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Benjamin Franklin Partridge (1822 - 1892)
Civil War General and Pioneer of Bay County.
  • By Marvin Kusmierz (October 2002 - Updated November 2003)
  • Gen. Benjamin F. Partridge.
    General B.F. Partridge

    General Benjamin Franklin Partridge was born on April 19, 1822 in Shelby, Macomb County, Michigan to Asa and Sarah C. Partridge from Vermont. They were married in Detroit and live there before moving to Shelby where Benjamin was born. They then moved to the village of Palmer (St. Clair City) where Asa died in 1827, leaving Sarah and four children. Benjamin was the second child born.

    Little is known about these early years other than Benjamin didn't attend school until the age of fourteen. In spite of this disadvantage, Benjamin apparently was a gifted student as revealed by the years that followed his common schooling. He went on to teach himself for a short period and during that time studied law, mathematics and engineering under private tutors. By age twenty-two, he had learned the skills of type-setting and printing, started up a merchantile business, dabbled in real estate and showed an interest in lumbering.

    Twenty-three year old Benjamin took a fancy to Olive Miranda Wright, a sixteen year old from Hampton, New York. After a brief courtship, they were married on September 13, 1845 in St. Clair Co., MI. They settled in Livingston, Michigan where they remained until 1854. That year, they moved to Lower Saginaw where Benjamin believed there was opportunity for him to quickly build wealth in lumbering. He planned on building a saw mill along the Saginaw River on land he purchased from Judge Albert Miller. The property was located on Water street between 15th and 16th of present Bay City. Having no real experience in the lumbering business, he partnered with Harmon Chamberlin who had gained knowledge from running a lumber mill before. Things were going well until the financial Panic of 1857. Partridge lost nearly everything and was forced to find work using his engineering skills in order to make ends meet.

    Partridge's early residence was located at 908 Center Avenue. At the time of his purchase, the area was still covered with thick woods, so thick, he had to clear a path to reach the river area where most settlers resided.

    Over the years, he was very active in public service. He was First supervisor of Portsmouth Township, Commissioner of the State Land Office of Michigan, and he was elected as Sheriff during the county's second election. That year, he joined James Fraser, William McEwan and others to finance and build a the Tuscola plank toll road. The road was completed in 1860, it ran twelve miles from Bay City south to Blumfield Junction.

    When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Benjamin was among the first local residents to volunteer for duty with the Union army. He resigned from his position as Sheriff and in September of that year began recruiting other local enlistments for the "First Michigan Lancers" as a private under Col. Rankin. The following is an accounting from the, "History of Bay County", published in 1883 by H.R. Page Co.:

    "In February, 1862, he was mustered in as a second lieutenant of Company H. When the lancers were disbanded, he obtained orders to enlist men from the lancers with Capt. J.M. Mott. They raised a company, and were assigned to the Sixteenth Regiment of Michigan Infrantry. The company being thus transferred he was mustered in as First lieutenant of Company I, in the Sixteenth Michigan. He was subsequently commissioned and mustered from time to time, as captain, major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel of the Sixteenth Michigan Veteran Volunteer Infantry. While major, he had command of the Eighty-third Peninsular Volunters, and was wounded in the neck by a ball at the battle of Peeble's Farm. He was then brevetted colonel of United States Volunteers. January 18, 1865 he took command of the Sixteenth Michigan, and was brevetted brigadier general and was wounded by a ball in the left side of his head at Quaker Road, but resumed his command the next day and continued until Lee's surrender. On that occasion he received twenty-eight of the seventy-one flags surrendered. While on the march from Appomattox Court House to Richmond, Gen. Partridge's horse fell, and two of this ribs were broken. Notwithstanding this, he remained in camp until his final recovery. After the grand review at Washinton District of Columbia, he was sent in command of a detachment of seven regiments to Louisville, Ky. There he was appointed president of general court martial and continued to hold the court until he was mustered out of service with his regiment at Jeffersonville, Ind., in July 1865. He participated in all but two of the fifty-four engagements on the record of the regiment, thirty-six of them being considered heavy battles, and was at the entire siege of Petersburg, except Hatchers' Run, October 27, 1864, being in the hospital at that time."

    It is further noted in the H.R. Page Co. publication that Gen. Partridge presented each regiment member with a card upon discharge that read:

    Head-quarters Sixteenth Michigan Inf. Vet. Vols.

