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Hampton Township & Essexville History

Much like it's larger neighbor, Bay City, Essexville and Hampton Township have a rich history associated with the growth of Bay County during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The materials of progress back then were wood, salt, coal and agriculture.

The Dutch:

The Dutch came to the area in 1855 and set about using the rich flat land for farming. However, they had the task of removing the dense population of stumps left behind by the lumberjacks who had harvest trees from it. The Dutch would employ the knowledge of their native land building a series of drainage canals to help keep the land dry for farming.

Indian Reserve (1819):

Essexville is built on a 2,000 acre site where "Nabobish, a chief of the Chippewa Indians had his village," according to the Cass Treaty of 1819. Nebobish Avenue is roughly the southern boundary of this reserve, along the east side of the river, encompassing lands of Essexville and Hampton Township. This reserve was ceded in the 1837 treaty negotiated at Washington, D.C. Seven chiefs with interpreters were taken to meet President Johnson. The spokesman for the Chippewas was Ogemakegato who pointed out to his people that they were giving away their homes. The President presented him with a scarlet dress uniform with which he was buried at his death. His monument and bronze plaque sits in Roosevelt Park on Broadway Avenue in Bay City.

Essex Homestead (1840s-1898):

Joseph Hudson worked for the American Fur Company in the 1840s bringing supplies into the Saginaw Bay and River by boat and taking away cargoes of fur. He married Fedelia D. Essex and was able to persuaded her parents Mr. and Mrs. John T. Essex and their two sons, John T. Jr. and Ransom to migrate to this area in 1850. Eight acres of land is recorded to John T. Essex on November 1, 1852, while the Hudsons purchased forty acres adjoining what is now Essexville.

Log homes were erected and for a number of years they were among the few residents who lived in the area. They carried on fishing and later farming.

The old Essexville City Hall was built on the site of the Essex homestead in 1898.

The Corner Saloon (1858):

{View} 1875 map of Essexville Business Locations (opens new window, close when done).

One of the principle places of businesses carried on in a community in the old days was at a saloon. Men would meet and exchange news of the day and consummate a deal or two.

Such was the spot on the southeast corner of Woodside and Main Street where Anthony Walraven (Walraffen) arriving from Holland in 1858 would build his saloon and hotel that very year. Later on Anthony would trade the saloon to his son Frank in exchange for farm land in Hampton Township.

During the prohibition period and under the ownership of "Duffy" Hebert, the combination tavern restaurant would be given the name of the "Silver Palace". In 1942, William Karner Sr. purchased the business which became a popular spot for excellent perch dinners.

In recent years the ownership has changed hands a couple of times. Today it remains a popular local pub under the name of The Palace.

Carriere Mill (1867):

Carriere & Company built a saw mill on the Saginaw River at the site of the Present Aetna Cement Company in 1867. Operations began in 1868 and employed thirty men. Atlantic Salt Company established a salt block shortly after with Daniel A. Marshall as superintendent. These operations attracted laborers who purchased lots on which to build their homes from Essex's first plat. Many of these people were French-Canadians, so it was natural for them to add "ville" to Essex. To the French, any community is a "ville" or town -- thus Essexville. Many other mill operations soon followed.

First Plat (1868):

Ransom Essex took great interest in the development of the area and served as Hampton Township supervisor during the Civil War. Following the war boom that saw the Carriere & Company saw mill employing a growing force of laborers who needed homes, he dreamed of a little city.

Ransom platted eight acres of the original 80 acres into lots in 1868 and the family agreed that it should be named "Essex". Soon he platted a second addition to the first plat.


Protestant (1872)

In the early days Essexville was a field for missionary work by the churches of Bay City. About 1872, Trinity Church established a mission and built a chapel. In 1879, a Congregational mission established a religious society whose members would later open it to all Protestant denomination and change it's name to the Essexville Baptist Community Church on Main Street.

Catholic (1875)

St. John The Evangelist Roman Catholic Church was established by the Belgians and Hollanders in 1884, as a mission of St. James Church in Bay City. In order to fulfill their religious obligations, these people had a choice of walking five or six miles to church in Bay City to either St. Joseph or St. James.

