Heritage \ Writings \

Captain Joseph F. and Theresa (Rivard) Marsac
Early pioneers of Bay City and of Michigan.
  • 1848 biography of Josesph. (Added Feb. 2004)

    Making of American - Library of Congress.
    General History of the state of Michigan:
    with biographical sketches, portrait engravings, and numberous illustrations.


    by Charles Richard Tuttle (1848)

    JOSEPH F. MARSAC was born in Hamtramack, Wayne county, in the year 1792. He was reared in that vicinity, spending most of his minority there, with the exception of the time he spent in St. Clair county, between the years 1807 and 1812.

    His parents were French, and emigrated from France about the time of the revolutionary war, and settled in Hamtramck. His father was appointed, by General Wayne, captain of the first company of the militia that was raised in Wayne county, and served in that capacity. While in St. Clair, young Marsac spent so much time with the Indians that he became familiar with their language. On this account, he was engaged to accompany an Indian delegation to Washington, in the year 1836, while General Jackson was President of the United States. He paid his respects to the President and was received very kindly by him. He assisted in making the treaty of 1836 with the Chippewas. General Cass was then Secretary of War.

    Captain Marsac left Hamtramck in the fall of 1838, and removed to Lower Saginaw-now Bay City.

    The captain, when removing, took passage with his family upon the first steamer that ever came into the Saginaw river, the Governor Marcy. To use his language, "she was as slow as a scow." She reached the Saginaw river on the 23d of November, 1838, and became fast in the forming ice about half a mile from the light house, and had to remain there all winter.

    He first rented the house in Portsmouth that had been built by Mr. Rice, and subsequenty occupied by Judge Miller. In the spring of 1845, he bought land at the upper end of Portsmouth, and has lived there ever since.

    In the year 1848, Captain Marsac was appointed, by the Indian Department under President Polk, Indian farmer for the Chippewa Indians of the Saginaw valley. His duty, under this appointment, was to teach the Indians agriculture and buy implements for them. When General Taylor became President, he was removed, and James Fraser was appointed in his stead.

    Captain Marsac is still living, with a good degree of health for one of his extreme age. His sound constitution, good health, and long life, speak well for the good effects of the climate of central Michigan. There is no one in northern Michigan who has a wider circle of personal acquaintance among those who have had anything to do with the Saginaw valley. In former years, no one came to this region without making the acquaintance, if not the friendship, of Captain Marsac. His jovial disposition and his genial humor made every one at home in his presence.

    1882 memorial of Jospeph. (Added Feb. 2004)

  • Note: William R. McCormick, author of this paper, was the son of James McCormick who moved to Bay City with his family from Flint, MI.
    Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections
    Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan - Vol. V 1882
    Bay County Memorial Report


    by William R. McCormick

    Captain Joseph F. Marsac, one of the original pioneers of Michigan and the Saginaw valley, died at the old homestead in Bay City, June 18, 1880, aged about 90 years. No man was better known in the Saginaw valley or more universally respected by all classes for his amiable qualities as a gentleman of the old school.

    Captain Marsac was born five miles above Detroit, in the township of Hamtramck. His exact age cannot be ascertained as the records have been lost.

    But at the battle of the Thames in 1812, he commanded a company, and must then have been at least twenty-one years old. In conversation with Mr. King, an old gentlemen of West Bay City, in regard to Capt. Marsac’s age, he said: "I was born in Detroit in 1800, and consequently was a boy of 12 years when the army left Detroit to pursue Proctor, and I distinctly recollect seeing young Marsac at the head of his company, as at that time I knew him well."

    These facts make it certain that at the time of his death Captain Marsac was 90 or more years of age. He told me a short time before his death that he thought he was 92 years old.

