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Bay County, Michigan Genealogy Trails
History of Bay County Michigan and Representative Citizens
by Capt. Augustus Gansser, 1905


HISTORY OF BAY COUNTY

CHAPTER IV

EARLY SETTLEMENTS AND SETTLERS

THE INDIANS AND TRAPPERS GIVE WAY TO THE SETTLERS—PLANTING OF SETTLEMENTS—MEMOIRS AND REMINISCENCES OF PROMINENT PIONEERS—THE PERIOD OF RECKLESS LAND SPECULATION AND “WILD-CAT” BANKS—INDIAN MOUNDS AND LEGENDS—THE MOUND BUILDERS—O-GE-MA-KE-GA-TO AND OTHER INDIAN CHIEFS—INCIDENTS OF PIONEER LIFE ON THE SAGINAW RIVER AND ITS TRIBUTARIES—CHARACTER SKETCHES AND ANECDOTES.

Before these fields were shorn and tilled
Full to the brim our rivers flowed;
The melody of waters filled
The fresh and boundless wood;
And torrents dashed and rivulets played,
And bisons rested in the shade.

Bryant.

Indian and pale face trapper alike retreated before advancing civilization. Like Daniel Boone, of Kentucky, who in his 92nd year emigrated 300 miles west of the Mississippi, because he found a population of 10 to the square mile inconveniently close, even so the border pioneers of Michigan. The buzz of a sawmill was the death knell for all that these children of the forest held dear in life, and they retreated hastily to other forest fastnesses [sic] when with an ominous crash the giants of the forest fell under the woodman’s axe. Hence a complete change of inhabitants was noted in this valley, after the Indians left their favorite hunting grounds and retired to their several reservations. True, many of the bands came periodically to the valley, holding their councils and weird dances on the spots made scared to them by long associations, and by the traditions and customs of their forefathers. Death had claimed many of the Indians during that decade. An epidemic of smallpox during the winter of 1836-37 carried off hundreds in the valley, and old pioneers used to relate that many died and were left unburied, the bodies being eaten by the hogs and wild animals. The pioneers did all in their power to help the sick and starving Indians during that trying ordeal, and thenceforward there was little friction in this part of the State between the races. Indeed, as we review the records of early settlements in these parts, we are struck by the good-feeling, peace and good-will apparently existing between the pioneers and the Indians.

From the time that Jean Nicollet, Father Marquette, and other explorers visited the eastern shore of Lake Huron and the Saginaw basin, there were few years that did not find pale face trappers, hunters and adventurers started from Detroit, and it often happened, that when they bade farewell to loved ones in that stockade, it was also the last time they were seen alive. They started for the land of the Sauks, and were never more heard of. Whether they succumbed to sickness, or fell a prey to wild beasts or Indians, none could tell, but these losses were invariably charged to the treacherous red men. The early pioneers of our land were almost as superstitious as the red men, and hence many of the Detroit settlers believed as implicitly, as did the Hurons, that “O-Sauk-e-non” was haunted. After the Americans secured jurisdiction over the Northwest, and hunting and warfare gave way to more peaceful pursuits, this valley became the goal of many traders. Here the Hurons came to hunt, to celebrate and to trade. They preferred to deal with the hardy traders who dared to come to this solitude, instead of carrying their furs to Detroit, where they often brought better prices. A number of these traders vanished as suddenly and as completely as though the valley of the Sauks had swallowed them. Other reckless spirits promptly took their places, and trade did not languish.

One of the most prosperous of the early traders was Louis Trombley, grandfather of Joseph and Medor Trombley, who half a century later did so much to develop this district. Louis Trombley was a goldsmith by trade. He did a thriving business with the Chippewas, making silver ornaments and medals for them, in exchange for their furs and game. He came to the Saginaw Valley about 1792 in a small boat. Shortly after he had begun building another small yawl, at the mouth of the river, trading meanwhile with the wandering bands of Indians, he had a violent quarrel with an Indian, who thought he had been cheated in the trade of a muskrat spear. The Indian plunged a huge knife into Trombley, who with blood streaming from his wound leaped into his boat and started for Detroit. He never got there, and his relatives never learned whether he had been overtaken by the Indian in a canoe, and murdered, or whether he fell overboard. His upturned boat drifted ashore near Port Huron. His half-finished yawl was burned, and his stock of goods, left in his log cabin, was stolen. Such outrages were rare, however, in times of peace. The Indians admired the courage of these adventurers and needed their goods.

The intermarriage of white traders with Indian squaws did much to bridge over the chasm separating the two races wherever they met in the wilderness. Many half-breeds lived in this territory, and while a shiftless class as a rule, having apparently inherited all the bad characteristics of both races, still they were not as vindictive toward the early settlers as some of the red tribesmen, and usually warned the traders and trappers when mischief or war was brewing. But now that the Indian had parted forever with his great hunting grounds, these roving pale faces made common cause with the Indians, and retreated with them into the wilds lying north of here. Hence we find but few Indians spoken of in the early records of this vicinity. These authentic records begin, practically, with the last Indian treaty, completed on the Flint River in September, 1837.

While Michigan was yet a Territory, the government at Washington had begun the erection of a military road from Detroit to Saginaw, an undertaking made difficult by the large and numerous streams that had to be bridged. When Michigan because a sovereign State, this work was pushed even more vigorously, yet it did not extend much beyond the Flint River when the first settlers came on from Detroit for the Saginaw Valley. Consequently a number of families tarried on Flint River, who had planned to go farther north.

James McCormick, a sturdy Scotchman, was among this number. Born at Albany, New York, May 25, 1787, he incurred the displeasure of his father, a Presbyterian, by marrying Ellen Garratt, a Universalist, of Garrattsville, in Otsego County, New York, which place was named after her father. By thrift and industry he accumulated what in those pioneer days was a nice competence. In 1830 he went on the bond of some friends for $16,000, which later he had to pay, leaving him only $300 with which to support a large family. He left Albany on May 1, 1832, for Michigan, then the Far West. The family went by canal boat to Buffalo, the trip requiring seven days; then on the steamer “Superior” to Detroit in 72 hours, a record-breaking trip, made possible by favorable winds, the steamer also carrying spars and sails. Detroit then had about 3,500 inhabitants. Leaving his family in rented rooms in a farm house, where the Biddle House in Detroit now stands, Mr. McCormick and his two oldest boys, Robert and James, took a wagon into the interior. Jenkins Davis was at that very time constructing a bridge across the Flint River. Hiring a pasture for the horse, the boys found employment on this bridge, while their father purchased, from a half-breed named Ewing, 125 acres of land situated on the north side of the Flint River, and which 30 years later became the center of the thriving city of Flint. Here he planted potatoes brought for that purpose, and as there were only two log cabins in that vicinity, and both occupied, he built a similar crude habitation, while his son James went to Detroit to bring up the family. James was but 15 years old, but he was accompanied by a young school teacher from Grand Blanc. Albert Miller, who in after years became one of Michigan’s most prominent citizens, and a leading pioneer of Bay County. The friendship between these two young men, begun under such peculiar circumstances, ripened with the passing years and proved an influential factor in the development of this community. The youngsters witnessed the Fourth of July celebration at the old Capitol in Detroit, erected in 1825 on the site now occupied by Cadillac Square. John Mosher carried the household goods with his team as far as Grand Blanc for $25, James, with the one-horse wagon, carried Mrs. McCormick, his younger brother William R., and three little sisters. Often when the corduroy road became almost impassable, all had to get out and walk. At Grand Blanc, husband and brother met the family, and all camped out for the night. Mosher returned to Detroit, for his team could go no further, and McCormick and his sons began at daybreak to cut a way for their one-horse wagon through the wilderness. After two days of harrowing work, they reached the Flint River, the first settlers to get through by wagon. The family had plenty of potatoes and venison, but lacked all the other comforts of home.

On October 31, 1832, Archibald L. McCormick was born in this crude cabin in the wilderness, the first white child born between the Flint River and Mackinaw. Little did that sturdy pioneer and his brave wife dream what a future was in store for the child born under such primitive circumstances. When Archibald L. McCormick reached a man’s estate, he drifted into Illinois, and at the breaking out of the Civil War he enlisted as orderly sergeant in Company B, 52nd Reg., Illinois Vol. Inf. For bravery at the capture of Island No. 10 in the Mississippi River, April 7, 1862, he was promoted to be 2nd lieutenant. At the battle of Stone River, January 2, 1863, he led his company in capturing a Rebel battery, and for bravery in action was promoted to be captain of his company. He was taken prisoner in one of General Grant’s assaults on Vicksburg, and suffered terribly from sickness and privation. Being exchanged, he returned to Illinois to recruit both his health and his company, both of which objects were accomplished in time for the campaigns about Chattanooga. He was with General Sherman on his famous “March to the Sea.” At the battle of Kenesaw Mountain, June 27, 1864, Captain McCormick and his company were selected to storm a battery sheltered by strong breastworks. “Remember the battery at Stone River” were his commander’s parting words, which cheered the little band on its desperate errand. They silenced the battery, but Captain McCormick fell on the breastworks, pierced by seven bullets, a martyr to his country, and one of the many native sons given by Michigan, that our nation might live.

Such was the stock that blazed the way through the wilderness, that other and less hardy generations might enjoy the fruits of their labor, their hardships and privations, and prosper amid the many gifts which Nature has so richly bestowed on this valley. Such were the heralds of civilization in Michigan, the advance guard of social refinement and civil liberty. From the moment that these hardy pioneers left the older settlements behind them, and turned their faces resolutely Northwestward, their lives became one unending struggle, each day marked by sacrifice and toil and danger. They toiled in silence, and even their names have been lost to posterity. From the mists of obscurity that cover those years, and shroud the lives and deeds of the builders of homes and cities in the heart of Michigan, there stand out clear and strong, like beacon lights on the surrounding waters, the lives of a few of those stalwart sons of the New World, like James McCormick and his worthy sons. Their life work is as an index to the lives of their equally hardy and industrious, but less conspicuous neighbors.

The Chippewa chief, Ton-dog-a-ne, was then at the head of the band that had the Flint River bottom for its hunting ground, and the sage Indian took quite a fancy to the McCormick family. He often told the head of the family about the rich lands and boundless forests at the mouth of the Saginaw River. About 14 miles south of Saginaw there was a clearing of 200 acres in extent, on which several government instructors had for years endeavored to teach the roving Indians the art of raising crops, among them being the late Capt. Joseph F. Marsac and Gassette Trombley, McCormick inspected the clearing and liked it so well, that in 1834 he purchased 640 acres from Ton-dog-a-ne, for 25 bushels of potatoes and corn each year for 10 years. So great was the confidence of these Indians in McCormick that his mere word sufficed to bind the bargain.

The family was moved to the new location in Indian canoes, and for several nights their only shelter was their blankets. Half a century afterward these pioneers recalled how cruel it seemed to them then, to be left alone and without a roof over them, in the great, dark forest; especially cruel did it seem to the parents and older children who remembered their cozy home on the distant Hudson. A log house was built in the course of a few weeks, and in this the family lived until they came finally to Lower Saginaw, as Bay County was then called. The clearing was fenced in with rails cut from some walnut trees which grew in that section,—a rather extravagant waste of valuable timber, as measured by 1905 timber values, for now walnut lumber is imported from Cuba and Central America and resawed at the J. J. Flood mill on the West Side of Greater Bay City, which mill is especially equipped for that work.

In 1835, McCormick sold 1,000 bushels of corn from this clearing to the American Fur Company, which carried it in boats to the Indians of the Lake Superior region, in exchange for beaver skins. An Indian trail through the woods, and even that impassable part of the year, was the only means they had of communicating with the few settlers north of them, unless they came by boat on the river in summer, or over the ice in winter.

