, S. C. Wilson, E. C. Hargrave, D. A. Ross, Walter P. Moore, Jr.; leaders, H. M. Bradley, B. Moore, E. J. Hargrave; E. C. Hargrave, recording steward; L. R. Russell, church treasurer.

  The church pays its pastor a salary of $1,800, and the last year its total disbursements amounted to $2,793.95.

  Whole number of teachers and pupils in the Sunday-school, 290; receipts and expenditures for last year, $416.95.

  THE GERMAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH of Bay City dates back to 1857, when Rev. Jacob Krehbil visited Bay City, or Lower Saginaw as it then was, and held religious service.  In 1858 he was succeeded by Rev. John Horst, and his colleague, rev. Jacob Braun, who continued their labors until the close of 1859.  Rev. H. Manz had charge of the field in 1860-61, and then rev. A. Mayer officiated from 1862 to 1864.  Various other pastors followed, and the society grew in numbers and strength, and about 1867 a church edifice was erected on Adams Street, between Eight and Ninth Streets.  This society has shared the general growth and prosperity of the city in which it is located, and has a large membership.  The present pastor is Rev. John Schneider.

  THE FREMONT AVENUE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH was organized in 1864, although religious services were held at Portsmouth several years before.  As early as 1855, rev. Isaac Cogshall used to preach in Lower Saginaw and Portsmouth.  In 1865 the present church edifice was dedicated.  The church was built under the superintendence of Rev. William Fox.  The present pastor is Rev. O.J. Perrin, and the membership is 115.  The Sunday school has a membership of about 200.  John Simons is superintendent.  During the last three years about $1,500 have been expended in repairs on the building.  The present offical board consists of Albert Miller, George Lewis, Nelson Merritt, J. McKinney, Hiram Marbol, M. A. Rose, C. D. Fisher, John Simons, and J. S. Smart, Jr.

  THE WOODSIDE AVENUE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH was organized in 1873, and Rev. A. B. Clugh was the first pastor.  This society was organized to accommodate members of this denomination living in the north part of the city.  The church edifice was erected in 1876, but was not dedicated until the present year.  The membership is twenty-eight.  Present pastor, Rev. H. G. Persons, Trustees, James E. Like, Oscar Carter, Henry Lockwood, William Sharp, and W. Teall.



 This church owes its establishment first to the Fitzhugh family, Mr. W. D. Fitzhugh having been the earliest leader in the society, and his wife the first communicant.  The first male communicant was Isreal Catlin.  The first services were conducted in 11850, by rev. (deacon) Joseph Adderly, missionary at Saginaw City.  Next came Rev. Daniel B. Lyon, from the same place, and held services about half a dozen times up to 1852.  The first regular services were by Rev. Voltaire Spaulding, who became a missionary to this whole region, with headquarters at Saginaw City.

  The first corporation was made March 5, 1854, under the title of Trinity Church, Lower Saginaw, Saginaw Co., Mich.  The corporators were: Henry Raymond, Isreal Catlin, daniel Burns, John Drake, George E. Smith, E. S. Catlin, J. S. Barclay, B.B. Hart, Henry Young, C. Munger, H. H. Capman, James Hays, and Richard Padley.

  Rev. Mr. Spaulding presided at the organization, and Col. Henry Raymond was secretary; Isreal Catlin was elected senior warden, and Richard Padley junior warden; Curtis Munger, George F. Smith, B. B. Hart, Daniel Burns, J.S. Barclay, Henry Raymond, Thomas Carney, and Hiram F. Ferris, vestrymen.

  Mr. Spaulding departed in June, 1858, and from that time until May, 1860, the parish was without a pastor.  At the time Mr. Spaulding resigned his charge there were five communicants belonging to the church.

  During this inter regnum the few churchmen were not idle.  One of the best plats allotted by the original patentees to the church was selected, and through the efforts of Messrs.  Ireal Catlin, charles Fitzhugh, and Henry Raymond, a church edifice was erected, and dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Samuel A. McCoskey, May 10, 1860.  During the same month, Rev. Edward Magee took charge of the parish, giving it every other Sunday, and receiving $800 per year as salary.  Next year Mr. Magee devoted his entire time to this parish.  His ministry of a year and a half shows a record of fourteen baptisms, six confirmations, one marriage and two burials.  The number of communicants at this time was twenty.  For a year after this date, or until November 24, 1862, the parish was again vacant, and then Rev. Gilbert B. Haven came to its charge.  During his ministry seven were confirmed, and ten were received from abroad, making the number of communicants August 1, 1864, about thirty-seven.  Rev. A. M. Lewis was called to the rector-ship October 1, 1863.  He remained two years during which the church building was enlarged, at a cost of $1,200, and fifty-four were baptized, twenty-six were confirmed, seven were married, and there were thirteen burials.  From abroad, twenty-four were received into the church, making the number of communicants sixty-five.  On the 19th of January, 1866, the Rev. Fayette Royce was called to the rector-ship, entered upon the duties at the latter end of the March following, and resigned November 1, 1868.

