Auburn Michigan History

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Date: 1850 [unknown]
Location: Auburn, Michiganmap
Surnames/tags: Wittbrodt Auburn_Michigan
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Auburn, Bay County, Michigan History

Williams Township is located in the farthest southwest corner of Bay County. It is six miles square and is bordered by Midland on the west and Saginaw County on the south. The City of Auburn is surrounded by Williams Township. This is rather a rural area with many good farms but it is also a bedroom community for the many people employed in the nearby towns of Bay City, Midland and Saginaw.

Auburn, Michigan history: (1854) Williams Township is the second oldest township in Bay County and dates back to before the county was organized with the first settlers arriving in 1854.[1]

(1858) Williams Township officially became a township in 1858. The waterways were the early roads and travelers often camped along the banks with Indians overnight. Many of the creeks in Williams Township are named for early settlers such as Bradford Creek, Culver Creek, Hoppler Creek and Dell Creek. These creeks, or county drains, terminate in the south branch of the Kawkawlin River in Section 12.

Partial birds-eye view of Auburn taken from the top of the grain elevator, 1918

(1868) Williams township had one blacksmith shop, two saloons, two stores, 2 lodges, 2 sawmills and a shingle mill. The first post office opened that year. Soon there was a school, churches and a doctor. [2]

The Midland Branch of the Michigan Central Railroad crosses the very heart of Williams, and since coal exists beneath the entire township the industrial development of that neighborhood will be both substantial and rapid. Four feeders of the South Branch of the Kawkawlin River furnish the water supply and drainage, aided by numerous drains and ditches, all leading to the Kawkawlin.

The Polish settlers of that vicinity have built a fine house of worship at Fisherville, while the churches at the pretty village of Auburn supply the several denominations. Williams has an excellent school system, and post offices at Auburn and North Williams. Some of the largest and richest farms in the State of Michigan are situated in Williams township,monuments to the industry, perseverance, and intelligent cultivation of its pioneers and their descendants.

AUBURN - About 10 miles west of Bay City, exactly midway to Midland, on the splendid Midland stone road, is one of Michigan's prettiest country hamlets. Well-kept stores and comfortable homes, inviting taverns and busy shops, cozy schools and dignified houses of worship, are clustered here, providing many of the diversions and ethics of life, and all its modern-day necessities. In the farming community of the village, the stump-puller has long since given way to the up-to-date sowing and reaping machines. In I883 there were two churches (Methodist Episcopal and Catholic), the Auburn House (a fine brick hotel owned by W. P. Root), the fine store of Ira E. Swart, a blacksmith shop and two saloons. The pioneer, Ira E. Swart, joined the great majority eight years ago. The place has known many changes in the two decades intervening between 1883 and the early 1900s. (See the publishing date of the source listed below.)

1930s, Wittbrodts at the Gold Star Saloon
Green's Motel, now the Auburn Hotel, with Leo and Alex Witbrodt

The Methodist Episcopal Church of 25 years ago is still a landmark in Auburn, but the little Catholic Church has been replaced by St. Joseph's Church, a brick structure, 40 by 65 feet, and modern in every respect, at a cost of $10,000. The town hall is located in the heart of the village, furnishing an ample meeting place for the residents of Williams township. Just across the way is the office and cozy home of the veteran physician of the village, Dr. John P. Snyder, and Smith's drug store fills a long-felt want in the community. John Nuffer's cheese factory and general store, and the elevator and general store of C. A. Kern are among Auburn's substantial business institutions. August Constantine presides at the Auburn Hotel and James Green at the Bay City Hotel. The merry music of hammer and anvil is heard from early morning until late each day, where George Clark and the Hemingway Brothers operate their respective smithies. Interspersed with these busy institutions are the comfortable and well-kept homes of the villagers. [3]

St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Auburn

Historic St. Anthony's has its own page:
St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church

The old St. Anthony's cemetery is still located in what used to be Fisherville, just on the outskirts of Auburn Michigan. John Wazny is buried there with a grave marker. Marcjanna Wazny may have also been buried there, but there was no grave marker. St. Anthony's Cemetery was established in 1897 by St. Anthony's of Padau Church in Fisherville, Michigan. The cemetery is located a mile north of Fisherville on the southwest corner of Eleven Mile Rd. and N. Union Rd. in Williams Twp., Bay County, Michigan.