A grist mill was sorely needed by these pioneers, and in 1835 McCormick went to New York, requiring 11 days to reach Albany, which was fast time in the days before the iron horse conquered space. He brought back with him a little grist mill, run by hand, with a handle on each side, which would hold a peck of corn, and would grind a bushel of corn in an hour! Other settlers had come to this end of Michigan in the meantime, and they would come many weary miles with their corn to use this primitive grist mill. That little mill was worth its weight in gold to the pioneers, and is worthy of a place in Michigan’s pioneer collection.

This section of Michigan was overrun with land speculators during 1835 and 1836, and many of them tarried at the cabin on the Indian field. A field bed, holding 10 to 15 persons, was made for their accommodation before the fireplace, and was seldom empty. The water along the valley was much higher in those years than now, and after every rain the river-bottom trails would be lost to view. Several of these land lookers disappeared as mysteriously as some traders had done before them, and the valley was still held to be haunted by evil spirits. Undoubtedly these land lookers fell victims to the treacherous waters. One party investigating the country in 1836, which they knew was soon to be opened for settlement, was caught in one of these tempestuous rains. For miles along the shore of the Saginaw River they looked in vain for a camping place. When they finally found a spot that was high and dry, they crawled ashore utterly exhausted from hours of paddling against the strong current. Some hours later the waters began to rise, and shortly after midnight they had to take to their canoe, for their camping ground was covered with several feet of water, which was still rising. All night long they struggled against the current and the storm in their frail canoe and all thanked Providence when morning broke and the storm abated. Since much drift wood was carried down stream, their escape from drowning was really miraculous.

That same winter the McCormicks suffered with hundreds of other pioneers, from the bursting of the financial bubble, and the crash of “wild-cat’ banks. James McCormick sold his surplus corn to Saginaw parties for $1.50 per bushel, and the boys hauled it down in large, crude sleds on the ice. The corn was paid for in bills on the Flint Rapids Bank. When these bills were taken to Flint, it was found the “wild-cat” bank had failed the day before, and the pay for a whole year’s labor had been lost! That same winter the Indians were dying by hundreds from smallpox, and as few were well enough to hunt or fish, they were actually starving. Chief Ton-dog-a-ne, sage warrior and friend of the pale faces, was among the first to cross the great river. Despite the loss of their entire crop of corn through the failure of the Flint “wild-cat” bank, the McCormicks gave liberally of all they had to the starving red men. Potatoes, corn, beans, pumpkins and squashes were piled up at the far end of the Indian field, so that the Indians could get them without endangering the health of the settlers. When spring came and the epidemic abated, the Indians showed their appreciation of the settler’s kindness by giving him a lease without any remuneration for 99 years on the 640 acres he occupied. Judge Devenport executed the legal documents.

In September of that year the treaty was made with the Indians for their entire reservation. They refused to sell their lands, unless “the white man with the big heart” would be secure on his 640 acres, which they had given him in recognition for his help in their hour of dire need. Henry R. Schoolcraft, superintendent of Indian affairs, drew up the treaty, promising to secure McCormick’s rights, but when the treaty was finally signed, sealed and delivered, that clause was found missing. In 1840 the government sold the tract, and the McCormicks were unceremoniously ejected from the land they had made productive through all those years of privation, toil and danger.

What was a loss to that pioneer family proved a blessing to Bay County, for in 1841 the McCormicks removed to their original destination, the banks of the Lower Saginaw. Undaunted by the vicissitudes of a long series of unfortunate events; disinherited by his father because he dared to choose his own help-meet; defrauded out of the earnings of many years of hard work by the dishonesty of friends whom he had trusted; driven into the wilderness with his infant children and frail wife to begin life anew under the most trying circumstances; and now, after carving a farm out of the forest in his old age, driven even from that forlorn hope by the strong arm of the government, for which he had done so much as an advance guard in the wilderness; such was the fate of this sturdy pioneer! But his spirits were undaunted and his energies till keen.

Aided by his energetic sons, Mr. McCormick once more packed up his earthly possessions and moved them by river to Portsmouth, now the south end of Bay City.

With a keen eye for business, the study Scotchman looked on the majestic pines towering all about him, he listened to the stories of the unlimited pine supply of Northern Michigan, as told by the Indians and pale face traders. He conversed with late arrivals from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and the East. He learned that a multitude were crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, seeking a New World, where personal liberty was established, and great opportunities awaited the industrious immigrants. Cities were building up, and the wave of immigration was spreading resistlessly Westward. The political unrest in Germany and Central Europe was sending a most desirable class of people to America, and most of these were going into the interior, determined to create homes for themselves in the virgin forests and prairies. Building homes and warehouses required lumber, and here was as fine timber as the sum ever shone upon. Then here was the great river, yonder the broad expanse of Saginaw Bay, an open door to the Great Lakes, opening an easy channel to the North, East and South, for the ships of commerce. With the eye of a seer he recognized the great opportunities offered by the lumber industry to this beautiful valley.

He found an idle sawmill in the little settlement of Portsmouth, erected in 1837, by the selfsame Albert Miller, who had helped to bring Mrs. McCormick and the children to her husband in their first clearing on the Flint River in 1832. The boys of those years were men now, in the full vigor of hardy manhood, and brighter days dawned for the long suffering family. B. K. Hall willingly sold his interest in the idle mill to James McCormick, for during those years of panic following the “wild-cat” bank failures and still wilder land speculation, there was no demand for lumber in the valley or out of it. The McCormicks placed the sawmill in running order, arranged to sell their output to James Busby, brother-in-law to the late James Fraser, of Detroit, for $8 per thousand, for clear pine, one-third down, the balance on long time credits, and started the machinery. Capt. George Raby, in the old “Conneaut Packet,” carried the first cargo of lumber out of the Saginaw River, containing 40,000 feet of pine cut by the McCormicks’ mill. They sold clear lumber at the mill to the Trombleys and others for $10 in store trade.

At such prices and under such conditions, these pioneer lumbermen could not amass fortunes, as did their successors in that line of business in the years to follow. These pioneers merely blazed a way for the generation that was to follow them. Well has it been said of them, that they came 20 years too soon to become rich. But in the fullness of time they had a work to do, for by their perserverance, privations, hardships and industry, this valley was opened to the world, and made to blossom as a rose.

Typical of his age and generation was James McCormick. Too brave and stouthearted to let succeeding disasters daunt his spirits, the wilderness merely roused his best efforts. Obstacles were made only to be overcome. Life was work and work was life. Even in his declining years he was blazing the way for his children and children’s children.

Ere we take up the thread of narrative and resume the story of the development of this county, it will be well to note the closing scenes in the lives of these estimable pathfinders. For five years James McCormick assisted his sons in the sawmill, and then death hushed his sterling heart forever. His devoted wife, who had uncomplainingly left east and comfort behind, who had carried her children into the wilderness, given life to others in the crude log cabin in the valley, and raised and educated them all to the best of her ability, survived him by 16 years. She dispensed her hospitality in the old homestead in Portsmouth until 1854, when she gave up the duties of the household and retired for well-merited rest and repose with her children. She died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. John Malone, in Taymouth, Saginaw County, July 22, 1862. Her life was like that of a bright star, illuminating the wilderness. Pioneer husband and wife sleep side by side in Pine Ridge Cemetery. Over their sepulchre kind hands have raised a suitable monument with the following inscription: “To the Memory of JAMES and ELLEN McCORMICK. Pioneers of the Saginaw Valley. They pitched their tent in the wilderness in 1832, and planted a vineyard; but the Master called them home ere they gathered the fruit!” An honest man is the noblest work of God!

The venerable couple had nine children who grew to maturity; Robert is a prosperous farmer in Illinois. Joseph went to Kentucky in 1831, and later settled in Kansas, where he died more than 20 years ago. Sarah, the third daughter, married Medor Trombley, the Portsmouth Indian trader, on August 26, 1847, a year after her father’s death. The wedding was a simple affair, in keeping with the simplicity of their lives and the times. They started housekeeping at once in the frame building, erected by Medor Trombley in 1835. Seven children came to bless their union, among them Mrs. L. F. Rose and Mrs. John Greening, of Bay City. Archibald L., the hero who gave his life for the Union at Kenesaw Mountain, was the fifth son. Elizabeth, the second daughter, married Orrin Kinney, a prominent farmer and well-known pioneer of this county. They still reside in the family homestead on Cass avenue, surrounded by their children and children’s children. Ann, the first daughter, married John Malone, of Taymouth township, Saginaw County, where they settled on government lands, entered in 1838. The youngest son, Andrew V. McCormick, the first white child born in Taymouth township (on December 30, 1836), went to Illinois in 1854, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and later became a prosperous farmer in Kansas.

James J. McCormick, the third son, shared in all the hardships and toil of the family’s homebuilding in the Saginaw Valley. His rifle supplied the venison for the larder in the log cabin. I le [sic] it was who transported the supplies to and from the homestead in the wilderness. Equally at home on horseback as in canoe, and knowing every Indian trail for miles around, he was much sought after as a guide by the land lookers. Born in Albany, New York, in January, 1817, he early evinced sound business judgment, and at the death of his father in 1846 he carried on the sawmill business in Portsmouth. While visiting his brother Joseph in Kentucky, in 1839, he met, wooed and won Jane Sheldon, who proved a fitting helpmeet during those pioneer days. She died in 1854. Two sons and one daughter (afterward Mrs. Edioni Il. [sic] Bassett, her husband being at the head of the dry goods firm of Bassett, Seed & Company) survived her. Their eldest son also enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War, where he contracted an ailment which caused his death in 1867.

The indomitable will and enterprise of James J. McCormick did much to develop the lumber industry of the valley. When he and his father bought the Hall mill in Portsmouth in 1841, everything was at a standstill. Most men would have waited for something to turn up. Not so these McCormicks. They went to Detroit and sought a market for the pine they had cut. At home the settlers had neither money nor courage to erect new buildings. The McCormicks stepped in and put up buildings on long term contracts including Hon. James G. Birney, and the famous Indian traders and interpreters, Capt. Joseph F. Marsac, Medor Trombley and Joseph Trombley. This pioneer sawmill operator bought Captain Marsac’s cottage and a parcel of land, by furnishing the lumber for a more palatial home for the veteran Indian fighter. The friendship which sprang up between James J. McCormick and the late Judge Albert Miller on the Indian trail to Detroit back in 1832, ripened into a business partnership, when in 1848 they jointly operated their little sawmill. None but the early settlers can know the ceaseless round of toil those men endured in cutting lumber in that mill. Both took their turns at the saw, and fixed up their books and other business matters when their other employees slept.

Then the gold fever swept over the land, and with thousands of others from every community in the country, and from every walk of life, James J. McCormick determined to “get rich quick” in the famous El Dorado of California. Having provided for the care of his wife and children, and arranged his business affairs, he bade them all farewell, and once more turned his face resolutely Westward. Having procured a team of oxen and loaded a wagon with the necessities required for the trip, he ferried them across the Saginaw River on a raft of hewn timbers, in March, 1849, and started solitary and alone across the unknown continent to the gold fields of California. An old acquaintance, Alfred Goyer, of Genessee County, accompanied him part of the way. Later they met at a spring in California where they were watering their horses, but both had aged so, that they did not recognize one another until they spoke of their former residences. They shared each other’s fortunes and misfortunes in the gold district after that, returning to the Saginaw Valley in 1851. Their experience had been identical with thousands of other gold seekers. Hardships and dangers were their portion and the reward fell far below expectations.

The hardy adventurer saved enough of the gold dust to begin the lumber business on a more extensive scale on his return, building a new sawmill near his residence, which he operated successfully until 1871, when he sold it to the Webster Company. In 1868 he erected the McCormick Block on Water street. He owned considerable real estate. He was a member of the first Council of Bay City and was elected mayor in 1869. He had a wide circle of devoted personal friends. He was a 33rd degree mason.

