Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan Vol. 3, 1881
BAY COUNTY HISTORY, --- ITS PIONEER RECORD AND WONDERFUL
A PAPER BY GEN. B. F. PARTRIDGE.
Read at the Annual Meeting of the Michigan Pioneer Society, Feb. 5, 1880.
The recording of the history of the
county of Bay will include the time as far back as the white race made the first
settlement in its territory. Allusion will be made to the occupancy of the
banks of the Saginaw river by the red man, and perhaps his right here. But
it concerns us most to know when , where ,why an d by whom Bay county was first
settled, by what methods the county was so rapidly filled with the enterprise,
the wealth, the intelligence by what steps she has risen to so much prominence
which we so much admire, and what it is that constitutes our true and rapid
It is of equal value to enumerate the manners of the different nationalities composing our community, their genius and customs, and especially show the character, disposition, the talents, virtues, and perhaps the vices of those having from time to time the management of corporate and municipal affairs of the towns, villages, and cities composing the county.
The rise and progress of the lumber trade centering in Bay City deserves some attention, it being unequaled in magnitude by any other community of equal numbers.
The sale manufacture is another great interest, the magnitude of which is not equaled by any other part of the world in so small a territory.
Such are the subjects which this history presents, seeming as it were, to pass in review before us, and at the same time some of the men who were the more conspicuous in carrying forward the great enterprises or completing the corporate or municipal divisions of the county, thus instructing us by example in the art of building up communities to successful results, as well in a business view, as in the principles of government, the rules of policy and conduct of society, and education.
The Saginaw river had many visitors prior to any permanent settlement in the present limits of Bay County.
The Saginaw river was the highway to Saginaw, where the American Fur company had their headquarters for this region. The United States had a fort or block house at Saginaw city, with her soldiers stationed there some years before any lodgment was made in the limits of this county. Even in those early days it was found difficult to navigate the Saginaw river above Bay City, and those who had stations up the river found it convenient to make stations below. So one Leon Trombley, an old Frenchman, having an interest at Saginaw in 1831, came down the river and erected a small log house on the bank of the river on Water street, about in front of where Forsyth & Pierson's hardware store now stands, where half an acre was soon cleared for an Indian camp-ground. Mr. Trombley was the scientific farmer employed by the government to instruct the Indians in the practical science and secrets of farming. After Mr. Trombley had built his house and cleared his half acre, he planted a patch of potatoes in order to have some for his next winter's supply at hand. On leaving for Detroit, where his family lived, he made arrangements with an Indian and his squaw to hoe and take care of his potatoes through the summer of 1831. In the fall, on arrival at his house with his family, Mr. Trombley discovered to his astonishment and great disappointment that the potatoes had not been hoed or cultivated at all, and mourned over the instability of character of the red man, and his want of the expected supply of potatoes, and paid but little attention to them for some time. After getting well settled in his home it occurred to him that there might be a few small potatoes that would do to plant the next year, and he proceeded to secure them; but on digging them found to his great astonishment and happy disappointment that he had an abundant supply of nice, large potatoes, the first crop of potatoes raised in the limits of Bay county.
Mr. Joseph Trombley cam to the Saginaw valley about 1829 or 1830 to look over the country with a view of trading with the Indians. After exploring, and camping, and becoming somewhat acquainted with the red man, he left for his home in Wayne county. Mr. Trombley returned, however, and selected his place, and built his store and house on the river below any other settlement except the Leon Trombley family, near the old Center house, and then supplied himself with the first stock of goods ever brought to the limits of this county, in time to attend the Indian payment in the fall of 1833. In order to illustrate the extreme hardships and expense and great difficulties in reaching the Saginaw river in this early time, it is well to show the indomitable will and perseverance of the men and women who became the pioneers of this wild country; we will detail the hardships the extreme labor patiently borne by some of them.
Mr. Trombley having determined to remain in this wild country, went to Detroit and hired the mechanics required to accomplish his work, bought such material as could not be obtained from the timber here, shipped to the Saginaw river a small quantity of boards, for which he paid $8 per M., paying $8 per M. freight, and other freight $3.50 per 100 pounds, using mostly wrought nails at eighteen cents a pound. These were a part of his material. Himself and the men hewed his timber, split his shingles, and whip-sawed a part of his lumber, and built a house 25 x 30, near where the old Center house now stands, of timber flatted to six inches, well roofed and floored, and ready for use in the fall of 1832, in time to be used as his residence and store for his goods, hauling his timber by hand, for not a team was in this region at that time. There being no road but an Indian trail from Flint to Saginaw, sixteen miles up the river, from there the travel, while river was open, was done by canoes, and in the winter on ice, and from Flint to Saginaw on foot or horseback. His men had to travel on foot from Detroit, camping on the way, like the Indians , and frequently in common with them, sharing their scanty provisions, wading streams and bayous, and sometimes being obliged to swim across them, each with his pack of bed and board on his back, carrying his ax and gun in the meantime. Canoes and paddles being the only steamboats then in general use, every man or family was the owner of one, and his finely fashioned maple or white ash paddles.
Mr. Trombley being the only trader at the lower end of the river, through his shrewdness managed to secure the Indian payment to be made at this place, and reaped a rich harvest for his efforts in getting established here. In the meantime others followed and shared the hardships and great promise of rich returns. It required not a little bravery and shrewdness in every one of the early settlers to live and thrive here. In the meantime others
were casting their nets in this far off region. There are always in every community those who are not content with their status, and are prone to seek a better home in the confines of the most promising wilderness, facing the dangers incident to the most severe privations, among the wild red man, the wild beasts, and not strangers. Having sought these conditions, the pioneers in every new settlement seem to gravitate to one thing, to fraternity, to reliance upon each other, more or less, to close social relations, sympathy with each other in their prosperity and sufferings, turning out to assist each other in putting up the houses and making each and all feel among their friends.
Joseph Trombley flourished for some time in his trade with the red man, having dealt largely in the only commodity the Indian had, the lucrative fur trade. Sending to headquarters for his Indian supplies, getting them at low prices and selling them at the Frenchman's "one or two per cent," that is, what he paid one dollar for he was quite sure to get two dollars for, and what he took in barter he was sure to get for half or less than its value, and selling it for several times its cost. Theses were the inevitable results of the pioneer Indian trade.
In 1834 the next house built on the present site of Bay City was a log house built by one John B. Trudell, an old Frenchman, near where the residence of the late James Watson now stands, in the Fifth ward, where Mr. Trudell lived a long time.
The next family fixing its residence in the limits of this county was another Frenchman, Benjamin Cushway, who built himself a house and blacksmith shop on the west side of the river, a short distance below the west end of Twenty-third street bridge, and for many years did the Indian blacksmithing and assisted the traders in their traffic with the Indians.
We find no more people locating here for some time. But in March, 1835, our thrifty friend, Joseph Trombley, becoming somewhat aristocratic in his notions, bought of the government the land along the bank of the river from where W. R. McCormick's house now stands to the red salt works of Albert Miller, and commenced to erect the house known as the old Center house, by getting his timber hewed and on the spot at the same time. Mr. Trombley bought his siding and a quantity of boards and his lime and nails, hired carpenters and other help, and put them all on board the sloop Savage, a small vessel of 28 tons, and sent them to the Saginaw river, coming by land himself. After long delays the vessel arrived safely, when the work went on as rapidly as one slow carpenter could frame his oak timber. In the meantime the studding and joist and other lumber was being sawed with a whip-saw. The frame being completed, the joiner came and finished the outside and inside, and the house was fully completed within two years after its commencement, being the first frame house in the limits of this county.
Subsequently, in March, 1836, this land where the village of Portsmouth was subsequently laid out, was purchased by Benoit Trombley, of Joseph Trombley, who subsequently sold it, in July of the same year, to Judge Albert Miller, when in the same month the town of Portsmouth was surveyed and platted by Judge Jewett, of Saginaw, for Judge Albert Miller. After the outlines of the survey had been made the surveying party repaired to Leon Trombley's house for refreshments, when young Lewis Trombley, then a small lad, standing at the door, cried out, "a steamboat". The steamer, Gov. Marcy, being then in sight, was the first steamer that ever entered the Saginaw River. The surveying party hailed the boat and put out to her in canoes, and took passage for Saginaw.
