About Midland County

Chippewa Indians Among First Inhabitants of This Area

When the French discovered the Great Lakes in the 1600's, the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi Indians occupied both Michigan peninsulas. Chippewas have inhabited this immediate area for 120 years. The German Lutherans sent a missionary, E.G. Miessler, to these Indians in 1851, and today, there is an Indian cemetery in Bethany, which lies just outside Midland County near St. Louis.

Lumber, Fur Trading Thrive in Early Years

Recorded history relates the presence of great forests of ash, basswood, elm, hemlock, linden, maple, oak and pine as well as swamp in this 339,000 acres that became Midland County in 1851. Convenient waterways formed by the Chippewa, Pine, Salt, Sturgeon, Tittabawassee and Tobacco Rivers attracted many Indians to this area as here they found beaver and other small animals, fish, wild rice, berries and sap from the maple trees. In 1831, Midland's first permanent white settlers came, learned the ways of the Indian and found a market for his furs.

The First Trading Post was established at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa Rivers, which the Indians called "Little Forks." Here the Grand Traverse Trail, Lake Michigan Trail, Grand River Trail and others join to form the Saginaw Trail which leads to the Indian gathering place on Saginaw Bay, called "Saw-kee-nauk," now Saginaw.

Midland, a small community of 65 persons in 1850, became a thriving lumber camp which reached its peak in 1880. History tells us that there was a lumber camp every four miles along the rivers which were the chief means of transporting the logs to the mills in the spring. In the winter, thousands of lumbermen were working in the woods.

Midland's founding fathers must have considered the American Fur Company's Trading Post site a wise place to locate their town--at the confluence of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers. Animal paths and Indian trails were not conducive to hauling all of one's possessions when moving into a new area, so rivers were the most desirable way to travel. Much of this valley was so swampy that high spots were chosen for Midland's first important buildings, such as schools, the courthouse, jail, churches, etc.

County Formed in 1850

Midland County was organized in 1850 but no officers were elected until 1855 when the following were chosen: G. W. Whiting, Sheriff; E. P. Jennings, Clerk; H. C. Ashman, Prosecuting Attorney; J. A. Whitman, Treasurer; Solon Rumrill, Register of Deeds; Samuel Gasgill, Judge of Probate; and George Turner, Surveyor. The 1st Term of Circuit Court was held in the school house at the corner of Ashman and Ellsworth Streets. Until the Courthouse was built, the County Officers met in the home of John Larkin.

At the time of its organization, Midland County included all of Midland County plus portions of Bay, Isabella, Clare, Gladwin and Roscommon Counties. Bay separated in 1857; Isabella in 1860; Clare in 1871; Roscommon in 1874; and Gladwin in 1874.

In 1855 the County paid out $600in salaries for its officers; $250 for the poor and needy; and $1,721.00 for County expenses.

In 1856 Henry C. Ashman, Supervisor and Prosecuting Attorney empowered by the Legislature, located the site for the Midland County Courthouse. A colonial type structure was built by Timothy Jerome at the Cost of $6,000. This building was razed in April, 1926, after being sold at auction for $245.

In 1857 The Board of Supervisors appropriated $150 to construct a Ferry so folks could conveniently cross the Tittabawassee River. Charles Cronkright built the scow. Rates were fixed as follows: Man on Foot,, 3 cents; Single Team, 6 cents; Double Team, 10 cents; cattle, Sheep and Swine, 10 cents. The Ferry was made free after 1858, but remained a source of annoyance for the supervisors because it was next to impossible to hire competent help.

Jail Built Near Courthouse

In 1865 a Jail was built on property adjoining the Courthouse. It has been said this was the first brick building in Midland. Criminals must have been well behaved, as they were often seen helping the sheriff's wife around the building while the sheriff was off tending to his lumbering business.

Midland's two covered bridges were built in 1871. Destroyed by stormy weather, high water and ice jams in 1908, the bridges were both replaced by steel structures. Progress and traffic have demanded their replacement by two super cement structures - one built in 1968.

In 1919 Midland's Supervisors passed a Resolution to bond the County for $225,000 to build a new Courthouse. Submitted to the people the proposition carried and after much altercation with the law about the period of bonding, Bloodgood Tuttle, of Detroit and Cleveland, was the architect chosen to draw up the plans.

Herbert H. Dow Instrumental in Historic Courthouse Being Built

Herbert Henry Dow, founder of The Dow Chemical Company, was most interested that the Courthouse commemorate this area's early history and contributed generously of time and money toward the building's completion. A modified Tudor type, the building was decorated inside and out by Detroit artist Paul Honore. He used plastic magnesia cements - a product of the brine which underlies Midland County - to delineate our story: trapping, trading, lumbering, farming, and chemical manufacturing.

Voters Approve Courthouse Expansion Plan

From 1926 until 1958 all Midland County prisoners were housed at the Bay County Jail. In 1953 Midland County was advised that Bay County could no longer house Midland prisoners. On August 3, 1954, Midland County voters approved a 1-mill tax levy for three (3) years to build an addition to the Courthouse.

