Heritage \ Writings \

James J. McCormick (1817-1892)
Early pioneer resident of Saginaw Valley and Bay City, MI.

1905 biography. - Added May, 2010.

History of Bay County, Michigan, Gansser, 1905.\


James J. McCormick, at the time of his father's removal to Bay City, had recently been married, and with his young wife accompanied his father to this point, which was their home during the remainder of life. On their arrival at Portsmouth the father and son fitted up the old steam mill at Portsmouth, which after the crash in 1837 had been some time idle. They together carried on the business of manufacturing lumber till the decease of the elder Mr. McCormick, after which Hon. Albert Miller became a partner in the mill with James J. McCormick, and they carried it on together till the spring of 1840, when in order that Mr. McCormick might gratify his desire for exploring the newly-discovered gold-fields of California, Judge Miller purhcased his interest. Mr. McCormick accompanied one of the first caravans that crossed the plains in 1849. From earliest childhood he was trained to the habits of industry and economy. Having naturally a strong constitution, it was fitted for endurance. In his youth he was transferred to the wilds of Michigan, where many privations had to be endured. Later, in carrying on the lumber business, his inventitive and mechanical genius had to be taxed to the uttermost. In taking charge of a dilapidated mill he became his own engineer, and lacking portions of machinery, both of wood and iron, these had to be supplied by the work of his own hands; so that the prospect of a four or five months' journey in the wilderness had no terrors for him, for his mechanical skill and strong arm had so well served him in every emergency. If there had been any lack of courage or of a determined will to persevere, Mr. McCormick's first experience would have deterred him from making the journey to California. He prepared his outfit and got ready to start with a <>wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen, just after the river broke up in the spring of 1849. At that time there was no ferry across the river at Bay City, and no passable road to Saginaw. All the communications by land was on the west side of the river across the prairie.

To overcome the difficulties in the way of starting on his journey, Mr. McCormick shoved a raft of flatted timber from Portsmouth gainst the current to the point above known as the Elbow, where he drove his team on to the raft, ferried across the river and passed over the prairie to Saginaw, where he again had to cross the river. Perhaps Mr. McCormick had no experience on the whole journey that taxed his courage and energies more than that at the outset. He remained in California two years and a half, returning with something to compensate him for his hazardous undertaking and hard labor. After his return, he, with the Hon. S. S. Campbell, built a mill on the present site of Webster's mill, in the Fifth ward. Mr. McCormick afterwards purchased Judge Campbell's interest, and for some years carried on a very successful lumber business. He built a palatial residence, which he occupied till about two years ago, when he had to leave forever and pass to realities of an unseen world. He leaves a widow, one son and one daughter and numerous relatives and friends to mourn his loss.

Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx, - May 2008.

Saginaw Daily Courier May 6, 1892 (Page 3)


James J. McCormick.

We are pained to announce the death of one of the oldest residents of the Saginaw Valley, Hon. James J. McCormick, which sad event took place at Bay City, Monday morning, Nov. 25th. Mr. McCormick had been ailing for some months and for a couple of weeks past had been seriously ill. Sunday's Journal, however, announced his improvement and when on Monday the new was communicated from one to another that he had passed away, the intelligence was received with incredulity. We learn that he arose and dressed himself; a short time before his discease, and remarked that he felt much better. It was but a few minutes, however, before he was taken with a fainting fit, and within ten minutes was a corpse.

Mr. McCormick was one of the oldest settlers in the valley, having emigrated to Michigan and taken up his residence in the Saginaw county about the year 1837 or '38. In 1840 he engaged in the manufacture of lumber, in which business he has continued until within a year past. We believe that there is now no one engaged in the lumber business in our valley, who can trace back to the commencement at so early a date. Mr. McCormick has proved an energetic and successful business man, and his enterprising spirit is shown in such substantial monuments as the elegant block on Water street which bears his name, the beautiful opera house, one-third of which was erected by him, and his own magnificent dwelling near the southern limit of the city. In the year 1860, Mr. McCormick was elected Mayor of Bay City, a position he filled with honor to the city and credit to himself.

As a Free Mason and Knight Templar Mr. McCormick was well known as one of the most earnest and enthusiastic among the membership, and his memory will ever remain green in the hearts of his brethren. The fraternity is indebted to his foresight and enterprise for the beautiful and commodious hall occupied by Bay City Lodge, Chapter and Commandry.

We trust ere we go to press, to be able to announce the time and date of the funeral obsequies, which will be conducted under the auspices of Bay City Commandry Knights Templar and will no doubt be attended by a large number of our citizens.

Since writing the above we learn that the funeral will be held on Thursday morning at 10 o'clock. We have heard it suggested that an attendance of a large number of old residents of the Valley would be highly appropriate, and gratifying to the friends of the deceased.

Additional Notes.

    James J. McCormick's sister, Sarah, married Medor Trombley, one of the earliest settlers in Bay City. Her obituary states James J. was also mayor of Bay City.

    1841 - Michigan Marriages: Flint, Genesee Co.

  • Date: March 10, 1841.
  • James J. McCormick, age 24 (b. 1817) to Jane Shelton, age 17 (b. 1824).

    1868 - Directory: Bay City, Mich.

  • History section states James J. McCormick was County surveyor.
  • James J. McCormick listed as a member of the Blanchard Chapter, No. 59, Royal Arch Mason, organized in 1867.
  • James J. McCormick, mill, mfd. 4,551,00, cut 3,100,000.
  • History on James McCormick's Mill:

    Located on Water Street, between Twenty-First and Twenty-Second Streets.

    This mill was built in 1852 by Mr. James J. McCormick, the enterprising proprietor, and son of the Pioneer of that name. It was built in 1852, and then but a humble sawyer; with an upright and an edger it cut during the season 1,000,000 feet. In 1859 considerable improvements were made in the mill, which increased its capacity five fold: A new engine superseded the old, having a 14 inch cyclinder with 30 inch stroke, requiring an addition of two boilers; the old upright got notice to quit, and a new and improved one took its place; then followed a circular, edger, cut-off saw, lath works and the appurtenances of a modern first-class mill, cutting five millions in a season leisurely, with the aid of twenty-two men.

    The lumber is sold partly at the mill and the balance shipped east.

1872 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City

  • James J. McCormick, died 25 Nov 1872, age 54, son of James & Ellen McCormick.
  • Related Pages/Notes

    Related Pages:
    James (father)
    Sarah R. (sister)
    William R. (brother)
    Center(Trombley) House
    Pine Ridge Cemetery
    People Referenced
    Campbell, Sydney S.
    McCormick, James (father)
    McCormick, James J. (subject)
    Miller, Albert
    Shelton, Jane (wife)
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Free Mason
    Knights Templar
    Mayor of Bay City
    Opera house
    Portsmouth Vil., MI
    Saginaw, MI
    Saginaw Co., MI
    Saginaw Valley, MI
    Webster's mill
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.