Friday, March 30, 2007

Bay City's Civil War Cannons

Bay City's City Hall remains a remarkable building. From the clock tower observation room located just under the area that in former times held the bell, you can see all the way to the Zilwaukee Bridge just outside of Saginaw. Fire watches were held there in the years before modern communications were available in the city and during the dark days of WWII, the skys were scanned for the approach of enemy planes. That was not terribly dangerouse work given the range of German and Japanese bombers at the time.

During the approximately forty years just before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, large guns from Fort Sumter and Admiral Farragut's flagship, the Hartford, had stood guard at the corners of City Hall on Washington Street and in Battery Park on Center Ave. City Hall had two thirty pound Parrott Rifles. Battery Park had Columbiads from the Hartford and Mortars from Sumpter. All of these guns were removed at the beginning of WWII to be melted and reused in the effort to win that conflict.

One Civil War gun remains in the city. It is the Eight Inch Howitzer located in Soldier's Rest in Pine Ridge Cemetery. I have tried for several years to find out more about that gun. Common Council proceedings for Feb. 7, 1898 might give a hint of its origin.

Gentlemen--The joint committee from the G>A>R. posts having in charge the procuring of guns from the government to be placed on the grounds of the city hall have arranged to exchange the 8 in. howitzer for another 30-pounder Parrott gun, at a cost only of drayage to and from West Bay City.

This will give the city two fine large cannons to be put in position on the grounds, when graded

The war Department at Washington has advised us that the ordinance officer has been directed to issue to us also, one 3 in wrought iron gun==a field piece -- which can be had at the cost only of freight and drayage; and this will not to exceed $10 probably.

The gun is a war relic which in a few years cannot be obtainable and the opportunity to get it, we think, should not be lost.

I have to wonder where the eight inch gun was displayed and if it ended up as our Pine Ridge gun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Steven Johnson on TED Talks

Steven Johnson on TED Talks: "Author Steven Johnson takes us on a 10-minute tour of The Ghost Map, telling the story of a cholera outbreak in 1854 London, and the famous map that physician John Snow made of the disease's path - a map that not only convinced the world that cholera was a waterborne illness, but ultimately brought about profound changes in science, cities and modern society."

Cholera visited early Bay City and Michigan. This talk gives an overview of public health in the greatest city on Earth in the 1850's. Bay City was highly affected by these views of public health.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

James G. Birney and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in England came up with another gem. The link tells the story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the great sufferatette, and James G. Birney on their trip to England in about 1840. The books says that Birney was a man of very conservative manners and that he spent a good deal of time on the voyage training the young Stanton in how to be a proper lady. In doing that, he had a hand in yet another great cause, the cause of women's rights in America.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bay County Map from Mel

The Michigan Electronic Library exchange has excellant maps of the Bay City/Bay County area. Click the link above to access one dealing with the county.

Bay County Atlas

BAY COUNTY. Bay county was laid out in 1831 and was at that time called Arenac. In 1857 it was organized and took the name of Bay, because of its location on the,:bay of Saginaw. The total land area of the county is 284,626.69 acres, of whic h-about 215,000 acres are in good.farms. Bay county is located in the eastern part of the Lower Peninsula and is bounded entirely on the east by Saginaw bay. Itfhas a population of 68,238 (1910 census). In 1911, the state board of tax commissioners., placed the value of taxable land throughout the county at $39,331,544. There are a total of 93 schools, with an enrollment of 12,085 children, requiring 322 teachers. " "The county has 17-banks, 8 newspapers, telegraph, telephone and rural route service. Bay City is the county seat and has a: population of 45,166 (U. S. census 1910). i It is a natural railroad, deep water and manufacturing center, and occupies an Sideal location at a point 'where the Saginaw river flows into Saginaw bay, and is surrounded by a rich and productive farming section. It is a little more than 100 miles north of Detroit, the chief city of the state. It has nearly 200 miles of streets; 35 miles of paving, over:100 miles of sewers, 25 miles of-electric. street railway, 50 miles of gas -mains, 10 public parks covering 35 acres and -valued at. - $600,000, a water works plant valued at $1,000,000, 100 miles of water mains, a $147,000 municipal electric lighting plant, a fire department comprising ten station -t houses, a police department, 18 public school buildings;::19 parochial schools, public Slibrary, theaters, 3 hospitals,- first-class hotels, 8 banks, a $300,000 city hall, State S...... armory,: an.$80,000 Y. M. C. A. building, a $200,000W:postoffice and beau-tiful churches = ~. of nearly every denomination. There are two daily and three weekly newspapers j.. published in Bay City.:In 1860, the inexhaustible salt basin that underlies this section was tapped, the wsuccess of which resulted in the manufacture of salt,, which has since developed into immense proportions: The first beet sugar plant to be erected in the state was built in Bay City in 1898. Since then other.large and modern beet sugar plants have been put into operation. The beet sugar industry has proved to be a large factor in the success of this locality as a manufacturing community. Close to the limits of the city are coal mines, with a large annual.output, which are now supplying some of the railroads and many manufacturing plants. The fishing on Saginaw Abay gives employment to a large number of people. Pickerel, bass, white-fish, perch, catfish, sturgeon and other fish are caught. The city's industries include saw-mills, sash and door factories, largest plant in the United States for making wooden pipe, large woodenware factory,, veneer works, hardwood flooring mill, large Portland cement plant, railroad locomotive wrecking crane works, denatured alcohol plant, chemical company, etc. Other important cities of the county are Pinconning and Essexville. Pinconjing, with a population of about 800, islocated on the Michigan Central and Detroit & Mackinac Railroads, and on the Pinconning river, one and one-half miles from Saginaw bay and 19 miles above Bay City. It is lighted by electricity, has Catholic, German Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, public school, library, two banks, a weekly newspaper, water works, etc. Essexville is a town of about 1,600 and is located on the east bank of the Saginaw river near its mouth, and about three miles below Bay City, of which it is, in fact, a suburb. Hais Baptist, CongregationaT and Catholic churches, sugar S.factory; chemical works, shlingle-mill, etc. A street railway affords communication.with Bay City. ". -.. The transportation ficilities of the county include the Michigan Central, Pere Si'Marquette, Grand Trunk,:Detroit & Mackinac Railroads, the Erie & Michigan RailW; ay and Navigation Company, and the Saginaw & Bay City Electric.