  Rev. John Wright became rector April 11, 1869.  The church had previously undergone a third extension at an expense of $2,100.  Gas had been introduced, the chancel enlarged, a library room added, and the interior of the building thoroughly renovated.  The expense was paid mainly by the Ladies’ Aid Society, which raised in one year $1,200.  Mr. Wright resigned January 25, 1874, and removed to Boston, Mass.

  In the Winter of 8174 the church was supplied with a new organ, at a cost of $8,150.

  Rev. George P. Schetky, D,D,, became rector in June, 1874.

  The parish has supported various missions, and has been one of the most active church organizations in the city.  Its present auxiliaries in the city are Trinity Chapel, on Grant Street, and St. Barnabas Mission, in the Seventh Ward.

  The present membership is 175.  The officers are as follows:-Rector, Rev. A.A. Butler; wardens, isarel Catlin, Thomas Cranage, Jr., vestrymen, John Drake, G.K. Jackson, Charles Maleine, Orrin Bump, Frederick Brown, William Keith, B.E. Warren, F. L. Gilbert.

  EMANUEL REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH, of South Bay City, was organized March 4, 1881.  C.H. Freeman, William Ballance, Isreal Harding, and Hiram Leaver were among the leaders in its organization.  This church was the outgrowth of a Sunday-school, conducted by Mr. And Mrs. C.H. Freeman for several years.  The school was very prosperous, and was first held at the house of Mr. Harding while a chapel was being built.  Mrs. Freeman, who devoted herself to the interests of this school with untiring seal, was instrumental in securing funds for the building of a chapel which was completed in 1878, Mrs. Freeman digging with her own hands the first post-hole and setting the first post.  Since that time sevices have been held in the chapel, and in 1881 the church organized as above stated.  The service is conducted each alternate Sunday by Rev. James Ward, of Detroit, who comes here for that purpose, receiving for his labors but little more than the amount of his actual expenses.  The society has a membership of about thirty and a large Sunday school.




  THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN BETHEL CHURCH was organized October 31, 1852, under the title of the German Bethel Lutheran Society of Lower Saginaw, by Rev. J. Ehrhardt, who was the first pastor of the church.  H.C.Hage3, I.T. Westpointer and H. Moller were chosen and ordained presiding elders.

  The Society consisted at first of only fifteen members, and worshipped in various public places.  In the Winter of 1856, a small church building was erected and dedicated by rev. C. Volz in March, 1856.  This building was soon afterwards enlarged.  Mr. Volz resigned in 1859, and the society was without a paster until 1861, when Rev. F. W. Spentler came and remained until `868.  Rev. John Haas was his successor, and he resigned in June, 1865.  His successor was the Rev. W. Reuther, who took charge September 11, 1865.  In the Spring of 1866, a new church was built and small church building was erectyed and dedicated by Rev. C. Volz in March, 1856.  This building was soon afterwards enlarged.  Mr. Volz resigned in 1859, and the society was without a pastor until 1861, when Rev. F. W. Spentler came and remained until 1863.  Rev. John Haas was his successor, and he resigned in June, 1865.  His successor was the Rev. W. Reuther, who took charge September 11, 1865.  In the Spring of 1866, a new church was built and the first building was removed to the rear, behind the parsonage.  The new church was dedicated June 16, 1867.  The old building was used as a parochial school, attended to by Rev. W. Reuther.  In June, 1871, the church was supplied with three bells.  October 25, 1871, the church building and schoolhouse were destroyed by fire.  This hard misfortune induced the congregation to sell the old church ground and to buy the present place, three lots on the corner of Madison and Eighth Streets.  A beautiful brick church was erected on this place.  The dimensions of the building are 95x42 feet, with a steeple 150 feet high, supplied with two fine toned bells.  In connection with the church a new parsonage was built as a dwelling for the pastor of the church.  The new church was dedicated November 25, 1872, by Rev. W. Reuther, and officers of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Michigan and other states, of which body the congregation is a member.  Rev. Mr. Reuther remained pastor of the church until about a year ago, when he was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. O. W. Wiest.  The society is in a very prosperous condition.

