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Bay City Years Ago
Article published in 1887 by the Bay City Tribune newspaper.
  • Contributed and transcribed to digital format by Alan Flood (July 2003)
  • Note: The article includes an 1858 Business Directory with name of owner.

    BAY CITY TRIBUNE - Sunday, June 26, 1887


    (Extract From the First History Published in the Saginaw Valley.)

    How Remarkably Correct the Author's Predictions Have Proven to be.

    Bay City From 1835 to 1858 -- Interesting Reading for Old and New Residents.

    Among the books in the library of the late Dr. Plesner, of Saginaw City, was a copy of the first history of Saginaw country from the year 1819 up to the time of publication, 1858, twenty nine years ago. It is now in the possession of his son, Dr. L. Plessner, of this city. It was compiled from authentic records and other sources and contains traditionary accounts, legends, anecdote, with statistics and notes of the resources and general information considering the advantages of the county. Truman B. Fox was its publisher.

    The Tribune will from time to time, reprint selections from the history that willl be of interest to the thousands who have gathered in this part of Michigan since the work was issued. This morning is given what is said of Bay City.

    Bay City is situated upon the east side of the Saginaw river four miles above Saginaw Bay and fifteen below East Saginaw. Its population is about 2,000. The land upon which it is located was formerly an Indian reserve known as "Riley's Reserve." During the year 1835 this reserve was purchased from the Indians by an incorporated company, y'clept the "Saginaw bay company." Anticipating great things, the company had several hundred village lots surveyed out here, and commenced operations upon an extensive scale. In 1836, the following year, there were about fifteen families established here, one store, one hotel and a post office. A building was also erected by the company which was intended for a bank, but owing to financial embarrassments the "institution" was not used for that purpose, but was converted into a private residence. The crisis of '36 completely finished the plans of the company, and crippled its energies, yet it had commenced a work that was bound to tell in after years. For a long time after this company "suspended payment" everything of a business nature was entirely in statu quo here, as well as elsewhere, and although the point possessed many natural advantages, and excellent facilities for trade, yet that grand moving power, viz., capital, was wanting to develop its resources and bring it into practice.

    Up to the year 1850, but little progress had been made here, yet from this time, settlers began to come in, and the town commenced awakening from the Rip Van Winkle state, and matters soon assumed a far happier aspect. One serious inconvenience which has been felt more than anything else, and which for a long time was considered as fatal to its prosperity is the lack of communications with the world outside, by roads. During some seasons of the year, egress and ingress to the town was, and is now almost impossible, yet it is to be hoped that this difficulty will, ere long, be obviated. The legislature at its winter session in 1857, passed an act, changing its name from Lower Saginaw (its original name) to that of Bay City.

    For a few years past, this place has improved beyond the most sanguine expectations of its well wishers, and its present appearance indicates a spirit of restless enterprise and energy among its inhabitants, that laughs at impossibilities and puts to flight all doubts of success. The location of the town is a beautiful one, the bank of the river here being, in many places quite bold, and rising from eight to twelve feet above the level of the river. Situated as it is, near the head of navigation, and in the heart of a fine farming country which is fast being settled, it must before many years become a place of considerable importance. Capitalists are already being awakened to this fact, and are now making large investments in the town and vicinity.

    This village, by recent decision of the supreme court of Michigan, sustaining the organization of Bay County, is the county seat of said county, and is no longer embraced within the limits of Saginaw county. As said organization takes from the original territory of the county only the northern tier of townships and inasmuch as this territory embraces so important a portion of Saginaw valley, we should regard our publication in any event, as incomplete with the same allusion to it we have made.


    The business directory shows the following firms in business in Bay City in 1858.

    - Curtis Munger & Co., dealers in dry goods, Water street, on the dock one door south of Wolverton house.

    - D.D. & J.H. Cottrell & Co., general store, corner Water and Second streets.

    - J. Watson, forwarding and commission, foot of Center on the dock.

    - E.J. Dickey, dealer in ship stores, Water street, on the dock.

    - E. Cushman, hardware dealer, Water street, north of Center.

    - J. Longton, boots and shoes, Water street opposite C. Munger & Co.

    - H. Clark, blacksmith, Water street.

    - F. Monteur, horse shoer, Water street.

    - John Phillips & Bro., machinist, Water street.

    - C. Must, cabinet maker, Water street.

    - D.P. Welch, sash, doors and blinds, Water street.

    - G. Brown, jewelry, foot of Center.

    - C.H. Freeman, W.L. Sherman, S.P. Wright, A.C. Maxwell, James Birney, attorneys at law.

    - C.E. Smith, M.D., druggist, opposite C. Munger & Co.

    - L. Fuchsius, M.D., druggist, Water street.

    - R.C. Newton, physician, Water street.

    - J.M. Bligh, M.D., druggist and dealer in fancy articles.

    - Wolverton house, by J.S. Barclay, Water street.

    - Union house, by, A.E. Persons, opposite Wolverton house.

    - Bay City hotel, by F.A. Kaiser, Center street.

    - Franklin house, by H. Latyskey, corner of Saginaw and Center streets.

    - Farmer's hotel, by S. Dodge, Water street.

    - M. Freeman, insurance, office over Watson's store.

    - John Drake, lumber dealer, Water street.

    - C. Moulthrop, lumber dealer, Water street.

