Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Drawing on the Past: Accolades to the American Soldiers of World War One (Columbia Gives to her Son the Accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity by E. H. Blashfield)

by David Hohenstein


 Image Source: Bay County Historical Society

Columbia, Spirit of America

Beginning in the colonial days of the United States of America, as we now know it , the spirit of the Country was seen as something wild and “uncivilized”. The Land was “New”, “Undiscovered” and untamed; full of beauty, bounty and mystery.  It was just being born, formed out of the rejection of Olde Europe and the quest for freedom and new beginnings. Out of the clash between an ancient and diverse people’s culture and people from practically another world.  

In those times the image for this new Spirit of the Nation was a goddess. Not a cantankerous Uncle Sam and before Lady Liberty, her name was Columbia - the rebellious Spirit of this new America. Conceived in poetry and named in close relation to Christopher Columbus, Columbia was a feminine counterpoint, the daughter of the Old and the mother of the New. Her image is the symbol for American ideals, her likeness similar to that of the Greek Goddess Athena or the heroic Lady Liberty of French imagination by Eugene Delacroix. Her image and name are repeated throughout US history in wartime imagery and iconography, and the name has been passed down in the Nation’s Capital as well as our cinema and music companies. She lives in many works of art throughout history and in the minds & hearts of our predecessors.  

Image Source: Bay County Historical SocietyColumbia.jpg

In the Bay County Historical Museum collection there are multiple examples of her image and role she plays in American culture, memory and art. Columbia Gives her Son the Accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity is one such example. Commissioned by former President Woodrow Wilson and designed by the acclaimed artist Edwin Howland Blashfield in 1919, it is a memorial and honor to those who were wounded or killed while serving in battle during the First World War. In it Columbia stands centered in a ceremonial service with a massive star-spangled banner billowing behind her. In one hand she holds aloft a proclamation document, and in the other an elegant and severe sword. With the weapon placed gracefully on a kneeling soldier's shoulder she acknowledges and knights him. The soldier takes a knee before the barefooted vision and looks into her eyes from below the brow of his steel helmet. He is dressed in a full field uniform with his rifle in hand while the ranks of his brothers in arms stand in solidarity and witness behind them. Blashfield’s rendition is an example of a master artist at the height of his talents, one with a keen understanding of medium, realism, composition and symbolism. This image would be copied and dispersed to thousands of Americans and soon after be adopted as the seal of the Disabled American Veterans Organization in 1920.

The Artist 

Edwin H. Blashfield was born in New York in the year 1848 and lived until 1936. During his lifetime he studied and practiced Art in America and Europe, earning degrees and awards from some of America’s finest Art Institutions. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and afterwards traveled, worked and exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. He learned from academic traditions and honed his skills and expertise in easel and mural painting.

Blashfield’s murals decorate numerous American institutions including the Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota capitol buildings, the Detroit Public Library, the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as well as churches in Washington D.C. and New York. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts by New York University and served as President of the National Society of Mural Painters. He authored the book “Mural Painting in America” (1913) which was a compilation of lectures he gave expounding his knowledge and insight of mural painting.  

Blashfield drew this image of “Columbia” and “Her Son" and from the original artwork a print plate was made. To do this the drawing would have been photographed and with the negative the image would be etched into a copper plate. Using light exposure and a photosensitive coating, the impression is made chemically - changing the surface of the plate. Once the plate was prepared, printing was accomplished in the traditional manner. The resulting image is referred to as a photogravure. In this way the drawing was reproduced efficiently in mass and the copies made out to veterans by inscribing the individual's name in the allotted space. Sometimes copies like these are referred to as “broadsides” - a term from earlier mechanical printing days meaning one side of a sheet of paper was printed on. These could be widely reproduced at low cost and often used as advertising, posters and ephemeral art. E. H. Blashfield’s design went beyond a marketing or advertising tool and became a piece of art, dedicated to the many wounded and fallen soldiers he aimed to honor.  

The Soldiers


Image Source: Bay County Historical Society

From 1914 - 1918,  Europe waged the First World War. After several years of intense fighting, American President Woodrow Wilson agreed to send his troops abroad to combat the Axis powers. Men from the Michigan and Wisconsin National Guard were called to service as part of the American Expeditionary Forces in 1917, making up infantry and ambulance units. They were sent first to Waco Texas for training and arrived in France in early 1918. These Midwestern Recruits formed what was called the “Red Arrow Division” and nicknamed “Les Terribles” by the French. Their fighting was furious enough to conquer twenty-three German divisions in French territory, after which they captured their opponents as well as their weapons, ammunition and artillery. They fought in three major battles, gained back the French ground, and became the first American soldiers to set foot in German soil during the conflict.

To those who survived the battles and the influenza pandemic, many were left maimed with wounds to their bodies and minds. New inventions for human slaughter resulted in casualties that reached into the millions. It was named the “War to end wars”, but in many ways it ushered in a new era of war on our planet. In Columbia Gives her Son the Accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity it seems the title is chosen as something hopeful. Columbia, the Mother of all Americans, knights her Son to bestow on him honor, victory and gratitude. She is electing him the status of a heroic and humble warrior. With this commemorative art, it is a gesture of recognition and respect to all those soldiers who fought and died hoping for a better world. The work recalls the highly refined Classical style and with that harkens Nobility. It is the nobility of each common person who fought this war and gave their lives and limbs, enduring treacherous conditions and terrible danger. It elects them all to the status of knights as they each played their part in a hard won victory. 