    THE GERMAN LUTHERAN EMANUEL CHURCH dates back to the year 1854, Rev. F. Sievers, of Frankenlust, the pioneer of Lutheran ministers in this section, being the founder.  By him the little flock was served in connection with St. Paul’s Society at Frankenlust for a period of eleven years.  In 1865 Rev. I. C. Himmlker took charge of the society, then numbering about twenty voting members.  In the Autumn of 1867, Rev. Himmler severed his connection with the society by accepting a call to another field of labor.  When he left there were about twenty-five voting members, and the property of the society consisted of the lot on the nerthwest corner of Sixth and Madison Streets, with a small church building of 18x30 feet and a schoolhouse upon it.  In July, 1868, after a vacancy of nine months, the charge was filled by the present pastor, Rev.I.H.P. Partenfelder, a graduate of the Lutheran Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, Mo.  The number of voting members at present is about one hundred.  In 1873, the church building having become too small, and addition 22x30 feet was made.  The building is now lighted by gas, contains two bells and a pipe organ.  Besides this, the society has a property on the southeast corner of Sixth and Monroe Streets, two lots with a valuable parsonage and a schoolhouse upon them.  It also supports its own school teacher.  The form of church government is congregational, like that of the General Lutheran Mission Synod, whereof Emanuel Congregation is a member.  Rev. I. H. P. Partenfelder is pastor.



 This church began its life of work and worship in May, 1856, under the following circumstances as related by Judge Albert Miller.  

  “In 1855 the population of Lower Saginaw and Portsmouth had increased so much that it was thought advisable to make a move towards hiring a Presbyterian minister to locate at Lower Saginaw. A subscription paper was circulated and $300 was subscribed towards supporting a minister for one year, expecting the Home Missionary society would pay the balance of a necessary salary.  The late Mr. William Jennison, father of Charles E. Jennison, was the prime mover in starting the subscription.  One or two parties had looked the ground over in 1855, but no one had accepted the proposition of the people.  In the Spring of 1856, while at East Saginaw on business, I was introduced to the Rev. L. I. Root, who had been invited to visit that town with a view of organizing a church.  In conversation with Mr. Root, I learned that he could not entertain the proposition of the people of East Saginaw for a moment, the people there desiring a Congregational Church, and he could only work in Presbyterian harness.  I invited him to Lower Saginaw to look over the ground there.  In a day or two he came, accompanied by Mr. Cooper.  After weighing the matter carefully and prayerfully, he determined to come; and about the first of May, 1856, he arrived with his family, and commenced his labors.

  September 5, 1856, the church was formally organized under the title of the “First Presbyterian Church of Lower Saginaw.”  The original members of this church numbered eight, as follows;–Albert Miller, Mary Ann Miller, Abigail Smith, Frances T. Root, Jesse Calkins, Angeline Miller, Mary E. Trombley, and Nancy M. Hart.

  Of these person, Albert Miller, Mary A. Miller and Abigail Smith are still members of this church.  Albert Miller was chosen and ordained deacon, and in December, 1857, Leon Trombley, Jr., was chosen to the same office.  The church was without a session until June, 1859.  At that time Albert Miller and Scott W. Sayles were elected and ordained as elders.

  During its twenty-seven years the church has had two pastors, and one stated supply.  Mr. Root was installed by the Presbytery of Saginaw in November 1858, and resigned in February, 1860.

  Rev.E.J. Stewart acted as stated supply from June, 1861, to December, 1863.

  The church worshipped during its first years in the schoolhouse, which stood at the north end of Washington Street, where all public meetings were for many years held.  Afterwards its meetings were in a public hall, and for a time in the court room.  In 1861 an edifice was erected, and in the midst of a communion service, soon after its dedication, it took fire and was consumed.

  A new edifice was at once entered upon, and the present building was completed, and its dedication took place on the 25th of December, 1863.  The church is of wood, and was originally 40x70 feet in size upon the ground and afforded sittings for 400 persons.

  Mr. Stewart closed his labors with the church in September, 1864.

  Rev. J. Ambrose Wright, D. D., was called as the pastor of the church in April, 1865, and commenced his labors on the first Sabbath of May following.  He was installed by the Presbytery of Saginaw, on the 23rd of November of the same year.

  The bell was placed in the church tower in August, 1866.

  The lecture room was built in the Autumn of 1868, and the main building was enlarged, with a tier of pews on each side, in the Autumn of 1872.  The pews now number 116, and with the orchestra will seat 650 persons.

  The church grew, while it had a minister, from the beginning.  In the first nine years of its life it had enrolled ninety-four members, of whom fifty-six united upon profession of their faith.  At the close of the nine years its members, as returned to the General Assembly, numbered eighty.  Its resident membership was about forty.

  In 1870 the chapel, at Twenty-Third Street, was built at a cost of $1,500, and has since been enlarged and furnished at an expense of $500 more.  In 1875 the organ was purchased and other improvements added.

  The whole number of members is 516.  Of these thirty-three have died and 157 been dismissed, leaving a present membership of 326.