A 52-man jail plus the sheriff's living quarters, additional offices and auditorium at a cost of $764,180. was completed for occupancy in the fall of 1958.

The City of Midland and Midland County each constructed new facilities that were completed during 1989.

Midland a Mecca For High-Tech Industries and Other Businesses

Midland is proud of its industries, namely The Dow Chemical Company and The Dow Corning Corporation which employs thousands of persons in the Saginaw Valley, thereby contributing heavily the area's growth and economic well-being.

In more than 120 manufacturing locations throughout the world, brightly-painted towers and miles of varicolored pipes symbolize chemistry at work in plants of The Dow Chemical Company.

Today's global operations reflect tremendous growth over the 98 years of the company's existence. It all came from a humble beginning. An ancient sea and a new idea gave Dow its start.

The sea, rich in chemical brines, lies deep under the flatlands of Midland, Michigan. To a young chemist named Herbert Henry Dow the commonplace brine meant opportunity in chemistry, which, as the 19th century drew to a close, was gradually emerging as a significant industry.

As a student chemist, Dow had discovered a new electrolytic process for extracting chemicals from brine. At Midland, in 1890, he rented a barn, hooked up a homemade rope drive from the steam engine of a flour mill, reactivated an idle brine well nearby, and -- in short -- proved that his process worked.

Potassium bromide, used in drugs and photography, was the product of that successful experiment. Its main source up to that time had been imports from Germany.

The Dow Chemical Founded in 1887

The brine also held other chemicals to be recovered for man's use -- chlorine, sodium, calcium and magnesium. Young Dow organized The Dow Chemical Company in 1897 to make bleach from the chlorine. A profusion of products followed.

Organic chemistry became a new field for the fledgling company. In 1902 Dow achieved one of the first large-scale syntheses of an organic chemical with the manufacture of chloroform.

World War I saw the company enter the field of organic chemistry in earnest, and Dow know-how was responsible for the first American production of synthetic indigo dye and synthetic phenol, a so-called "workhorse" chemical that also became a plastic raw material.

In the same period, Dow produced the first magnesium metal electrolytically in the United States to provide the foundation for today's growing magnesium industry.

The Dow Chemical Pioneers New Products and Business Practices

In the early 1930's Dow was a pioneer in the rising petrochemical business and began extensive research in the development of plastics and other hydrocarbon products. Petroleum assumed great importance as a raw material with the formation of Dow's Western Division in California in 1938 and the Texas Division on the Gulf Coast in 1940.

When World War II came and natural rubber supplies were cut off, the company was ready with the only commercial production of styrene, one of the two major components of synthetic rubber. Dow built and operated two large styrene plants for the United States government and a third for the Canadian government.

It was at this time that the company first used the Dow developed process of extracting magnesium from sea water. It built and operated a big sea water magnesium plant for the government and jointly built and operated another such plant with the government. A third facility made use of underground brine for magnesium production.

From the common materials -- brine, petroleum, salt and air -- found in nature, then has come a growing line of products. The company lists more than 1,100. Chemical and metals account for 53 per cent of total sales; plastics and packaging products 34 per cent; byproducts and consumer products 13 per cent.

Early in his career Herbert Dow set the pattern for achievement. His business philosophy was one of practical action. He put it this way: "If you can't do a thing better than it's already being done, why do it?" This remains the driving philosophy of a company that reported record earnings in 2005.

County Emerges as Worldwide Leader in Silicone Chemistry

Dow Corning Corporation, the County's second largest employer, was founded in 1943 by The Dow Chemical Company and Corning Glass Works. Its organization signaled the emergence of Midland County as the world headquarters of silicone chemistry.

The silicones, known in the early part of this century as laboratory curiosities, saw their first industrial development in the laboratories of Dr. J. Franklin Hyde at Corning. His experiments produced a material with promise for the insulation of electric motors.

Corning, recognizing the importance of this new technology, but lacking any experience in the chemical business, turned to The Dow Chemical Company and together they formed Dow Corning.

Dr. Hyde's basis research was continued by Dr. Shailer L. Bass, who later became the chairman of the board. His grease-like compound was eventually used to protect aircraft ignition systems. This product found its first use during World War II as an insulation material for aircraft Following the War, Dow Corning moved into civilian areas, but the company's original product survives to be used on automobiles, boats and aircraft ignition systems.

Over the years, Dow Corning scientists became adept at "molecular tailoring" to make a wide variety of materials to meet special needs demanding applications.

Dow Corning Expands to Produce Medical Products

In 1959, the company entered the area of medical products. At first the company absorbed the cost of this new business as a social obligation, but it has grown into a fully independent business now.

Today a long line of "spare parts for human bodies" are produced. They range from finger joints and hydrocephalus shunts to artificial testicles.

More familiar are the company's line of consumer products including sightsavers and bathtub caulk.

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Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 05:14 AM EDT