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William Dana Fitzhugh (28 Aug. 1824- 23 Mar 1889)
Son of Dr. Daniel H. and Anne Frisby (Dana) Fitzhugh.
  • Transcribed October, 2007.
  • The History of Bay County, Michigan - Augustus H. Gansser (1905)


    The late William D. Fitzhugh was identified so closely with the early interests of the Saginaw Valley, to which he came with his bride in 1849, that a history of the notable men of Bay County, men whose enterprise, energy judgement and capital contributed to its development, must include his name among the leading characters. Mr. Fitzhugh came of a family of substance and influential connections. He was born in Livingston County, New York, and was a son of Dr. Daniel Fitzhugh and Anne Frisby Dana, his wife.

    William D. Fitzhugh was descended on his father’s side from William Fitzhugh, of Bedford, England, who was born in 1570. The latter’s son, Henry Fitzhugh, also of Bedford, was born in 1615. Col. William Fitzhugh, son of Henry and great-great-great-grandfather of the subject of this writing, was born in Bedford, England, in 1651, and was the first of the family to locate in this country, settling in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was married to Sarah Tucker on May 1, 1674, and died in Virginia in 1701. His son, George Fitzhugh, of Stafford County, Virginia, married Mary Mason. Col. William Fitzhugh, of Stafford County, Virginia, the son of George and great-grandfather of our subject, was born January 11, 1721, and died February 11, 1798. He married Mrs. Anne Rousby, nee Frisby, of Cecil County, Maryland, January 7, 1752. She was born September 15, 1727, and died March 26, 1793.

    Col. William Fitzhugh, the grandfather of our subject and son of the Col. William Fitzhugh just named, was born in Calvert County, Maryland, October 6, 1761, and died December 29, 1839. His wife, Ann Hughes, to whom he was married October 18, 1789, was born April 1, 1771, and died March 28, 1828. Col. William Fitzhugh, with his friends and neighbors, Nathaniel Rochester and Charles Carroll, visited Western New York in 1815; they purchased lands in Livingston County, including the site of the present city of Rochester, which was named in honor of one of the party. Colonel Fitzhugh settled his family in Livingston County in the following year.

    Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh, the father of our subject, and son of Col. William Fitzhugh, of Livingston County, New York, was born April 20, 1794, in Washington County, Maryland, near Hagerstown. He studied medicine and secured his degree but never followed the profession, having become interested in land values at an early date and continuing to be thus interested until his death, which occurred April 23, 1881, at the age of 86 year.

    On April 11, 1820, Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh was married to Anne Frisby Dana, who was born at Geneva, New York, December 22, 1803, and who died February 21, 1850. To Dr. Fitzhugh and wife were born 10 children, four of whom still survive. Mrs. Fitzhugh was a daughter of Capt. William Pultney Dana, who was born in Shrewsbury, England, July 13, 1776, and who was married in April 1802, to Anne Frisby Fitzhugh; the last named was born in Calvert County, Maryland, in 1782, and died in Geneva, New York, in January, 1804. Captain Dana died in Shrewsbury, England, June 29, 1861. He was a son of Rev. Edmund Dana, who was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 18, 1739, graduated from Harvard in 1759, and was married about 1765 to Helen Kinnaird. Rev. Edmund Dana lived during great portion of his life in England, where he died May 7, 1823. He was a son of Richard Dana, who was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1699, graduated from Harvard in 1718 and died in 1772. The wife of Richard Dana was Lydia Trowbridge, of Boston, Massachusetts. His father was Daniel Dana.

    In the period just preceding the admission of Michigan to statehood, a great exodus from the East took place to a locality which was justly represented to be one of the finest farming districts of the Union, in addition to being rich in mineral wealth and transportation facilities. Among those who came to see this land of promise for themselves, were a little party of capitalists from Livingston County, New York, who made the trip in 1834. Satisfied as to the future of this county, then but a dense woodland wilderness, they in invested in large tracts of land, Dr. Fitzhugh and Judge Charles H. Carroll buying many acres in the rich Saginaw Valley. After the admission of Michigan to the Union, in 1837, and the establishment of a stable government, Dr. Fitzhugh purchased more land, becoming possessed of all that tract along the river which is now the site of West Bay City, and later became one of the proprietary owners of Lower Saginaw (now Bay City).

