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Elijah Summers Catlin (1824-1902)
Born in Schuyler Co., N.Y., resided in Saginaw and Lower Saginaw (Bay City), MI.

1918 biography. - Added Nov., 2007.

History of Saginaw County, Michigan Vol. II
Historical Commercial Biographical
By James Cook Mills (1918)



A resident of Saginaw since 1849 and well known in lumbering circles, to which business his life was devoted, was Elijah S. Catlin. Coming here when the physical features of the county were of the wildest nature, and aptly described as only “a fit habitation for snakes and bull-frogs,” he braved the hardships and privations of pioneer life and built up a successful business. It was the beginning of a period of great activity in lumbering and shipping by vessel to eastern lake ports and to Chicago and Milwaukee. Fortunes were quickly made; money was plentiful and flowed freely through the channels of a lucrative trade, and Saginaw became extensively known as a great lumber market of the West.

Elijah S. Catlin was born in Schuyler County, New York, May 14, 1824. His parents were Leeman and Betsy Catlin, who were natives of Chemung County, New York.

In 1848, having availed himself of every facility for obtaining an education, mostly in the schools of his native village, he came to the West and stopped for a time at Saginaw City. This place was then only a frontier settlement of scarcely five hundred inhabitants, set in the midst of vast forests of pines and hardwoods. So wild was the country that in coming from civilization to the Saginaw River, he journeyed overland on what was known as the State Road, which was laid with logs and bark. On the east side of the river there was only the log hut of Leon Snay, a fur trader, which stood on the present site of the Hotel Bancroft, and the saw mill and buildings of Curtis Emerson, one mile south on ground now occupied by the City Hall and the gas works.

Soon after coming here Mr. Catlin went down river and located at Lower Saginaw (Bay City), where he remained until 1859. He was one of the pioneers of that struggling settlement which, when he landed there consisted of only twelve families. The place grew very rapidly with the active promotion of enterprising men, and in a few years became a thriving lumber town. Among his activities of that period Mr. Catlin aided in the organization in 1854 of Trinity Episcopal Church, which has become one of the leading Episcopal parishes in Saginaw Valley.

The first employment of Mr. Catlin in the lumber business, in which he engaged all his life, was as bookkeeper for Moulthrop Brothers, inspection and commission lumber dealers. Afterward he purchased the business and, under the firm name of Catlin & Sanborn, continued for several years and became well known on the river. Their office was at 122 North Water Street, 2d floor, a very convenient location for river business at that time.

About 1865 the firm was dissolved and Mr. Catlin associated himself with Valorous A. Paine, under the firm name of Catlin & Paine. They were commissioned dealers in lumber, lath and shingles, and inspectors and shippers of lumber “from all points on Saginaw River for all markets; attending, also to the purchase and inspection of logs.” The firm had offices in East Saginaw and Saginaw City, and the business was continue for many years. Later, Mr. Catlin took over the business and conducted it alone until about 1890 when he retired. It is probable that of the great number of lumberman in the Saginaw Valley during that strenuous period, there was none who had not at some time traded with him.

In 1858 Mr. Catlin was united in marriage with Miss Martha E. Wellman. Three children were born to them: Joseph E., Charles S. Catlin, and Mrs. D. B. Freeman. For a half century the family home was at 401 South Weadock Avenue. The family attended the First Baptist Church, of which Mr. Catlin was a trustee; and was ever ready to cheerfully meet all demands upon their time and means. Mr. Catlin died March 15, 1902, in the seventy-seventh year of his life. Mrs. Catlin died September 3, 1918.

Mr. Catlin was a man of domestic tastes, companionable, and of the strictest integrity. Many of his friendships were of long standing, in the narrowing circle of that citizenship which survived the stress and turmoil of the allotted three score years and ten.

1881 biography. - Added Nov., 2010.

The History of Saginaw, County, Michigan - 1881.

Elijah S. Catlin is an old settler of Saginaw Valley, having located at Bay City in 1848. He came by way of Flint on the State road to Saginaw. The road was paved with logs and the journey was tedious. Saginaw was a village of about 500 inhabitants at that time, and there was one house, a log structure, in East Saginaw, near where the Bancroft House now stands. Emerson's mill was also on the east side of the river, surrounded by its half-a-dozen cabins. Mr. Catlin passed down the river to Bay City, which at that time was a village of 15 families. He remained in Bay city until 1859, when he came to East Saginaw, where he has since resided. Mr. Catlin informs us that the first salt of Saginaw Valley was made in East Saginaw in 1860. While in Bay City he was a clerk, and after coming to East Saginaw, became bookkeeper for a lumber firm, which position he held for five years, when he engaged in the commission business, also inspecting and shipping lumber which he has followed until the present time. Mr. Catlin was born in Schuyler Co., N. Y., May 14, 1826, and is a son of Leeman and Betsey Catlin. He was married in 1858 to Miss Martha E. Wellman, by whom he has 3 children -- Joseph E., Carrie and Charles S.

Additional Notes.

Michigan Marriages: Bay City, Mich.

  • Elijah S. Catlin married Martha Warth E. Willman on Feb. 22, 1858.

Michigan Deaths: Saginaw Co.

  • Elijah Summers Catlin, b. 1824, New York, died on March 15, 1902.
Related Pages/Notes

Elijah S. Catlin
Burial: Pine Ridge Cemetery, Bay City.
Related Pages:
Catlin, Israel Bro.
Pine Ridge Cemetery
Trinity Episcopal Church
People Referenced
Catlin, Betsy Mrs. (mother)
Catlin, Carrie (dau)
Catlin, Charles S. (son)
Catlin, Elijah S. (subject)
Catlin, Jospeh E. (son)
Catlin, Leeman (father)
Emerson, Curtis
Freeman, D.B.
Moulthrop, bros.
Paine, Valorous A.
Snay, Leon
Wellman, Martha E. (wife)
Subjects Referenced
Bancroft Hotel
Bay City, MI
Catlin & Paine
Catlin & Sanborn
Chemung Co. NY
Chicago, IL
East Saginaw, MI
Fist Baptist Ch.
Flint, MI
Gas works
Hotel Bancroft
Lower Saginaw, MI
Milwaukee, WI
Moulthrop Brothers
Saginaw, MI
Saginaw City Hall
Saginaw River
Saginaw Valley
Schuyler Co. NY
State Road
Trinity Episcopal Ch.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.