Heritage \ Writings \

Medor Trombley (1813-1902) &
Sarah "McCormick" Trombley (1827-1887)
Early pioneers of Bay City, MI.

Note: The name Medor has been spelled Mader, Mador, etc. in various historical documents. On his tombstone it is spelled, "Medor."

Preface: The Trombley and McCormick families were among the earliest to settle in Lower Saginaw (Bay City), and played major roles in the growth of the community. Medor and Sarah made their homestead in the village of Portsmouth, which was merged into Bay City in the 1880s. The Trombley House now standing in Veterans Memorial Park, was the first frame structure built here, and was erected by Medor and his brother Joseph, around 1838. Later they sold the house to Sarah's parents, James and Ellen McCormick.

1888 - Sarah "McCormick" Trombley (Added May 2008)

Historical Collections. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society 1888

In Memoriam -- Sarah R. Trombly.


Sarah R. Trombly, one of the pioneers of the Saginaw valley and a member of the Pioneer and Historical Society of the State of Michigan, died at her home, South Bay City, October 22, 1887, in the 62d year of her age. Mrs. Trombly was born near Albany, N.Y., in 1827, and when a child emigrated with her father, James McCormick, and his family, who were early pioneers of Genesee and Saginaw counties. She was a sister of the late James J. McCormick, a former mayor of Bay City and of Wm. R. McCormick, Esq., now a resident of the 5th ward of Bay City. Her husband, Medor Trombly, to whom she was united in wedlock on the 26th of August, 1847, was born in Michigan, and was the earliest permanent settler, after his uncle Leon Trombly, within the limits of the territory now occupied by Bay City. Mrs. Trombly was a resident in the near vincinity of her late home since 1844. At the time of her marriage in 1847 she removed into a larger and more commodious residence. Mrs. Trombly was an excellent wife, a kind mother and a highly respected member of society. She leaves a devoted husband, seven children, four sons and three daughters, and a large circle of relatives and friends in the community to mourn her loss.

1892 Biography. (Added Nov. 2007)

Portrait and Biographical Record of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Michigan. Portrait Publishing Co., Chicago (1892)


There is probably no man in Bay City who can more delightfully entertain a company interested in the history of the pioneer days than the one whose name we have now given. He settled in the unbroken woods, where Bay City now stands, in the early September of 1835, and he the oldest settler now living here. In those days Indians and wild game abounded, and there was not another white settler in the neighborhood.

This pioneer was born in Detroit, November 16, 1813, which was also the birthplace of his father. The grandfather, Louis, was a native of France. His mother died when he was young, and his father brought his three children to Quebec. When Louis was about fourteen years old his father married again, and after that the children were not happy at home. A body of fur traders, who were ascending the St. Lawrence River and the Lakes, coaxed the Tromble children to accompany them, but upon reaching Detroit they concluded that they had done wrong to bring the children so far from home and left the sisters with a family at Ft. Detroit, and she afterward married into the Revoir family.

Louis Tromble and his brother were left with the Chippewa Indians, near Detroit, and after two years with them the lads built a little hut on Comer’s Creek, and there lived and supported themselves until they were old enough to secure land claims from the English Government, which was in possession of this section. They then obtained six eighty-acre tracts and began clearing and improving the land, and after a while built a saw and grist-mill on the creek. They became men of wealth, and Louis, who was a Government contractor during the War of 1812, had the largest and handsomest house in Detroit at that time. Louis had eighteen children, some of whom died while young, and his younger brother, Gennor never married.

Thomas Tromble received a thorough education in French in Detroit, and became the manager of his father’s mills; later he engaged in farming and had two hundred acres of valuable land. He took part in the War of 1812 and was in the fort when Hull surrendered the city. He was an officer and made of the stuff which never surrenders, and he picked up a dozen guns and made his escape through the back of the fort to his solid log house, where he prepared for self-defense. He was missed from the fort and a brother officer was detailed to show the British the way to his house, which he did, but declined to go any nearer, as he knew the fighting qualities of the man they were seeking. Some of his friends afterward induced him to surrender, and he was afterward court-martialed, but as he had so many friends he escaped without punishment, and died at the age of seventy-one.