Bay County Historical Society Exhibit “Trails Through Time: Bay County Boys, Les Terribles, The 128th Ambulance Corp”

“Artists - Edwin H. Blashfield, American 1848-1946” Le Trianon Fine Art and Antiques. 2018  

 “Broadside (printing)” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. February 6, 2023.  

“Edwin Blashfield” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. March 17, 2023.  

“Columbia (personification)” Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia. May 11, 2023.  

“Columbia Gives to Her Son the Accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity Anna Cecelia [i.e., Cecilia] Foldese [i.e., Foldesi], Army Nurse Corps served the honor in the World War and died in the service of her country / designed by E.H. Blashfield, 1919.” Library of Congress. 2023  

“Columbia Gives to Her Son the Accolade of the New Chivalry of Humanity, World War I” Tennessee Virtual Archive. 2023  

“Women at the Center; American Woman? Amerique’, Columbia and Lady Liberty” New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. October 23, 2018.  

Whitaker, Luke. “What is a Photogravure Print?” Bosham Gallery Collect Photography. April 25, 2021  

“WWI Memorial Print Columbia Liberty New Chivalry of Humanity Blashfield” The Designers Consignment. 2023.  

Photos from BCHS Collection 


12:23 pm edt 

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Did You Know? Bay County's Railroad History

by Sam Fitzpatrick



Image source: Bay County Historical Society

Bay County's railroad history can be traced back to 1867 when A. S. Munger constructed a line between Bay City and East Saginaw. Originally, the marshes and swamps made it impossible to build a railroad in this region. The solution was to dredge a canal along the route and add clay subsoil to build up the embankment that supported the tracks. Soon both passenger and freight train lines crisscross Michigan and eventually, the Midwest. People and goods, such as lumber and salt, that were being transported by boat on the Great Lakes now utilized the rail lines. This mode of transportation was deemed less dangerous. 


In 1868, Henry Sage and Charles Fitzhugh were instrumental in extending the Jackson, Lansing, and Saginaw Railroad from Saginaw to Wenona, Henry Sage’s company town before merging with West Bay City in 1877. This opened a line to a Chicago connection. In 1871, the Jackson, Lansing, and Saginaw Railroad line became part of the Michigan Central Railroad (MCRR). In 1873, this line connected with Detroit through Vassar and became known as the Beeliner. A rail bridge was constructed over the Saginaw River to connect to Wenona, which can be seen today just north of the Liberty Bridge. In 1930, New York Central acquired a 99-year lease of the Michigan Central System and the ‘Big Four’—Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad lines. 



Image source: Bay County Historical Society


Construction on Bay City’s Michigan Central Depot., located at 801 First Street, started in June of 1889 and was completed in August of 1890. On September 22, 1890, it opened for business. The architectural firm, Spier and Rohns of Detroit, built it in the Romanesque style, and it was considered an architectural jewel. It cost $65,000 to build and occupied two blocks encompassing Van Buran, First, Monroe Streets, and the railroad tracks. The depot was constructed of Indiana Vermillion sandstone, had an Akron red-stoned roof, and a 104-foot clock tower with a 6’2” clock with faces on all four sides that illuminated at night. The building was 286 feet long, 50 feet wide, and three stories in height. The foundation was made of Point au Barque stone and Joliet water table. Indiana Sandstone was used for the baggage claim. It was a separate building located directly west of the main structure, which still stands at First Street, measuring at 61x36’.


The ceilings were oak, except for red birch in the women’s waiting room and the superintendent’s office. Some sources mentioned that their reflections could be seen in the wood polish. The south entrance of the building had a semi-circular driveway extending from Monroe to Van Buren streets. It spanned east to west with a porch supported by Romanesque sandstone pillars. There was also a walkway from First Street to the main doors. 



Image source: Sanborn Map, Bay County Historical Society 


Inside the main doorway was a 15-foot wide tiled vestibule. The only exit to the outside platform was located here. Uniformed employees guided travelers to their trains. Between the building and the tracks laid a wooden plank platform. The women’s waiting room was red birch with pressed brick, a sandstone fireplace, and upholstered furniture. The gentlemen’s waiting room was oak. Between the waiting rooms was a ticket office. The dining room was located on the main floor. Each table setting contains a silver-plated monogram “M.C.”. A covered walkway connected the depot to the baggage and express building. The depot also housed the freight and engineering offices, baggage department, and telegraph room. At one point, the depot had a staff of over 100 individuals.


A lavish stairway made of polished oak gave access to the second and third floors. On the second floor's northwest corner was the superintendent's office with a semi-circular window that looked out to the yard. This floor also contained sleeping quarters for employees. The third floor featured a private office and drawing room for the civil engineer. The entire depot was heated by hot water and lighted by incandescent electric lamps. Surrounding the entire property was a cast-iron fence.


During the height of rail travel, the Michigan Central depot was the busiest place in town. The train schedule for the MCRR ran from 3:45 am until 9 pm. In June of 1907, a total of 24 daily departures and arrivals on the Michigan Central Line were made at this depot and the west side depot on Marquette; including the Detroit Express, the Chicago Special, Saginaw Division Local, Mackinaw & Marquette, Duluth Special, Vassar Trains, Saginaw, and Midland Accom. 



Image source: Present day baggage department. Taken by Sam Fitzpatrick, 2021  


The depot remained busy until after World War II. Rail travel saw a decline with the growing popularity of air travel and the affordability of automobiles. The depot closed in 1958, transitioning service to the west side depot on Marquette Avenue.


