Biography of William McBratnie

This concise biography of William McBratnie highlights his significant contributions to Richland Township’s early development. Born in Scotland in 1834 and emigrating to America in 1851, McBratnie became a pivotal figure in the community, notably as Richland’s first supervisor. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to open a general store in Hemlock City in 1874, which also housed the post office, enhancing the convenience for residents. McBratnie’s civic involvement extended to serving as Postmaster, treasurer, supervisor, clerk, Notary Public, Justice of the Peace, and School Director. His marriage to Armanda Cone, a local schoolteacher, and their adoption of two children, further rooted him in the community’s fabric. Through his business acumen and public service, McBratnie played a critical role in shaping the township’s destiny.

Early Settlers

by Lorenz H. Loesel

The biography of William McBratnie will give us added information and history about the early days of Richland Township. Mr. McBratnie, being the first supervisor of Richland Township, should be of special interest since he displayed such keen interest and leadership during the formative years of this community. Because he was very active in community affairs, it is not too difficult to find material dealing with his life.

“William McBratnie is a native of Scotland, where he was born in 1834, and was a son of John McBratnie and Ann Christie, also natives of Scotland. Mr. McBratnie came to America in 1851 and settled in Saginaw County at Thomastown. In 1859, he came to Richland and remained five years, and then moved back to Thomastown for nine years. Then he resided in Saginaw City nearly two years. While there, he was sick a great deal of the time.

In 1874, he came to Hemlock City and opened his business on the main street, a full line of dry goods, groceries, etc., in fact, a general store; and by industry and strict attention to business, he has gained for himself the trade of the surrounding country. His store, having the post office of Hemlock City, makes it very convenient for all. Since Mr. McBratnie began in business, it had been steady and increasing yearly.

“In 1877, he received the appointment from the government as Postmaster, which office he retains at the present time. He was the first supervisor in the township in 1862-1863; he was also treasurer of Thomastown for three years, supervisor for four years at different times, and clerk for two years, being at present Notary Public of this township and has been for the past four years; also Justice of the Peace and School Director.

“He was married in May 1862 to Armanda Cone, daughter of Lemuel Cone, this marriage being the first in the township. Mrs. McBratnie also taught the first school in the township. They have no children of their own but have two which they have adopted, Lemuel Parker and Bessie Moulton. He was connected with the Agricultural Society of Saginaw County, being elected Secretary in 1874, which office he held for three years; he also acted on the Executive Committee for ten years and was appointed Chairman of the first meeting of the society held at East Saginaw.” (1)

In a previous chapter, it was mentioned that William McBratnie had the first store in Hemlock. However, in the above article, we read that he opened his store in 1874. It is obvious that this is not compatible with our previous statement. We do know that a certain Mr. King had opened a store before this date. I am reasonably sure that William McBratnie operated a store in the neighborhood of Hemlock City when he came to Richland in 1859. We must realize that he made two different settlements. This latter statement may help to reconcile the point in question.

Later, Mr. McBratnie sold his place of business to Thomas Newrick. Several of the older citizens of our community recall the time when this store was operated by Mr. Newrick. The bill of sale listed in the township records gives us the date and year of the transfer of property from McBratnie to Thomas Newrick: “William McBratnie to Thomas W. Newrick,” given February 13, 1883. Filed February 14th, 1883. Consideration $4750. Chattels, all the stock in his store in Hemlock City and all the grain in his granary except 25 bushels of corn and 10 bushels of oats.” – William McBratnie, Clerk.(2)

William McBratnie was a charter member of the Saginaw County Agricultural Society and served as an official for many years. The organization of this group takes us back to the year 1860. The first exposition or more commonly known as the county fair was sponsored by this group. Apparently, Mr. McBratnie was a man of wide interest and great energy who helped to build his community.


  1. History of Saginaw County, Michigan 1881.
  2. Richland Township Records.


Loesel, Lorenz H. Richland : its sons and daughters : a review of the first century of Richland Township, Saginaw County, Michigan, Hemlock, Michigan : Hemlock Herald-Merrill Monitor, 1962.

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