William R. McCormick, the fourth son, was born at Albany, New York, August 16, 1822. He was 10 years old when his family made the perilous trip to the wilds of Michigan. For many years their only neighbors were Indians, and his only playmates were these red children of the forest. Their nearest neighbors at that time were Charles and Humphrey McLean, who lived 15 miles away, where Pine Run is now located. He often accompanied the Indians on their periodical hunting trips, and when but 15 years old was employed as interpreter and trader by an independent fur trading company on the Saginaw River. During the winter of 1837-38 he did chores for Major Mosley, who commanded the old stockade fort on the Saginaw, where he received such schooling as that young settlement offered. In 1839 he determined to see the world, so against his father’s wish he started on foot for his brother’s home near Vincennes, Indiana. He took the Indian trail to Detroit, then followed the corduroy road as far as LaPorte, Indiana, and finally reached his destination, footsore, hungry and penniless. Having satisfied his craving for travel and sightseeing, he returned to the parental roof in 1840. He accompanied his father’s family to Portsmouth in 1841, where he assisted in the work in the sawmill until 1846. He spent a few years in Albany, New York, where he married Angelica Wayne, and then came back to the valley he loved to call his home. In 1860 a stock company was formed by Judge Albert Miller, to bore for salt. William R. McCormick was chosen secretary and general manager. He superintended the boring, and at a depth of 600 feet the flow of brine was struck, which has ever since furnished the raw material for one of the valley’s’ leading industries. This was the first salt well in Bay County. For many years he was active in the lumber and real estate business. He shared with Judge Miller for many years the distinction of being the oldest living pioneers of Bay County. He lived to see Bay County grow from a settlement of two log cabins to a prosperous community of over 20,000 inhabitants, whose buzzing saws were heard around the world, wherever the product of forest and stream entered into the creation of homes and the construction of ships.

For many years William R. McCormick collected data and relics pertaining to the early history of Bay County. We owe much to his pen. Michigan owes much of its pioneer collection to his foresight and forethought. That the lives and deeds of his parents and family are so well-known and so well-preserved, is entirely due to his memorandum book, which gives to us the most exact and interesting review of pioneer life 70 years ago. His anecdotes of the early settlements and the Indians as he found them furnish one of the brightest chapters in the annals of Michigan, and give to men and events in this rich valley their proper place and proportion. Space forbids recounting all of his inimitable stories and reminiscences. A few will bear repeating, as a fleeting glimpse into an eventful and yet almost forgotten past.

In 1833 he accompanied Colonel Marshall on an exploring trip to the mouth of the Saginaw River and along the west shore of Saginaw Bay. Starting from Flint during the hot summer months, they soon struck a shallow spot in the river. A young Indian warrior helped them in getting their canoe around the low water, and the brave was given a swig of fire-water, which every pioneer carried in those days. They paddled 12 miles down the river and landed to prepare dinner. To their utter astonishment, ere long they perceived the self-same young Indian approaching their campfire. He told them he had come 12 miles to get another drink of the white man’s firewater! Such was the craving for liquor which consumed Poor Lo!

Paddling down the river, they passed through great swarms of wild ducks, the ancestors of the flocks, which even now, in ever diminishing numbers, visit the shores of river and bay at certain seasons of the year. In the summer of 1833 the river was fairly black with them. A Chippewa Indian from the Wenonah village had 37 ducks, which he said he had killed with seven shots from a “squaw gun.” If that old blunderbuss did such execution one can image what would have happened had he used a modern repeating shotgun.

The first habitation they saw, after leaving the fort stockade of Saginaw behind them, was the log cabin at Zilwaukee, known as the Mosby House. Paddling swiftly with the current down stream, they soon passed the log cabin where the Indian squaw of the Frenchman, Louis Masho, and his half-breed children were fishing in the shade of a huge elm tree, where Bousfield’s mammoth woodenware works are now located. Almost three miles further down stream they passed the log cabin of Leon Trombley, now the corner of Fourth avenue and Water street. They did not see another living soul until they reached the mouth of the Kawkawlin River, where an Indian trading shack was located, which was always a favorite meeting place of the redskins.

Colonel Marshall participated that night in a big powwow at an Indian village on the Kawkawlin, where the pipe of peace made the rounds, wise old Indians “orated” in a language their guest could not understand, and where considerable fire-water was consumed and charged against future catches of fish and game by the reckless sons of the forest. Indian games were in order the next morning, and young McCormick enjoyed the sport and the honors with the best of the young bucks.

Among the wise men of the tribe at this camp-fire was Neh-way-go, of the Tittabawassee band of Hurons. His wigwam was on the shore of Saginaw Bay, where the beautiful summer resort, Wenona Beach, is now situated. In his younger years this warrior had killed a son of Red Bird, a chief of the Flint band of Chippewas, who immediately demanded his life as a forfeit under the Indians’ crude laws. Neh-way-go presented himself at the mourner’s wigwam, and told the assembled warriors he had come to pay the penalty of his rash deed. Baring his bosom, he was thrice stabbed by the dead man’s relatives, but none of the thrusts proved immediately fatal. Covered with his own blood he hurried back to his own people, when one of Red Bird’s band saw him and gave him another stab in the back. In spite of his wounds and loss of blood, his faithful young wife managed to bind up his wounds and nursed him back to life and health. Indian usage was satisfied, but Indian hate never. While still weak from his terrible wounds, he visited the Indian trading store of the Williams brothers on the Saginaw River. An Indian runner brought these tidings to O-sou-wah-bon’s band camped on the Tittabawassee, and that burly warrior at once started with concealed knives to finish Neh-way-go. Bold as ever, the wounded Indian refused to enter his canoe when ordered to do so by Ephraim S. Williams. When the avenging native arrived, the Williams brothers disarmed him, pushed Neh-way-go into his canoe and his wife paddled him home, despite his protests that he was no coward, and would meet the avengers. The following year, while hunting, he met the Indian who had stabbed him in the back after his summary punishment, and Neh-way-go promptly killed him. Black Beaver, a noted chief of the Chippewas, took him to task at an Indian payment-meeting at Saginaw some years after, and in the fight that followed, Black Beaver was killed. Colonel Stanard, commanding the army post, issued a warrant for Neh-way-go’s arrest, but the Indian preferred death at the hands of his own people to arrest and imprisonment by the soldiers. He told Ephraim S. Williams, the Indian agent, that he would present himself for such punishment as his tribe might inflict, but he never would submit to be arrested, which was a punishment fit only for cowards! The killing of Black Beaver had spread quickly through the Indian villages and from them to the few white settlements. When the day for the solemn Indian funeral rites had arrived, all the Indians and white settlers in the valley were assembled on the ridge west of the river bank. The Indian’s relatives were chanting the mournful funeral odes of their tribe, their faces streaked with black and white, symbolic of death and the life beyond in the happy hunting grounds. While the several thousand silent watchers were intent on the mysterious ceremonies, Neh-way-go came strutting over from his camp ground. He was attired in all the splendor of a warrior on the war-path. His knife and tomahawk were in his belt, and a flask of whiskey hung from his girdle. He was prepared for the long journey to the same happy hunting grounds to which he had sent Black Beaver. With solemn mien and majestic tread he came into the circle of mourners. The white settlers had provided a coffin for the dead. On this he sat, while he filled his calumet with kinnikinic, composedly puffing clouds of blue vapor skyward. Then he passed his pipe to the chief mourner, who scorned to take it. Next he passed his whiskey flask with the same solemn mien. This, too, was scorned. Then he sat down, opened his hunting shirt and bared his bosom. After a few moments of intense silence he addressed the mourners as follows: “You refuse my pipe of peace. You refuse to drink with me. Strike not in the back. Strike not and miss. The man who strikes and misses dies when next I meet him on the hunting grounds!” But no one stirred. No one offered to kill him. Then Neh-way-go arose, replaced knife and tomahawk and whiskey flask in his girdle, and with the same solemn mien passed straight through his enemies, pausing only long enough to taunt them for being cowards! When young McCormick saw him near his wigwam on the Kawkawlin, he was an old and weather-beaten warrior, of ready wit and convivial spirits. Years after, he fell a victim to the implacable hate of the relatives of Black Beaver, being shot while hunting on the Quanicassee.

On this same trip, Mr. McCormick saw, for the first time, the “Lone Tree,” which was for years a landmark for the old settlers, and an omen for good among the Hurons. It was a vigorous ash tree, about two feet in diameter, standing solitary and alone in the prairie, where McGraw’s prairie farm is now located. Canoeists on the river estimated by the tree they were two miles from Portsmouth and four miles from Leon Trombley’s original log cabin in Bay City. In summer, with its rich foliage, and in winter amid the great white mantle of snow, it was alike conspicuous. And be it winter or summer, passing travelers invariably saw a large white owl perched in the tree-top. To the Indians this owl was sacred, and a pretty legend was woven about the tree. Often did the pioneers hear the orators of the Hurons repeat this legend, the most romantic inheritance left by them to their favorite hunting grounds of long ago. Ages ago, the exact number none could tell, a great and wise chief, Ke-wah-ke-won, ruled over the red people of this valley with love and kindness. When he felt that he would soon be treading the happy hunting grounds of the Great Spirit, he called his people together to bestow on them his last blessing, and to give them his parting admonition and advice. Amid the silent prairie, as yet untrod by the foot of the pale face, the clans were gathered, mournful witnesses of the last farewell of their brave and beloved chieftain. When he felt his pulse grow weaker, he lifted his voice calm and clear above the rushing waters of the stream at his feet: “My children,” said he, “the Great Spirit has called me, and I must obey the summons. Even now the tomahawk is raised to sever the last chord that binds me to my children! The guide stands at the door to convey me to the hunting grounds of my father in the Spirit Land. You weep, my children, dry your tears, for though I leave you now, yet will my spirit bird ever watch over you. I will whisper to you in the evening breeze, and when the morning comes you will know that I have been with you through the night. But the Good Spirit beckons me, and I must hasten. Let my body be laid in a quiet spot, with my tomahawk and pipe by my side. You need not fear that the wolf will disturb my rest, for the Great Spirit, I feel, will place a watch over me. Meet me in the Spirit Land, my children—farewell!” They buried him in a lonely spot in the prairie, on the opposite side of the great river, with his face toward the rising sun. His last resting place was never disturbed by bird or beast. So had the Great Spirit ordered it.

In the course of time, a tree arose over the grave, and spread its branches over it like a protecting wing, and in that tree lived a beautiful white owl, which the Great Spirit had sent to watch over it. So long as this “Lone Tree” stood, and the owl watched over it, the Indians of the valley would thrive and prosper, but when the sacred owl would depart, their tribes would become scattered, and their race pass away. Strangely enough, all this came to pass. A great flood in 1838 laid bare the roots of the tree, and covered the prairie for miles and miles with water, killing all the trees that had withstood the previous rampages of the Saginaw. In 1837 the Indians gave up by treaty their last great hunting grounds in Michigan. During that very twelvemonth half their number were killed by smallpox, and their tribes became weak and scattered. The dead ash tree stood for several years longer, the white owl still keeping its vigil over the grave of Ke-wah-ke-won. In 1841, James J. McCormick came with his father’s family to the wilderness in Portsmouth, as we have narrated. He knew nothing of the legend centering about that “Lone Tree,” and the big white owl perched ever in its decaying branches. While out hunting ducks on the river shore and marsh, he shot and killed the owl. A few years after, the tree was prostrated in a storm, and the last vestige of it soon disappeared. With it disappeared the Indians. They lingered for a time about their old haunts, where once they had been undisputed masters. But the colony of pale faces was growing stronger, game was becoming more and more scarce, and Poor Lo must retreat further into the Northern wilds. About 1840 the Philadelphia Evening Post published a poem on the “Lone Tree” and its messenger from Manitou the Great, watching over the weal and woe of the Indians of the valley of the Sauks, written by Miss Mather, daughter of a prominent pioneer of Flint. Hon. Artemas Thayer, of Flint, was enjoying with his bride and two friends, including Miss Mather, his wedding trip, on the ice and snow covering Saginaw River, from Flint to Portsmouth, when they saw the “Lone Tree” and the far-famed white owl. Shortly after writing the poem, Miss Mather died while visiting at the home of Hon. Horace Greeley, in New York.

