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Robert Anderson Recalls Early Bay City History
  • Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Mar. 2008.
  • Part 3 of 7

    The Bay City Times Tribune - Sunday, July 3, 1927 (Page 6)

    Only Three Churches Here
    In 1855; Pioneer Recalls

    City Directory Now Show 56; Mr. Anderson
    Recollects Location of First Blacksmith Shop
    In Lower Saginaw, and Talks of Early
    Industry, Too

    (Editor’s note-This is the third in a series of articles appearing each Sunday , the material was gained through interviews with Robert Anderson, 603 North Catherine street, who came to what is now Bay City in 1855, and has resided here ever since. N this article Mr. Anderson tells something of the early history of churches, industries, hotels, and professional men in Lower Saginaw.)

    As regards the early history of churches in Lower Saginaw, Mr. Anderson said; “When we came here in 1855 there were only three churches. There are 56 now. One of them St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church was located at the southeast corner of Second street and Washington avenue. Rev. Fr. Henry J. Schutjes was the pastor. The next was the English Episcopal church situated on the corner of Fourth street and Washington avenues. I do not remember the name of the rector. The third was the Methodist Episcopal church, which was located on the east side of Washington avenue between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, where the Davidson building now stands. Many years later, this old church building was sold to local believers in the Jewish faith, and the building moved away.”

    “The First Presbyterian society was not organized here until Sept.5, 1856. L.L. Root was the founder and pastor. Services were held in a building owned by James Fraser, which was located where the Alert Pipe & Supply company’s building now stands on Water street. The basement of the Fraser building was used as a general provision store for the ships that sailed the lakes. On the first floor of this building, James Drake kept a general grocery and seed store. On the second floor the Presbyterian’s of this locality gathered each Sunday for services.”

    “Worship hour for the Presbyterians was held here until the congregation erected a fine new building where the I.O.O.F. hall now stands on Washington avenue. It was either on the day the new building was dedicated or the Sunday following that, the structure was burned, immediately work was started on a new building, finer and better then the first - and this was completed about 1859. This was called the James Fraser hall. And during the week sessions of the Bay county court were held there.”

    Start of Local Industry

    “The only blacksmith shop in 1855 was kept by a Mr. Clark, on the west side of Water street between Third and Second streets. A repair and machine shop was operated by John Burton on the very location of the Industrial Works. This was later sold to the McDowell’s, a father and his son, John, who was superintendent of the shop. John McDowell was a brother to Mrs. Elizabeth McDowell Bialy, and was well liked by everyone.”

    Mr. Anderson tells of the disaster in which John McDowell and three others figured while on a boat trip from East Tawas to what is now Bay City. Mr. McDowell and his party were sailing homeward after a Fourth Of July trip in the early seventies to the northern port, when the ship encountered a terrific gale and thunder storm. The craft apparently could not weather the gale successfully and sank. Only Mr. McDowell’s body was recovered. He had floated ashore. Where the boat went down, was never learned.

    Back to the early industries here, Mr. Anderson said that the McDowell plant was later sold to the Clements’s interests and developed into what is now the Industrial Works.

    He remembers that there was a cemetery on the east side of Water street near where the I. W. is now located, and years later it was found necessary to exhume the bodies in that burial ground.

    As for the early hotels or public houses as they were then called, Mr. Anderson, mentioned the Wolverton house kept by a {Mr. Barclay} at the southwest corner of Third and Water streets. This building torn down several years ago, was erected in the early fifties, Opposite the Wolverton on the southeast corner was the Putnam house kept by Mr. Putnam. The Farmer’s home a hotel located on the southeast corner of Saginaw and Third streets, was managed by Smith Dodge. This building was also known as the Central hotel and was torn down a few years ago and a garage erected on the location. The Forest City house in the early days, was operated by {Chris Heinemann}, an uncle of Fire Chief Crampton’s mother, who was also one of the pioneer settlers here. This building was located on the southwest corner of Saginaw and Sixth streets.

    In 1855 there were only two doctors practicing in Lower Saginaw. One of them was a Dr. Zoner, and the other’s name could not be recalled by Mr. Anderson. In the same year there were only two lawyers. They were Mr. Sherman and Mr. Freeman.


    (Next Sunday’s article will tell what Mr. Anderson remembers about the early history of Bay City)

    Part 2 Part 4
    Anderson Memories
    Main Page
    Part 1: Jun. 19, 1927
    Part 2: Jun. 26, 1927
    Part 3: Jul. 3, 1927
    Part 4: Jul. 17, 1927
    Part 5: Jul. 24, 1927
    Part 6: Jul. 31, 1927
    Part 7: Aug. 7, 1927
    People Referenced
    Barclay, Jonathan{IMG}
    Burton, John
    Crampton (Fire Chief)
    Dodge, Smith
    Drake, James
    Fraser, James{IMG}
    Freeman (lawyer)
    Heinemann, Chris
    McDowell, John
    Root, L.L. (Rev.)
    Schutjes, H.J.(Rev.){IMG}
    Sherman (lawyer)
    Zoner, Dr.
    Subjects Referenced
    Alert Pipe & Sply. Co.
    Bay City, MI
    Bay Co. Court
    Burton Repr. & Machine
    Cemetery (Potters fld.)
    Central Hotel
    Clark blacksmith
    Davidson building
    Drake's groceries
    English Episcopal Ch.
    Farmer's home (boarding)
    First Presbyterian Ch.
    Forest City House
    Fraser building
    Industrial Works
    I.O.O.F. hall
    Jewis church
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    McDowell's machine shop
    Methodist Episcopal Ch.
    Putnam House
    St. Joseph church
    Three churches
    Wolverton House
    Related Page Subjects
    John McDowell
  • John McDowell was born in Ireland in 1811, and came to America in 1816, then to Bay City, where he was active in public affairs, and operated a foundry and machine until his death in 1872.
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.