Paul Bunyan May Have Been Real and Was Murdered in Michigan
The legend of Paul Bunyan is larger than life but he may have been a real person who met an untimely demise in the "notoriously rowdy lumber town" of Bay City.
It wasn't the five storks that delivered Paul Bunyan, rather he was birthed in the imagination of Michigan journalist James MacGillivray. History.com tells us the first lumberjack story was written for the local paper in Oscoda in 1906 and Paul went nationwide in a 1912 American Lumberman magazine poem submitted by MacGillivray.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox traveled all over this great nation, leaving their mark (literally) in the Grand Canyon and Minnesota's 10,000 lakes, but the end of the story happens in Michigan.
Historians believe Bunyan was based in large part on an actual lumberjack: Fabian Fournier, a French-Canadian timberman who moved south and got a job as foreman of a logging crew in Michigan after the Civil War...He was rumored to have two complete sets of teeth, which he used to bite off hunks of wooden rails, and in his spare time enjoyed drinking and brawling. One November night in 1875, Fournier was murdered in the notoriously rowdy lumber town of Bay City, Michigan.
Fournier was called "Saginaw Joe" and we're told was six feet tall when the average man stood just over five foot. History.com finishes the story, remarking, "His death, and the sensational trial of his alleged killer (who was acquitted), fueled tales of Saginaw Joe’s rough-and-tumble life—and his lumbering prowess—in logging camps in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and beyond."