HOME - Front Page
Heritage \ Writings \

Modern History of Bay City as of 1868-9.
  • Published in the 1868-9 Polk city directory.

  • 1867 Bird's Eye Sketch of Wenona village, Bay City (across river) and Portmouth (right of Bay City)

    This history from the Polk Directory for 1868-9, was published under the title, “Modern History,” and is, therefore, quite detailed in describing the period from 1865, when the city was incorporated to the publishing of this directory. At the time it was issued, Bay City comprised a small geographical area along the east side of the Saginaw River. The west side of present Bay City, was the new village of Wenona, which sprung up as a result of the world's largest saw-mill being built there by the Sage & McGraw Company, in 1865. The present south end of Bay City, was at this time the village of Portsmouth, created by Judge Albert Miller, in 1837, a year earlier than Bay City, which was initially known as Lower Saginaw.

    1868-9 history. (Added Nov., 2008)

    Polk Directory, Bay City, Michigan - 1868-9 (Page 12)


    In 1857, by an act of the Legislature, the village of Lower Saginaw became Bay City, and henceforth had a separate interest in the minds of travelers to the Saginaw Valley; and to assume important features, as the City near the Bay; the act was approved July 10, and took effect immediately. On the 17th of the same month, and act was approved by which the County of Bay was organized. The first election for County officers was held on the 9th of June following, when Nathan Simons was elected Sheriff; E. S. Catlin, County Clerk; James Watson, County Treasurer; S. S. Campbell, Judge of Probate; C. H. Freeman, Prosecuting Attorney; Theodore M. Bligh, Register of Deeds; S. K. Wright, Circuit Court Commissioner, and James J. McCormick, County Surveyor. Many have been the changes in office since then, but the old pioneer, and “THE OLDEST INHABITANT” of Bay City, to-day, still holds the honorable position and title of Judge of Probate.

    1860 was the beginning of a new era in Saginaw, and starting in that year in the race of prosperity, Bay City began to show her points and to step out with amazing agility and steadiness. As a starting point, the year was marked by having a regular census taken, which gave the figures 810 as the population of the city.

    The Bay City & Tuscola Plank Road, with 12 miles planted to Blumfield Junction, was completed at that time and became an inlet for vast supplied of lumber, staves, shingles, and agricultural products that had for years been shut out for want of a road to the city. The effect was soon felt in the increase of trade and the immediate rise in the value of prosperity.

    It was the year of the discovery of Salt in Saginaw. Immediately on the fact being preved that strong brine had been found in East Saginaw Company was organized here under the name of the Bay City Salt Manufacturing Company, with Jas. Fraser for President; the enterprise was eagerly taken hold of by citizens, encouraged no doubt by the bounty offered by the State, in the act which had been recently passed, under which this Company formed. Shortly after this another company organized in Portsmouth under the same act. In August, of 1860, W. H. Fennell, of this city, shipped the first hundred barrels of Saginaw Salt that left the Saginaw Valley. It was put on board the schooner John Wilson and sent to Goderich, but the quality was not No. 1 A., as the first experiment was performed under many disadvantages. In 1861 the Bay City Company perfected their operations and established the value of this locality, as to the quality and quantity of the brine which abound in it. In that year Messrs. Harkness and Sohne sunk a well 900 feet, and were speedily manufacturing good salt. The report of the success of these enterprises got noise abroad, and the production of the new staple was a means of drawing more capital into the city, of increasing the value of property, and of stimulating the efforts of citizens to develop the advantages which surround their position.

    During this year the mill of Rust & Co. went into operation; Mr. McDowell went into the foundry and laid the foundation of an extensive business; and H. S. Raymond started a news depot – an enterprise called forth by the demand for war news. Previous to this Josh, had kept the few illustrated papers for the purpose of conveying some idea of what was going on outside of Bay City, but up to this time newspapers had been a luxury above the inclination of the masses. This year was also a memorable one to those who were in the habit of receiving letters; the Post-office changes sides of the street, and was found one fine morning, on the other side, in charge of H. S. Raymond, who has held on to until this day. In 1862 M. A. Rouech leased Judge Campbell's house – enlarged it, and called it the Globe Hotel. He was laughed at then as a visionary man, but his visions have long ago taken solid shape. Mr. O. John also took up his residence here in that year, and started a boiler shop, filling a want which had been long felt in Bay City. Mr. Watson started a stave mill the same year, where he is now preparing to build, and the Lower Saginaw Salt Company commenced operations in the manufacture of salt, followed by Dolsen & Walker in the same line; these enterprises indicated progression, but gave little promise of the flow of prosperity which had even then set in towards this point.