    In addition to the above directory there are in town, two shoe shops, two or three tailoring establishments, three blacksmith shops, three meat markets, two bakeries, several steam saw mills, one extensive steam flouring mill with three run of stones.


    Noting certainly evinces a greater degree of advancement in civilization and refinement, in any place, than the establishment of schools and churches. And we need no surer evidence of the prosperity and happiness of any community of people than good school houses and fine churches, for we feel assured that when these exist, and are patronized, happinewss must also exist. Considerable attention has been paid in Saginaw valley to the education of children, as the numerous school houses go to prove.

    There is here in Bay City, an excellent union school, with a fine building. This school contains 350 scholars and is well conducted by a principal and three teachers in their respective departments. The present principle is Prof. Root. There are also three select schools in town with an average of thirty scholars each. There are also several church societies here, including one Episcopal Methodist, one Presbyterian, one Episcopalian, one Lutheran and one Roman Catholic. Two of these societies have houses of worship.

    Just opposite of Bay City, upon the western bank of the river, is found one of the most beautiful landscapes in the state. The land here gradually slopes to the river from a height of about twenty-five feet, and is covered with a second growth of oak, and is almost entirely devoid of underbrush, thus forming a delightful grove, which, during the vernal seasons renders it a most charming and desirable retreat for the lover of nature. A natural ridge road rises on the background which extends several miles and finally itself in the vicinity of the bay shore. The ridge is composed of light or yellow sand which covers a substratum of gravel and clay. Still further back from the river the soil is better adapted for farming purposes, being a dark rich loam and cover with beech, maple, and some pine. Between this point and Saginaw City, is a good road route which leads through a fine farming country, well settled and under a fine state of cultivation in many places. Frankenlust which is situated upon this road about twelve miles below Saginaw City, is a German settlement composed of sixty-four families. There is here a beautiful church belonging to the Lutheran order. The land here was purchased by the pastor and sold in parcels to his parishioners for farms and homesteads. Everything here exhibits signs of thrift and industry, and it is a matter of great congratulations to see the accession to our population of so industrious a class. Many, and indeed a great majority of these German settlers, belong to families of high respectability and refinement. Of our German neighbors, we propose speaking again. To return to the point above alluded to, land here, or a goodly portion of it, belongs to heirs*, the youngest of whom is yet a minor. Owing to this fact the land is probably not in market at present. Were we allowed to predict, we would at no distant day locate a flourishing and commercial town upon this point. We would erect a long line of warehouses upon substantial docks, and fill them with grain for shipment, furnished by our German neighbors and settlers. Upon the fine farming land, not only in the immediate vicinity, but also in the adjoining counties. We would build a plank road to Midland City and another to Saginaw City, or make good roads without plank as the state of the land would admit of them. These roads when built would open the country many miles back and furnish an easy access to a ready market. Midland and other counties would seek an outlet here and the whole wild territory far back in the country would soon begin to "bud and blossom like a rose." Smiling farms and towns would ursurp the wilderness place and the wild wolf and bear would flee before the light of day, let into their lairs by the woodsman's axe. Founding our predictions upon the progress of the age, the unsurpassed resources, facilities and advantages offered by the surrounding county, we cannot be considered as utopian in our remarks and ideas concerning it.

    * The late Hon. James G. Birney owned this property and his children are the heirs alluded to.

    Related Pages

    (Click to enlarge.)

    Water St., foot of Center Ave.

    See page links below.
    People Referenced
    Barclay, J.S. {Bio}
    Birney, James
    Birney, James G. {Fam. Bio}
    Bligh, J.M.
    Brown, G.
    Clark, H.
    Cottrell, D.D.
    Cottrell, J.H.
    Cushman, E.J.
    Dickey, E.J.
    Drake, John {Bio}
    Dodge, S.
    Fox, Truman B.
    Freeman, C.H.
    Freeman, M.
    Fuchsius, L.
    Kaiser, F.A.
    Latyskey, H.
    Longton, J.
    Maxwell, A.C. {Bio}
    Monteur, F.
    Moulthrop, C.
    Munger, Curtiss {Bio}
    Must, C.
    Newton, R.C.
    Persons, A.E.
    Phillips, John
    Plessner, L. (Dr.)
    Root, (Professor)
    Sherman, W.L.
    Smith, C.E.
    Watson, J.
    Welch, D.P.
    Wright, S.P.
    Wright, W.L.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City
    Bay City hotel
    Bay County, MI
    Bligh drug store
    Brown Jeweler
    Clark blacksmithing
    Cottrell general store
    Cushman hardware
    Dickey dealer ship stores
    Drake lumber dealer
    East Saginaw, MI
    Episcopal church
    Farmer's hotel
    Franklin house
    Freeman insurance
    Fuchsius drug store
    German immigrants
    Longton shoe store
    Lower Saginaw (Bay City), MI
    Lutheran church
    Methodist church
    Midland City, MI
    Monteur horse shoeing
    Moulthrop lumber dealer
    Munger dry goods
    Must cabinets
    Presbyterian church
    R.C. Newton physician
    Riley's Reserve
    Roman Catholic church
    Saginaw Bay
    Saginaw Bay Co.
    Saginaw River
    Saginaw City, MI
    Saginaw Country
    Saginaw Valley
    Smith drug store
    Tribune newspaper
    Union house
    Watson forwarding
    Welch sash, door, blinds
    Wolverton house
    Internet References
  • None at this time.
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.