William R. McCormick delighted to repeat these weird Indian legends around his cozy fireside in after years. He was also indefatigable in gathering the relics which were found in large numbers in the sand hills and mounds of this part of the State. The oldest frame house in Bay City was built by the Trombleys in 1835, and in 1842 this was purchased by William R. McCormick’s father. It stood then in a broad clearing on the western slope of an extensive mound, and is to-day the venerable old Center House on the corner of 24th and Water streets. In those mounds the McCormicks found many skeletons, much broken pottery of strange make, stone knives, stone axes, stone arrow-heads and stone spears. Most of the relics found in these and other mounds of this valley were presented by Mr. McCormick to the State Pioneer Collection, to museums all over the country, and to the Smithsonian Institute at Washington.

In company with kindred spirits, who loved to search these unexplored river banks for traces of other races, and for relics of a forgotten past, he searched through every nook and corner of the county. A review of their findings cannot fail to interest even the layman. He was a confirmed believer in the theory, that this valley was at some prehistoric period the advanced position of the mysterious race of Mound Builders. He saw these mounds in a state of nature 70 years ago. He saw them plowed over, dug up to admit foundations for large modern buildings, and a few sand ridges carried away bodily for building purposes.

One of the highest elevations in Bay County is the mound or ridge at the east approach to the Lafayette avenue bridge. In 1905 we find on it the massive buildings of the Bay City Brewing Company, a hotel, livery stable, the venerable old McCormick homestead, and, on the northern spur, the palatial home of Ex-Mayor George D. Jackson. The elevation comprises about two acres. When William R. Mcmick [sic] first saw this conspicuous landmark, just 70 years ago, he found timber all about it, with the exception of a duck pond in the rear of the mound, about an acre in extent. In excavating for the massive brewery, Indian skeletons were found four to five feet below the surface, while five feet deeper down were found skeletons of another and apparently an older race, buried with oddly-formed burned pottery and quaint stone and copper implements. Some of these implements shows that this strange prehistoric people had the art of hardening copper, and of working in metals. Unfortunately these skeletons had crumbled away to such an extent, that a touch, or a breath of air even, left nothing but a dust heap. In grading 22nd street, through the north end of this mound, three skeletons of very large stature were found at a depth of 11 feet, with large earthen pots placed at the head of each sarcophagus.

A large circular mound existed for many years near the C. J. Smith sawmill in the First Ward of the West Side, about 100 feet in Diameter and from three to six feet above the level of the surrounding meadows. Old settlers found many strange stone weapons and other implements by grubbing around in this mound. It was leveled down and the dirt used to fill in a part of the river front, hence every trace of it is lost.

On the property of Hon. James G. Birney, at the west approach to the Michigan Central Railroad bridge, was another similar mound, but much higher than the Smith mound. The skeletons were much better preserved than any of the others, and the skulls were quite unlike those found in Indian graves. One well-preserved skull, with a circular hole through the forehead, made by some sharp instrument, which undoubtedly caused death, was presented by Mr. McCormick to J. Morgan Jennison, of Philadelphia. Some boys found an exquisitely worked canoe, of silver, about five inches long, with the ends dipped in gold. A kettle made of copper, wrought into shape by hammering, having no seams, was also found in this mound, and placed with Mr. Jennison’s collection in the State Capitol.

Another mound was a half mile south of this one, and several skeletons were dug from its side by Charles E. Jennison, one of the few pioneers of those early days still living in Bay City. Copper kettles and other implements were also found in this mound.

A half mile further south we find, even to this day, one of the most commanding views of the river. Early settlers found a spring of water here, clear as crystal, and just shade enough to make it an ideal camping ground for the Indians. Here, according to tradition, was the main portion of the Sauk tribe when they were wiped out by the confederated tribes. Here they made their most desperate stand against overwhelming numbers. And here their conquerors, the Hurons, would assemble all their tribes in the State for their perennial feasts, dances and councils. The main elevation covered three acres, and, like the McCormick mound almost directly across the river from it, there was a deep depression southwest of its abrupt sides. Down in that depression the soil is a clay loam mixed with black sand. North of the mound is a ridge of yellow sand, but the mound and the slope on its northern face were of the same soil as the facings of the mound. This led the explorers to conclude that the mounds were built artificially ages before the white race came to this country. Railroads dug up this mound in ballasting purposes, and the village authorities of Wenona cut a street through it, so that little remains of the original mound as the early settlers found it. During these excavations in this Fitzhugh mound, many relics were found, showing conclusively that it had been built by a strange people many centuries before. Among numerous skeletons were found quaint ornaments of silver, broken pottery, some of it with primitive ornamentation, together with the usual large number of burned stones and weapons.

The forts were very identical, usually from three to six acres in extent, with walls four to eight feet high, and 10 to 12 feet across at the top. The form of the mounds indicates that they are largely artificial, and with the primitive tools at the disposal of those ancient people must have required years to complete. The best proof of their construction by a human race is the depression near each hill or mound, whose soil corresponds in each instance with the top dressing of these mounds, although the original surface soil is often of entirely different composition. Then their general plan and character show clearly that there was method and system in their work. Michael Dailey, the old Indian trader, Capt. Joseph F. Marsac, the much-traveled Indian fighter and explorer, and others, who often visited the Rifle and Au Sable rivers, reported a number of similar mounds and fortifications along those streams and their tributaries.

The Mound Builders appear to have had their outpost at the Straits of Mackinac, and to have been particularly numerous in the Saginaw Valley. Along the Cass and Flint rivers a number of mounds have been systematically explored, and the relics and skeletons added to the collection of antiquities. These relics are never found except in these elevations or mounds. William R. McCormick had his own theory about the many burned and broken stones invariably found in these mounds. He contended that their pottery would not stand the action of fire, hence they would heat stones, and cast them into their pottery to boil their water. Michael Dailey and others, who were fishing near Duck Island in Lake Huron, found kettles, bowls, weapons, and implements very similar to those found in these mounds. Certain it is, that the oldest remains of civilization in America are those of the Mound Builders. Their vast earthworks in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys must have taken many generations to complete. Yet not even the faintest tradition remains to tell who built them. That they were a very civilized race there can be no question. They must have been mentally far superior to the savage races that supplanted them. Their sway extended at one time or other from Mexico to Lake Superior. In the copper mines of our Upper Peninsula are found old shafts, with the wedges and chisels they used at their work, together with detached masses of copper ore. All our antiquarians are agreed that their works in Michigan were mere outposts. The main works are in the South. There are found pottery, ornaments of silver, of bone, of mica, and of sea shells from the Gulf of Mexico. Lance-heads, axes, adzes, hammers and knives of stone, exactly like those found in Bay County, are found in those great earthworks of the South. Spear-heads, lances and arrowheads made of obsidian, a volcanic substance found and used in Mexico, prove that they had some connection with that country. Crude spinning implements found in all these mounds prove that they knew the art of weaving and spinning, which was unknown to the Indians.

Some historians contend that these Mound Builders came originally from Mexico, and that owing to climatic conditions they were eventually driven back to their original homes, and that they are the ancestors of the Toltecs of Mexican history. Toltecs means architects or builders, which name would seem to have been a fitting one for that industrious race. Other historians contend that the entire race of Mound Builders, was destroyed either by a great flood, an epidemic of disease, or a war to the death with a more primitive, but more numerous and more powerful race. But as we read the conjectures of historians and students of this ancient race, we cannot help but feel that even these prehistoric Mound Builders appreciated the splendid location of this valley for all the needs and comforts of the human race.

Nowhere in the Northwest are there as many relics of these prehistoric people to be found, than in this section of Michigan. Hunting for these evidences of an earlier civilization formed, for many of the early pioneers here, an exhilarating diversion. They wearied of the chase and fishing became nauseating after a few years. Places of recreation there were none. Communication with the outside world was irregular, and confined to the receipt of newspapers often weeks and months out of date, and at their best containing but little real news. The settlements for years were few in number and widely separated, as if each new arrival sought solitude above all else. Often for weeks at a time these rugged settlers did not see a living person. Hence they devoted much of their leisure time to exploring the vicinity of their new homes. Then when they did meet at one another’s firesides, they would exchange ideas on the many odd and strange things their investigations of a country that was entirely new to them had brought forth. Even in recent years many quaint relics, mostly of the Indian period, have been found along the rivers and the bay shore. Justice of the Peace Frank G. Walton, of the West Side, has a stone battle-axe that is believed to be the largest ever found in Michigan. It was picked up on the shore of the Kawkawlin River, which was always a favorite hunting ground for the aborigines. Unfortunately, the residents of Bay County have never had a permanent pioneer society, and consequently there has been no system in these researches. The demand for more room to accommodate the increasing business of Bay City has caused so many improvements, that most of the old landmarks and mounds have been obliterated and forgotten.

Little is known by the present generation of the names and deeds of our pioneers. At long intervals, outside enterprise gives to us a record of those early days, brought down to their respective periods, but that is all. This is not as it should be. The lives and deeds of our pathfinders and pioneers should never be given over to oblivion. Their noble self-sacrifice, amid the dangers and hardships of life in the unknown wilderness, should prove an inspiration to the coming generations. Bay County should have an active pioneer society to keep alive the spirit of our forefathers, to treasure the stirring records of our early history and to delve deeper into the wealth of research still possible in this valley, beloved of the ancients.

No history of Bay County would be complete without a mention of the greatest of the Chippewa chiefs of the last century. One of the numerous bands of that tribe of the race of Hurons had their wigwams for many years on the banks of the Tittabawassee, a worthy branch of the Saginaw. About 1794 there was born in that band, O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to, one of the greatest chieftains of his race. His tribe consisted of a dozen bands, each headed by a hereditary chief, and these chiefs in turn elected the head chief. In 1819, although but 25 years old, O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to was chosen head chief, and was the leader of the Indians in the councils with General Cass, then Governor of Michigan Territory. He was then in the full vigor of young manhood, over six feet in height and, according to General Cass, at once a perfect type of the American Indian, an eloquent orator, and a born leader of his race. The pale face trappers who had married Indian squaws, and the half-breeds living with the Chippewas, together with many of the minor chiefs were in favor of giving up at once all their possessions to the government, in return for a liberal money consideration. O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to alone opposed giving up their lands. In an address to more than 2,000 of his people, he held them spellbound for two hours. To General Cass and his staff he said:

You cannot know our needs. You do not know our condition. Our people wonder what has brought you so far from your homes. Your young men have invited us to come and light the council fires; we are here to smoke the pipe of peace, but not to sell our lands. Our American Father wants them. Our English Father treated us better. He never asked for our lands. You flock to our shores; our waters grow warm; our lands melt like a cake of ice. Our possessions grow smaller and smaller. The warm wave of the white man rolls in on us and melts us away. Our women reproach us, and our children want homes. Shall we sell from under THEM the spot where they spread their blankets? We have not called you here; yet do we smoke with you the pipe of peace.”

