The town of Melbourne was founded by Wellington R. Burt in 1867 along the Saginaw River with a station on the Saginaw and Mackinac railroad line that ran between Saginaw and Bay City. Burt had recently visited Australia and liked the city of Melbourne and named the town after the city. According to some old maps I found, the town was in the area where the farm field and houses are on Melbourne road a few miles north of the concrete plant. The Sawmill at Melbourne was said to be the largest sawmill in the world at the time. I am not sure if that is true but there were several saw mills in the town besides Burt’s, along with a shingle mill, a barrel works and a salt processing plant. There were about 50 houses and some barracks for the unmaried workers, a library and a school for the workers children. In 1877 the town suffered from a devastating fire, but it did not completely wiped the town off the face of the earth, like some reports I have found, I think at that point Wellington Burt did not want to rebuild his sawmill . After the fire David Whitney Jr. of Detroit and Henry Batchelor of Bay City built a sawmill in Melbourne, along with a salt works and barrel plant. The sawmill produced over 30,000,000 feel of lumber a year up until the fire in 1894 and they made the decision not to rebuild the mill, by then the lumber industry was slowing down with much of the white pine trees in the Saginaw Valley gone.
George “kid” Lavigne’s Parents moved from Bay City to Melbourne in 1880 where his father worked at Whitney and Bactchelor, and in his youth George worked as a cooper making barrels to ship salt. Lavigne, also known as “ The Saginaw Kid “was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1998. More about the “Kid” HERE
After the fire of 1894, the company sold the houses for a few dollars, to anyone who wanted to move them to Zilwaukee. In the early 1900s an amusement park named Melbourne Park was built, but went out of business a few years later. The park was used as a nudist colony for a short time after that. Nothing remains of the town of Melbourne today, but who knows, maybe someone in Zilwaukee is living in George “kid” Lavigne’s old house.
I want to thank Tom Trombly at the Castle Museum for helping me with my research.
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