The book Saginaw's Changeable Past: An Illustrated History, page 63 - written by Jeremy W. Kilar, states the following about William Q. Atwood:
"The lumber business still expanded rapidly enough to permit the occasional truly self-made man to appear. A handful of German immigrants became sawmill operators in Saginaw, but few careers were more remarkable than that of ex-slave, WILLIAM Q. ATWOOD. Escaping to Ohio, Atwood later attended Berea College, sought gold in California, and then settled in East Saginaw. He first found work as a timber cruiser, and in time - as he was paid in land ---saw his timber holding grow. In 1874 he opened a sawmill along the Saginaw River and personally was worth more than $100,000."
"William Q. Atwood is one of those rare exceptions among the Saginaw lumber barons who embodied the rags to riches success story. Atwood built a large home in the vicinity of the old YMCA building."
The 1868 Holland's East Saginaw City Directory states the following: Atwood, W.Q., Real Estate Broker located on the S.E. Corner of Tuscola and N. Water Streets in East Saginaw, Michigan. He boarded at the Steckert's Hotel. In 1870, he also owned property in Arenac County, Bay County, Crawford County and Gladwin County.
On the 1877 Lakefield Township Plat Map, W.Q. Atwood owned the following property in Lakefield Township:
280 acres in Section 35.
120 acres in Section 34.
628 acres in Section 28.
80 acres in Section 21.
On the 1896 Lakefield Township Plat Map, W. Q. Atwood owned the following property in Lakefield Township:
160 acres in Section 9.
240 acres in Section 24.
320 acres in Section 28.
All of his properties either had the North Branch of the Bad River or Beaver Creek running through them.
Information found in the book “Lest We Forget” written by Myron Gulick states the following: “a man named Atwood owned this farm when the sawmill was here; he owned much land around here, I think perhaps a few thousand acres. He was a colored man, had a good business head and made lots of money. It has been said that he was about the largest landhold of his time in Michigan. A sawmill was located here on our farm at W 1.2 of SE ¼ Section 28 Range 11, Lakefield Township. This was a stationary mill; that is, the boiler was built on a brick foundation, just below the mill, just west of where our home is. The logs could be rolled down the hill to the carriage on the sawmill. This Section 28 had a lot of black Ash timber, also white ash grew here. Some pine, hemlock, soft and hard maple, a soft wood called cottonwood, grew here as well as a tree called Balm of Giliard, which was a lot like cottonwood, but was not very good wood. It did not make good lumber, as it was too wet and sappy, and when dry curled up badly and warped.”
W.Q. Atwood passed away on December 21, 1910 in Saginaw and was buried on December 23, 1910 at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Saginaw, Saginaw County, Michigan. His death record states that he was born in Alabama about 1839, his father was W.S. Atwood and his mother was ? Massay. He died at 71 years old and was a retired capitalist.
SOURCES: 1868 Saginaw, Michigan Business Directory; 1877 and 1896 Lakefield Township Plat Maps; The book "Saginaw's Changeable Past: An Illustrated History by Jeremy W. Kilar; History of Saginaw County by Michael A. Leeson, Damon Clarke 1881; The book “Lest We Forget” written by Myron Gulick; W.Q. Atwood's death record; and U.S. General Land Office Records.
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