In the winter of 1836-1837 Judge Miller sold out his interest in the plat of Portsmouth, reserving certain lots to other parties, among whom was Henry Howard, the State Treasurer, Kensing Prichet, Secretary of State, John Norton, the cashier of the Michigan State bank, John M. Berrien of the United States army, and Governor Stevens T. Mason, who individually purchased all the land subsequently included in the Portsmouth plat. These formed a stock company and caused the same to be resurveyed and replatted in 1837 by John Farmer.
A portion of this plat of Portsmouth was resurveyed and replatted by A. Alberts, surveyor for Wm. Daglish in 1855, under the name of Daglish division of Portsmouth.
Up to some time in 1836 all the lands purchased in the Saginaw valley were in the lad district of Detroit, and a trip to Detroit was then considered a fearful hardship for any one, and a land office was established at Flint, thirty miles from Saginaw.
In these early times much strife began to appear between parties purchasing United States lands, and then all purchases were made in gold and silver. It is stated that more that $40,000 were frequently stored away in the little hotel at Flint, kept by one Bill Gifford, to be used for purchasing lands. Though the times were prosperous and every one was accumulating wealth, no one seemed to realize what terrible disasters were in store for them. In 1837 an incident occurred, which illustrates the will of men who keenly appreciate their interests. It is said that Joseph Trombley and Dr. D. H. Fitzhugh took a fancy for the same piece of land at the same time, neither knowing that other wanted the land. At noon Joseph Trombly learned Dr. Fitzhugh was to start for Flint from Saginaw to purchase the said land which was on the west side of the river. On the next morning early, Trombley being then at Portsmouth, collected his gold and started in a canoe, and rapidly sped his way to Flint, expecting to overtake Fitzhugh on the road, who was to start on horseback, but found nothing of him. Arriving at Flint on a good smart run, he enetered hisland, took dinner and started on his return to the Saginaws. On his way back he met Dr. Fitzhugh, who was greatly astonished to meet him going towards Saginaw, suggested that he (Trombley) had bought certain land, when Trombley showed his certificate of purchase. Dr. Fitzhugh seeing there ws no use in going further, returned. Trombley kept him company awhile, but finding that the Doctor was too slow, even with his horse, left him, and arrived at Saginaw City, at a store owned by one McDonald, where he had left his canoe. Tombley told his story about his getting the start of Fitzhugh, when McDonald disbelieved him, even after seeing the certificate, and bet a gallon of wine that Trombley had not been to Flint that day. Now the mail carrier was on his way from Flint to Saginaw on horseback, and Trombley met him before arriving at Flint, and then overtook and passed him on his way back. So they waited a few minutes for the mail carrier, who verified Trombley's statement. Trombley treated out his gallon, and took his canoe for home, arriving there before ten at night the same day. Mr. Trombley says no man not having an iron frame and constitution could stand the strain to run that distance as he had to run.
Judge Albert Milller, then living at Green Point, in company with B. K. Hall and Cromwell Barney, built the first steam saw mill on the Saginaw, at Portsmouth, on the site of Albert Miller's red salt block, in 1836-37.
The difficulty of building a mill in those times is hardly apparent to the present people of the Saginaw valley.
When the arrangements had been completed between the parties, Cromwell Barney was to have the timber got out, and the frame erected and put in order, while Judge Miller went to Ohio to purchase the needed machinery, and other materials for the mill. Mr. Barney hurried up his part of the work and when the timber was ready to haul it was found that but one team was to be found in the country, and that was owned by Leon Trombley on the other side of the river, and they were made to swim the river daily till the ice prevented, when the men with tackle and ropes and chains hauled the timber by hand to complete the mill, which was ready for operation in the spring.
Judge Miller was not so fortunate. He bought the mill gearing and everything in a grist and saw mill, at the mouth of the Huron river, in Ohio, and shipped it on a vessel to Detroit. Navigation was closing, and freights were excessively high from Buffalo to Detroit, $2.50 per 100 pounds, and Mr. Miller was obliged to purchase the schooner Elizabeth Ward for his use. The machinery and a large stock of goods and provisions were put on board of the vessel, and when Mr. Miller saw his cargo safe under way, with his workmen, whom he had hired at excessive wages, $3.50 to $3.00 per day, all on board , he started for Saginaw on horseback, till he arrived at Flint, when he found the roads so bad that no horse could go through. He then bought a canoe and paddled down the Flint river, hoping to get through, but found the river frozen at the mouth, and started from there on foot, breaking the ice, and sometimes wading up to his arms in the water and ice, until he reached Green Point, where his mother lived, and was unable for a while to go further on account of sickness, but on arriving at the mill he found no tidings of his vessel; he sent men up after the mail. After waiting some time he received letters that his vessel had laid up at Port Huron.
He at once started for Detroit and Port Huron, where he found the captain had made away with about all the goods. Miller then had to hire his machinery and goods drawn from Port Huron on sleighs at $50 a load. The mill was, notwithstanding all these difficulties, finished and put in operation.
When the mill went into operation in April, 1837, they found that there was no market where the best lumber could be sold for enough to pay transportation.
The mill was purchased by James McCormick and his son James J., who ran the mill till 1847, when the father died. They shipped the first cargo of lumber from the Saginaw river. This cargo was shipped to Detroit, and sold for $8 per M., half cash, balance in eight and ten months, the lumber running sixty per cent uppers. How long would the lumbermen of today do business under this pressure; and yet these persevering men operated the mill till 1846 with varying success.
The Hon. S. S. Campbell came to Lower Saginaw in March, 1838, with his family, and built his house on the corner of Fifth and Water street, where the Globe hotel now stands; Judge Campbell being the first permanent resident on the surveyed plat of Lower Saginaw, where his family lived and kept the first hotel opened in this county,, and continued this business till several other hotels were in successful operation, when the house was greatly enlarged and opened as the Globe. Mr. Campbell, in about 1873 built a fine brick block on the lot north and adjoining the Globe, and has lived on his property on Woodside avenue for nearly sixteen years, and is enjoying the fruits of his early efforts and hardships in peace and quietness, having his family around him to cheer up his fast approaching old age.
Thomas Rogers came from Canada in the fall of 1836, with a view of securing a home where he could enjoy his political views without the interference of the wealthy nobility such as reigned in Canada at that time. He was employed by Judge Miller to help put in the machinery in his mille., and the next year sent for his family, who came up on the steamer Governor Marcy at the same time that Joseph Trombley and his bride came to this region. Mr. Trombley says he went down to see the family on the lower deck of the boat, and was surprised to find so fine and intelligent a family there, and after some conversation, finding that they could not afford a first-class passage, got his wife to go and see them, and finally paid the difference in the fare and took them up where they could enjoy the benefits of a first-class table, which was keenly appreciated by Mrs. Rogers and family.
In 1822 the territory east of the river was surveyed, and soon placed in market. The reserve west of the river was surveyed and placed in market in 1840. The Indian reservations were to be sold at $5 per acre, for the benefit of the Indians, except the private reservations such as the John Riley reservation, which the owners held at fabulous prices.
Some time in 1836, John Riley, son of Stephen V. R. Riley, then and for many years postmaster at Schenectady, N. Y., was prevailed upon to sell his reservation of 640 acres, to Andrew T. McReynolds of Detroit, and F. H. Stephens, then president of the Michigan State Bank in Detroit, for the fabulous sum of $30,000. The title of this purchase soon passed to the stock company known as the Saginaw Bay Land Company, consisting of A. T. McReynolds, James Fraser, F. H. Stevens, Governor Stevens T. Mason, Henry R. Schoolcraft, Phineas Davis, Henry Hallock, John Hulbert, Electus Barkus, Henry R. Sawyer. This company caused two hundred and forty acres of this purchase in the northwestern portion of the river to be surveyed and platted for a town and named it Lower Saginaw. The boundaries of this embryo city were the present Woodside avenue, Saginaw river, a line about 400 feet south of and parallel with Tenth street, and a line 100 feet east of and parallel with Van Buren street.
It would seem that this formidable company had dreams of wealth as great as the fabulous price they paid for the land, for they commence making extensive improvement to induce capitalist to invest in this new city by building a dock and warehouse, and a large hotel was framed and lumber provided for its completion, and yet the plans projected were but partially developed.