    The late William D. Fitzhugh grew to manhood surrounded with every influence to develop his mental faculties and physical strength. He remained in Livingston County until his marriage in December, 1848, to Anne Carroll. This lady is a daughter of the late Hon. Charles H. and Alida (Van Rensselaer) Carroll. Mrs. Fitzhugh was born at Utica, New York, May 1, 1828. Judge Carroll came from a distinguished Maryland family, and was born at Bellevue and was educated at Georgetown. After his admission to the bar in 1820, he settled in Livingston County, New York, and there became prominent in law and politics. He was the first judge of Livingston County and served both as Representative and as Senator from that county in the State Legislature. He accompanied Dr. Fitzhugh in his prospecting trip to Saginaw Valley and invested largely in land here. He had participated in the War of 1812. For some years prior to his death, in 1865, he had given his whole attention to caring for his real estate investments.

    William D. Fitzhugh and his bride came to Michigan in 1849 and were among the earliest settlers to found homes in this locality. Mr. Fitzhugh was led to select this section in order to look after his father’s and his father-in-law’s land interests, but he later became personally identified with the locality and the people and to such an extent that Bay City has always numbered him with her own representative men. In point of fact, Mr. Fitzhugh lived in Bay County but four years, but continued his identification with here interests as long as he lived and testified, during his numerous visit, to his devotion to her welfare and to his pleasure in commingling with her people.

    Shortly after coming here, Mr. Fitzhugh, in company with a Mr. Alberta, made a complete survey of all that portion of Michigan, including Tuscola and other counties adjacent to Bay. He was quick to note public improvements needed and the great enterprise of draining Bay County was accomplished by following his example of extensive ditching. While Mr. Fitzhugh resided at Bay City, the great cholera epidemic swept the country and it is still recalled how he accompanied and assisted his friend, the noble Dr. August Nabert, in caring for the sick and in burying the dead. Mr. Fitzhugh survived his humanitarian labors, but his friend was a victim. During one season, in order to ensure the carrying of the mail from Saginaw to Bay City, Mr. Fitzhugh attended to this public duty himself. He was supervisor of his township and many of the early improvements were inaugurated by and through his personal efforts.

    Mr. And Mrs. Fitzhugh’s first residence in Bay City was located on the corner of Third and Water streets, the seventh dwelling erected within the corporation limits. It was built by his brother, Daniel Fitzhugh, Jr., and was destroyed by fire in 1850. In the following year he built a new home on the corner of 10th street and Washington avenue, the present site of the City Hall, a spot then surrounded by a dense forest. After Mr. Fitzhugh decided to return to his native surroundings, his brother purchased this house and subsequently sold it to the city.

    In those early day, Mr. And Mrs. Fitzhugh were not only the center of social life here, but were also leading factors in the organization of religious affairs and educational opportunities. They were the founders of Trinity Episcopal Church and Mrs. Fitzhugh was one of five communicants who attended the first service held in Saginaw, and still holds here membership with Trinity Church here. For some years she has resided in Bay City with her daughter, Mrs. Richard F. Conover, Mr. Fitzhugh having died in Livingston County, New York, in 1889. Of their eight children, six grew to maturity and three still survive, viz: Anne Dana, who is the wife of Judge Hamilton Mercer Wright, of Bay City; Cornelia, who is the wife of Richard Field Conover, a prominent business man of Bay City; and Edward F., who is a resident of Idaho.

    Mrs. Fitzhugh’s recollections of a half-century ago are clear and her relation of them gives a vivid picture of times and conditions which it would take pages of this history to record. The time is not so long, measuring by years, but in the light of achievements, how remote it seems! When she and her husband came to this section, it was very close to the beginning of the history of Bay City. She has in her possession a number of legal papers with the signatures of Presidents Jackson and Van Buren, relative to the lands purchased by her father and the Fitzhughs.

    In 1878, Mr. And Mrs. Fitzhugh deeded to the city a valuable tract of land to be used for a public park. This land was formerly owned by Judge Carroll, her father, and was presented to her by him. In turn she gave it to Bay City, under the name of Carroll Park, and this public improvement will continue for all time to recall not only her honored father, but a lady whose beautiful life and character have endeared her greatly to those in the midst of whom she has chosen to spend the evening of life.

