Bay City History, Michigan
The earliest chapter of Bay City history opens around 3000 B.C. when the area saw the first permanent settlement. Thereafter, the region has been home to different Native American tribes including the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and the Sauks.
Bay City History – The 19th Century
Looking past these pre-historic times, we find that the 19th century has been the most eventful period in Bay City’s history. It all started with the signing of the Treaty of Saginaw in 1819. As per this treaty, the last ruling tribe of the Saginaw Valley, the Chippewa Indians surrendered a major portion of their land to the government, retaining control over only 40,000 acres. Of course, when the second treaty was entered into in 1837, the Indians lost control even over these 40,000 acres.
In between, the Saginaw County was created (in 1822) of which the present-day Bay City (in fact, the Bay County) was a part. Bay County separated from Saginaw County only in 1854 and the Bay City area (which was then known as ‘Lower Saginaw’) started gaining prominence as a village community. The village made swift progress when a number of small industries and saw-mills were set up in the early 1860s. Bay City was incorporated as a city in 1865.
Bay City History – The 20th Century
The city constituted in 1865 comprised land only on the eastern bank of the Saginaw River; the land adjacent to the western bank was an altogether independent entity and was named West Bay City. The two cities were united in 1905 and the unified city went on to become Bay City as we see it today. The year 2005 marked the centennial of this unification and it was celebrated with great pomp.
Bay City History and Its Industrial Progress
In the ensuing years, post its recognition as a city, Bay City’s development continued uninterrupted. This was chiefly due to its advantageous position by the Saginaw River as well as its natural wealth (read dense forest cover) and soon lumbering became the chief industry here. This continued till the human race started realizing the ill-effects of tree-felling.
Ship-building was the other key industry and it continued to influence Bay City’s economy until the last quarter of the 20th century. In fact, the Defoe Shipbuilding Company, which has produced many US naval vessels, was operating until 1975. Luxury yachts were also built in Bay City and the Presidential Yacht ‘Honey Fitz’ used by President John F. Kennedy was constructed here.
In recent times, the ship-building industry has given way to firms manufacturing sailboats and powerboats. The acrobatic hydroplane manufacturing firm, Staudacher, is also based in Bay City.
Industrial Works, which later came to be known as Industrial Brownhoist, presents another aspect of this US city’s industrial history. Launched by local businessmen in 1873, the company soon became the world’s leading industrial crane manufacturer. Industrial Brownhoist cranes were used for building the Panama Canal. Post WWII, the company faced fund-crisis and after it changed hands a few times, it had to be shut down in 1983.
Presently, Bay City, Michigan businesses are feeling the heat of economic slowdown and a number of longtime businesses are even considering closing down as the most practical option.
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