    1863 was an eventful year in both gains and losses. In that year James Watson erected his saw mill; N. B. Bardley commenced making salt at his salt works; Pitts & Co. followed suit at their works, and Smith & Hart struck bring at their well – all adding to the wealth of the place. In that year the American Express Company opened an office here, previous to which East Saginaw had been the nearest office, and the cost of getting a parcel to and fro was 50 cents each way. The Baptist Church was built during the same year, and was counted amongst the gains. The losses this year were considerable also, to individuals, and yet these were ultimately the price paid for local improvement, as are all conflagrations in the early histories of cities. On Sunday, the 12th of July, 1863, (a celebrated date in history,) a fire broke out in Simons' grocery store, on Center street, which stood east of where the Fraser House now stands, and it rapidly spread in all directions; the whole block, consisting mostly of wooden buildings, extending from Center street back to Seventh street, was entirely consumed; at the same time the devouring element swept across Water street and fastened on everything consumable there, reducing to ashes the mill which stood where Gates & Fay's now stands, a valuable pile of lumber, and every intervening structure. The direct loss on that occasion footed up $50,000. The indirect gain was the elegant brick blocks which now occupy the burnt district.

    The Carneys had their factory on the site now occupied by the Union Block, and rebuilt the same year, where their Sash, Door and Blind Factory now stands, to reward them for their ------- and industry.

    1864 appeared during the excitement and anxiety of the late rebellion, and the universal prosperity of the North, arising from the profitable pursuits of industry. The demands created by the exigencies of war, for nearly all the manufactures of the North, gave an impulse to the lumber trade, a corresponding increase to the circulation medium, and to the value of property. The discovery of Salt had its share in enhancing the value of lands, but the state of the money market had much to do with it also. Lands that in 1862 sold for $10 an acre, rose to $30 and $500 in 1864, making timber districts of treble value on account of the wood then used in the manufacture of salt. The local incidents of that year were the erection of a mill by Dolsen & Walker; the first operations of the Atlantic Salt Company; the opening proceedings in Crosswaithe's Ship Yard; the building of the Bay City Bridge; the erection of buildings on the district burnt the previous year; the extension of the telegraph wires to Bay City and the opening of a telegraph office; the opening of the railroad from Flint to Holly – allowing the mail from Detroit to get through to Bay City in one day, and the erection of several private houses. In that year the School census for Bay county gave a total of 1,152, -- and Hampton only claimed 549 of these. This was only four years ago.

    In June, 1864, Wm. Kennedy, a Rural New-Yorker – ripe for business – arrived, and began publishing the Bay City Signal. In that year public opinion had two sides. In October, Mr. Bryce laid down the pen and took up the sword; the Press became the Bay City Journal, with John Culbert as editor – who subsequently became its proprietor also. In those days war prevailed – and the pen was mighty as the sword.

    A local item, which was gratefully pounded upon by the city press of that day, stated a sporting fact which proved that there was some growling amidst the symptoms of progress. On a warm evening in July, Dr. Kinderman went out on the Midland road to hold an examination of the circumstances under which small porkers were nightly disappearing, as if the Hebrews were separating them from beans. Upon complaint being made, by a suckling to the Doctor in ambush, that he was growing weak, weak, weak, the Doctor sent two pills towards the parts most effected, and discovered that he had killed an enormous black bear, he immediately held a post mortem examination – skinned the brute --- appropriated his hams, potted the grease, and went home with a fine head of hair. The Doctor claims to this day that he stood (probably on his hind legs) six feet high – barely.