    1901 Estate of Wm. D. Fitzhugh. (Added Feb., 2009)

    Michigan Reports – Cases Decided.
    October 31, 1900, to February 27, 1901



    Where a trust deed declared that after the death of the cestui que trust, leaving a wife and child or children, the trustee should receive the profits, and apply the same to the use of the wife and children during the wife's life, and that at her death the estate should vest absolutely in such children, one of the children, on the death of the cestue que trust, took a vested interest in the estate, of which she could dispose by will.

    Appeal from Bay; Shepard, J. Submitted October 2, 1900.

    Decided October 31, 1900.

    Bill by Richard F. Conovor, executor of the last will and testament of Aldia K. Fitzhugh, deceased, and Cornelia F. Conover, against John C. Hewitt, trustee, Anne E. Fitzhugh, and Edward F. Fitzhugh, to construe a trust deed and to terminate the trust. From a decree for complainants, defendant Wright appeals. Affirmed.

    E. S. Clark, for complainants.

    C. L. Collins, for appellant.

    Hooker, J. Daniel H. Fitzhugh placed in the hands of a trustee certain real estate for the benefit of his son William D. Fitzhugh, by deeds all containing the following provisions, viz.:

    “This conveyance is made to and accepted by the said Frank Fitzhugh in trust and for the use of his brother William Dana Fitzhugh, of Livingston county, State of New York, with the power on the part of said trustee to receive the rents, issues, profits, and income of said real estate, and apply the same during the natural life of the said William for his use, and at his death, leaving a wife and child or children surviving him, then to receive said rents, issues, profits, and income thereof, and apply the same to the use of said wife and child, or children, share and share alike, during the natural life of said wife, and at her death then the said real estate shall vest absolutely in said child or children; and in case of the death of said William leaving a child or children surviving him, and no wife, said real estate shall vest absolutely in said child or children at the death of said William. In case of the death of said William leaving a wife and no child or children or descendants, then said rents, issues, profits, and income shall be applied to the use of such wife during here natural life, and at her death the same shall vest absolutely in the brothers and sisters of said William then living, and the representatives or descendants, if any, of those who may have died. Said trustee shall also have power in his discretion at any time to sell, convey, and convert said real estate , or any part thereof, into money, and invest the same in good securities, and in such case the rents, issues, profits, and income of such fund shall be applied and the fund disposed of as hereinbefore provided in relation to the real estate embraced in this conveyance.

    William D. Fitzhugh died in 1889, and left surviving a widow, Anne E. Fitzhugh, and the following son and daughters: Anne D. Wright, Cornelia G. Fitzhugh (now Cornelia F. Conover), Edward F. Fitzhugh, and Alida K. Fitzhugh. There were no issue of deceased children nor any descendants of William D. Fitzhugh living at his death, other than those above named. On February 20, 1898, one of these children (Alida K. Fitzhugh) died, leaving a will, in which complainant Richard F. Conover, who is the husband of the complainant Cornelia F. Conover, was named as executor, and in accordance with which appointment letters testamentary have been issued. Complainant Cornelia F. Conover was made the sole legatee and devisee, except as to certain life interests granted to her mother, Anne E. Fitzhugh.

    The latter subsequently released and conveyed all these interests to Mrs. Conover, so that, when this bill was filed, Cornelia F. Conover was in the position of absolute and sole legatee and devisee of Alida K. Fitzhugh. Since the death of William D. Fitzhugh, the existence of the life estate of the widow, Anne E. Fitzhugh, has along prevented the winding up of the trust estate and the distribution of the property. It was agreed by all concerned that the trust estate should be concluded by the extinguishment of the life estate. In accordance with this agreement, Anne E. Fitzhugh, under date of November 22, 1889, executed a formal deed of release to the other beneficiaries, for the purpose of extinguishing her life interests with the same force and effect as if it had been extinguished by her death. This instrument has been given this effect by the court, and from this part of the decree of the bill was:

    First. To obtain a formal winding up of the trust estate, and a distribution of the property among the beneficiaries.