  J. Ambrose Wight, D. D., the present pastor, is a man who has had, and still bears an important part of the religious and educational work of his time.  He was born at Floyd, Oneida County, N.Y., September 12, 1811.  His parents were poor, and his struggle with the world began at the age of six years, when he first left home.  He worked his way in the world, and at the age of eighteen years, began the study of law at Bennington, Vt.  While there he became converted and determined to enter the ministry.  In 1836 he graduated from Williams College, and in 1841 was admitted to the practice of law at Rockford, Ill.  From that time until 1855 he was engaged in editorial work, a portion of the time on the Chicago Tribune.  In April, 1855, he was licensed to preach, and entered upon ministerial labors.  In 1865 he settled in Bay City, as already stated, and here he has built up a strong and harmonious church.  In 1876, the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Williams College.  His contributions to the press have been frequent and able.  As a writer and thinker he has come to occupy a prominent position.




  THE FREMONT AVENUE BAPTIST CHURCH is the successor of the First Baptist Society in what is now Bay City.  The society was organized at the house of Jesse N. Braddock, long since dead, in 1858, and was called the First Baptist Church of Portsmouth and Bay City.  There were fourteen constituent members of whom seven were Braddocks.  From the fir4st the history of this society has been one of heroic struggle, and but for the Christian zeal of a few of its members, would not have survived.  The first deacons were Jesse N. Braddock and W. H. Currey, and the former was the first superintendent of the Sabbath school.  The first clerk was E. B. Braddock, and the early records of the church were destroyed when his store was burned.  For several years services were held alternately at Portsmouth and Bay City.  In 1859 the present church edifice was built.   The names of pastors who have served the society are Revs. Handy, Cornelius, Johnson, Hooker, Robinson, Whittemore, Holmes, Fraser and the present pastor, Rev. J.C. Rooney, who began his labors with the society in the Spring of 1880.  Early in 1868 the population of Bay City had so far increased that the members of the society living there felt inclined to have a church of their own, and a division of the society was made which greatly weakened the original organization.  The present membership is reported at 103, and the present deacons are Elias Stevens and E. H. Reynolds.

  THE FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH of Bay City was organized at Birney Hall, in July 1863, by twenty-seven members who had withdrawn for that purpose from the society at Portsmouth.  Services had been held in the court house and Birney Hall, and these were continued until the following August, when a neat church edifice was built on Washington Street, and almost entirely the gift of James Fraser, was finished and dedicated.

  The first pastor was Rev. Franklin Johnson, who resigned in 1864, and was succeeded by Rev. S.L. Holman, whose brief pastorate was succeeded by the ministry of the lamented Patterson, who labored very successfully until April, 1869, when failing health compelled him to leave the ministry.  It was under his eloquent and genial ministration that the church entered upon the prosperous career it has since known.  Rev. J.A. Frost succeeded Mr. Patterson, and he by Rev. Z. Grenell, Jr.

  The society outgrew the little church on Washington Street, and in April, 1867, a committee was appointed to consider the question of securing enlarged facilities for worship.  The recommended building a new church.  The old church property was worth about $7,000, and John I. Fraser, who had recently died, bequeathed the society the sum of $8,000.  It was finally decided to build a new house of worship, and the corner-stone was laid in the Summer of 1869, and dedicated February 9,1873.  A litigation in which the title to the site was involved, delayed its construction.  The total cost of the structure was about $75,000.

  The extreme length of the building is 140 feet, and its greatest width seventy-two feet.  The audience room is 54x94 feet, finished in black walnut and ash, the seats made comfortable with hair cushions, covered with crimson rep, and the floor covered with a Kidderminster carpet, made to order at that celebrated factory in England.  The windows are of stained glass, arranged in highly ornamental designs.  The ceiling is frescoed in soft tints.  An organ is nearly 1,400 pipes, above and in the rear of the pulpit, adds greatly to the general good effect, both upon the eye and ear of the worshipper.  In the rear of audience room are church parlors, kitchen, robbing rooms, lecture and Sunday school rooms.  Its two spires rising, one to a height of 130 feet, the other 180 feet, are visible, not only from all parts of the city, but attract the eye from a range of three or four miles beyond.  The trustees who were charged with the responsibility of the work were Rev D. B. Patterson and C. McDowell, both of whom died before its completion-H.A. Gustin, E. B. Denison, C. M. Averell, William Westover, W.H. Currey, H. Griswold, D. Culver, Luther Westover, Samuel Drake.  Capt. C. M. Averell had the supervision of the work.

  The present pastor is rev. James W. Ford.  Membership 313.  The officers are W.I. Brotherton, treasurer; O. W. Booth, clerk; J.M. Balentine, H.A. Gustin, W.I. Brotherton, E.B.Denison, F.B.Clark and A. Maltby, deacons: the trustees are William Westover, C.M. Averell, E. B. Denison, W.I. Brotherton and F. B. Clark.  The society also supports a mission chapel on Barney Street.

