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Robert Anderson Recalls Early Bay City History
  • Contributed by Jim Petrimoulx - Mar. 2008.
  • Part 4 of 7

    The Bay City Times Tribune - Sunday, July 17, 1927 (Page 3)

    Sharp Axes of Woodsmen Ring Through
    Forest Primeval as Pioneers Hew First
    Roadway Out of Historic Lower Saginaw

    Robert Anderson's Father Helped Lay Plank on Road
    Built in 1856; Was Only Highway Leading to What
    Are Now Saginaw, Flint, Other Points to South
    Early Settler Recalls Primitive Scenes in Locality Where
    Now Stands City Hall; Philip Simon Kept Slaughter
    House There, Avers One Here Since '55

    (Editor’s Note- This is the fourth in a series of articles dealing with the history of Lower Saginaw , as told to The Times Tribune by Robert Anderson, aged 84, who came to what is now Bay City in 1855 and has lived here ever since. This story tells of the first road leading to or from Lower Saginaw , the first brick building ever to be erected here and something about the first hospitals.)

    The first road leading to or from Lower Saginaw as Mr. Anderson recalls it, was later known as the Bay City and Tuscola road and still later M-24 as it is known at the present time. The Bay City and Tuscola road was chopped out of a dense forest in about 1856. The trees in this locality, Mr. Anderson is willing to speculate were as thick as the hairs on a dog’s head. The country around with the exception of a scanty settlement here and there was a forest primeval, just as the hand of nature fashioned it.

    For days , weeks, months, the ring of woodsmen’s axes was the merry music progress played while early settlers were hewing a pathway to the outside world. Before this road was started, and if a pioneer fancied he had business to do, or people to see in what are now Saginaw, Flint, and other points to the south, he paddled his way up the river, stopped at Saginaw if that was his destination, or hopped on a stage at that point and lumbered to Flint, should the latter place be his objective. Mr. Anderson says his memory of roads to and from Lower Saginaw as they used to be, makes for him a wonderful contrast with the arteries of travel of the present.

    He tells of a sawmill which used to be located at a little town called Watrousville. There was what formerly called an “upper junction” on the Bay City and Tuscola road about 12 miles from where M-24 joins Columbus avenue. Watrousville was located to the east of this junction and lumber used to be hauled from the sawmill there, to Portsmouth, or what is now South Bay City. Apart of the way it was hauled over the old Cass road.

    A few years after the road was chopped out, it was planked. Mr. Anderson’s father, William Anderson who with his wife, a daughter and the son Robert, came to these parts in the spring of 1855, worked on this plank road. As Mr. Anderson recalls it, this work was done in the late fifties.

    Relates of Little Girl

    The pioneer tells the story of a little girl who was en route from Flint to this locality, on a rather primitive stage. It was a mighty cold day and stages never attained the reputation of being a warm mode of travel in winter time. The wind was blowing snow all over the passengers. The little girl’s hands were getting colder and colder as she was wearing mittens of not a very warm weave.

    “Put your paddies into this” said a gentleman sitting to one side of the child “they’ll keep you nice and warm”

    “Thank you” nodded the diminutive passenger, wondering all the time who the good man was.

    Mr. Anderson said it was Fr. H.J. H. Schutjes, who was the first Roman Catholic priest in charge of St. Joseph’s church in Lower Saginaw.

    The little girl (she asked Mr. Anderson not to reveal her name for publication) is still a resident of this city.. She told Mr. Anderson that she would never forget this kind favor Father Schutjes did for her, and during the immediate years that followed her arrival here, she had many times thanked him.

    “When Fr. Schutjes was here” the pioneer continued “we used to see him with E.T. Carrington, who years ago used to be the superintendent of the Sage & McGraw mill on the west side of the river. Father Schutjes was a great hunter. He loved the out-of-doors. And was often that he and {Mr. Carrington}, also an enthusiast of outdoor life and activity, used to go hunting , especially at Tobico beach and other points along the bay shore.

    Forest Mighty Dense

    As regards the almost downtown section of town, Mr. Anderson said; “In the vicinity of Tenth street and Washington avenue the forest was mighty heavy. I remember that right in the very denseness of this piece of wooded land, Phillip Simon had a spot cleared and on it had erected a slaughter house. This establishment , to be exact was located on the southeast corner of Tenth street and Washington avenue. In 1855, a crew of men was working in this specific locality, chopping cord wood. To this day, I can see them working; yes, just as plain as can be.”

