May 2004 - Edition No. 17

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Featured History -- Menu | History | Featured Websites | News | Bay-Journal Updates |

Birney Heritage

Pictured in this month's history graphic are James G. Birney II (top right) and his sons; James III (top left), David B., (btm. left) and William Birney. The background image is from Pine Ridge cemetery.

The heritage of the Birney family is a unique inheritance of this community's history. From grandfather to grandson, the Birney name has been a proud legacy on which we can look back on with a great deal of pride. Their collective stories says a lot about strength of character that is a hallmark of their contributions to their time, and on which we have built the present.

Perhaps, the most well known of the Birneys to contemporary citizens of Bay City is James G. Birney IV. For the past couple of years his name has appeared in publication associated with his service in the Civil War. This notoriety was created when it became known that a sword once owned by him was available for purchase. The Bay County Historical Society Museum now has this sword which will become part of a special display.

However, James IV is not the most significant Birney in this community's history. That distinction belongs to his grandfather, James G. Birney II. He was a leader in the abolitionist movement, and twice ran for president of the United States. The second time as while a member of this community. James II was 49 years when in 1849, he made his first visited this area. He was so impressed with the natural environment and its development potential that he uprooted his family from their home in New York and moved here the following spring. After a brief stay in Saginaw, he settled on Lower Saginaw (now Bay City) for his permanent residence. He went and a group of investors formed the Saginaw Bay Company that platted the village of Lower Saginaw.

The Birney heritage goes much deeper than the two James mentioned. The eldest son of James II, also named James, and the father of James IV, followed in his father's political footsteps becoming a local and state leader. He was active player in the growth of this community. The historic Pine Ridge Cemetery on the north east corner of Trumbell and Center was founded by him. And, is where he, wife Amanda (Moulton) and other family members are interned.

The Birney family legacy is one of God, country and community service. During the Civil War, five sons served as officers in the Union army. James II's sons, William and David Bell were Generals; Dion a Lieutenant; Fitzhugh a Major; and, grandson James II a Lieutenant. Dion, David and Fitzhugh did not survive the war.

Elizabeth (Fitzhugh) Birney, the second wife of James II, was a significant benefactor to needy causes after her husband's passing in 1857. Her brother, Dr. Daniel Fitzhugh who was a close friend of James II. before Elizabeth marriage, founded the village of Salzburg.

The Birney family and many other pioneer families that are a part of Bay City's heritage are worthy of greater attention. It is unfortunate that there isn't greater awareness by the public of our wonderful history. Little has been done by subsequent generations to appropriately honor our heritage. While some local streets and places carry their names, few know why. Their contributions are stored away in local history books at the library or museum used only by a small group of people who desire to understand our community's roots. There is no tucked away While their surnames are used for streets and places, only understand why.

The answers are bundled away in books, micro-films of old newspaper and other documents at the local library or museum. Only a small fraction of the public are even aware of their existence. While millions are invested in our schools - local history isn't a part of the curriculum. That's a shame! I have yet to understand why? Because there is so much that can be socially gained by our youth through an understanding of their community's roots.


The above lists only a few of the heritage surnames that have contributed to our community's well being. All outstanding examples that can be cited in educating our children in developing public and private social skills that instill community pride. Through an understanding of this history, students may develop the wisdom that their future will be the direct result of their own desires, capabilities, discipline and willingness to set goals. And, that their knowledge, effort and perserverance are the only limiting factors in achieving the future they dream for themselves.

You can learn a great deal more about the Birneys from their biographies and family tree at:

  • Heritage Library/ James G. Birney Family Heritage
  • Featured Local & Regional Websites -- Menu | History | Websites | News | Bay-Journal Updates |

    Bay County Sports Hall of Fame [Website]

    Our local sports Hall of Fame was established in 1990 with Denny Hayes as its first president. The organization has grown considerably since then and annually, they hold a banquet at which time new members are inducted into the Hall of Fame.

