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James Watson (1814-1876)
Native of Detroit, and pioneer of Bay City, Mich.

1873 Bio. (Added Feb., 2009)

General History of the State of Michigan, by Charles R. Tuttle, 1873


James Watson, of Bay City, was born in Detroit, September 2, 1814. He removed to his present place of residence, then called Lower Saginaw, in 1850. He carried on mercantile business successfully for several years; then he turned his attention, with even greater profit, to lumbering, and continued in that business until 1870. He has been, and now is, one of the solid men of Bay City. He has contributed largely to its rapid growth by investing liberally in local improvements. He erected and now owns a model brick block known as the Watson Block, which is an ornament to the city. He has reared a large family, and is a gentlemen of fine presence, kind and affable, and wields a large influence socially and politically. He has been twice county treasurer, twice major of Bay City, has held the office of president of the Board of Education, and served as president of Bay City Temperance Society.

1883 Bio. (Added Feb., 2009)

History of the Lake Huron Shore, Chicago, IL: H.R. Page, 1883.

Some of Bay County's Early Comers.


James Watson also came in 1850. He had long been known as a merchant of Detroit of the firm of J. & J. Watson, and determined to seek a location for his business in some of the new prospective cities of the state. In seeking a point at which to locate, his steps were directed to the Saginaw Valley. He came to Saginaw City, where he met his old time friend, James Fraser, who, being desirous of securing an acquisition to the business interests of the Valley, descanted freely on all the advantages that town possessed; for at that time Saginaw City was the only town in the Valley where there was any show for business. After looking the ground over at that point, they came together to this part on the river. Mr. Watsons remarks were few but his foresight keen. After satisfying himself and selecting such pieces of property as he desired to purchase, he told Mr. Fraser he had determined to locate here if he could make such terms as lie proposed. Mr. Fraser being agreeably surprised to hear such a determination expressed, readily acceded to Mr. Watsons terms, and a bargain was soon consummated. With other property Mr. Watson purchased the dock and warehouse which was then standing at the foot of Center Street. The warehouse was soon converted into a store and filled with one of the largest stocks of goods that had ever been brought into the Valley. This was late in the Fall of 1850, and some of Mr. Watsons friends expressed surprise that he should have purchased so large a stock of goods for such an out-of-the-way place, but before the breaking up of Winter Mr. Watson had to send six teams to Detroit each to bring a load of goods to supply the demand. (It must be remembered that at this time in Winter the only method of transporting merchandise to points north of Pontiac, was by teams. About this time was the first revival of business in the Valley, after the great depression in 1837 and 1838. A large amount of furs were brought to market, the fishing business was carried on quite extensively and the lumber business was just commencing. Mr. Watson was interested with Co1. Henry Raymond in the lumber business their mill being that afterward owned by James Shearer & Co., it having been built by Col. Raymond in 1850. Mr. Watson retired from the mill and carried on other branches of business, never forgetting to purchase real estate whenever an opportunity presented itself. By that means and through his indomitable energy and excellent business qualifications, he was one of the leading men of the Valley.

Additional Notes.

1853 - History of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Mich.,

  • Page 268. (J. Madison Johnston) In 1853 he came to Deroit with his mother who died three years later, and after that he came to Bay City, to be with his cousin James Watson, in whose store (whihc was the first on at Lower Saginaw) he became a clerk.

    1863 - Early Bay County Marriages.

  • Isaac G. Worden, of Detrioit, age 26, married Feb., 2, 1863, to Louisa H. Watson, of Bay City, age 29, witnesses were James W. Watson and Martha L. Watson, both of Bay City.

    1867 - Michigan State Gazette and Business Directory.

  • Watson, James - Mayor Bay City
  • Watson, James - Saw mill, Water, Bay City

    1874 - The City of Detroit, Mich., 1701-1922, Vol. 3,

  • Page 300 - In 1874 Mr. (Michael W.) O'Brien was united in marriage to Miss Martha F. Watson, a daughter of the late James F. Watson of Bay City, Mich. To this marriage were born three sons and a daughter: William J., who was a sergeant of the Torry Rough Riders in the Spanish-American war and died of typhoid fever in the reserve camp at Jacksonville, Florida; Michael Hubert, attorney at law; Louise Frances, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel Walter Vincent Gallagher of the Nineth Infantry, U.S.A., who died in France in 1918; and Ignatus Francis. On the 20th of July, 1898, Mr. O'Brien was married to Miss Mary J. Flattery, who was born and reared in Detroit.

    1876 Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Mich.

  • James Watson, died 18 Nov. 1876, born 1814.
  • Related Pages/Notes

    James Watson
  • James' daughter, Martha F., married Michael F. 0'Brien of Detroit. -- (Source: City of Detroit 1701-1922)
  • J. Madison Johnson, a cousin of Watson, came from Detroit to Bay City in 1853, and worked as a surveyor and engineer.
  • James partnered with M.W. O'Brien, in a mill located at the foot of Seventh Street. The mill was sold later to Hay, Buttman & Co. -- (Source: History of Saginaw, James C. Mills, 1918)
    Related Pages:
    Johnston, James M. cousin
    Raymond, Henry
    Raymond & Watson Mill
  • People Referenced
    Flattery, Mary J.
    Fraser, James
    Gallagher, Walter V.
    Johnson, J. Madison
    O'Brien, Ignatus F. (g-dau.)
    O'Brien, Louise F. (g-dau.)
    O'Brien, Michael F.
    O'Brien, Michael H. (g-son)
    O'Brien, Michael W.
    O'Briend, Wm. J. (g-son)
    Raymond, Henry Col.
    Watson, James F. (subject)
    Watson, James W.
    Watson, Louisa H.
    Watson, Martha F. (dau.)
    Watson, Martha L. (wife)
    Worden, Isaac G.
    Subjects Referenced
    Bay City, MI
    Civil War
    Detroit, MI
    Jacksonville, FL
    James Shearer & co.
    J. & J. Watson
    Great depression
    Lower Saginaw, MI
    Pontiac, MI
    Saginaw City
    Saginaw Valley
    Spanish-America War
    Torry Rough Riders
    Watson Block
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.