    Second. To establish the right of complainants, as representatives of Alida K. Fitzhugh, deceased, to succeed to that share of the trust estate which would have belonged to the deceased beneficiary if she had lived.

    Complainant Cornelia F. Conover joins in the bill both as beneficiary in her own right and as the devisee of her deceased sister. The complainants, therefore, unite the interests of two of the children of W. D. Fitzhugh. The other two children, Anne D. Wright and Edward F. Fitzhugh, together with the widow and the trustee, were made defendants, and all entered their appearance in the cause. All those in any way interested in the trust property are before the court. Complainants claim the right to receive one-half of the estate, being the share of two of the four children. Defendant Anne D. Wright claims that the share of the deceased child was extinguished, and that the living children should therefore each have one-third of the estate. The finding of the court sustained all the allegations of the bill, and held that the complainants were entitled to receive one-half of the property as claimed, leaving the remaining one-half to be equally divided between the defendants Anne D. Wright and Edward F. Fitzhugh. The degree provides for an immediate winding up of the estate, and a distribution of the property in the proportions above named. Defendant Anne D. Wright alone appeals, and only from that part of the decree which fixes the shares of the parties.

    The only question that we are called upon to decide is whether at the death of William D. Fitzhugh his children, who were then all living, had or took a vested interest in the property and its income, or whether the vesting of such interest was postponed until the extinguishment of the interest of the widow, Anne. Complainants maintain that, if it occurred upon or before the death of William D. Fitzhugh, Alida has an interest which she might transfer by will. Defendant does not seem to question this, but insists that the interest did not vest until the widow made a deed of her interest, which was after Alida's death.

    Upon the death of William D. Fitzhugh, Alida, as one of four children, became entitled to the corresponding aliquot part of the income of the estate; and by his death it was also definitely determined that, after the inevitable extinguishment of Anne's estate, the property should vest in the children who at his death survived, and not alone such as might survive Anne, his widow. There was no element of uncertainty left, either in the property or the persons who should receive it when Anne should die. There was therefore no legal impediment to the vesting of an equitable interest in each of the children at once, if the grantor so intended; and the conclusion that he did so intend would be favored by the law, in the absence of evidence in the deed of a contrary intent. The only thing that may be said to indicate such contrary intent is that the deed contains provision in behalf of the brothers and sisters, and the descendants of deceased brothers and sisters, in a certain contingency, vis., William's death, “leaving no wife, chlid, children, or descendants” him surviving. It would seem that the design was to exclude the brothers, sisters, etc., not only in favor of W. D. Fitzhugh's children, but in favor, was well, of their children and descendants to the greatest possible degree of remoteness; and not only that, but in favor of the descendants of his child or children whom he might survive, and who, according to defendant's contention, were excluded by the terms of the deed. We are of the opinion that the provision that, upon the death of the widow, the estate “shall vest absolutely” in said child or children, does not show an intention to forbid the children from taking a vested interest earlier, but, at most, emphasizes the provision that the property should remain in tact in the hands of the trustee, for the widow's protection and benefit, and that upon her death, only, should the legal estate of the trustee terminate, and become an absolute and full legal estate in fee simply in the “said children” by operation of the deed itself, which thereby created a remainder in “said children” upon the termination of the life of Anne.

    We might discuss the authorities bearing upon this question at length, but we do not discover any conflict in them upon the proposition that the law favors the vesting of estates when the contrary intention is not apparent; and, as we thing that the intention that it should vest is to be found in the deed, we omit further reference to this.

    The degree of the learned circuit judge will be affirmed with costs.

    The other Justices concurred.

    Additional Notes:

    • The property on which Pine Ridge Cemetery is situated was owned by William D. Fitzhugh, which he sold to Judge James Birney, who founded the cemetery in 1858.
    • Daughter, Anne Fitzhugh, born 1850; married Hamilton Mercer Wright, resided in Bay City, MI. Their children: Viginia, married Thomas Leiper Kane; Hamilton Mercer, Jr., married Elizabeth Pease; Sibyl Katherine married Dr. Geroge S. McLandress; Cornelia Fitzhugh; Archibald Van Rensselaer; Charles Carroll; Alida Fitzhugh; William Edward. [Genealogy and Family History of Southern New York and the Hudson River Valley, VIII, 1914] Link: [Google Books]
    Related Note & Pages

    The Fitzhughs:
    Many of the Fitzhughs of Livingston County, NY, played prominent roles in the early settlement period of the Saginaw Valley. Dr. Daniel Fitzhugh was the first to take an interest in this area having visited here in 1835. His interest in land speculation here led to the Birney and Carroll families also acquiring property here.

