History of Zilwaukee
1848, two brothers named Daniel and Solomon Johnson settled
an area on the Saginaw River, now known as Zilwaukee.
The two brothers from New York constructed a sawmill on
the river and quickly needed men to run the fast producing
mill. A large German migration was occurring in the United
States in the 1840’s, including a large German population
center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. To attract more local
settlers, the Johnson’s named their establishment
“Zilwaukie” to confuse the settlers into thinking
that they were going to Milwaukee. A number of families
subsequently located in Zilwaukie. The settlement began
to flourish due to the lumber boom that occurred throughout
the State of Michigan in the mid to late 1800’s.
With the lumber industry driving the economy of the area,
the residents of the community believed that it was time
to separate from the other of the townships in the county.
On January 3, 1854 the board of directors established
the “Township of Zilwaukie”. Available records
indicate the spelling of “Zilwaukie” changed
to the current “Zilwaukee” sometime between
1877 and 1896.
continued to thrive with the population reaching 1,963
in 1890 during the last year of the lumber boom. As the
new century neared the population dropped to as low as
740 in 1920. The Zilwaukee economy was revived in 1930
when Consumers Power constructed an electrical generating
plant that was capable of producing 200,000 horsepower.
More importantly the plant employed 150 people and provided
the township a great tax base.
The City of Zilwaukee was chartered in November of 1963,
and later incorporated as a city in 1964. The City of
Zilwaukee saw an increase in population until the 1980’s
when a decline occurred. In 1985, the City formed a Tax
Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) to prevent deterioration
and to promote economic growth. Since then, TIFA has assisted
in the development of many new industries and jobs to
the City of Zilwaukee. TIFA had an instrumental part in
the development of Bridgeview Commercial Center, which
is supposed to provide nearly 1,000 jobs when completion
is finalized in 2005. As of 2000, there are 1,799 people
residing in the City of Zilwaukee.