It appears that the driving force behind the founding of Bay City was James Fraser. Fraser was involved in the founding of the Saginaw Bay Company. The company purchased the land on the east side of the river from John Riley for $30,000. They platted out the city, built a dock and a warehouse. In 1837, there was a depression and all development ceased for a time.
James G. Birney arrived after the depression in 1841. He purchased a part of the Saginaw Bay Company. While his activities on as an abolitionist and candidate for president on a national level were of national importance, he was a pioneer founder of Bay City as well.
Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh had come to the valley in 1834 to buy land. Though he never lived in Bay City, his son, Charles C. Fitzhugh, resided in the city for many years after his arrival in 1841.