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Williams Township History

Williams Twsp.
First Brick House

Auburn's First Townhall
built 1908.

Auburn Coal Mine

Auburn - Dasky Saloon

Williams Township has undergone several boundary changes since its inception in 1855 as a Township of Midland County. In 1857, Bay County was established and Williams Township along with Saginaw County's Portsmouth Township became the charter townships of the newly formed county. Later, Williams Township was reduced in size as new localized settlements within its boundaries warranted their own township representation in Bay County government.

First Pioneers:

In 1854, when the pioneer settlers of Williams Township arrived, the only settlement in Bay County Lower Saginaw (now eastside of Bay City). Charles Bradford, John Gaffney, William Spofford, Charles Fitch, George W. Smock, and Lyman Brainard were the first to visited Williams Township with the intent of assessing land to purchase a settlement. In October, each of them proceeded to the land office in Flint to purchase property in Williams Township. That same month, {William Skelton}, A.J. Willse, and Amos Culver acquired land here as well. And, in 1855, others began purchasing land in this area; Frederick G. Shaw, Joseph Dell, Samuel Bowden, David Jones, Josiah Perry and John Plant.

John Gaffney is considered the first pioneer to take up residence in this new land. Amos Culver is credited with erecting the first permanent building, a square log house. The first school in Williams was in 1856 at the corner of Charles Bradford's farm. It was a one room log building and its first teacher was Mrs. Charles Fitch. Other first include:

    1855: First white child born was Clara Culver, daughter of Mrs. Amos Culver.
    1856: First school was started at the home of Charles Bradford with Mrs. Charles Fritch as teacher.
    1856: First marriage was between Mrs. Arvilla Story and William Hendrick with ceremony performed by Otto Roeser, Justice of the Peace.

Late 1800s:

In 1866, Spicers Corner became Fisherville which was named in honor of {Spencer O. Fisher}, owner of the local stave mill operating there. The mill produced the wood planks used in construction of the toll road running between Midland and Bay City. Cost to travel it to and from Bay City was $1.00. The first keeper of the Auburn gate was Mr. Wolf. That year, the Methodist Bible Class formed and began meeting every two weeks led by itinerant preachers.

Supervisors Williams Township
1856 - 1954

1856Charles Bradford (Saginaw Co. Bd.)
1857-1859George W. Smock (Bay Co. Bd.)
1860-1866Samuel Rowden
1866-1867John C. Rowden
1878-1882Ira E. Swart
1887-1892Ira E. Swart
1892-1901Henry W. Hopler
1901-1902Morris J. Oviatt
1902-1903Linus W. Oviatt
1905-1906Wm. J. Bierd
1908-1909John A. Foster
1909-1913August Quintel
1914-1918Bentley A. Major
1919-1922Albert B. Carter
1923David L. Colbert
1924-1932Bentley A. Major
1934-1938Gustave Zimmerman
1938-1941Floyd Brashaw (June mtg.)
1941Edwin M. Clarey (Oct. mtg.)

In 1867, the Catholics built a small church with Fr. Schutjes, a Missionary, traveling from far off Saginaw to fill the initial pulpit needs. In 1898, the St. Anthony's Church was organized in Fisherville by the Polish with the guidance and help of Rev. Edward J. Kozlowski pastor of St. Stanislaus in Bay City.

The first post office was established on the corner of the Perry farm, Joseph Sullivan was postmaster and his assistant was John Sullivan. The postoffice established in Auburn it was originally known as the Skinner post office being named after the postmaster. A few years later, Ira Swart became postmaster and renamed the community to "Auburn" after Auburn, New York where his wife was from.

Pioneers of the village of Auburn were Henry Baldwin, J. Curve, John Kent Sr. and William Spicer. They settled in the four corners of Auburn located in sections 23 and 24 of Williams Township. J. Southerland and Ira Swart owned the first stores in Auburn.

By 1868, Auburn had; two saloons, a blacksmith shop, two stores, three saw mills, a templar Lodge, a Red Ribbon Lodge (also a temperance lodge) and a population of 300 people. A year later, the Auburn Methodist Church was built on property given to them by Henry Balwinski.

The first railroad, Bay City and Battle Creek line, started operations in 1886. It would later be sold to the Michigan Central railroad. Garfield was the first graveled road in 1895. The first telephone system arrived in 1896 run by the Valley Telephone Company. A townhall and two-room school house were built in 1898.

1900 to 1954:

In 1902, a private high school ran by Mary and Elizabeth Holmes was set up over one of the store buildings. The old wood building of the St. Joseph Catholic Church was replaced with a new brick building under the leadership of Father Dennis Malone, a brick school addition was added a few years later.

In 1904, the Evergreen Lodge No. 505 I.O.O.F. was instituted on December 29th by Washington L. Barr, Grand Master of Michigan. Initial lodge meeting were held over a store and in 1907 a new hall was built by the organization. Charter members were: {Henry W. Hopler}, J. L. Hemingway, William Hemingway, Herbert Awrey, Irving B. Davis, Jay Came, Joseph Plant, Charlie White, Dr. E. Clark, J.C. Widmer and Dr. E.A. Wittwer.

In 1905, the first elevator was set up and ran by Chester Kern.

