Saginaw County

Alfred Franklin Rice Braley

Biography of Alfred Franklin Rice Braley

Alfred Franklin Rice Braley, a respected pioneer of Saginaw City, Michigan, was born in New York in 1828 into a family of farmers. He pursued education in the classics and law, opening a practice in New York before health issues led him to Ohio. Braley returned to New York during an illness but eventually settled in Saginaw City in 1862, where he became a successful businessman in salt manufacturing, banking, and civic affairs. Known for his honesty and integrity, Braley contributed to raising Civil War volunteers despite not enlisting, served as mayor, and improved municipal conditions. He died in 1880, leaving behind a wife and daughter.

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William C. Phipps

Biography of William C. Phipps

William C. Phipps played a vital role in turning Saginaw into a key wholesale hub, establishing a major grocery business during a downturn in the lumber industry. Born in 1861 in Ohio to parents Jesse and Isabelle Phipps, he moved to Saginaw at 18. Starting as a reporter, Phipps transitioned to mercantile work, gaining valuable experience. He eventually led Wells-Stone Mercantile Company’s lumbermen’s supply business before creating Phipps, Penoyer & Company, expanding the wholesale grocery trade extensively. Phipps, married twice and father to two, was private yet community-minded, with strong literary interests. He passed away in 1915 following a protracted illness.

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Joseph Warren Fordney

Biography of Joseph Warren Fordney

Joseph Warren Fordney, a highly esteemed resident of Saginaw County, was born in 1853 to John and Achsah Fordney in Indiana. Moving to Michigan in 1869, he worked in a logging camp from sixteen, later becoming an expert in timberland valuation and successful in business. Fordney engaged in civic duties, served as city council member in 1895, and was elected congressman in 1898 for the Eighth District, holding the position for eighteen years. Noted for his support of farmers and mechanics, his defense of the protective tariff, and his unsuccessful fight to maintain a sugar duty, he earned great respect. Married in 1873 to Cathern Harren, they raised nine of their thirteen children. Fordney’s commitment to civic improvement is memorialized by a park gifted to the city near their home.

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William Seelye Linton

Biography of William Seelye Linton

A pivotal figure in Saginaw’s history, William Seelye Linton, born in 1856, has been integral to the city’s progress throughout the last fifty years. With ancestral ties to William Penn’s followers, Linton’s life has been a tapestry of industry and civic leadership. Starting as a clerk and quickly ascending to manage his father’s lumber and salt businesses, he has been involved in Saginaw’s development since childhood. His political career includes serving as a state representative, ushering in important legislation and as mayor of Saginaw. Linton’s contributions range from park creations to urban improvements, earning him widespread recognition, including accolades from President Theodore Roosevelt. His dedication has reshaped Saginaw from a lumber town into a prosperous manufacturing city, ensuring his legacy will endure for generations.

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Ezra Rust

Biography of Ezra Rust

Ezra Rust, born in Vermont in 1832, significantly impacted Saginaw’s development. His family moved to Michigan when he was young, and he spent his early years working in logging and steam boating before returning to run a sawmill. Through consistent saving, he built his fortune by investing in timber lands, eventually forming successful partnerships in lumbering and salt manufacturing. He was also involved in iron-ore in Minnesota. Married to Emma B. Mather, they had two daughters who died in infancy; Emma passed away in 1913. Ezra remarried and adopted a daughter in 1913-1914. Known for his generosity and community improvement efforts, he created Ezra Rust Park, a testament to his commitment to society’s wellbeing. His character, marked by geniality and courtliness, left a lasting legacy in Michigan.

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Charles Starkwether Kimberly

Biography of Charles Starkwether Kimberly

Charles Starkweather Kimberly, born on December 23, 1826, in Warsaw, New York, played a notable role in Michigan’s early timber and land businesses. His father, Ebenezer C. Kimberly, settled in Shiawassee County after investing in timber land. Charles joined his father in Michigan before he turned twenty and took over his father’s responsibilities after his passing in 1856. Charles was influential in timber land transactions and development in Saginaw County, founding the village of St. Charles. He also ran a general store to serve local settlers, shipping goods by boat and later by rail. Charles married Susan Elise Naglee in 1870, had two children, and passed away on December 18, 1875. His widow, Susan, later married Benton Hanchett and died in 1915.

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Aaron T Bliss

Biography of Col. Aaron T. Bliss

Colonel Aaron T. Bliss was a distinguished lumberman, Civil War hero, and political figure from Saginaw Valley. Born in New York in 1837 to a family with deep English roots, he became a successful businessman, co-founding A.T. Bliss & Company after overcoming hardships including six months as a prisoner of war. Bliss’s political career flourished as he served as a state senator, Congressman, and two-term Governor of Michigan. He contributed significantly to his community, supporting charitable causes, education, and the Methodist Church. Bliss passed away in 1906, leaving a legacy of wealth creation, patriotic service, and political achievement, and was honored with state and military funerals.

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Benton Hanchett

Biography of Benton Hanchett

Benton Hanchett, a respected lawyer from New York, moved to Michigan in 1858, becoming a key legal figure there. His educational journey led from local schools to the State and National Law School. His legal career included various partnerships, extending his practice to the highest US courts. Politically, he served as Shiawassee County’s prosecuting attorney, Saginaw City’s mayor, and on the Union School District board, but declined a Supreme Court of Michigan appointment. Near the end of President Harrison’s term, he was nearly appointed Circuit Court of Appeals Justice. Hanchett was twice married, fathering two children. Beyond law, he held prominent roles in several businesses and banks.

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Eleazer J Ring

Biography of Eleazer Jesse Ring

Eleazer J. Ring, born in 1824 in Massachusetts, became a prominent lumberman in Saginaw Valley, Michigan. He started as an ambitious educator at sixteen before moving to Ontario, Canada, and then to Ohio, where he entered the lumber business. By forming partnerships and wisely purchasing timberlands, Ring established successful operations that supplied lumber throughout the northeast. After 25 years, he retired in 1887. Ring married Anne E. Clarke and had three surviving children. Known for his integrity and kind demeanor, he was esteemed in business and personal life. Ring, who was well-read and had a fine appreciation for music, died suddenly in 1896.

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Thomas Merrill

Biography of Thomas Merrill

Thomas Merrill, though not the earliest pioneer of the Saginaw Valley lumber business, became a significant figure in the industry. Born on April 13, 1815, in Carmel, Maine, he initially worked in farming and local lumbering. In 1849, he owned a sawmill and by 1856, he relocated to Michigan, forging a successful lumbering operation alongside partners like Cyrus Woodman and Henry Corwith, handling massive quantities of lumber without loss. With lumbering’s decline, Merrill diversified into other enterprises and real estate. He married Miss Marie Benjamin and had three children. Respected for his reliability and integrity, Merrill died in 1912 as Saginaw County’s oldest resident, known for his substantial contributions to both business and community life.

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