The vacant building suffered fires in 1948 and 1963. The cause of the first fire was the result of defective wiring on the third floor. The second fire was started by children who ignited paper stuffed in rafters. In 1964, the building was razed to make way for a warehouse for Northern Tobacco and Candy Company. The same week it came down, The Beeliner made its last run from the Pere Marquette Depot, marking the end of 96 years of passenger rail travel in Bay County.


Today, all that remains of the former depot is the baggage building on First Street across from Maplewood Manor and Baytown Family Neighborhood.



BCHS Vertical Files

“Era of Passenger Rail Service Fading” Bay City Times. February 23, 1964.

“Retired Railroad Veterans Looks Back” Bay City Times. February 9, 1964.


“RR Fans Ride ‘Beeliner’ to Oblivion” Bay City Times. March 22, 1964.


“AND DOWN SHE GOES” Bay City Times. February 20, 1964.


“Railroad Passenger Depot Is a Vanishing American Institution” Bay City Times. December 27,



“New Central Depot.” Bay City Times Tribune. June 11, 1890.


“Imposing Edifices” Bay City Tribune. October 11, 1891.  


Atlas of Bay City, Mich. Chicago, Il: Published By The Rascher Insurance Map Publishing Co., 1891.
Michigan’s Railroad History 1824-2014. Lansing, MI. Published by the Michigan Department of Transportation


1:30 pm edt 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame: Bay City’s First Pop Music Festival

By Gary (Dr. J) Johnson

Image: The audience at Roll-Air Outdoor Skating Rink.  Source: Gary Johnson

On August 26, 1969, the 1st Michigan Pop Festival, became the biggest rock and roll event in Bay City, Michigan, during the 1960s. It drew an estimated 4,000 music lovers to the Roll-Air outdoor skating rink on State Park Drive for a day-long show that featured some of the state’s finest bands.

Although this type of event was new to Bay City, similar festivals had been held in cities across the state, the first being Detroit’s Belle Isle Love-In followed by the Southfield Pop Festival in 1967. Festivals in 1968 included the first Saugatuck Pop Festival, the Oakland Pop Festival, Detroit’s Dialogue ’68, and the Kalamazoo Pop Festival.

The festival movement blossomed in Michigan in 1969. Detroit staged three more large music events that year, and by early August there had also been pop/rock festivals held in Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Midland, Kalamazoo, Saugatuck, Petoskey, Mt. Clemens, and at Delta Community College.


Image: Crowd outside the Roll-Air skating rink.  Source: Gary Johnson

Scheduled less than two weeks after the nationally acclaimed Woodstock Festival held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm, near the town of Bethel, New York.  The 1st Michigan Pop Festival, with an estimated crowd of 4,000, paled in comparison to Woodstock’s 400,000 attendees and 32 performing acts. Numbers aside, however, the Bay City event and the other 1969 festivals in the state occurred at what seemed to be a peak time for Michigan rock and roll bands.

During the previous year, a number of the state’s top groups had signed recording contracts with nationally-known labels and had already released albums.  The Bob Seger System and SRC were signed to Capitol, The Frost with Vanguard, The Amboy Dukes were on Mainstream, Frijid Pink was signed to Parrot, and both the MC5 and The Stooges were on Elektra Records.  The Rationals had inked a contract with Crewe Records and were working on their debut album; and a new group called Grand Funk Railroad had recently signed with Capitol Records even though they had formed just months earlier.

In addition, some of the Michigan bands had also enjoyed hit singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 during the past 12 months.  Both The Amboy Dukes’ “Journey To The Center Of The Mind”, and the Bob Seger System’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” were Top 20 hits; and the MC5’s controversial “Kick Out The Jams” also charted early in 1969.

Roll-Air was a walled-in outdoor skating facility that, along with Putt Tee miniature golf and Tony’s Amusement Park, was part of a popular summer entertainment complex located just west of Bay City State Park.  The owners were two married couples who were also educators in Bay City schools. Bob and Ilene Darbee and Octavian and Chris Gavrila had purchased the properties in the 1960s and had turned the Roll-Air skating rink into a weekly rock and roll hotspot. 


Image: Rationals at Roll-Air Pop Festival.  Source: Gary Johnson

They accomplished this by partnering with DJs Bob Dyer and Dick Fabian from WKNX-AM to host teen dances and the extremely popular Battle of the Bands competitions on Tuesday nights.  After a few years, the rock and roll nights had evolved into concerts featuring top Detroit-area bands.  It was common for these weekly events to attract 2,000 teens into the 70 ft. x 206 ft. concrete-floored skating rink.

According to the Bay City Times article ‘Pop Festival Draws Thousands’, published the next day on August 27th, three organizations – Tony’s Amusement Park, WKNX Radio, and Mike Quatro Inc. – collaborated to bring the festival to Bay City. Bob Darbee and Octavian Gavrila, owners of Tony’s Park and Roll-Air, organized the operation and the physical plant. Quatro provided the entertainment, and WKNX with Bob Dyer added the publicity and co-sponsored the event.

Bob Dyer was already a legend at WKNX, mid-Michigan’s most popular AM station in the 1960s.  He had joined the station in 1950 and, in those pre-rock days, had hosted live country music shows on the air and booked country acts at the Saginaw Auditorium.  When WKNX-TV started broadcasting in 1953, Dyer was one of the station’s early on-air personalities.  By the mid-1950s, Dyer smoothly moved into playing rock and roll on his daily show and quickly became one of the area’s most popular DJs.

