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Frederick Derr (1804-1887)
Native of Pennsylvania, one of earliest pioneers in Bay City..

Preface: The following sources provide some background on the life of Frederick Derr that are not accounted for in history books on Bay County. Most interesting is an 1887 biography of Frederick's life in Pennsylvania, both before he came to Michigan and after his returned to Pennsylvania in 1858. Although married twice, first to Elizabeth M. Clark in Saginaw City, in 1841, who died a year later, and Ellen Williver after he returned to Pennsylvania. He had no children.

Under “Additional Notes” are listed genealogy data that “might” apply to Frederick and his spouses. Some of the data is conflicting, i.e., Frederick is listed as born in 1840 in the marriage record with Elizabeth, while in in the 1887 biography it states he was born in 1804. I believe 1804 is more accurate as his biography states he came to Michigan at the age of 28 years, or in 1832, while local history books state 1840. If the latter is correct, he lived elsewhere in Michigan before settling in this area.

1887 biography. (Added March, 2011)

History of Columbia and Montour Counties, Pennsylvania - 1887.


Frederick Derr, farmer, P. O. White Hall, was born October 12, 1804, on the farm he now owns, which was improved by his father, George Derr, who bought a tract of about 241 acres of the first occupants, the Sutfin brothers. The deed was executed in 1817, but George Derr had occupied it several years previous. George Derr was born in 1777, the father, spent his days on this farm and died at the advanced age of eight-one years; his wife died several years previous. Frederick, the subject of this sketch, remained on the farm until he attained his twenty-eighth year, then went to Bay County, Mich., and worked at the carpenters trade (which he had learned before living home) working at this vocation twenty-five years in that place; while there he married Elizabeth M. Clarke, a native of New Hampshire; she died in 1842, leaving no issue. He returned to this county in 1858, at the time of his farther's death, located on the home farm, and has since been a constant resident of this farm. He was married the second time, to Ellen, daughter of Jacob and Mary (Bogart) Williver. Mr. Derr has no children.

1883 Bay County history. (Added March, 2011)

History of Bay County, Michigan - 1883

Page 66.

Frederick Derr, who lived in the “wild-cat” bank building opposite the tavern (owned by Sydney Campbell) , owned a large coffee-mill, of which the settlers soon took advantage, taking the amount of buckwheat needed and grinding in this mill.

Mr. Derr was working with Cromwell Barney, while the Globe Hotel was being built. He afterwards married Miss Clark, who taught school a short time near where William Peter's mill now stands. They were the first white people in Lower Saginaw to unite for better or worse, but they went to Saginaw City to get the solemn sentence pronounced. She died in about a year after they were married, but he is still living East. Mrs. Derr was the second person buried in the burial place selected for that time, as described elsewhere.

Page 92.

“In April, 1842, the first school district was organized in what is now known as Bay County. The school officers were, Thomas Rogers, moderator; S. S. Campbell, director; Cromwell Barney, assessor. They engaged a Miss Clark as teacher. She became the wife our old townsman, Frederick Derr, Esq., in the Fall of that year, and died October 1843. Miss Clark's school began on the 1st of June, 1842, ending September 1st. The schoolhouse was a small frame building, 14x20 feet, one story high, built in 1839 by one William Bonnel, who occupied it for nearly two years, when he became involved in a serious difficulty and left the country without bidding farewell to his acquaintances. The building stood about 800 feet south of the gas works, and about thirity feet from the east side of Water Street.

The names of those who attended Miss Clark's school are as follows: -- Daniel Marsac, Margaret Campbell (now Mrs. Witthauer), Emily Campbell, Philenda Olmstead, Perry Olmstead, Richard Trombley, P. L. Rogers, H. B. Rogers, Esther Rogers (now Mrs. R. M. Burrington). This makes the sum total of the regular attendance of Miss Clark's school.

Page 106.

The first burial in Lower Saginaw was some time prior to 1840. A man name Bennett, from Pine River, died, and buried near what is now the corner of Eleventh and Washington Streets. This was a sand ridge, and was selected on account of its elevation. The next death here was that of Mrs. Derr, who was buried in the same place, and they were the only deaths in the settlement for several years.

1887 death in Penn. (Added March, 2011)

The Historical Journal, by John F. MeGinness – Sep., 1887.


Frederick Derr, who died at his home in Madison Township, Columbia County, June 23, 1887, was born October 12, 1804, on the farm where he expired. The farm was bought by his father, George Derr, of the first occupants, the Sutfin brothers, the deed being executed in 1817. George Derr was born in 1777, and had three children, Frederick, Margaret and Jane. He spent his life on this farm and died at the age of 81 years. His son, just deceased, was in his 83d year.

Additional Notes.

