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Edgar B. Foss (1853-1915)
Lumber baron of Bay City, MI.

1915 Biography. (Added Feb., 2009)

History of Michigan, by Charles Moore (1915)


Edgar B. Foss has been a resident of Bay county for about forty years, and during this entire period has been connected with the lumber trade. Commencing in the humblest position, he mastered its many details and has continued in the business until he has attained at length a commanding position among the enterprising dealers and manufacturers of Bay City, and has shown himself able to hold it amid the strong competition which increasing capital and trade have brought to the city. His success is due alone to his energetic character and business capacity, for he began life without pecuniary assistance or the aid of family or other favoring influences.

Mr. Foss comes of a family long represented in New England, of English extraction. He was born February 28, 1853, at Willimantic, Connecticut, and is son of John and Sarah B. (Slade) Foss, natives of Massachusetts, the father being engaged in the mercantile business while the Slades were farming people. John Foss died when Edgar B. was still a small boy, but the mother survived for a long period, and when she passed away in 1907 had attained the ripe old age of eight-three years. The youngest of his parent's eleven children, Edgar B. Foss attained his education in the public schools of Woonsocket and Providence, Rhode Island, but faced the world when still a small lad, his first employment being as office boy in the office of Governor Henry Lippitt of Rhode Island. He was but fifteen years old when he came to Kawkawlin, Bay county, Michigan, and there secured employment in the office of Dexter A. Ballou, a lumber manufacturer, with whom he received his introduction to the business in which he was later to become such an important factor. After several years with D. A. Ballou he accepted a position with Van Etten, Kaiser & Company, lumbermen, as a traveling salesman, was subsequently with their successors, Van Etten, Campbell & Company, and George Campbell & Company, in a like capacity, and when the latter firm retired from business he ventured upon an enterprise of his own at Bay City. With a thorough acquaintance of the details of the business, gained at a period when so many young men are waisting their opportunities in frivolity and dissipation, he entered into the prosecution of his activities with an enthusiasm and tenacity of purpose which guided him safely over the first few years. His initial success bred confidence, and he soon broadened the scope of his opportunities, gradually reaching further and further until today he controls a comfortable share of the trade between Michigan and Atlantic coast. He manufactures and handles white pine lumber, with saw mills in Canada and planing mills and wholesale lumber yard in Bay City, handling about 50,000,000 feet annually, and owning large timber tracts in Canada and on the Pacific coast. In the Canadian mills he has about four hundred employes, including those in the woods; in Bay City he employs about two hundred and sixty men; and is also at the head of a coal mining company operating in Genesee and Bay counties, which employs the services of some four hundred men. His coal output aggregates about 200,000 tons annually. Mr. Foss' opinion upon matters connected with the lumber trade is influential with the members of the vocation, who regard him as thoroughly informed and have confidence in the soundness of his judgment. His opinions are often sought as a guide to their operations on occasions of doubt and uncertainty. In political matters a stalwart Republican, Mr. Foss was a presidential elector on the Roosevelt ticket in 1904 and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1908 which nominated William H. Taft for the presidency. He is a member of the Masonic order, belonging to the Blue Lodge, Chapter, Commandery, Consistory and Shrine, and is a valued and popular member of the Bay City Club. His religious connection is with the Congregational church.

Mr. Foss married in Bay City to Miss Elizabeth Fitzgerald, daughter of Thomas Fitzgerald, and to this union there have been born three children: Walter I., Edgar H. and Edith Hope. Essentially a home man, Mr. Foss is never so happy as when in the midst of his family, but he also enjoys motoring and takes frequent trips to various points in his adopted state. His sturdy character and sterling qualities make him one of the representative men of Bay City, and his signal services to his community entitle him to be numbered among its most substantial builders.

Death, Dec., 1915. - Added July, 2001.

Chicago Lumberman, Vol 29 Dec. 10, 1915.


The tragic accident which occurred at Bay City, Mich., on Friday, November 26, caused inexpressible grief among members of the lumber trade in Chicago and throughout Michigan. Joseph Miksak, president of the Pilsen Lumber Co., at Twenty-Second and Laflin streets, this city, left Chicago Thursday evening, November 25, for Bay City, and arrived there Friday morning. He went directly from the train when it arrived at Bay City, to the office of E. B. Foss & Co., situated only a short block from the Jefferson street crossing, where the accident occurred. At Mr. Foss's suggestion, after a brief conference,they embarked in his automobile at 10:15 o'clock, to pay a visit to George D. Jackson, to confer on business in which all three were interested. At the Jefferson street crossing two tracks of the Michigan Central crossing the Pere Marquette and there a tower is maintained to manipulate the switches and operate derailers to prevent collision. Back of the tower is a boiler shop in which riveting machines are in operation and the noise made is deafening. Bells attached to the side of the tower automatically sound warning of the approach of trains, but their sound is drowned by the clang of metal in the boiler shop. Mr. Foss, according to witnesses, stopped his machine at the approach of the freight train from the west. What noise the backing passenger train on the other track might have made was smothered by the din issuing from the boiler shop. With the passage of the freight train Mr. Foss believed the crossing clear. He then opened the throttle of his machine which carried himself and his friend to a most tragic death.


