History of Saginaw County, Michigan

Sixty years ago, when the whole region of Saginaw Valley was little more than a wilderness, a printer by the name of Fox gave the scant population a "History of Saginaw County." It was a small pamphlet of about sixty pages, paper bound, set up and printed entirely by hand, but it contained valuable information for posterity. Unfortunately this book has become very scarce, and only a few copies are known to exist. In 1868 Mr. Fox published a new and revised edition of his history, containing eighty-six pages, also hand made, which now is also rare. The first directory of Saginaw, published in 1866, contained a comprehensive and interesting history of early Saginaw, by Thomas Galatin; and eight years later W. R. Bates presented his "History of the Saginaws."

From these early histories, valuable in their accounts of pioneer days, of persons and events; from the tiles of early newspapers; from scrap hooks and albums of settlers who preserved records of primitive times; and from interviews with many old residents whose recollections were still keen, the historian has gathered materials for this history. It is the first work of the kind, to he dignified by the title of "History," published in thirty-seven years; and in its broad scope and purpose represents many months oi research and study.

The fund of information, containing stories of border life, narratives of personal adventures and public events, is almost inexhaustible. One might go on and on for years gathering true and faithful accounts, often musty and dim with age, but with plenty of color and atmosphere to lend interest, and filling volumes of interesting history. The human element never is wanting in Saginaw's history. Few sections of the country, at least in the Middle West, can produce such material, thrilling and often startling, and replete with heart interest. The difficulty experienced by the historian has been in the selection and elimination of his materials, for he has ever had in mind the use of that which casts a searchlight on human events, and lends the most absorbing interest. Romance is not lacking in the stories gathered, and possibly some of it may be reflected in the historical narratives.

The purpose and aim of this History of Saginaw County, published in nineteen hundred and eighteen, is to give the people of Michigan a reliable, comprehensive and interesting story of our past and present life; to show the development of this industrial and agricultural center of the State from the once primeval forest; and to hand down to generations to come the facts of early history from which may lie formed a proper conception of what pioneer settlers and others suffered in laving the firm foundation upon which our prosperity stands. This work will be a practical basis for the study of local history in the public schools, both in city and townships, and will he a reference book in public libraries here and elsewhere. This has been constantly in mind so that a proper balance between personal and material things might be maintained.

Each subject has been treated as a separate and distinct monograph, with events and things arranged in chronological order. For the must part all matter pertaining to one general subject will be found together in its proper place, although in some instances, such as the romance of lumbering, interesting; accounts will be found in the chapters on early pioneer life. This is because logging and lumbering operations were inseparably linked with the daily experiences of the pioneers, two generations literally growing up in the atmosphere of the pine forests, in the hum of saw mills, and the wild and reckless life of the frontier.

The logical arrangement, therefore, necessitated a division of the wdhole work into four separate books, incorporated and bound into two volumes. The first book. Historical comprises fifteen chapters (from I to XV, inclusive), and deals with our local history from the earliest times to the present, including many illustrations of town and river scenes, and portraits of early pioneers. The second book, Industrial History (chapters XVI to XXV), is devoted to our manufacturers, mercantile and banking interests, in which pictures of factories (both outside and inside), wholesale houses, prominent buildings and street scenes, are interesting features. These two 1 books are bound complete in Volume I, with convenient indexes of pioneer biographies and subject titles. The third book Biographies of Representative Citizens gives the life histories of the men whose collective efforts have made Saginaw the prosperous city it is today. The fourth book Townships and Towns comprises the local history of each township and biographies of leading pioneers, merchants, professional men, and progressive farmers who have developed agriculture in this county. Books three and four are bound complete in Volume II, with proper indexes.

History and Biography are terms identical in meaning and purpose. They are words expressing practically the same thing, although in somewhat different form. History is a record of human events, political, economic or industrial. Biography is a record of purely individual endeavor, as expressed in the form of a life history, and treats of the more intimate affairs of a man's life. Both History and Biography, therefore, are essential to a complete and perfect record of any community or commonwealth. As treated in this History of Saginaw County, one is as necessary and important as the other. The closer and more intimate relations of our leading manufacturers, jobbing houses and banking institutions, as found in their individual histories appearing at intervals in Volume I, pages 461 to 774, are essential to a proper under- standing of our commercial advancement. No history would approach completeness without them. A perusal of these accounts will be found interesting and instructive, and to many will prove a surprise in the revelation of growth and importance of the industrial and commercial prosperity of this city. A summary of industries, in which Saginaw leads the State and in some instances the Nation, appears in Volume I. page 679.

Likewise, the personal element interwoven in the biographies of our lead- ing- citizens, contains features of the highest interest. Their achievements in business and professional life are related in a modest and unostentatious style, befitting the character and lives of the subjects, yet are intimately and purely personal in treatment. Much of the most vital and important history of Saginaw County is told in these biographies. For instance, some of the most interesting history of lumbering in Michigan is incorporated in the sketches of Ammi W. Wright, Charles H. Davis and others of that enterprising group of men, whose names are indelibly stamped on the history of the Northwest. The same is true of the simple yet dignified biographies of other business and professional men, a reading of which will reveal interesting sidelights on history.

While this history has had the endorsement and encouragement of our leading and representative citizens and townsmen, a few have assumed a different attitude toward it. These men undoubtedly regard themselves as deserving a place among progressive men. but from extreme modesty or other reasons have refused to recognize the work by giving any information concerning their personal affairs. Generally such cases are forgotten. In some, however, because of pioneer antecedents or circumstances of importance, the historian has felt bound, in justice to those who have identified themselves with the work, to present an unbiased account of a man's life. Hut without information derived first-hand, it has been necessary to resort to such data as could be obtained from outside sources and which seemed true and reliable, but the veracity of which could not be substantiated. It is hoped that nothing has been published distasteful to the persons whose affairs are thus related. History in its highest form, it should be borne in mind, is selective and critical.


Table of Contents


Pre-Historic Races 1

The Indians of Saginaw Valley 21

The Advent of White Men 34

The Treaty of Saginaw 51

The Coming of De Tocqueville, or "A Fortnight in the Wilderness" 66

Pioneer Days 79

Organization of the County 97

The Rise and Progress of Saginaw City 117

Founding of East Saginaw 137

Reminiscences of Pioneer Citizens 160

An Era of Prosperity 185

Some Municipal Organizations 207

The Consolidated Saginaws 237

Our Educational Development 274

Religious and Social Life 313

The Lumber Industry 393

The Salt Industry 426

The Coal Industry 447

The Beet-Sugar Industry 466

Diversified Industries 489

Varied Commercial Interests 603

Development of Agriculture 681

Transportation 703

Banks and Banking 739

The Bench and Bar 775





Biographies of Representative Citizens
Townships and Towns
Index of Biographies
General Index


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Throughout the region of the Great Lakes abundant evidence, often of the most interesting character, of the presence in by-gone ages of a peculiar race of men. has constantly been brought to light; and numerous and well-authenticated accounts of antiquities discovered in various parts, clearly demonstrate that a people civilized, and even highly cultivated, occupied this broad section long before its possession by the Indians. Our own State of Michigan, from the low monotonous shores of Lake Erie to the rocky cliffs of Lake Superior, has contributed, in numerous ways, some of the most remarkable relics and monuments of a people whose cranial affinities and evidently advanced civilization totally separate them from the North American Indian, and ally them to some race of men who inhabited another hemisphere in the remote past. But the date of their rule of this continent is so ancient that all traces of their history, their progress and decay, lie buried in the deepest obscurity.