Reverend Thomas Rafter, pastor of St. James, and Geradus Vennix discussed the problem of the Flemish speaking Catholics, all living close to each other in Essexville and Hampton Township. Plans were made and carried out to build a combination church and school frame structure as a mission to St. James Parish in 1884; to become a parish in 1887 under Reverend Cornelius J. Roche.

In 1904, Reverend John R. VanRooy, fluent in Flemish and French was assigned to this parish until his death in 1929. The present church was built in 1917 after fire caused by lightning destroyed the frame church.

Lutheran (1941)

The Lutheran Mission of Essexville was formed on April 2, 1941 by a committee composed of members of Zion and Emmanuel Lutheran congregations and their pastors of Bay City. In 1942, a portable chapel was purchased and erected on a newly acquired property at Pine and Nebobish. The frame chapel was used until 1958 when the present Pilgrim Lutheran Church was built.

First Drug Store (1875):

Dr. Augustus J. Harris, an Englishman, opened the Essexville Drug Store in 1875, a building that was a combined home, doctor's office, drug store and sometimes post office. Others had been dealers in patent medicines only, but Dr. Harris was the first medical doctor and pharmacist in Essexville.

In later years, the land where Dr. Harris once practiced found use as the Essexville Lumber Company that turned the original office and drugstore into a storage building. In 2001, Essexville Lumber moved to a new larger facilities near the Independence Bridge in Bay City.

Michigan Sugar (1898):

The first successful beet sugar plant in Michigan was erected in Essexville in 1898 by the Michigan Sugar Company. One year later, Bay City Sugar Company built a plant next to them separated only by Scheurmann Street. In 1903, the two companies merged and began operations under the new name of Bay City - Michigan Sugar Company until 1941.

Captains Ben Boutell, Thomas Cranage, James E. Davidson with others who had made money in lumbering and shipping invested in this new venture that provided a new cash crop and jobs for former lumber mill workers, thus averting another sawdust ghost town.

Heritage House:

The century old home of John B. and Melissa Collar Garber has been preserved as a fine example of a mid-west country home, a style of architecture so prevalent in the Great Lakes Area today. This full two story building is noted as a contribution to American architecture from the lands once called the North West Territory.

The "common ordinary people" built this house start with a rectangular structure. As more rooms were needed an addition was built to make an "L" or a "T" or a "cross". Some of the families living here 100 or more years ago were: Badour, DeWyse, Englehart, Erno, Hebert, Maxson, Vennix, Veryken, Vink, Tacey and Walraven

Heritage House is a monument to the pioneers of the Essexville-Hampton area where many of their descendants live today.

Heritage House is the focal point of the preserving the history of Essexville, Hampton Township, Bay County and the state of Michigan.

  • Our thanks Essexville City Hall for providing the much of the historical information contained on this page.

  • People Referenced
    Boutell, Ben
    Cranage, Thomas
    Davidson, James E.
    Essex, Fedelia D.
    Essex, John T.
    Essex, John T. Jr.
    Essex, Ransom
    Garber, John B.
    Garber, Melissa (Collar)
    Harris, Augustus J. (Dr.)
    Hebert, "Duffy"
    Hudson, Joseph
    Karner, William Sr.
    Marshall, Daniel
    Nabobish, Chief
    Rafter, John R. (Rev.)
    Roche, Conelius J. (Rev.)
    VanRooy, John R. (Rev.)
    Vennix, Geradus
    Walraven (Walraffen), Anthony
    Walraven (Walraffen), Frank
    Subjects Referenced
    Atlantic Salt Co.
    American Fur Co.
    Bay City
    Bay City Sugar Co.
    Bay County
    Carriere & Co. (sawmill)
    Cass Treaty of 1819
    Chippewa Indians
    Congregational mission
    Drainage canals
    Essex plat
    Essexville Baptist Church
    Essexville Drug Store
    Esseville Lumber Co.
    Heritage House
    Indian Reserve
    Michigan Sugar Co.
    Palace saloon
    Pilgrim Lutheran Church
    Salt block
    Silver Palace saloon
    St. James Church
    St. Johns Church
    St. Joseph Church
    Trinity Church

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