(1869) On February 26, 1869, the settlement was granted a post office with the name of Skinner. On November 19, 1877, the Skinner Post Office was renamed Auburn.[7]

(1872) The earliest road was a "blazed trail" between Bay City and Midland and became a plank "toll" road about 1872. Prior to road improvements, the bare necessities of living such as salt and flour were often carried on a man's back from Saginaw as much as 100 pounds of flour at a time. Lumbering was a first industry as wood was needed for homes and fuel, and land needed to be cleared for farming. Population greatly increased with the plank road. Coal mining soon was important. [4] [5]

(1891) North Williams Post Office was opened on March 20, 1891 east of what is now North Williams at Garfield and Wheeler roads. [6]

Martha Wazny Wittbrodt at the Well, Enhanced photo

[In Auburn], the townspeople of Bay City find a breathing place, a source of rest and recreation after the day's work or the week's work is done. Sleigh-ride parties in winter, bicycling, coaching and auto parties during summer find Auburn a jolly good place to visit. The village folk enjoy these visits, and practice fraternity and benevolence within their own little community. We find here the Auburn Post, G. A. R., a reminder that Williams township furnished rather more than its quota of men when our country needed them most, and active lodges of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen of America, Independent Order of Foresters, Gleaners, and leading "Farmers Club" of the county. Verily these worthy villagers know the town-meeting, love its associations, and profit by the lessons of progress and charity there espoused, worthy descendants of the idyllic New England village, whose memory Auburn brings vividly to mind.

And verily here too we find:

Under a spreading chestnut tree The village smithy stands; The smith, a mighty man is he, With large and sinewy hands; And the muscles of his brany arms Are strong as iron bands. Week il, week out, from morn till night, You can hear his bellows blow; You can hear him swing his heavy sledge, With measured beat and slow, Like a sexton ringing the village bell, When the evening sun is low. - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow [7]

The Wittbrodt and Wazny families
(1872) (1888) The Wittbrodt and Wazny families emigrated from Prussia / Poland after 1870. The Wazny family emigrated from Poland around 1888 but this is unverified so far. The family history of their early settlement is listed in the biographies of Martha Wazny Wittbrodt and her father, John Wazny. Her father is buried in the St. Anthony of Padua historic cemetery in (Fisherville) Williams Township.

(1872) Arrival of Joseph Friedrich Wittbrodt and Marianna Okon and their families. (Verified)

Joseph Friedrich Wittbrodt

(1873) Arrival of John Wazny. Two of John's sisters also emigrated. (Verified)

(1888) Arrival of Marcjanna Witkowoski (Vetoski) and others in the Wazny family. See notes by Donald Wittbrodt. (Unverified)

Working at the area sawmills and in the area coal mines is a part of the Wittbrodt history.

List of Ancestors This list can be updated as we have names: This website: St. Anthony's of Padua Cemetery lists Mary (Marianna) neé Okon Wittbrodt's name as being buried at St. Anthony's cemetery, though there is no marker: Wittbrodt, Mary 10/10/1923

These names also are listed as buried there:

  • Witbrodt, Joseph died 3/25/1911
  • Wittbrodt, Arthur 8/12/1909 – 8/21/1909
  • Wittbrodt, Leo died 7/30/1916

Rose Anderson had books which recorded her extensive research of Williams Township cemeteries. Cemetery read in November of 2005 by Margaret Wegner

Lumberjacks and Sawmills
In the late 1800s at the end of the lumbering season, as many as 5000 lumberjacks (“shanty boys”) would collect their hard-earned pay and head for a six-block strip along Bay City’s waterfront called “Hell’s Half Mile.” There they would find a variety of gambling houses, theaters, raucous saloons and brothels, as well as tunnels and catacombs under the city streets---perfect for passage or brawls (or maybe to drag a body out for disposal!)

Today there are walking tours down formerly notorious Water Street and the surrounding areas and stories of persons who helped give Hell’s Half Mile its fame in Bay City. Read more in the book "Wicked Bay City."

Schools One example of the development of the town, the schools.

1938, 10th grade class, Auburn High School

Later students attended Handy High School, Bay City, Michigan


Williams Township History

History of Bay County

History of Tuscola and Bay Counties, online book

The Bay County Historical Society

Michigan Place Names: The History of the Founding and the Naming of More Than Five Thousand Past and Present Michigan Communities, by Walter Romig, (October 1, 1986) [1973]. Great Lakes Books Series (Paperback). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press. ISBN 081431838X. ISBN 978-0814318386.

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John Bernard Wittbrodt was the owner, operator of the Gold Star Saloon in Auburn. Positive identification was made by his great grandson, Marc Short.

A relative also shared that George Jamrog and John Bernard Witbrodt both made beer during prohibition, and confirmed that John had a bar during this time.

posted by Deborah (Wittbrodt) Nystrom
edited by Deborah (Wittbrodt) Nystrom

Categories: Bay County, Michigan