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Michigan Counties

The boundaries of the eighty-three counties in Michigan have not changed substantially since 1897. Wayne County was the sixth county in the Northwest Territory, formed 15 August 1796 and organized in 1815. Wayne County was created 21 November 1815 as an original county of Michigan.

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Bay County, Michigan

Bay County Education, Geography, and HistoryBay County, Michigan Courthouse

Bay County is a county in the state of Michigan. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 107,771. The county seat is Bay City.

Bay County comprises the Bay City, MI Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Saginaw-Midland-Bay City, MI Combined Statistical Area. It is also considered to be part of the Flint/Tri-Cities region.

Etymology - Origin of Bay County Name

Bay County lies at the head of Saginaw Bay.


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

Bay County History

Bay County lies at the head of Saginaw Bay.

Set Off: 1857

The county was created by Michigan law as a fully organized county on April 20, 1857.

Bay County was created in 1857 from portions of Midland County, Saginaw County, and Arenac County. Its name origin is that it "surrounds Saginaw Bay." Being only sparsely populated at that time, Arenac County government was unorganized and was attached to Saginaw County for administrative purposes. There was considerable opposition to the creation of Bay County from elected officials in both Saginaw and Midland counties. In 1854, a bill introduced to the state legislature to create Bay County was defeated by a small majority.

In 1857, a new bill was introduced into the legislature. After initial opposition from the representatives of Saginaw and Midland counties, a compromise revision that would present the matter for ratification to the voters of "in said county" was passed by the legislature on February 17, 1857. The matter was put before all the voters of Saginaw and Midland counties and was soundly defeated. However, the population within the boundaries proposed for Bay County approved the measure. The bill passed by the legislature included phrasing, which was deliberately included by the Bay City lawyer Chester H. Freeman, that allowed Bay County to claim ratification. Under the act, the county was to become effective April 20, 1857.

Residents of Bay County held elections for county officials in June 1857. However, Saginaw County did not recognize the organization of the new county government. In the winter of 1858, Freeman secured passage of a bill in the legislature that would have confirmed the organization of Bay County. But the bill was vetoed by the governor. However, a case that went before the Michigan Supreme Court in its May 1858 term settled the matter. In the case, a defendant was tried in a Saginaw County court, but filed a plea for abatement, claiming that the supposed offense was committed in Bay County and was not in the jurisdiction of the Saginaw County court. Freeman had represented the defendant and prepared arguments, but became incapacitated due to illness. At the request of Freeman's wife, Colonel William M. Fenton argued the case before the Michigan Supreme Court, with the result that Bay County was declared a fully organized county.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 631 square miles (1,630 km2), of which 442 square miles (1,140 km2) is land and 188 square miles (490 km2) (30%) is water. It is the fifth-smallest county in Michigan by land area.

The Saginaw River flows through Bay City while the Kawkawlin River drains much of the central portion of the county. The Pinconning River and Saganing Creek drain the northern portion. The Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron lies to the east, giving the county its name.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Arenac County (north)
  • Gladwin County (northwest)
  • Tuscola County (east)
  • Midland County (west)
  • Saginaw County (south)


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