The finance bubble had swollen to the fullest extent about this time all over the west and east; the wild mania for speculation had culminated in the suspension of specie payment, because of the run upon all the banks for the specie with which to purchase the United States lands. This company were unable to "stand from under" and were thus crushed in all their dreams of wealth, in the greatest crash in the finances this country ever knew, and everything was as dead as a door nail. About the only one of the company that had been shrewd enough to save himself was James Fraser, who subsequently, with Dr. D. H. Fitzhugh, and Hon. James G. Birney, purchased for a nominal sum the whole interest except that of Theodore Walker, when they divided the property, and each after that managed his own interests without regard to the others. Thus the nucleus for a future city was formed by the two land companies, covering Portsmouth and the Riley reservation.
Soon after the grand crash the legislature of Michigan passed the wild cat bank bill to save them from total ruin, but it only served to sink what little hope and energy there was left in those hardy men. Though two banks were chartered for the two companies here, the Commercial bank of Portsmouth, and the Saginaw County bank, which was later located at Lower Saginaw, and a banking house was actually built on the lot where the Rouech block now stands. No bills were ever put in circulation, however, except those stolen while on the way from New York, fictitious names of officers having been signed to the bills. They were found in circulation, and it is truly said of these bills that they were just as good as any.
For several years subsequent the main strife was to devise ways and means for simply living, and many turned their wits to farming and prospered finely along the rich alluvial bottom lands of the Saginaw. In about 1840 Dr. D. H. Fitzhugh purchased several parcels of the Indian reserve lands opposite the present Bay City, where the thriving young city of West Bay City now stands. All these lands were only partially occupied for many years, though a much handsomer site for a town than the opposite side of the river.
The Hon. James G. Birney, who was in 1844 the Abolition candidate for president, cam e to Lower Saginaw with his family in 1842. Mr. Birney's house was built on the corner of Fourth and Water streets, where he lived for several years, when he sold these eight lots and house to his son David B., and his son David B. sold to B. F. Partridge, who sold the same to James Fraser, where he lived several years. That house was moved to the corner of Saginaw and Fourth streets, and changed into a hotel known as the Moulton house. While Mr. Birney lived here he imported some very fine Durham stock, and for many years he and Mr. Fitzhugh bred fine stock.
In 1846 the lumber interest was again revived somewhat, and Hopkins, Pomeroy, and Fraser built a mill on the site where the Gates & Fay mill now stands. Their lumber went to Chicago, and other mills began to spring up soon after.
In 1838 Joseph F. Marsac, an old Frenchman, removed to a piece of land just above the present Astor house, in the sixth ward of Bay City, and still lives on a part of it, the rest being covered nearly all over with mills and other buildings.
Among those who came to Bay county in early times was one Capt. J. S. Wilson, who purchased a piece of land of J. F. Marsac, and lived on it till his death in about 1872. He sailed the sloop Mary, the first trading vessel on the river. Judge Albert Miller was the first postmaster. He was appointed in 1836 by Amos Kendall, as postmaster of Portsmouth, and the late Thomas Rogers was his deputy, and carried the mail to and from Saginaw once a week in a canoe in summer, and on the ice in winter. This office being discontinued , there was no office for a awhile, but shortly after, Mr. Rogers received the appointment of postmaster of Hampton, and kept his office in his dwelling house where the Shearer block now stands, till in 1852 he died with the cholera. Also Mr. Monroe, a brother-in-law, died at the same time, each leaving large families, who are now identified with the business men of this city.
Captain B. F. Pierce also settled here as early as 1839, and was known among the enterprising men of the river. He built a storehouse and dock just north of the bridge, and the old storehouse stands there yet. He was a steamboater, and owned the first steam tug on the river that towed the fist vessel ever towed by steam here.
Mike Dailey, an Irish lad of eleven years, came here in 1837, with Norman Little from New York, and has served since in almost any capacity imaginable, and by his shrewdness and ability has accumulated a large fortune.
Edwin Park and Curtis Munger came to Lower Saginaw in 1848, as cooper, and carried on that business successfully some time, furnishing fish barrels to the fishermen. During the winter their shop, tools, and clothing were all lost by fire, but that did not discourage them. They got new tools and went on, and commenced fishing in the spring, made money, and afterwards engaged in mercantile pursuits, and are known among the business men of the city.
Captain Lyman Crowl came in 1849, and was a resident till 1853. He was a partner of Russell, Miller & Co., of Portsmouth.
J. S. Barclay came and built the Wolverton house, after being in trade two or three years. It was much the best house of any kind at the lower end of the Saginaw river, and is still a good house to stop at.
Captain Raby and H. C. Scott are also among the enterprising pioneers of the Saginaw, having visited the river in 1837-38.
Alexander and William McEwan came to Lower Saginaw in 1850, and in the fall commenced to erect their mill at Woodside. Some time in the next year they were joined by John McEwan, bother of William and Alexander. The three brothers operated the mill till 1854, when Alexander died, and the business went on in the name of McEwan & Brother.
Charles E. Jennison came here in 1850 as a partner of James Fraser in the mercantile business.
In 1857 James Fraser sold his Kawkawlin mill property to O. A. Ballou & Co., of the State of Connecticut, for $80,000, and Dexter A. Ballou, a son of O. A .Ballou, became the manager of the property and lumbering business; and the village of Kawkawlin was laid out and platted, and the business and place prospered finely.
Mr. D. A. Ballou married a daughter of the Hon. H. M. Fitzhugh of Baltimore, Maryland, and has been a resident of Bay City ever since.
In 186- the firm of Folsom, Arnold & Co., of Albany, New York, purchased the land and water, and built the large mill and salt works now managed by that genial old bachelor, Alexander Folsom, who is as much engaged in banking as in lumbering.
The Hon. George Lewis, president of the Bay City bank, came to the Saginaw river in 184-, and lived a Zilwaukee several years, and was supervisor to the Saginaw county board of supervisors before this county was organized, and came to Portsmouth, and with William Peters purchased the Partridge mill, and the firm operated
the mill very successfully several years. The mill was destroyed by fire, when Messrs. Lewis and Peters opened a banking house in Bay City, and subsequently opened the Bay City Savings bank. Mr. Lewis has since represented Bay county in the State legislature, and his ward on the board of supervisors.
James Watson, of the firm of J. & J. Watson, of Detroit, came here in 1850, and his mill land mercantile operations made him one of the most enterprising men on the river, contributing largely to the welfare of Bay City.
It seems that the business began greatly to revive in the Saginaws, which brought such men here.
Another worth business pioneer who came here in 1850 was Henry Raymond to put a mill in operation with Mr. James Watson, and has always been known as one of the sterling business me of this county.
In 1846, J. B. and B. B. Hart came to establish a trade with the Indians, and both became good Indian traders and talkers and business men.
Dr. J. T. Miller, brother of Judge Albert Miller, came to Portsmouth in 1836, and was the first family and physician that lived in the limits of Bay County that was not French or Indian. B. K. Hall next, and Cromwell Barney third. Dr. Geo. E. Smith was the second male physician and kept the first drug store at Lower Saginaw.
E. Stanton came in 1850, and began his mill in 1851, and has been one of Bay City's prominent citizens.
Israel Catlin, a builder, carpenter, and good business man, came here in company with James Fraser, and Assisted in the Kawkawlin mill in 1843-44, and has been counted as one of the soundest men in the county ever since.
C. C. Fitzhugh, who had lived at Midland several years, on his large farm, removed to Lower Saginaw in the spring of 1855, and occupied the house he now occupies, which was built by W. D. Fitzhugh, his brother, and who lived in it a while but removed to New York, when Conrad Hage occupied the house till the spring of 1854, when B. F. Partridge removed his family from Lexington, Sanilac county, Mich. into it, and lied there one year.
Thomas Whitney, John Drake, Judge Campbell, and J. J. McCormick had all built mills in the county adjacent to Lower Saginaw.
In the fall of 1853 B. F. Partridge purchased the land where the Pitts & Cranage mill now stands, and in company with John C. Baugham built a large mill, and ran the same till March, 1855, when Partridge sold his interest in the land and mill to his partner, taking a mortgage for $22,500, and commenced building the mill in Portsmouth where the McLean mill now stands, and put it in operation in 1855, and ran the mill several years. He resided in Bay City till 1867, when he moved to his farm three miles from the city.
The Hon. James Birney, son of James G. Birney, acquired the title to all the co-heirs of the late James G. Birney, and moved his family to Lower Saginaw in 1857, having been here the year before, and has been identified with the progress of the county ever since.
