Growth -- A Frontier Opens
Many others would follow the fur traders into Michigan during the early 1800s. Detroit was quickly becoming a major center and other regions of southern Michigan were becoming populated.
In 1831, according to Alexis De Tocqueville ("Memoirs" Vol. 1), a Frenchman and writer. While staying in the community of Pontiac he decided to journey to the Saginaw Valley. His story says that he was urged not to do this by the owner of the hotel. In his memoirs of this occassion, he wrote about the reaction of the hotel owner upon learning this:
At the name of Saginaw, a remarkable change came over his features. It seemed as if he had been suddenly snatched from real life and transported to a land of wonders. His eyes dilated, his mouth fell open, and most complete astonishment pervaded his countenance. "You want to go to Saginaw!" exclaimed he "to Saginaw Bay! Two foreign gentlemen, two rational men, want to go to Saginaw Bay! It is scarcely credible." And, why not we replied. "But are you well aware," continued our host, "what you undertake? Do you know that Saginaw is the last inhabited spot towards the Pacific; that between this place and Saginaw lies an uncleared wilderness? Do you know that the forest is full of Indians and mosquitoes; that you must sleep at least one night under damp trees? Have you thought about the fever? Will you be able to get on in the wilderness, and to find your way in the labyrinth of our forests?"
Tocqueville none the less made the trip. What he discovered was indeed a beautiful wilderness with many inland waterways. White settlers at this time amounted to a few house houses and about twenty people. In his memoirs, he would speak of what he believed in store for the valley in the future:
"In a few years these impenetrable forests will have fallen; the sons of civilization and industry will break the silence of the Saginaw; its echoes will cease; its banks will be imprisoned by quays; its current, which now flows on unnoticed and tranquil through a nameless waste, will be stemmed by the prows of vessels. More than one hundred miles sever this solitude from the great European settlements; and we were, perhaps, the last travelers to see its primitive grandeur."
(Alexis De Tocqueville: View journal entries from ["Journey to America: Michigan Territory, Jul 22 - Aug 14]. View [Tocqueville.org] for further information on Tocqueville.)
That same year, Leon Tromble' settled in what is now Bay County as a government agricultural agent. With his commission from the US government, he would build a log cabin on the east bank of the river near what is now Fourth Street in Bay City. His mission was to teach the Indians how to farm and to continue his interest in fur trading. In 1834, two others arrived and built log cabins. Benjamin Cushway would build on the west bank of the river near what is now Salsburg Avenue. John B. Trudell would build on the east bank of the river near what is now Seventh and Broadway in Bay City.
Immigrant families would soon follow these early pioneers and their families to the valley. As foretold by Tocqueville, the evolution process moved quickly from one of a peaceful wilderness to an area of bustling settlements that would establish several major communities in the valley. The Indians would eventually be displaced from a land they once roamed freely except for the early entrance of a few white men who seemed no threat to their way of life at that time.
The population grew rapidly leading to a new merchant industry to meet their needs for goods and services. The time fast approached when the fur traders that initially pioneered the area would themselves become a minority to those who worked the land in other ways. Many of these immigrants would in time take to fishing and farming for self-survival and to feed the growing numbers in new communities that were springing up. Others would find opportunity as blacksmiths, lumber-jacks, carpenters, ship builders, and general laborers.
The merchandizing businesses would establish shops providing imported and local goods such as food, clothing, linen, textiles, pantry items, liquoir, salt, furniture and other goods. And, of course, many tavern establishments sprung up providing a place for them to congregate after a hard days work where they could relax and also conduct business.
There are many stories to be told and in the next section entitled, "Pioneer History" you will learn about the people who earned wealth in the valley and prominent roles the development of our Bay County.