Heritage \ Writings \

William R. McCormick (1822-1893)
Native of Bethlehem, N.Y. and long-time resident of Bay City.

1893 bio. by Judge Andrew C. Maxwell. (Added Feb., 2009)

Historical Collections, Michigan Pioneer & Historical Society, 1896


by Judge Andrew C. Maxwell

William R. McCormick was born near Albany, N. Y., August 16, 1822, of Scotch parentage, where he reside until May, 1833, when his father's family emigrated to the Saginaw valley, and settled on the old Indian fields on the Flint river, twelve miles south from Saginaw. All the playmates he had in his boyhood days were the young Indians; he soon acquired, and during his whole life was able to speak fluently the Indian (Chippewas) language. He lived with his parents until he was sixteen years of age what he taught at home. In 1838 he was called into business as interpreter and clerk in an Indian trading store, at the head of Saginaw river; a store started in opposition to that of the American Fur Company, which then controlled the business in that section of the country. Owing to the vast influence and wealth of John Jacob Astor, of New York, the principal owner of the American Fur Company, the Indian store soon failed, and he returned to help his father on the farm. In 1838, he was sent to Saginaw to school. He used to live with Major Mosely, in one of the block houses inside the old fort, and to do chores night and morning for his board until the spring of 1839. After attending school that year he decided to go to his brother's farm in Illinois. To this his father objected saying it was a long journey and he would have to stage it most of the way, and he could not consent to have him make the journey; the disappointment worked on the boy's mind to such an extent that he finally ran away from home, getting what few clothes he had, he put them then in a pack on his back and with a few dollars in his pocket he started on foot, for the home of his brother in Illinois. He walked to Detroit, and took the old Chicago road, which he followed as far as LaPorte, Ind., then turned south to Valparaiso. At the latter place he was obliged to stop for a time, as his feet had become so sore and swollen that he could not proceed, and he was entirely out of money. He managed to secure employment and remained there for some months, when he continued his journey and finally arrived at his destination. He remained with his brother a year, when his father came to visit them with a team of horses and wagon and William returned home with him they driving all the way and were three weeks on the return trip. He then remained on the farm until the fall of 1841, when he removed with his parents to Portsmouth, now South Bay City. Here his father built and operated the first saw mill in that locality. A private teacher was hired, and William attended school, some three years. In 1845 he concluded to set out for himself, and went to Kingston, Ont., as clerk in a general store, manged by his uncle, William Garrett, and remained in that employment until 1847. Then he went to Albany, N. Y., and engaged as clerk in the office of the Boston & Albany R. R. Co. He was married September 29, 1849, to Angellica Wayne, of New Scotland, Albany county, N. Y. In 1850 he was engaged as agent at Hornellsville, N. Y. for the Buffalo & N. Y. R. R. Co. In 1852 he took the contract for rock work and filling on the Ohio & Mississippi R. R. at White River Shoals, Ind. He next built a hotel at Portage Falls, N. Y., and managed it until 1859, when he returned to Bay City where he resided up to the time of his death December 29, 1893. Mr. McCormick had seen Bay City grow from a few log houses and four white inhabitants to be the third city in the State. He was the oldest pioneer with the exception of the late Albert Miller and Medor Trombley, living at the time of his death. In 1860 he was one of the company who bored for salt at South Bay City; was elected superintendent and had the management of sinking the first salt well in Bay county, Mich. From 1860 to 1880 he was engaged in the lumber business, as commission dealer and inspector. He resided for the past thirty-four years at the corner of 23d and McCormick streets, Bay City. He was the father of the Masonic fraternity of Bay City, having organized the first two lodges at that end of the valley. He was much interested in the pioneer society, for many years prior to his death being vice president of the Bay County Pioneer Society. He left three sons and three daughters, who now live at Bay City in comfortable circumstances.

Mr. McCormick was a great admirer of the Scottish people and of all things Scotch. He read a great many Scotch books, was very familiar with the Scottish history, and read and studied the poems of Rober Burns. Indeed, he could quote whole pages of Burns' poems from memory. He was vice president of the St. Andrew's society in Bay City for several years, and used often to discuss questions pertaining to Scotland and the Scotch people with great animation. In 1892 he visited Scotland, and passed his time mostly in Ayreshire and Dumfrieshire. Although he was then 70 years of age he walked all over those sections of Scotland, gathering information about Robert Burns. As evidence of the accuracy of his information I will state that on one occasion before he went to Scotland a member of the St. Andrew's society stated in a speech at a meeting of the society that Burns was the author of “Annie Laurie.” “No, sir; no, sir;” shouted Mr. McCormick, “Burns was not the author of 'Annie Laurie,' it was written by William Douglas, of Eccelfechen.” In which Mr. McCormick was right.

