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Worthy Lovell Churchill (1840-?)
Born in Batavia, IL, raised in Davenport, IO, and prominent business man of Bay City, MI.

1905: Biography. (Added Apr., 2009)

History of Bay County, Michigan, by Augustus H. Gansser, 1905


Hon. Worthy Lovell Churchill, one of the strong men who as stood at the head of financial affairs and great business interests in Northern and Eastern Michigan for many years, still dominates the policies of many of the prospering commercial enterprises of various parts of the country. As president and treasurer of the Bay City Michigan Sugar Company; as president and general manager of the Tawas Sugar Company; president of the Onoway Limestone Company and as a director of the Stearns & Culver Lumber Company, of Bagdad, Florida, he demonstrates the same unbounded business capacity of younger years and a thorough comprehension of all questions of vital interest to these great concerns. Mr. Churchill was born at Batavia, Illinois, December 14, 1840, and is a son of Joseph W. and Delia S. (Wilson) Churchill.

Along with personal traits and physical resemblances our subject also inherited the name of his grandfather, Gen. Worthy Lovell Churchill, who was named in honor of the heroic General Lovell, of Revolutionary War fame. At the time of the birth of General Churchill, in Vermont, the daring exploits of this young soldier of that State were being celebrated in story and song as those of the Worthy Lovell.

In 1802, after his marriage with a member of the old family of Whelpley, the grandfather remove from Vermont and settled in the Holland Purchase of New York State, where the city of Batavia now stands. He took a prominent part in the War of 1812, a comrade of General Warren, and both he and Warren gallantly led their commands at the battle of Black Rock, where the brave Warren was killed. General Churchill's life closed at his home at Batavia, New York.

The material grandfather of Mr. Churchill was distinguished jurist, Judge G. Wilson, who was a son of Judge Isaac Wilson. The judicial togo has fallen upon the son of the second Judge Wilson, who occupies a seat on a judicial bench in Colorado. The mother of Mr. Churchill was born at Batavia, New York, in June, 1808, and died September 17, 1898.

Joseph W. Churchill, father of the subject of this record, was born in 1800, at Hubbardton, Vermont, and was two years old when his parents removed to Western New York. There he grew to manhood, perfected himself in the law under the direction of Judge Mose Taggart and, in 1835, decided to cast in his lot with that army of immigrants flocking from North, East and South, into the rich lands of Illinois. Such men as Joseph W. Churchill, coming with an abundance of means, social prestige and acknowledged superiority of intellect, were welcomed. He settled in a hamlet to which he gave the name of his formed places residence, Batavia, now a beautiful little city which is noted for the elegance of its homes, many of them owned by Chicago magnates. Mr. Churchill made rapid progress in the law, and with others of the same profession, Morris Wentworth, Douglas and Lincoln, traveled the circuit, weighed down with their saddle bags of legal documents. He was intimately associated with Douglas and Lincoln both in professional work and political campaigns. Soon after coming to Illinois, Judge Churchill was elected to the State Legislature and was prominently identified with the making of the laws that subsequently resulted in developing the State in the way of opening up means of transportation, both by rail and water. Judge Churchill was still a resident of Illinois when the trouble arose concerning the settlement of the Mormons there, but before political discord reached its height between the northern and the southern portions of the State, he removed, in 1853, to Davenport, Iowa. There he confined his attention for the remainder of his active life to the practice of his profession. His death took place in 1884. His three children were: George, who died at Davenport, January 8, 1892; Worthy Lovell, of this sketch; and Hobart D., who died March 11, 1904. The last named was a very astute business man. He was closely associated with our subject in various important enterprises for a long period. Judge Churchill and wife were devoted members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, strict in their observance of its usages. From youth he was a Free Mason, like the majority of the prominent intellectual men of his day.

In taking up the personal history of our subject, we meet with many interesting incidents. He was reared at Davenport, Iowa, where he attended first the local schools and then entered Griswold College until his parents placed him in a noted Episcopal school, conducted by Dr. Reid at Geneva, New York. After two years of careful training there, he entered the office of a civil engineer and continued his studies for several years . In 1858 the discovery of gold on the Platte River in Colorado created great excitement throughout the county. Many a prairie schooner, inscribed with the words “Pike's Peak or Bust,” crossed the Western plains for the El Dorado of the gold seekers. Only those who live through those exciting days can realize the hold the stories of fortunes made in a few day secured on the imaginations of young and ambitious men, especially those, who, like Mr. Churchill, had been directing their studies in the line of engineering. With little difficulty he and others organized the Cherry Creek Mill Company, of which he was made secretary, and the part set out for Cherry Creek, which was the original name of Denver, well equipped, as the imagined, with a portable sawmill. They had only reach Grand Island, Nebraska, when all the members of the pioneering party became discouraged at the difficulties of the enterprise and turned back, except Mr. Churchill, who was made of sterner stuff. Probably by this time his hopes of success were not so high, but, instead of turning backward, he joined forces with a man who owned an ox team, and they were joined by still another ox team and the party resumed their journey.