The late James Fraser, one of the earliest visitors to this county, resided in Saginaw county till 1856, but was one of the main business men and property holders in the county, and was one of the original purchasers of the John Riley reservation, and one who was the means of Dr. Fitzhugh and Mr. Birney becoming so deeply interested in the town of Lower Saginaw. He certainly caused more improvements to be made, and engineered about all the enterprises, or was the means of the large investments in real estate in the county. No man was up earlier and worked later to accomplish his ends, and no man could do more with less means in any enterprise, and he was engaged in about everything to improve this county. He purchased the Birney property of B. F. Partridge in 1856, and moved into it in 1857, from Saginaw City, and occupied it till his removal east, when the Hon. James Shearer took the house for a number of years.
Henry Hess came to Lower Saginaw in September, 1851, and was in the employ of Henry Raymond in the mill, but finally purchased some land and has cleared up several farms and built several houses in the city.
John and William McEwan built the first grist mill in the county in 1857, where the Griswold block now stands, and ran the mill several years, J. B. Wetherell being the miller. During the first year the mill laid still a portion of the year for want of grain, but supplied the wants of the people.
J. W. Putnam came to East Saginaw some time in 1849, and built a house on the corner where the Campbell house now stands, and lived to operate here several years. "Old Put" was as well known as any on the river.
In 1853-54 Henry Moore and his partner built the Moore & Voce mill, on land purchased of Benoit Trombley below Bangor, and have run the mill with varying success ever since. Mr. Henry Moore married one of Colonel Raymond's daughters, and now lives in Bay City and is numbered among the foremost bankers and business men.
William B. Doty commenced putting up the mill known as the Peters' mill in 1854, in April, and died about the time he had completed it.
In 1845 the government directed and built a light-house at the mouth of the Saginaw river, and the first keeper was a Mr. Thompson. Joseph Trombley was employed to dig the well to supply water for the keeper.
The pioneer school here was taught by David Smith, brother of Dr. Geo. E. Smith, in the town of Portsmouth, and the scholars were Peter and Hiel Rogers, and Esther Rogers, now the wife of Captain R. Burrington, A. J. Crutchfield, Elizabeth McCormick, wife of Orrin Kinney, Sarah McCormick, wife of Medor Trombley, and W. R. McCormick, of Bay City, seven in all. The first school-house was built on the lot just south of where the Detroit & Bay City passenger depot now stands, and was sold to B. F. Partridge in the spring of 1854, and removed to give room for his mill boarding house, and the school-house in the second ward on Adams street, was built the same year.
At this writing the school system of Bay City is not second in efficiency to that of any city in Michigan, as an enumeration of the school-houses and advantages will justify any one in saying. The elegant and costly high-school building in the third ward is second to no similar building in the State. We have the new and elegant brick school-houses in the first, sixth, and seventh wards, and the large wooden house in the second ward for 500 scholars; those in the fourth and fifth wards, elegant houses and sufficient for those wards for some time; all estimated to be worth $140,000 at least, under the management of a school board composed of a president, clerk (the recorder of the city being clerk) fourteen members (two from each ward), one superintendent, and one principal at each ward school, with a corps of assistant teachers in each school, at an annual expense now of not less that $30,000. West Bay City has been equally well provided with elegant school-houses and teachers, Mr. Lankenaw being the principal. The townships are not behind the cities, but seem to vie with them in the education of their youth, when we are able to count up in the townships alone over fifty organized school districts with teachers during some portion of the year.
The first ferry was run between First street, Lower Saginaw, and the road north of the Drake mill, in 1854, with row boats; in 1859-1860 John Hays kept a hotel, the only house on Midland street, at the west end of Third street bridge, and a steam ferry run there from the foot of Third street.
The first lake vessel built here was the schooner Essex, three masts, by H. D. Braddock & Co., in 1860-1861; and the first steamer was built at Bangor by Thomas Whitney & Co., called the Whitney.
The first wheat raised in the county was by Cromwell Barney on his farm more recently known as the Longton Farm; the old family farm house is now standing, but the farm is covered all over with streets and saw-mills, salt blocks and houses.
The first steamer that made regular trips on the river for passengers and freight as a river boat was the old Buena Vista; captain, Ad. Mowry; engineer, Oren Kinney, now living in the sixth ward fo Bay City on his forty acre farm, were the chief officers.
Thomas Watkins, a genial lumber inspector, built the first brick structure here for a residence, on the corner of Center and Washington streets, in 1862, and the same house has just been torn down to make room for a four-story brick block, 125x100 feet, by James Shearer. In the same year James Fraser put up a brick store adjoining the building where W. H. Miller's hardware store now is; the building caved in and was rebuilt. In 1865 James Fraser built the Fraser house, a substantial brick building on the corner of Center and Water streets.
In 1867 it was discovered that sewers must be constructed or substantial buildings could not go up, and the city provided for the first sewer, and it was built on Center street, a mile in length, at a large outlay.
In 1868 a portion of Water and Center streets was paved with Nicholson pavement, and before this work had a vacation some three miles had been paved.
The first couple married here was by Judge Albert Miller, and the parties were John Jones to Lucy Trombley, a daughter of old Leon Trombley, the first settler here, at the house of Mr. Trombley. This John Jones was the son of John Jones of Livingston County, N. Y., who was a captive among the Indians for many years in his younger days.
The first white child born here was a daughter of Cromwell Barney, christened Elizabeth, and now the wife of Alderman Sinclair.
The first church erected in the limits of this county was the Indian mission Methodist church on the Kawkawlin river in 1847. The first in Bay City was the Methodist church on Washington street, in 1852, while at this date - 1880 - almost every denomination has its finely built modern church edifice, the seating capacity of some being as high as 1,500.
In1860 the first salt well was commenced on the site of the Northwester Gas and Water Pipe Co., and was in operation in 1861, but the first barrel of salt was made by the Portsmouth Salt Co., in 1861, and at this date there are annually made in the county at least 1,000,000 barrels of salt.
John Burdon made the first casting in the county in 1847, and subsequently started the first iron foundry and machine shop on the site of the Industrial Works.
In 1865-66 the Third street bridge was opened for travel. It was a wooden structure and has since been replaced by a very beautiful and substantial iron bridge; this is the main thoroughfare to West Bay City; the original bridge cost some $25,000. At this date we have this and the Twenty-third street bridge for travel, and the Detroit & Bay City Railroad bridge across the Saginaw river between Bay City and West Bay City.
In 1859 the pioneer newspaper was established by Mr. Perry Joslin, and edited by Hon. James Birney. Its career was brief. Since that date newspaper ventures have been too numerous to trace. At this writing the county boasts of fifteen publications of different descriptions.
June 25, 1857, John Robertson vs. Harvey Williams was the first suit entered in the Bay county circuit court, W L. Sherman Attorney for the plaintiff; May 31, 1858, George Lord vs. Joseph P. Whittemore, W. L Sherman attorney for plaintiff; June 2, 1858, Andrew C. Maxwell vs. James J. McCormick, Maxwell & Wisner for Plaintiff, and James Birney for defendant. But no court was held in which to try any cases till April, 1859, when Judge Wilber F. Woodworth presided. The grand jury empaneled for this session consisted of J. S. Barclay, Henry M. Bradley, John Burdon, Daniel Burns, Jonathan Burtch, Calvin C. C. Chilson, William L. Fay, Lyman Garrison, B. B. Hart, Christopher Heinzmann, Fred Keisler, Nathan Knight, Alexander McKay, Gunder Miller, John W. Putnam, Henry Raymond, Harvey Stewart, Edward Vosburg, Albert Wedthoff, and Michael Winterhalter - Henry Raymond being chosen foreman. It will be conceded in this county by every one knowing these jurors (and everybody in the county did know them) that it would be extremely difficult to summon an equal number of men from any place - even now - of equal general intelligence, and of so high standing in the community.
The bar of Bay county at this time consisted of C. H. Freeman, S. P. Wright, James Birney, W. L. Sherman, A. C. Maxwell and I believe Nathan Knight, who long since left the practice of law and went to farming, and has been one of the most honored men of the county ever since. He lives in the town of Hampton and has been supervisor many years, and represented his district in the State legislature the past two years.
The first Federal office was established here in 1837, Judge Albert Miller being appointed postmaster of the township of Portsmouth, but this was soon discontinued and no office was established in Portsmouth for several years.
