Heritage \ Writings \

Charles A. Bigelow (1866-1932)
Born near Detroit, Mich. Partner in the Kneeland-Bigelow Company, of Bay City.

Biography, 1905. - Added July, 2011.

History of Bay County, Michigan – Gansser, 1905.


Charles A. Bigelow, who throughout his business career has been identified with lumbering interests, is secretary, treasurer and general manager of The Kneeland-Bigelow Company, engaged in the manufacture of lumber, one of the most important business enterprises of Bay City. Mr. Bigelow was born in Wayne County, Michigan, near the city of Detroit, July 18, 1866, and is a son of Albert E. and Jennie (Ashcroft) Bigelow, and grandson of William C. and Sally Ann (Prindle) Bigelow. His great-grandfather was soldier in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. He lived in Champlain County, New York, many years and was buried there.

William C. Bigelow, the grandfather, was born in Champlain County, New York, and died in 1895, aged 78 years. He settled in Wayne County the year Michigan was admitted to the Union and for two years conducted a stage between Detroit and Redford. He then married and settled upon a farm of 80 acres, which he purchased in Redford. To this tract he constantly added until at one time he was the owner of 640 acres. He soon began operating a sawmill, the lumber produced being hauled on sleighs and wagons to Detroit. He furnished much of the lumber used in the construction of the Michigan Central Railroad and continued lumbering in that vicinity until 1868, when he sold out and moved to Detroit. There, in partnership with his son, Albert E., under the firm name of W. C. & A. E. Bigelow, he established a lumber business, which they continued to conduct for six years. His marriage to Sally Ann Prindle resulted in the following offspring: Albert E.; Marian, wife of George Reed, of Detroit; George, who died in early manhood; Louis, who married Ida Norton, of Detroit; and Altha, who died in the bloom of young womanhood.

Albert E. Bigelow was born in Redford township, Wayne County, Michigan, July 14, 1840, and grew up on the home farm. He attended the Normal School at Ypsilanti, and Bryant & Stratton's Business College at Detroit, and while in college was employed as clerk in a shoe store. After his marriage he conducted a farm in Redford township until 1868, when he went to Detroit and formed a partnership with his father in the lumber business. After the retirement of the latter in 1874, our subject continued the business under the firm name of A. E. Bigelow until 1889, when his son, Charles A., became a partner in the firm name being changed to that of A. E. Bigelow & Company. They continued together until 1893, when his son retired from the firm on account of poor health, and he then conducted it alone until 1895, when he sold out to W. A. C. Miller. He has since lived in retirement from active business duties. Fraternally, he is a member of Detroit Commandry, No. 1, Knights Templar. During the early part of the Civil War he enlisted in Company J, 24th Reg., Michigan Vol. Inf., and saw much hard fighting. On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, he was badly wounded and lay in a stone barn unattended until July 4th, when he was sent to the hospital, and then home to recuperate. He rejoined his regiment in the fall of 1863, and in the battle of the Wilderness had the misfortune to be again wounded, the ball passing within an inch of his first wound. He was incapacitated for further service and returned home. He was married to Jennie Ashcroft of Redford, by whom he had four children, of whom Charles A. is the only one now living. Mrs. Bigelow was a member of the Baptist Church. She died January 1, 1875, and in 1876 he formed a second union with Lucia Pierce, of Redford, who died in 1878, without issue. He formed a third marital union at Marquette, Michigan, in 1881, with Lydia A. Houk, of Detroit, and they have two children: Fred and Ruby. He is a Republican in politics, as was his father. His wife is a member of the Baptist Church.

