Burt Opera House / Wellington R. Burt
Burt Opera House
In 1888, this settlement was named in honor of Wellington R. Burt, the lumber tycoon who arranged for the Cincinnati, Saginaw and Mackinaw Railroad to run through this village. During his 1888 gubernatorial campaign, Burt donated $1,000 for the construction of a township building. Henry Youmans, also seeking an office, supplied the bricks, ironically, neither man carried the township in the election that year. Local resident Sarah A. Miller gave the land with a deed stipulating that any structure built be used for "education, social and wholesome amusements, and meetings," and public gatherings dedicated to "free thought, free speech and good government." Townspeople contributed labor and additional funds for the erection of this hall, dedicated in 1891. The Burt Opera House has hosted vaudeville shows, weddings, local fairs, township meetings and elections.
Wellington R. Burt
Wellington R. Burt (1831-1919) was a Saginaw business, civic leader and philanthropist. Born in New York State, he moved to a farm in Jackson County Michigan. After two years in college, he traveled far and wide until returning to Michigan at the age of twenty-six and starting work in a lumber camp near St. Louis. In 1858, young Wellington became a lumber operator. In 1864, he built the sawmill community of Melbourne, seven miles north of Saginaw. Melbourne was destroyed by fire in 1876. A Democrat, Burt was elected to the State Senate in 1892. He waged unsuccessful races for the governorship in 1888 and Congress in 1890. Involved in the lumber, salt, and mining industries, as well as railroads, foreign bonds and banking investments, Burt ranked among the wealthiest men in America by the early twentieth century.