    A visit to their website will provide you with a history of the organization, a listing of board members, information on members of the Hall of Fame, and a great deal more the organization activies and selection process.

    The Bay County Sports Hall of Fame website is the work of O.J. Cunningham, owner of O.J. Advertising and current President of the organization.

    Brennan Marine Sales [Website]

    Brennan marina has been a historical fixture in the south end of Bay City for many years. It was originally started by the Brennan family of Bay City, it is now owned by Skipper Marine, a large marina company with holdings in several other states.

    It is the largest marina in the state outside of Detroit. Its location is ideal for boat owners who enjoy spending time on the Saginaw Bay or traveling the lakes. Besides mooring and storage facilities, the marina offers new and use boat sales along with fiancing options, and a full parts and maintenance service.

    News & Commentary -- Menu | History | Featured Websites | News | Bay-Journal Updates |

    News Article Index:
    May 1 - Introduction
    May 2 - Mid-Michigan Business Expo This Wednesday!
    May 3 - Candidates for State Representative on Internet.
    May 4 - Pocket Parks Proposed for Cool City.
    May 5 - Bay-Journal Was Off-Line!
    May 5 - Large Attendence at Mid-Michigan Busines Expo.
    May 7 - Improper Treatment of Iragi Prisoners Was Wrong, But!
    May 10 - Upbeat Articles on My Bay
    May 24 - Memorial Day Celebrations
    May 24 - Bay-Journal Remodeling

    Highlighted news items and our commentary about it or other subjects. For more extensive news coverage online we recommend the following websites:
  • Local & Regional News
  • Articles about Bay County:
    [] Co.].
  • ^ April 1 - Introduction

  • Bay-Journal Commentary by Marvin Kusmierz

    Spring seems to be off to a slow start as mother nature hasn't been able to settle in on temperature and conditions ideal for plant growth. During the last week of April, she greeted us in the morning one day with frost that shook up a few plants that I've shared a great deal of time with over the years. They'll survive and I think I will to in spite of the mental anguish.

    Featured History.
    This month we are featuring the history of the Birney family because their name has been in the local news in recent times. We have accumulated a considerable amount of information on them in our Heritage Library that'll help you understand why the Birney name is so historically important to our community. Within the family you'll learn about Bay City's only candidate for the Presidency of the United States, about their contributions as members of this community to the Civil War, and the importance of the Pine Ridge connection to the Birney family.

    Upcoming Content.
    There is a considerable amount of work on content that is left over from what was started during April. I hope the series of school histories of Bay City that was published in 1940. I haven't been anxious to spend the time transcribing the data as its low on my list of desirable things to do, but I will see it through if we have enough bad weather days during May. There is also a long list of brief political bios to be done and these will probably be filtered in a few each month throughout the summer. And, one that is easy for me is the completion of Mary Hemminger's Civil War diary Phyllis Nilsson, who contributed this precious document, is doing the transcribing (bless her heart). And, there are several stacks around the house of "things do", but the accumulation has reached the point that I no longer remember what the subjects are?

    Bay County Will Be 150 in 2007.
    On the April 29th, Bay County turned 147 years old. The big "150" anniversary is only three years away. It's hard to believe how much has transpired since Leon Trombley decided to build a log-cabin here in 1931. He chose a spot along the Saginaw river near where Fourth Street is today. His only neighbors were Chippewa Indians, and they certainly must have looked upon him with some suspicion. Some were familiar with Leon having traded furs and pelts with him for the white man's goods in preceding years. And, there were other whites that did so as well, but before the white always set up their homesteads further south in the village of Saginaw. Surely the Indians or Leon had no idea of future community that was to be born of this wilderness after they were gone. And, the majority of today's homesteaders would be amazed to know what the area was when the first white settlement here took place.