Charles A. Bigelow received his early education training in the public schools and in the Detroit High School, from which he was graduated. While still in high school, his connection with his father's lumber business began, and he continued as employe until 1889, when he became a partner in the business, the firm becoming A. E. Bigelow & Company. He continued with the firm until 1892, when he withdrew and went to California because of poor health. He remained there a year and upon his return took care of the business until February, 1894, his father being absent on a trip to California. He then became traveling salesman for The Michelson-Hanson Lumber Company, of Lewiston, Michigan, and continued in that capacity until the organization of The Kneeland-Bigelow Company, which was incorporated under the laws of the State of Michigan on May 30, 1901. Its officers were David M. Kneeland, of Lewiston, president; George H. Cross, of Lewiston, vice-president; and Charles A. Bigelow, secretary, treasurer and general manager. The officers remain the same with the exception that Herman Lunden became vice-president in January, 1902, in place of George H. Cross, who retired in 1901. The company first purchased 7,000 acres of hemlock and hardwood timberland in Montmorency County, and now hold something like 10,000 acres. They have their own equipment and do their own logging. On October 1, 1901, they took possession of their present sawmill on South Water street, Bay City, where they own a tract of land between 19th and 21st streets, extending from South Water street to the river. Between September 1st and March 15th, they employ nearly 200 men in logging, and between June 1st and September 1st the force is reduced to about 100 men. Their mill is in operation night and day and gives employment to about 80 men the year around. The lumber is shipped in car-load lots by rail, most of it going to the southern part of the State. It is a concern o great magnitude ad has added materially to the prosperity of the city. Mr. Bigelow is a man of recognized ability, far-sighted, of keen intellect and of superior executive ability, and his personal efforts have made possible the success of this undertaking.

On October 11, 1887, Charles A. Bigelow was united in the bonds of wedlock with Minnie A. Durkee, a daughter of Philip and Mary (German) Durkee, both natives of Franklin township, Oakland County, Michigan. Our subject and his his wife are consistent followers in the Christian Science faith. Politically, he is a Republican, but has never filled any office.

Bio. update from 1915. - Added July, 2011.

History of Michigan, by Charles Moore, 1915


Three times elected president of the Michigan Hardwood Lumber Manufacturers Association, Charles A. Bigelow by his practical accomplishments in lumbering has more than measured up to the dignity of his official honor. For more than thirty years beginning in early boyhood, he has been identified with the lumber business from the operation of a retail yard to the management of two of the best known lumber manufacturing concerns in the lower peninsula. The son of an old-time lumberman, he grew up in the atmosphere of the business and with an energy and alertness of mind which are well shown in his face, he has long been one of the chief industrial factors in his field.

Charles A. Bigelow was born at Redford, Wayne county, Michigan, July 18, 1866, a son of Albert E. and Jennie (Ashcroft) Bigelow. The Bigelow ancestry in America goes back to English stock planted in the colonies during the sixteenth century, and on his mother's side he is of French origin. Albert E. Bigelow was born in Wayne county, Michigan, and at his death, June 5, 1913, at the age of seventy-three left a splendid business record as a lumberman and was also a gallant soldier of the Union army during the Civil war. He went in as a private in Company I of the Twenty-fourth Michigan Infantry, and rose to the non-commissioned rank of sergeant. He was wounded both in the battle of Gettysburg and in the Wilderness conflicts. His service was from early in 1863 until the close of the war, and he was a convalescent when peace came. Mr. Bigelow's mother was born at Montpelier, Vermont, a daughter of Charles and Martha Ashcroft. The public schools of Detroit gave Mr. Bigelow his education, and in 1881, when fifteen years old, he was first regularly employed in his father's retail lumber yard in Detroit. Several years of work gave him a good knowledge of the buying and selling of lumber and the general conduct of the business in its retail features. In 1886 his father took him in as a partner, and they were associated in business until 1891, when the son was forced by illness to retire from active work for three years. Mr. Bigelow married at Birmingham, Michigan, October 7, 1887, to Miss Minnie A. Durkee.

