Heritage \ Writings \

John W. Babcock (1831-?)
Born in New York, pioneer of Bay City, MI.

History of Bay County, Michigan, Augustus H. Gansser, 1905


In 1868 the property of the Huron Company was secured by John W. Babcock, one of the most interesting figures in our pioneer annals. Born in New York in 1831, his family came to Washtenaw, Michigan, in 1835. In 1851, he determined to try his fortune in the wilderness, and with nothing but a compass for his guide started for Bay City. He camped out along in the dense forest three nights out of five; the other two were spent with settlers in lone cabins he chance to pass. He camped one night with Indians upon the site of future Salzburg, and concluded that it was a good place to live.

But for the time being there was nothing there for him to do. He helped to clear a number of farms in that vicinity, for the late James Fraser, and assisted in clearing the way for Center avenue. He took the contract for building a portion of the Tuscola plank road in 1858, built the Bay City, AuSable, and Duncan State road, 155 miles, 1861-65 and drove the first team from the north to Bay City. The larger portion of his pay consisted of 72,000 acres of government land, of which he held a portion and sold the script for the remainder.

In 1867 he built the military wagon road from Fort Howard in Wisconsin to Fort Wilkins, in the Upper Peninsula, over 178 miles, receiving three sections of land per mile, a total of 348,060 acres. During all this time his home was in Salzburg. In 1868 he determined to purchase the sawmill, salt-block, boarding house and tenement houses of the Huron Company, valued at over $100,000. He gave 33,600 acres of his Wisconsin government land for this fine property, and traded the remainder for improved farm and other property.

Although the hard work of this pioneer in the wilderness allowed him but little time for school, he was typical of that sterling race of self-made business men, equal to every emergency, and rising to every occasion. Where to-day young men rely on a college education for a guide through life, these rugged settlers could rely only on their own resources, energy and diligence.

Additional Notes:

    1868 - Directory: Wenona, Mich.

  • J. W. Babcock, salt and lumber manufacturer, living on John St.

    1872 - Michigan Marriages: Lebanon, Clinton Co.

  • Date: June 30, 1871.
  • Groom: John W. Babcock, of Salzburg, Bay Co., born 1832, Wayne Co., N.Y.
  • Bride Helen M. Newton, of Stanton, Clinton Co., born 1849, Oakland Co., MI.
  • Official: Edward Wilkinson, Minister.
  • Witnesses: Thomas P. Newton and Martha Newton.

Potential data connections:

  • (Parents) - History of Washtenaw County, Michigan (1906) Moses and Abigail (Van Surdan) Babcock, of Wayne Co., New York, moved to Michigan in 1833. Moses was a veteran of the War of 1812, and a carpenter by trade. He settled in Livingston Co., where he own a farm which was maintained by his sons, while he practice his carpentry profession. His family consisted of eleven children, all are now deceased except Loren Babcock.
Related Pages/Notes

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Babcock, John W. (subject)
Fraser, James
Newton, Helen M. (wife)
Newton, Martha
Newton, Thomas P.
Wilkinson, Edward
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Ft. Howard, WI
Ft. Wilkins, MI
Huron Company
Lebanon, MI
Oakland Co., MI
Salzburg Vil., MI
Stanton, MI
Washtenaw Co., MI
Wayne Co., NY
Wenona Vil., MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.