    1865 began to call loudly for a railroad between Bay City and East Saginaw, and bequeathed the request to it successors; at that time a line of Stages was running between these points, and a journey to Detroit and back consumed three days. Another mill was added to those already running that year, by Folsom & Arnold, and the trade of the city having, in the eyes of old merchants, assumed considerable proportions., a Board of Trade was forthwith organized, which held regular meetings in a building where the Griswold Block now stands. “Keep moving,” was the cry of citizens for many years, and this year they moved lively. The city railroad, only began during the summer of that year, was accomplished in the following fall, uniting Portsmouth and Bay City in the iron grasp of railroad connection. Although Bay City, for seven or eight years, had been in reality only a village, or indeed part of one – so to speak – seeing that it include Portsmouth in its territory – the time had arrived when within itself it could claim all the appointments of a city; and while it was preparing its iron hold on its twin-sister, it was also taking steps to get a legal separation from her. In 1865-6, then, this big village became a CITY, and its first charter election took place on the 2d of April, 1865, when N. B. Bradley was elected the first Mayor – a well merited honor bestowed on one who had always manifested a disposition to promote the best interests of a place where he had considerable stake. Mr. Bradley's fitness for the position could not for a moment have been called in questions, since, in the following year he held the high and honorable position of Senator, and justified the esteem in which he was universally held. The city at this time began to gain substantial promises of a speedier growth than had been yet anticipated. The Fraser House, then building, was a preparation for that future which already dawned on the vision of the far-seeing and enterprising citizens.

    Another disastrous fire occurred that year which resulted in a mixture of good and evil. On Sunday (again), October 4th, 1865, a fire broke out in James Watson's building, on N. Water street, and pursued its destructive course to the foot of Fifth street, completely consuming some nine or ten stores on that side of Water street. The opposite side, facing that scene, fared no better; the whole block, from the corner of Center to the next corner of Fifth, shared the same fate – which thus swept away the main business portion of the city at a loss to individuals of $120,000. The Board of Trade was lost in the debris, and was heard of no more, and for a while “trade went by the board.” Shortly after this, fire limits were established, which prevented the erection of wooden buildings west of Saginaw street, and although considerable opposition was manifested to that course, the wisdom of it was very soon perceived in the appearance of handsome brick stores, where only unsightly frame buildings stood before.

    1866 saw 10 ½ miles of the Bay City & Midland Plank Road completed, and as another outlet to the world beyond Bay City, and one of the many feeders to it, which had been mapped out in the minds of its citizens; the even was a source of congratulation, being an indication of further progress in tapping the natural tributaries to the rising city. Unfortunately the good work was arrested for a while at that stage.

    Water street was greatly improved that year. Messrs. Walthausen, Heuman and Zehner set the example by erecting brick stores on the west side of the burnt district, and these soon found their Vis a Vis, erected by Messrs. Lord, Walthausen, Lovenstein and Babo. Mr. H. Griswold erected his brick block of four stores. Mr. James Shearer planted his magnificent block, in good taste and spirit, by making it in keeping with its splendid neighbor at the opposite corner – The Fraser House. Munger & Co. -- the oldest merchants in Bay City, who had trade here profitably for over twenty years, and been foremost in many of the public enterprises, and the making of improvements were not slow to catch the building fever, nor behind in prevailing ideas, as may be seen by the building which they also raised that year uniform with Shearer's, -- and still the healthy mania spread; up went the Union Block; erected by Phillips and Brooks and H. Griswold. Here and there, isolated cases of the fever broke out – in red bricks all over a lot; Dr. Cross had it, and erected the building now occupied by D. R. Williams; A. L. Stewart, the confectioner, erected a sweet thing on Center street. By this time all the mason and bricklayers in the County were under orders, and cold weather setting in the fever abated – only to break out again the following year. Outside of the city two avenues were being opened, which were to give the city winter outlets to markets for its staples, and through which annual additions were to be made to an enterprising people. In August of that year, work was commenced on the Bay City & East Saginaw Railroad with great energy, and at the same time the Jackson, Lansing & Wenona road was also being built.

    1867 received the spirit of its predecessor, finished its uncompleted enterprises and started numbers of its own. The long-talked of scheme for dredging the out bar, at the mouth of the river, so as to admit the largest vessels to this port, was fairly commenced at last, the completion of which would immediately place Bay City on vantage ground, superior to any in the Valley. The necessity of having this done had been seen at an early day, but until the organization of Bay county, opposing interests prevented the work from being accomplished. It was proposed at one time to have it done at the expense of this, and Saginaw county, but difficulties arose in apportioning the cost, and finally a grant of $83,000 was obtained for the purpose from the Government, through the efforts of John F. Driggs, member of Congress, and Gen. T. Cram was appointed to carry out the great work. The passage was to be 200 feet wide and 12 feet deep, which gave about 60,000 cubic feet to be excavated – as 7 ½ fee was the average depth before. The depth to be excavated – 4 ½ – was composed of sand and gravel for 3 feet, and 1 ½ feet of clay and hard pan; the latter forming the upper portion of the banks would run no rish of being washed away. Mr. Brown, of Thorold, Ontario, got the contract for the undertaking, a gentleman of most extensive experience on both sides of the Canadian line, in the construction of public works, and whose appointment was hailed with general satisfaction.