    Bay-Journal's 2nd Anniversary
    April 24th marked the second anniversary of Bay-Journal which now has been visited over 150,000 times and has grown to over 700 pages of local history and community information. There is still much work to be done get our history online so it can be easily enjoy by anyone with internet access. What has been published so far using limited resources has exceeded expectations. We are hope that "new" contributors will join those who have help expedite the sharing of a wonderful story that is our community's heritage.

    Weitzman Plan for Uptown At River's Edge
    I want to call to your attention that at the end of last month we published this plan for those of you that live outside of Bay County.

    ^ April 2 - Mid-Michigan Business Expo This Wednesday! (Tri-Cities)

    Here's a great opportunity to learn more about local area businesses and see first hand some of the products they have to offer. This is the 8th annual exhibition and it is beng held at the "Ryder Center" of Saginaw State University. Admission is free, but you have to pick up a ticket from your local Chamber of Commerce office.

  • Information: Visit [] or call 989-964-0113.

    ^ April 3 - Candidates for State Representative on Internet. (96th District)

    Local candidates, Kenneth M. Malkin and Jeff Mayes have each launched their own website to help inform voters about their political credentials to fill the seat being left by Representative Jospeh L. Rivet due to term-limits.

  • Website of Kenneth M. Malken
  • Website of Jeff Mayes

    ^ April 4 - Pocket Parks Proposed for Cool City. (Bay City)

  • (Source: Bay City Times, May 4, 2004 - article by Robin Wright.)

    Bay City is already a cool city, but city leaders are planning on making it even cooler by adding pocket parks to the downtown area according to a plan announced by Patti Stowell, economic development manager of Bay City. The mini-park plan which has been on the city's development plans since 1993 be submitted to the "Cool City" initiated started by Governor Granholm last year. If the city's plan is selected by the state grant funds would be available to assist the program which could start this year.

    The plan calls for a series of minature park like areas throughout the downtown area that will provide attractive small garden like rest areas with seating. The size of each will be dependent on the area available at various locations within the downtown community. Each of them would include a plaque providing a historical reference to that specific location. Details of the city's plan call for a Third Street mini-park at the river's edge that includes a small plaza like area where casual entertainment could take place and a waterfall with a deck over looking it and the river.

    Things just keep getting brighter and better for the residents of this area. The pocket parks are more than dressing to visitors of the downtown area -- they are a practical idea providing the downtown area with needed resting points as they are shopping or others who just enjoy the setting. What also is needed are a few strategically located public rest rooms. Maybe few of the merchants downtown might volunteer adding such a public facility to their building! Certainly the City Hall, Museum, Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, new Central Library and other public facilities should consider doing so, and the sooner the better. Each could have a consistent sign that is easily identified as a public restroom by those in need of this service.

    This is a great plan! It's this type of innovation and creativity that is truely making Bay City a unique and desirable place for those of us living here, and for our regional neighbors and friends who love visiting our city.

    ^ April 5 - Bay-Journal Was Off-Line!

    If you tried to reach "" after about 8:00 am on May 3rd, you couldn't, nor could we? We've had a few times when our internet service provider has had problems and made our website unreachable, but they usually lasted only a few hours or so. Not this time thought! We were as confused as you might have been as to what happened to ""

    After a day of frustration trying to understand why and what we might do to expedite our return, we finally found the problem. It was us that unexpectingly took Bay-Journal off line. On May 3, we purchased another domain name for Bay-Journal, "". We thought it would be nice to have a second shorter address for the website. Unknown to us at the time, the domain register that we purchase the new domain name from reset the code for our "domain server," the people that host our website.

    We quickly reset the proper information, but it takes anywhere from 12 to 48 hours for the new setting to propagate the internet. A little before 10:00 this morning we were back online!

    It's a lesson learned for us about some of the quirks that can happen unexpectedly in managing new areas of operating a website.

    ^ May 5 - Large Attendence at Mid-Michigan Business Expo.