He alone held out for the 40,000 acre reservation in which was included the hunting ground of his own band and, despite all that, General Cass and his interpreters could do, O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to had his way, before the treaty was finally ratified. He loved this valley, and wanted it kept forever as the hunting ground of his people. Many stories of his indomitable will and bravery were told by the early pioneers. About 1835 two Indians of his band proceeded to settle a quarrel with their ever ready hunting knives, while under the influence of liquor. O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to jumped between them, and with his body stopped a cut intended by one of the warriors for the other. A portion of his liver protruded from the terrible cut in his side. While being nursed back to health, he sliced off the protruding piece of liver with his knife, threw it on the coals of the fire in his wigwam, and after roasting it, calmly ate it. To the warriors about him he remarked, that if there was a braver man in the Chippewa nation then he, he would like to see him. Incredible though this story may appear at this distance, it was vouched for 70 years ago by Joseph Trombley, Ephraim S. Williams, and Peter Grewett, Indian traders of that period, and Mr. McCormick and Judge Albert Miller never doubted its accuracy. They knew this warrior, knew of his many other reckless deeds of daring, and never questioned the veracity of this incident. Strangely enough this operation hastened his cure. It also strengthened the hold he had on his tribesmen, for the Indian admires reckless daring above all other virtues.

O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to was one of the seven chiefs who went to Washington in 1837 to negotiate the sale of their remaining reservation. The sage chief recognized that the settlers were coming into that part of Michigan in such numbers, that its usefulness as a hunting ground would soon be gone forever, and he made his last stand for such favorable terms of sale, as he could command. President Thomas Jefferson rather admired the eloquent and imposing warrior, and he presented him with a solid silver medal, of oblong shape, five inches long, bearing this inscription: “Presented to O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to by Thomas Jefferson.” On one side was the heroic figure of an Indian chief, and on the other a cut of the President. Red Jacket, the famous chief of the Senecas, was the only other living Indian who received this mark of distinction from Thomas Jefferson. After this treaty was ratified at Flint, where his eloquence again smoothed the way for a peaceful settlement, he did everything in his power to see that the Indians observed their solemn obligation to the white settlers, who then began to swarm over his old hunting ground. Yet it galled the proud chief to see his people driven to a mere corner of their former possessions. To the settlers it seemed often as if he courted death, and not infrequently he resorted to strong fire-water to quench the anguish of his stout old heart. With heroic self-sacrifice he worked for his people when the Grim Reaper swept them away by scores during the smallpox epidemic.

He did not long survive the misfortunes of his tribe. While camping with his band near the Fitzhugh mound on the west side of the river, he felt his time had come. He called his people around him, and bade them farewell. His last words were for peace, and good-will to the settlers, many of whom he had learned to love and respect. He had loved this valley, and wished to be buried on the highest point of this vicinity. During the closing days of 1839 he was buried with great pomp and ceremony on the McCormick mound on the east side of the river.

Joseph Trombley, who had known and respected the old warrior for many years, furnished the lumber for the coffin. Some years later when lumber became plentiful and cheap in the valley, Mr. McCormick erected a little house over his last resting place, with a flag-staff over it, that could be seen for a long distance. Years rolled by, the little house was neglected and finally obliterated by people who built near by. In the course of time the mound was plowed over and crops grew over his sepulcher. In August, 1877, the city had grown to such dimensions, that the mound was wanted for building purposes. In excavating for a foundation, portions of a wooden box were found, in which was a skeleton wearing the uniform of a colonel of the Continental Army. Then it was recalled that O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to had been buried there, wearing the uniform President Jefferson had given him during his visit to Washington in 1837. The uniform was in a good state of preservation. His copper kettle was bottomless and badly demoralized by rust, but his tomahawk, knife and pipes were still by his side. The medal has never been found. The man who found the remains kept them on exhibition until the Indians of the vicinity protested against the indignity to their great chief. By their request, Mr. McCormick buried the remains in his own dooryard, and a stone furnished by E. B. Denison marks the last resting place of O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to, the last great chief of the Chippewas.

After the death of Ton-dog-a-ne and O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to, Nau-qua-chic-a-me became the head of the Chippewas. He wandered about with his band, following the run of the fish and the little game left in these parts, finally settling with his band at Saganing, where he died in October, 1974.

Much missionary work was done among the natives after they retired permanently to their own settlements and reservations, and many became devout converts to the Christian faith. James Cloud was for many years the missionary among his tribesmen on the Kawkawlin. His work was one of helpfulness to his people and of love for his Master. For his years of labor he received nothing. So even in matters of religion these poor natives are left largely to their own resources, which are pitiable enough in the light of the 20th century.

The early settlers saw more of the Indians than they did of their own race, and consequently were much dependent upon them for many of the little acts of kindness that make life worth the living. Judge Albert Miller was always one of the best friends the Indians of this vicinity had, and he never wearied of championing their cause. He always contended that Poor Lo left to himself was not at all a wicked or mean person. He often related incidents in his own life to prove that the natives were both honest and hospitable. During the winter of 1835-36 he sent some horses and cattle down the Quanicassee River to feed, during the period of snow and ice, on the rushes along that river. When it was no longer possible to get supplies to the men who were in charge of the animals, the latter were left to shift for themselves. Mr. Miller was living at the time near Crow Island. In April, 1836, he started with B. F. Trombley across the flooded prairie to look after his stock. Nearly a foot of water covered the low lands, but this did not stop these hardy pioneers. They crossed Cheboyganing Creek, then a roaring torrent owing to the floods, on a fallen tree, and reached the Quanicassee. None of the horses or cattle had been stolen, although a few horses had died. It rained all day, and a cold wave, so peculiar to this region of the lakes, froze everything that night. Rather than camp out in their frozen blankets another night, the two pioneers started for home. On the prairie the water was steadily rising and freezing, so that every step soon became an agony. The ice would not hold them up, and this continual breaking through soon wore out Trombley’s moccasins, so he tied his mittens on his feet and followed closely in Miller’s footsteps. But the cold was benumbing, and to make matters worse the fallen tree had been washed away, and there was no way to cross Cheboyganing Creek. As a last resort, Miller gave a lusty Indian war-whoop and to their great relief this brought an Indian in his canoe, who took the bleeding, starved and frozen travelers into his wigwam for the night. The two pale faces never forgot the terrors of that night, and next day when they reached Miller’s cabin, two miles away, each looked as though he had passed through a serious illness. They were quite certain that they would have perished in that blizzard on the prairie, but for the timely help of that solitary Indian, who happened to hunting ducks up-stream, and was returning to his lone wigwam, pitched in a grove of maple trees, to gather maple syrup when the weather should mend.

In 1833, Judge Miller who had been on a business errand to Midland, in the month of December, was thrown into the ice-cold water, while paddling down the Tittabawassee, and narrowly escaped drowning. He was 25 miles from home, and 16 miles from the nearest settler’s cabin, so the prospects for drying his wet clothes seemed slight indeed. A few miles down stream he saw a lone wigwam on the river bank, and a lone Indian woman was preparing a meal. Miller told her his mishap, and was invited to come ashore and dry himself as well as dine, which he gladly did. He never happened near an Indian’s camp in all the years that he traveled among them, that he was not invited to have the best in the wigwam, and at night the stranger was always given the best place in the tepee to sleep. He did not like their begging or drinking propensities, which grew worse with the passing years, yet during his entire life in the valley, Judge Miller remained the steadfast friend of the wandering red men.

The McCormick, Trombley and Williams families assuredly did much for the Indians of this valley and the natives showed their appreciation in many ways. The propensity of the red men for fire-water, and their begging often became very obnoxious to the early settlers, and is to this day the cardinal sin of the Indians of this State.

But to the settlers there were many offsets for these failings. Tailors and dressmakers were scarce in the settlements and the pioneers soon became accustomed to wearing moccasins and other wearing apparel made by the skillful hands of the Indian women. The larder of the pale faces was never empty, if there was any game for the red men to shoot. The Indians enjoyed the many novelties introduced by the settlers, and often stood for hours watching some old pioneer run a spinning wheel, a blacksmith at the forge, a cobbler mending shoes, or a farmer in his field.

The Indian was full of curiosity, but apparently without any desire to imitate these arts of peace. The warrior could be amused by these novel industries, but to him they were at their best but arts to be practiced by women and slaves. The race of hunters and rovers could not adapt themselves to the life of a farmer or a mechanic. They did not have the power to adapt themselves to new and novel conditions, and to assimilate in a single generation the cardinal principles of another and a finer civilization, which faculty has made the Japanese people the marvel of the world in the opening years of this 20th century. For ages these aborigines had found in the chase at once their recreation and their livelihood. Could the Christians really expect this strange race to fall at once into their footsteps, and to change at their bidding their whole mode of life of thought and action? Yet many of the early settlers in Bay County deemed the Indians a slothful, shiftless and almost worthless race. And certainly the Indians proved total failures here, both as farmers and fishermen. The pioneers found out at some cost of time and money, that the red men of the Northwest would never be to them what the Ethiopian negro has ever been to the South.

Our liberal but sometimes too philanthropic government has tried for years to give to the young braves a first-class education. Many Indian youths from the bands of this vicinity have attended school at the Carlisle Indian School. During all the years they spent at school they longed for the freedom and care-free life of their primitive shacks on the Kawkawlin and elsewhere, and in many cases the young warriors had hardly graduated from these seats of learning, before they drifted back into the shiftless moods of their ancestors. Cases are not rare, where these Indian students turned their learning into evil channels. Not many moons ago a graduate from one of the Indian schools in this part of the State was found guilty of forgery. He found that an easy way to get ready cash. He had been taught the art of writing, but no pedagogue could instill into the red man the habits of industry and thrift common to the white race.

When one compares the red men of to-day with the aborigines as the pioneers of this county found them, we cannot fail to notice a slow but steady improvement along these lines. The Indian women especially have developed habits of thrift and industry that promise better things for the remnant of the race in the years to come. Comparatively few, however, have yet proven themselves equal to the task of getting something better than a scanty living from the acres they cultivate or the occupation they follow. Hereabouts they have been most successful in catching the finny tribes of the bay, probably because this business is more sportsmanlike after the manner of their forefathers. But the copper-colored citizen of to-day is not much different from the primitive Indian of the pioneer days. No race exhibits a greater antithesis of character than the native warrior of America. The pioneers found him daring, ruthless, self-denying and self-devoted in war, generous, hospitable, honest, revengeful, superstitious, commonly chaste, and slothful in times of peace. Since he was more numerous in the valley than the early settlers, he filled a large place in their everyday life and furnished all that is romantic and picturesque in the recital of their pioneer experiences.

The early settlers in this valley came mostly from New York and the New England States, and were, therefore, familiar with the habits and the failings of their red neighbors. Their main characteristics were hospitality and genuine friendship. If one had a barrel of flour, it was divided with the others, share and share alike. No one was allowed to want for what another had. The food of the pioneers, like their clothing, was plain and substantial. Cheap, coarse cloth, often home-spun, or the hide and fur product of the Indians, furnished the wearing apparel of the pioneers, made to order by the thrifty and industrious housewives or their equally helpful daughters. Fine dresses of silk for the women were as rare an extravagance as broadcloth for the men. Fit or style was secondary to wearing qualities.

Since most of our pioneers came from the birthplace of the “town-meeting,” they took from the first an active interest in the wise and honest government of their adopted State. Being prudent, intelligent and public-spirited, they were good and safe citizens.

They were not lacking in a healthy sense of humor. The region was wild and dreary enough to discourage the most sanguine, but the early settlers were not afflicted with melancholy. They were too busy and too vigorous to ever allow their life in the solitude to become monotonous or dreary. The records of those early days recite many laughable incidents among the pioneers, who were at all times anxious to have posterity understand that perpetrating practical jokes was one of the leading industries in the colony. Harry Campbell and Jule Hart divided the honors as the most popular jesters of the community, and few are the reminiscences of a humorous vein recited by the old pioneers that do not include these twain.