  With the bell in the tower of this church there is associated a bit of history, well deserving a place in the annals of the city.  The late Mrs. James Fraser, now Mrs. William McMaster, of Toronto, a lady already introduced to the readers of this work, is not only an enthusiastic but a liberal member of the Baptist Church, and was especially munificent in her gifts to the society in Bay City.  Upon the completion of the present church edifice, she had already resented the society with the church organ costing about $6,000, and paid for building the fence around the lot, besides paying $10,000 in money toward the building.  But she conceived the idea of making the society a present of a church bell, and at the same time treat the community to a surprise.  Capt. C.N. Averell had superintened  the erection of the church edifice and was an intimate acquaintance of the Fraser family.  In September, 1873, as Mrs. McMaster was about to return to Toronto, from a visit to Bay City, she had an interview with Capt. Averell and said she had some work for him to do, provided he would promise absolute secrecy, not even reserving the privilege to telling his wife.  The Captain being a cautious man felt reluctant to take such a responsibility, but, upon being assured that the work required was within his ability to perform, and that if performed imperfect secrecy would be beneficial to the society and the community, he finally promised to comply with her request.  She then acquainted him with her wishes, which were that she desired to make the society a surprise donation of a church bell, and would do so provided one could be procured of the same tone as one belonging to the city that had melted in a fire that destroyed the engine house, and provided further that this one be placed in the tower of the church without anyone knowing of the affair until the bell should ring for church service on a certain Sunday morning.  It was an undertaking beset with seeming impossibilities, but Capt. Averell, having been a sailor for many years, was well qualified to perform the task.  The bell was ordered from Troy and directions given to ship it to Saginaw, in a sealed car, and there remain until wanted.  When the time arrived at which the Captain designed to hoist the bell, he had the car forwarded to Bay City.  He first arranged to put it up on Friday night, but a balky horse belonging to a drayman, “balked” proceedings, and he was obliged to adjourn until the next night.  The following night he had timbers and everything necessary to the work in readiness, and a crew of men in his employ at the lime works, engaged.  About 10 o’clock in the evening they transported the bell from the car to the church and the bell-rising was begun.  The difficulties can hardly be imagined.  The darkness of the night, unfinished condition of the tower, inexperienced men, and the strictness of secrecy all combined to prevent a successful termination of the undertaking.  But by use of timbers, tackle, horses and a good deal of ingenuity, when 6 o’clock came the next morning, the bell was in its place and ready to peal forth its advent.  No one had discovered the secret.  One peacefully inclined citizen, living near by, had heard disturbance of some kind, and bolted out in the middle of the night, armed with a revolver, to meet the enemy, but failing to discover anything, retired still perplexed but no wiser.  Another man living in the vicinity remarked the next morning that “they made a good deal of noise about that church the night before,” but he did not divine the cause.  The Captain was the greatest sufferer from the secrecy which enveloped his actions.  Being a gentleman of domestic habits, and uniformly at home evenings, his wife was greatly surprised at his being out so late the first night, but when he returned home Sunday morning after an all night absence without a word of explanation, the domestic tranquility that had pervaded the household for so long was seriously threatened.  Before leaving the church in the morning the Captain had sent for the janitor of the Presbyterian Church, Mr. Gordon, and engaged him to ring the bell at the proper time, leaving him locked in the tower until that duty was performed.  The astonishment produced when the ringing peals of a bell issued from the tower of that church cannot be described; and it is uncertain whether worship or wonder occupied the larger place in the thoughts of the congregation that assembled there that Sunday morning.  But the secret was explained, the church got a bell, and harmony was restored to the household of the Captain.



   The First Universalist Society of Bay City, Mich., was organized some time in the year 1864, under the labors of Rev. William Tompkins, who preached in Bay City every alternate Sabbath during six months of that year.  He first called the Universalists of Bay City together and developed their strength.  But at the close of his engagement, which was made for six months only, it was thought the interest was not sufficient to warrant the continuance of his labors.  Thus matters rested until the Summer of 1865, when Rev. Z. Cook visited the city, and preached to the society every Sunday for one mouth, as a candidate for settlement.  But the interest was not considered sufficient to warrant his engagement.  Matters rested again until early in the Spring of 1866, when Rev. C.P. Nash, afterward pastor, having been brought into correspondence with Mr. N. Whittemore, was encouraged to visit the society.  Mr. Nash, afterward pastor, having been brought into correspondence with Mr. N. Whittemore, was encouraged to visit the society.  Mr. Nash had but recently returned from the army, in which, for about two years and three months, he had served as chaplin in the Seventh Michigan Cavalry, and was seeking a settlement.  He came to Bay City, but with the assurance beforehand that circumstances did not favor the settlement of any pastor over the society.  It was thought that nothing could be accomplished by way of establishing permanent meeting until a church edifice could be erected.  But so great and unexpected was the interest manifested upon his first visit that he was invited to renew it, and in the meantime a subscription was started to secure his services.  The necessary amount was pledged, and on the first Sunday in April he entered upon the discharge of his duties as pastor of the society.