    The local improvements and enterprises completed in 1867 were very many; two more Churches were erected and opened for worship – the German Bethel (Lutheran) and the Universalist Churches. Messrs. Smith & Hart erected their mill; Cariere & Co. began one; McDonald & Co. built their grist mill and had it running; the Fraser House was completed and opened; miles of new side-walks were laid; sewers were made in various streets; Water street – from Sixth to Third street – and a portion of Center street, were laid with Nicholson pavement. The Averill Block, on Center street, was built; the Birney Block, on Water street; the Campbell Block, on the same street; and a large number of elegant residences went up throughout the city, not one of which were to rent in the fall. But the great events of the year were the completions both railroads, with cars running to Detroit in FOUR HOURS A-HALf, and a direct route to Chicago – without going around to the former city. During the summer, one of the events of the year was a visit from the Canadian Press Association, which comprised nearly the whole editorial staff of the New Dominion; they came over the lake in the Clinton, were warmly received, treated sumptuously here, at East Saginaw and Saginaw City; departed wonderfully impressed with the prosperity of the Saginaw valley, and gave glowing accounts of each place in the next issues of their several papers. The car of progress being thus on the track, with an irresistible motive power to impel it, onward it goes.

    1868 has added more to the growth and wealth of the city than any previous year. The number of public buildings, brick stores, and private dwellings in course of erection are the best evidences that can be adduced of the rapid growth of this favored place. The magnificent Court House, the beautiful School House, the imposing structure erected by the Catholics, the handsome architectural design about to be put up in shape by the Baptists. The Heuman Block, the Simon store, McEwan's, the elegant Rouch Block, Campbell's addition, and, what eclipses them all, J. J. McCormick's splendid iron and brick block, besides 500 private residences, -- all commenced since navigation opened, -- ought to convince the most skeptical that the prosperity of Bay City is no mushroom growth, but a solid, lasting reality which must continue, until within a few years it will be known as the northern metropolis of the State.

    Much of this general movement was due to the relaxing policy of proprietors, which place property in more marketable shape, and made room for capital. The division of the Fraser estate, which had been so long locked up by the death of the proprietor, put it into the power of the heirs to sell or improve it, The platting of the property in various parts of the city, -- putting it into lots, fencing it, opening new streets, and extending others, -- created an unprecedented activity in the real estate here; large transactions took place daily, private citizens bought eligible lots, who before were opposed to buildings. Speculation grew rife. Capital sought investments here, attracted from the East; every fresh settler in the city became a purchaser of property, and the tide set in, which, in the affairs of cities as well as individuals, when taken advantage of, leads on to fortune.

    Quick to see and feel the influences which prevailed, the business community sprang to action and prepared to meet the issues of these events. New schemes for swelling the tide were proposed, new railroad routes were mapped and surveyed, Companies organized and shares disposed of; the roads in existence were to be extended, plank roads were to made – radiating to all points, tapping pent up settlements, and streams of trade, and all these plans for building up the city and increasing trade, called for more stores to attract and meet the wants of new comers.

    Every month is bringing some improvement, -- additional evidences of growth and prosperity. New streets are being opened up, affording more room for building sites. The streets have received new dressings, and will shortly be lighted by gas – a Gas Company having sprung into existence during the year, which has laid pipes, built works, and offices, and promises to give gas in a few weeks.

    The important work of dredging the bar has been completed, elevating the port of Bay City to rank with any on the Lakes – with a river navigable for vessels of the largest class, and a harbor in which Great Easter could turn. The immense docks built by the F. & P. M. R. R., at river terminus, are completed, where vessels may receive the products of the State, or deliver for consumption, in cities and towns along the line, the various kinds of merchandise which compose their cargoes. Lumber, salt and fish have only to be deposited at these docks, to find their way with dispatch to all the markets East and West.

    In the southern part of the city, the erection of buildings by the Agricultural Society of the County, on a handsome piece of ground, adjoining the princely looking dwelling of J. J. McCormick, tells of the arrival of another era in the history of the County, which will date the introduction of agriculture and the cultivation on an extensive scale, of all the products of the farm.

