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John H. Wilkins (1836-?)
Born in Philadelphia, PA. Mayor of Bay City, MI

1883 biography. - Added July, 2009.

History of Bay County, Michigan, H.R. Page - 1883


John H. Wilkins, late mayor of Bay City, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., October 22, 1836. In 1853 he graduated from the Philadelphia High School and immediately thereafter entered the employ of the late Gen. David B. Birney, who was chief manager of the mercantile agency and collection office of B. Douglass & Co., where he remained until June 1856. Gen. Birney being the principle owner of a store at Lower Saginaw, now Bay City, sent Mr. Wilkins here to act as clerk. The store not proving a success, he was instructed to close up the business in 1857, send the stock to Scranton, Pa., where Gen. Birney was interested in coal mining, and to follow in person and open a new store. It was a flattering testimony to Mr. Wilkins' business capacity and integrity that, at the age of twenty-one years, Gen. Birney was willing to entrust him with the management of a business. But he had found the stir and enthusiasm of Western life agreeable to his tastes, and declining the tempting offer he went to Detroit and took a position as shipping clerk in the warehouse of the late Capt. E. B. Ward, -- one of the best business schools in which a young man could be placed. He remained in that position until January, 1868, and then went to Rockwood, Monroe Co., Mich., as book-keeper for his brother-in-law, Hon. John Strong, present state senator. He remained there until February, 1873, when he returned to Bay City, and opened a real estate and abstract office, which he still continues, doing a very extensive business. In the Spring of 1879 he was nominated by the Republicans for the office of mayor, and was elected by a large majority, being the first Republican mayor in ten years. In 1880 and again in 1881 he was re-nominated by acclamation and elected. His administration as mayor of the city have been popular to an unusual degree. Mr. Wilkins is a thorough gentleman, and one calculated to reflect credit upon the third city in the state. He is a man of broad views, and is possessed of a spirit of enterprise which, while mayor, he imparted to all departments of municipal administration. As a consequence, needed public improvements were presented with vigor and prudence, giving to the city not only a high degree of attractiveness, but an excellent sanitary condition and a high place among the well governed cities of the West.

1906 MI Tax Commission. - Added July, 2009.

Proceedings by Michigan State Tax Commission. 1906

Bay County.

Page 32.

Mr. John H. Wilkins: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Board: I have very little to add to what Mr. Houghton has said. We thought five years ago we got an unreasonable boost. We could not account for it. Now, since five years ago we have lost six sawmills, and when the sawmills have disappeared the labor disappeared; the lumber goes, the salt goes, and we have nothing. We have seven banks in Bay City today; we had seven five years ago; but the banks have reduced their capital stock in the last five years $150,000; we have actually lost in bank stock today $250,000 on that item alone, over five years ago. These losses have affected the mercantile houses. Take the hardware stores, we don't get the trade from them we did five years ago, because they don't carry any sawmill supplies. We lost one wholesale grocery house; we had three five years ago, we have go two now. All those things have affected the general business. Some of the wards have increase materially, but those are the residence wards; the manufacturing wards that front on the river have all fallen behind. We can demonstrate we have lost in five years at least $800,000 of personal property and nothing to replace it, and yet we came out ahead of our assessment this year about $350,000 over five years ago and we respectfully ask you to give it consideration now. I thank you.

Additional Notes:

  • John H. Wilkins wife was Sarah S. Strong, daughter of John and Isabella (Campbell) Strong.
  • John and Sarah were married about 1862. (1900 US Census)
  • He was major of Bay City from 1879-82.
  • Daughter, Grace S. Wilkins, married Josiah L. Ambrose. (See Ambrose bio.)
  • 1874 John formed a co-partnership with Emil Anneke, who had just moved to Bay City from East Saginaw, the business name was Anneke & Wilkins, which was a law, abstract, and real estate firm, which held two sets of books for Bay County, compiled from original records. [American Biological History of Self-made Men, F. A. Barnard, 1878.]
  • Children of John H. and Sarah S. were Bolle S. (born 1865) and Grace S. (b. 1841) [1880 Census, Bay City]
  • 1909 - Chairman of Bay City Board of Assessors.
Reference Notes & Pages

Related Pages:
Ambrose, Josiah L.
Anneke, Emil
[Birney, David B.}
Young, Walter D.
People Referenced
Ambrose, Josiah L.
Anneke, Emil
Birney, David B.
Campbell, Esabella
Douglas, B.
Houghton, Mr.
Strong, John
Strong, Sarah S. (wife)
Ward, E.B.
Wilkins, Bolle S. (son)
Wilkins, Grace S. (dau.)
Wilkins, John H. (subject)
Subjects Referenced
Anneke & Wilkins
Bay City, MI
Bay Co., MI
B. Douglas & Co.
Monroe Co., MI
Philadelphia, PA
Rockwood, MI
Scranton, PA
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.