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Alexander Folsom (1807-1889)
Long-time clothing merchant in Bay City, MI.

1892 biography. (Added Nov., 2008)

Michigan Historical Collections by Michigan Historical Commission, 1892


Alexander Folsom of Bay City, was the grandson of John Folsom of Hingham, England, 1756, who migrated to Hingham, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Folsom, Jr., born at Statford, Connecticut, and who found his way to Albany, New York, where he married Elizabeth File VanArmon, July 18, 1781. In 1806 he moved to South Glens Falls, where Alexander Folsom was born June 17, 1807. His father was a lumberman, manufacturer and farmer. He was a man of considerable wealth and great business enterprise. He was also a licentiate of the Presbyterian church, and often preached in the church of that order at Glen Falls.

Alexander Folsom was the youngest of thirteen children, and was educated at private schools in Albany and Saratoga Springs. His pursuit was chosen him by his father, and he was engaged with lumber at Ticonderoga and other places in New York and Canada. In 1837 he went to Albany, his partner being Mr. G. G. Hawley. In 1850 he formed a partnership with B. W. Arnold, and continued in that relationship until his death, moving to Bay City in 1868, and extended their business at a later date to Spanish river, Canada.

Bay City became his home, though he was never married, and only became owner of a residence a few months before his death. He early became a member of the Presbyterian church in New York, but did not transfer his relations to Bay City until 1885. He was then elected an elder in the church and trustee, and held these offices while he lived. But his interest in the church of Bay City began with his coming, and he began giving to further its pursuits at once. He was a giver, constantly, for benevolent objects, in sums of large or small, but in accordance with the Savior's rule, “not to let the left know what the right hand is doing.” Besides his accustomed payments, Sabbath by Sabbath, for all benevolent boards of the church, according to the custom of the church in Bay City the boards of home and foreign missions received sums of three, four and five thousand dollars a year to aid weak, and new churches, and men in ministerial service in his vicinity who were in want, according to the judgment of his almoner. His absorption in his large business did not leave him time to acquaint himself with the special merits of such case, and he trusted it to one who he thought better circumstanced to know them. This custom was followed for six years and the money thus distributed was an important factor in church development in the new counties of the Northeastern Michigan. Many weak churches owe the buildings in which they worship to the stimulus of moderate help this way. Alma college, in Gratiot county, received its financial start from a gift of fifty thousand dollars by him, made in March 1886. This gift was to carry out a desire of the the Synod of Michigan to found such an institution, to give educational facilities to the central and northern parts of the State. It was met, September following, by a like amount, in grounds and buildings in the village of Alma, by Mr. A. W. Wright, and other gifts by various other gentlemen. Mr. Folsom, besides aiding the institution by many smaller sums, left it by his will thirty thousand dollars. Mr. Folsom was both an intelligent and cheerful giver. He sought opportunities for it. And though his bequests to various objects of religion and benevolence were many, and some of them large, he did not put off the work of benefaction to his decease. He gave as he went along; and he acquired money to use for good causes. He did not understand the Savior's commendation of the widow's “two mites” as establishing a rule for all persons. He thought some people ought to be able to give more than two mites, and yet not at once time to give away “all their living,” lest they should ot be able to do more afterwards.

Mr. Folsom was all his life a gainer of money, and always by honorable means. His mills were managed with economy, intelligence and kindness to employes; for to be employed in his mills was esteemed a piece of good fortune by workmen, some of whom were in his service over twenty years. His habits were of the Puritanic cast. He kept the Lord's day. No tool was lifted and men, animals and machinery rested. He took his rest in public worship, and in the Sabbath school with his bible class. As age crept on him, and his health gave way, he purchased a house, and died quietly at his home, May 5, 1889.

1889 death. (Added Nov., 2008)

The New York Times – May 7, 1889


Alexander Folsom died at Bay City, Mich., yesterday of pneumonia. He was a member of the firm of Folsom & Arnold, operating sawmills in Bay City and at Georgian Bay, Canada, and who also own extensive timber tracts in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the South. He was also heavy stockholder in the Minnesota Lumber Company recently formed in St. Louis. He had been in business in Bay City for 22 years and had amassed a handsome fortune. He was never married. Two years ago he gave $50,000 toward the endowment of the new college opened at Alma last September by the Presbyterians of Michigan.


The New York Times – May 21, 1889


Detroit, May 20. -- The will of the late Alexander Folsom of Bay City, Mich., was file for probate to-day. He leaves various personal bequests; $60,000 to different missionary societies of the Presbyterian Church, $30,000 to Alma College, and $30,000 to the Young Men's Christian Association of Bay City.

The bequests in detail beyond these already specified are these: To the American Bible Society, $25,000; to the Presbyterian Boards of Foreign and Home Missions, each $30,000; to the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sunday School Work, $10,000; to the Presbyterian Freedman's Board, $20,000; to the Presbyterian Board for the Aid of Infirm and Disabled, $50,000, and to the Presbyterian Board of Education, $20,000. His specific bequests aggregate $354,000.

Mr. Folsom, as may be inferred from the direction taken by his benevolent designs, had long been a staunch member of the Presbyterian Church.

Additional Notes.

    1870 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Folsom, Alexander - age 60, b. New York
Related Note & Pages

None at this time.
People Referenced
Folsom, Alexander (subject)
Folsom, John (g-father)
Folsom, John Jr. (father)
Wright, A.W.
Subjects Referenced
Alma, Michigan
Alma College, MI

Bay City, MI:
- First Prebyterian Ch.
- Folsom & Arnold mill

- Georgian Bay
- Spanish River

Gratiot Co., MI
Hingham, England
Hingham, MA
Minnesota Lumber Co.

New York:
- Albany
_ Folsom & Arnold Co.
- Presbyterian Ch.
- Saratoga Springs
- So. Glenn Falls
- Ticonderoga

Presbyterian Boards:
- Aid of Infirm & Disabled
- Education
- Foreign & Home Missions
- Freedman's Board
- Publications & Sunday Sch.

Stratford, CT
Synode of Mich.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.