The mother of our subject was Alfriesen, daughter of Louis Tebo, who traced his ancestry back to the crown of France, and was probably a first cousin to Louis Phillipe. He was born in France, and engaged in trading with the Indians and finally met his death at their hands. Of Alfriesen Trombley’s fourteen children all grew to maturity; among that number our subject, who was over six feet tall, was the smallest of them all. He received a French education in Detroit and learned farming, taking charge of the estate, while his elder brothers engaged in trading with the Indians. He and his brother Joseph bought a track of land about one mile in length along the Saginaw River, where is now the site of Bay City, and they were the first to locate on land of their own in this city. They built the first house, which was a block house, and kept the first store on the river at this point, carrying on a trade with the Indians. In 1836 they built the Center House, into which they soon moved. They traded with the Chippewas and spoke their language. The smallpox plague swept the Chippewas of this region from existence in 1837, and about that time he closed his trading business, and later they lost their property here through trickery.

After the Indians were swept off the game became very thick, and the Trombles devoted themselves to tracking and hunting for furs, and later carried on fishing with a spear. Our subject speared in one-half night nine barrels of white fish, and these they shipped to Cleveland and found the business very lucrative. Mr. Tromble has dealt extensively in real estate and has platted several additions to the city, and still retains enough land to carry on farming with the city limits. He has built many house and has done much to build up the city. The marriage of Mr. Tromble, in October, 1847, united him with Sarah McCormick, who was born in Albany, N. Y., and who father, James, was an early settler on the Flint River. She died October 22, 1887, leaving eight children, seven of whom grew to maturity, namely: Frank; Mary, Mrs. Rose; Josie, Mrs. Greening; Fremont, a dealer in real estate and a contractor and builder; Daniel, a lumber inspector; Edward, a wholesale fish dealer and Eugenia, who resides at home. The daughters were all educated at St. Mary’s at Monroe, this State. This venerable gentleman is a strong and conscientious Catholic, and a member of St. James Church. In his early days he was a Whig in politics, but since 1854 he has been a Republican.

1895 Article in Bay City Tribune. Contributed by Alan Flood - Dec. 2005.

Bay City Tribune - Tuesday Morning, September 17, 1895. (Page 4.)



Claims the Distinction of Having Chopped the First Clearing -- Like the Indians.

Sixty years ago this month two young men started from their home on Lake St. Clair, near Detroit, for the “Sog-ghe-nong” or Saginaw valley, on foot through the forests, to carve out a little home in the wilderness. Little did they think they were to be among the founders of the Bay Cities.

These men were Joseph and Mader Tromble, who located at that part of Bay City south of Twenty-second street and west of Jennison avenue, and north of South Center avenue --- over 400 acres of land.

Their ages were respectively 21 and 26 years. The hardships encountered in getting what little they had to their new home and keeping possession in spite of wild beasts and savages, would fill a volume. They were induced to come here by their uncle, who was in the employ of the government and had been stationed here.

Mader Tromble is now the sole survivor, has seen the Bay Cities grow from infancy and predicts a still greater future for our beautiful city.

He now lives at his fine residence, 300 South Center street, a hale and hearty old man of 82 years.

In relating his experiences in pioneer life he said:

“In 1835 my brother Joseph, and I, located the first tract of land for a settlement in Lower Saginaw. In September, the same year, we walked and drove our stock from home to what is now West Saginaw. Procuring a canoe from an Indian we paddled down the Saginaw.

“The ivy clad trees and shrubs, drooping from the banks, the wild fowls on the waters and the wild beasts along the shore, all looked at us with astonishment as we passed by.

“The high pine trees skirting the banks on either side, towering above the dense forests, made a picture truly sublime and one never to be forgotten. It was here that we landed and commenced the settlement of what is now Bay City --- I Claim the distinction of chopping with my own hands the first clearing --- about ten acres --- which we planted the next spring. We built the Center which I now own and which is still standing where it was built on the corner of Twenty-fourth and Water streets.

“I have seen great changes in 60 years and am sure Bay City has a great future. Would that I could give you a description or picture of Bay City as I first saw it.

“The predictions of my uncle, who advised us to settle here, have been fully verified.”

In speaking of the savages, or Indians, as he found them, Mr. Tromble says:

“They were the happiest, best fed and clothed people on earth. This was the Indian’s paradise. Here in this grand garden of nature; filled like the garden of old with fruits and all kinds of game and fish, all this child of nature had to do was to take what he wanted.

“Their laws were severe.

“Their worship sublime.

“Here, like Adam and Eve, did the Indian live in peace until the demons of the white man, ‘whiskey and disease,’ drove them from their happy home.