When he again resumed his work in 1894, it was as traveling salesman for The Michelson-Hanson Lumber Company at Lewiston, and in 1896 he became secretary of that company. On May 29, 1901, The Kneeland-Bigelow Company was organized, and soon became one of Michigan's best known lumber plants. On October 19, 1905, the Kneeland-Beull & Bigelow Company was formed, which in 1912 was changed to the Kneeland, Lunden & Bigelow Company. Mr. Bigelow is secretary, treasurer, and general manager of both of these companies, while D. M. Kneeland is president. The lumbering operations of the two companies are confined to large areas of timber in Montmorency, Otsego, Presque Isle, and Cheboygan counties, the logs being brought to Bay City, where they are manufactured into lumber in two saw mills, with an annual output of forty million feet, and a total volume of business aggregating about one million dollars a year. The companies have operated largely in hemlock and hardwood.

Both physically and mentally Mr. Bigelow is clearly a man for his special field of work. In business hours no one can surpass him as a hustler, and not only in the transaction of routine matters, but as a thinker and originator of new plans and new scope of operations for his company. He is very fond of outdoor sports, is a swimmer and horseman, a baseball fan, and besides these engaging qualities, has the faculty of making friends, and has a great host of them, not only in the lumber trade but in all classes of Michigan citizenship. In politics he is an independent Republican, and has often participated in Michigan public affairs, though never as an office seeker. At his home in Bay City, Mr. Bigelow is one of the best, most prosperous and substantial citizens. He belongs to the Bay City Club, the Bay City Country Club, the Saginaw Country Club and the Detroit Athletic Club. Mr. Bigelow has been honored with a place on the Michigan State Insurance Department, being chairman of the advisory committee.

He was one of the organizers of the Forest Fire Detective Department of Michigan, an organization which in policing and in the instituting of other measures for the prevention of forest fires, has done a service of incalculable value in the preservation of standing timber, and in behalf of the general lumber and public interests.

It should also be said in this connection that while a very successful business man himself, Mr. Bigelow has at the same time done much to assist other men to fortune, and has ever been selfish in his attainments.

Soon after his election in the summer of 1909 as president of the Michigan Hardwood Lumber Manufacturers Association, the leading article in the American Lumberman was an interesting review of the character and activities of Mr. Bigelow and was written under the title “A Theorist who made Good.” Extracts from this article will supplement the general outline of facts herewith presented:

“A few years ago there was a young man in the lumber business in Michigan, who was somewhat of a theorist. At that time the lumber industry in that state was undergoing many changes. In those days whenever there was a meeting of lumbermen in Michigan this young man was there full of new ideas concerning every operation connected with the lumber business from logging in the woods to the final selling of the lumber in the open market. For practically every new problem he had that which he believed to be the correct solution. His ideas were based on his experience in the business and close observation of the manner in which the business had been transacted in the past, and in which it would have to be transacted in the future to meet the changing order. By many he was looked upon as a theorist only. He endeavored to bring other men to his ideas, and did not always meet with encouragement. Nevertheless he had the most sincere confidence in every proposition he advocated; and if other men were not prone universally to agree with him it was at least his own intention to put his theories into practice as far as possible in the operations in which he was interested. As the years went on he saw each of his theories demonstrated, and he saw men who had originally scoffed at many of his ideas coming out to put them into practice with benefit to themselves and good to the lumber business in general. Recently this young man was elected to the highest office in the the gift of the Hardwood Lumbermen of Michigan, and it was a conspicuous vindication of his ideas and appreciate of his services.”

It was during his connection with the Michelson-Hanson Lumber Company during the nineties that Mr. Bigelow “became a conspicuous figure in the lumber manufacturing industry of the state. He was president of all of the meetings of the manufacturers that were held. In these meetings he took an active part and was frank in expressing his views. There was no feature of the business whether it was methods of logging or methods of manufacture, the conduct of an office or successful salesmanship on which he did not have an opinion which he was prepared to maintain. Although a young man about thirty years of age, he attained recognition from men much older in years and much older in the business. His aggressiveness and progressiveness demanded and received attention.”

New, 1905. - Added July, 2011.

The Hardwood Record – Chicago, October 25, 1905.

Saginaw Valley.