  The society, however, from having been so long destitute of regular meetings, had well nigh dissolved; and hence a meeting was called on the evening of April 10, 1866, at which it was legally reorganized, and its organization entered upon the records of the county according to law. 

At this reorganization, C. Munger, N. Whittemore, T.C.Phillips, T.C. Grier, H.A. Chamberlin, and E. Smith were elected trustees; T.C. Grier, clerk; T.C. Phillips, treasurer, and J.C. Thomas, collector.  In May a Sabbath-school was organized, which has been in operation ever since.  The necessity of church edifice being apparent to all, in June the pastor commenced agitating that subject, and to circulate a subscription for that object.  The work of raising money was attended with great difficulty, and the work of building was not begun until October.  The building was dedicated the first Sunday in January, 1867.  The ladies of the society managed to furnish the church with everything except the stoves.  Owing to financial troubles meeting sere suspended from January, 1868, to the following May, when an arrangement was entered into for preaching half the time.  The Sabbath-school, however, did not suffer interruption.  After a time the society recuperated and enjoyed a more prosperous condition.  In 1877 the building was destroyed by fire, and the lot was then exchanged for one on the corner of Seventh and Madison Streets.  The following year the present church edifice was built.  The present membership is about 100, and the pastor is Rev. R.S. Crane.  The trustees are J.F. Eddy, S. Eddy, J.R. Hall, I.A. Shannon, E.E. Spaulding, R.B. Taylor; clerk, A. L. Stewart; treasurer, George Carney.



 The first meeting in the interests of a Congregational Church in Bay City was held in Good Templars Hall, June 13, 1875.  Rev.J. B. Dawson preached morning and evening.  On the 29th of June a meeting was held at the residence of Mr. F. H. Blackman to consider the practicability of organizing a Congregational Church and Society.  It was decided to effect such an organization and articles of association were adopted and officers elected.

  Regular Sabbath services were held in Good Templars Hall for a month, after which the use of the court house was procured, where, on the 25th of July, 1875, the church was organized in due form.

  Twenty-five members composed the new church, five of whom united on profession of faith, and twenty by letters from other churches.  On the following Sabbath a Sunday-school was organized under very encouraging auspices.  Church prayer-meetings were also appointed, being held from house to house.  In August, Rev. S. P. Barker, of Ionia, was engaged temporarily as pastor, and at the end of three months his resignation was accepted.

  In October, the trustees of the German Lutheran church kindly proffered the use of their house of worship on sabbaths for one preaching service and also for Sunday school.  Shortly afterwards the Good Templars’ Hall was secured, where the regular church services were held until the new house of worship on the corner of Sixth and Van Buren Streets was finished.  From November, 1875, until February, 1876, the pulpit was supplied temporarily, much of the time by Dr. Joseph Hooper, whose ministrations were kindly given, and were received with much acceptability.  His sudden illness and death, which occurred February 27, 1876, terminated a useful and devoted life.

  A movement was made immediately after the organization of the church and society towards the erection of a house of worship.  Through the persevering efforts of the board of trustees and the liberality of members and friends, the building committee were enabled to begin the work December 1, 1875.  The church edifice was completed and dedicated April 20,1876.

  About the 1 of February, 1876, the church and society extended a call to Rev. J. Homer Parker to become their pastor.  The call was accepted, and Mr. Parker entered upon his duties March 12, 1876.  At the expiration of a year he was regularly installed.

  On June 28, 1879, Mr Parker was compelled to tender his resignation on account of ill-health.

  A unanimous call was extended to Rev. J.G. Leavitt, of New Gloucester, Me., who accepted the same, and he commenced his pastorate under very favorable auspices December 7, 1879.  Failing health, however, compelled him to tender his resignation in October, 1880, and the church was again without a pastor.  An invitation to the pastorate was given to Rev. W. W. Lyle, of Duxbury, Mass., which was accepted, and on January 2, 1882, he commenced his labors, which have been very successful.  The present membership is 200.

  The officers of the society are: Trustees, T.F. Langstaff, L. A. L Gilbert, William Smalley, George F. Hood, M.M. Andrews, and George Ford; president, T.F. Langstaff; secretary, George F. Hood; financial secretary, L.P.Sperry; treasurer, M.M. Andrews.  The average attendance at the Sunday school for 1882 was 101.



Was organized in 1875 by some of the German citizens of Bay City.  The association has a membership of about seventy five, among whom are some of the leading Germans of the place.  The church is on Monroe Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Streets.  The present pastor is Rev. J.G. Haller.  The trustees are W.F. Meisel, Herman Meisel, C. Lindner, Frederick Meier, George Hegar, F. Meisel, Henry Meisel, F. Koch, and F. Wiesenberg.



