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Hon. John Donovan (1843-?)
Michigan representative from Bay City, born in Hamilton, Ont., raised in N.Y.

1924 Political biography. (Added Dec., 2009)

Michigan Biographies - Michigan Historical Commission, 1924 (Page 247.)


Representative from the First District of Bay County (Bay City), 1895-6 and 1897-8. Was born in Hamilton, Ont., May 26, 1843. When two months old he removed with his parents to Youngstown, Niagara County, N. Y., where by private tutors and in the high school he received his early education; was principal of the high school of Youngstown one year; came to Michigan in 1865 and taught school for twelve years, then engaged in the occupation of contractor and builder. In 1873 he located at Flint, and the following year was married to Miss Sarah Isham, of Kennedy, N. Y.; remained at Flint until 1878, when he removed to Bay City. In politics a Democrat, and the only Democratic member in the House of 1895-6; elected to that of 1897-8 on the Democratic People's Union Silver Ticket.

1894 Article, New York Times. - Added Dec., 2009.

The New York Times, November 15, 1894


The Only Democrat in the Michigan Legislature.

Senator McMillan and Others Discuss the Possibilities
for Fun in the Situation.

Three men from Michigan met yesterday at the Holland House and discussed the political situation in their State.

One man United States Senator James McMillan, Republican, who managed the recent campaign. Another was William E. Quinby, Democrat, United States Minister to the Netherlands. The third did not give his name, but devoted his time to a discussion of the possibilities for fun in the new Legislature in Michigan.

The situation is unique. The State Senate is composed wholly of Republicans. The lower house has ninety-nine Republicans and one Democrat. That one Democratic is John Donovan of West Bay City. He is all that the part saved out of the recent political earthquake in that State, which sent a solid Republican delegation to Congress, elected a Republican Governor by something like 100,000 plurality, and did other things according to the same scale.

Mr. Donovan,” said Senator McMillan, “is a sober, thoughtful, earnest man, who does not appreciate the fun which everyone in Michigan is trying to make out of the fact that he is the solitary Democratic in the Legislature.”

“Did such a thing ever occur in any State before?” a reporter in the New-York Times asked the Senator.

“I guess not in any Northern State,” he said. “The situation is so unusual that everybody laughs. It is customary for the minority to have representation on all the committees. Probably the rule will have to be changed this year.

“There are two United States Senators to be elected this Winter. Of course, Mr. Donovan may to caucus as a minority and nominate two Democratic candidates. The power of absolutely determining two candidates for the United States Senate who shall receive the unanimous support of the party they represent seldom comes to any one man.”

“Will the Legislature consider measures which will become strictly party measures?” asked the third man from Michigan.

“I do not see how it can,” said Senator McMillan. “Suppose it did, and the minority wanted to make a motion. Who would second it?

“There's a precedent on this,” said Mr. Quinby, “if I remember correctly. There were once only two members of the minority party in the State Senate. One of them was sick, and the Senate adopted a rule to hold during his absence that motions made by the minority required no second.

“They may do that this Winder in Mr. Donovan's case,” said Senator McMillan.

“He cannot bolt the party caucus,” said the third man from Michigan.

“No,” said Mr. Quinby. “There will be no factions inside the party.”

“Nor can it be charges against him that he is so lacking in independence as to be absolutely bound by the minority caucus,” said the third man.

“No,” said Senator McMillan.

“At the same time, he must either refuse to vote or support absolutely the dictates of the minority,” suggest the third citizen from Michigan.

“Precisely” said Mr. Quinby.

“He will be the leader of his party on the floor of the House,” remarked the unknown.

“Certainly,” said Senator McMillan.

“He ought to have a lot of fun out of the session,” said the reporter.

“Everybody else is have the fun, but I presume Mr. Donovan wishing it had been made unanimous,” said the Senator.

Senator McMillan's term will expire on March 3, 1895. He is a candidate for reelection, and he said he expected to have no opposition.

The second Senator will be chosen to fill out the term of the late Senator Stockbridge, to which John Patton was appointed temporarily. Senator McMillan said five candidates are in the field for the place namely, Representatives Julius Caesar Burrows and Samuel Stevenson, Schuyler S. Olds, Judge Jay Hubbell, and Mr. Patton.

1897 News item. - Added Dec., 2009.

Timely Topics, Vol. 1, Feb. 19, 1897 (Page 38)


Representative John Donovan of Bay City, who sprang into prominence two years ago by reason of the fact that he was the only democratic member of the state legislature, distinguished himself in the house a bill to provide for the ringing of the curfew bell in all cities and incorporated villages of the state, and to require all children between the ages of 8 and 18 years to remain off the streets after 8 o'clock at night.

In many towns curfew ordinances are already being enforced, but there is some doubt as to the right of the municipality to enact such ordinances.

1912 history. - Added Dec., 2009.

History of Oakland County, Michigan - 1912

Page 472.

The first school in Davisburg was established in 1856 or 1857, the first term of schooling being taught by Emma Mosey. In 1858 a small frame school house was built, and it is yet in use. In more recent years, -- about 1890 – another room was added to the original structure, sufficiently large to double its seating capacity. The school grounds were purchased from John Davis, being a part of his farm. A few of the principals who have had charge of the Divisburg schools since organization are here given: John Donovan of Bay City; one time representative; Marion Short, of Amy, Michigan; Mary Ogden, of California; Elmer F. Hymers, of Pontiac; Anna Winn, Alma, Michigan; Sara E. Maltby, of Davisburg, present principal, as before noted.

Additional Notes.

    1890 - Directory Bay City, Mich.

  • John Donovan is listed as financial secretary of the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association.
  • John Donovan is listed as president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
  • John Donovan, mason, res 609 13th.
Related Pages/Notes

Hon. John Donovan

Related Pages:
None at this time.
People Referenced
Burrows, Julius C.
Davis, John
Donovan, John
Hubbell, Jay Judge
Hymers, Elmer F.
Isham, Sarah (wife)
Maltby, Sara E.
McMillan, John
Mosey, Emma
Ogden, Mary
Olds, Schyler S.
Patton, John
Quinby, William E.
Short, Marion
Stevenson, Samuel
Winn, Anna
Subjects Referenced
Alma, MI
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Davisburg, MI
Flint, MI
Hamilton, Ont.
Holland House
Kennedy, NY
Michigan Legislature
Michigan Senate
New York Times
Niagara Co., NY
Oakland Co., MI
Pontiac, MI
West Bay City, MI
Youngstown, NY
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.