Saginaw County Michigan

Thomastown Township

Name changed later to Thomas Township

This division of the county was first settled in 1830, by Thomas and Edward McCarty, who soon after erected the first log houses in the township. The settlement of this district was very gradual until 1836, when it received a fair quota of the immigrants then settling in the county. Its present population is said to exceed 1,150, being 100 over the number credited to it by the census returns of 1880.

The application to organize the district now known as Thomastown was made in 1855, and the Board of Supervisors ordered the following territory to be laid off in accordance with the prayer of the petitioners: Township number 12 north, of range number 3 east; township number 12 north, of range number 2 east, and township number 12 north, of range number 1 east. The order is given under date of Oct. 11, 1855, in the following terms: "Therefore, be it ordered, That the above described territory be, and the same is, hereby duly organized into a township to be known and designated by the name of 'Thomastown,' which said township is described as being within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the county of Saginaw, in the State of Michigan; and be it further ordered, That the first annual meeting for the election of township officers in said township be held at the school-house in school district number three in said township of Thomastown on the first Monday in April next, and that the following named persons, to wit: Octavius Thompson, Robert Ure and Samuel Shattuck, being three electors of said township, be, and they are hereby designated and appointed to preside at such election, and to perform all the duties required by the statute in such case made and provided."


was held at the school-house named in the order, April 7, 1856, with Robert Ure, John Benson and C. C. Batchelor, Inspectors of Election; John Wiltsie, Clerk, and Morgan Jones, Constable. The number of votes recorded was 60, of which Octavius Thompson received 31; and Levi W. Haines 27, for the office of Supervisor. The officers elected were Octavius Thompson, Supervisor; Thomas Owen, Township Clerk; John Wiltsie, Treasurer; James McCarty and John Wiltsie, Justices of the Peace; Edward McCarty, Jacob Wiltsie and S. J. Barnes, Highway Commissioners; Thomas McCulloch and John Benson, School Inspectors; Denis McCarty, Henry Almy, and Edward Zaglemyet, Constables; Robert Ure, John Benson, Henry Bernhardt and Silas Wiltsie, Path Masters; W. Haines and Henry Bernhardt, Poor Overseers.

The following is a list of supervisors, clerks, treasurers and justices from 1856 to the present time:


Octavius Thompson 1856 William McBratnie 1867
Levi W. Haines 1857-58 John Wiltse 1868
John Benson 1859-60 William McBratnie 1869-71
John J. Liskow 1861 John Wiltse 1872
L. W. Haines 1862 James Graham 1873
O. G. Davis 1863 James Wiltse 1874-75
John Wiltse 1864 James Graham 1876-78
Thomas Parker 1865 J. M. Wiltsie 1879-87
John Wiltse 1866    

Last year above is 'as is' in book, but suspect that it should be 1879-81.


Thomas Owen 1856-58 John Backhaus 1865-66
Henry Bernhardt 1859-61 Thomas Owen 1867-67
Thomas Owen 1862 Charles H. Butts 1878
John Backhaus 1863 Louis Liskow 1879-80
Charles H. Williams 1864 William Wurtzel 1881


John Wiltse 1856-61 John Benson 1868-78
John Wiltse Jr. 1862-63 Henry L. Baine 1879-80
William McBratnie 1864-66 Isaac Parker 1881
J. G. Liskow 1867    


James McCarty 1856 D. Williams 1868
John Wiltsie 1856 James Graham 1869
Octavius Thompson 1857 Lyman Parks 1870
Harvey Wiltse 1858 J. G. Liskow 1870
Colin McBratnie 1859 John G. Liskow 1871
O. R. Semus 1860 C. C. Parks 1871
William McBratnie 1861 J. M. Wiltse 1872
J. Backhaus 1861 James Graham 1873
M. Wiltse 1862 Robert Treby 1874
Henry Beamish 1862 Charles H. Butts 1875
T. McCulloch 1862 John G. Liskow 1876
Thomas McCulloch 1863 James Graham 1877
D. Williams 1864 A. R. Hooper 1878
L. W. Haines 1864 A. J. French 1879
James Graham 1865 John Codd 1879
William Wiltse 1865 John D. Frost 1880
J. G. Liskow 1866 Jacob King 1880
T. McCulloch 1867 John A. Wright 1881
J. M. Wiltse 1868 John Wiltse 1881

