Saginaw, Michigan: place of the sauk

place of the sauk

place of the sauk, photo by gsgeorge.

Today’s post springs from a critique by Lawrence Drouillard of a photo of Saginaw that we posted this spring


Now, I happen to like that photo quite a lot, but it’s certainly not a photo that shouts “move yourself or your business to Saginaw or just drop by for a visit” as a photo like this one by Geoffrey George does. (view larger). Since the other picture is the first thing that pops up on a search for “saginaw michigan photo”, we probably better address that.

The Saginaw Library details the history of Saginaw and says that there is archaeological evidence Paleo-Indian nomads in the Saginaw Valley from 12,000 years ago (some of the most valuable archaeological sites in Michigan are in the area). Woodland cultures including the mound-building Hopewell Indians settled along the Saginaw River. According to the library, name Saginaw is derived from an Ojibway term “O-Sag-e-non” or “Sag-in-a-we” that means “to flow out” and probably refers to the outflow of the Saginaw River into the Saginaw Bay. However, there are also those who believe that Saginaw is derived from Sagina’we’, signifying ‘the country or place of the Sauk’.

The library’s history goes on to explain how the American Fur Company established a trading post on the west side of the Saginaw River after the War of 1812, and how Saginaw City was founded by Norman Little in 1836. Both the article and Wikipedia’s entry on Saginaw, Michigan detail how Saginaw’s easy access to waterways served to fuel growth as Michigan’s massive white pine forests were felled and shipped around the nation in the 1800s. Soon after the close of the lumbering era, a new industry: the auto industry.

In Saginaw, the Jackson, Wilcox and Church Company produced carriages to be drawn by horses, and later produced components used in motor vehicles. This was eventually acquired by General Motors and formed the basis for its Steering Gear division. Additionally, General Motors established foundries and other manufacturing facilities in Saginaw. The early development of automotive production within Saginaw would set the course for the future economic circumstances of the City. (click for photo from the early automotive industry in Saginaw)

Modern day Saginaw has faced major challenges due to manufacturing job loss, but community leaders are actively seeking new industries through initiatives such as those listed on The Saginaw Valley. You will also want to explore the area through the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce, the Saginaw Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Saginaw, Michigan.

You can see where this picture was taken (along with many more) on the Flickr photo map of Saginaw, MI and also see more photos from the past and modern day in the Saginaw, Michigan group on Flickr. Please also feel free to add your own thoughts on Saginaw or links to more information in the comments!

12 thoughts on “Saginaw, Michigan: place of the sauk

  1. My view of Saginaw and all of the state of Michigan has been influenced, undoubtedly, by my father, and by my father’s father.

    My grandfather, Captain Alfred C. Drouillard, had a distinguished career sailing the Great Lakes for over 50 years. His remarkable life can be reviewed in his handwritten autobiographical notes (or typewritten). Just search Captain Alfred Charles Drouillard. He witnessed the growth of Saginaw, Bay City and all the ports of the area first hand from the very beginning of the iron ore shipping business. He was born in Algonac Michigan, but his work took him to Cleveland where he settled down and raised his family.

    My father, Alfred C. Drouillard, moved our family to Saginaw in 1954. For a time he worked for Jackson and Church, and eventually found employment with General Motors, Saginaw Steering Gear as an automotive engineer and finally, a forensic engineer. He had previously attended the University of Michigan with a degree in Automotive Engineering. My father loved Michigan and thought that it would be an ideal environment to live and raise his children.
    And so, we returned to our “native ground” – Michigan.

    I myself was employed at Saginaw Steering, now the spun-off company Delphi, for thirty years, working all of my career there at Plant 6, the steering column plant. I retired in 2002. I was blue collar, working originally in the trenches – the assembly lines, and finding my way into Plant Maintenance, and finally to the Oiler
    Position. All of my 30 years at S.S.G. was spent at Plant 6. I am now a singer of American Popular Song. Although I travel somewhat, Saginaw is still my “home base”, and will continue to be.