In the last few years of his life he lived at leisure in an imaginary Scotland, thinking about, talking of, and reading of Scotland and the Scotch people.

Uncle John Oliver was a native of Scotland, remarkably well posted in all Scotch affairs. During the last years of his life he kept the Turkish baths in Bay City, and one day he bought a print copy of the celebrated picture of the Scotch Greys, and hung it up in his office. Mr. McCormick came in, and studied the picture for an hour. He then pointed out to Mr. Oliver and the writer some half a dozen of the men represented in the picture and named them and gave some account of each one.

Mr. McCormick was vice-president of this society for Bay County and was very active and industrious in its affairs.

1893 obituary. Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - April 2008.

The Bay City Tribune -- December 30, 1893 (Page 7)

W. R. McCormick Dead

Pioneer Resident of Bay City Passes Peacefully Away
The End Came at 8 o'clock Last Evening After A
Bried Illness From Bright's Disease-Biographical
The Funeral Takes Place Monday

Wm. R. McCormick died at 8 o’clock at the residence of his son-in-law Mr. F.B. Chesbrough 1615 Center avenue, of acute Bright’s disease, after an illness of a few weeks. About three weeks ago, Mr. McCormick became ill while visiting his daughter and although every effort was made by medical skill to prolong his life he steadily declined, passing peacefully away at the hour mentioned.

Mr. McCormick was born August 16, 1822, at Bethlehem, Albany county, N.Y. and was consequently in his 72nd year at the time of his death. He came to Bay City in 1832 with his father James McCormick, and with the exception of a residence of ten years in New York from 1849 to 1859, has resided here ever since. He was engaged in the lumber business for many years, was deputy salt inspector and held various positions of village boards . He was well-known throughout the city, valley and state, and in his death Bay City lost one of its oldest and most honored pioneers.

About a year ago Mr. McCormick went abroad, spending some time in England, Scotland and France. This trip severely taxed his strength and he has never been well since his return. Although in feeble health, he visited the World’s Fair during the summer, and was about the streets as usual up to the time of the attack, which resulted in his death.

Six children survive him: H. W., W. J., and Louis McCormick and Mrs. Fremont B. Chesbrough and Mrs. Frank B. Chesbrough and Mrs. F. M. VanLiew, of West Bay City, all of whom were present when the final summons came.

The funeral will be held from the family homestead on Twenty-Third street, Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock and will be under the auspices of Bay City Lodge, No. 120 F. &A. M. of which the deceased was a member.

School at Flint. - Added April, 2011.

History of Genesee County, Michigan - 1879

Page 139.

In 1835, Aaron Hoyes taught a school in the same cabin. Among his pupils was William R. McCormick, now of Bay City, who recalls the fact that during the illness of the master, Mr. Hoyes, his place was temporarily taken by a young lady, who, among her personal adornments, were an exceedingly high comb. The pupils of that early day were not altogether amendable to discipline, especially when enforced by one of the weaker sex, and forthwith rebelled against the authority of the schoolmistress. A scene ensued, in which the lady received rough handing at the hands of young McCormick and of of his friends, and the crowing glory of her head, the towering comb was shattered. This terminated any further efforts on the part of the lady as instructress. The scholars of that date were as follows: Leander, Albert, and Zobedia Stevens; Corydon, Walter and Abigail Cronk; Edward Todd; Adaline and Emiline Stow; William R., Ann Elizabeth, and Sara McCormick.

Additional Notes.

    1880 - Census: Bay City, Michigan.

  • McCormick, William, b. 1822 New York
  • spouse (shown only as McCormick)
  • Matilda W., b. 1855 New York
  • Lewis H., son, b. 1862, Mich.
  • Addie, dau., b. 1865, Mich.

    1880 - Michigan Marriages: Bay City

  • Date: July 7, 1880.
  • Groom: Fremont B. Chesbrough, age 24, b. Ohio
  • Bride: Matilda W. McCormick, age 24, b. New York
  • Official: J.A. Weshtig(?), pastor Presbyterian church.
  • Witnesses: Wm. H. McCormick & Hattie McCormick.

    1883 - Michigan Marriages: Bay City

  • Date: April 25, 1883.
  • Groom: Frank P. Chesbrough, of Toledo, OH, age 22, b. New York
    Bride: Addie L. Mccormick, of Bay City, age 18, b. Mich.
    Witnesses: Wm. R. McCormick & Anson Chesbrough.

    1889 - Michigan Births: Bay City.

