The first recorded footprint of the white man in Zilwaukee was made in 1835. In June of that year, Dr. Daniel H. Fitzhugh made his first visit to the Saginaw Valley. In riding over the prairies of Zilwaukee “where the blue-joint grass was as high as his pony’s back, with nothing else in view except the distant timber and the flower-decked banks of the river,” he was delighted with the view and purchased a large tract of prairie land in Zilwaukee where the Consumers Power Company plant was located.
The first permanent settlement of Zilwaukee was started about 1850, when two brothers, Daniel and Soloman Johnson, came to the Saginaw Valley. They possessed some means and were looking for an investment. They purchased the land which later became the site of the Village of Zilwaukee.
The brothers built a saw mill, a wharf, a large warehouse, a boarding house for the mill men, and several dwelling houses. From clear cork pine of the Cass River, the ambitious brothers made planks in the saw mill and the planks were laid on the Indian trail to make a hard, smooth road to Saginaw City, some five miles from their settlement.
Zilwaukee Township was organized January 20, 1854. It originally contained all the land within its present limits, plus a large tract on the east side of the river, since annexed by Buena Vista Township, and a piece on the north which is now part of Bay Country.
Zilwaukee settled down to the state of a quiet country village. Many of its workmen became employed in other plants up the river. Agriculture became the mainstay of the community, and when the lands were drained they were found to have soil well fitted for farming. Later, the feature of greatest interest was Consumers Power Company’s plant. Starting with a trasnforming station which brought power from the river dams north of Saginaw, the Consumers Power unit in Zilwaukee grew unitl it included the largest steam generating plant in the company’s state-wide system.
The water supply system for Zilwaukee was built in 1941 at a cost of $150,000. Water from two wells 125-feet in depth was pumped into a large reservoir tank where it was distributed to household connections and fire hydrants. The system, built as a W.P.A. labor project, was financed with $100,000 of township money and $50,000 bond issue.
City of Zilwaukee Mayors
James L. Collison January 2, 1964 to November 21, 1966
Donald Bauer November 22, 1966 to November 10, 1967
James D. Summerfield November 10, 1967 to November 18, 1985
Kay A. Weber November 18, 1985 to November 3, 1986
James J. Darland November 3, 1986 to November 20, 1995
Richard C. DeLong November 20, 1995 to November 4, 1996
Joan K. Waters November 4, 1996 to November 14, 1999
Thomas R. Dorey November 14, 1999 to November 1, 2004
Eugene C. Jolin November 1, 2004 to Present
City of Zilwaukee Managers/Administrators
Bruce Wood N/A
Max Davenport N/A
Stewart Burke June 9, 1970 to 1981
Jack T. Tany March 19, 1882 to August 28, 1987
Rolland Spencer January 1, 1988 to June 30, 2000
Robert Moffit July 1, 2000 to June 30, 2005
Patricia Hascall September 6, 2005 to June 30, 2010
Jeffrey Zittel July 1, 2010 to Present
City of Zilwaukee Police Chiefs
Sam Davenport (Constable)
Halbert Davenport (Constabler)
Wesley Hartley January 1973 to July 1974
Cyril Koski August 21, 1974 to June 30, 1980
James Struzman July 1, 1980 to 1985
Joel Dobis June 17, 1985 to January 3, 2002
Bruce M. King April 1, 2002 to Present
NEW ZILWAUKEE BRIDGE
The original proposal was to build a high-level bridge that would be south of the existing structure. It would cross over Tittabawassee and Westervelt roads and go Northwest to the area where Barb’s Party Store currently stands. There were no plans for an interchange in Zilwaukee.
Later in 1968 an agreement was reached that if it was built, it would be constructed where it currently stands today. That began negotiating process on the trade-off package – the spring-fed pond for a pool park.
The agreement with the highway department on the tradeoff package was signed in May of 1978. This allowed the State to proceed. If the agreement was not made, the City could have delayed the project for a long time in court. Since Zilwaukee was a 5th class City, the State needed the City’s approval to utilize its land.
On October 3, 1979, a contract was issued with a completion date of November, 1983, at a cost of $76.8 million.
Construction was halted on August 28, 1982, when a 300-foot section tilted five feet at one end and three feet at the other on the southbound lane on the east side of the river because of the weight of construction equipment. In addition, the pier moved nine inches on the top of the bridge. Repairs would cost $6.8 million and construction resumed in April of 1985.
The northbound lanes of the Zilwaukee Bridge officially opened in december of 1987, with the southbound lanes opening in August of 1988.
Bridge Length – 8,066 feet Northbound
8,050 feet Southbound
The total length of construction, which includes the approaches, is two miles. It is 10 stories tall.
Under Clearence – 125 feet above the Saginaw River, with it being slightly higher in the middle.
Total Cost – $117.5 million, plus an additional $9.8 million for ramps and approaches, making it the most expensive bridge in the state.
Construction of the Pool Park began in the summer of 1978 at a cost of upwards of $1 million.
THE OLD DEPOT
The old depot, which was built in 1861 by the Saginaw Jackson & Lansing Railroad, sat on Lot No. 5 in Block 32 in the village of Zilwaukee.
The railraod was fully completed on January 7, 1868, and went directly through Zilwaukee, from Chicago to Wenona (West Bay City). Townspeople had a special election to aid the railroad by way of a $5,000 bond issue. One of the stipulations of the deal was that the railroad was to construct in Zilwaukee suitable freight and passenger depots. The township board, accordingly, refused to access the taxes necessary to redeem the bonds. The litigation reached the State Supreme Court which handed down a judgement against the township in March, 1875. In conjunction with their vote for the bond issue, voters decided that the railroad should pass through Westervelt Street in the village. The vote was divided: 41 voters favoring Westervelt, and 28 favoring Adams Street.
In the late 1860s, the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad built a short branch line to Zilwaukee from the west end of the Genessee Street bridge in Saginaw. Now the growing community possessed passenger and freight service to all parts of the United States. The products of its sawmills and salt blocks could be sped by rail to the north, south, east and west.
In 1894, the Interurban Electric Line was completed through Zilwaukee from Saginaw to Bay City. Built largely with the capital of Isaac Bearinger, the 15 mile road cost more than $500,000 to complete. It gave Zilwaukee villagers swift access to their neighboring cities to the south and north, Saginaw and Bay City. Round-trip fare from Saginaw to Bay City was 25 cents, or one-way for 15 cents. The road was sold in 1898 to the Saginaw Valley Traction Company.
In 1931, Michigan Center discontinued its Zilwaukee operation of the station. A man by the name of Van Scooter was the last passenger when it closed.