Together with the supervisor, clerk, treasurer and justices named in table, the other officers of the township are John D. Frost, Commissioner of Highways; Joseph Johnson, Superintendent of Schools; Thomas Owen, Inspector of Schools; Napoleon B. Davis, and George Palmonteer, Constables.

The Schools of the township are well conducted. There are six school districts, each possessing a good building. There are two brick and four frame school-houses, valued at $4,495. The school census shows 373 pupils and seven teachers. The total expenditures for the year 1880, aggregated $2,650.09, inclusive of the mon eys received from the primary-school fund, $167.79.

The Cemetery, known as Owen's Cemetery, is a neat burial place, situated on a hillock, west of the river road; it serves the dual purpose of interment and reminder.

The township lands are gently undulating, rich in all the constituents of a productive soil and well settled. The district is watered by the Tittabawassee, which forms its northeastern boundary. Swan creek flows through the township from the northwest through sections 5, 9, 16, 22, 27, and 34; McClellan creek, Williams creek, and a few others are minor streams.

The Saginaw Valley & St. Louis railroad runs through the southern sections, while the Jackson, Lansing & Saginaw railroad runs southwest from Tittabawassee station through the southeast quarter of section 36.

The saw-mill at Swan Creek station, two brick yards, a wagon shop, store and hotel are among the business places of the town.


are here given of a number of the most prominent citizens of this township:

John Benson, an old and respected pioneer of this tp., residing on sec. 3, was born in Livingston Co., N. Y., June 9, 1841; parents were Stephen and Lucia Benson; father was a soldier in war of 1812, and grandfather in Revolutionary war, participating in the battle of Trenton, Dec. 26, 1776, and the trials and sufferings at Valley Forge; subject of sketch came to this county in October, 1836, locating on sec. 14, and in 1842, on sec. 3, where he has since resided, and owns 80 acres of land; first house erected was 12x12 feet in size, and in the center of a great forest; was first Justice of the Peace of this tp., serving 21 years in succession, and 12 years since; was Tp. Clerk two years, and Treasurer 12 years; is Republican in politics, and a member of the I. O. O. F.; was married Oct 14, 1834, to Sarah B., daughter of Timothy and Susannah (Thorp) Wood, natives of Springfield, Mass.; wife was born at Westfield, Mass., Nov. 2, 1814; 4 of their 10 children survive—Harriet N., wife of Norman Swarthout, born April 20, 1836; Reuben S., born May 9, 1842; Martha E., wife of Horace Jerome, born Oct. 19, 1852, and Catherine A., wife of Lucius Munger, born April 17, 1856. William E., John E., Evangeline, Orlanda, Mary and Eli are deceased.

George Bryant, (deceased) was born in Ayrshire, Scotland, May 1, 1825. When 13 years of age, he shipped on board a sailing vessel, and continued in that business until 1847, when he came to Canada. He located his family near London, Province of Ontario, and obtained a position as sailor on the lakes. In 1864 he removed his family to this county and settled on sec. 28, of this tp. He was married to Agnes Cameron, a supposed descendant of the Camerons of Scotland. Seven children were born to this union, 6 of whom are living—William, Andrew, George, Anna, wife of James Robinson; Thomas and Mary. John is deceased. Mr. Bryant was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and died Oct. 19, 1865. Mrs. B. is connected with the Wesleyan M. E. denomination; she owns 130 acres of land.