    William D. & Anne (Carroll) Fitzhugh family:
    Anne Dana, Charles Carroll, William, Alida, Cornelia and Edward.
  • The 1850 census shows William and Anne residing in Hamptown Twp., Saginaw Co., with their 3 month old daughter Ann. Their residence was in Lower Saginaw, which later was renamed Bay City when Bay County was organized in 1857.

    Dr. Daniel H. & Anne Frisby (Dana) Fitzhugh family:
    Charles Carroll, Lily, William, Daniel H., Frank, Maria, Adelaide, Helen, Florence
    Related pages:
    Conover, Cornelia dau.
    Fitzhugh, D.H. Dr.(father)
    Fitzhugh, D.H., Jr.(bro.)
    Trinity Episcopal Church
  • People Referenced
    Alberta, Mr.
    Birney, James
    Carroll, Anne
    Carroll, Charles H.
    Clark, E.S.
    Collins, C.L.
    Conover, Richard F
    Dana, Anne Frisby
    Dana, Daniel
    Dana, Edmund Rev.
    Dana, Richard
    Dana, William P. Capt.
    Fitzhugh, Aldia K. (dau.)
    Fitzhugh, Anne Dana (dau.)
    Fitzhugh, Anne E. (wife)
    Fitzhugh, Cornelia G. (dau.)
    Fitzhugh, Daniel H. Dr.(father)
    Fitzhugh, Daniel, Jr.(bro.)
    Fitzhugh, Edward F.(son)
    Fitzhugh, George
    Fitzhugh, Henry
    Fitzhugh, Frank
    Fitzhugh, Wm. (of Bedford)
    Fitzhugh, Wm. Col.(g-father)
    Fitzhugh, Wm. D. (subject)
    Hewitt, John C.
    Hooker, J.
    Hughes, Anne
    Jackson, President
    Kane, Thomas L.
    Kinnaird, Helen
    McLandress, Geo. S. Dr.
    Nabert, August Dr.
    Pease, Elizabeth
    Rochester, Nathaniel
    Rousby, Anne (Frisby) Mrs.
    Shepard, J.
    Trinity Episcopal Ch.
    Trowbridge, Lydia
    Tucker, Sarah
    Van Buren, President
    Van Rensselaer, Alida
    Wright, Alida F.
    Wright, Archibald V.R.
    Wright, Charles C.
    Wright, Cornelia F.
    Wright, Hamilton M. Judge
    wright, Sibyl K.
    Wright, Virginia
    Wright, William E.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay Co., MI
    Bedford, England
    Bellevue, MD
    Boston, MA
    Calvert Co., MD
    Cambridge, MA
    Carroll Pk., Bay City
    Cecil Co., MD
    Geneva, NY
    Georgetown, MD
    Hagerstown, MD
    Harvard Univ.
    Hudson Rive Valley
    Livingston Co., NY
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    Pine Ridge Cemetery
    Saginaw Valley
    Shrewsbury, England
    Stafford Co. VA
    Tuscola Co., MI
    Utica, NY
    Washington Co., MD
    Westmoreland Co., VA
    West Bay City, MI
    Internet Resources
    [--] William Fitzhugh, born 1570 - Brief bio.
    [--] Nathaniel Rochester - Brief bio., founded city of Rochester, NY.
    [--] Historic Tallman Building. Located in Rochester, NY, this building sits on that was originally owned by Nathaiel Rochester and Charles Carroll, who later deeded the property to William Fitzhugh, the father of Dr. Daniel H. Fitzhugh, and grandfather of William D. Fitzhugh. When the senior William died, Dr. Fitzhugh and his son-in-law, John T. Talman acted as executors of the estate.
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.