Dyer was honored by Billboard magazine in 1960 and also received an accolade from Michigan governor G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams for his on-air achievements. After co-hosting the weekly Battle of the Bands for three years at Roll-Air, Dyer, along with fellow DJ Dick Fabian, started renting the gymnasium at the Saginaw Y.M.C.A. for Saturday dance/concerts that they called the Y A-Go-Go.  Booking national acts through the famous William Morris Agency, Dyer and Fabian brought performers like Simon & Garfunkel, the Dave Clark Five, Glen Campbell, and the Lovin’ Spoonful to their Saginaw events.

Read the entire story of the festival at:

Enjoy more great Michigan rock and roll history by visiting the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame exhibit at the Historical Museum of Bay County.


12:03 pm edt 

Monday, April 3, 2023

In the Stacks with Jamie Kramer: South Bay City Fire, 1892


Image: View looking North on Broadway.  The left side of the photograph is where Miller & Turner would have been located. Source: Bay County Historical Society

In July of 1892, a fire blazed through South Bay City, which decreased the manufacture of lumber, significantly.  Albert Miller and his family lost significant businesses, one on the Middle Grounds and another at the foot of 33rd Street in Bay City’s south end.  A few weeks before, Miller’s son’s box factory and planing mill had also gone up in smoke. 

The Miller Bros. Fire


Image: Judge Albert Miller, Started the Miller & Turner Mill in 1851

On July 23, 1892, just after 6:00 a.m., an alarm rang out from fire alarm box 63 at 23rd and Water.  Men, women, and children flocked to the scene: Miller Bros Mill was up in flames. The mill, located to the north of the Middle Grounds and just north of the 23rd Street Bridge was owned by Andrew Albert and James Miller.  It was erected in the late 1870s. 

Theories were swirling as to how a fire of this magnitude had started.  Some said that they thought it was started by someone lighting a pipe inside of the mill and dropping a match in sawdust debris. Witnesses say that the fire started at the southwest corner of the mill closest to West Bay City.  However, that day was particularly windy.  Gales came in and blew the wind in an easterly direction.

By 7 a.m., the fire was raging.  It has spread to tramways in different directions.  The heat of the day made it even worse for the firemen.  There were no hydrants located near the mill.  Unfortunately, the closest was at Water and 23rd and was too far away to use.  The 4th, 5th, 7th ward hose companies, steamer Neptune, hook-and-ladder truck, and chemical engine all came to help where they could. Neptune was stationed on the bridge and pumped water from the river to the fire.

Requests were made to West Bay City for use of an additional steamer and hose.  Steamer Defiance arrived and by 8:00 a.m. the fire was under control and it was thought that the danger of the flames spreading to other properties was over. 

Unfortunately, the mill only had $1000.00 of insurance on it.  It was estimated that there was a loss of over $30,000.  The fire itself was still smoldering more than a week later.

South End Fire  

FireMap.jpgTwo days later on the 25th at 2:00 p.m., alarms rang out again when the lumber piles of Miller & Turner’s Mill caught fire.  Winds were still heavy spreading the flames at rapid speed.  Boards that had caught on fire were blowing into the wind, landing on houses, and catching them on fire. The scene was described by the Bay City Times a being a “Cyclone of dust and smoke all over the south end of Bay City.” Wind blew the fire, spreading it, across Harrison Street and taking out a hardware store and a row of frame buildings that extending that entire block.  Within 10 minutes all of Harrison Street was on fire.  Firemen laid water hose along Water Street.  They were not equipped for a fire of this scale.  It ran hot and spread fast. It was called “one of the most serious conflagrations which have ever visited this city” (BCT 7/25/1992_5). West Bay City sent every company that could be spared. 

People continued to ban together to salvage what they could of household items.  Items were quickly taken from buildings that were in the process of burning and others that were in danger.

At 3:00 p.m., a call was placed to Saginaw for aid.  A fire steamer and two hose carts were on their way.  Flint was also called for assistance.  Stated in the Bay City Times, “The combined efforts of the departments of the four cities could do little toward checking the flames,” (BCT, 26 Jul 1892).  By 3:15, Miller & Turner’s Mill and buildings were overtaken.

At 3:45 p.m. the wind direction changed.  Harrison Street was almost completely burned away.  Flames had spread to Fremont Avenue and Webster Street, four blocks away from where the fire started.  The fire was still not slowing. Dwellings between 30th and 32nd Street, as well as East of McCormick, had been destroyed or continued to burn.  The fire then reached Polk, Taylor, and 30th, 31st, 32nd, Fremont Baptist church (which was leveled almost instantly). Flames from the church went as far as 29th. The fire passed east on Wilson to Marsac, then north half a block, and north on Marsac, where it cut northeast half a block” (BCT, 26 Jul 1892). The Fremont Avenue Methodist Church between Taylor and McCormick was enveloped in flames.

The fires burned so hot that railroad tracks were twisting and warping.  The cobblestone broke away.  Street car tracks were also curling.  Michigan Central Railroad lost three box cars.