 ANSHEI CHESAD, HEBREW REFORM CONGREGATION, of Bay City, was organized in September, 1878.  Services are now held in the I.O.B.B. Hall.  The pastor is Rev. Wolf Landau.  Officers, William Sempliner, president; S. Grabowsky, vice-president: I.Grabowsky, secretary; L. Freidman, treasurer; William Wolsky, trustee.



Roman Catholic missionaries had visited the Saginaw Valley as early as 1829-the first residents, after the Indians, being French people of that persuasion.  Prior to about 1852, Lower Saginaw was visited from time to time by priests from different parts of the state, most frequently by those resident in Flint and Detroit.  Mr. John Hyde, editor of the Catholic Chronicle, writing upon this subject in 1875, says:-“Among those who most frequently came here, prior to 1848, were Fathers Kundig and Louis, and Father Peter Kindekeus, the vicar general of the diocese.  Between 1848 and 1852 priestly visits became more frequent.  Father Monayhan, then the pastor of Flint, made frequent trips to Saginaw City, and on most occasions would get some good Frenchman or Indian to paddle him down the river to Lower Saginaw.  Occasionally, too, Father Joseph Kindekens, brother of the Father Peter above mentioned, and Father Kilroy, now pastor of Emmett, St. Clair County, would be assigned to the duty of visiting the Catholics of the valley, and would be watched eagerly from the shore, as he approached in canoe or on the ice, carefully holding the pack containing his alter vestments and vessels.  In 1848 there were eight Catholic families here, most of whom were French.  By 1851 the number had increased to fourteen, besides a few young, unmarried men, who had ventured in to help prepare the lands for their future wealthy occupants.  Among the ‘old heads’ there were the Trombles, the Trudells, the Longtains and the Marsacs, and among the men of the younger blood there were James L. Herbert, the brothers Cusson, William Ferris and others.  I have said that most of the Catholics were Frenchmen, but what spot of earth can one look at without finding there an Irishman?  Lower Saginaw at that time was no exception.  Here too there were Irishmen.  Osmond A. Perrott, the father of our present fellow citizen, P.J. Perrott (who was then a ‘broth of a boy’) was then residing here, and had resided here since 1842.  Also Mr. Bernard Cunningham, whose memory is revered by all the older residents of Bay City.  About this time, too, our present wealthy and respected fellow citizen, Mr. James Watson, moved here from Detroit, bringing with him, on his father’s side, the spirit and traditions of the Kentucky riflemen, and on his mother’s side the memory of the good Gabriel Richard, priest and member of Congress.  In 1850-51, the Catholics of Lower Saginaw considered themselves numerous enough to attempt building a church.    The munificence and forethought of the men who laid out the village plat had provided building sites for the different Christian denominations whose members might settle here.  The Catholics were the first to avail on the bounty, and as the most convenient to the settled portion of the village, the site of the present St. Joseph’s church was selected.  There were no architects here then, but there were many who had assisted at every ‘raising’ that had ever occurred here, and knew just what a building needed to make it last long.  The men went into the woods to chop and square the timber, and each helped to put the pieces in their places in the edifice.  The men were few, however; none of them were rich then (though many of them are now) and most of them had to support families besides building churches.  The work consequently progressed but slowly, so much so, that when the Rev. H.H. Schutjes arrived here in 1852, not much of a church was to be seen.  But they had now at least at their head one who could encourage and direct them; and after some time, by his efforts and their own will, the building gradually assumed shape, and Father Schutjes was soon able to perform divine service in it.  It was a long time, however, before a pastoral residence was built.  During this time Father Schutjes resided sometimes in the family of Mr. Watson, and sometimes in the old pioneer hotel, the Wolverton House, and he now often speaks of the kindness and good nature of the worthy hostess Mrs. J. S. Barclay.  Those were the good old primitive times of Bay City, when saw mills were few and far between, and banks and newspapers were not even in the mind of the prophet.  Besides Lower Saginaw, Father Schutjes was pastor of the entire Saginaw Valley.  He had to divide his time between the people at this end of the river and those in the upper towns.  Every alternate Sunday he spent in Saginaw City and East Saginaw, and in the Spring and Fall, when the ice was bad and there were no roads, he often had great difficulty and many hair breath escapes, in coming to and from these places.  But the growth of commerce and manufacturers brought increase in population.  The number of Catholics kept pace with the general prosperity, and by the year 1868 they were numerous enough to require the appointment of pastors for each of the cities of Saginaw and East Saginaw.  Father Schutjes was then enabled to devote his attention to the wants of his people in Bay City.  Soon the little church of St. Joseph became too small for the increasing congregation.  Frenchmen came from Canada, and Irishmen came from everywhere,.  Besides those, there were many stalwart Hollanders and Germans, so that Father Schutjes had to speak many languages to ‘get along’ with his people.  French and English being, however, the prevailing language in the congregation, he preached alternately in those two tongues, until the year 1867.  At this period it was discovered that not one-eighth part of the congregation could get into St. Joseph’s Church, so it was resolved at once to commence the building of a new church.  Ground was selected on the present site of St. James Church, and before the close of September of that year, the new church was dedicated, under the patronage of St. James the Apostle.  This Church continued under the charge of Father Schutjes until June of 1873, when he was called to Detroit to assist the Bishop in the affairs of the diocese.  His place was filled by the appointment of rev. Thomas Rafter, a native of Monroe County, in this state.