The Wylie & Buell Lumber Company, which purchased the Hall sawmill in Bay City eighteen months ago and 23,000 acres of land in the vicinity of Heakwood, and has been operating the sawmill steadily since, has sold its entire Bay City interest, sawmill, lumber, unsold wood, etc., to the Kneeland, Buell & Bigelow Company, which was organized to take over the property. The Wylie & Buell Lumber Company will continue to lumber its lands, and will sell a stipulated quantity of logs every year to the new company. The company also has contracts to furnish a stipulated quantity of logs to Bliss & Van Auken and other parties. Frank Buell owns 80,000,000 feet of timber which goes into the new concern and will be lumbered and cut at the mill. The company also owns timber and altogether it has a cut of 20,000,000 feet in sight for fifteen years. The mill is double ban with a capacity o 100,000 feet every ten hours, and will be operated continuously. Charles A. Bigelow, secretary and treasurer of the Kneeland-Bigelow Company of Bay City, will be the manager of the Kneeland, Buell & Bigelow Company. The logging for the two mills will be in charge of Frank Buell, who is now operating seven camps and has a steam skidder and loader in active operation.

Page 26.

A number of hardwood manufacturers have contracted for large blocks of lumber to be cut. The S. H. Eastman Flooring Company has bought 10,000,000 feet of maple from the Kneeland, Buell & Bigelow Company, all of which is to be cut at the mills of the two concerns at Bay City. These two companies have also sold 5,000,000 feet mixed hardwood lumber yet to be sawed to other parties.

Article, 1922. - Added July, 2011.

National Lumberman, Vol. 70, Part 2. - 1922


With the editorial department demanding a sketch to accompany a portrait of Charles A. Bigelow, the first thing that comes to mind is an episode back in the early part of 1910, when the writer disembarked from a Pullman at an unholy hour of the early morning, a little jangled as to temper because the train had insisted on maintaining a schedule, and made the discovery that Mr. Bigelow could arise early without losing any of his equanimity. The place was Graying, Mich., and the object of the expedition was to look over the logging operations of the Kneeland-Bigelow Company.

Memory recalls that the weather was crisp and clear, that the breakfast that first morning was of the sort a grown man's appetite relishes but can't encompass, and that the following two days, spent largely in an endeavor to travel fast enough to suit a team of Herman Luuden's horses, were days to be remembered, because they were spent in genuinely good company, in about as good country as there is on earth. They afforded an opportunity to study the Bigelow method at close range and yielded the conclusion that the outstanding feature of that method is very simple: It consists in getting things done as they should be done by planting in every member of the organization a desire, an insistent desire, to do things that way.

In anything he undertakes, Charles A. Bigelow seems to be able to accomplish results by this process. He has none of the characteristics of the boss. He is no a business despot. He issues few orders to those in his employ. Yet he manages to secure results that would startle many of the most successful exponents of the old school of management. As head of the Kneeland-Bigelow Company, the Kneeland, Lunden & Bigelow Company and the Bigelow Cooper Company, all of Bay City and all manufactuers of Michigan forest products, he has built an enduring reputation for good manufacturing and general efficiency that is a tremendous asset and that, coupled with a clean and vigorous selling policy, has made these companies stand out as conspicuously successful.

In the affairs of the Michigan Hardwood Manufacturers' Association, Mr. Bigelow has long exercised a strong influence. He was President of the association for several years, retired from the presidency against the wishes of the membership and a year or so later was drafted into office for another term. He has also found time for active participation in the affairs of the National Lumber Manufacturers' Association as a member of its directorate and is the directing head of the National Lumber Manufacturers' Interinsurance Exchange, occupying the chairmanship of the executive committee which controls the operations of the exchange, and which is now doing splendid work in strengthening and building up the insurance organization.

This is not an attempt to recite more than a few of Mr. Bigelow's activities. It is sufficient to summarize by saying that his work, in connection with his own business and in connection with the national affairs of the lumber industry, has been such as to stamp him as one of the sound progressives of the business, a man on whom the industry can always count for capable and honest leadership when such leadership is needed.

Article, 1927. - Added July, 2011.