At 5:00 p.m., the flames were still spreading. 1800 Broadway caught fire and was destroyed. At 7:30 p.m. the fire was finally under control.  However, firemen stayed stationed through the next day. By July 26th, there were 232 dwellings, 2 churches, 30 stores and saloons, 3 hotels, 1 roller rink, 38 barns, 1 blacksmith shop, 1 paint shop, a livery stable, and an office, shingle shed, sawmill, salt block, cooper shop, and two lumber yards lost. 

After the Fire

By the end of the fire, the view between Harrison and Broadway and 28th Street all the way through 33rd Street was an unobstructed view.  Trees that had been standing in the 6th ward for “half a century” were destroyed (BCT, 26 Jul 1892).

“The telephone wires had been burned away and communication with the lower part of the city was cut off, but messengers were sent there post haste and every available vehicle in the city, slab carts, lumber wagons, drays, delivery wagons and everything on wheels, even dog carts were ushered into service to remove household goods” before people’s homes were completely swept away” (BCT, 26 Jul 1892).

Another unforeseen issue had to do with sanitation.  Many privies and cisterns were left open, the tops of them having been burned away.  Not only was it an issue concerning sanitation, but safety.  Open wells dotted the South End and there was worry that people would fall in them.

People from all over came to Bay City’s South End to see the devastation. Hundreds of people arrived daily from Flint and Saginaw and large excursions were planned out of Detroit. 



Image: The relief headquarters would have been around this intersection in 1892, toward the left hand side of the postcard.  Fraser House would have been to the right. Source: Bay County Historical Society.

An emergency meeting of the Common Council gathered.  The Mayor appointed a committee of three citizens and three members of the council to give those affected immediate relief. They also encouraged “liberal, open hearted and generous people,” to give what they could. They had asked that merchants sell products to the victims at low prices for 60 days.  Manufacturing industries were called to help replace homes destroyed and give employment to those out of work. 

R.B. Taylor had suggested that the $25,000 the city had set aside for the new city hall, be utilized in rebuilding the burned factories.  He had also called for the thousands of feet of hose that the fire department lost, to be replaced at $1.00 per foot.  However, Alderman Switzer said that according to law this money could not be reallocated (BCT, 27 Jul 1892).

Relief headquarters were set up opposite of Fraser House.  Those affected by the fire would go to the headquarters and request the items needed.  The relief headquarters gave relief first to those who lost everything and did not have insurance or goods, and then those who owned their property but didn’t have insurance, and lastly to store owners and home owners that had partial insurance.  Food continued to be sent to Broadway Park and the Union Block Store was used for clothing and household goods.

C.D. Vail, of the relief committee stated that “the citizens are responding generously to the call for aid, but the demand is so great we are unable to anywhere near supply it.  Hundreds of applications have been made for us for children’s shoes and clothing, and we have been under the painful necessity of letting the poor people leave empty-handed.  The committee would be very grateful for donations of shoes and clothing, especially for the little folks.  We are also in need of all kinds of household goods,” (BCT, 29 Jul 1892).

Broadway Park (now Roosevelt Park)


Image Source: Bay County Historical Society

Broadway Park was used as an escape for the people who had lost their homes. Tents were erected.  Grocers delivered provisions for people to be fed. People were stationed at the park to help care for the families and keep track of the food.  They also used the park for the household goods that were removed from the homes.  The idea was that people would be able to claim their items. 

“We are doing everything possible to take care of the hungry,’ remarked C.H. Ueberroth, of the Broadway Park Committee. ‘We must have fed 1,000 people Tuesday and as many Wednesday.  I tell you it makes tears come to our eyes to see the suffering.  It is something the people down town cannot realize because it is so aggravated.  We must have help or else the people will continue to suffer.  They have not only lost their homes, but they have not the means with which to buy a bit to eat.  We must feed them until they are taken care of.  They cannot be allowed to starve right under our eyes when so many have plenty.  We see children, little ones, barefooted, bareheaded and with hardly a stitch to their back, come to us asking for something to eat,” (BCT, 29 Jul 1892).

By July 30, 1892, families were no longer using the park as temporary housing.  Housing had been found for all families.  Some landlords that owned housing in Saginaw moved some of the victims there.  The tents that had been erected in Broadway Park were still being used for unclaimed goods.


Attorney Weadock moved that Mr. Cranage open the subscription list—many individuals and businesses gave a donation of upwards of $500.00.  The Michigan Central Railroad donated $1000.00 to the relief fund.  They also began asking their passengers for donations to go to the relief.  By July 29th, over $12,000 had been donated. 

Manufacturing companies offered the use of their machinery and workshops for when people were ready to rebuild. Ross, Brandley & Co offered special rates on building materials.

Bay City and West Bay City citizens were continuously supplying clothes and household goods daily.  Many stores also donated clothing. Walther’s Store contributed “100 cups and saucers, 100 plates, 50 stew pans, 48 10-quart pails, 50 pudding pans, 25 crocks and 20 tea and coffee pots” (BCT, 29 Jul 1892).

Living spaces were also donated.  The Arious Society offered use of their hall as temporary quarters for people without homes. Mrs. Caroline M. Till, who owned buildings on Water Street, opened some of the space to those who lost everything in the fire.  She had enough space for three families and allowed them to stay for a month free of charge.

Donations came from places all over the state and throughout the country. Monetary donations were sent from Detroit, Saginaw, Marquette, and Grand Rapids.  Saginaw sent extensive groceries to the fire relief.  States throughout the country sent letters and well wishes.  Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, also sent donations.