This true story continues through Mr. Churchill again being left alone on his way, climbing the lonely trail on the back of a mule, determined to reach the point for which he started. Human endurance, however, has a limit and he came to the day when he could progress no further. He then made his way to the old California trail to Salt Lake City, and reached California in 1860. Conditions were not such as he had expected and he soon left California and went to the South, but before he had entered into business there the Civil War broke out and he returned to Davenport. The growing importance of Chicago as a business center led him to got there, where he accepted a position in a mercantile house which he held during the Civil War. The Chicago fire, in 1871, opened up a great business in lumber and its possibilities were early recognized by Mr. Churchill. From a local lumber business he became interested, about 1874, with the lumber mills at Alpena, Michigan, to which pointed removed, with the expectation of remaining six months. His residence extended to 28 years, his removal to Bay City being in 1902. His brothers failing health cause the dissolution in 1903 of the firm of W. L. & H. B. Churchill, a firm which had done much to develop the lumber business in Northern Michigan. They had purchase extensive tracts of timber land and towed logs from Canada to Michigan, where they were manufactured into rough lumber. This was sold in cargo lots and shipped all over the world. It is estimated that the cutting of this company was from 25,000,000 to 40,00,000 feet annually.

In 1898 Mr. Churchill in connection with other leading capitalist here, organized the Bay City Sugar Company, which at a later date was united with the Michigan Sugar Company. The former company built a factory and had it in operation in 1899. Mr. Churchill's interest has continued in the sugar industry and he is the president and treasurer of the Bay City Michigan Sugar Company and has interests in numerous other factories. His other enterprises have been indicated. The Stearns & Culver Lumber Company, of which he is a directory, cuts long-leaf yellow pine lumber in the South, and also manufactures turpentine. He was one of the organizers of this company as he also was of the Onoway Limestone Company, of which he is also the president.

Mr. Churchill was married, during his residence in Chicago, to Amelia Montgomery, who is a daughter of Joseph A. Montgomery of that city. Of their three children but one survives, a daughter, Florence. The family belong to the Protestant Episcopal Church and Mr. Churchill has been a vestryman for many years.

Mr. Churchill became prominent in politics at Alpena, where he was twice elected mayor. In 1875 he was sent to represent the district in the State Legislature. In 1894 he was unanimously chosen by the Democratic party of the 10th Congressional District as a candidate for CongressRepublic victories all over the country. Hon. John Donovan was the only Democrat elected that year in the Legislature., being the only one of the party's candidates successful on State or national ticket.

Mr. Churchill has withdrawn from any of his business enterprises and devotes more time, then he formerly permitted himself, to the leisurely enjoyment of the goods things of life. He takes much interest in the raising and driving of good horses and owns many valuable animals. His fraternal connections include the Knights of Pythias and the Elks. Personally, Mr. Churchill is a man very pleasant to meet either in social or business way. His manner is cordial, his attitude engaging and his courtesy of the kind that wins friendships and admiration.

Related Pages/Notes

Worthy L. Churchill

None at this time.
People Referenced

Churchill, Florence (dau.)
Churchill, George (bro.)
Churchill, Hobart D. (bro.)
Churchill, Jospeph W. (father)
Churchill, Worthy L. (subject)
Churchill, Worth L. Gen. (g-father)
Donovan, John
Douglas, Stephen A.
Lincoln, Abraham
Montgomery, Amelia (wife)
Montgomery, Jospeh
Taggart, Mose Judge
Warren, Gen.
Wentworth, Morris
Wilson, Delia S. (mother)
Wilson, G. Judge
Wilson, Isaac Judge
Subjects Referenced
Alpena, MI
Bagdad, FL
Batavia, IL
Batavia, NY
Bay City, MI
Bay City Sugar Co.
Cherry Creek, CO.
Cherry Creek Mill Co.
Chicago, IL
Cival War
Davenport, IA
Denver, CO
Geneva, NY
Grand Island, NB
Griswold College
Holand Purchase, NY
Michigan Sugar Co.
Onoway Limestone Co.
Platte River, CO
Protestant Episcopal Ch.
Revolutionary War
Salt Lake City, UT
Stearns & Culver Lumber
W.L & H.B. Churchill
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.