Harry Campbell was the faithful chorister of the first church meeting house in the settlement. One of his idioms consisted in starting the congregation off with one of the popular airs of the day, instead of the announced hymn, keeping a sober face meanwhile, until the leader would remind him, that he had evidently turned to the wrong number. Sober as the deacon himself, Campbell would turn calmly to the hymn desired, only to repeat the mistake at the first opportunity.

George Lord (the future mayor of Bay City) and Jule Hart had fisheries on the bay shore, and shared for years the “fisherman’s luck’ which is to this day a proverbial and changeful quantity on stream and bay. One day Hart told Lord that his foreman Joe reported that the fish were running “like blazes,” and he wanted extra men to pack and dress the fish. Lord hunted up all the idle men he could find along the river, and was just starting for the bay, when Hart came running up to announce that he had just heard form Joe gain, and the fish had stopped running. Lord saw he had been sold, and like an Indian bided his time for revenge. Some weeks after Jule Hart was enjoying a game of penny-ante in the saloon in the basement of the Wolverton House, which was the fashionable club room of those days. Lord saw his chance. An Indian had just entered with three muskrat skins, “Ugh!:” said Lo, “Jule Hart, you buy um skins?” “Yes, give you ten cents for them. Here is your money, throw them in that corner!” The Indian did as he was told and departed, while Hart hardly looked up from the game. Lord hooked the skins out of the window, had a Frenchman stretch them on shingles, and sell them to Hart, who willingly paid for them. It looked like easy money, buying skins while the game went on. Meanwhile Lord and a confederate, who also had “one coming,” for Hart, hustled around to get more “skinners” for Hart, and every little while those skins would be hooked out of the window, and brought back in all manner of disguises. When the game came to an end, Hart rose from the table, remarking that he had lost at the game, but he had been buying a thundering lot of skins just the same. Imagine this surprise when he found but three skins in that corner. Just then Lord appeared at the window, “Say, Jule, it has been just as good a day for skins, as that day last all was for fish!” Lord was made disbursing officer by the little settlement for the proceeds of the three muskrat skins, which were appropriated for the general good, in the manner common in those days.

At another time Hart noticed a well-dressed stranger about town, and soon was busy telling of the wonders of the valley and the hospitality of its settlers. A herd of ponies was grazing along the river bank, and Hart assured the stranger that anybody could have one of the ponies who could catch one. The stranger soon found several boys to help him catch a steed, and the fun was uproarious until the Indians owning the herd arrived. The stranger escaped with his scalp.

In the early pioneer days hotels were few and far between, and travelers camped out wherever a roof could be found for shelter. A lawyer in Lapeer had a barn which was often used by travelers without so much as asking for the privilege. One day a new arrival drove his cow into the barn, put some hay in the loft and made himself at home. The lawyer soon after left for Bay City, so he told Rev. Mr. Smith, the Congregational minister of the little flock at Lapeer, that he had a good milch cow at his barn which he did not want to take with him, but that the cow had a peculiar habit of giving down no milk, unless she was milked before 5 A. M. The preacher allowed he was an early riser, and he was soon enjoying a bountiful supply of milk. One fine morning he was shocked by hearing a vulgar voice calling him thief, robber and similar pet names. “I’ve caught you at last, you hypocritical, thieving parson, preaching honesty to the people, and robbing your neighbors of their milk. I’ll break your head!” When the irate farmer got out of breath, the parson managed to say, that it was his cow, that the lawyer had given the animal to him, with the hay in the loft, the night before he left. Explanations and a good laugh followed the exposure of the lawyer’s plot.

This lawyer had a penchant for donating other people’s property to the churches and preachers of Bay City as well. He had a pile of hardwood in a field then outside of the city, but now one of the fine residence sections of Greater Bay City. A well-to-do farmer had a large pile of wood in an adjoining field. When a church deacon asked for a little help, the lawyer in a burst of generosity told the deacon that if he would haul it all off both fields at once, he might have it all. Needless to say that wood was promptly hauled to the minister’s yard. After much excited inquiry, the farmer learned how his wood had been donated to the church, and it was surely burned beyond recall.

At another time he was asked to contribute something towards the erection of a new church in the settlement. The lawyer knew of a pile of lumber some Eastern parties had piled upon the river bank, and this lumber he promptly donated to the cause, insisting only that it be secured right away. By the time the owners came to look for it, the lumber had been both dedicated and appropriated, and the lawyer was lauded throughout the city as a big philanthropist.

When Albe Lull came to Portsmouth, he was told that the loons caught in the river were a delicacy fit for an epicure. Before long he caught a loon, and invited his neighbor in to share the delicacy. This neighbor was too busy to participate, but the new arrival had the loon put on to boil at 10 A. M. At 12 Mrs. Lull reported that the loon was nowhere near tender, so they kept a roaring fire going, but by 3 P. M. the loon was still like adamant. The Lulls had all the persistence of the genuine pioneer, so that loon was kept boiling well into the next day, by which time the entire settlement began to take an interest in the Lull’s culinary department, and eventually it dawned on the Lulls that they had tried to do the impossible, when they started to cook a loon.

Among the old settlers Squaconning Creek was pronounced “Squire Conning.” Harry Campbell met a wandering dentist at Saginaw and induced him to row 18 miles to Portsmouth, to look after the mouth of “Squire Conning.” At Portsmouth he was told that he had passed the “Squire’s” mouth some miles up the river, whereupon the settlement enjoyed a good laugh. Incidentally the dentist found some work in his line down here, so he did not regret looking for the “Squire.”

One of the early settlers to select the mound for his cabin was a rollicking Scotchman, named Thomas Stevenson. His one failing was the genuine Scotch “hot stuff,” which he usually bought by the barrel. One of these barrels was delivered to Jule Hart, who kept it in his warehouse for his friends, old Tom himself getting a drink of it occasionally and cussing it furiously, as “poor Indian whiskey.” Finally he wrote to Detroit asking about his barrel. They promptly replied that they had Jule Hart’s receipt for it. Then Stevenson stormed down to Hart’s warehouse, where a council of war had been held meanwhile and Tom’s barrel filled with river water and carefully hid away. Stevenson found his barrel, cussed Jule for not finding it sooner, and over-looking it so long, and after some trouble and expense got it into the basement of his cabin. Then he invited all the boys to come and have a drink of the “real stuff.” After this characteristic introduction, the river water failed to tickle the palate of his hardy neighbors, and when the truth dawned on Tom Stevenson, it was time for Jule Hart to get busy at his fisheries on the bay shore with a scout out to warn him if danger approached in the person of an extra-dry Scotchman. And it required a full barrel of the best “extra dry” before Tom would again allow the pipe of peace to circulate in the settlement.

Many good bear stories were told by the old settlers around their camp-fires, but none was repeated with more zest than Harry Campbell’s. Probate Judge Sydney S. Campbell had Harry to dinner one day, and while Harry was toasting himself in front of the fireplace, the Judge came rushing into the house, shouting “bear” at the top of his voice. Bear were a common sight in the wilderness, and guns were equally common, so it was only the work of a minute before Harry was “hot footing it” through the clearing of stumps to the woods, which then began where Washington avenue’s fine business blocks now stand. Scouting cautiously into the thick underbrush toward a big black object, Harry concluded that it must be a tame bear, for it showed no inclination either to fight or to run away. On closer inspection he found it was only a large, coal-black hog, and the laugh that followed the discovery might have been heard at Wenona, across the river, were the wind favorable. On the way back, Harry placed a six-inch charge into the old gun and bided his time. Presently Harry wandered down to the river and soon came hurrying back with the information, that a thundering large flock of ducks had just settled in the river near the fishing dock where Fifth avenue now reaches the river. Judge Campbell’s sportsman’s blood was up in an instant, and the rest of the company followed as a matter of course. The Judge hurried to his favorite log, from which he never failed to bag his game, aimed carefully and “blazed away.” The spectators were never quite certain which end of that gun was most fatal. It knocked the venerable Judge flat on his back, some distance east of the log, too sore for utterance, while the ducks were mowed down as by a cyclone. When the Judge came to, he wondered what had got into that infernal old gun. But Harry quickly set him right, by suggesting that probably he had been shooting ducks with a bear charge. All present saw the point, and are said to have joined themselves into a relief committee, vying with each other in relieving the sufferer by copius applications of whiskey internally and externally, with a little faith cure thrown in by occasionally taking a little themselves sot relieve the mental anguish of the duck hunter.

One of the earliest arrivals at Portsmouth was a retired merchant from New York State, who sought rest and solitude, and a chance to gratify his main passion, which was hunting and which was generally gratified. Yet his pleasures were not unmixed with alloy. He stammered a little, and when Judge Birney said to him one day: “This is a great place for change and rest,” he replied promptly: “Th-th-this is a magn-ni-ni-nif-ficent place f-f-f-for b-b-b-both. The I-I-In-d-d-dians g-g-get your ch-ch-ch-change, and the tavern kee-kee-keepers g-g-get th-th-the REST.” Of the same jovial soul was it written, that an anxious friend down East heard he had been killed by the Indians. A letter inquiring if this sad news were true came directly into the hunter’s hands. He set the fears of his friends at rest by writing curtly: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated!”

Judge Miller was always positive that the pioneers of this valley were an obliging lot. He used to quote this note which he received from a worthy German settler while he was teaching school in the South End: “Mr. Teecher [sic]: Please excuse Fritz for staying home. He had der meesels to oblige his vader, Louis Muller.” A more vigorous epistle came from a robust Irishman: “Just you knock hell out of Mike when he gives you any lip and oblige, Tom.”

The settlers seemed to agree with Oliver Herford, who wrote:

Some take their gold in minted mold,
And some in harps hereafter,
But give me mine in tresses fine
And keep the change in laughter.

Some of the irrepressible wags of that settlement were wont [sic] to tell this story of Ephraim S. Williams. During the Mexican War there was a camp meeting near Mosby’s clearing on the river. The roving missionary asked Brother Williams to pray for the success of the American arms which he did. In the course of his petition he said: “And, O Lord, do help the American arms, and do not forget the legs also. Take the arms, if you must, but spare the legs, spare he legs!”

One day while James Fraser and Medor Trombley were riding across the prairie to Quanicassee, they passed a little log cabin in the swampy wilderness. Mr. Fraser remarked that he pitied the poor man who lived here. This riled the occupant of the shack, who shouted through the open door: “Gints, I want yer to know I’m not as poor as you think. I don’t own this ‘ere place.”

The greatest activity prevailed in the valley during the mosquito season. Some of the pioneers’ mosquito legends would discount the best fish story ever told. Baking day was the mosquitoes’ delight and the housewives’ torment.

They organized a modern plan of campaign against the “animals,” which was rigidly carried out, in more senses than one. After “shooing” out the kitchen and securely fastening doors and windows, for fear the winged monsters would carry off the “dough,” of which none of the pioneers had over-supply, the brave women would begin the real exercises of the day by placing some maple sugar on the stove. The sugar smudge would often drive out the housewife, but it is nowhere alleged that these organized defensive measures ever seriously interfered with the business of the mosquitoes. But they had all the elements of a formidable demonstration, as the soldiers among the pioneers were wont to put it, and were comforting to reflect upon in after years. Alas, the mosquito does not recall altogether pleasant memories. They, at least, were no joke, if they were “suckers!”

Unwillingly, I own, and what is worse,
Full angrily men harken to thy plaint;

Thou gettest many a brush and many a curse,
For saying thou art gaunt and starved and faint.
Even the old beggar, while he asks for food.
Would kill thee, hapless stranger, if he could!
William Cullen Bryant.