In 1907, the Lilac Rebekah Lodge No. 431 was instituted on April 5th, charter members were Mrs. Marion Molyneaux, Mrs. Clara Kern, Mrs. Ira Wait and Mrs. Charles White.

in 1908, the Bank of Auburn (later the People's State Bank) was esatablished. That same year, the first car in the township was owned by Dr. Snyder, followed closely by Dr. Wittwer with his old chain driven car with buggy spoked wheels that were coated with hard rubber. These first motorized vehicles soon led many others to aquire them and dirt roads were quickly being graveled. By 1920, the state took over the plank road (now M-20) and it was paved.

In 1910, Ben W. Gillman became principle of the new four room brick school built that year at a cost of $5,000. The school had 297 pupils in District 3.

By 1913, there were nine coal mines operating within a five mile radius of Auburn and a bus line to Bay City had been started by Hauton Stone.

In 1917, a funeral business was set up by Ira C. Loose.

In 1920, radio came to Auburn beginning the age of electronic media for local businesses and families.

On Dec 8, 1947, the residents of the Auburn area voted to become a city. Maxine Weston Clarey was voted in as the first mayor of Auburn. Water played an instrumental role in the decision of the community to establish itself as a city. As a city, they could legally negotiate with the city of Midland and join thier water system. On December 18, 1949 Auburn began receiving its water supply from Midland.

Some firsts and notable events for Auburn as a city were:

    First marriage was for Kendall V. Kennedy of Unionville to Eleanor Luptowski of Monitor Township on January 17, 1948.

    First child born was Gabriel Sheridan, son of Thomas and Beatrice Trudeau Sheridan on September 5, 1948.

    Tom Sheridan opened the Auburn Theater on February 27, 1949.

    Auburn Scout Troop was formed on April 21, 1949.

    A new city hall building was contracted to A.W. Bell of Freeland on June 3, 1949 at a cost of $17,000.

    The Auburn-Williams Volunteer Fire Department was formed on October 25, 1949.

    The Columbian Club was formed on March 14, 1950.

In 1954, Williams Township celebrated their 100th anniversary issuing the pamphlet, "Auburn - Williams Centennial, 1854-1954" which is the source for most of this history. This pamphlet and many other historical materials are available at the Bay County Library - Auburn branch.

Page Notes

Year: Population
1868: >300
1874: 526
1880: 866
1894: 1,752
1900: 1,818
1910: 2,407
1920: 1,934
1930: 1,866
1940: 2,212
1950: 2,131
People Referenced
Awrey, Herbert
Baldwinski, Henry
Barr, William L.
Bell, A.W.
Bowden, Samuel
Bradford, Charles
Brainard, Lyman
Came, Jay
Clarey, Maxine W.
Clark, E. (Dr.)
Culver, Amos
Culver, Clara
Curve, J.
Davis, Irving B.
Dell, Joseph
Fisher, Spencer O.
Fitch, Charles
Fitch, Charles (Mrs.)
Gaffney, John
Gillman, Ben W.
Hemmingway, J.L.
Hemmingway, William
Hendrick, William
Holmes, Elizabeth
Holmes, Mary
Hopler, Henry W.
Jones, David
Kennedy, Kendall V.
Kent, John Sr.
Kern, Chester
Kern, Clara Mrs.
Loose, Ira C.
Luptowski, Eleanor
Malone, Dennis (Rev.)
Molyneaux, Marion Mrs.
Perry, Josiah
Plant, John
Plant, Joseph
Roeser, Otto
Schutjes, (Rev.)
Shaw, Frederick G.
Sheridan, Gabriel
Sheridan, Thomas
Sheridan (Trudeau), Beatrice
Skelton, William
Smock, George W.
Snyder, (Dr.)
Southernland, J.
Spicer, William
Spofford, William
Stone, Hauton
Story, Arvilla (Mrs.)
Sullivan, John
Sullivan, Joseph
Swart, Ira
Wait, Ira Mrs.
White, Charles
White, Charles Mrs.
Widmer, J.C.
Willse, A.J.
Wittwer, E.A. (Dr.)
Wolf, Mr.
  • (see list of supervisors)
  • Subjects Referenced
    1st Auburn marriage
    1st Auburn mayor
    Auburn gate keeper
    Auburn Methodist Church
    Auburn Scout Troop
    Auburn Theater
    Auburn (village)
    Auburn, NY
    Auburn-Williams Fire Dept.
    Bank of Auburn
    Bay City & Battle Creek RR
    Columbian Club
    Evergreen Lodge #505
    Flint land office
    Lilac Rebekah Lodge #431
    Lower Saginaw (Bay City)
    Methodist Bible Class
    Michigan Central RR
    Midland City
    Midland County
    Monitor Twsp.
    Peoples State Bank
    Portsmouth Twsp.
    Saginaw County
    Skinner post office
    Stave mill
    St. Anthonys Church
    St. Joseph Church
    Toll road
    Valley Telephone Co.
    Williams Twsp.
    The Fourth in Williams.
    Bay City Press & Times
    July 19, 1861

    The celebration of the Fourth in the township of Williams passed off very pleasantly, was we learn from one who was present. The reading of the Declaration of Independence, reading of the Constitution, and an oration with music, the firing of the guns, a picnic dinner, and a dance in the evening, were the principal features of the celebration. And, as a practical demonstration that the spirit of Union has in no wise gone out from the hearts of the good people of Williams, Mr. Samuel Rowden and Miss Prudence Myers were, on the morning of the 5th, united in marriage -- at the present time a most appropriate closing ceremony to such an occassion. In this union the heresy of secession will find no favor. We wish the parties much joy.

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