The Bay City Times Tribune - Sunday, August 7, 1927 (Page 3)
Which Would Be First? Ah,
That Was the Big Question
Robert Anderson Says Two Railroads Raced to
See Which Would Have Locomotive Here First;
Bay City-East Saginaw Won With Two Weeks to Spare
Remembers Old Wooden Jail on Sixth Street;
Says Prisoners Wore Balls and Chains;
Names First County Officers, and is Still Going Strong
(Editors Note-This is the Sixth of a series of articles dealing with the early history of Bay City , as told to The Daily Times by Robert Anderson, aged 85, pioneer , who came to Lower Saginaw in the spring of 1855 and has resided here ever since. Today’s story tells of the first railroads into Bay City, the first jail , and something about the early county officers.)
Way back in the early spring of ’67, two years after the villagers of these parts were of the opinion that the village gained sufficient proportions and was dignified enough to become a city, the state legislature thinking the same way. Bay City knew for the first time in its history the puff of a locomotive. This locomotive was the rolling stock of the Bay City-East Saginaw Railroad, which was later known as the Flint and Pere Marquette and still later and at the present time known as the Pere Marquette.
And when Bay City knew for the first time the puff of a locomotive and its peculiar noise of escaping steam, there was brought to an end a race between the owners of the Bay City-East Saginaw Railroad on the east side of the river and the Jackson , Lansing and Saginaw Railroad (now known as the Michigan Central Railroad) on the west side of the river, the objective of which was to see which railroad would have an engine here first. The Bay City-East Saginaw Railroad won with two weeks to spare.
Mr. Anderson, when the east side road was being constructed worked on this road for one month in the spring of 1867. The railroad employees used to receive their pay, Mr. Anderson says , at the Munger Brothers store, at that time situated at the northeast corner of Center avenue and Water street. The Munger brothers also owned a tract of land where the village of Munger now stands. In fact the village was named for them.
Rivalry Between Two Lines
In speaking of the rivalry which existed between the builders of the first two railroads ever to lay down their rails to and through Bay City, Mr. Anderson said
“There was keen competition to see which railroad would get its track laid first-the east or the west side company. Henry W. Sage, owner of what was at that time the greatest saw mill in the world, was a stockholder in the west side road and was deeply interested in that roads progress . During that time I was working on the steam pile driver for the Gage company, John G. Emery, the chief foreman of the Sage company, told us one Saturday afternoon in August to take the driver up to Dutch creek right away, to drive the spiles for the new bridge the west side railroad would pass over at the creek. He told us to hurry because the track builders were at that time halfway to Bay City from Saginaw and could not afford to be delayed if the west side company thought they were going to beat out the railroad coming on the east side. George Campbell, a local contractor was building the depot.”
“I remember that the west side men worked as hard as they could, hoping every day they would finish the job ahead of the east siders, who had a jump on us a little bit. But we couldn’t make it . The east siders must have worked faster than we did, for they had their track put in up to Columbus avenue on Jefferson street, and their first locomotive came into Bay City in October, 1867.”
“There was a small depot at Columbus avenue and Jefferson street and the train did not come into town any farther than that point until about a year later. When they did come downtown with their rails, I remember they had quite a time getting the right of way along Jefferson street. There were all kinds of objectors to such a proposal, but if I recollect correctly they had a big crew of men on hand here one Sunday and laid the rails along Jefferson street up to the present depot operated by the Pere Marquette Railroad. I think that they laid that stretch of track during that one Sunday.”
Mr. Anderson told of the first wooden jail built in Bay City. He said it was situated back of the present Bay county jail on Sixth street. “I went there one day” the pioneer continued “now don’t think that I was arrested, for that was not the case, thank you - but just the same I went there one day to see a man I worked with one time, who killed an employee of the Drake mill, which was then located at Scott’s corners (State street and Marquette avenue). The prisoners name was Gilbert Wynings, who shot a Mr. Lyons, also an employee at the Drake mill, as a climax to a year - old quarrel between the two men. As I remember it Mr. Lyons was down on the river skating with his children when Wynings, in a vacant house nearby, shot at Lyons, wounding him. As I remember it Lyons died a few months later, and Wynings was charged with murder. When he was confined in the wooden jail on Sixth street, he wore a ball and chain. That was sometime in the early part of the year, 1862, because Wynings was arrested in December 1861.”
“To end today’s story, I am going to give you the names of the first county officers in Bay county. The circuit judge was Theodore Grier, prosecuting attorney C.H. Freeman, county clerk E.S. Catlin, county treasurer James Watson, and sheriff B.F. Partridge.