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A Lost Section of Saginaw County

“For those reasons, since more than twelve. Say twenty years, we have appealed to the justice and wisdom of your honorable body, that you might help us to have attached our territory to Bay County; but our petitions have been in vain, so that some doubts are beginning to arise in many hearts of our people whether your honorable body has any compassion on our afflictions or not. To say it in one word: we have been overlooked in regard to our well-founded pretensions till now. But we shall renew our cry for help before every session of the Legislature until we die.”

From a petition to separate the northern portion of Kochville Township from Saginaw County and annex it to Bay County as reported in the Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1881.

Map from 1877 Atlas indicating original Boundaries of Kochville Township

When Saginaw County was established in 1835, it encompassed a much larger area. By the time Bay County separated from Saginaw County in 1857, several communities along with patterns of commerce were established however, it was complicated by forming a new county.

Perhaps, this was most apparent in Kochville Township. While the new county line followed the existing Kochville Township line, it did not reflect the distinct communities settled by tightly knit immigrant groups and their identification and connections with neighboring cities. Although, communities in the northern half of the township traded with businesses located in Bay City, residents in the southern portion identified with Saginaw City and East Saginaw.

Included in the northern part of the township, were two communities established by German immigrants, Frankenlust and the adjoining settlement of Amelith. Creation of these settlements and their churches was led by Rev. Ferdinand Sievers. Frankenlust, established in 1848, was centered on St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and was the mother much of the St. John’s in Amelith formed a few years later, c. 1852.

Images of Frankenlust and Amelith residences form 1877 Atlas

“Originally a part of Saginaw County, Amelith was named after the birthplace of Pastor Sievers wife, Caroline Koch. She was the daughter of German industrialist Friedrich Koch. To settle German immigrants, Koch purchased two thousand acres of the former Saginaw Bay Chippewa Reserve at $1.25 an acre. In 1851, the first settlers arrived from the Bavarian town of Tosstel. Residents had easier access to Bay City than to Saginaw, and the area was transferred to the Bay County township of Frankenlust at their request. At one time, the town included a coal mine, and a cheese factory, along with stores, mills and saloons. By 1900, the mine had closed and immigration had ceased. The Village of Amelith then became a rural, agricultural community.” From the Michigan Historical Marker installed in 2002.

Also located in this part of the township was the settlement of West Saginaw, renamed Brooks. Developed by Saginaw City businessmen P.C. Andre, its formation was much less altruistic, it was centered on a sawmill – not a church.

While the township was named after Frederich Koch at first township meeting held in 1856 at the Home of Adam Goetz in Frankenlust, a review of land patents and the names of those in attendance at this meeting, indicates that the township had an interesting and diverse settlement pattern. In the southern part of the township, was another less planned settlement. Many of the early settlers had emigrated from Switzerland and were joined by people moving from the eastern United States. With a more diverse religious heritage, in 1857, members of this area joined the German M.E. Church and formed Kochville Methodist Church. For people living in this area, it was easier to travel to Saginaw City and East Saginaw.

This brings us to Rev. Sievers passionate plea to the Michigan House of Representatives. Although leaders in Saginaw City and East Saginaw wrote to object to the transfer, in 1881 Michigan leaders agreed to the cession of the northern half of Kochville and its annexation by Bay County.

1896 map of Kochville Township

Map of Kochville Township from 1896 Atlas. Freeland Road became the new township line. A portion of Zilwaukee Township was also transferred.

“Since the Frankenlusters sold of their farm products in Bay City, they long desired to join the new county near the Bay, and in 1881 they kept John A. Leinberger at Lansing to lobby for separation.” History of Bay County Michigan & Representative Citizensby Augustus H. Gansser, 1905


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