Florida Review – April 4, 1927.


(St. Petersburg Times)

Rapid exhaustion of the timber supply in America will necessitate the use of some artificial substance to take its place within a few years, according to Charles E. Bigelow, president of the Kneeland-Bigelow Co., Bay City, Mich., one of the largest lumber companies in the country. Mr. and Mrs. Bigelow are spending the season at the Soreno Hotel.

“It will not be long until the timber in certain sections of the country will be entirely gone,” said Mr. Bigelow, “and the only remedy is intensive reforestation and legistlation to protect the timber men. Reforestation was begun by some companies several years ago but the expense connected with it has been so great as to make it almost prohibitive.”

Unless the taxes on land where reforestation is being carried on are fixed at a low figure, timber companies cannot afford to do it.

“It takes may years for the newly planted trees to reach a merchantable size when the timber man begins to get some return on them.” said Mr. Bigelow, “Furthermore, every company has to have a 20 year supply of timber on hand before it begins operation. The cost of putting up the mill is so great, no man would dare begin to operate without this amount to draw from. And heretofore the lumber men have had to pay full taxes on all this land, that undergoing reforestation and that with their 20 years' supply on it. Naturally they have not been able to do much reforestation.

Additional Notes.

    1870 – Census: Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

  • Bigelow, Albert E. - b. 1841 Mich. - lumber dealer
  • Martha J., wife – b. 1844 Vermont
  • Charles A., son – b. 1867 Mich.

    1876 – Burials at Pine Ridge Cemetery, Bay City, Mich.

  • Bigelow, George – died July 22, 1876, aged 31 years. (may be related to Charles?)

    1882 – Michigan Marriages: Marquette, Marquette, Mich.

  • Date: Aug. 24, 1882.
  • Groom: Albert E. Bigelow, of Detroit, age 42.
  • Bride: Lydia Houk, of Detroit, age 24.
  • Official: Kerr B. Tupper, minister.
  • Witnesses: Hiram Bigelow, of Detroit, and Alma Houk, of Marquette.

    1887 – Michigan Marriages: Bloomfield, Oakland Co.

  • Date: Sept. 28, 1887.
  • Groom: Charles A. Bigelow, of Detroit, b. 1866 Redford, Mich., son of Albert E. Bigelow & Jennie Ashcroft.
  • Bride: Minnie A. Durkee, of Bloomfield, b. 1867 Bloomfield, Mich, daughter of Philip H. Durkee & Mary German.
  • Official: Geo. W. Wesselive, minister.
  • Witnesses: Albert E. Bigelow & Phillip H. Durkee.

    1905 - Michigan Marriages: Detroit, Wayne Co.

  • Date: Dec. 28, 1905.
  • Groom: Charles A. Bigelow, age 39, of Bay City, son of Albert Bigelow & Jamie Ashcroft.
  • Bride: Minnie A. Bigelow, age 38, of Detroit, daughter of Philip A. Durkee & Mary German.
  • Official: E.N. Pence, minister. Witnesses: Nina Walker & Jessie Pence.

    1910 – Census: Detroit, Wayne, Mich.

  • Bigelow, Albert E. - age 69, b. Mich.
  • Lydia A., wife – age 52, b. Mich.
  • Fred E., son – age 23, b. Mich.
  • Ruby, dau. - age 19, b. Mich.
  • Houk, Jennie L., sister-in-law – age 45, b. Mich. - widow
  • Seger, Sarah E., sister-in-law – age 53, b.Mich. - widow

    1916 – Michigan Marriages: Bay City, Bay Co.

  • Date: July 20, 1916.
  • Groom: Charles A. Bigelow of Bay City, b. 1866 Redford Twp., son of Albert E. Bigelow & Martha J Ashcroft.
  • Bride: Olive S. Merrell of Bay City, b. 1878, Bay City, daughter of Chas. J. Smith & Margaret Temple.
  • Official: Charles E. Marvin, Minister.
  • Witnesses: Dr. S.E. Scrafford & Sidney Batton.

