Friday, September 12, 2014

52 Ancestors: #31 William Bird, War of 1812 Veteran

William Bird, 1864 photograph by A. Wilkinson
My 4th great-grandfather served in the closing months of the War of 1812.  William Bird enlisted as a private in Captain Henley Robert's Company on September 10, 1814. He continued in service with his Kentucky regiment for six months.  He was honorably discharged on the ninth of March, 1815, in Walden, Upper Canada.

William Bird was born on November 18, 1891 in Nicholas County, Kentucky.  I know nothing of his parents, except that the family was of Scotch descent.

Sometime after he returned home from the war, William met a young Virginian who had moved to Kentucky with her uncle.  Her name was Maria Dent, and the two decided to marry.

William Bird's marriage bond
In order for William and Maria to marry, a bond was made for the sum of fifty pounds (the currency of Kentucky at the time.) A marriage bond was essentially a form of guarantee that there was no lawful cause to obstruct the marriage.  A bond also affirmed that the groom would not change his mind about the union.  If there were impediments discovered, or if the groom backed away from the marriage, the bondsman would forfeit the money he had pledged. Since Maria Dent was an orphan and only child, one of the bondsmen was Maria's uncle and guardian, James Smith.  The bond was issued on November 5, 1822; the couple was married two days later.  Incidentally, the day of their marriage was also Maria's 21st birthday.

Maria Dent Bird, 1864 photograph by A. Wilkinson
William and Maria left Kentucky and  settled on a farm in Decatur County, Indiana in March of 1823.  In later years, the farm was affectionately known in the Bird family as "the old homestead."  That farm was passed on to William's eldest son and my 3rd great-grandfather, James Harvey Bird.

William and Maria had four sons (James Harvey, Benjamin Franklin, William Henry, and Samuel Edward) and four daughters (Martha Ann, Harriet, Mary, and Minerva.)  A fifth son died in infancy.  All four of William's surviving sons participated in the Civil War.

In 1855, William Bird appeared before the Circuit Court of Decatur County, applying for bounty land that was owed to him from the war.  Previously he had received a land warrant for eighty acres of land.  He had legally disposed of that land and now wanted to receive the other eighty he was entitled to.  William's request was granted.

In politics, William was a decided Whig until the organization of the Republican party, which with he then became identified.  The last presidential vote he cast was for Grant and Colfax.  He was a consistent member of the Shiloh Methodist Episcopal Church for 22 years.

William Bird died at the age of 81 on February 14, 1869.  He and Maria are buried at the secluded Shiloh Cemetery in Decatur County, Indiana.  Unfortunately his tombstone was damaged when the cemetery was vandalized in 2008.  The Shiloh Cemetery Association now keeps the cemetery locked up to prevent further damage.


"[William Bird] was a Kentuckian by birth, and in many characteristics of his early life. Many years ago he was known as 'the wildest man in the county.'  But then the march of Christian civilization came along, and Mr. Bird fell in with it.  [He was] industrious and honest, and recognized among our most worthy and useful citizens.  Coming here poor, he raised a large and respectable family, and leaves them in circumstances of comfortable affluence."  (From his obituary in the Greensburg Standard, February 18, 1869.)

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