Traction and Electrical Company, Power Station
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HAER No. MI-76-A, Page 2
The history of Michigan's utility companies and the history of the state of Michigan itself are intrinsically linked. By the 1850s, just a few decades after the frontier settlement of Michigan, communities of Michigan boasted lighted streets, homes and public meeting places. This early lighting was provided by manufactured gas which served to bridge the gap between earlier and candle illumination and later electric bulbs.
Michigan's Consumers Power Company is arguably the most significant player in the history of utilities of the state of Michigan. Consumers Power Company had seven gas company predecessors. The early electric predecessors of Consumers Power Company were an assorted group of private and municipally owned companies including the Bay City Power Company. The Bay City Power Company was in turn made up of smaller individual concerns including the Bay City Traction and Electric Company. The early traction lines in Bay City and elsewhere in southern Michigan had no actual corporate relationship with Consumers Power Company or its predecessor companies. However, these early companies were affiliated organizations and ultimately became part of the same holding company.
Bay City is a long, narrow, irregularly shaped community occupying both sides of the Saginaw River in Bay County, Michigan. The city is located about one and one half miles south of Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron and stretches southward along the river for a distance of approximately six miles. Present day Bay City is amalgamation of five earlier settlements. The east bank settlements were Lower Saginaw (later renamed as Bay City) and Portsmouth. The west bank settlements included Banks, Salzburg and Wenona.
The presence of Euro-Americans in the Saginaw Valley of Michigan was sporadic throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Two treaties entered into by the United States Government and the Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians involved the area near Bay City and ultimately opened the way for American settlement of the region. In the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw, the Chippewa ceded much of their land in northeastern Michigan, reserving some 101,000 acres in sixteen tracts. Two of these tracts were roughly with present-day Bay City. A 640 acre tract was granted to a metis Chippewa, John Riley "at the head of the first marsh above the mouth of the Saginaw River, on the east side thereof". On the west side of the Saginaw River a 40,000 acre parcel was reserved. The years following the Treaty of Saginaw did not see any major influx of Euro-American settlement in the area of Bay City or the Saginaw River valley in general. In 1830, only three Euro-American families were reported to be living in the Saginaw Valley. By 1840, following a record number of immigrants to the Michigan area during the previous decade, Saginaw County (which included present-day Bay County) had a white population of 892.
However, in 1837, a second important treaty, the Treaty of Detroit, provided for the cession of the reserved tracts of land still in the possession of the Chippewa. These lands were ceded to the United States, which in turn was to sell the land for $5.00 an acre. In response to this opportunity, a number of stock companies were organized to purchase land from the government.