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Birney Family Pictorial & Memorabilia

A family principled by the disciplines of thier times --
Service to God, Country and Family.

The heritage of James G. Birney and family has its origins in Ireland. His father, also James G., came to America in 1783 at the age of sixteen, he lived for a brief time in Pennsylvania before settling in Danville, Kentucky where he met and married Martha Reed. A year later (1792), James was born -- he never knew his mother as she died three years later. James and younger sister, Mary Marie Reed (born 4 Feb 1792) grew up living with their aunt.

Young James developed a deep faith, exceptional mind and sound convictions during his up bringing and these prepared him well for the challenges of his times. Initially a slave owner himself, James set them free and became an advocate for their plight through the anti-slavery movement. He twice ran for president of the United States under the abolitionist banner of the Liberty party.

James courted Agatha McDowell and they were married in 1816. They raised their children to share their own beliefs. Many went on to hold distinguished positions as lawyers, judges, legislators, editors, soldiers and civic leaders. In 1963, Sidney Glazier, professor of history at Wayne State University, concluded that James G. Birney was among twenty two of the most outstanding citizens in the history of Michigan.

The following pictorial includes a letter written by James Birney (eldest son of James G. and Agatha Birney) to President Lincoln, and a full page of The Saginaw News paper covering the life history of James G. Both of these need to be enlarged by clicking on the image in order to read the text.

Birney Family Photos & Memorabilia

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The Saginaw News published a full page article on James G. Birney in its Sunday edition of October 31, 1948. The article provide some historical background on Birney and included photos of President James Polk, Henry Clay and kids standing by the Birney Street sign in Saginaw. {View pdf file}

  • Donated by Michelle Panton.

    James, son of James G., was prominent in local and state politics as a republican. In 1865 made an attempt to enter the national arena by offering his services to President Lincoln. Along with the letter he included two newspaper clippings as a reference. {View Letter}

  • Birney Family Menu
    Family Genealogy
    Family Pictorial
    1893 KY Newspapers
    * {1948 Saginaw News (pdf)}
    First family:
    Agatha (McDowell), spouse
    James Birney, 1st child
    William Birney, 2nd child
    David Bell Birney, 5th child
    James G. Birney IV, grandson
    Second family:
    Elizabeth (Fitzhugh), spouse
    Fitzhugh Birney, 1st child
    History Tid-Bits
    Birney/Fitzhugh Connection:

    James' marriage to Elizabeth Fitzhugh is what brought him to Bay City. James became close friends with Elizabeth's brother Dr. Daniel H. Fitzhugh who made a living in real estate. Dr. Fitzhugh had been to the frontier of Saginaw Valley and purchased properties near the settlement of Saginaw. He encouraged James to visit the area, which he did in 1842. He fell in love with the nature beauty and a year later, he and Elizabeth moved here a year later. They initially stayed in Saginw before moving onto the Lower Saginaw area (now Bay City). residing in Bay City, then now as Lower Saginaw.
    Birney National Figure:

    James G. Birney had established himself as a prominent individual on the national level long before he settled in Bay City:

    - He was a leader in the abolitionist movement and twice ran under their Libery Party banner for president, once as a resident of Bay City.

    - He began his political life in Alabama where he was a state representative.

    - Many of his writings are important records of that era.

    - In spite of the personal problems caused by his active and public stance on abolition, he never waivered, but stayed true and fast to strong relionist belief that slavery was morally wrong and unconstitutional.

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