But we must turn from this page of mirth, and look again upon the more serious side of pioneer life in this settlement. Yet a good joke was the music and the spice of life for these pathfinders. Isolated in a wilderness they formed a world by themselves. And to this day they will tell you, that while the privileges and the diversions have multiplied with the years, yet their real enjoyment, the hearty ringing laugh and the rugged jest, have been lost in the whirlpool of modern business activities, and the rush of a multitude of strangers from strange lands.

But we have anticipated our narrative! The recital of pioneer life has carried us beyond the years when William R. McCormick found but two log cabins along the entire river from the Carrollton sand-bar to the bay. Let us retrace our steps, and follow the development of our settlement as we glean it from the meager records at hand.

In 1834, John B. Trudell built a log cabin near the McCormick mound, where he lived for 16 years with his wife, a daughter of Benoit Trombley; and Ben Cushway built his log cabin and blacksmith shop near the west approach of the Lafayette avenue bridge of later days. Leon Trombley (father of Mrs. P. J. Perrott and Louis Leon Trombley), who was an Indian trader and farmer, about this time declined to trade his horse for a whole section of land that to-day is in the very heart of Bay City. In later years he used to say, that he little thought then that his swamp, with its prairie grass high enough to hide a man, and with impenetrable woods, where the wolves howled continuously, would within 30 years become a thriving and attractive city. He kept his horse. But there were other Trombleys who had more faith in the future of this little-known valley. In 1835 we find Medor and Joseph Trombley building the first substantial frame house, with a warehouse in connection for storing the goods they exchanged for the Indians’ furs and venison.

The persistent booming Michigan’s interior had received from Governor Cass, and later from Governor Stevens T. Mason, showing that Michigan was not a hopeless swamp and a barren wilderness, together with easier transportation facilities, made Michigan the El Dorado of the West in 1835. The craze for land speculation was at its height in 1836 and 1837. The few traders and hunters in the Saginaw Valley during those years had nothing to do but show the country to these speculators. They received liberal pay in bank-notes, which being largely “wild-cat” were as worthless and elusive as this terror of the backwoods itself. Among the first to recognize the advantages of this valley were Governor Mason and the late Judge Albert Miller.

James Fraser, born in Inverness, Scotland, February 5, 1803, the son of a soldier who had lost a leg in 1796, in the wars with the French, was another pillar among the elite who created a city and county out of this wilderness. Having accumulated a few thousand dollars by thrift and industry, he immigrated to the United States in 1829, coming straight to Michigan. He lost nearly all his money in a disastrous attempt at building a sawmill near Rochester, Oakland County. With less than $100 he started a small grocery in Detroit, and started life anew. In 1832 he married Elizabeth Busby, a brave young woman of more than ordinary personal charms, whose parents had only the year previous emigrated from England. In 1833 he determined to settle on some land he had located on the Tittabawassee. From Flint the family entered the wilderness on the Indian trail. Mrs. Fraser and infant riding on an ingenious ox-sled he had built, while he and her parents rode on horseback. After getting his family settled in the solitude, he returned to Detroit to bring up some cattle for his ranch. Between Flint and Saginaw they became stampeded and while chasing them down he hung his coat with all the cash he had in the world, over $300, on a tree near the trail! and never after found it. Long years afterward, when he had amassed a fortune, he used to say, that this was the greatest loss of his whole life. He cleared a nice farm, and planted a flourishing orchard, for years the pride of that neighborhood. But farm life was too tame for this man on horseback. He spent most of his time in the saddle, looking up lands, and in 1836 moved his family to Saginaw, in order that they might be nearer his favorite haunts, the shores of Saginaw bay and river.

That same year Albert Miller bought land along the Saginaw River, in what is now Bay County, and proceeded to lay out the town of Portsmouth. At the same time, Mrs. Fraser planned the purchase of the Riley Indian Reserve, given to that family of half-breeds by the government for bringing about the favorable treaty of 1819 with the Indians.

In September, 1836, this reserve was bought by the Saginaw Bay Company, which Mr. Fraser had organized, for the sum of $30,000 an enormous price in those days. The stockholders included some of Michigan’s most prominent citizens: Governor Stevens Thompson Mason, the first executive of our State, whose remains lie buried in New York.—they are now to be brought back to Detroit, to be buried on the site of the first Capitol of Michigan, Griswold Park, through the consent of his sister, Miss Elizabeth Mason, now of Washington, D. C., secured on the day following President Roosevelt’s inauguration.—March 5, 1905; also Henry R. Schoolcraft (Indian commissioner), Frederick H. Stevens, John Hulbert, Andrew T. McReynolds, Horace Hallock, Electus Backus, Henry K. Sanger, Phineas Davis and James Fraser. The articles of association were executed February 9, 1837, and a deed in trust, naming Frederick H. Stevens and Electus Backus as trustees, was executed February 11, 1837. The company at once caused 240 acres to be surveyed and platted for a town, and named it “Lower Saginaw.”

The boundaries of this embryo city were the present Woodside avenue, the river, a line 400 feet south of an parallel with 10th street, and a line 100 feet east of and parallel with Van Buren street. The energy and enterprise shown in making the purchase was continued in laying out the future city. A dock and warehouse were built, and a large hotel was framed and lumber provided for its completion. A building was also erected to contain the “wild-cat” bank. The plans of the company were only just maturing, when the panic and financial crash brought the work to a standstill, and the stockholders of the Saginaw Bay Company to the verge of bankruptcy. James Fraser alone was able to tide over the storm.

In 1838 business in the valley was at a standstill, and the land-lookers vanished. The Saginaw, and the Commercial Bank of Portsmouth had bills engraved for circulation, but aside from those stolen while in transit from the engravers in New York, none was ever put into circulation. On March 1, 1838, Sydney S. Campbell and family arrived to take charge of the hotel, and with their advent begins the real history of Bay City Proper.

In 1837, John farmer resurveyed and replatted the town of Portsmouth for the Portsmouth Company, headed also by Governor S. T. Mason, and including Henry Howard, State Treasurer; Kensing Pritchet, Secretary of State; John Norton, cashier of the Michigan State Bank; John M. Berrien, of the United States Army, and Albert Miller, judge of the Probate Court of Saginaw County. That also was before the great financial crash came, and things for a season looked bright indeed for this valley. Judge Miller, B. K. Hall, Thomas Rogers and Barney Cromwell erected the first sawmill here in 1837. The first post office was established the same year at Portsmouth, with Judge Miller as postmaster, and Thomas Rogers as mail carrier, bringing mail once each week from Saginaw. Three or four letters each way, and a few weekly papers coming down, was the extent of the mail business for several years to come. Dr. J. T. Miller located at Portsmouth about this time,—the first physician to begin practice here.

Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, wife of Thomas Rogers, was the daughter of Dr. Wilcox, of Watertown, New York. She was an earnest student of medicine, putting up the prescriptions for her father, and when but 18 years old was often consulted by her father on difficult cases. In 1828 she married Thomas Rogers, coming with him to this county in 1837. For years she was the ministering angel of the early pioneers. Through storm and night she would hasten to the bedside of the sick and the dying, sometimes on horseback, more often on foot, through the woods, swamps and prairie, where the call of duty might be. For 15 years she was present at every birth in the settlement. During the epidemic of cholera she was the constant attendant of the sick and the dying, day and night. She would take no money and had no price. Some of the daily necessities of life sent to her home would be accepted, but nothing more. After 1850 many practicing physicians came to the valley, yet many of the old settlers would call Mrs. Dr. Rogers, as they fondly called her. William R. McCormick was taken with the cholera, and ever after credited Mrs. Rogers with saving his life. The Rogers family occupied a little block-house on the banks of the river in Portsmouth, and the venerable old lady never wearied in after years of telling her many harrowing experiences in those dismal years. The wolves howled so at night that the newcomers could not sleep. In time they became so accustomed to these nightly wolf concerts that they did not mind them any more, and often in after years she would start out to see a sick person with the howling of the solves as accompaniment all the way. Often in the daytime she could see packs of wolves romping on the opposite river bank, where Salzburg is now located.

One day two drunken Indians came to her door while her husband was away. She refused them admittance, when they secured an axe and proceeded to break down the door. She seized an iron rake, flung open the door and knocked the nearest redskin senseless with one blow, and the other was glad to make off. Then she nursed the wounded Indian back to consciousness and bade him be  gone. She was at once brave and tenderhearted, and gave the pioneers credit for all the noble characteristics she herself possessed. When the tide of commercialism swept over the valley, she frequently remarked the change. Our settlement has grown from three families to more than 20,000 inhabitants, she would say, but the greatest change is in the people themselves. They do not seem to be as hospitable, noble-hearted and generous, as they used to be. And the surviving pioneers readily agreed with her. She died July 16, 1881, in the community for which she had done so much during the trying days of the early settlement.

Cromwell Barney brought his family to this place in 1838 from Rhode Island and on May 22, 1838, there was born in the little blockhouse on the river bank, now Fourth avenue and Water street, Mary E. Barney, the first female white child born in Bay County, later Mrs. Alfred G. Sinclair, a well-known resident of Bay City. Barney was the messenger of the little settlement in those years, and frequently made the trip to Detroit in winter for supplies, which he would bring back on a little sled, requiring nine days for the round trip! The Barney farm, located within the boundaries of the First Ward of Bay City, was long a landmark in the county, and a street of that ward has been named after him. He later went into the lumbering business with James Fraser on the Kawkawlin River, where he lived until his death, November 30, 1851. He was a conspicuous type of the early pioneer. Upright and straightforward in all his dealings with his fellow-men, of unbounded energy, to whom idleness was a crime, he was one of the sterling builders of this community. In 1838, Cromwell Barney was working on the Globe Hotel, which is still standing, though considerably altered, at the corner of Water street and Fifth avenue. At that time the clearing along the river front extended only from what is now Third street to Center avenue, and east hardly as far as Washington avenue. Four blockhouses comprised the settlement.

Mr. Fraser induced Sydney S. Campbell to open the Globe Hotel, the first hostelry here, his friends insisting ever afterward, that Syd’s love of ease made it easy for him to doze in the wilderness. Born at Paris, Oneida County, New York, February 29, 1804, Judge Campbell did not enjoy many birthdays during his long and useful life. In March, 1830, he married Catherine J. McCartee, at Schenectady, New York, and immediately started life near Pontiac, Michigan. They were of that sturdy Scotch stock, which did so much to build up this valley. Their eldest son, Edward McCartee Campbell, was the first white boy born in Lower Saginaw. He built a brick business block on Water street, and looked after the Globe Hotel continuously for more than 45 years. The venerable old couple spent the last years of their life in the commodious farm house at Woodside avenue and Johnson street, surrounded by a large orchard, which 23 years ago yielded many a juicy apple to the humble scribe of these chapters, whose good fortune it was to be a favorite of the pioneers. The jovial old settler provided the children of the neighborhood with their pet rabbits and tame pigeons, and seemed never happier than when a group of youngsters would listen to his Indian yarns and play with his many pets.

Sydney S. Campbell was the first supervisor of Hampton township, elected in 1843, and was judge of probate of Bay County for 16 years after its organization. He used to tell the writer that it was a common thing for him to paddle 16 miles to Saginaw for one pound of tea. In 1839 he borrowed the government team of oxen and plowed up the site of the Folsom & Arnold mill, now the Wylie & Buell lumber-yard, and sowed a field of buckwheat, which he and his good wife harvested on a sailcloth and stored it away in the loft of Campbell’s hotel. That winter there was a scarcity of flour, and pioneers and Indians helped themselves to Mr. Campbell’s buckwheat, which they ground in a coffee-mill in the “wild-cat” bank building, just across the way. Frederick Derr, a young mechanic, came here that year, and meeting Miss Clark, a young lady teacher who had been engaged to teach the young idea to sprout, promptly proposed, was accepted, and before night the blacksmith of the settlement, who was also justice of the peace, tied the knot in the smithy by simply pronouncing them man and wife. This was the first wedding here. Mrs. Derr lived only a year after the marriage, being the second person to be buried in the cemetery established by the settlers where Columbus and Garfield avenues now meet. A death in that little backwoods settlement cast a gloom over the population, which it took months to efface.

