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Saginaw History, Michigan

Human existence in the Saginaw city region can be traced back to the times of the woodland Native American Indians. Although the exact city-site was not settled, the Sauks and the Chippewa Indians would frequent these regions. Council meetings of the tribes were often held in these parts.

History of Saginaw – Arrival of the Europeans

The seventeenth century saw the arrival of the first Europeans in the form of French missionaries. (The written accounts of the Jesuit missionary, Henri Nouvel, give us some understanding of the region and its inhabitants). Initially the French gained control over the entire region (including Saginaw and other territories in the present Sate of Michigan) but the Seven Years’ War saw the region changing hands and going to the British. Nevertheless, since both the British as well as the French only had business-interests, they did nothing to improve life or living conditions in this part.

History of Saginaw – The 19th Century

The 19th century brought about many changes. Of course, the first change was heralded by the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), which saw Michigan becoming a part of the United States. By 1812, the British army had vacated the state. Following this, the first permanent settlement of sorts (in Saginaw history) was established by Louis Campau as he set up a trading post here in 1816. With connecting trails to Detroit and Mackinac regions, the trade post ushered in a new era of development.

The Treaty of Saginaw (1819) signed between the Chippewa Indians and the European settlers was very important event in Saginaw history. This gave the Europeans the right to own land and settle in the region. And when the US army constructed the ‘Saginaw Fort’ on the western bank of the Saginaw River, investors started acquiring land near the fort prompting the territorial government to mark the boundaries of Saginaw County in 1822. The Township of Saginaw was created in 1830 by an act of the Territorial Legislature and this township included the entire Saginaw County. In 1835, the Territorial Legislature passed another act to make provision for a county government for the Saginaw County.

With the lumbering boom of the 1850s, Saginaw County experienced immense progress – the area not only saw brisk economic activity but also a marked increase in population. A number of settlements mushroomed in different parts of the county and this led to the incorporation of the city of Saginaw (which comprised the Saginaw Fort site) in 1857. East Saginaw, a settled area on the eastern side of the river, was named a village in 1855 and made a city four years later in 1859. Another village, by the name of Salina, was formed a little southwards of the City of East Saginaw. In 1889, the three regions were consolidated to form the City of Saginaw as it stands today.

History of Saginaw – The 20th Century

After an eventful 19th century, the City of Saginaw steeped into an equally exciting 20th century. From the very beginning it showed a tendency of becoming an industrial economy. Like Detroit, Saginaw City became an important center for the production of motor vehicles with companies like General Motors opening production facilities here.

During World War II, Saginaw’s production facilities were diverted to produce munitions, military vehicles and other war-time necessities. Saginaw continued to improve and provide opportunities to the waves of migrating workers entering the city.

The economic boom of the post-WWII days saw further increase in the city’s population; this rise in population was balanced by adequate investments to improve living conditions. It was during these days that an international airport facility was added to Saginaw’s already strong road and railway networks. The MBS International Airport (a joint venture with neighboring cities of Bay City and Midland) has indeed worked wonders in terms of communication.

Saginaw reached the peak of development in the 1970s; thereafter, the growth-rate slackened and the present city is no comparison to its earlier-image.

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