Karma in Early Bay City

Today I’d like to share an amusing little anecdote from early Bay City history, back in the days when the town was known as Lower Saginaw and was mostly trees and swamps.

The characters drawn to seek a fortune in Lower Saginaw often congregated around the hotels and saloons near the river, with the Wolverton House (an early hotel) being a particular favorite. One of Lower Saginaw’s most controversial citizens was a man named Julius Hart, a store owner and prankster. Usually his “jokes” would be at the expense of another citizen, which didn’t make him overly popular. One of his pranks comes down to us through the memoirs of the pioneers collected by William McCormick.

One day, while playing cards at the Wolverton House with his back to an open window, resident George Lord and Reverend Henry J. Schutjes decided to get even with Hart for Hart’s treatment of them over the years. Lord had been watching the card game from the street directly behind Hart through the open window. His attention was drawn to a trader selling fur pelts, which Hart eagerly purchased for his store. Hart placed the furs behind him on the floor, in front of the open window, which gave George Lord an idea.

After Reverend Schutjes was enlisted as an accomplice, the two men quietly stole the furs from behind Hart and gave them to passer-by with instructions that they go into the Wolverton and try to sell Hart the furs. This happened a couple of times and each time Hart eagerly purchased the furs, tossing them on the floor behind his chair. He must have been proud of the collection he thought he was accumulating—that is until the card game ended and he turned around to gather up his pile.

Instead of an impressive collection of fur pelts, it turns out he had paid many times for only the original three pelts. One can imagine how furious Hart must have felt, or how embarrassed, as he grabbed his three pelts and stormed out of the Wolverton.

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