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Do you know the way to Shiawassee City? I mean Upper Saginaw

"Just opposite Green Point, during ‘wild-cat times,’ a city was laid out which was called ‘Upper Saginaw,’ and we are not certain but that some Eastern gentlemen were also ‘laid-out’ when they made purchases of ‘city lots’ in that vicinity.” From Truman B. Fox, History of Saginaw County: From the Year 1819 to the Present Time, published in 1858.

1836 Plat of Shiawassee City

Although the plan looks very grand, it is quite certain that only a small, select group of people have ever been able to locate the intersection of Main Street and Broadway in Shiawassee City.

The plat for Shiawassee City was officially registered on June 7, 1836*. While the official document notes that Broadway is 100 ft. wide and Market Street an impressive 90 ft. in width, in this time of social distancing, its vacant streets are no more devoid of people than they were 184 years ago. Actually - there is no evidence that streets and blocks existed beyond lines drawn on a paper.

Although we – the staff and volunteers – are still exploring the history of the forgotten attempt to develop a city where the Cass and Shiawassee join the Saginaw River, we know that promoters sold at least one block of land. It appears that this sale was to another speculator, and within a few months, the remainder of the property was transferred to another entrepreneur.

On February 21, 1837, a second plat for an expanded, grander community for this parcel was filed. Renamed the Village of Upper Saginaw, this attempt fared no better than its predecessor, Shiawassee City.

Village of Upper Saginaw

To speculators looking at maps of the region, the location seemed perfect – if not destined – for the site of great midwestern city. The plat for the Village of Upper Saginaw proclaims that it is located “at the head of navigation for such vessels to navigate the lakes.” While promoters certainly dreamed a city would rise to complete or overshadow fledgling Saginaw City, the property had several drawbacks and the major one was flooding. Later historians have noted that it is marshland and frequently under water.

Later this year, we will feature a presentation about Shiawassee City.

*Although at least one official source notes a filing date of 1830, the actual plat is dated 1836. The confusion appears to be the result of an illegible “6” on the original document.

Aerial photograph


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