    “I remember the first brick house ever to be erected in Lower Saginaw. The building was put up on the northeast corner of Center and Washington avenues by a Mr. Watkins, who was a lumber inspector. That was either in 1858 or 1859.”

    “A few years later the home was occupied by {John Drake} and his family. Mr. Drake was the leading insurance man in this locality at that time.”

    “I do not remember the exact year, but I do recall that the Shearer’s bought the property on which the brick house was located , and later erected the present Shearer building.”

    “What were the amusements hereabout in those days?” we asked him.

    He chuckled “Let me tell you about a race that was held here in the last of the fifties“ said the pioneer, with all the enthusiasm of a five-year old youngster.

    Remembers Particular Race

    “It was in the spring of the year - not very hot-not very cold. We were all standing over in front of the Wolverton house at the southwest corner of Third and Water streets. Someone suggested that we hold a fat men’s race, and so we selected two or three judges. {Captain Marsac}, for whom Marsac street later was named, was one of them. Among the rather large fellows present , were George Lord, a lumberman, a Mr. Stephenson, who sold real estate now and then; Julius Hart, who operated Hart Landing, near the present Jennison Hardware Company’s warehouse; and Mr. Barclay, who operated the Wolverton house. Every one of these men weighed nearly 300 pounds and therefore were qualified to enter the sprint. As I remember it, the race wasn’t much of a sprint , after all as the men were not in the best of shape for what you might call a track event. Don’t ask me who won; I laughed so much that I could not see through the tears in my eyes. That was in about 1858.”

    We asked Mr. Anderson about the early hospitals here. To that question he answered “An accident to my father brings to mind just how the hospital situation was here in ‘55 and ‘56. In fact there really was no hospital situation , as there were no hospitals.

    “In the winter of ‘55 my father was employed at the McKinney mill, which was located on the Cass road in the south end of what is now Bay City. While working one day, his fingers received several cuts from an edger. He bandaged them as best as he could and walked to a drug store operated by a Mr. Cranage, at what is now Center avenue and Water street. There were no hospitals in Lower Saginaw at that time, and only two physicians, Dr. Zoner and Dr. Newton, were practicing here. Dr. Zoner was in the drug store when my father walked in. He told “Doc” Cranage what had happened and that he wanted the lacerations dressed. It was found necessary to amputate several of the fingers, and this was done in a very crude way, right there in the drug store” (Mr. Anderson told me just how the operation was preformed , but it would give one the shivers to see a description of it in black and white)

    Early Hospitals

    “The first hospital was opened in Lower Saginaw in the early sixties, on the eastside of Water street between Twenty-second and Twenty-third streets, in what was known as the McCormick mansion. This institution only flourished for a few years, and later another hospital was opened this time on the north side of Water street near Third street. And this too, only lasted a short time.

    “later the Sisters of Mercy came here and opened a hospital in the {N.B. Bradley} home at Fifteenth and Howard streets, and this institution is still operating and doing a wonderful lot of good. After Mercy hospital was well founded, other hospitals opened. Including the General hospital, Samaritan hospital, West Side hospital, now closed, and others.


    (Next week Mr. Anderson will finish telling of the east side of the river, with particular reference to Water street.)

    Part 3 Part 5
    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
    Anderson, Wm. (father)
    Barclay, Jonathan{IMG}
    Bradley, N.B.{IMG}
    Carrington, E.T.
    Drake, John
    Hart, Julius
    Marsac, (Capt.){IMG}
    Newton, Dr.
    Schutjes, H.J.H.(Rev.){IMG}
    Simon, Phillip
    Watkins, James{IMG}
    Zoner, Dr.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City & Tuscola Rd.
    First hospital
    Flint, MI
    General Hospital
    Hart landing
    Jennison Hardware
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    McCormick mansion
    McKinley mill
    Plank road
    Portsmouth, MI
    Saginaw, MI
    Samaritan Hospital
    Shearer building
    Sisters of Mercy
    So. Bay City
    St. Joseph's church
    Upper Junction
    Watrousville, MI
    West Side Hospital
    Wolverton House
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.