Bay County was described this way in Bowen's Michigan State Atlas

James B. Shearer and Family

James B. Shearer

James B. Shearer was a driving force in Bay City from 1863 thru the 1890's. The Bay-Journal has a great write up on his family and him. The James B. mentionned in the link below would appear to be a son on the original James and is mentionned in the family information on the Bay-Journal post.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

James B. Shearer and Modern Biology

Microbiology and the Shearer Family

James B. Shearer, who lived on Adams Street has a very modern interest. He was involved in The American Microscopical Society. The link will show his presentation to that group given at Cornell University in 1895.

Michigan's Lumbertowns: Lumbermen and Laborers in Saginaw, Bay City, and Muskegon, 1870-1905 By Jeremy W. Kilar

Felling Operations in the Woods

In the 1840's,teams of four men worked in the woods. A tree was cut by two ax men. These men, called choppers, would fall the tree parallel to the skid road Once it was on the ground, two men working as swampers would trim the tree, cut off all the branches and top, and remove the bark from one side. At this point, a teamster using a 'go-devil' which was often made from the notch of a tree would hitch up to the log and drag it to the skid way or other collection point.

By 1880, much of the work done with the ax had been replaced by the two-man crosscut saw. The saw was much quicker and did not waste as much lumber. Two men using the newer method could fall fifteen trees a day and buck them into seventy-five logs.

Dr. Kilar describes the process in detail in his Michigan Lumbertowns book linked above.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Modern Bay City Map

Bay City Street Map is a helpful site for information about modern Bay City. The link points to a map that will be helpful in many research situations.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bay City's Role in the Western Frontier

Frederick Jackson Turner on Michigan's Contribution

A great deal of the billions of board feet of lumber that was shipped from the forests of Michigan went to build the towns of the plains states. Just as many of the citizens of Bay City came from New York state, many from the region went west. Many graves in this city are filled with people who were part of the frontier further west. Frederick Jackson Turner is a pre-eminent historian on the frontier.

History of the Saw


Saws made Bay City what it is today but little is known about them by the average historian. This book will change how you look at this important piece of technology. No sound would have been more common on the river in the years from 1850 to 1900 than the whirr of this device. Here, you will find out how these blades were used, repaired and created. Get ready to know more about a critical invention.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

1820 Transportation Costs
Transportation Costs from New York to Buffalo

I am always interested in the nearly miraculous drop in prices over the last two centuries. The link above states that the writer spent $30.00 going from Buffalo to Albany by stage. It took ten days.

According to the Currency Convertor you can find in the Links on this page, that is about $530 in 2005 dollars

Founding Bay City

Gansser Link

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.

History Books Free

Search engines are a great help to the local historian. One of the best sites is . Click on the link. When you get there, run a search for Gansser. Just type it in the box provided. You will be amazed. Gansser wrote one of the standard histories of Bay County. You will quickly have the entire copy of the 1905 History of Bay County before your eyes. You can search it too. You can download a copy and if your printer will support the strain you can print it out.

Did you catch the history of the 126th infantry. That is Bay City history too. Read it on another day though. The 1905 history will keep you busy for at least an hour. Have fun.

Michigan Counties and Railroad Routes

Bay City became a rail hub in the last years of the ninteenth century. The 1895 map shown in the link on this page deplays the city as a hub of a wheel with spokes in all directions.