Joseph Miksak came to the United States in 1871 from his native country of Bohemia, when he was nineteen years old. He secured a position in a lumber yard and his native ability and quick intelligence earned him rapid promotion. He became in a few years superintendent of the wholesale yard of the A. R. Gray Lumber Co., and later of the Ludington, Wells & Van Schaick Co. in 1888, and while primarily a retail concern, it has for many years done a very successful wholesale business in connection. Associated with him in this business almost from its start, was V. F. Mashek and later James Miksak, his son, became identified with it. In 1899 Mr. Miksak and his associates entered the northern timber field, operating for several years at Hibbing, Minn., and when the timber was exhausted at that point they bought a controlling interest in the Wachsmuth Lumber Co., at Bayfield, Wis., on Chequamegon Bay, manufacturing logs from a large tract of timber in Bayfield county. He disposed of a part of the product of the Chequamegon Bay mill to eastern points and also purchased considerable stock elsewhere along the lakes, a large part of which was shipped to the Pilsen Lumber Co.'s Chicago yard.

Mr. Miksak was a man of proved integrity and sound judgment. He stood high in not only business and lumber circles, but he was greatly regarded among the Bohemian element of the city.

The funeral services were held at St. Ludmilla's church, Twenty-fourth street and South Albany avenue, on Tuesday, November 30, and were largely attended by members of the Chicago wholesale and retail lumber trade as well as by prominent citizens generally. The funeral sermon, which was delivered in Bohemian, by Rev. F. Bobal, a long time friend and counselor of the deceased, was a splendid tribute to his life and character. Mr. Miksak leaves a widow, three married daughters and his son, James, to mourn his loss.


Edgard B. Foss, one of the foremost among Michigan lumbermen, was born at Willamantic, Conn., February 28, 1853. When he was fifteen years old he was obliged t leave school because of the death of his father and to aid in the support of the family. He came west and secured work with the sawmill firm of D. A. Ballou & Co., Kawkawlin, Mich., in 1868. After four years of service with this concern, he was engaged by the Van Etten-Kaiser Co., of Pinconning, Mich., which was later succeeded by the Van Etten-Campbell Co., to represent that company on the road in Ohio and Indiana. Mr. Foss was one of the first men engaged in selling lumber on the road, that being in an early period of lumber history a rather unusual custom. During six years of traveling Mr. Foss secured an excellent knowledge of the requirements of the trade in his territory and in 1878 he capitalized his experience by going into business for himself. Shortly after he was joined by his brother, Samuel S. Foss, who met death in 1883 through a runaway accident. John M. Lester succeeded Samuel Foss in the firm and until 1887 it was conducted as Foss & Lester. Since that date it has been E. B. Foss & Co., and the business has grown to large proportions.

Mr. Foss' interests include sawmills and timber tracks in Canada, large lumber yards and planing mill at Bay City, and a line of vessels carrying lumber from the Canadian mills to various ports along the lakes. He was also interested extensively in timber properties on the Pacific coast and was a heavy investor in coal interests in the vicinity of Bay City. Mr. Foss was an ardent Republican in politics and was a delegate to the Republican national convention in 1908. He was a member of various Masonic orders, including lodge, chapter, commandry, consistory and Mystic Shrine. He was also interested in banking and was an active member of the First Congregational church of Bay City.

Mr. Foss is survived by his widow, who was Miss Elizabeth Fitzgerald, of Bay city, and also three children, Walter L., Edgar H., and Miss Edith.

Additional Notes.

    1880 - Census: Bay City, Mich.

  • Foss, Edgar B. - b. 1851 Conn. - lumber dealer
  • Elisabeth, wife - b. 1850 RI
  • Walter, son - b. 1873 Mich.
  • Edgard F., son - b. 1874 Mich.
  • Edith, dau. - b. 1875 Mich.

    1893 - Connecticut Deaths.

  • Edgar's mother, Sarah B. Slade Foss, died Oct. 16, 1893 in Willimantic, Windham, Conn. Daughter of Howard Slade and Mary Purmton.

    1900 - Census: West Bay City, Mich.

  • Estimated marriage date of Edgar and Elizabeth is 1872.
Related Note & Pages

Edgar B. Foss

Foss Mill, Bay City

Related Pages:
Campbell, George
First Congregational Ch.
People Referenced
Ballou, Dexter A.
Campbell, George
Fitzgerald, Elizabeth (wife)
Ftizgerald, Thomas (f-inlaw)
Foss, Edgar B. (subject)
Foss, Edgar H. (son)
Foss, Edith H. (dau.)
Foss, John (father)
Foss, samuel (bro)
Foss, Walter I. (son)
Lester, John M.
Lippitt, Henry Gov.
Purmton, Mary (m-inlaw)
Slade, Howard (f-inlaw)
Slade, Sarah B. (mother)
Taft, William H.
Van Eten, Mr.
Subjects Referenced
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
First Congregational Ch.
Genesee Co., MI
Kawkawlin, MI
Pinconning, MI
Providence, RI
Van Etten, Campbell & Co.
Van Etten, Kaiser & Co.
Willimantic, CT
Woonsocket, RI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.