Murray Fraser, farmer and lumberman, sec. 24; was born in Saginaw tp., Oct. 11, 1845; is a son of Murdock and Isabell Fraser, early pioneers of this county; subject of sketch passed his early life on a farm, receiving the limited educational facilities afforded by the district school; has been engaged in lumbering during the "lumber season," and farming the other portion of the year; employed about 125 men in 1880, and "got out" nearly 20,000,000 logs; owns 200 acres of well improved land, and is a Republican; was married Jan. 5, 1868, to Mrs. Leila H. Warren, widow of Joseph Warren (dec.), and a daughter of William and Sarah Cross; wife was born Jan. 1, 1844, and married Joseph Warren April 4, 1859; husband was born in June, 1828, and was a soldier in Co. C., 9th. Reg. Vol. Inf.; was killed at Murfreesboro in December, 1862.

David Geddes, agriculturist, secs. 15 and 21, was born in Hastings Co., Province of Ontario, Can., July 15, 1832; is son of James and Clarissa Geddes, mother a native of Hastings Co., N. Y., father of Edinburg, Scotland; latter located in Ontario, Can., where he has resided 52 years; his father was in the British army for 30 years, and served in the French Revolution; subject's grandfather, on his mother's side, John Skinkeil, a German, came to America prior to the Revolutionary war, and during that conflict served in the British army; he died at the advanced age of 109 years; subject of sketch came to this county in 1861, locating on sec. 21 of this tp.; he now owns 320 acres of land, is Greenback in politics, and connected with the K. of H., I. H., and Black Knights of the Camp of Israel and the Orange societies; was married June 7, 1856, to Ann A., daughter of John and Angeline Harris, born in Hastings Co., Can., Oct. 3, 1839; had 6 children, 5 living—Sarah J., wife of W. W. Owen, born March 20, 1857; Mary E., wife of William Calvert, born April 1, 1859; Edwin J., born May 7, 1861; Francis A., born May 23, 1863, and David A., born Dec. 5, 1868.

James Graham, farmer, secs. 32 and 33, was born in County Tyrone, Ireland, Sept. 8, 1830; is a son of Andrew and Jane Graham, natives of Ireland, of Scotch ancestry, who came to America in 1834; subject of sketch resided with grandfather till 1845, when he came and settled near Hamilton, Can., and in 1851 located in this county; in 1854 he removed to present farm, being the first settler west of Swan Creek; was Justice of Peace of Thomastown 16 years, Supervisor four years, and Tp, Clerk and Treasurer one year each; owns 100 acres of land, and politically is Democratic; he was married Oct. 6, 1862, to Phoebe A. Bonestring, who gave him 2 children—Eliza, born July 19, 1864, and Anna, born Nov. 25, 1864; his wife died, and he was again married Jan. 16, 1866, to Eliza M., daughter of Benjamin and Mary M. Stiff, who was born in Warren Co., N. J., Feb. 16, 1841; subject and wife are members of the Baptist Church of East Saginaw.

John G. Liskow, a prominent pioneer of Thomastown tp., was born in Lippehue, Prussia, May 25, 1814; is a son of Samuel and Rehena Liskow; from 1839 to 1851, he was engaged in mercantile trade in native land; in latter year came to America with family, and father-in-law; he was forced to leave Prussia on account of opposition to the king; soon after arriving in this country, he came to this tp., and for seven years was engaged in brick-making; for 10 years he was proprietor of a store at Saginaw City, where he now owns two store rooms; he formerly owned a large farm, but has divided it among his children, and now possesses only 120 acres; is a Republican, has been Justice of Peace since 1870, also Supervisor one term; was instrumental in the organization of the German Pioneer Society of Saginaw County, and was chosen its Treasurer; he was married May 14, 1840, to Caroline Seiffert, born in Prussia, in March, 1824; of their 6 children, 5 are living—Louisa; Charles, who married Amelia Scheib; Ferdinand; Lewis, the husband of Antonia Hak, and John. William is deceased; his wife's father, Charles Seiffert, was a soldier during the French Revolution, and fought against Napoleon Bonaparte at the battle of Waterloo. He resides with Mr. Liskow, and is 82 years of age.

