Basement Waterproofing | Saginaw, MI
Basement Waterproofing and Foundation Repair Services
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Facts About Saginaw
The site of what later became the city of Saginaw was originally inhabited by the Anishnabeg. French missionaries and traders first appeared in the area during the late 17th century and encountered the Ojibwe (Chippewa) living in the area. The first permanent settlement by those other than Native Americans was in 1816 when Louis Campau established a trading post on the west bank of the Saginaw River. Shortly thereafter the United States established Fort Saginaw. Campau’s trading post was also inhabited by Metis. During Michigan’s territorial period, a county and township government were organized at Saginaw. Growth of the settlement was fueled rapidly during the 19th century by the lumber industry. Saginaw was the site of numerous sawmills and served as a port for Great Lakes vessels. What is now the city of Saginaw resulted from the consolidation of the cities of East Saginaw and Saginaw City (West Side) in 1889.
In 1819, Lewis Cass, in the Treaty of Saginaw, negotiated the prerogative for the United States to own and settle the area with the leaders of the Ojibwe. In 1820, Campau attempted to expand across to the east bank of the river but was rejected by the Chippewas. In 1822, the United States Army established a fort on the west bank of the Saginaw River and named it Fort Saginaw. Two companies were stationed at the fort. A group of investors purchased some land near the fort and had it platted under the name, Town of Sagana. Due to the extremely harsh seasons and illnesses, Fort Saginaw was abandoned by 1824. By the late 1820s, the American Fur Company was operating a post at Saginaw. Few plots were sold and after the U.S. Army pulled out, the town languished for most of the following decade. The town was re-platted in December 1830, comprising riverfront from Cass Street, on the south, to Harrison Street, and north to Jefferson. These plots sold slowly. By 1835, only 24 plots had been sold and the remainder were transferred to a new owner, who made another plat in February 1837. However, the financial crisis of the Panic of 1837 dampened interest in purchasing properties. After selling only 58 out of the 407 plots, the remainder was sold again in 1841.
The main cause for the founding and subsequent development of Saginaw was the large demand for lumber as the United States expanded westward. A virgin growth forest principally consisting of white pine trees covered most of Michigan. The convenient access to transportation provided by the Saginaw River and its numerous tributaries fueled a massive expansion in population and economic activity. As the trees were being cut down in the region, logs were floated down the rivers to sawmills located in Saginaw, destined to be loaded onto ships and later railroad cars. Multiple settlements comprise present-day Saginaw. On the west side of the river the first settlement around what had been Fort Saginaw developed into Saginaw, which was incorporated as a city in 1857, containing the seat of the Saginaw County government. On the east side of the river a parallel settlement, East Saginaw, developed which was incorporated first as a village in 1855, and then as a city in 1859. Also south of East Saginaw, on the east bank of the river, the village of Salina formed. Salina’s name relates to the salty brine that led to a growing industry of salt production in the area. Both Saginaw and East Saginaw quickly became a hub for railroad transportation in addition to ships making their way on the Saginaw River. Lumber production peaked by the early 1870s, but had virtually disappeared by the end of the 19th century. In addition to salt production, which experienced an eventual decline as well, growing industries, such as those supporting the area’s agriculture and manufacturing, developed. On June 28, 1889, the Michigan state legislature passed Act 455 to consolidate the cities of Saginaw and East Saginaw into a single city. Prior to this consolidation, the nearby village of Salina had already become part of East Saginaw. The consolidation of Saginaw became effective with the election of officers on March 12, 1890. The Hoyt Public Library, pictured here in June 2006, was built in 1887 by Van Brunt & Howe of Boston.
The provisions of the city charter were established by the same act of the legislature that provided for the consolidation. Saginaw was to be governed by a city council consisting of two aldermen elected from 21 wards and a mainly ceremonial executive mayor who was to have fairly weak powers. This was to be, as numerous other elected officials, along with elected or appointed boards, controlled much of the administrative and executive functions of government. The efficient and cohesive functioning of the Saginaw city government also was constrained by remaining rivalries between residents, business owners, and politicians from the former two cities. The distinctions and rivalries between Saginaw’s east side and west side persisted into the 20th century in various forms, and continues to influence Saginaw’s social, political, economic landscape, even into the 2010’s.