    In the midst of all these signs of activity and enterprise, there has not been wanting those institutions which supply the oil for the whole machinery. The First National Bank of Bay City which this year rose Phoenix-like from the ashes of a ruin and stands like a sentinel guarding the wealth and commercial interests of a thriving city, has been the means of facilitating many of the great movements of the day. The Exchange Bank, with its association of men who have made money her, and who know its vale, has also appeared on the busy scene this year, and fans the sails which impel the Argosies of Commerce on their way. The young men associated themselves together to throw into one common fund all their influence and the weight of their example, to mould the religious and moral character of their class, to guard the avenues which lead to destruction, and to open up healthy resources to which the homeless and friendless might go for pleasure and profit. This year was improved by the formation of the Young Mens' Christian Association, the opening and furnished of their rooms, the introduction of a supply of newspapers and healthy literature, a large meeting of citizens to pledge themselves to its support, and a long list of life members.

    ONWARDS AND UPWARDS is the motto engraved on the figure head of the city which rules on the waters of the Saginaw; “Excelsior” is the cry of the genius which impels it, and fate writes on the gates of other cities – Ichabod.

    Relate Pages & Notes
    1873 Map of Bay County

    {Click image to view}

    When Bay County was organized in 1857, from portions of Midland and Saginaw counties, and all of Arenac county, it was much larger than its present boundaries, and initially contained only two very large townships, Williams and Hampton. As populations increased in specific areas, portions of larger counties were carved out to create new ones, as was the case with Bay County, when its northern section was detached to create Arenac county. More on the historical changes of geographical boundaries of Michigan and the Saginaw Valley can be seen at:

    MI Map History

    Related Pages:
    {Bay County History}
    Note: The following People and Subject References include a {Link} to further information where available.
    People Referenced
    Bligh, Theo. M.
    Bradley, Nathan B.
    Bryce, Wm.
    Campbell, Sydney S.
    Catlin, E.S.
    Cram, T. Gen.
    Cross, Dr.
    Culbert, John
    Drigss, John F.
    Fraser, James
    Freeman, C.H.
    Griswold, H.
    John, O.
    Kennedy, Wm.
    Kinderman, Dr.
    McCormick, James J.
    Raymond, H.S.
    Rouech, M.A.
    Shearer, James
    Simons, Nathan
    Stewart, A.L.
    Watson, James
    Williams, D.R.
    Wright, S.K.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    -aka: Lower Saginaw
    -aka: Portsmouth
    - American Express Co.
    - Averill block
    - Baptist church
    - Bay City Bd. of Trade
    - Bay City bridge
    - Bay City Journal
    - Bay City Press
    - Bay City Salt Mfg. Co.
    - Bay City Signal, news
    - Birney block
    - Campbell block
    - Carny Sash & Door, factory
    - Cariere & Co. mill
    - Court House
    - Crosswaithe's ship yard
    - Dolsen & Walker mill
    - Dolsen & Walker Salt Co.
    - Exchange Bank
    - First National Bank
    - Folsom & Arnold mill
    - Fraser estate
    - Fraser House
    - Gas Light Co.
    - Gates & Fay mill
    - German Bethel Ch.
    - Globe Hotel
    - Harkness-Sohne Salt Co.
    - Hart & Smith mill
    - Hart & Smith Salt Co.
    - Heuman block
    - Lower Saginaw Salt Co.
    - McCormick block
    - McDonald & Co., grist mill
    - McDowell foundry
    - MeEwan block
    - Munger & Co.
    - Pitts & Co.
    - Rouch block
    - Rust & Co. mill
    - Shearer block
    - Simon's grocery
    - Telegraph office
    - Universalist Ch.
    - Union block
    - Watson block
    - YMCA

    Bay Co., MI
    - Agrcultural Society
    - Saginaw River dredging
    - Blumfield Junction
    - Hampton Twp.
    - Midland Plant road
    - Tuscola Plank road

    Bay City & E. Saginaw RR
    Canadian Press Assoc.
    Flint & P.M. RR
    Jackson, Lansing & Wenona RR
    John Wilson, schooner
    Chicago, IL
    Clinton, schooner
    Detroit, MI
    Flint, MI
    Goderich, Can.
    Holly, MI
    New Dominion, news
    Thorold, Ont.

    Saginaw, MI
    -aka: Saginaw City
    -aka: E. Saginaw
    - East Saginaw Co.

    Saginaw Co., MI
    Saginaw Valley, MI
    Related Images

    Birney block

    Globe Hotel

    Shearer Block

    Rouche block

    Union block

    Fraser House

    Watson block House
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.