  “Before the departure of Father Schutjes the Catholics on the west side of the river had increased so much in number that the Bishop had ordered the setting off of that territory as a separate parish, and had appointed the Rev. M.G. Cantors as pastor, with authority to at once commence the building of a church.  Father Castors at once commenced the erection of a building to serve as a chapel until it would be convenient to build a church, and which, when the church should be built, would serve as a schoolhouse.  This chapel was completed in the early part of 1874, and is now too small for the congregation.  Father Van Stralm was appointed to the charge of St. Joseph’s Church, which has been, since the year 1867, devoted to the exclusive use of the French Catholics of the city.  Those of all nationalities other than French, on the east side of the river, are under the charge of Father Rafter, and attend St. James Church.

  “The Germans and Poles have, however, lately become so numerous that the Bishop has deemed it proper to set them off under pastors who speak their own languages.  Accordingly, the Catholics of these nationalities have lately commenced the erection of new churches, the Poles on the corner of Twenty-second and Farragut Streets, and the Germans on Lincoln Avenue, between Eighth and Ninth Streets.  As the seating capacity of the different churches is entirely dis-proportioned to the number of members-only a comparatively small proportion being able to get pews to rent-the pastors can give only an approximate estimate of the actual numbers of their congregations.  It is supposed that the numbers will be rather within the figures if those on the Bay City side are set down at from 5,000 to 6,000, and those on the Wenona side at from 1,500 to 2,000.

  “It would not be proper to close this sketch of the history of Roman Catholic matters in Bay City, without alluding to the excellent parochial school of St. James Church.  The erection of the building for this school was commenced by Father Schutjes, but completed by the present pastor, Father Rafter.  It is built from designs by Porter & Watkin s, architects of Bay City and Buffalo, and is a very handsome frame building, divided into two stories.  It is 105 feet long by 36 wide.  The lower story is divided into three large class rooms, the upper story being a hall with a movable partition in the contre so as to divide it into two class rooms.  The school was opened in September, 1878, under the charge of the Sisters of Charity, from Cincinnati, with an attendance of 120 scholars.  At the close of the first year the number in attendance was nearly 400.”

  The present pastor of St. Joseph Church is Rev. Mederic Ulric Thibodeau, and the membership about 500 families.  The school is in a prosperous condition.

  Rev. Thomas Rafter is still pastor of St. James Church, which has a membership of at least 2,500.  The school has upwards of 600 pupils.

  St. Bonifazius Church was built as above stated, in 1875-76, and the society has grown to large dimensions.  The present pastor is Rev. Joseph Ebert.

  St. Stanislaus Kotska Church was built in 1874, and has a membership now of upwards of 600 families.  The present pastor is Rev. Augustus Sklorzik.  About 1872 an extensive Polish immigration began, which was greatly aided by Mr. L. Daniels, now a merchant tailor in Bay City.  In “Dows’ History of Bay City,” published in 8175, the organization of Poles is mentioned as follows:

 “The fact that the Polish language is spoken by none but Poles, and few of them having any knowledge of English, rendered it necessary that as soon as their numbers would justify the step, an attempt should be made to build a separate place of worship for them.  This design was fostered by Mr. Daniels, and to secure the organization necessary to accomplish the object, he induced his countrymen to form themselves into a society.  This association was formed in the 8th of February, 1874, with Mr. Daniels as president, each member agreeing to pay a certain sum each month to form a fund for the building of the contemplated church.  But this would have taken a long time to accomplish, while in the meanwhile their number was increasing.  Accordingly Mr. Daniels set to work to build a church at once.  He procured subscriptions from most of our prominent fellow-citizens; and Mr. William D. Fitzhugh, with the liberality in such matters for which he and his father and brothers are so noted, gave a site for the church consisting of eight lots on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Twenty-second Street.  A contract for the building of the church was let last July, to Mr. Neil Mahoney, after plans by L. A. Pratt, architect, both of this city.  The building is now completed, and will be consecrated by Rt. Rev. Casper H. Borgess, bishop of Detroit, on Sunday, the 13th of December next, (1874). The building will cost about $4,000, is a very neat and tasteful edifice, and is located on a very fine site, and convenient to those who will worship there.  Mr. Daniels has had the entire control and responsibility of the work, and of providing the money for it, and his countrymen in Bay City owe him a very great debt of gratitude.



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