The post office in Hampton was established in 1846, when Thomas Rogers was appointed postmaster and mail carrier. He served until his death, in 1852, when Dr. George E. Smith received the appointment. The post office in Bay City has grown from the little office that in 1846 did not pay for handling the letters, to one that does a business of nearly $200,000 a year, distributing mails in every direction. There is now one first-class, one second-class, and eighteen other post offices in the county to accommodate the rapidly increasing public.
_______ _______ was appointed custom house officer at this place in 18 --, and the office records more reports and clearances than any other custom house in Michigan. In September, 1867, B. F. Partridge received the appointment of Assessor Internal Revenue for the sixth collection district of Michigan, and removed the office from Vassar, Tuscola county, to Bay City, where the office remained four years, placing it where the public could reach it easily by rail and steamer from any part of the district, which included all of the upper peninsula and nearly one-third of the lower peninsula, bringing a large traveling public to Bay City.
In 1871 the population of Bay City having increased to considerably more than 7,000 and being dependent upon water for household uses from surface well water and the river, and the demand of manufacturing establishments for a better water supply induced the common council to inaugurate some system for supplying the city with pure and wholesome water for all purposes. After mature deliberation a board of water-works was created, with Hon. James Shearer as president, and the Holly system of water-works was adopted, and the most complete water supply has been secured, at an expense to the city of about $375,000. The city has a fine, substantial water-works building and machinery, and about thirty-three miles of main pipes laid, including about six miles of thirty-inch inlet pipe from the Saginaw bay. There has been no delay in the construction of these works since their inception, and not a dollar has been known to have been misapplied during all this time in their construction and management. So much to the credit of the men having it in charge. To close the history of the water-works without a reference to the fire department would leave it incomplete.
The first election under the village charter was held on May 2, 1859, Curtis Munger being elected president.
The first meeting of the council was held May 6, 1859, and the full organization being completed, the council and board of trustees commenced making improvements, but did not reach the question of a fire department until December 19, 1859, when a committee on fire department was made, consisting of Israel Catlin, H. M. Bradley, and Harmon A. Chamberlain, who procured hose, and a triangle with which to give the alarm of fire. These were certainly not extravagant. The the "Tiger", a hand fire engine, afterward called the "Peninsular," was procured, and John McEwan was elected captain. Next the "Red Rover" was purchased by W. L. Fay. On August 10, 1863, the order was given to purchase a steam fire-engine, but for some reason failed to be carried out for several years. But in October the city purchased two hand engines with hose cart and all other apparatus, the engines being name "Red Rover, No. 1" and "Protection, No. 2." Thus the village continued to increase the efficiency till the water-works were in operation, when the Holly system of fire protection was instituted, and with the fire-alarm telegraph and the stream and hand engines constitute the most efficient fire protection in use by any city in the State of Michigan.
In order to be in fashion with other and larger towns, and to accommodate the traveling communities on Water street to the various mills and other places, a company was formed in December, 1864, to build a street railroad, and this company has not only extended its lines and firmly fixed itself, but has extended its franchises to the right to use its tracks for a transfer railroad from 10 o'clock at night until 6 o'clock in the morning, thus giving all the mills and salt works and other manufactories direct access to the railroad connections to ship from their very doors.
The lumbering and salt business employing so many transient people, men of desperate characters may be found more numerous in these trades in connection with shipping and sailing than all others. These facts and the demand for greater safety in traveling the streets of the place in the night, and the belief of the merchants and others that gas light was much cheaper and better than any other light, induced an effort to secure the erection of gas works in Bay City. So in February, 1865, a charter was granted to the Bay City Gaslight Company, and the works were in due time completed and their pipes extended to every part of Bay City.
The banking business of this county commenced in 1863. The Bay bank was opened by C. W. Gibson with about $5,000 in the shape of a small sized "broker's office." Mr. Gibson started his bank on Water street, on the site of the Campbell house, and continued until January 16, 1864, when the First National Bank was organized with C. W. Gibson president and Clark cashier, with $50,000 capital.
In 1867 N. B. Bradley and B. E. Warren opened a banking house on the corner of Center and Water streets, where they continued some time, but they and James Shearer and others reorganized the First National bank, and finally increased the capital to $400,000, with James Shearer president, and B. E. Warren cashier. The same president and cashier have been continued to this date. There are now also, beside the First, the Second National bank, Bay City bank, and the Savings bank in Bay City, and the Lumbermen's bank in West Bay City, with a total banking capital in the county of not less than a million dollars. These facts surely seem to indicate rapid strides in the accumulation of wealth and prosperity in this community.
The circuit court calendar from year to year shows the importance of this branch of business simply immense. The very nature of the immense business transacted in this county renders litigation in this court almost impossible. The Hon. Sanford M. Green has ably presided in this court about twelve years in succession, with great honor to himself and to the full satisfaction of all doing business in his court.
The bar of Bay county is so numerous that but few of the oldest will be named, there being at this time forty-eight members. It is a seeming paradox, but very true, perhaps, that this numerous class of men operates to prevent much litigation. Among the pioneer lawyers will be remembered W. L. Sherman, who came here in 1853 from the State of New York. Mr. Sherman was a "character", never letting a chance linger when he could get his "one per cent". A. C. Maxwell, who was "all over" like bad weather, came her in 1854 or 55. Maxwell was then a large-sized "green" looking "horn," but anybody who took him for one of that species found his mistake. He is now counted one of the shrewdest lawyers in this part of the State; and has contributed largely to the growth and prosperity of this city and county. Chester H. Freeman came in about 1855 securing a good show of practice, and has ever since been counted of the solid men of the county. Then in 1856 or so the Hon. James Birney appeared on the scene and put up his shingle as a lawyer, but never acquired much reputation or business as such, though it may be truly said of him that he is a success as a politician, having been prosecuting attorney, circuit judge, member of the constitutional convention, lieutenant governor, and for several years U. S. Minster to the Hague. More recently the more noted lawyers are Judge Isaac Marston of the supreme court, H. H. Hatch, Judge S. T. Holmes, formerly member of Congress from the State of New York, and A. McDonell. Then T. F. Shepard, who is employed in more suits on the present calendar than any other lawyer of the bar, McDonnell & Mann standing next. Judge J. W. McMath has been here several years and enjoys a high place on the bar and a higher place as a man among the business community. It may be truly said of the rest of the bar, especially among the younger portion, that a more earnest, intelligent, and persevering lot of lawyers are seldom found.
Among the early farmers of the county may be named Nelson Merritt, who purchased his land in 1857, on the old "Cass road," and has a very fine farm. Samuel Henry, who came in 1854, was employed by B. F. Partridge in the Partridge & Baughman mill, as engineer, but soon bought the land where he now lives in the town of Portsmouth, where he has in course of construction a fine brick house for his future residence. Henry Hess also has made himself a fine farm on the Tuscola plank road, having come here in 1851; and C. L. Mix came in 1852, and purchased the land where his farm is and where he lives, the farm being partly in Bay City and partly in Portsmouth. Then J. M. Miller came in 1849, purchased his land near Mr. C. L. Mix and made himself a farm, But has been engaged in other business as well as farming, and is known as the "prohibition man of Bay County."
Mr. Essex, father of the late R. P. Essex and John Essex and of the wife of Joseph Hudson (brother of the popular landlord of the Hudson house of Lansing), came here very early and made a farm where Essexville now stands.
There are numerous farmers who settled the towns of Williams and Monitor in the early days of the county. But the number of farmers now in the county is "legioa," and cannot be noticed any further. Some time in 1855 or 1856 B. F. Partridge purchased the land of James Fraser on Center street, where he completed a fine and expensive house, nearly half a mile from Water street, and nearly that distance in the woods, with no street or road to it till he cut a crooked, winding path through the woods to the lots, over which to transport his material
for the house. As soon as completed he occupied it, and continued to do so till 1867. But in September 1861, he went into the army and remained there till July, 1865. After returning home, he purchased the land for his future home of Theodore M. Bligh, when he sold his house on Center street to H. M. Bradley, and removed to his land, where he has lived ever since. The next year, 1857, Center street was opened one mile out. In 1860 a company was formed for building a plank road from Bay City to Tuscola county, and B. F. Partridge was employed to survey the route and engineer the building of the road; when William McEwan, Alexander McKay, Chris. Heinsman, James Fraser, and others accompanied the party as assistants; Chris. Heinsman being the axman, and McEwan to write down the notes of survey, and the work was prosecuted to completion, it being the first road of any kind over which a team could travel to and from Bay City at all times of the year.