“Do not judge the Indians as I found them, by the remnant that is left. I had no trouble with the Indians. They were my trusty friends, yet it pleases me to know that in taking away their happy homes, we have laid the foundation of a city that will go down in the ages as a monument to those that are gone.”

Recollection by Medor Tromble. Contributed by Alan Flood - Dec. 2005.

Source Unknown.

Nature Most Beautiful.


After swimming our cattle, horse and stock across the Saginaw River, and following down the stream on the east side where the land was rather flat and covered with heavy timber, we finally met my brother Joseph, where he had landed on the high ground, which afterwards became our permanent home. He had bought a canoe, hired an Indian to bring him down from the Fort at Saginaw, and had already commenced to put up our temporary quarters.

My first sight of the Lower Saginaw impressed me so strongly, there had not been a tree out and primeval nature had not been disturbed. The trees and shrubs hung far over the banks kissing the water; on each side of the river were several ridges of pine with their tops towering far above their surrounding companions. As I slowly paddled along with the current, the fish jumped out on the water, and the deer scurried out of sight. The River was so full of ducks and water-fowl that they simply moved aside as I paddled by, not yet having learned the fear of the sportsman, and to me it was an all inspiring sight, and one I never shall forget.

Little did I dream, the forest I then looked upon in a few years would be depleted, and he game which the Indians had protected for thousands of years would become almost extinct. To be sure, like the Indians, we killed all the game we wanted, but never to destroy or waste.

We had one mile of frontage upon the River, but the site we selected for our store, and afterwards our home, was higher ground and covered generally with pine and oak. It was a beautiful spot, where we got a splendid view of the River, and the surrounding country. Little trouble was it for us to fill our larder as game and fish were so plentiful.

But how were we going to live three months without bread or other provisions, still, with what help the Indians could provide, and what help they could give us in the way of labor we soon put up our buildings, and waited for the goods which Father expected to ship just as soon as we got located. While waiting for the arrival of the boat, to keep myself busy, I cleared several acres of land, these were the first trees ever cut, and the first land ever cleared in Lower Saginaw.

Mader Tromble’

Sarah (McCormick) Tromble. - Added July, 2012.

Michigan State Pioneer Society, 1888.

Sarah R. Tromble one of the pioneers of the Saginaw Valley and a member of the State Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, died in South Bay City, October 22nd, 1887, in her 61st year of her age. Sarah R. Tromble, daughter of the old pioneer James McCormick, was born near Albany, New York in 1827. She came to Michigan with her father when a mere child and to the Saginaw Valley in 1832. In 1847 she was married to Medor Tromble.

Additional Notes:

    1870 Census: Portsmouth, Mich.

  • Trombley, Medore, age 57, b. Mich., real estate dealer.
  • Sarah, wife, age 43, b. New York
  • Frank, son, age 21, b. Mich., work in pail factory. (m. Adela ?)
  • Mary, dau., age 18, b. Mich. (m, Lucien F. Rose.)
  • Josephine, dau., age 16, b. Mich. (m. John C. Greening, their daughter Gertude m. Lewis J. Weadock in 1910)
  • Fremont, son, age 14, b. Mich.
  • Daniel, son, age 12, b. Mich.
  • Edward, son, age 10, b. Mich.
  • Eugenia, dau., age 7, b. Mich.

    1900 – Census: Bay City, Mich.
    Address: 300 Cass Ave.

  • Tromble, Medor – b. Nov. 1813
  • Fremont, son – b. Mar. 1856
  • Eugeania, dau. Sept. 1862
  • Greening, Josephine, dau. - b. 1854
  • ... Marie, dau. - b. Dec. 1877
  • ... Gertrude, dau. - Dec. 1883 (m. Lewis J. Weadock, 1910)
  • ... Nedos J. T., son – b. Sept. 1886
    Note: All born in Mich.

    1900 Census: West Bay City, Mich.

  • Trombley, Theodore - b. Sept., 1849 MI (son of Medor and Sarah)
  • Ida - wife, b. Feb., 1890 Canada.
  • Josephine M., dau., b. Aug., 1879 Mich.
  • Gladys M, dau., b. Oct., 1888 Mich.
  • Jay Francis, son, b. Nov., 1890 Mich.
  • Hellen, dau., b. Mar., 1893 Mich.
  • Marie, dau., b. Feb., 1900 Mich.

    1902 Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Mich.

  • Trombley, Mader - son of Jas. Trombley and A. Zebo, died Sept. 20, 1902.