    I stopped by the local expostion being held today at the Ryder Hall on the Saginaw Valley State University campus and was impressed with the turn out. I drove around the parking about a half a dozen times before giving up on find an open spot. Fortunately, there was some room over at the library's parking lot across the street.

    This was my first time attending the expo and I was pleased with what I saw. Like most of business conferences, there were plenty of free handouts and many interesting displays. It would be nice if the expo was open to about 8:30 pm so the public would have a better opportunity to see some of the products being made locally and meet some of the people that make them. If the conference continues to grow it is going to be they'll need to find a way to get more space as the Ryder were near capacity in display space are far as I could tell.

    While I was there, I took the opportunity to see the Zahnow Library near the Ryder Hall. It is a magnificent library with four floors. On the fourth floor is the Robert R. Allen reading room which is very impressive. From two window walls you get a scenic view of the SVSU campus. The library is open to the public and well worth the short ride there.

    We took a few photos of both places which may be seen at:

  • Pictorials/Area Views/ Recent Area Views

    ^ May 7 - Improper Treatment of Iragi Prisoners Was Wrong, But!

    When are we going to keep things in perspective? The news broke about some Iraqi prisoners being improperly treated by some military personnel and the response is like the whole barrel of apples is all of sudden rotten. All the way from down the chain of command from the president to the those carried out this odious deed. It was wrong! Those who did it have to be admonished, and punished if they broke the law, and their immediate superiors as well. But, the hyped response media and politicians has raised the issue to level way out of proportion. We're not talking about a condition that is practiced in general by our military. And, so far, those who did the wrong did not physically torture or maimed these prisons.

    The point is that a very small group representing less than a fraction of one percent perpertrate these wrongs! They should and must be admonished and punished if their acts were criminal. But, these few bad apples. But, to listen to the press and the politicians they make it sound like the worse military crimes since Viet Nam or WWII. That is non-sense, and it's pushing the hype beyond any reasonable discourse.

    The U.S. military is probably the best disciplined of any large group of our citizens. They may also be the most under paid as well. Is it irrational to believe that within any large group there are not rotten apples? And, it not beyond reason to believe that some wearing the uniform may not follow rules to the letter. But, if you have never had to put your life in harms way, then you can only try to imagine the temptation that exists to treat someone who threatens your life, or the life your buddies. But, even then -- it is wrong to act out that temptation! It is just as wrong to blow what happened out of proportion. It's sad that everything that flows through Washington has to be so politically charged. I really believe most politicians lost their perspective of being "Americans first" a long ago - they see everything through the prism of a donkey or elephant. Running our country should not be a contest about winning power, it should be about what's best for our way of life. Neither party has is all right or all wrong and our representatives should act accordingly support what is right for America even though it may make live easier for the other party.

    ^ May 10 - Upbeat Articles on My Bay

    Just finished reading an upbeat article on Bay City and Bay County that was written by Dave Rogers of The article does a good job of summarizing the many attractions that make our community a good place to live. We tend to take them for granted and I'm sure, to under utilize what we have. Along with this issue you'll find an article on Mother's Day written by O.J. Cunningham, and other interesting articles.

  • []

    ^ May 24 - Memorial Day Celebrations

    May 31 is Veterans Day, a special day set aside each year to remember those who died in service of our country. Each year the local veterans clubs visit the memorials sites to honor the memory of these men and women made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives to preserve and defend our way of life.

    Sadly, far too many do not understand what Veterans Day really represents and see it only as another holiday for their pleasure. We encourage you and everywhere reading this to make a special point on this day to demonstrate what Veterans Day is all about. Share it's meaning with your friends and family. Educate your children to it's importance as a way of remembering the sacrifices made that have contributed to greatly to what they have today.

    The Friends of Pine Ridge Cemetery will be having a special celebration at the cemetary on Ridge Rd. and Trumble beginning at noon that day. While the cemetery is the final resting place of many Civil War soldiers, it is also where many pioneers of this community are buried.

