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James McCormick (1787-1846)
Early pioneer of Flint and Bay City, MI.

Indian and Pioneer Histoy of the Saginaw Valley


The pioneers of the Saginaw Valley deserve more than a passing notice. It is through their perseverance, privations and sufferings, that this beautiful valley is now what it is. We are now enjoying the benefits of their hard labor. Few of the present generation can appreciate what sufferings those pioneers, with their families, passed through. -- Weeks and months perhaps without bread. Says an old pioneer, “We were like a band of brothers; if one had any provisions he divided it with his neighbor.

One of the first pioneers of the valley was James McCormick, of Scotch descent, born at Albany, N. Y., May 25th, 1787; where he owned a fine farm, and was in affluent circumstances. He lost his property by endorsing for friends. He then collected what few effects he had, left the State, and with his large family, started for the far West. In 1832, he landed in Detroit, where he left his family for a short time, until he could find them a home. Here by the advice of the late John R. Williams, an old townsman, he removed to the Flint where he arrived in August, the same year. At that time the front line of settlement was at Grand Blanc. From there to Flint, he had to cut the brush and trees on each side of the Indian trail to let his wagon, upon which were a few household goods and his family, to pass through. Consequently this was the first wagon brought to Flint. Here he bought a half breed title to 125 acres of land on the north side of Flint River, and east of Saginaw Street; on which he built the second house that was built in Flint. -- Here he remained until the spring of 1834, when he sold his title for six hundred dollars, to one Smith, who claimed an Indian title to the same property. He got part of his pay, but the larger part he failed to receive. He then, with his family, removed 30 miles below>, farther into the wilderness, and settled on the old Indian Fields, which he rented from the Indians.

Here he pitched a tent, and commenced building a shelter for his family. He remained in this place several years, tilling his land. About this time the small pox broke out among the Indians, and large numbers died of the disease. They could not hunt, consequently they were in a starving condition. He happening to have a large crop that year, furnished them with provisions and kept them from starving. This kindness they never forgot; and in their treaty with the U.S. Government to dispose of their lands, they refused to sell unless subject to a lease they had made with James McCormick of a mile square of land, where he lived, for the term of 99 years, as a recompense for this kindness to them on several occasions in supplying them with food, when they were unable to hunt.

This Mr. Schoolcraft, the Government Commissioner, refused to do. “Then;” said the chiefs, “We will not sell our land, unless our white brother is provided for, we will not sign the treaty.” The treaty was then broken up, and the Indians returned to their homes. (This is one among the many noble instances of Indian gratitude.)

There was not a white man in the country so much honored and respected by the Indians, as the late James McCormick. --- He was always opposed to selling them liquor, and was always their protector and friend. Any grievances of their were always referred to him, and his decision final; “For,” said they, “he never lies to us.”

Some time after this Mr. Schoolcraft sent word to the chiefs that he would accede to their proposition, and invited them to another treaty. The Indians assembled again, and were informed by Mr. Schoolcraft that he had made provisions in the treaty, ceding to James McCormick six hundred and forty acres of land, or one square mile. The Indians, with this understanding, signed the treaty, with full confidence that Mr. Schoolcraft had dealt honorably with them. This afterwards proved no to be the fact, as he had left out of the treaty altogether. The Government afterwards sold the land occupied by Mr. McCormick, to which he thought he had a just title by the treaty, and he was ejected therefrom.

He then moved his family to Lower Saginaw – now called Bay City, and Portsmouth – about the year 1841. Here, with his sons, James J., he purchased an interest in the old Portsmouth Mill, the Saginaw River. He soon afterwards purchased the building now called the Center House, which was the first framed building built below Saginaw City, and converted it into a dwelling for his family; where he died April 2d, 1846, honored and beloved both by the whites and the Indians. His remains, together with is wife, Ellen, lie in a neighboring cemetery, and it is in contemplation, early the coming season, to erect a monument to this pioneer's memory.

Mr. McCormick left nine children; of whom six were boys, and three girls. The boys were names respectively Robert, Joseph, James J., William R., Archibald and Andrew. Archibald was the first male child born in Flint, and Andrew, the first male child born in the Township of Taymouth, Saginaw County.

To the above account of his life, written by his son, it is proper to state in addition that Mr. McCormick was a man of considerable literary qualifications; and that he left a volume or two of his poems, many of which were published in the newspapers of his day. Some steps have been taken to bring them out in permanent form, but this design has not yet been realized.

Aditional Notes:

    1787 - New York Births: New York.
    James Mc Cormick was born on Apr. 23, 1787, and was baptised at the First and Second Presbyterian Church.
    Parents: Andrew and Ann (Rice) Mc Cormick.

    1814 - New York Births: Albany.
    Archibald McCormick, born on Feb. 10, 1814, son of James and Ellen (Garret) McCormick.

    1872 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Bay, Mich.
    James J. McCormick a lumberman was born in 1818, died Nov. 25, 1872, he was the son of James and Ellen McCormick.

    Michigan Deaths: Taymonth, Saginaw Co., Mich.
    Ann Malone, widow, was born in 1820, died Nov. 3, 1902. Daughter of James and Ellen (Gmett) McCormick.

    1893 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Bay, Mich.
    William McCormick, Real Estate Bus., born 1819, died Dec. 29, 1893. Son of James and Ellen McCormick.

Related Pages/Notes

James McCormick

The McCormick family burial site is at Pine Ridge Cemetery.
Related Pages:
McCormick, James J. son
McCormick, Wm. R. son
Trombley, Sarah R. dau.
Rogers, Thomas
Center(Trombley) House
Pine Ridge Cemetery
People Referenced
Garret, Ellen (wife)
McCormiik, Andrew (father)
McCormick, Andrew (son)
McCormick, Ann (dau.)
McCormick, Archibald (son)
McCormick, James J.(son)
McCormick, Joseph (son)
McCormick, Robert (son)
McCormick, Sara (dau.)
McCormick, Wm. R. (son)
Rice, Ann (mother)
Williams, John R.
Subjects Referenced
Albany, NY
Bay City, MI
Center House
Detroit, MI
Flint, MI
Flint River
Grand Blanc, MI
Lower Saginaw, MI
Portsmouth, MI
Saginaw, MI
Saginaw Co., MI
Saginaw Valley, MI
Taymouth Twp, Saginaw Co.
US Government
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.