Bay City, 1911 - Added Jan., 2011.
Dodge's Geography of Michigan - 1911.
Bay City – has grown up from a number of villages at the last bend of the Saginaw River before it joined the bay. Low beaches of the ancient lakes here lift the ground a little above the marshes and the bay. In 1837 lower Saginaw was platted about where the business center now is on the east side; the whole left bank was at that time reserved to the Indians. Twenty-two years later this was incorporated as the village of Bay City, with extension to the river on the north, and including Portsmouth village on the south as far as the present Twenty-fourth Street. By 1862 there was enough demand for wharf privileges to send business over to the left bank, where the village of Salzburg was platted. In 1865 Bay City received a city charter and was fairly doubled in size by the addition of a residential strip on the east. The next year another settlement on the west bank become large enough to incorporate as the village of Wenona, and still another at Banks in 1871. All of this growth shows how lumbering was thriving and booming through those years. Two years more passed, and Bay City annexed another fragment of Portsmouth on the south. In 1877 West Bay City was incorporated with all the territory on the left bank as now. Finally in 1905 West Bay City (13,000) and Bay City (27,000) were united under the latter name.
The lumber boom reached its highest point about 1888. In 1882 there were eighty mills on the eighteen miles of river between Saginaw and Bay City. Here the logs were rough-sawed and exported in that form; over a billion feet in that year, and all of it went out by water. Now there are but eight mills, seven of them at Bay City. In 1908 Bay City made but a third of a billion feet of lumber, not rough-sawed now, but finished mill products. Of the rough logs used a quarter were imported from Canada. Of this 300,000,000 board feet of product only 125,000 were taken away by boat, so little does the river figure in the city's life to-day. The cement factory, it is true, shipped its output of 1908 by water. The banks of the Saginaw River here are lined with wharves and basins, admirably connected with the railway. A branch of the Detroit & Cleveland line of steamers comes here and to Saginaw, but almost all of the business that sustains both cities moves now by rail.
The lumber mills are bound to run as long as logs can be obtained. Other manufacturing industries in iron and wood have been fostered by the presence of skilled labor, such as the making of railroad wrecking cranes, wooden and steel boats, and bicycles. There are also iron plate mills and a large cement factory. The coal mines sell their product locally at $3.50 per ton. Three sugar factories put the city in the best of relations with its farm neighborhood. The alcohol distilled from their refuse is said to have paid a Federal tax of more than two million dollars. Turpentine is being profitably distilled from old Norway pine stumps that have long disfigured the landscape of the northern counties and embarrassed agriculture there. Bay City's interests are henceforward closely bound up with the development of the surrounding country. The farmer is to be more to her than the lumberman or the sailor.
Water for the city use is drawn from the entrance to Saginaw Bay and is unsightly but not unsafe, except when the engineer opens the valve into the river because the west wind makes water low in the bay. The sewage goes to the river and moves off sluggishly. Much bottled water sold on the streets indicates that the well-to-do are willing to pay a high price for drinking water that is white and clear.
A grateful spot for the people in summer is the electric railway company's park at Wenona Beach, on a grassy shore under the willows. Shade trees are fairly park like. And sumptuous residences suggest prosperity.
Bay City Population:
1910 – 45,166
1900 – 40,747*
1890 – 40,820*
1880 – 27,090
1870 – 7,664
1860 – 4,700
* Includes West Bay City.