In 1865 the people of Bay county began to think of promoting the interests of agriculture, though but few farmers could then be counted in the county, and that few not very strong. But the business men came to the front, and a creditable county fair was held which proved a success. In 1867-8 B. F. Partridge was chosen president by the society and two more successful fairs were held, proving that the farmers as well as others were progressing and progressive. The society has continued in operation to the present time, having provided beautiful grounds, spacious buildings, and gotten up in as good shape as any society in the State. And the county, in 1879, having generously purchased the ground where the race track and buildings had been erected at great expense, leaves the society nearly out of debt, with everything ready for future use.
It seems the province of this sketch to take up some of the most prominent actors on the scene during and since the pioneer state had, in a measure ceased, and events had become more general and quite modernized. Then we will run over the same ground again, adding many prominent names, and perhaps include many things not already mentioned.
Perhaps one of the most locally prominent person is Joseph F. Marsack, about whom everybody knows some good thing or some funny thing. The old captain had been a noted hunter and sportsman, being able in the early times here to take his gun and step quietly back into the woods, and in an hour bring in his deer - thus in a brief time replenish his supply of venison - being able in this manner to entertain in royal style his numerous visitors, and these visitors never were known to "refuse" the old man's hospitality. I remember since I came here of the wonderful success of the old man in killing duck, he having left home in the morning in his little canoe, and returning before night with ninety wild ducks killed that day - all killed on the wing. In those days no steamers prowled along the river - frightening the wild game on the Saginaw. The captain is fast approaching his spirit home, being about ninety or more years of age, and sometimes gets lost in his own house. But in his best moments he will relate many very interesting incidents in pioneer life. The captain has raised a numerous family, and will be able to leave them all quite comfortably off when his "light" shall have ceased to burn.
Medor Trombley has been one of the active men of this place since 1835, having carried on an extensive fishing trade many years, and then laid out his land into lots, and sold well in the best times, leaving him wealthy.
James J. McCormick was here in his boyhood, became early inured to labor, and the extreme difficulties of pioneer life made him one of the most energetic men here. Whatever enterprise he engaged in was prosecuted to final success. In an early day he made a trip to California, and was able to save enough to return with and to start him on the road to future wealth, and enabling him to leave a fortune for his family at his death in 1875.
The name of Henry Raymond merits a more extended notice as one of Bay City's most active men to this day. Having accumulated a fortune, he knows how to enjoy it to its fullest measure.
Colonel H. S. Raymond, son of Henry Raymond, was young when he came here, but has been fully identified with the city as among the foremost in the county. He was postmaster before and during the war and several years after - doing all his public as well as private business with fidelity. He went to the army and remained till the war closed, returning in command of his regiment.
After the war Colonel John McDermott made Bay City his future home, and has reaped the fullest measure of success and the confidence and respect of all good citizens.
John Drake, that excitable though honest and upright Scotch gentleman, was one of the early business men here. He and his brothers built the Drake mill" in 1852, and operated the mill several years, when he was prostrated with rheumatism, which so unfitted him for business that he sold out and did no business for many years, but is now doing a good insurance business.
Edwin Park and C. Munger were here as early as 1848, and A. S. Munger in 1854 - have been engaged in all kinds of trades and are among those who contributed to the great prosperity of the county, and they have held the most responsible offices in the city and county. But they now find their time fully occupied with their own business.
This paper would be incomplete without the name of Philip Simon, a gentleman who arrived here in 1850 as a German laborer, worked by the month at $12 a month for two or three years, but finally opened a butcher's shop on the spot where the Union block stands, in a little board shanty. While his wife attended to the business he was laboring or hunting up cattle for his stock of beef. This business must have paid well, for he soon opened a hotel in a small house where his brick block stands, next the Fraser house, and kept saloon, hotel, and butcher shop, and then built the Bay City house, on the corner of Center and Saginaw streets. But all these places were swept away in the great fire in 1863 or 1864, and he rebuilt with brick, but engaged in merchandizing, and continued several years. He has finally retired to his fine residence on Twelfth street, and lives easy. Mr. Simon is raising a family of only fourteen children to cheer up his old age.
Christopher Heinzman came here about the same time as a German laborer, but by his careful management has accumulated considerable wealth, and owns and keeps the Forest City house, and is perhaps, as easy financially as any one in Bay City.
C. B. & J. F. Cottrell opened a store on the corner of Second and Water streets in 1854, and continued several years, and finally sold out and removed from the county. But C. B. returned and married Miss Rogers, daughter of Thomas Rogers, one of the pioneers, and is firmly located here doing a fine business in insurance.
Clark Moulthrop is one of the active men here, having been one of the successful mill operators and business men, and resides in his palatial residence on Center street, seeming to enjoy life in its fullest measure.
W. L. Fay and George Lord are early mill-owners, having built the Keystone mills, and now W. L. Fay, with Gates, owns the Gates & Fay mill, and are large operators in grist-mill and other business. Sage & McGraw came here in 1864, and built the immense saw-mill laid out the land into lots where the thriving city of West Bay City now stands, while John McGraw, some years after, purchased a large tract of land in the seventh ward of Bay City, where he built an immense saw-mill and other lumber and shingle mills, salt works, and quite a large town, where nearly the entire property was destroyed by fire, but was immediately rebuilt in better style and more perfectly than before. It is perhaps the largest lumbering mill in the world for manufacturing lumber in all its forms. Together with the salt works, railroad tracks, docks and dwellings, it makes quite a city.
Richard Padley, an early pioneer and laborer, came here poor, but has gotten bravely over that long since. C. C. C. Chilson was another early pioneer, poor in everything but the letter "C" in his name. He was a carpenter, builder, justice of the peace, and everything else handy, but made quite a fortune before he died. He built the first sash and blind factory here that was run by steam. Conrad Hage, another business man, came in 1851 as a common laborer, but has made himself easy financially.
Benoit Trombley, the old Frenchman who purchased the land from Joseph Trombley and sold to Miller, where the sixth ward of Bay City is, subsequently purchased the land below Banks, where the Moore & Smith mill stands, and made his farm and home there till 1875, when old age took him away, leaving considerable property to his family of eight grown up children.
The territory comprising Bay county was originally a part of Saginaw, Midland and the whole of Arenac county. Arenac being attached to Midland for judicial purpose, including all the territory in town thirteen north, range six east, and all the north half of town thirteen north, range five east, that lies east of the Saginaw river, and all of fourteen north, range three, four, five, and six east, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen north, range three, four, and five east, and all of towns nineteen and twenty north, range three, four, five, six seven, and eight east, and also the Charity islands in the Saginaw bay. This county lies around the shore of Saginaw bay, and including the Saginaw, Kawkawlin, Pinconning, Pine, Rifle, AuGres, and Quanicasseee rivers emptying into the Saginaw bay.
This territory was organized into Bay county in 1857. Then but two townships were in full organization in the county. The town of Hampton which had been a town in Saginaw county, and which was organized in 1843 by the board of Saginaw county, At the first election thirteen votes were cast for supervisor, of which Hon. James G. Birney received seven, and Judge Sidney S. Campbell received six, so that Mr. Birney was the first supervisor of the town of Hampton, which after the organization comprised the county except Williams, as it stood when the county was organized. The town of Williams was organized by the Midland board in 1855, two years before the county organized and comprised towns fourteen, fifteen, sixteen north, range three east, and all of Arenac county. The first supervisor from Williams to the Bay county board was George W. Smack, and from Hampton was Sidney S. Campbell, who met the first time on August 10, 1858, when S. S. Campbell was "duly elected chairman" of the first board of supervisors of Bay County.
The first election of county officers was held on the first Monday in June, 1857, under the act to organize the county, and William Simon sheriff, Elijah Catlin clerk, James Watson treasurer, Thomas M. Bligh register of deeds, S. S. Campbell, judge of probate, C. H. Freeman prosecuting attorney, Stephen P. Wright circuit court commissioner, Benjamin F. Partridge surveyor, Wm. C. Spicer coroner. And these officers duly qualified and were ready for business, but Saginaw county protested against any such "unwarranted proceedings."