Related Notes & Pages

Medor Trombley

(aka: Tromble') - Medor and his brother, Joseph, built the first frame house in 1837, which later became Bay City. Both were among a handful of other settlers that lived north of the Saginaw settlement. They own hundreds of acres, including the land sold to Judge Albert Miller in 1836 for platting the settlement of Portsmouth, which is the south end of Bay City today.

When they came here this area has just become a part of Saginaw Co. which was organized in 1835. Two more decades would pass before the area they settled became Bay Co. in 1857.

The reference in this article to building the Center House is to the first frame house, which became a boarding house, and is today known as the Trombley House, relocated to Veterans Memorial Park during the early 1980s.
Family Burial Site
Old St. Patricks Cemetery
(click images to enlarge)

Large marker reads,
To the Glory of God and in Memory of MEDOR TROMBLE Founder of Bay City."

Related Pages:
McCormick, James
Trombley, Daniel (son)
Trombley, Joseph (bro.)
Wedding: Medor & Sarah
Trombley Genealogy
{Trombley Plat Maps}
People Referenced
Coggeshall, A.*
Greening, Gertrude (g-dau)
Greening, John C. (s-inlaw)
Greening, Marie (g-dau)
Greeing, Nedos J.T. (g-son)
McCormick, James
McCormick, James J.
McCormick, Sarah (wife)
McCormick, William
Phillpe, Louis
Powell, Alfred*
Revoir family
Rose, Mrs.
Tebo, Alfriesen
Tebo, Louis
Trombley, Daniel (son)
Trombley, Edward (son)
Trombley, Eugenia (dau)
Trombley, Frank (son)
Trombley, Fremont (son)
Trombley, Gennor
Trombley, Gladys (g-dau)
Trombley, Helen (g-dau)
Trombley, Ida (g-dau)
Trombley, James (father)
Trombley, Jay F. (g-son)
Trombley, Josephine (dau.)
Trombley, Josephine M. (g-dau)
Trombley, Joseph
Trombley, Louis
Trombley, Marie (g-dau)
Trombley, Mary (dau.)
Trombley, Medor (subject)
Trombley, Thomas
Weadock, Lewis J.
Zebo, A. (mother)
  • Aka: Trombley = Tromble.
    * End of this column.
  • Subjects Reference
    Albany, NY
    Bay City, MI
    Center House
    Chippewa Indians
    Comer's Creek
    Detroit, MI
    English Government
    Flint River
    Genesee Co., MI
    Jennison ave.
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    Monroe, MI
    Quebec, Canada
    Saginaw Co., MI
    Saginaw river
    St. James Church
    St. Lawrence River
    S. Center St.
    Twenty-second st.
    Twenty-fourth st.
    War of 1812
    Water st.
    West Saginaw, MI
    1870 Michigan Census
    Portsmouth, Bay Co.:
    Medore: 57,m,real estate,MI
    Sarah: 43,f,keep'g hse.,NY
    Frank: 21,m,worker?,MI
    Moriz: 18,m,at sch.,MI
    Josephine, 16,f,at sch.,MI
    Fremont, 14,m,at sch.,MI
    Daniel, 12,m,at sch.,MI
    Edward,10,m,at sch.,MI
  • {Roll 662, Page 516]
  • Bay City Journal Newspaper
    Sat., Oct. 19, 1867:


    A. Coggeshall, at the Centre House, Portsmouth, will sell off his household furniture, horse, wagons, etc., by auction, commencing on Tudesday next, the 22nd inst. Rare chance to make good bargains will be offered, as the sale is premptory, Mr. C. being about to leave Portsmouth.
    Bay City Chronicle & Tribune
    Nov. 22, 1879:


    Alfred Powers who has been in the city for the past few weeks, remarked to a TRIBUNE reporter yesterday that he visited this section some thirty-one years ago on a fishing excursion from Ann Arbor and had not visited here since. At that time, he says, there were no homes to be seen save a log shanty on the west side where H.W. Sage & Co.'s store now stands and a house on this side of the river just above the Twenty-third street bridge. This building, the Center House, is now standing, but the log cabin has been removed from sight long ago. How surprised he was at the change wrought, can better be imagined than described. During the thirty-one years, Mr. Powers has been traveling through the east, west and south, and by chance called here on a visit to his daughter a short time since. He was so well pleased with the prospects of the city that he has come to the conclusion to make it his home for the remainder of his days.
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.