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Native Settlers

The earliest known dwellers of this area were the Indians. However, archaeology findings reveals that an ancient resident, of whom we know little about, was the first to roam here.

This group was known as the "Mound-Builders," as they buried their dead in mounds of earth built high above ground level. Achaelogist believed migrated here from Asia long before the age of Indians. Artifacts made of clay and copper found in the graves suggests they were a civilization that was quite advanced during their time, and were far spread across many countries and throughout the Saginaw Valley. Their existence remained a secret for many years and were discover only by chance by the first white settlers years after established homesteads along the Saginaw River.

  • {View} Saginaw Valley Mound-Builders by W.R. McCormick, a pioneer who witness their existence.


    Click to view large map.

    Local Indian Sites

    Many Indians sites have been found in the Saginaw Valley which provided an ideal environment for supporting life. Most of these sites were located near the water's edge -- the Saginaw Bay and the Saginaw and Kawkawlin rivers. The map to the left shows the location of known Indian camps and burial sites in Bay County. It was created by George X. Allen, former director of the Bay County Historical Museum. Click the map to read text on a full size image.

    Local Archaeological Findings

    Artifacts of the early Indian history continue to be found in the Bay area today. Major new construction typically involves an archaeological study for the possibility of additional findings before excavation take places.

    In 2000, the city began work to tear down the old railroad viaduct on the westside. The viadock is located on Marquette street near the old Fletcher Oil property and a known area where an Indian camp site and where many burials took place. So it wasn't a surprise when worked came upon an Indian burial. In such cases, work is stopped until the appropriate Indian and civil authorities reach an agreement what steps are to be taken to preserve the historical burial sites.

    Depending on the type of finding, construction can be held up for a considerable period time if archaeologists need to escavate the area for artifacts. Many old buildings remain in areas near the Saginaw River and it is reasonable to conclude that new discoveries be made when their time comes for their replacement. One can only wonder what treasures were destroyed during the early industrial age and lost forever? The Bay County Historical Museum located on Washington Avenue next to the City Hall in Bay City is home for many of them that we were fortunate to secure.

    "The Native Americans of North America are believed to be descendants of the Mongoloids, early hunters and gatherers who migrated from Asia to North America around 30,000 BC. These Stone Age people crossed an ice-age land bridge across that is now the Bering Strait during the Pleistocene epoch.
    (Source: "Native Americans (30,000 BC)," Microsoft(R) Encarta(R) 97 Encyclopedia. (c) 1993-1996 Microsoft Corporation.)(r)

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    Archaeology
    While the Sauk and Chippewa Indians were the first known inhabitants, humans dwelled in this area long before. Archaeology findings have uncovered the following evidenced of their presence in the valley:
    - Copper tools:
    These are dated to 2000 to 4000 years ago. Little is known about them and they are commonly referred to as the "Old Copper" people.
    - "Folsomoid" spear heads:
    About 8000 years old.
    - Clay Pottery
    Dated as 500 BC to 700 AD period. May have been made by groups called the "Hopewell People" or "Mound Builders".


    Skeleton found in Ohio mound.

    History Tid-Bit
    Many Indian burials were located near the Kawkawlin and Saginaw rivers, and most of them were lost during the community development years of the white population. {Learn More}
    NATURE INDIAN LIFE
    HISTORY: French explorers were the first whites to visit this area.