    It will be a special day for surviving veterans and their family's of World War II. After 60 years, the nation final has a memorial dedicated to the memory of this generation and the contributions they made for our country and the world.

    Whether or not you attend any of these special activities, take time on May 31 to remember and says thanks in prayer for those who this day has been set aside.

  • [Pine Ridge Cemetery Celebration] - Article by Dave Rogers (May 23).
  • Heritage/Groups/ {Veterans Memorial Section}
  • Pictorials/ WWII Pictorial

    ^ May 24 - Bay-Journal Remodeling

  • by Marvin Kusmierz, Webmaster.

    It's been quite for most of this month and no new postings have been made to the website until now. I began the project of remodeling the website which requires new coding to each of the more than 700 pages that comprise the website's content.

    The changes being made are to the structure of the website that is a large task, but will make future changes much easier. Using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) technology it will bring a higher level of consistency in the look of the website and make future changes much easier. A master CSS file is used to set font sizes, types and colors and to set other structures in layout. Each content page is coded with a link to the master CSS file where it determines what each web page should look like. To do this, each of the content pages must have the appropriate code in place to display the results as intended.

    We began make the change over to the Information Center section of Bay-Journal and this is now online. We'll continue to work on the balances of the content pages. Until this project is complete there will be less updating of this page or new content pages being added. I decided to do it at this time as viewer activity typically wains during the summer months.

  • Bay-Journal Website Updates -- Menu | History | Websites | News | Bay-Journal Updates |

    May 1 - New Birney Genealogy. (update)

    We've added some new family information to James G. Birney's descendants that was contributed by Allen W. Whittemore. The new information is on Sophie and Alice, daughters of James and Amanda (Moulton) Birney. Both married into the wealthy Blackwell family from New York. Both marriages took place in Bay City, Sophie was married at the Trinity Lutheran Church while Alice made married at her parents residence. We also added a "new" page for an obit on Alice.

  • Heritage/People/ Birney Family Genealogy
  • Heritage/Writings/ Obituary of Alice (Birney) Blackwell

    May 2 - Bay County Post Ecards (new)

    We've added this new feature to the Tourist Center. There are 20 images of Bay County that you can select from to send an ecard. You can also customize your card by choosing its color, background, music or adding a special Java effect. This is a "free" service of and as such, it includes their advertisements.

    We've been reluctant to add such free services because of the these advertisements that are beyond our control, but this one we thought was worth it because it allowed us to customize the images. Presently, Bay-Journal is not supported financially by sponsors. At some point this may happen in order to improve the offerings of the website by purchasing paid services that will eliminate the uncontrolled advertisements.

  • Information/Tourist Center/ Go to Tourist Center!

    May 3 - Obituary of Chesley Wheeler (new)

    Obituary from Bay City Tribune, published Monday, June 5, 1911 about Chesley Wheeler, founder of Wheeler shipyard in West Bay City.

  • Heritage/Writings/People Obituary of Chesley Wheeler

    May 5 - Another Domain Name.

    We purchased another shorter domain name for Bay-Journal. Besides, "" you can also reach us at "" -- just think, Bay-Journal Michigan.United States! Down the road we hope to do some other things with the shorter domain by creating what is called a "sub-domain." Using a sub-domain you just ad to the front end of the regular domain name to create a direct link to special sections of Bay-Journal. One idea might be or The shorter name makes it easier to remember and type. We were forced to use a hyphen "-" between Bay and Journal when we got that domain name because another user already had "" But, we like the even more because it short and to the point. Want to give it try? Just click on then check the address bar on your browser.

    May 6 - Corbin and Dolsen Schools Added to 1940 Histories

    We're back at work trying to finish the 1940 Bay City school histories that we started a few weeks ago. Besides, Central High, Farragut, Lincoln and Woodside, we've just added Corbin and Dolsen schools. Schools to be done yet are listed on the main page for this series.

  • Heritage/Writings/1940 Bay City School Histories
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