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John Watson McMath (1824-1900)
Born at Romulus, Seneca Co., N.Y., settled in Bay City, Mich., in 1867.

1878 biography. (Added Oct., 2009)

American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men,
By F. A. Barnard, 1878


McMath, John Watson, of Bay City, Michigan, was born in Romulus, Seneca County, New York, June 3, 1824. He is the son of Samuel and Mary (Fleming) McMath, who were of Scotch and Irish lineage. His father moved from New Jersey to Romulus, New York, at the age of twenty. In 1827 he settled, with his family, near the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan; and, soon after, died, leaving nine children, of whom J. W. McMath is the youngest.

The education of Mr. McMath was limited to attendance at the district school, during the winter, until he was fifteen. From that age until he was twenty, he served as clerk; and, during this interval, spent most of his leisure in study. He took a preparatory course at the Ypsilanti Seminary; and, in 1846, entered the Michigan University. After graduating, in 1850, he was engaged for a year as a teacher, in Centerville, St. Joseph County, -- at the same time studying law. He studied law one year in the office of Backus & Harbaugh, of Detroit.

In October, 1852, he was admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of Michigan. In November of that year, he opened an office in Mackinaw, and commenced the practice of his profession. He was elected Prosecuting Attorney of the county; and was actively engage there until the spring of 1863. In 1861 he was appointed Collector of the Customs for the Mackinaw District, and held the position until 1867. While in the discharge of these duties, he was stationed, for four years, at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Since 1867, he has resided at Bay City. From 1870 to 1872, he was City Attorney; and, from 1872 to 1876, Judge of the Probate Court for Bay County. He has been United States Commissioner for the Eastern District of Michigan for the past five years.

He is now a member of the Board of Alderman of Bay City. In 1856 he joined the Masonic Fraternity, and is now a member of Bay City Lodge, No. 79. Mr. McMath is an active Republican. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church. In his official life, he has shown unusual care and fidelity in the discharge of his duties. He holds a prominent position in the bar at Bay City, and stands well among the leading attorneys of the State. He married, July 12, 1852, Ella J. Roys, of Ann Arbor, Michigan. They have one son.

1900 biography. Added Oct., 2009.

University of Michigan Alumni Association, 1900


During the month of June last the University of Michigan lost one of her loyal sons, Judge John W. McMath, '50, of Bay City, Michigan. The following appreciative sketch of his life was written by his law partner and intimate friend, George P. Cobb, '68l, and was published in the Michigan Presbyterian, June 28, 1900.

He came of good Presbyterian stock, his father and mother being descendants of good Presbyterian families. Born in 1824, and coming to Michigan soon afterwards, when Michigan was yet a territory and most of its area a wilderness, when churches and schools were few and poor, he came to know much of the hardship and privation, as well as the pleasures of pioneer life. He was the youngest and became the last survivor of nine children. During his infancy his father died, but the mother and children kept up the rural home, and to that home and its associations his memory always clung, and in old age he loved to refer to them.

In early manhood he took up his residence in the wild regions of Northern Michigan, where religious privileges in the wild scanty; but his early training stood him in good stead in holding him to his alligiance to his church and his principles. He may be said to have been a deeply, but not ostentatiouly, religious man, and in his later years this character became more marked and more apparent. Often called upon for advice and encouragement to those who were just beginning the Christian life his words were always wise and well-timed.

Notwithstanding his early disadvantages, he managed to obtain as good an education as could then be had in Michigan, and was graduated from the State University in 1850, along with such men as Wm. A. Moore, L. R. Fiske, O. M. Barnes and other men of note. Of that class but four remain.

In all postitions of trust he acquitted himself well. As Prosecuting Attorney of Chippewas County, as Collector of Customs, as Judge of Probate of Bay County, as City Attorney of Bay City, as County Agent of the State Board of Corrections and Charities, he did good and efficient work. He lived a long, useful and laborious life. The end came peaceably and quietly and it had no terrors for him. He died of heart failure, June 21, 1900. The survivors of his immediate family are his widow and one son, Wm. G. McMath, of St. Paul, Minn.

Additional Notes.

    1870 Census, Bay City, MI:

  • McMath, John, age 46, lawyer, b. New York
  • McMath, Ella, age 42, keeping house, b. New York
  • McMath, William, age 17, at school, b. Michigan

    1896 - Bay City Directory:

  • Residence 2108 Center, bus. McMath & Cobb, Munger Block (Munger block was on s.s. Center bet. Saginaw & Washington.)

    1900 Judge McMath died on July 21, 1900.

    Genealogy: Colby Family & Others.

  • Col. Samuel McMath was born on 28 Jan 1872 in Northcumberland Co., PA. He died in Sept. 1826 at Willow Run, Washtenaw Co., MI. Parents were Alla McMath and Mabel T. Kelsey. Spouse was Mary Fleming, marraige was on 24 May 1805 in Romulus, Seneca Co. NY. Children were: Mabelle, Archiblad, Fleming, Roxanna, Samuel K., Robert, Mary, Elcy (Elsie), William E. and John W.
Related Pages/Notes

Cobb, Geo. P.
People Referenced
Barns, O.M.
Cobb, Geo. P.
Fiske, L.R.
Fleming, Mary (mother)
Kelsey, Mabel T. (g-mother)
McMath, Archibald (bro.)
McMath, Alla (g-father)
McMath, Elsie (sis.)
McMath, Fleming, (bro.)
McMath, John W. (subject)
McMath, Mabelle (sis.)
McMath, Mary (sis.)
McMath, Robert (bro.)
McMath, Roxanna (sis.)
McMath, Samuel (father)
McMath, Sanuel K. (bro.)
McMath, William (son)
McMath, William E. (bro.)
Moore, Wm. A.
Roys, Ella J. (wife)
Subjects Referenced
Ann Arbor, MI
Backus & Harbaugh, Detroit
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
Centerville, MI
Chippewa Co., MI
Mackinaw, MI
McMath & Cobb
Mich. Bd. of Corrections
Michigan Presbyterian news
Munger block
New Jersy
Northcumberland, PA
Presbuterian church
Romulus, NY
St. Joseph Co., MI
St. Paul, MN
Sault Ste.Marie, MI
Seneca Co., NY
Supreme Court MI
Univ. of Mich.
Washtenaw Co., MI
Willow Run, MI
Ypsilanti, MI
Ypsilanti Seminary
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.