George Lord Burrows was an important figure in the early history of Saginaw. As a lumberman, a banker and an engineer, he brought a variety of interests and talents to the development of his adopted city.
He was born in Albion, New York, on August 30, 1836, and was educated at the Albion Academy and Fort Edward Collegiate Institute where he studied engineering. After leaving college, he worked with the Engineering Corps on enlarging the Erie Canal which had opened in 1825. Later he was involved with the Bank of Albion, where he learned the banking business which he used to good advantage in later years.
In 1862, he came to Saginaw City and established a bank, George L. Burrows and Company. It was a time when the lumber business had really taken off and a solid and dependable bank was greatly needed. Enormous transactions were made through the Burrows bank by Amasa and Ezra Rust and other prominent lumber barons. Successfully navigating through financial panics and population swings, the bank gained a reputation for sound management and was considered one of the strongest in the state with more hard cash on hand than most of the large city banks.
The bank was originally located at the corner of Water (now Niagara) and Adams. In 1863, Burrows put up the first brick building on Court Street to house the growing business. In 1869, Fred H. Potter became his partner in the bank which continued until 1915 when it was sold to the Bank of Saginaw.
Early on, Burrows saw the chance for substantial profits in Michigan pine lands and while he was never directly involved in lumbering, he was a powerful influence in the lumber industry.
As a lumberman, banker and engineer, he was closely identified with many early enterprises of Saginaw and did much toward the development of the city. One early interest was the Saginaw Street Railway Company. He was secretary/treasurer of the company which built a horse-drawn railway of tracks that ran from Hamilton and Mackinaw, across the west side to Genesee and across the Genesee Street bridge to the Bancroft House.
He was treasurer of the Saginaw Bridge Company, which constructed the Mackinaw Street bridge in 1864.
Burrows served as chief of the Saginaw City Volunteer Fire Department. He supervised the construction of a new water system in Saginaw City and was always interested in promoting better fire protection.
He was treasurer of the Saginaw City school board and acted as supervising engineer during the construction of the Saginaw County courthouse. He was an organizer of the Saginaw Board of Trade which was formed in 1863.
In 1885, he was elected president of the Niagara Falls International Bridge Company. His father, Lorenzo Burrows, had been one of the builders of the suspension bridge across the Niagara River near the falls and Burrows succeeded his father as head of the organization controlling the bridge, a position he held until his death. In 1897, while he was president, the suspension bridge was changed to a steel arch bridge.
In 1863, Burrows married Julia Hotchkiss of Buffalo, New York. They had one son and five daughters. Mrs. Burrows was vice president of the Saginaw Hospital board. With Mrs. V. A. Paine, she directed the Children’s Mission Band of the Saginaw Baptist Church. Mr. and Mrs. Burrows were both closely associated with that church and he served as a trustee. She died in Saginaw in 1883.
He was a member of the Engineers Club, the Bankers Club and the Union League Club, all of New York City; the Saginaw Club; and the Biscayne Bay Yacht Club of Miami, Florida.
George Lord Burrows died November 9, 1921. The American Society of Civil Engineers wrote of him, “He was regarded by his friends and acquaintances as a man of unusual intelligence, integrity, well-informed and an excellent financier. He gave generously of his wealth, both to individuals and organizations and always insisted that nothing be said concerning his charities.” A friend added, “It may be said of him what cannot be said of every man who has acquired large means...his best friends were those who knew him best and his personal integrity was without stain.”
Copyright © 2018 Saginaw County Hall of Fame - All Rights Reserved.