    1918 - Hardwood Record (Chicago: Oct. 25, 1918)

  • J. C. Knox, secretary of the Michigan Hardwood Manufacturers' Association, and C. A. Bigelow, Bay City, Mich., president of the the organization of Wisconsin and Michigan manufacturers to boost foreign trade, and C. A. Hamar of Chassell, Mich., were "northern notables" who briefly graced Chicago last week.

    1920 – Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Begelow, Charles A. - age 53, b. Mich.
  • Olive S., wife – age 42, b. Mich.
  • Merrill, Jerome, step-son – age 17, b. Mich.

    1929 - Charles donated land to Bay City that became Bigelow Park on the Middle Grounds.

    1931 – Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • Bigelow, Chas A. (Olive) – Pres. Kneeland-Bigelow Co., h 2171 Center ave.
  • Kneeland-Bigelow Co. (Charles A. Bigelow, Pres.; Pierson Kneeland V-Pres., Sec.; Walter N. Wrape, Treas.; Roy E. Sayles, Asst. Sec.; Mfrs., of Hardwood and Hemlock lumber and flooring) General offices 509-512 Bay City Bank Bldg., Gel. 1993; Plant Sidney and Marquette ave.
  • Kneeland, Pierson – V-Pres., Sec. Kneeland-Bigelow Co., res. Phillips, Wis.

    1932 - Charles died June 10, 1932.

Reference Notes & Pages

Charles A. Bigelow

Related Pages:
Kneeland, David M.
Kneeland-Bigelow Co.
People Referenced
Ashcroft, Margaret J. (mother)
Batton, Sidney
Cross, George H.
Bigelow, Albert E (father)
Bigelow, Altha (aunt)
Bigelow, Charles A. (subject)
Bigelow, Fred E. (step-bro)
Bigelow, George (uncle)
Bigelow, Hiram
Bigelow, Louis (uncle)
Bigelow, Marian (aunt)
Bigelow, Ruby (step-sis)
Bigelow, Wm. C. (g-father)
Buell, John
Durkee, Minnie A. (1 wife)
Durkee, Phillip H. (f-inlaw)
German, Mary (m-inlaw)
Hamar, C.A.
Houk, Alma
Houk, Jennie L (sis-inlaw)
Houk, Lydia A. (step-mother)
Kneeland, Dave M.
Kneeland, Pierson
Knox, J.C.
Lunden, Herman
Marvin, Charles E.
Merrel, Jerome (step-son)
Miller, W.A.C.
Norton, Ida
Pence, E.N.
Pence, Jessie
Pierce, Lucia (step-mother)
Prindle, Sally A. (g-mother)
Reed, George
Sayles, Roy E.
Scrafford, S.E.
Seger, Sarah L (sis-inlaw)
Smith, Chas. J. (f-inlaw)
Smith, Olive S. (2 wife)
Temple, Margaret (m-inlaw)
Tupper, Kerr B.
Walker, Nina
Wesselive, Geo. W.
Wrape, Walter N.
Subjects Referenced
24th MI Reg. Co. I A.E. Bigelow Co.
Baptist Church
Bay City, MI
Bigelow Park
Birmingham, MI
Chaplain Co., NY
Chassell, MI
Cheboygan Co., MI
Chicago, IL
Christian Science
Civil War
Detroit, MI
Detroit High School
Eastman Flooring Co.
Franklin Twp., MI
Grayling, MI
Kneeland-Bigelow Co.
Kneeland,Buell & Bigelow
Lewiston, MI
Lumber industry
Marquette, MI
Michelson-Hanson Co.
Mich. Central RR
MI Hardwood Lbr. Mfrs. Assoc.
Monntmorency Co., MI
Natl. Lbr. Mgrs. Assoc.
Oakland Co., MI
Ostego Co., MI
Phillips, WI
Pine Ridge Cemetery
Presque Isle Co., MI
Redford Twp, MI
Wayne Co., MI
Wylie & Buell Lbr. Co.
Ypsilant, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.