The organization having been disputed by Saginaw and Midland counties, who assumed all judicial power over the entire county, paralyzed the operation of the courts and the collection of taxes till the supreme court decided a case arising in Bay county, the jurisdiction of which the Saginaw circuit claimed, which decision was that Bay county "was duly organized". When the decision was rendered, the county officers were yet in power, but the sheriff, Wm. Simon, had removed from the county, and his vacancy filled by the appointment of B. F. Partridge, who filled the place long enough to l ease a court-house and offices and build a jail, when the new officers took their places January 1, 1859.
At the first meeting of the board of supervisors, the board allowed and paid fourteen wolf certificates, eleven of which were to Indians, total amount $112; total constable's bills, $70.43; total justices' bills, $66.61; giving notice of election, claim $10, allowed $5; total amount of A. Kaiser's bill for boarding prisoners was $1.00.
Total assessed valuation of the county in 1858, as equalized by the first board was $530,589. This board levied $1,165 county tax.
The first superintendents of the poor were E. N. Bradford, Israel Catlin, and J. B. Hart. At the first meeting of the board October 10, 1858, the county treasurer's report showed orders paid to the amount of $78.14, leaving in the treasury $2.85. Thus it will be seen that the county expenses were extremely light, and all the bills allowed are recorded as having been allowed by a "unanimous vote." But these two supervisors put on record a resolution that the chairman should be "entitled to vote on all questions before the board." But the county was rapidly filling up, and at a special meeting of the county board, in February 1859, the township of Arenac was duly erected into a township, with Daniel Williams, N. W. Lillibridge, and Daniel Shaw the board of inspectors, Peter Marksman, being elected the first supervisor. But Peter Marksman resigned, and M. D. Bourasso was appointed and took his seat.
At a special meeting held in March, 1859, the board erected the town of Portsmouth. J. M .Miller, A. Stevens, and Wm. Daglish were the first board of inspectors. Appleton Stevens was elected the first supervisor. In 1859 the town of Bangor was also erected into a township, and Scott W. Sayler was the first supervisor. So that the board consisted of George E. Smith of Hampton, chairman and four others, at the October meeting in 1859.
On the 4th day of July, 1859, the board of supervisors met and fixed the location of the county seat and buildings.
On February 6, 1862, the board changed the location, and fixed it at Bay City, on block 114 in the village plat of Portsmouth; and on March 3, 1863, the board again changed the location of the buildings to lots 4, 5, and 6, in block 556, old plat of Lower Saginaw, where the court-house now stands, and the jail stands nearly opposite, on the south side of Center street, on lots 4 and 10, in block 65. Both these buildings are an ornament to the city and county, and cost about $75,000.
The State legislature constituted the township of Beaver in February 1867, by detaching territory from Williams, and the town elected Levi Willard, one of its oldest and most intelligent men in the town, its first supervisor. The board of supervisors in January , 1868, passed an act to organize the town of Kawkawlin from the territory of Bangor, and Alexander Beard was the first supervisor to the board.
The township of Monitor was made a township by an act of the legislature in 1869, and William H. Needham was elected the first supervisor, and in 1870 the board of supervisors took a stick from Arenac and formed the town of Au Gres, which sent the young lawyer W. R. Bates, who had settled there, as their first supervisor to the board, ad in the same year another town was created from Arenac called Clayton, and one of its hardy pioneers, William Smith, one of the upright and intelligent men in the county, was its first supervisor. It will have been seen ere this that the county had rapidly advanced in population, and that they were distributed nearly all over the county, and other territory was being settled so fast that the inhabitants were driven to seek new organization of towns in order to construct roads and bridges for their use in getting in and out of this vast wilderness, and in 1871 the old town of Portsmouth was divided, and the town of Merritt constituted, and Mr. Henry F. Shuler was first supervisor. In March, 1873, the charter of Bay City was so amended that it covered the village of Portsmouth, leaving a small amount of land without the limits of any town or city. So the present town of Portsmouth was carved out of that part left and a portion of Merritt and a portion of Hampton, and erected into a township called Portsmouth, by act of the legislature in March, 1873, and the town was fully organized the next week, B. F. Partridge being elected their supervisor, and he has been reelected every year since, holding the office of chairman of the board the last five years.
In the year 1873 the towns of Deep River, Standish, and Pinconning were organized by act of the legislature, and they sent from Deep River, John Ballock, known all over the county as an intelligent gentleman. From Standish, Menzo Havens, whose father moved to the town years before from Ohio. From Pinconning, that old pioneer, Joseph U. Meech, as first supervisor to the board. Still further north county was settled with the true men of the nation, the soldiers of the late rebellion, upon rich government lands, and in 1874 the townships of Moffat and Mason knocked at the door of the board for organization and were admitted, and the first supervisor from Moffatt was that genial and well informed gentleman, Alvin N. Culver. And that other humorous gentleman, of the numerous Smith family, Henry M. Smith, was the first supervisor from the town of Mason, and the town from that time settled rapidly. The next in order at the door for representation was the town of Fraser, which the legislature authorized to organize in 1875, sending that sandy-haired, hot-headed, ungovernable Scotchman, William Mitchell, as its first supervisor.
In 1866 the city sent to the board from her three wards Jerome B. Sweet, J. H. Little, and Angus Miller, and in 1867 the legislature had authorized the comptroller and city treasurer members ex-officio of the board, and again in the spring of 1873, the city having acquired the village of Portsmouth and four additional wards, and being allowed four more supervisors, and the city attorney and recorder ex-officio members of the board, the board of supervisors counted a membership of twenty-eight; and then in the spring of 1877 the city of West Bay City having been chartered with three wards and allowed to send its recorder as ex-officio members, the board consisted in 1877 of thirty-two members, and at the January session of the board in 1880, the towns of Lincoln and Whitney were organized, which will give the county of Bay, in October, 1880, a membership of thirty-four members, tow more than that of the State senate; thus the city of Bay City, eleven; West Bay City, four; the townships elected, seventeen; the townships to be elected, two; total thirty-four. The villages in the county now are Essexville, Kawkawlin, Auburn, Pinconning, Saganing, Standish, Deep River, Pine River, Rifle River, Rowena, and Wells. West Bay City absorbed the villages of Wenona, Salzburg, and Banks in 1877
while Bay City absorbed the village of Portsmouth in 1873. Bay City has a frontage on the Saginaw river of about five miles, and averages one and a half miles wide, while opposite this city is the young city of West Bay City, of about the same extent, with one of the best and most commodious harbors on the lakes between them. Bay City has at this time a population of 19,750, while West Bay City has 6,780, while the lowest estimate for all the rest of the county is put down at 10,000 inhabitants, making a total for the county of 36,530, while three years after the organization of the county in 1860 the census gave the entire population as 1,519. The highest amount of State and county tax levied since the county started was in 1875, being $70,540 and the amount of county tax for 1879 was fixed at $40,000, being the lowest for several years. The county having its county buildings and poor-farm system in order, and all the branches of the county service and expenses so systemized that her taxes will decrease steadily for some time, and the county had on January 1, 1880, in its treasury, over $16,000, and a credit in the auditor general's books of some $34,000 more, with a county bond indebtedness of about $60,000, payable yearly after 1882 in nearly equal amounts till 1892.
The total assessed value of Bay county in 1879 footed $11,942,978. Thus it is seen that the material wealth has kept pace with the increase of population while taxation had once reached its maximum for many years, and has perhaps decreased to about its lowest point until the bonds are paid. Up to 1866, the only way to reach Bay county from any place was by water, - the Saginaw river or bay, - no practical stage road for all seasons of the year could be made, the towns up the river opposing any such improvement between the rival cities. But about this time the people of Bay county came to their sense and made arrangements to connect Bay City with East Saginaw by the Bay City and East Saginaw railroad, which was advantageously leased to the F. & P.M. railroad for a long term of years, they assuming the bonded indebtedness, etc. Soon after this the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw railroad reached a point opposite Bay City, and finally in two or three years was extended north and beyond the limits of Bay county, through nearly all the townships. Soon after this the Detroit & Bay City railroad was completed from Detroit to Bay City, and a road commenced from Bay City to Midland west and road-bed made.
These roads opened up the county in every direction, giving the county complete access by water and rail, for the very largest commerce with every quarter of the world, and it has been flowing in at as rapid a rate as to any county and city in the State, of their age.
The following is from the pen of W. R. McCormick and taken from the work he is now writing of the "Pioneers of the Saginaw Valley for the Last Fifty Years". Mr. McCormick, in speaking of Thomas Rogers, an old pioneer of the valley says:
"And now in regard to this noble man's wife!