    His ancestors originally came from France. The original name was De Marsac, and his was originally one of the noble families of France. The army was pursuing Proctor up the Thames before the battle was fought, and the commanding general wanted to send some dispatches to the garrison at Detroit. He called James Grosbeck, a man well acquainted with the Indian character, to be the bearer of the dispatches. The Indians being all around them, Grosbeck declined to go unless young Marsac would go with him. Finally Grosbeck and Marsac were dispatched. They had to skulk around and travel nights to avoid straggling parties of Indians. They finally reached Detroit and delivered their dispatches and started to return, when they met couriers bringing the news that the battle had been fought and won. "Then," said the captain, "I was mad; for I had lost a good fight;" although no doubt he had done a greater service for his country.

    Soon after this Captain Marsac and his company were sent to Fort Gratiot to work upon the fort, and from there to Fort Malden where he remained until the time of his enlistment expired, when he returned home to assist his father on the farm.

    In 1816 he was employed by Kinzie Pritchard and others to go to Chicago as an interpreter and sell goods to the Indians. Chicago then consisted of five houses including the trading post. He started on horseback on an Indian pony and took the Indian trail for Chicago. At the Indian village on the St. Joseph river near where Niles now stands, he traded his pony with the Indians for corn, which he loaded in canoes, with which he proceeded down the St. Joseph river to its mouth and then around the south shore of Lake Michigan to Chicago, where he remained in the employ of the fur company some time. After his time had expired he returned to Detroit on foot.

    In 1819 he was called by General Cass to go with him to Saginaw to make a treaty with the Chippewa Indians of Northern Michigan. He accompanied Gen. Cass on horseback to Saginaw, while a small schooner had been dispatched around the lake with a company of soldiers to protect them at the treaty, for some of the Indians still preferred war rather than sell their lands.

    After the treaty Captain Marsac returned to Detroit in the vessel that had brought out the troops.

    General Cass and Captain Marsac were always the greatest of friends, and to this the latter was indebted for the many offices of trust he held for many years under the government, which he always filled with the strictest integrity. During many years he was engaged in the custom house in Detroit and other public offices.

    At the breaking out of the Black Hawk war he received a captain’s commission from Governor Cass, and raised a company of Indian fighters and started for the seat of war, with his company, on foot, as there was no other conveyance in those days. When they had nearly reached Chicago, news came that Black Hawk had been captured, and a courier was dispatched by Governor Cass ordering Captain Marsac, with his company, to return.

    In 1836 or ’37 he was employed by the government as Indian interpreter, to assist in making a treaty with the Indians of the Saginaw river and its tributaries for the sale of their reservations to the United States government, which took place where the city of Flint now is.

    In 1838 he emigrated to Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, where he was appointed by the government Indian farmer for the Saginaw river and its tributaries, which postion he held for many years, until he was superseded by the late James Fraser.

    No man in the Saginaw valley was so well known as the late Captain Marsac for his unbounded hospitality and fund of anecdote, and no man is so missed from the community in which he lived. He has left a record that his children may well feel proud of. An honest and noble man, respected by all who knew him.

    1884 biography, memorial of Theresa. (Added Feb., 2009)

    Pioneer Collections, Michigan State Historical Society, 1884

    Memorial Report by W. R. McCormick.


    Theresa Rivard Marsac was born at Grosse Point, about Detroit, July 22, 1808, and in 1826 was married to the late Captain Joseph F. Marsac of Hamtramck, by who she had six children, viz.: Charles Octavius, Mrs. Leon Trombly; Mrs. Wm. H. Southworth, Mrs. Thomas J. McClennen, and Mrs. George Robinson, all of whom now live in Bay City.

    Mrs. Marsac was a remarkable woman for the times in which she lived, and no woman was more dearly loved by the early settlers; for her motherly kindness encircled them all. Her house was a resort for the poor and afflicted; her chief aim was to alleviate the sufferings of others. None knew her but to love her. She died at the old homestead in South Bay City, August 9, 1881, deeply mourned by all the pioneers, and thorugh her death earth lost a noble women – heaven gained a saint. Her memory will be sacredly treasured in the annual of the Saginaw valley pioneer life. Columns might be written about this excellent woman, recounting her many acts of self-sacrificing devotion to here fellow beings, but space will not permit.