    This summary demonstrates how, although I was born in Cleveland Ohio, I unquestionably consider myself to be a Michiganian. I’ve lived in Saginaw since I was eight months old, so this is my home town. I’d need a road map to find my way around Cleveland.
    What influenced me to jot down these notes was my Father. You see, Dad would have turned 82 today (November 13, 2006), but passed away just ten days ago.
    I’m glad that Dad brought us to Saginaw. With a lot of hard work and cooperation, Saginaw can again rise to it’s prosperous perch and be a better place to live and raise a family.
    Lawrence O. Drouillard
    Saginaw, Michigan


  2. Lawrence, thanks so much for sharing this and also for helping to push me to dig for more information about Saginaw. I feel like I learned a good deal and I hope that this encourages people to take a closer look at Saginaw.

    I know that my own impressions of the city of Midland were quite changed after actually returning to visit after 20 years!


  3. I lost my father on Sept 15, he was 89. His family, the Richters lived on Michigan Ave in a grand old home that is still there. There are stories about playing by the river, photos,things that connect me forever to Saginaw Michigan, although I was raised in the Detroit Area. My great grandfather built several homes for his sons and the family homestead is said to have the first elevator and vacuum system in Saginaw. Thank you for sharing. Those times will never return but we can carry on the stories for our families


  4. I was born and raised in Saginaw in 1977. Me and my family lived on Hill street.And many other places.I went to school and I attended Arthord Hill High school.At the age of 17 I moved to Indiana to go to Job corps. Of course I stayed.But I always know where my home is.I still have freinds and I have a sister who still lives there.I come and see changes on the internet,and some of the pic’s remind me of home.Some places have not changed.But some have,and it is the same Old downtown Saginaw.Thank-you for the memories of home.


  5. Lar, I just read your report on our home town and our father and grandfather. It was great! We have much to be proud of despite our shortcomings in this life. As your younger (5 min.) twin brother, I truely encourage you to continue to post such interesting information for all to read and wonder about. Love you brother.


  6. Saginaw was said at one time to have had the name Conchradum and later Sankinon. Even later it was Saguinan. I like the origin of the names as meaning the place where there is a “pouring out”. It seems also that Saginaw Bay was called Tekari-endoindi and Karegnondi, which I believe are the same word. River mouth in Huron is “arient” while rock is “ar[i]end”. I think Karegondi means at the river’s mouth. The early people in Sansan’s map of 1656 were the Ariatoeronons. I think an “n” is missing, and these people are the people of the river’s mouth. As to Conchradum and Sankinan, in French and Latin an “echanson” is a cupbearer or a person who pours out a liquid. The word comes from “shank” the bone once used as a spout. In German the word “schenken” meant to pour out and forms their word for tavern. The Chippewa word “sagi” means river mouth, and “siginan” means to pour out as per the Baraga Chippewa Dictionary.


  7. I just happened to come across this website in my quest to find some photos of Saginaw that could be shared with some folks in Manitoba, Canada who were doing a collage on Saginaw as a class project. This is a WONDERFUL site! Thanks for all your work in putting it together!

    Dr. William Granville Scharffe
    Saginaw City Lifelong Resident
    and Current Member of the Saginaw City Council.


  8. Hi Larry,
    i was just exploring “Drouillard” history on the web, and came across your old post. Yes, I’m Chrissy, your first cousin from Lakewood, Ohio. Yes, Grandpa Drouillard still holds a special place in my heart. His stories of the Great Lakes were often told around our dining room table after a family dinner. His corn meal pancakes were especially memorable. I remember sitting in his comfy lap while he did crosswords and watched Red Skelton or boxing (his favorites). Your Aunt Ellen is still very active in Bloomington, Indiana- ask Jeannie or Richard. I hope you are well. I didn’t know you had worked in the automotive industry for so many years. So sorry our families did not remain connected.


  9. Thanks Larry and Al for the good write up of your family in Saginaw. Why not write about your dad’s scouting days and other
    Adventures? Aunt Ellen


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