  • 1832 – Frederick Derr left farm Pennsylvania and came to Michigan. (Bio. 1877)
  • 1840 - Mrs.. Derr lived only a year after her marriage to F. Derr. Fred was a young mechanic who came here in 1840. The two were married by a blacksmith, who was justice of the peace. (History of Bay Co., - 1905)
  • 1841 - Frederick Derr came to Lower Saginaw in 1841. (1968 Directory)
  • 1841 – Michigan Marriages: Saginaw City, Saginaw, Mich.
    - Federick Derr (b. 1820) on October 28, 1841, married Elizabeth M. Clark (b. 1820).
    - Note: Birth of Frederick should be 1804 according to bio.
  • 1842 - MRS. FRED DERR was second burial, not long after Burnet. She was Miss. Clark and married Frederick Durr. (1866-7 directory)
  • 1844 (Feb. 7) - Frederick Derr listed as notary of public for Saginaw Co., in 1844. (Mich. Manual - 1845)
  • 1849 - Frederick Derr listed as supervisor Saginaw Co. in 1849, along with Dion Birney. (History of Saginaw Co.,)
  • 1850 – Census: Madison, Montour, Penn.
    - Derr, George – b. 1779 Penn.
    - Mary, wife – b. 1773 Penn.
    - Carnahan, Marge – b. 1776 Penn.
    - Clark, Caroline – b. 1836 Penn.
    - Note: This is closest match found as Frederick's parents.
  • 1850 – Census: Madison, Montour, Penn.
    - Wolliver, Jacob – b. 1790 NJ
    - Mary, wife – b. 1787 NJ
    - Eleanor, dau. - b. 1821 Penn.
    - Barbara, dau. - b. 1831 Penn.
    - Ruth A., dau. - b. 1835 Penn.
    Note: Eleanor is possibly the “Ellen” that married Frederick.
  • 1857 - Frederick Derr was among the Democrats to cast a vote in Bay County's first election, he is now living in Pennsylvania. (Pioneer Collections, 1904)
  • 1865 – A fire broke out in the Watson Block on Water Street, rapidly spreading destroying many businesses, including the dwelling house of Frederick Derr, valued at $1,200. (History of Bay County, MI 1883)
  • 1880 – Census: Madison, Columbia, Penn.
    - Derr, Frederick – b. 1794 Penn. - retired farmer.
    - Ellin, wife – b. 1823 Penn.

Additional Comments.

Research on possible relatives of Elizabeth M. Clarke using 1850 U.S. Census for Clark or Clarke found in Michigan that around the 1840s.

  • Samuel Clark - Hampton Twp.: b. 1820 NY, boards at homestead of Hiram E. Caddy. (Mary's bother?)
  • Dorcas ClarkeSterling, Macomb, MI: b. 1804 VT - 1st son George b. 1839 Mich. (parent?)
  • Jonathan ClarkFayette, Hillsdale, MI: b. 1787 MA, oldest child George b. 1836 MI. (parent?)
  • Elijah ClarkLeoni, Jackson, MI: b. 1792 VT, wife Mary Clark, age 45 - oldest child Emily b. 1835 MI. (parent?)
  • Thomas ClarkWyoming, Kent, MI: b. 1794, Ireland, wife Mary Clark, oldest child Margaret b. 1836 MI (parent?)
Related Notes & Pages

Related Pages:
Barney, Cromwell
Campbell, Syndey S.
Globe Hotel
Pine Ridge Cemetery
Potters Field
People Referenced
Barney, Cromwell
Bennett, Mr.
Bogart, Mary
Birney, Dion
Burrington, R.M.
Cady, Hiram E.
Campbell, Emily
Campbell, Margaret
Campbell, Sydney
Carahan, Marge
Clark, Elijah
Clark, Caroline
Clark, Emily
Clark, George
Clark, Jonathan
Clark, Margaret
Clark, Mary Mrs.
Clark, Samuel
Clark, Thomas
Clarke, Dorcas
Clarke, Elizabeth M (1-wife)
Clarke, George
Derr, Frederick (subject)
Derr, George (father)
Derr, Jane (sister)
Derr, Margaret (sister)
Derr, Mary Mrs. (mother?)
Marsac, Daniel
McGinness, John F.
Olmstead, Perry
Olmstead, Philenda
Peter, William
Rogers, Esther
Rogers, H.B.
Rogers, P.L.
Rogers, Thomas
Trombley, Richard
Wiliver, Barbara
Williver, Ellen (2-wife)
Williver, Jacob
Williver, Ruth A.
Witthauer, Mary Mrs.
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Columbia Co., PA
Fayette, Hillside MI
Globe Hotel
Lower Saginaw, MI
Hampton Twp. Bay MI
Leoni, Jackson MI
Madison Twp, Columbia PA
Montour Co., PA
New Hampshire
Pine River, MI
Saginaw City, MI
saginaw Co., MI
Stirling, Macomb MI
Watson Block
White Hall, PA
Wyoming, Kent MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.