    Additional Notes:

      1850 - Census: Hampton Twp., Saginaw Co., Mich.
      (before Bay Co. was organized in 1854)

    • Marsac, Joseph - age 37, b. Mich., farmer
    • Therese - age 39, b. Mich.
    • Israel - age 24, b. Mich.
    • Cecil - age 15, b. Mich.
    • Elizabeth - age 11, b. Mich.
    • Charles - age 7, b. Mich.
    • Mary - age 5, b. Mich.
    • Lucy - age 3, b. Mich.

      1922 - The City of Detroit, Michigan,. 1701-1922.

    • Marsac, Joseph P., was in the battle of River Thames in 1813. Ensign in militia June 28, 1825.
    • Children: Charles Octavius Rivard Marsac, Mrs. Leon Trombly, Mrs. William H. Southworth, Mrs. Thomas J. McClennen, and Mrs. George Robinson, all of Bay City. Joseph died at Bay City, June 18, 1880, aged about ninety years.

    Viewer's Comments:

      By Linda Cottrell-Sanders, descendant (Apr. 2013)

      Generation 1:
      Born 16 May 1675 in St. Andrew, Potiers, Poitou, France. He died 27 Apr 1747 in Detroit at age 80. He married MARIE THERESE DAVID, about 1704-06 in Montreal. Jacob was a doctor and served as first sergeant in the Detachment of Marines that accompanied Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac to establish Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit. He received two land grants from Cadillac, one next to St. Anne' Catholic Church, and also an additional area outside the fort for a garden.

      Generation 2:
      Born 1706 in Detroit. He married THERESE CECILE CAMPEAU.

      Generation 3:
      Born 1736 in Detroit. He married CHARLOTTE BOURASSA. He lived in Montreal, probably working as a trader, and moved back to Detroit about the time of the Revolutionary War.

      Generation 4:
      Born 1770 in Detroit. He married CECILIA SAUCIER. Capt. Francis Marsac settled Detroit first, then settled Swan Creek and Tremble Creek areas about 1796. (Near New Baltimore.)

      Generation 5:
      Born 25 Dec 1793. You have the rest of this, but our birth dates vary. There is a sketch and story about him on "American Memory" on the Library of Congress website. Book is History of MI, pages 469-471, written 1883.

  • Related Note & Pages
    Joseph F. Marsac
    Joseph F. Marsac

    Marsac, Octavious A. Son
    People Referenced
    Black Hawk
    Cass, (Gen.)
    Fraser, James
    Grosbeck, James
    Jackson, (President)
    King, Mr.
    Marsac, Cecil (dau)
    Marsac, Charles O. (son)
    Marsac, Elizabeth (dau)
    Marsac, Israel (son)
    Marsac, Joseph F. (subject)
    Marsac, Mary (dau)
    Marsac, Lucy (dau)
    McClennen, Thos. J. (dau.)
    McCormick, Wm. R.
    Miller, (Judge)
    Polk, (President)
    Pritchard, Kenzie
    Revard, Theresa (wife)
    Rice, Mr.
    Robinson, Geo. Mrs. (dau.)
    Southworth, Wm. H. (dau.)
    Taylor, (President)
    Trombley, Leon Mrs.(dau.)
    Wayne, (Gen.)
    Subjects Referenced
    1st steamer
    Bay City, MI
    Chicago, IL
    Detroit, MI
    Flint, MI
    Fort Gratiot
    Fur company
    Gov. Marcy (vessel)
    Hamtramck, MI
    Indian Department
    Indian farmer
    Indian trail
    Indian village
    Lake Michigan
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    Portsmouth, MI
    Revolutionary War
    Saginaw River
    Saginaw Valley, MI
    Secretary of War
    St. Clair County, MI
    St. Joseph River
    South Bay City, MI
    Treaty of 1836
    Wayne County, MI
    West Bay City, MI
    Internet References
  • None at this time.
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.