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Hon. John Welch (1825-1898)
Former mayor of Saginaw,State Senator, and resident of West Bay city.

1890 biography. (Added May 1, 2011)

Cyclopedia of Michigan Biographies, 1890.


Lumberman, of West Bay City. Occasionally it is our privilege to run across a man whom everybody likes. He may be a strong partisan, but equally strong partisans of the opposite party will quietly put his slips upon their tickets when he runs for office. And wherever and whenever he may appear, rich and poor, wise and unwise, are alike glad to meet him and to chat with him. This is most emphatically true of John Welsh. Mr. Welsh was born in Augusta, Maine, September 5, 1825. From his father, as his name indicates, Mr. Welch inherits a strain of Celtic blood, but on his mother's side he comes of sturdy Revolutionary stock.

His school education was only such as a farmer's boy can pick up in the unfrequent intervals when he can be spared from the never-ending work of a New England farm; and as John was apprenticed to a blacksmith when only thirteen years of age, he can scarcely be said to have had even the usual changes of the farmer's boy. One year in a blacksmith-shop satisfied his ambition in that direction, and his next step was a natural one for a son of Maine in those days. He went to sea. Shipping on board the Mary Ann Cooper, in six years' time he worked his way up from cabin-boy to second mater, having been promoted to this position while on board te ship Rochester, at Liverpool. In 1846 he again became a landsman, going into the Maine wood, and working in the woodsmen's hard positions, from “swamper” to camp “boss.” Out of the woods in the spring-time, and into the saw-mill until the water freezes, is a frequent routine of the working lumberman; and in the mill, as in the woods, John Welch worked his way up from “tail-awyer” to head “filer.” The experience gained in these laborious years proved, however, of inestimable value to him in the extensive enterprises of after years.

Savings his earnings in wood and mill, he bought an interest in the firm of Eddy, Murphy & Co., the first operations of the firm under his superintendence being a job of logging at the headwaters of the St. John River, the logs being run to Penebscot. In 1863 he came to Michigan, and engaged in the lumbering business on an extensive scale, on the White River in Muskegon County. The style of the firm was Welch, Heald & Co., the silent partners, represented by the “Co.,” being Eddy & Murphy, his Maine associates, who had transferred their business to Michigan. With this firm he continued until 1872, when he sold out, removed to East Saginaw, and since then has done business solely on his own account, being engaged largely in all forms of lumbering. While lumbering, however, he has found time to conduct a large farm, and to become an extensive breeder of horses he has aimed to improve the quality of the stock in the Saginaw Valley.

Mr. Welch has been a very active politician. In the early days of the Republican party, while still a resident of Maine, he was elected a delegate to the convention which first nominated Hannibal Hamlin (subsequently Vice-President of the United States) for governor of that State. After his removal to Michigan he was elected a supervisor of Muskegon County, with but seventeen opposition voles; and when he came up for re-election there was but one vote against him – an almost unprecedented case. For several years, also, he was a trustee, and, subsequently, president of the village of Whitehall; and it was mainly through his efforts at the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad was induced to make that village one of the stations on its line. Four years after his removal to East Saginaw he was elected an alderman of that city. In 1879 he was elected mayor of the same city, and re-elected in the two following years. In 1880 he was unanimously nominated, by acclamation,for State senator from Saginaw County, and triumphantly elected, and thus occupied at the same time the responsible positions of mayor and State senator. He made a thoroughly practical mayor, working for enduring street improvements, perfecting the sewerage system, and laboring to introduce business principles into the management of municipal affairs. So successful was he that strong words of commendation were awarded him by newspapers in political opposition.

In 1881 he bought what was known as the Drake mill property, in West Bay City, and transferred his business and home to that city, where he has since remained. The mill was burned to the ground soon after he bought it, but was rebuilt, and has recently been refurnished with all the modern improvements. The output of the mill has been thirteen million feet of lumber per year.

In 1850, Mr. Welch married to Miss Ruth N. Avery, of Maine, and by her had eight children, of whom three are now living. Mrs. Welch dying at Whitehall in 1871, he was married again the following year to Miss Cornelia Willard, daughter of William Willard, of Ashtabula, Ohio. Of three children born to them, one is now living.

Our sketch has shown that Mr. Welch is, in the truest sense of the phrase, a self-made man. His wide and varied experience has made him a desirable acquisition in social circles, and he is as popular among the lowly as among those who claim to represent society. As a citizen he has been trustworthy, public-spirited, and generous and as a business man he has been honorable. If not polished by the culture of schools, he is at least a “diamond in the rough,” and not very rough, either. Few men occupy the pleasure niche in the esteem of their fellow-citizens than the Hon. John Welch.

Additional Notes.

  • John Welch was mayor of East Saginaw, Mich., 1879-81.

    1893 – Michigan Official Manual and Directory of Executive Office, 1893.

  • John Welch, of West Bay City, was appointed Bay county bridge commissioner in 1888, and elected stone road commissioner in 1895; was appointed oe of the Board of Jury Commissioners of Bay county in 1895. Is a Republican.

    1898 – Michigan Deaths: West Bay City.

  • John Welch, born in 1826, at Maine, son of Paul Welch and Louise Gledden, died April 29, 1898.
Related Pages/Notes

Related Pages:
Drake Bros. Mill
People Referenced
Avery, Ruth N. (1-wife)
Gledden, Louise (mother)
Hamlin, Hannibal
Welch, John (subject)
Welch, Paul (father)
Willard, Cornelia (2-wife)
Willard, William (f-inlaw)
Subjects Referenced
Augusta, Maine
Bay City, MI
Bay County, MI
Chicago West Mich. R.R.
Drake mill property
Eddy, Murphy & Co.
Muskegon County, MI
Penebscot, ME
Saginaw, MI
Saginaw County, MI
Saginaw Valley, MI
St. John River, ME
Welch, Heald & Co.
West Bay City, MI
Whitehall, MI
White River, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.