Benefits for the Cause

Benefits started arising around Michigan.  The ladies of the Mehan Quartet gave a concert at the opera house to gather more donations for the fire victims. Professor Walton’s Military Band also gave a concert.  Concerts were held at the Arbeiter Garden Park, where the Third Regiment Band played a concert. The Essexville band gave a concert at Arion Park.  Professor L. Bernstein made a donation of 400 admission tickets to his ‘Museum of Anatomy’ on Water Street near Center, to be sold to benefit the fire victims.  Concerts held at Germania Garden in Saginaw and a performance by the Elite Minstrel Quartet netted over $3,000 (BCT, 30 Jul 1892).

Those Affected

There was said to be only one casualty of the burned district.  Jesse M. Miller was a long-time resident who had lived in the south-end for years.  His house at 415 Fremont was a noted landmark. The day of the fire he had been seen diligently working to save his home.  It was said that Miller went back into his home to recover the money he had stashed away. However, in his attempt to escape it was too late.  Once the fires were out the remains of his body was found. 

40 blocks had been burned.  300 families or 1,300 people had lost their homes.  A large percentage of these families were said to have been “left penniless,” and had little to no insurance (BCT, 26 Jul 1892).

What was not burned was moved out to Broadway Park.  “People were looking for lost articles all over the city, clothes, sewing machines and other household goods”  (BCT, 29 Jul 1892). Others were said to be going through the ruins and pilfering items. 



Image: View looking North on Broadway.  The left side of the photograph is where Miller & Turner would have been located. Source: Bay County Historical Society

No one really knows what caused either fire on Bay City’s East Side in July of 1892.  There is much speculation surrounding it.  It is also unknown if the first fire even had anything to do with the second, as some sources blame a possible spark from the tug “Haight’s” funnel  (BCT, 26 Jul 1892).  However, what is known is the evidence that two communities pulled together to aid both the businesses and families of Bay City’s 6th Ward. 

On August 10, 1892, the Bay City Times published a poem that was written by Stone Road Commissioner, William Henry, that was entitled “The Great Fire.” He was inspired during the fire’s raging on July 25, 1892. 

The Great Fire

The sun was one hundred in the shade

To-day and the wind it blew a gale.

And there was a fire broke out to-day

At Miller’s and Turner’s mill in South

Bay City that caused thousands for to wail.

It was a little after one o’clock that the fire bell did sound and soon Chief Harding with all his hosts was at their posts the fire for to drown’d.

But the flames they spread both north and south, then east to Harrison Street,

And like a hungry lion in search of prey they licked up everything complete;

Nor were they satisfied with Harrison Street and all of Miller & Turner’s docks,

But they hastened on their mad career till they wiped out forty blocks.

Three hundred and sixteen buildings is burned down to the ground.

And nothing but the nails that held them together is anywhere to be found.

And the trees and shrubs that adorned the streets and made a shade for many a wearied brow,

What is left is standing black all over this wasteless track but there is

No leaves upon them now.


Twenty-five or thirty years ago I sold hundreds of those trees and hardly one of them has been broke

But little I thought when they from me were bought that I would see them carried off in smoke.

And the street car track was burned and warped but the company’s force did rally,

And in great haste they were soon well placed by the Superintendent Mr. Alley.


This is a terrible calamity that has on our citizens fell,

So if you give me time I will try in this

My rhyme a few of their names to tell.

The first is Albert Miller & Sons, that lost most everything they had

Then Beebe, Reynolds, Johnson, Stover & Larkin for them we do feel bad;

Then Campter, the barber and Richardson and Nash who kept a grocery store,

Then Gardiner and Laird had no insurance, at least so I have heard, and I supposed there was hundreds more.


And Silas Forcia’s mammoth store was all wiped out to-day,

And all that Uncle Thorp had left was on a wheelbarrow, and he was wheeling them away.

It was a hustling time and the fire did roar and crack,

And thousands of poor people was glad to get away with the clothes upon their back. 

But thousands came through fire and smoke to lend a helping hand,

And many things did save from the fiery wave just as long as they could stand.

Yes it is a great destruction and it fills many hearts with sorrow. 

And I do declare I can only it compare to the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah. 


But of all that befell South Bay City

I will tell you of its greatest loss,

That is the burning to death of Jesse M. Miller, that old soldier of the cross.

He was a man that feared not death and to him it was no foe

I remember he said to me one day because Jesus lives, I shall live also.


I remember once he and I were pallbearers and whilst in the burying ground he said to me, I am saved I know.

And he raised his right hand and struck the other palm and said Henry, I seal it with a blow. 

Although Squire Miller’s body was almost burned entirely up, his soul with God does reign,


The fire cut him down at a single bound and onward went the flame.

He will be missed upon the street but more so at his abode,

He will be missed and badly missed in the Union Sabbath School out on the Bullock Road.

But he will not be missed in heaven, for surely he will be there;

So let us like him to be true, and we will go there too, all the heavenly joys to share.


Now many thanks to the firemen of Bay City, for they are worthy of great praise,

And I tell you there is few that can beat West Bay City boys in putting out a blaze,

And the boys that came from Saginaw was worth to-day a mint. 

And there is but few that could better do, I mean the boys that came from Flint. 

And many thanks to Mrs. George Lewis, of Broadway, who had a bountiful table spread

Of bread and meat for the firemen to eat that almost raised them from the dead. 


Though I have lost quite heavy, I don’t mean to complain;

I will just heave a sigh and let this pass by and go on and try again.

And I hope that we may all live to see all those blackened trees cut down;

And green ones growing in their place and better houses on the ground.