  • William Chesbrough, Sep. 2, 1889, parents Frank and Addie Chesbrough.

    1900 - Census: Bay City, Mich.

  • Chesbrough, Frank, b. Jul., 1860 Mich.
  • Addie, wife, b. Dec., 1866 Mich.
  • Helen, daughter, b. Jan., 1885, Ohio
  • William J., son, b. Jan., 1890, Mich.
  • Edwin, son, b. May, 1892, Mich.

    1900 - Census: West Bay City, Mich.

  • Chesbrough, Frank, b. Aug., 1856, New York
  • Matilda, wife, b. Apr., 1857, New York

    1906 - Michigan Marriages: Detroit

  • Date: September 1, 1906.
  • Groom: Frederick K. Handy, of Bay City, age 22, b. Illinois, parents: George W. & Anna Handy.
  • Bride: Helen J. Chesbrough, of Detroit, age 21, b. Ohio, parents: Frank P. & Addie Chesbrough.
  • Official: A.H. Bon, minister.
  • Witnesses: K.G. Handy & E. Chesbrough (both of Bay City).

    1920 - Michigan Marriages: Detroit

  • Date: January 5, 1920.
  • Groom: Robert E. Chesbrough, of Detroit, age 27, b. Mich., parents: Frank B. Chesbrough & Adeline McCormick.
  • Bride: Nancy A. Kean, of Detroit, age 24, b. Mich., parents: Louis H. Kean & Minnie Parent.
  • Official: Joseph Stapleton, priest.
  • Witnesses: Wm. J. Chesbrough & Phyllis Kean.

    1924 - Michigan Marriages: Wyane Co.

  • Date: June 7, 1924.
  • Groom: William J. Chesbrough, of Detroit, age 34, b. Mich., parents: Frank P. Chesbrough & Aloyn McCormick.
  • Bride: Helen R. Lowe, of Detroit, age 23, b. Mich., parents: William B. Lowe & Gertrude Merell.
  • Official: Frank D. Adams, clergyman.
  • Witnessess: William B. Lowe & R. Erwin Chesbrough (both of Detroit).
Related Pages/Notes
Mr. McCormick was one of the earliest historians of Bay City. His first homestead in Bay City was the Trombley House which his father purchased upon moving here.

Daughter, Addie married
Frank P. Chesbrough.

Related Pages:
James - father
James - brother
Sarah R. sister
Chesbrough Family
Center(Trombley) House
People Referenced
Adams, Frank D. (pastor)
Astor, John J.
Burns, Robert (poet)
Chesbrough, Anson
Chesbrough, Edwin (g-son)
Chesbrough, Frank P.
Chesbrough, Fremont B.
Chesbrough, Helen J. (g-dau.)
Chesbrough, Robt. E. (g-son)
Chesbrough, Wm. J. (g-son)
Cronk, Corydon
Cronk, Abigail
Cronk, Walter
Douglas, Wm. (poet)
Handy, Anna Mrs.
Handy, Frank K.
Handy, George W.
Handy, K.G.
Hoyes, Aaron
Kean, Nancy A.
Kean, Louis H.
Kean, Phyllis
Lowe, Helen R.
Lowe, Wm. B.
McCormick, Adeline (dau.)
McCormick, James (father)
McCormick, Lewis H. (son)
McCormick, Hattie
McCormick, H.W. (son)
McCormick, Matilda (dau.)
McCormick, Sarah
McCormick, Wm. H.
McCormick, Wm.J. (son)
McCormick, Wm. R. (subject)
Merell, Gertrude
Miller, Albert
Mosely, Major
Oliver, John
Parent, Minnie
Stevens, Albert
Stevens, Zobedia
Stow, Adaline
Stow, Edward
Stow, Emiline
Stow, Todd
Trombley, Medor
VanLiew, F.M. Mrs. (dau.)
Wayne, Angellica (wife)
Weshtig, J.A.
Subjects Referenced
Albany, NY
Albany Co., NY
American Fur Co.
Ayreshire, Scoland
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Bay Co. Pioneer Soc.
Bethlehem, NY
Boston & Albany R.R.
Buffalo & N.Y. R.R.
Chicago road
Chippewa Indians
Detroit, MI
Dumfrieshire, Scotland
Flint, MI
Flint river, MI
Genesee Co., MI
Hornellsville, NY
Kingston, Ont.
Laporte, IN
Toledo, OH
Ohio & Mississippi R.R.
New Scotland, NY
Portage Falls, NY
Saginaw, MI
South Bay City, MI
St. Andrews Soc, Bay City
Valparaiso, IN
West Bay City, MI
White River Shoals, IN
World's Fair
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.