During the winter of 1838-39, General Rousseau and his brother, Captain Rousseau, with Dr. Rousseau, an uncle, were busy surveying new townships in this vicinity for the government, which had lately acquired a clear title to the lands from the Indians. Owing to the swampy nature of much of the land, this work could best be done when the ice and snow made them passable. In 1839, Louis Clawson, assisted by some of the well-known trappers and traders of the valley, surveyed much of the territory along the shore of Lake Huron for the government. Tradition and speculation on those lands were giving way to scientific research and established fact.

In July, 1839, Captain Stiles with a chartered vessel brought Stephen Wolverton from Detroit to begin the erection of the old lighthouse at the mouth of the river, which is still standing, a picturesque landmark of those early mariners. It has since been replaced by a larger and more modern lighthouse. Capt. Levi Johnson, of Cleveland, finished the first one in 1841.

In September, 1839, the early settlers had a chance to see one of the large assemblies of Indians, which in years previous had been a common occurrence in the valley. Seventeen hundred Indians camped about the Globe Hotel and on the Fitzhugh mound on the West Side for two weeks, while John Hulbert, the Indian agent, distributed the final payment of $80,000 for the purchase of their reservation, consummated in 1837. The Indians camped there for two weeks, and not one overt act is charged to them during their stay. It was an event the old settlers long remembered and often recalled. For a time Poor lo lived high, but he had not the faculty of handling money, and fakers of all descriptions soon separated him from the fruits of his land sale.

In 1838, Capt. Joseph F. Marsac came here as Indian farmer and government agent, and he did his best to secure to the red men a safe method of keeping their money, and a few who followed his advice and invested their cash in real estate in this vicinity, reaped the harvest a few years later. Captain Marsac was one of the most popular pioneers here. Born near Detroit about 1790, he commanded a company at the battle of the Thames in the War of 1812. The Indians were fighting for the English, and when General Proctor wanted messages taken back to Detroit, he selected an old scout, James Groesbeck, and Captain Marsac for the perilous undertaking. They hid in the daytime, and traveled at night, until the message was safely delivered to the American commander at Detroit. In 1816 he visited Chicago as interpreter and trader. That future metropolis of the West then contained but five block-houses. In 1819, General Cass sent for him to assist in passing the treaty of that year with the Indians, where Captain Marsac did excellent service. He rode on horseback with General Cass all over Michigan, as the Governor was determined to see how things actually looked in the much-abused interior. Commissioned by Governor Porter to raise a company of Indian fighters for the Black Hawk War, he got as far as Chicago, when news came that Black Hawk had been captured, and Captain Marsac’s company of border scouts reluctantly returned home. In 1836 and 1837 he took a prominent part in the final treaties for the Indians’ lands. He was a close friend to O-ge-ma-ke-ga-to, and did much to win over that powerful chieftain. His estimable wife, Theresa Rivard, was born at Grosse Pointe, Michigan, July 22, 1808, and in 1829 became the bride of the famous Indian fighter. They had six children: Charles, Octavius, for 12 years recorder for Bay City and Democratic candidate for another term for Greater Bay City; Mrs. Leon Trombley, Mrs. W. H. Southworth, Mrs. T. J. McClennan, and Mrs. George Robinson, all residents of the city their father helped to build. Captain Marsac died in the old homestead in this city, June 18, 1880.

On November 16, 1840, Capt. John S. Willson sailed into the river with his family, just ahead of a cold wave which froze up the river the next night, which remained closed until late the following April. He took his family to the little block-house on Albert Miller’s property in Portsmouth, where he lived until the McCormicks bought the homestead in 1842. Then he bought 27 acres of land on the river front, between the present 18th and 21st streets, building a cabin and planting an orchard. He spent the winters hunting and trapping, with good success, and in summer he sailed the 40-ton schooner “Mary” along the shore between Lower Saginaw and Detroit. In the fall of 1844 he was caught in a terrible storm off the mouth of the river, blown across the lake and shipwrecked on the Canadian shore, 80 miles above Goderich. He and his crew had to walk to that little port with frozen feet and without food. They could get no help until they reached Detroit, and from there they had to walk to their homes in the Saginaw Valley! The settlers had long since given boat and crew up for lost, and their surprise was unbounded when the hardy mariners arrived. Captain Wilson’s oldest daughter had died during his absence, and he gave up sailing for the less risky occupation of farming. Little did he dream that within 10 years his farm would become the site for a mammoth sawmill. The study pioneers had 14 children, seven of whom survive. Captain Willson died in this city August 21, 1879, and his good wife did not long survive him. A suitable monument marks their last resting place in Pine Ridge Cemetery.

In 1840, Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh bought considerable land on the west side of the river, opposite Portsmouth and Lower Saginaw. In 1841 came Bay City’s most famous citizen, Hon. James G. Birney, in pursuit of solitude and rest, which he found. Dr. Fitzhugh, James Fraser and Hon. James G. Birney were practically the sole owners of Lower Saginaw, having bought the rights and properties of the defunct Saginaw Bay Company. Theodore Walker, of Brooklyn, New York, also held some of the scrip for the land, which he secured, for an unpaid tailor bill, from one of the bankrupt stockholders of the original company. Little did he dream that some day this discredited bit of paper would bring him wealth and a new home. He came here in 1842, and for years after was one of the town’s most eccentric characters, until death claimed him in 1870. The lives of these three projectors of Bay City,—Fitzhugh, Fraser and Birney,—are so closely identified with the growth and development of these cities that their personal sketches belong of right to the section of this work devoted exclusively to biographies. The first six years of their activity in the new settlement were rather monotonous.

In 1842, Frederick Backus brought a stock of goods and opened the first store in Bay County, in the vacant warehouse on the river front.

In 1843, Michael Dailey, the Indian trader and interpreter, opened his trading house at the mouth of the Kawkawlin River, and began his travels about Northern Michigan, which gave him a well-merited repute as a fur hunter and pedestrian. Each winter he would take his blanket and pack and follow the shore of Lake Huron as far north as the Straits of Macinac and even the shores of Lake Superior. On one of these trips he met the two Indians whe [sic] were handling Uncle Sam’s mail with a dog train, at Sault Ste. Marie, bound for Lower Saginaw. The Indians were on snow-shoes, and calculated to go 50 miles each day. This did not discourage Mr. Dailey, who led the Indians a merry pace for 150 miles, finally left them, and came into this settlement some hours ahead of the dog train. In 1857, Mr. Dailey married Miss Longtin, daughter of an estimable pioneer, and having unbounded confidence in the future of this settlement invested all his earnings in real estate, which eventually became very valuable. The last years of his life were spent in the family homestead on Washington avenue and First street, suffering much from rheumatism due to exposure and over-exertion in his younger days.

In 1843 the settlement was separated from Saginaw township and created into Hampton township. In 1844, the first school house was built near the north end of Washington avenue, and Israel Catlin arrived. Hon. James G. Birney held religious services in this building, with the often dubious assistance of the irresistible Harry Campbell. In 1845 the late P. J. Perrott joined his fortunes with the settlement. J. B. Hart and B. B. Hart came in 1846.

In April, 1846, Hon. James Birney, of Connecticut, came to visit his father. His experience on this trip is a vivid reminder of the primitive conditions still existing in the interior of Michigan at this time. He journeyed from Flint to Saginaw by the stage, a springless wagon drawn by two ponies, over a road of corduroy and mud, each worse than the other, with plenty of trees and roots adding excitement and jolts to the trip. After waiting two days at Saginaw for a boat to bring him down, he hired an Indian for 75 cents to paddle him down. He surprised his famous father while the latter was working in mud and water up to his ankles on a line fence where St. Joseph’s Church is now located, then a long way in the wilderness.

In 1847, James Fraser proceeded to carry out his pet scheme of converting these majestic pine trees into lumber, and the lumber into the circulating medium of the realm, by constructing the first sawmill in conjunction with Hopkins and Pomeroy.

In the winter of 1847, H. W. Sage, of New York, who later did so much to develop the west side of the river, came with Deacon Andrews and Jarvis Langdon, of Elmira, New York, and Joseph L. Shaw, of Ithaca, New York, to negotiate with Mr. Birney for some of the property in the settlement, whose fame was gradually finding its way to the business centers of the East. They put up at the Globe Hotel, where they found only one little bed available for strangers. They cast lots to see who would sleep in the bed, and three drew lucky numbers, while Deacon Andrews drew the floor, but as the latter was old and in poor health, Mr. Sage took his place on the pine knots. After several nights on the floor, Mr. Sage concluded he had had enough of rough pioneer experience and salt pork thrice daily, so on the Sabbath Day he hired a sleigh and, despite the Deacon’s scruples about traveling on the Lord’s Day, hied himself back to civilization.

In 1847, Daniel H. Futzhugh, Jr., built what was then considered an extravagant house on the corner of Third and Water streets.

In 1848 the fortunes of the settlement began to brighten, and soon a boom was in full swing. In 1848 there were added to the population,—Curtis Munger, who opened the second store in the settlement; and Edward Parke, an experienced pioneer. Thomas Carney and wife came to look after the boarding house being built for the sawmill employees, and J. S. Barclay and wife reinforced the Scotch colony in this outpost of civilization in the north woods, as Deacon Andrews described it, after regaining his equilibrium and his cottage in the East.

J. L. Hibbard came to clerk in the Manger store in 1849, as did Alexander McKay and family and J. W. Putnam, who erected homes on the river in keeping with the modest pretensions of the settlement. Old settlers assure us that life in the colony was now picking up. The social forces consisted of the Mesdames Barney, Barclay, Cady, Catlin, Campbell, Hart and Rogers, all of whom belonged to the “social set” and kept perpetual open house, where they disseminated the local news with conscientious promptness and due diligence. A serpentine foot-path winding in and out among the stumps on the river bank furnished an ample thorough-fare for the equipages of the little settlement. But the tall and whispering pines on the Saginaw had been heard in the business centers of the country, and soon there came “the first low waves, which soon will be followed by a human sea.”

The settlement is growing apace in 1850, and space will forbid calling the roll of these new arrivals. The little community soon began to grow by leaps and bounds. The axe of the woodsman is heard all along the shores of the river, the clearings are increasing in number and in size, new cabins and cottages, more or less pretentious, are springing up under the merry music of hammer and saw, new mills are furnishing work for new arrivals, new business places are opened up, the river is alive with craft of all descriptions, roads are opened to the south and east, fisheries prosper, and farms are in bloom, where once the whip-poor-will was undisturbed. The settlement is outgrowing its last suit of homespun, and the boundaries are being steadily pushed eastward, northward and southward, while an equally ambitious community beckons to Lower Saginaw from the village of Wenona across the river. The settlers have become villagers and citizens. The reminiscences of the pioneers must give way to the record of achievements in the fields of commerce and industry. The pathfinders have shown the way! The multitude will soon follow. Ever new shoulders are being put to the wheels of progress and development. The long drawn out and hard fought battle of the early settlers with dangers, privations, toil and hardships is clearly won. The “Garden Spot of Michigan,” but yesterday a howling wilderness, has been revealed even under the primitive work of the pioneers. Another new era is dawning in this blessed valley!

Source: History of Bay County, Michigan and Representative Citizen by Gansser, 1905.

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