And I hope our merchants will fresh courage take, although they may feel sore, and build on a rock and have a better stick than they ever had before

And the yards and lawns that is now black and brown may they soon be green again.

And I know we have a friend that will assistance lend by refreshing showers rain.



“Up In Smoke.” Bay City Times. July 23, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“A Big Blaze.” Bay City Times. July 25, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“Dire Desolation.” Bay City Times. July 26, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“The Work of Relief.” Bay City Times. July 27, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“Additional Fire Notes.” Bay City Times. July 28, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“Belated Fire News.” Bay City Times. July 29, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“Further From the Fire.” Bay City Times. July 30, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“It Is Still Going On.” Bay City Times. August 1, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

“Mr. Henry’s Poetry.” Bay City Times. August 10, 1892. (Accessed March 2023).

Images from the collection of the Bay County Historical Museum

Jamie Kramer, Map of Bay City’s South End Fire, 1892, March 2023.


2:28 pm edt 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Did You Know? Holy Rosary Academy

By Sam Fitzpatrick



Image Source: Bay County Historical Society


Holy Rosary Academy located at 512 N. Lincoln Ave, was a Catholic Preparatory School.  The original building was constructed 1896 and located in Essexville on the south side of Hudson Street, west of the former St. John’s School.  Today, this is where St. Jude Thaddeus Church stands.


The Academy is Destroyed by Fire

Administered by the Dominican Sisters of Marywood Motherhouse out of Grand Rapids, the Academy remained in this location until 1904, when it suffered a catastrophic fire.  The cause was believed to be the product of arsonists.The fire occurred around midnight during the evening of March 8, 1904. The three-story frame building was just shy of a decade old. The house infirmarian, Sister Chrysostoma, found the fire and rang the alarm to wake the building’s occupants.  Sister Alexia Flynn slept through the alarm, awoke to find herself trapped and jumped from her window, resulting in her breaking her low jaw and leg. She was rushed to Mercy Hospital where she passed away several days later.  Originally, the sisters intended to rebuild in Essexville but decided to relocate to central Bay City.  One reason was that Essexville had a history of fires leading up to the Academy burning, but the Essexville Council voted down a waterworks system.  The Academy chose 512 Lincoln Ave. right beside St. Boniface Church and rectory as its new home. 


The New Academy

The structure was built and designed by a local architecture firm Pratt & Koeppe.  They also designed and constructed Elm Lawn Cemetery, the Historic Masonic Temple, and First Presbyterian Church.  Holy Rosary Academy was built using stone, pressed brick, and galvanized iron.  It had cost around $40,000, or $1.2 million today.  Construction started on the building in 1904 and was opened for classes on October 2, 1905.


At the time of opening, the first floor contained a kitchen, dining halls, sitting rooms for the sisters, and two recitation rooms.  The second floor was used as the main floor and included a library, chapel, music rooms, guest chambers, reception rooms, and recitation rooms.  The third floor consisted mainly of classrooms.  The fourth floor was used for dormitories with bathrooms, toilets, and more recitation rooms.  The basement had a gym, a playroom for younger students, laundry, and drying and ironing apparatuses.  The building was also said to be full of lavish woodwork and built-in cabinets.  The building accommodated 80 pupils in its dormitories and had additional day students.


Academy’s Years of Operation   

On June 14, 1906, the Academy was re-dedicated by Most Reverend Henry Joseph Richter on the Feast of Corpus Christi.  Priests from around the region attended, along with a 400-member procession, which included the academy’s forty pupils.  The dedication included blessings, a Gregorian Mass, and other ceremonial events.


Father Wyss, of nearby St. Boniface, served as a temporary chaplain.  He had aided in finding a new location after the 1904 fire in Essexville.  The building only had resident chaplains on and off.


The school was an all-girls boarding school for 1st through 12th grades until 1924.  It had a focus on language, music, art, and elocution.  The last class of all-girls graduated from the academy on June 21, 1924, and consisted of seven pupils.  During the graduation ceremony, the graduates were followed from the rear of the building to their place on stage by a procession of 30 in the academy chorus.  The girls wore caps and gowns and held an arm bouquet of sweet peas, the class flower.


That same year, after a suggestion made by the Bishop Rev. Grand Rapids, Edward Kelly, it became a residential school for boys and a day school for both boys and girls.  In September 1954, a kindergarten class opened.  The boarding school closed in 1959, but the Academy continued as a coeducational elementary school.  In 1974, it became a Montessori program for 3–5-year-olds.


Image Source: Sam Fitzpatrick



Golden Jubilee

In 1954, the academy turned 50 years old and held a Golden Jubilee celebration on October 7th and 10th.  It featured many clergy members from across Michigan.  The October 7th celebrations consisted of a Pontifical Low Mass, a dinner in the dining hall for diocesan clergy members, and a Solemn Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament in the academy chapel.  The October 10th ceremonies included a homecoming celebration consisting of a Mass of Thanksgiving, a Solemn Benediction, and other festivities.


On October 2nd, 1955, during the afternoon services, the rosary shrine was dedicated with the Most Rev. Stephen S. Woznicki, Bishop of Saginaw, officiating.  The homecoming event was held with tea served in the academy lounge by the Third Order of St. Dominic.  The outdoor dedicatory rites concluded the Golden Jubilee.  The shrine was a three-figure rosary group statue composed of white Bianco marble set on a French stone base.  Mrs. Joseph St. Laurent donated the main figures, the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus.  The Third Order of St. Dominic donated the statue of St. Catherine of Siena, and friends and alumni of the Academy donated the statue of St. Dominic. 


