Michigan was the birthplace of the American automobile industry. In the early 20th century, automakers such as Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler established headquarters and factories in Michigan, leading to a boom in the state's economy and population. Detroit became known as the "Motor City" and a symbol of American industrial power.
Bay County, Michigan is located in the eastern part of the state along the shores of Lake Huron. The area was originally inhabited by the Ojibwe and Chippewa Native American tribes. European settlement began in the early 19th century when French fur traders established trading posts in the area. During the 1830s, the United States government quickly acquired the land and established Bay County, named after the native bay of Saginaw.

The development of the area was primarily driven by the lumber industry, with sawmills and logging camps sprouting up along the rivers in the 1850s. The Saginaw River proved to be a crucial transportation route, allowing timber to be easily transported to markets. As the lumber industry boomed, Bay City emerged as a major logging center. In 1857, Bay City was officially incorporated as a village and would later become the county seat in 1867.

By the late 1800s, however, the lumber industry declined, leading to economic diversification in the region. The discovery of salt deposits in the 1880s brought a new wave of economic growth for Bay County. The area quickly became a significant player in the salt production industry. Along with salt, manufacturing and shipbuilding also became important contributors to the local economy.

In the 20th century, Bay County continued to evolve as industries changed. Shipbuilding remained a vital industry during both World Wars. Over time, as manufacturing and industrialization expanded, the county saw the rise of automobile parts manufacturing and chemical plants. Today, Bay County is known for its diverse economy, encompassing sectors like healthcare, education, tourism, and agriculture, while still retaining ties to its rich industrial past.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Bay County, Michigan.

  • 1820: Bay County is established.
  • 1845: The first settlement, Lower Saginaw (now Bay City), is established.
  • 1857: Bay County is officially organized.
  • 1865: The first railroad arrives in Bay County, contributing to its growth and development.
  • 1882: Bay City becomes a city.
  • 1896: The Bay City Electric Light and Power Company provides electricity for the first time in Bay County.
  • 1929: The Great Depression hits Bay County, causing economic hardships.
  • 1941: The United States enters World War II, leading to increased industrial production in Bay County.
  • 1957: Bay City merges with Essexville and becomes the city of Bay City.
  • 2007: The Bay County Historical Society celebrates its 100th anniversary.