    July 17, 1865
    Sir: -- Accept my congratulations and thanks for having so nobly and successfully performed your duty during your perilous term of service, and for having been connected with an organization which has with honor to itself participated in the following named battles:

  • 1. Siege of Yorktown, April, 1862
  • 2. Hanover Court House, May 27, 1862
  • 3. Mechanicsville, June 26, 1862
  • 4. Gaines Hill, June 27, 1862
  • 5. White Oak Swamp, June 30, 1862
  • 6. Malvern Hill, June 30, 1862
  • 7. Turkey Bend, July 1, 1862
  • 8. Bull Run, No. 2, August 30, 1862
  • 9. Antietam, Md., September 17, 1862
  • 10. Shepardstown, Va., September 19, 1862
  • 11. Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862
  • 12. Chancellorsville, April 30, 1863
  • 13. Middleburg, June 21, 1863
  • 14. Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863
  • 15. Williamsport, Md., July 12, 1863
  • 16. Wapping Heights, July 21, 1863
  • 17. Bristow Station, October 14, 1863
  • 18. Rappahannock Station, November 7, 1863
  • 19. Mine Run, November 27, 1863
  • 20. Wilderness, May 5, 1864
  • 21. Laurel Hill, May 8, 1864
  • 22. Spottsylvania, May 18, 1864
  • 23. North Anna, May 23, 1864
  • 24. Tolopatomoy Creek, May 30, 1864
  • 25. Magnolia Swamp, June 1, 1864
  • 26. Bethesda Church, June 2, 1864
  • 27. Battle of Petersburg, June 18, 1864
  • 28. Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad, July 30, 1864
  • 29. Weldon Railroad, August 18,19,21 1864
  • 30. Perbles' Farm, September 30, 1864
  • 31. Hatchers' Run, October 27, 1864
  • 32. Dabneys' Mill, February 6, 1865
  • 33. Hatchers' Run, No. 2, March 25, 1865
  • 34. White Oak Road, March 29, 1865
  • 35. Quaker Road, March 31, 1865
  • 36. Five Forks, April 1, 1865
  • 37. Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865
  • 38. Lee's Surrender of army of Northern Virginia, April 13, 1865
  • The Siege of Petersburg from June 16, 1864 to March 29, 1865.
  • Respectfully yours,
    B.F. Partridge
    Colonel Comm'g Sixteenth Michigan Vet. Vols. Infantry

    Upon returning to civilian life, Gen. Partridge purchased a farm south of Bay City in an area that later come a part of Portsmouth Township, of which, he became the first supervisor, a position he held for a long time. This was but one of the different capacities he held in public service over the years. Others included:

      - Assessor of the internal revenue in the Sixth District, Michigan.
      - President of Board of Supervisors of Bay County.
      - Commissioner of the state land office of Michigan.
      - Member of Temple of Honor.
      - Member of Masonic Temple, and a prominent Odd-fellow.
      - Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) post on Washington Ave.
      - Vice-president of the Sailors' Association of Michigan.
      - Member of agriculture and horiculture associates.
      - Member of State Grange of Michigan.
      - Member of the order of Stars and Stripes of Michigan.
      - Member of Republican Party.

    Partidge speculated considerably in real estate with land holdings in various counties. Records for the Genesee and Detroit land offices list several properties from 1854 to 1859 in the counties of Gladwin, Lapeer, Midland, Saginaw, Ogemaw and two in Bay County. About 30 years after, he purchased two parcels in Sanilac County. Land purchases of B.F. Partridge. {View Land Purchases}

    In 1880, Partridge authored a paper for a presentation to the Pioneer Society of Michigan entitled, {"Bay County - Its Pioneer History and Marvelous Development"}. The paper was subsequently published on February 5, 1880 in the "The Bay City Observer" local newspaper. This unedited document is by Bay-Journal for the Pioneer History section of Bay County's History (see related links).

    On October 19, 1892, General Benjamin Partridge died at his farm home, six years later his wife Olive (1829 - 29 Jun 1898) was put to rest by his side. Both are in Section 13 of the Elm Lawn Cemetery on Ridge road. Buried near their grave site is their son, Frank Partridge (1852-1908).

    It's truly a shame that the history of General Benjamin Partridge and other prominent figures in our community's history fade further from awareness with each new generation. Certainly, their achievements are worthy of greater attention from the community.

    Thanks to the efforts and concerned few local history buffs, Gen. Partridge has received some of the recognition that he deserves. Local historian and writer, Tim Younkman of the Bay City Times newspaper, has wrote articles drawing attention to Partridge in 1989 and 1996. Alton L. Conklin, also local historian, spear headed a project in 1996 that replaced Partridge's worn cemetery marker on which is inscribed a brief about him.

    However, these are individual acts -- what I believe is needed is an organized community support to preserve our prominent history in public ways that is ongoing. History is a subject that unless it is apparent, is seldom in the mind of individuals making their way through their own life. History abounds in our community in century old buildings, parks and street names -- but, few know the history of the people associated with them.

    In the article written by Tim Younkman's on November 12, 1989, he commented, "Benjamin Partridge emerges from the shadows as a real person and a genuine architect of modern-day Bay County." Unfortunately, only a few will ever understand the meaning behind Mr. Younkman's statement.