I fear that I am inadequate to do her justice. It would take a
better pen to portray her many acts of benevolence; her many self-sacrificing
acts of womanly devotion to suffering humanity and to the pioneers and their
families, in the hours of sickness and death in those early days that tried
"Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, wife of Thomas Rogers, was the daughter of an eminent physician, Dr. Wilcox of Watertown, N. Y., who afterwards moved to Toronto, Canada. She was born November 12, 1809. When a young girl, she attended to her father's office and filled his prescriptions. She became a great student, and to such an extend did she pursue the study of medicine that at the age of eighteen she was often consulted by her father on difficult cases, and it was that which fitted her in after years to be of such great benefit to the settlers of the Saginaw valley. At the age of nineteen she became the wife of Thomas Rogers. After residing for a time near Toronto, she came with her husband to Michigan in 1837-38, and settled in Portsmouth, now South Bay City.
"From 1837 to 1850 she was the only practicing physician to the early settler. At all hours of the day or night, when called upon, you would find her at the beside of the sick and dying. Through storm or snow, rain or shine, it made no difference to her. Sometimes on horseback, sometimes on foot through woods, she felt it to be her duty, and like an angel of mercy she did it, and would have continued to do so, but as settlers began to come in, also doctors came. She still visited the sick of a few old settlers, for they would have none other but her. There was scarcely a birth for twenty years but she was present. In that dreadful year of the cholera, which swept off so many of the inhabitants, she was at the bedside of the sick and the dying, administering assistance and comfort without money and without price; yes, without any remuneration, for she made no charge. She felt it a duty she owed her fellow creatures, and nobly did she do it. Oftentimes the settlers would send her something, and she would accept it thankfully. Your humble servant was once taken with the cholera. She was immediately sent for, and but for her I might not now be here to pen these few lines as a tribute to her memory. Some time since in conversing with the old lady she said: 'How things have changed.' 'Yes, I answered, 'we have seen Bay City and its surroundings rise from three or four families to a population of 20,000.' 'No', she said, 'I do not mean that; but there are no-such noble-hearted men and women now, as among the early pioneers. It seems almost as if God had chosen such men and women to make the beginning here, or it would never have been done.' I thought she was right. She said, 'when we first came here, we lived in a little log house on the bank of the river, and the wolves howled so at nights we could not sleep. I have looked out of my door many a time in the middle of the day, and have seen a pack of wolves playing on the opposite side of the river, where Salzburg now stands.' One day two Indians who had been drinking came to her house while her husband was away to work some miles from home. She fastened the door. They demanded admittance and told her if she did not open the door they would break it down. They went to the wood-pile, got the ax, and began breaking in the door. She seized an iron rake, opened the door, and knocked the first Indian senseless; the other ran off. This is only to show what a courageous woman she was. When circumstances required, she was brave as a lion, and when her sympathies were called into action she was a tender as a child. May she live long to enjoy the love of those early pioneers who are still living and who can never repay her for her many acts of kindness."
Another early comer (in 1845), P. J. Perrott, has been one of those who contribute to build up the county, is counted one of the estimable citizens, and has honorably held the office of sheriff or deputy sheriff and comptroller of Bay City, and was a near neighbor of mine for many a year. Mr. Perrott married Elizabeth, a daughter of old Leon Trombley, the first settler in this county, while Job Trombley married another daughter of the same Trombley, and still another daughter married John B. Trudell, who now lives in West Bay City.
Among the number who have contributed their brick blocks and mills and fine residences to swell the beauty and wealth of Bay county is Mr. Thomas Cranage, Jr., who came here about the first year of the war.
N. B. Bradley, one of the most energetic and sound business managers, has contributed very largely to the advancement of Bay county in the lumber and salt trade, and manufacturing and banking , while politically Mr. Bradley has ably represented his district in congress two terms, and been one of the foremost citizens in promoting the welfare of Bay County.
W. H. Miller, supposed to be the king of the hardware men in this valley, has contributed his means in increasing the fine residences in various parts of the city, while several other hardware stores are scarcely inferior in this city and West Bay City. This branch of business is simply immense in this end of the valley.
Then Gustin & Merrill come to the front with the largest grocery business ever done in the valley, which they have nursed from its infancy in a small way to its present immense proportions, their annual sales amounting to not much short of three-fourths of a million dollars.
Among the represntative men of Bay county may be named T. C. Phillips, of the Chronicle and Tribune of Bay City. Mrs. Phillips came to Bay City during the war of the rebellion (in 1862) and engaged in building State roads and other matters, among which was securing to the credit of Bay county the correct quota of drafted men for the army. He was for a time engaged in the grocery trade, and joined with Mr. Perkins and others in building the Union block on Water street. After this he was appointed postmaster of Bay City, and held that position for about eight years, and at the same time engaged in farming and other enterprises, and publishing the Tribune.
H. H. Aplin came in 1865 or 1866 and started a small grocery in Bay City, but soon removed to the little hamlet at the west end of the Third street bridge and opened his store there. Securing the appointment of postmaster there he has held the same for ten or more years, and made his mark as a successful business man. He has several fine business blocks and a fine residence in West Bay City.
James A. McKingt is another of the same stamp, and possesses a good share of worldly goods, and a large share of political success, being the present county treasurer.
George and James Shearer, removed to Bay City immediately after the war, engaged in the lumber manufacture, and continued in that business some years, but finally closed it out. Then George engaged in the grist-mill business while James Shearer prosecuted other branches of business, building fine brick blocks and fine residences, and thus ornamenting the city and increasing banking facilities, and has at the same time for many years been the foremost of the State Building Commission to build the new State capitol, and is now one of the regents of the State university.
Among the great enterprises originating in Bay county, is one not known anywhere else in the whole State, of the same kind, known as the Miller and Daglish reclamation of the Saginaw marshes, located partly in Bay and Saginaw counties. This is one of Judge Albert Miller's pets, and consists in the drainage by dredging with a steam dredge around some 1,000 acres of marsh, much of which was under water, making the land fully susceptible of raising grain or grass, and all this was done at much less cost than to clear any timber land, leaving the land completely cleared without stumps. The land is kept clear of water by a small steam engine run at occasional times, at very small cost.
The number of men in this county of fine business talent is so numerous that it is impossible to give them even a mention here. The peculiar combination of circumstances contributing to the settlement and rapid development and advancement in everything pertaining to build up and perfect all the interests in this county are being seized upon as soon as presented and carried to final success.
The county stands financially high, the two cities are equally so, and the townships have been so well managed that there seems to be a bright future for every municipality in the county.
A careful review of this paper will reveal the talents that have so ably contributed to these almost unequaled results.
From the inception of building the
first little rustic log house on the banks of the Saginaw, where the smooth
waters of this broad river were streaked and spotted with islands of high grass
and wild rice, the lad on either bank richly lined with stately elms and old
oaks, filled in with all other kinds of timber, with now and then an immense pin
towering high above all; with wide expanses of wild prairie, above and below,
along the river, with innumerable bayous and creeks covered with the wild water
fowl listening and peering shyly through the high grass at the solitary passer
in his canoe, fearless of harm - where the population has increased from that
one family to thousands of families, and from that single house to thousands of
houses, the poorest of which would be a comparative palace, and many of the best
vieing in style with the best in the State.
While the census of 1840 did not give the county fifteen families, and in 1850 very few more, in 1860 there were 3,164 inhabitants, and in 1874 (only fourteen years later) 24, 832 were enumerated as the total population of the county, and at this date Bay City alone contains a population of 20,000, West Bay City at least 6,000 and the county entire at the least 35,000 people. While the population has increased so rapidly, everything else has rushed along in the same ratio, there being at least 450,000,000 feet of lumber, 20,000,000 shingles, 1,000,000 barrels of salt and innumerable other things manufactured in Bay county in 1879, while coal fields are found and being opened for mining purposes. To this time when innumerable steamers and tugs and sail vessels plough through the waters of the Saginaw and its bayous, with rafts and tows, the times and events chronicled in the foregoing seem to pass in review, and to bespeak the honesty and persevering industry as well as the talents and the ability to grasp the whole thing and carry forward to completion the great enterprises that have so richly contributed to the immense results seen in every part of the county.
Any attempt of a full description of the soil and advantages of this county for agriculture would make it a paradise for the farmer, so if I should state fully all the various advantages for business enterprises, it would appear the Eldorado of Michigan.
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