John Shepherd, merchant, Frost's Corners, Thomastown tp., was born in Cambridgeshire, Eng., April 5, 1826; is a son of William and Mary (Rolf) Shepherd; subject of sketch served three years' apprenticeship at painting, and followed that business, in connection with gardening, till 1850; in 1852 came to America, locating at Lockport, N. Y., thence to Cleveland, O., and in 1857 to this county, where he followed his trade till 1863; sold milk at Saginaw City until 1869; was then gardener till 1879, when he removed to present location and engaged in business. He established a postoffice in May, 1880, and became its Postmaster; owns several buildings and a blacksmith shop; is a member of the I. O. O. F., a Republican, and owns 40 acres of land on sec. 16, in Saginaw tp.; was Secretary of the Saginaw County Agricultural Society in 1877-78; was married in December, 1850, to Elizabeth Trotman, who died Dec. 24, 1851; was again married March 4, 1855, to Sarah Ann Wallace. They have 4 children—Elizabeth, wife of Floyd Hubbard; Minnie, wife of John McLean; Charles and Wallace.

William and Arthur Shields, two pioneers of this tp., residing on sec. 3, are natives of County Armot, Ireland, former born in 1826 and the latter in 1830. In 1836 their parents located near Montreal, Can., and six years later came to Saginaw county, settling on sec. 3 of this tp. The Messrs. Shields have aided largely in improving the ground where they located 16 acres of land, and now possess a farm of 160 acres. Both are members of the M. E. Church, and advocates of the principles of the Democratic party. One sister, Ann, wife of William Glover (deceased), resides with them on the farm. She was born Jan. 17, 1828. Of the 6 children born to her, 3 survive—Mary J., wife of Henry Barnes; William, and Elizabeth, wife of Charles H. Pamlee.

John Wiltsie, an old resident of this tp., was born in Lucas Co., O., Oct. 20, 1826; accompanied parents, Cornelius and Electa Wiltsie, to this county in January, 1837, locating on what is now sec. 11 of this tp.; parents were natives of New York, and settled in Lucas Co., O., in 1824; they suffered all the hardships incident to pioneer life, the nearest grist-mill being at Flint, 40 miles distant; subject of sketch owns a farm of 240 acres on secs. 8 and 9; was Justice of the Peace two terms, Supervisor four years, and Township Treasurer three years; was married May 30, 1849, to Huldah Almy, who was born Jan. 1, 1830; 2 children are deceased, 8 living—Minnie, wife of John Dice; Mina, wife of Frank Dice; Dan, Benjamin, James, John, Rhoda and Edward.

William Wurtzel, farmer, was born in Brandenburgh, Prussia, May 11, 1840; is a son of Charles and Wilhelmina Wurtzel, who emigrated to the United States in July, 1854; they subsequently came to this county, and located on sec. 14, Thomastown tp.; father died April 1, 1881, aged 73 years, and mother Nov. 28, 1874; subject's grandfather, Christian Kampfert, served in the Prussian army, under Frederick III., and against Napoleon I.; subject of sketch was engaged 10 years in the butchering business at Saginaw City, and was foreman of the Tittabawassee Boom Co. for six years; in 1872 purchased his present farm, removing on it in 1876; owns 120 acres, also the old homestead of 82 acres; is a member of the Masonic order and a Republican; was married May 11, 1865, to Minnie, daughter of Frederick and Henrietta Gauschow, who was born in Prussia, Nov. 9, 1842; wife's parents came to this county in 1850; 4 children are living—Laura, born July 1, 1868; William, born Nov. 23, 1870; Minnie, born Feb. 4, 1873, and Amelia, born Oct. 9, 1875; Charles and Amelia are deceased; wife died Jan. 30, 1879; subject was again married March 31, 1880, to Frances, daughter of John and Hannah Skinner, who was born in Devonshire, Eng., Jan. 30, 1849; wife is a member of the Episcopal Church; parents came to the United States in 1871.



Source: History of Saginaw County Michigan, By Michael A. Leeson, Damon Clarke, Published 1881 Chas. C. Chapman & Co., Chicago pages 938-943.
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