    1. Pioneer History, paper by Benjamin Partridge.
    2. History of Bay County, Michigan", 1883, H.R. Page Co.
    3. Bay County Story - Footpaths to Freeways, book by Les Arndt.
    4. Bay City Times, article, 12 Nov 1989, Tim Younkman.
    5. Bay City Times, article, 27 May 1996, Tim Younkman.
    Benjamin Partridge
    Paper, Pioneer History
    Military/Civil War/
    Local Civil War History
    B.F. Partride Saw Mill
    Bio. Pioneer Society of MI
    1861 Contested Election
    {1876 Bay Co. Org. History}
    People Referenced
    Bell, Samuel
    Chamberlin, Harmon
    Conklin, Alton L.
    Conley, W.R.
    Flaherty, Patrick
    Fraser, James
    Hackett, Patrick
    Knight(Knecht), Catherine
    McEwan, William
    McKay, Evans
    Miller, Albert (Judge)
    Mott, J.M. (Capt.)
    - Asa
    - Asa Franklin
    - Clare G.
    - E. Winneford
    - Frank
    - Guy S.
    - Maybell E.
    - Sarah
    - Sarah C. Mrs.
    Rankin, (Col.)
    wolff, Gustavus
    Wright, Olive M.
    Younkman, Tim
    Subjects Referenced
    Agriculture & Horiculture Assoc.
    Algonac, MI
    Bay City
    Bay City Masonic Lodge 129
    Bay City Observer
    Bay County
    Benley Library
    Blumfield Junction
    Commissioner, State Land Office
    Congregational church
    Detroit land office
    Elm Lawn Cemetery
    First Supervisor
    Flint, MI
    Flusing, MI
    Genesee land office
    Gladwin County
    H.R. Page Company
    Hampton Twsp.
    Jefferson, IN
    Lansing, MI
    Lapeer County
    Lee, (Gen.)
    Lexington Lodge 61
    Livingston County
    Louisville, KY
    Lower Saginaw
    Macomb County
    Masonic Temple
    Master Mason
    Merchantile business
    Midland County
    New York
    Ogemaw County
    Odd Fellow
    Pioneer Society of MI
    Portsmouth Twsp.
    President, Bd. of Supv., Bay Co.
    Real estate
    Republican Party
    Saginaw County
    Saginaw River
    Sailor's Assoc. of MI
    Sanilac County
    St. Clair
    Stars & Stripes of MI
    State Grange of MI
    Temple of Honor
    Tuscola plank road
    Vil. of Palmer
    Washington, D.C.
    Civil War References:
    1st Michigan Lancers, Co. H
    16th Michigan, Co. I
    16th Michigan, Infantry
    16th Michigan, Veteran Vols.
    83rd Peninsular Vols.
    Appomattox Court House
    Grand Army of Republic (GAR)
    U.S. Volunteers
    (See Gen. Partridge's card for complete list of battles.)
    Partridge Genealogy
    1880 U.S. Census
    Portsmouth, Bay Co.
    - B.F. Partridge, age 58, farmer.
    - Olive M., wife, age 52.
    - Clare G., dau., age 21, teacher.
    - E. Winneford, dau., age 18.
    - Maybell E., dua., age 9.
    - Hackett, Patrick, laborer, age 44.
    - Wolff, Gustavus, laborer, age 18.
    - Bell, Samuel, laborer, age 27.
    - Flaherty, Patrick, laborer, age 25.

    Notes on children:
    Asa Franklin, son:
    - Preferred to be call Frank.
    - 1874: married Catherine Knight(Knecht).
    - 1874: son Asa F. is born.

    1880: Census Portsmouth
    - A. Frank Partridge, age 26, Prof. Intomolgy.
    - Caroline C., wife, age 25.
    - Asa F., son, age 5.
    - Guy S., son, age 1.
    - 1890: Frank is physician living in Detroit with his family.
    - Clare G.: No information.
    - E. Winneford: Married W.R. Conley and moved to PA.
    Maybell E.: Married J. Evans MacKay in 1891.
    Elm Lawn Cemetery
    Located on Ridge road. In 1892, Gen. Partridge was laid to rest in Section 13 here with a Masonic burial. In May 1996, Partridge's forgotten grave site and eroded marker were restored thanks to a fund raising campaign by Alton L. Conklin.
    Family Grave Site:
    Headstone of:
    - Benjamin (1822-1891)
    - Olive (?-1898)
    Headstone of:
    - Frank (1852-1908)
    Comments & Resources
    Sarah Partridge?:
    The Bentley Library at Univ. of Michigan, has Sarah's diary in their collections. The diary makes reference to Sarah as the daughter of Benjamin from Bay City. The diary was written while living on a farm in Flushing. She also mentions visiting Flint, Bay City, Saginaw and Lansing. This is the only evidence found of her existence. {Bentley Library}
    Mason: Partridge was initiated in 1853 at the Lexington Lodge 61 in Lexington, MI were he rose to be a Master Mason. When he moved to Bay City in 1854, he had his membership transferred to Bay City Lodge 129 F.& A.M.
    Algonac, Michigan: Member of the Congregational Church during his early years.
    Panic of 1857: This financial crisis was caused by bad investments made banking industry. A large shipment of gold lost at sea that set the crisis in motion. Learn more at [Library of Congress]
    Bureau of Land Management
    This government web site has land purchase records online that can provide insight into how active many of the early pioneers were in acquiring land. Visit the site then do a search for Michigan typing in only the pioneer's name. The list will give you a link to each specific property document including a picture of the certificate.
    [-] visit site
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