The Academy Closes

In December 1977, Holy Rosary Academy failed a fire inspection.  The Wenonah Apartment building fire had occurred that same month.  In an interview with the Bay City Times, Fire Marshal Chester Rezler said they had performed an extra inspection due to not wanting another catastrophic fire with loss of lives.  The Academy was given 18 months to bring the building up to code.  This included the installation of closed stairways, removing combustible materials, installing smoke detectors and fire alarms, enclosing the boiler room, and fireproof window frames, and rewiring areas that did not meet the city’s electrical code.  Also, reported by the Bay City Times, were claims from volunteers who were putting on a festival at the Academy that lights were out for short periods.  It was found that 30 amp fuses were being placed in fixtures designed for 15 amp fuses.


The plans for bringing the building up to code were rejected as being too costly.  In 1979, the building was sold by the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic out of Grand Rapids.  Patrick Brady, a Bay City attorney, and former student converted the Academy into law offices.  In September of that year, the antiques and old-school materials inside were auctioned off.  Over one thousand people attended to bid on items which ranged from leaded stained-glass windows, Bentwood chairs, a Wurlitzer reed organ, a 1904 Steinway Piano, mahogany tea carts, a French curio cabinet with glass shelving, and a cane wheelchair.  Other items that weren’t set for auction were donated to area parochial schools.  In total, there were 440 registered buyers for the 777 items up for auction.  In 1980, the Academy moved into the former St. Mary’s School located at 607 E. S. Union St.  The very last item to be removed from Holy Rosary Academy was the white Bianco marble statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, St. Dominic, and St. Catherine of Siena.  They had stood at the school from its golden jubilee until its removal in July of 1979.  They were relocated to the St. Mary’s location where it still stands to this day.


Eleanor Meagher, one of the last seven students to graduate from the all-girls school in 1924, attended the auction.  She reminisced to the Bay City Times about her days at the Academy as a day student during World War I and the early 1920s.  She recalled meeting students from Detroit and studying piano.  The nuns there were well-known for being good music instructors.  She did not pursue a career in music but moved to Detroit to work for the Internal Revenue Service. After retirement, she returned to Essexville.


Holy Rosary Academy remained operational at the St. Mary’s location until June 1987.  Due to declining enrollment and revenue losses, the Academy merged with Visitation Elementary School and was named Notre Dame Academy.  It was located on State Street, now the home of State Street Academy. Today, the former Holy Rosary Academy building on N. Lincoln is home to Martin Law.





“56 Lives in Danger.” Bay City Times. March 14, 1904, The Evening Times Edition.

“Academy auction attracts 1,000.” Bay City Times. September 16, 1979.

“Academy auction reflects school’s colorful history.” Bay City Times. September 14, 1979. 

“Academy Plans Jubilee Rites.” Bay City Times. August 14, 1954, The Bay City Times Extra edition. 

“Academy Shrine Rite is Today”. Bay City Times. October 2, 1955, The Bay City Times Extra edition. 

“Academy Slates Shrine Rites.” Bay City Times. September 25, 1955, The Bay City Times Extra edition. 

“Bishop to Officiate in Dedication of Academy Rosary Statue Group.” Bay City Times. September 24, 1955, The Bay City Times Extra edition. 

Burzyck, Deborah. “Tale of Two Schools.” Bay City Times. April 26, 1987.

“Contracts Today.” Bay City Times. July 19, 1904, The Evening Times edition. 

“CPI Inflation Calculator,” n.d.

“Dedicated Today.” Bay City Times. June 14, 1906, The Evening Times edition. 

“Holy Rosary Fails Fire Standards; Old School May Have to Close.” Bay City Times. March 10, 1978. 

“Holy Rosary Academy in Golden Jubilee Celebration.” Bay City Times. October 3, 1954, The Bay City Times Extra edition.  

“Holy Rosary Has 18 Months To Meet Codes or Relocate.” Bay City Times. March 18, 1978. 

“Holy Rosary Opens Thursday.” Bay City Times. September 4, 1954, The Bay City Times Extra edition. 

“Holy Rosary Saved by Donor?” Bay City Times. April 29, 1978

“Is A Murderer.” Bay City Times. March 19, 1904, The Evening Times edition. 

“It Opens Today.” Bay City Times. September 30, 1905, The Evening Times edition. 

“Last Girls’ Class Graduates From Holy Rosary Academy.” Bay City Times. June 13, 1924, The Bay City Times Tribune edition. 

“Miss Meagher recalls Academy days.” Bay City Times. September 16, 1979.

“People To Decide.” Bay City Times. February 16, 1904, The Evening Times edition. 

Pratt & Koeppe Newspaper BCHS Library

Rogers, David. “Academy moving to west side.” Bay City Times. February 22, 1979. 

Schwind, Mona."Period Pieces: An Account of the Grand Rapids Dominicans, 1853-1966". United States: Sisters of St. Dominic, 1991.

“Souvenir The Golden Jubilee of The Rev. John G. Wyss Pastor of St. Boniface Church. Bay City, Michigan.” June 27, 1937. 

“Statue is the last to leave academy.” Bay City Times. July 26, 1979. 

“To Open Sept. 18.” Bay City Times. August 10, 1905, The Evening Times edition.




4:22 pm edt 


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